Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. II / by Ralph McInerny

The Thirteenth Century

Chapter I

The Background

What Freud said of the life of an individual can be applied to history at large: in retrospect it takes on an inevitability and natural progression that it does not possess when one is at the beginning or in midstream. When we consider the thirteenth century as the point of arrival of what had gone before, it is possible so to arrange the data that the rise of universities, the full development of Scholastic theology as against philosophy, and all the rest seem to flow almost effortlessly from their antecedents as if any other outcome would be unthinkable. The contrary view leans rather heavily on the much overworked term "renaissance." We are confronted first with the Carolingian Renaissance, next with the twelfth-century renaissance, then with the renaissance of the thirteenth century, and finally with the Renaissance with the resultant picture of discontinuous bootstrap efforts which bear little positive relation to one another, though each points back in various ways to classical times. It would be difficult to decide definitively for either view, particularly if we advert to the original analogue, the life of the individual. Our lives may seem at once a continuum of deeds culminating in what we now are and a discontinuous succession of turning points at each of which we refashioned ourselves. Neither view alone would be sufficient; each has an interpretative value.

In the present chapter we want to look at the thirteenth century both as the telos toward which earlier efforts in the philosophy of the Christian West tended and as something surprising, unforeseeable, and quite sui generis. The first viewpoint is valuable in discussing the rise of the universities, which can be regarded as evolving out of previous modes of instruction; the second seems called for when we consider the impact on the West of Islamic philosophy, which was the vehicle whereby the integral Aristotle first came into view. Islamic philosophy and its influence on the West force us to see the need for both of the viewpoints we have mentioned. On the one hand, the Arabian Aristotelians represent a threat to the Augustinian tradition which was dominant in theology and, on the other hand, their Aristotelianism must be viewed with relation to the Aristotle already known and influential in the West. Furthermore, the Neoplatonism of the Islamic philosophers provides a common note with that operative in Augustine and Boethius, and yet because Islamic philosophy brings with it closer contact with Neoplatonic sources, there is an element of strangeness and difference. In short, Islamic philosophy and its influence on the West demand that we see the ambiguity of the thirteenth century with respect to what had gone before. There is both continuity and disruption, a modification of an ongoing effort and quite fundamental changes in the conception of the nature of that effort. Finally, we will make some general remarks about the sources of the philosophizing of the thirteenth century.

A. The Universities

The preceding chapters have acquainted us with the palace school begun by Alcuin as well as with the fact that Alcuin was already associated with a cathedral school when the invitation from Charlemagne came to him. During the Carolingian Renaissance, as we have seen, great emphasis was put on the establishment of cathedral and monastic schools, and during the twelfth century the men we have considered were associated with one or the other of the latter types of school. At Paris there were schools on Mont Ste. Genevieve, at the monastery of St. Victor, and at the cathedral; it was from the last, the cathedral school, that the University of Paris evolved. The thirteenth century saw the rise of a great many universities, those of Salerno, Bologna, Paris, Montpellier, and Oxford. We shall study this phenomenon in terms of the University of Paris if only because so many of the men to be considered in the following chapters were associated with that university.

The cathedral school of Paris first came into real prominence with William of Champeaux, and the city's importance on the educational map was further enhanced by Abelard's tenures there. It is generally recognized that the University of Paris did not exist at the time of Abelard. The first statute of the university dates from 1215, though this seems to be a confirmation of something already established however inchoatively. But what is it we are talking about when we talk of a university?

The model of the university was the medieval guild; the university is a society of masters and scholars. Sometimes the guild was made up of the students, as in the south; sometimes, as was the case at Paris, the guild comprised the masters. In the latter case students can be regarded as apprentices who are candidates for full membership in the guild, that is, to the society of masters. It is thought that the masters formed a corporation because of a struggle with the chancellor of the cathedral school at Paris. With the recognition of the autonomy of the university, or society of masters, control of the granting of licenses to teach passed from the chancellor to the rector of the university, who was elected by his peers; at Paris the rector of the faculty of arts was also the rector of the university.

