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


449. General Outline. -- The endless controversies in religion, philosophy and science, led many to doubt of the capacity of the mind to discover truth. Renaissance scepticism is not a convincing critical arraignment of certitude, but rather a proof of the inadequacy of the then existing philosophical systems. It was a transition stage between the Middle Age philosophy and modern systems. On this account it has numerous analogies with Grecian sophism (12); both alike mark a transition to new speculations.

The best known among the Renaissance sceptics is MICHAEL DE MONTAIGNE (1533-1592), whose Essays are, from the point of view of philosophy, a mere rehash of ancient Pyrrhonism. The author entrenches himself in doubt, confining his speculations to the study of the ego. His motto, "'Tis myself I paint," typifies the new knowledge he aimed at substituting for contemporary systems. CHARRON (1541-1603), in his treatise De la Sagesse follows in the footsteps of Montaigne, drawing at the same time on Seneca also: he admits the existence of practical certitude, as a basis for morality, thus falling back openly on dogmatism. The same may be said of the Portuguese medical doctor, SANCHEZ (1562-1632). He shows the insufficiency of the received systems, only to infer therefrom the necessity for a new philosophy of experience, which, however, he did not show himself capable of constructing.

The bankruptcy of the Renaissance systems accounts to some extent for the rapid ascendancy of the ideas of Descartes and Bacon.

<< ======= >>