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26 June, 2013
History of Philosophy|
Influence of Arabian and Jewish Philosophy on Scholasticism
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
|The influence which Arabian and Jewish learning exercised on the
schoolmen of the thirteenth century was very great. It was the Arabians
and Jews who gave the first impulse to the study of the physical and
metaphysical works of Aristotle. We must not, however, exaggerate the
debt which Christian philosophy owes to the Arabians and Jews; we must
1. Although the first translations which brought Greek philosophy
within the reach of the schoolmen were made from the Arabic, these, as
we shall see, were soon followed by the more accurate translations made
from the Greek.
2. If Christian Europe owes its knowledge of Aristotle to the Arabians,
the Arabians themselves owe their knowledge of Aristotle to the
Christian scholars of Syria.
3. Although the Arabians contributed largely to the growth and
development of the study of medicine in Europe, and although their
contributions to mediaeval geography, astronomy, arithmetic, and
chemistry were also important, yet in philosophy they
exercised only an indirect influence. They provoked discussion and
controversy; but to their direct influence not a single important tenet
of Scholasticism can be traced.  The Scholastic movement was a
creation of the Christian mind; Arabian philosophy was always
anti-Christian in spirit and teaching. The impulse that made
Scholasticism originated with the Carolingian renaissance. The movement
was continued by Erigena, Gerbert, Roscelin, Anselm, and other
Christian thinkers; and received new force from the introduction of the
physical and metaphysical works of Aristotle. Scholastic philosophy
owes nothing to the Arabians except what they contributed to the
introduction of these works.
 Exception must be made in favor of Avicebrol, whose Fons
Vitae had a direct influence on the Franciscan school. cf.
Wittmann, Die Stellung des heil. Thomas von Aquin zu Avencebrol
(Münster, 900), pp. 15 ff.
The influence of the Jews was more important than that of the Arabians.
The Jews of Moorish Spain enjoyed a large, measure of liberty, and
among them philosophy found a home when Arabian philosophers were
persecuted and their works consigned to the flames. Among the Jews and
in the Jewish schools the works of the Greeks and of the Arabians were
preserved, translated into Hebrew, and handed over to the Christian
scholars, who in turn translated them into Latin. In this way the
influence of the Arabians, restricted as it was, was chiefly exercised
through the literature and philosophy of the Jews.