Scholasticism comes from the Latin word scholasticus which means "that [which] belongs to the school", and is the school of philosophy taught by the academics (or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100 - 1500. Scholasticism attempted to reconcile the philosophy of the ancient classical philosophers with medieval Christian theology.

The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to a question or resolve a contradiction. It is most well known in its application in medieval theology but was applied to classical philosophy and other fields of study. It is not a philosophy or theology on its own, but a tool and method for learning which puts emphasis on dialectical reasoning.

Scholastic method

The scholastics would choose a book by a renowned scholar (called auctor) as a subject of investigation. By reading the book thoroughly and critically, the disciples learned to appreciate the theories of the auctor. Other documents related to the source document would be referenced, such as Church councils, papal letters, or anything written on the subject, be it ancient text or contemporary. The points of disagreement and contention between these multiple sources would be written down. For example, the Bible's apparent contradictions have been written about by scholars both ancient and contemporary, and so scholastics would gather all arguments concerning each contradiction, viewing them from all sides with an open mind.

Once the sources and points of disagreement were laid out through a series of dialectics, the two sides of an argument would be made whole so that they would be found to be in agreement and avoid contradictions. This was accomplished in two ways:

  1. Through the use of philological analysis words were examined and it was argued that these words could have more than one meaning. That is, the author could have intended the word to mean something else. Ambiguity in words could be used to find common ground between two otherwise contradictory statements.
  2. Through logical analysis they sought to show that contradictions in fact did not exist, but were subjective to the reader.

Famous Scholastics

  • Early scholastics (1000 - 1250):

  • High scholastics (1250 - 1350):

    • Robert Grosseteste
    • Roger Bacon
    • Albertus Magnus
    • Thomas Aquinas
    • Boëthius de Dacia
    • Duns Scotus
    • Radulphus Brito
    • William of Ockham
    • Jean Buridan
  • Late scholastics (1350 - 1500):

    • Marsilius of Padua
    • Francisco de Vitoria

Important anti-Scholastics

  • Bernard of Clairvaux During his lifetime Bernard was the fiercest opponent to scholasticism.
  • René Descartes. His method and terms, however, are largely scholastic.
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Robert Boyle
  • Galileo Galilei

See also