There were four faculties at Paris -- arts, law, medicine, and theology -- with the faculty of arts serving as preparation for the others and thus as the undergraduate college, so to speak. The principal purpose of the university was to train future masters who, after prescribed courses of studies and the successful passing of examinations, were granted degrees. The degree arose quite naturally out of the license to teach. However, not all those who received a degree became teaching masters at the university, thus the distinction between the magistri regentes and magistri non regentes. The striking thing about the medieval university as it came to be constituted was its autonomy, its freedom from pressure of both an ecclesiastical and a political sort. The University of Paris was from the outset an international university; indeed, besides the division into faculties there was a division of the masters into nations. Of course, since the masters were members of the clergy, both secular and regular, freedom from religious pressure often amounted to little more than freedom from the local bishop. Moreover, since the masters were believers, the constraints of faith on their work, if "constraint" is the right term, could scarcely be considered as emanating from an external source. It is safe to assume that no master wanted or intended to teach anything contrary to the received doctrines of the Church; often it was judged that he nonetheless was so teaching, and condemnation was certainly not unknown. Academic freedom in its most responsible sense was surely present in the medieval university; a master was answerable to his peers, and free and open debate, public occasions when he would defend his views against all comers, both students and fellow masters, were frequent. For sheer hurly-burly of debate and disputation there has probably been nothing to equal the medieval university.

As has been pointed out, the chief purpose of the society of masters was to train others to become masters in their subject. The student entering the faculty of arts was thirteen or fourteen years old, and he embarked on a course of studies which continued for something over four years (even more at universities other than Paris). The curriculum of the arts faculty can conveniently be thought of in terms of the trivium and quadrivium, and the basic mode of instruction was the lectio, which was a lecture, not in the modern sense, hut in the older sense of a reading. Stated books were read and commented on: in grammar, Priscian; in logic, Porphyry and subsequently the entire Organon of Aristotle. Some of the Nicomachean Ethics was also read; in the quadrivium no particular books were prescribed in the statutes of 1215, but the Metaphysics of Aristotle as well as his natural writings, newly introduced in the West, are excluded from consideration and may not be read. This prohibition was later lifted -- certainly it came not to be heeded -- and with the passage of time other books were prescribed for the arts course.

To finish the arts course was to obtain a license to teach in that faculty and to pursue studies in one of the others. The hours of instruction in theology, for example, were such that a master from the faculty of arts could do his teaching and then attend lectures in theology. As a student of theology one followed lectures on Scripture for four years, after which two years were spent attending lectures on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. When one had finished this course and had attained the age of twenty-six, he received the baccalaureate and himself lectured on Scripture for two years and subsequently on the Sentences. The doctorate of theology could then be awarded if one had achieved the age of thirty-four and fulfilled other requirements such as holding public disputations.

Besides the lectiones there were two kinds of disputation or inquiry, the Quaestio Disputata and the Quaestio Quodlibetalis. The former could be a fairly regular classroom feature. The procedure was as follows. A thesis was proposed, objections to it were entertained, and finally a resolution was given and the objections resolved. In the classroom the baccalarius might make the first attempt at replying to the difficulties proposed, to be followed by the more magisterial resolution of the master. Disputed questions swinging around a common theme could be entertained in the course of a year and be productive of the sort of thing we have in Aquinas' Disputed Question on Truth, which is a series of quaestiones. The written form of such classroom disputations was sometimes the report of a student, sometimes the composition of the master himself. The quodlibetal questions were just that, on anything at all, and they were entertained at specific times during Advent and Lent when the participants or interlocutors could be other masters. These seem to have been very arduous affairs for the master who undertook them; they were certainly occasions when he would have to prove his mettle or suffer a diminution of prestige. It was not incumbent on a master to subject himself to this ordeal, however; the master was also free in setting the number of disputed questions he would handle.

