ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

VIII. Conclusion.

308. Definition of Scholasticism by its Doctrinal Characters. --After all those rapid sketches, let us now revert to the question raised above (118): in what does a REAL and INTRINSIC definition of scholastic philosophy consist? It will be taken from the very heart of that philosophy, from its fundamental doctrines. To lay bare the essential features of the scholastic system, we need only take up in order the groups of solutions it offers us, and study their distinctive features. Each of these solutions will mark scholasticism with a definite seal, with an impress of its own; and the sum-total of these distinctive traits will give us the essential features of scholasticism. Any one of these marks, taken separately, may be common to scholasticism and other philosophical systems; but the SUM-TOTAL of them belongs to scholasticism alone.

Let us now trace some of the outlines of this descriptive definition. First of all, scholasticism is not a MONISTIC system. The DUALISM of the Pure Act (God) and of beings composed of act and potency (creatures), makes scholasticism the irreconcilable enemy of all pantheism. The compositions of matter and form, of the individual and the universal; the distinction between the reality of the subject knowing and that of the object known, between the substance of the soul in heaven and that of the God Who satisfies all its longings: are all so many doctrines entirely incompatible with monism. The theodicy of scholasticism is CREATIONIST and PERSONALIST. Its metaphysic of the contingent being is at once a MODERATE DYNAMISM (act and potency, matter and form, essence and existence) and a frank assertion of INDIVIDUALISM. This same DYNAMISM regulates the appearance and disappearance of natural substances; from another point of view the material world receives an EVOLUTIONIST and FINALIST or TELEOLOGICAL interpretation. Further, scholastic psychology is SPIRITUALIST and not materialist; EXPERIMENTAL and not aprioristic or idealist; OBJECTIVIST and not subjectivist: its very definition of philosophy implies the possibility, for the intellect, of attaining to extramental reality. Supported by the data of psychology and metaphysics, its logic vindicates the rights and claims of the ANALYTICO-SYNTHETIC method. As for its ethics, they borrow from psychology most of their distinguishing features: they are EUDEMONISTIC and LIBERTARIAN.

We might add other view-points and look at the scholastic synthesis in other ways, and so find other intrinsic characteristics whereby to define it. An integral definition should exhaust these fully. All, moreover, are organically connected and complete one another in the whole: it is natural that they should, since the different doctrinal departments to which these features belong, are all knit together in the closest organic unity.

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