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


425. Influence of the Cult of Classic Philology on Philosophy.{1} -- The Renaissance devoted its earliest attention to the study of the pure forms of the Latin and Greek classics. It was believed that the study of the ancients could alone make perfect men (humanism, humanities), and, under the irresistible influence of this conviction, most of the European universities introduced the study of the ancient grammars and languages.{2}

Is it any wonder that the admirers of the language of Cicero should conceive a strong distaste and disgust for the worn-out language-forms of decadent scholasticism? Its philosophic terminology, its uncouth and cumbersome phraseology, everything in it, in fact, was stricken with the universal reproach of "barbarism". And the same opprobrium which was cast on its form was allowed to fall on its matter also: the inference was made and accepted that those Boeotians, who were incapable of writing, were likewise incapable of thinking. In this way, humanism delivered a first and terribly reeling assault upon scholasticism by discrediting the "peripatetics".{3} This was the negative side of its work.

The native attempts of the humanists themselves in the domain of philosophy, are really laughable. The leading idea of their philosophy is the reduction of all philosophy to dialectic and the reduction of dialectic itself to rhetoric. They confound the science of things with the art of reasoning, and the art of reasoning with the art of expression. The greatest philosophers were Quintilian and Cicero, because they were the greatest rhetoricians!

{1} Cf. our Hist. de la phil. scol. dans les Pays-Bas, etc., pp. 317 sqq.

{2} Chartul., iii., pp. x and xi.

{3} The name given by many Renaissance writers to the scholastics.

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