The style of the quaestiones gradually made inroads on the lectiones, so that commentaries on the Sentences, for example, quickly became a suite of questions. The style of the Summa theologiae of Aquinas (but not of his Summa contra gentes) reflects that of public disputations, though this was from the outset a written work. The style of the schools, the Scholastic method, exhibits, even on the printed page, the flavor of inquiry, disputation, and dialectic that animated the medieval university. A quaestio of the Summa theologiae, for example, is first articulated into a number of subsidiary questions or articles. An "article" of the Summa begins with a question and is followed by an answer which is the thesis for what follows. Immediately after the statement of the thesis a number of reasons for not accepting it are given; these are terminated by the sed contra. There follows the respondeo, or sustained answer, to the question, after which each objection to the initial thesis is taken up in turn. Debate is easily controlled in writing, of course, but when we consider that this literary style reflects the debate of the classroom or open disputation, we get some inkling of what the medieval university was like.

Commenting on set texts in the lectures was an effort to expound what an admitted authority had to say on a given subject; indeed, the very term "authority" suggests, in Latin as well as English, reference to an author. The principal concern of the reader or lecturer would be to expound what the author had to say. But we need not think of this as slavish adherence to the text, What animated the effort was the search for truth, and the exposition must be seen in terms of this larger quest. We are of course speaking of the ideal, and we can surmise that in the medieval, as in modern universities, the very good teacher was a rare entity and that a mode of instruction which, in the hands of a talented teacher, might soar would, in lesser hands, bore. The clue to this mode of instruction was inquiry, questioning, disputation which took their rise from received authors (whether directly or indirectly) as well as from the difficulties the subject matter suggested to master and student. The dangers inherent in the system are clear: authorities might block the way to inquiry; debate can become overly stylized; the mere repetition and manipulation of available material can replace serious and independent research; and so forth. When the system became rigid and an impediment, "Scholasticism" became a pejorative term. This should not lead us to forget that in its heyday it simply covered the method of the medieval schools, a method which was open and lively, disputatious and dialectical, striving for an ideal blend of respect for tradition and openness to novelty. Scholasticism, intimately linked with the medieval university, is, when all is said and done, that out of which modern university instruction arose.

B. Translations

In the previous part, in discussing Dominic Gundisallinus, mention was made of the translation into Latin of the works of Greek and Islamic authors. Toledo in Spain was one of the centers of this effort. In that city Muslim, Jew, and Christian were in contact with one another, and under the patronage of Archbishop Raymond (1126-1151) the task of the translators was given impetus. Among those engaged in this work in the twelfth century, besides Gundisallinus, were John of Spain, Gerard of Cremona, Michael the Scot, and Herman the German. Already in the twelfth century efforts at commentary and assimilation are apparent, and, once more, Gundisallinus is a major example.

Naples was another scene of translation work; the Emperor Frederick II (1197-1250) invited Islamic and Jewish philosophers to his court. The Emperor also founded the University of Naples, where Aquinas was to attend the faculty of arts and where Peter the Irishman commented on Aristotle and Porphyry. Michael the Scot came to Naples and with a team of translators rendered Averroes into Latin about 1230. The papal court was also the locus of translating, notably by William of Moerbeke; during his sojourn in the papal court Aquinas urged William on. Thus, translations into Latin were being made from the original Greek as well as through the medium of Arabic.

Almost the entire Aristotelian corpus was available in the West when the thirteenth century began, but the versions of the Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics were partial ones. Of Plato, part of the Timaeus was translated; the Phaedo and Meno were translated into Latin about the middle of the twelfth century. The Neoplatonism which was part of the patrimony of the West was augmented by translations of Neoplatonist commentaries of Aristotle, the Liber de causis, and the so-called Theology of Aristotle, derivative from Proclus and Plotinus, respectively. In the thirteenth century the spate of translations increased, and largely through the efforts of William of Moerbeke the complete Aristotle together with the Greek commentaries on him were turned into Latin. William also translated a number of works of Proclus as well as his commentaries on the Timaeus and Parmenides. The result of his labor was an Aristotle who had been freed from the interpretation of the Islamic commentators.

C. Islamic Philosophy

Now that we have some notion of the academic setting in which the men we are soon to consider lived their lives, we must say something about the impact of the Islamic philosophers on the thought of the thirteenth century. It is only under this aspect that we propose to say a few things about a number of thinkers, for the most part Arabs, who lived prior to the thirteenth century but who exercised a considerable influence on the masters of the universities. Our knowledge of these men is in a considerable state of flux, and it increases almost daily. For this and other reasons the following sketch is attempted with more than the usual trepidation.

We are already aware of the fragmentary way in which Greek thought came into the Latin West. Of Plato little was known directly, apart from the Timaeus; for a long time Aristotle was represented only by portions of his Organon, then by all of it as well as by the first three books of the Nicomachean Ethics. Meanwhile, Greek thought was traveling a circuitous route that would eventually bring it into contact with the Christian West in Spain, a route through Syria and Persia and Arabia. As it traveled this route, Greek thought underwent translation from one language into the next with all the dangers that are involved with respect to fidelity to the original Greek. Furthermore, there was not simply transmission but interpretation, and the thinkers of Islam, like their Christian counterparts, were bent on establishing a harmony between pagan philosophy and their religious beliefs. When Aristotle finally came into the West, he came together with the writings of his Arabian interpreters. This had consequences of an interesting kind.

Al-Kindi (c.801-873). The first Muslim philosopher was al-Kindi. He is said to have written 270 works, but most of them are lost, and it is probable that sections of works have been counted as whole works. His writings, as they are described, are encyclopedic in scope, ranging from logic through medicine and science to theology. Some of al-Kindi's works were translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona, and, until recently, he was known only through these Latin translations. He revised the Arabic version of Plotinus' Enneads, a work he thought to be one of Aristotle's.

It was owing to al-Kindi that philosophy became part of Islamic culture; he became known as the "philosopher of the Arabs," and his task as he saw it was to reconcile the wisdom of the Koran with Greek philosophy. This will be the continuing task of al-Farabi, ibn-Sina (Avicenna), and ibn-Rushd (Averroes). Philosophy, al-Kindi observed, depends upon reason, religion upon revelation; logic is the method of the former, faith of the latter. Al-Kindi's view of philosophy is quite comprehensive; it embraces the whole of human science. The divisions of it that he offers are Aristotelian, distinguishing speculative and practical philosophy and subdividing the former into physics, mathematics, and divine science, the latter into ethics, economics, and politics. The fact that divine science, or theology, is a part of speculative philosophy provided al-Kindi with one of his reasons for the compatibility of philosophy and religion, though this reason led to an ambiguity. He also suggests a common source, ultimately, of the prophet's revelation and philosophical truth and goes on to speak of religion as the ultimate ordination of philosophizing.

Al-Kindi's use of the term "theologian" varies. Sometimes he uses it to describe those who opposed the study of philosophy and argues against them in a manner reminiscent of Aristotle's Protrepticus. Either the study of philosophy is necessary or it is not. If it is necessary, it should be pursued; if it is said to be unnecessary, one must show why this is the case, and to do this he must engage in philosophy. Thus, willy-nilly, philosophy is necessary. Further, although he sometimes seems to identify Aristotle's metaphysics and divine science without qualification, al-Kindi makes the following contrast between the divine science of the Koran and that of the philosophers. That of the Koran is strictly a divine science, while that of the philosophers is finally a human science. The knowledge of the prophet is immediate and inspired, whereas that of the philosophers is reached by way of logic and demonstration. Confronted with Aristotle's view that the world is eternal, al-Kindi will deny this because of his faith. Only God is eternal; everything else is created and finite. The denial of infinitude of anything other than God is found in the De quinque essentiis, a work which holds that matter, form, space, movement, and time attach to every physical body. Holding that any body must be finite, al-Kindi argues that the sum of finite magnitudes must be itself finite. In his De intellectu al-Kindi argues that man has four intellects: the agent intellect, the passive intellect, the latter as actuated, and the use of knowledge already had. We can take it that he is distinguishing four senses of "intellect."

Al-Farabi (c.870-c.950). Al-Farabi was a Turk by birth and of the Islamic faith. He came to the study of philosophy late in life, perhaps at fifty years of age, and half of his writings deal with logic and consist of commentaries on the works of Aristotle's Organon. One of the striking things about al-Farabi's conception of philosophy is that he holds that the various philosophical schools teach, not many philosophies, but different aspects of the one philosophy. He shares the Neoplatonic hope, expressed by Porphyry, that the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle can be reconciled and shown to be complementary. The fact that Porphyry, Plotinus, and Proclus, together with Neoplatonic commentaries on Aristotle by Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ammonius, and Themistius, had been translated into Arabic doubtless gave fuel to this hope of synthesizing the great philosophers of antiquity.

In al-Farabi we find a picture of the universe which is quite clearly Neoplatonic, one relying on a doctrine of emanation and insisting on a hierarchy such that God acts on lesser orders only through the medium of intervening orders. The picture of the universe is contained in al- Farabi's theory of the ten intelligences. First, there is God, the One, who in thinking of himself produces a first intelligence which emanates from him. God is necessary, but the first intelligence is possible in itself, though necessary with respect to another, that is, to God. When the first intelligence thinks about God, this is productive of another intelligence, and the chain of emanations continues, reaching the tenth intelligence, called the "agent intellect," which directs the sublunary world. As with Neoplatonism, esse est percipi, in the sense that to be thought is to be created; the first nine intelligences hierarchically ordered are productive of the souls of the nine celestial spheres of the astronomy of Ptolemy. Prime matter issues in some way from the tenth intelligence, and prime matter underlies the four elements out of which all physical things are ultimately made; the forms of bodies also emanate from the tenth intelligence, and it is here that room is found for Aristotle's teaching on the hylomorphic composition of physical bodies. Al-Farabi's writings on the intellect were translated into Latin and are influential in the West; his interpretation of Aristotle's agent intellect, an interpretation reflecting the influence of the school of Alexandria, will have an impact on the University of Paris in the thirteenth century. The various senses of intellect we have seen distinguished by al-Kindi have their counterpart in al-Farabi, but there is the further note of illumination from superior intelligences, a kind of infused knowledge, which enabled al-Farabi to make a rather smooth transition from philosophy to religion. The counterpart of the Neoplatonic emanation is the theory of return to the One, and al-Farabi, like Plotinus, speaks of this return as it is effected by the human intellect in religious and even mystical terms.

Avicenna (980-1037). Perhaps the greatest of the Islamic philosophers, ibn-Sina, or Avicenna, was known by the men of the thirteenth century chiefly through his Sufficientiae, whose parts are devoted to the principal divisions of philosophy -- logic, physics, mathematics, psychology, and metaphysics. Avicenna's vision of the world is essentially that we find in al-Farabi, and his procedure in treating of God is reminiscent of the ontological argument, as Faziur Rahman has pointed out. God is a necessary being and cannot not exist; from him, considered as premise, creation emanates as if it were a conclusion. In knowing himself, God effects the first intelligence, which is not a necessary being considered in itself but only possible. Any being other than God is not necessary of itself, in its nature, but receives its necessity from God. It is here that Avicenna develops a thought of al-Farabi, who, taking up a distinction Aristotle had made in the Posterior Analytics between knowing what a thing is and knowing that it is, had maintained in creatures a difference between essence and existence. Essence here stands for nature, which is possibility, which does not include existence. If a nature exists, this must be explained by something other than itself. In short, existence is accidental to essence or nature. By accident Avicenna did not mean what would be meant if red were said to be an accident of a thing, for the thing might continue to be while ceasing to be red. His point is simply that if existence is not part of what a thing is, part of its essence, when it exists existence befalls it; it happens to exist. Existence seems to identify the created nature's dependence on God and would be, if Rahman is right, a relational notion. God is existence, is necessary existence. Avicenna intends to say, not that in God essence and existence are the same, but that God has no essence or nature. This denial can doubtless be explained in terms of the Neoplatonic notion that nature or essence is a limitation or restriction on existence.

The difference between essence and existence in creatures provides Avicenna with the great ontological difference between creatures and God. Like al-Farabi, Avicenna interpreted a remark of Aristotle's in the Metaphysics to mean that God is wholly aloof from the world, neither knowing things other than himself nor caring about them, and perhaps not the cause of other things either. No doubt inspired by his religious beliefs here, Avicenna wants both to insist on the ontological difference between God and creature and to put God into contact with the world. This contact or relation introduces the problem of the one and the many, and the doctrine of emanation commends itself to those who feel that by placing God at the top of a hierarchy, the first of whose constitutive members he accounts for directly, God's immediate influence can be kept to a minimum, while his mediated influence has total scope. Just as with al-Farabi's theory of the ten intelligences, Avicenna's theory of emanations is productive of angels and of celestial spheres, to the tenth intelligence, the agent intellect, whose name is the angel Gabriel.

The agent intellect is the giver of forms (dator formarum), responsible for forms not only in the sense of the substantial forms of physical bodies but also in the sense of man's mental concepts. Our glance at al-Farabi has already acquainted us with this projection of a faculty of the human soul into the status of a separate entity, an angel. As for man himself, Avicenna denies that the human soul is the form of the body. Rather the union of soul and body is the union of two substances. This doctrine is based on Avicenna's reflections on the difference between mental and corporeal activities, which he sees to be heterogeneous and which he then concludes cannot pertain to one and the same substance. However, if soul and body are two substances, their link is something so intimate that the soul retains after its separation from the body in death a relation to the matter which entered into its body. For this and other reasons Avicenna will deny that souls coalesce into one in their separated state; a fortiori he rejects the Necplatonic conception that the ultimate goal of the return to God which complements emanation will be the fusion of the soul with God. Unlike al-Farabi, who had made immortality an achievement of good men, Avicenna maintains that every human soul is immortal.

A matter that elicited criticism within Islam was Avicenna's inability to account for creation in time. The emanation from God of creatures cannot be understood as something willed by God in the sense that this is a process which takes place but might not have taken place. When Avicenna speaks of God willing the emanation of creatures, he means little more than that God consents to its necessity. Rahman's image of premise and consequence is helpful here: creatures are thought of as emanating from God with a kind of logical necessity such that their not emanating would be unthinkable and contradictory.

In speaking of God's "nature" and attributes Avicenna will use terms like "will" and "knowledge" and "power," but it is his opinion that all such terms are either negative or relational and finally coincide with existence, which is what God is. He will speak of all things preexisting in God as Ideas or forms, but this is not taken to be a denial of his basic claim that God knows only himself; it is in knowing himself that God knows whatever emanates from him. Avicenna wants to say that God knows individuals as individuals, not merely types or universals, but his way of maintaining this left him open to the criticism of al-Ghazzali. It must be said that Avicenna's teaching on universal nature is a difficult one in itself and has been the topic of much comment. Avicenna can speak of a threefold existence of a nature: in God's knowledge, in the created mind, and as it exists. The first two differ for reasons already hinted at, but further because human knowledge, indeed created knowledge, is discussed in terms of an illumination from above. In the case of man the proximate illumination comes from the agent intellect, that is, the angel Gabriel. As for the difference between the nature as known (by man) and as it exists in nature, Avicenna will say it is universal in the former, singular in the latter, and he goes on to say that neither mode of existence pertains to the nature in itself. This is the natura absolute considerata that we encounter in Aquinas' De ente et essentia. Some present-day critics of this doctrine have seen in it a claim that a nature exists absolutely apart from the various kinds of existence it can enjoy, which would of course be an absurd claim. But it is not what Avicenna is trying to say. We must no doubt return to his position that in creatures essence and existence are distinct; when we do this, the present point is little more than a corollary. When we consider a nature, a whatness, we need make no reference to its status as being thought by us nor to the accidents which attend it in an individual, and even when such references are made, we are adverting to what is accidental to, not a part of, the nature in question. A consideration of manness, for example, need not advert to accidents which accrue to that nature insofar as we think of it (for example, universality) nor of accidents which accrue to it because of Socrates who is a man (for example, being bald). Aquinas quite rightly sees this Avicennian doctrine as part and parcel of his distinction between essence and existence; it is highly surprising, therefore, to find Thomists criticizing Avicenna on this point with no apparent awareness that their criticism, if valid, would undermine their confidence in what Aquinas has had to say about esse and essentia.

Averroes (1126-1198). Averroes was born in Cordova and, unlike Avicenna whose works had a more independent cast, expressed himself most influentially through commentaries on Aristotle. For the medievals of the West he became simply the Commentator, and his direct association with the writings of Aristotle make his influence more palpable than that of Avicenna and a good deal more controversial. There are three sorts of commentary Averroes wrote on a given work of Aristotle, for example, the Metaphysics, but they seem to differ largely in terms of quantity and detail.

The closeness to the text of Aristotle that his role as commentator demanded of Averroes led him to separate himself from the more Neoplatonic views of al-Farabi and Avicenna. Thus, he will deny the theory of emanation, though he retains the notion of a hierarchy of intelligences. Furthermore, he will accept as true Aristotle's doctrine that the world is eternal. His treatment of the human soul is also markedly different from that of Avicenna. For Averroes the human soul is the substantial form of the body, and as the form of a body it has whatever existence it has as a bodily form. This was taken to mean that the soul of Socrates does not survive the death of Socrates in any meaningful way.

An attitude characteristic of Averroes' procedure, fidelity to the text of Aristotle despite the apparent conflict between his understanding of it and his religious faith, got Averroes into trouble in Islam. Al-Ghazzali was highly critical of him (as well as of philosophers generally), and Averroes attempted to reply to this criticism in Destructio destructionis. What emerges from his attempts to explain the relation between philosophy and faith becomes definitive of Latin Averroism as well, the so-called two-truth theory. By this Averroes seems to mean that the statement of truths in the Koran is not as exact and accurate as might be, and this is only fitting since the Koran addresses itself to all, not merely to the learned, For a clear and distinct statement of a truth we must turn to philosophy. Philosophy thus becomes the measure of faith, and revealed statements are considered not to be in straight conflict with philosophical ones (they are, again, couched in a different, more symbolic language), but to be inadequate as they stand. As adequately expressed, revealed truths come to say something apparently different from what they are taken to mean in their original habitat, and it is not surprising to learn that Averroes was sent into exile and his books proscribed and even burnt.

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There were other Islamic philosophers whose works became known to the medievals and were influential on their thinking. What is generally important about all these men, for our purposes, is that they modified the appearance that Greek thought had for the men of the medieval universities. Among the Arabs there was an unfortunate confusion of Plotinus and Aristotle; a portion of the Enneads came to be known as The Theology of Aristotle, and the Liber de causis, which consists of borrowings from Proclus, was not associated with its true author. Al-Farabi and Avicenna gave a version of Greek philosophy which appeared to be a restatement of what Aristotle had taught, and Averroes as the commentator on Aristotle was taken to be unpacking the text and revealing what Aristotle had really taught. Sometimes this is what he was doing; on other occasions his and other Islamic versions of Aristotle's doctrine were wide of the mark. In many cases the Aristotle they presented to the Christian West was a teacher whose tenets were in sharp contrast to revealed truths. Thus, the first reaction is one of caution. Aristotle's writings were proscribed at Paris in 1210, but later a commission was set up to study and evaluate the Aristotelian corpus. This was in 1231, and from that time the earlier prohibition seems largely to have been ignored. Along with the translations which had been made in Spain newer translations, made directly from the Greek, were becoming available. Resistance continued to this influx of a strange and different Aristotle, a thinker whose range, like that of the Islamic philosophers, was significantly greater than that of anyone in the West. Aristotle was thought to be a threat to the great tradition of Western theology, to he inimical to the faith, to be wrong on significant points. The assessment of Aristotle was surely in large part an assessment of the Aristotle interpreted by the Arabs, particularly by Averroes, but even the unadorned text of Aristotle presented massive difficulties for the Christian thinker. Fortunately there were some, most notably Aquinas, who held themselves to the task of getting at what Aristotle really meant and assessing the result of that inquiry in terms of both natural and supernatural criteria of judgment.

Besides Islamic philosophy, brief mention must be made of the influence of Jewish thought on the thirteenth century. Avicebron, mistakenly thought to be an Arab, lived from 1021 to about 1070; his work The Origin of Life (Fons vitae) is often cited. Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was born in Spain and died in Egypt. His Guide for the Perplexed is an attempt to make use of the philosophy of Aristotle to interpret Scripture. Rabbi Moses, as Aquinas refers to him, was well acquainted with Islamic philosophy, and we may surmise that his effort to effect a concordance of philosophy and faith was influenced by their similar effort. Whatever the principles that guided his interpretation, Maimonides comes up with rational defenses of items of religious faith which his Islamic counterparts tended to call into question on the basis of philosophy. For example, since it is clearly revealed that the world has not always existed and the philosophical arguments for its eternity are inconclusive, Maimonides concluded that we must accept the position of Scripture. Maimonides stands ready to abandon an item of belief if it can he disproved by philosophy, but this led to no wholesale housecleaning of religious tenets.

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Intellectual culture reached a crest in Islam long before it did in the Christian West. The medicine, the mathematics, the science of the Arabs surpassed what was known in the West; more importantly for our immediate purposes, there was in Islam a long tradition of study of the Greek philosophers, a study which led to assimilation, interpretation, appropriation. The finest fruits of two intellectual cultures, the Greek and Islamic, entered Europe with what can only be described as suddenness and at roughly the moment when the universities were assuming the shape that would define them for centuries. The diet was extremely rich against the background of the Western tradition, and it is not surprising that caution was exercised by some, while adulation of an uncritical kind was displayed by others, and that only gradually the medievals became equipped to assimilate and appropriate in their turn.

Bibliographical Note

On the rise of the universities Rashdall's Medieval Universities, brought up to date in three volumes by F. M. Powicke and A. B. Emden (Oxford, 1936), is still a must. Also L. J. Pactow, The Arts Course at Medieval Universities (Champaign, 1910). Charles Homer Haskins' The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (reprint, New York, 1957) is still useful, particularly chapter twelve.

On the Arabs see A History of Muslim Philosophy, edited in two volumes by M. M. Sharif (Wiesbaden, 1963); A. M. Goichon, La Philosophie d'Avicenne (Paris, 1951); F. Rahman, Prophecy in Islam (London, 1958); DeLacey O'Leary, Arabic Thought and Its Place in History (London, 1922); É. Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (Toronto, 1952); R. Walzer, Greek Into Arabic (Harvard, 1962); G. F. Hourani, Averroes (London, 1961).

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