- Series: Beginner's Guides
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Oneworld Publications (June 27, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1851685782
- ISBN-13: 978-1851685783
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Medieval Philosophy: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides) Paperback – June 27, 2008
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"Beautifully written and wonderfully accessible. Discussing all the major thinkers and topics of the period, Kaye's volume does exactly what it should." -- William Irwin, Professor of Philosophy, King's College Pennsylvania and Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series
"Simultaneously entices students into and prepares them for the riches of the abundant literature that lies ready for their exploration." -- Martin Tweedale, Professor Emeritus of Medieval Philosophy, University of Alberta
About the Author
Sharon M. Kaye is Associate Professor of Philosophy at John Carroll University. She is the author of On Ockham and On Augustine.
Top customer reviews
It is written clearly and well. Kaye presupposes no philosophical knowledge in her reader, so takes the trouble to introduce key concepts. E.g. in the first chapter she introduces deductive logic by defining validity and soundness, and identifies common deductively valid argument forms. Elsewhere she identifies common informal fallacies. The first chapter also touches on empiricism and rationalism (which Kaye calls 'innatism'); the rest of the book portrays medieval philosophy as playing out the conflict of these epistemologies.
The book is arranged topically, with each chapter introducing and developing a concern of medieval philosophy. This arrangement is, I think, well suited to an introductory text. A lot of ground is covered; however, a review of medieval philosophy that did not touch upon everything here would be incomplete.
There are a few problems.
Kaye's approach to the beginning of the Middle Ages is idiosyncratic. She regards the period as beginning c.400, so includes Augustine and Boethius as medieval philosophers. Most other writers place the start of the period much later (e.g. Copleston gives a date of c.800). Chopping up history into periods is an arbitrary business, so it would be difficult to argue that Kaye is simply wrong. However the reader should be aware of this.
There is a problem with Kaye's logic. She regards analogy as a deductively valid argument form, and uses it to reconstruct some arguments from primary texts. She schematizes it thus:
A is to B as C is to D;
A is P with respect to B;
So C is P with respect to D.
But this is not deductively valid. Consider:
Romulus is to Remus as James is to John;
Romulus is the murderer of Remus;
So James is the murderer of John.
The problem here is not that analogy is not deductively valid; rather, it is not deductive at all. Kaye's presentation of medieval arguments using analogy is worthwhile; however the reader should not be led to suppose that analogy belongs to the same class of argument forms as modus ponens or hypothetical syllogism.
A final gripe: Kaye uncritically refers to the arguments for the existence of God as 'proofs'. This begs the question: whether they prove anything is what is at issue.
All that said, this is a worthwhile book, and a good point of departure for the subject. Worth considering if you're a beginning student of theology or philosophy of religion.
Both too much and too little is included in the book. The first chapter is the longest and deals with ancient philosophy only! Obviously, such a discussion should be given in another book. Eight chapters in 164 pages is simply too much and the chapters are themed by subject, not thinker. In the chapter on Universals, we move from Abelard, to Scotus, to Ockham. A moderate realist (such as Aquinas) is totally omitted! Such a glaring oversight cannot be ignored by the instructor.
Furthermore, as was mentioned above, some of the facts advanced are erroneous. One example of this is a reference to St. Augustine's "Confessions". The incident of the destruction of pears and a subsequent reflection on evil is related in an adumbrated form, but the author states that "As Augustine reflects on the sheer irrationality of this act, he develops his conception of the nature of evil. True evil is done for its own sake"(50). This summary is simply incorrect. Augustine muses on the nature of this evil and determines that we never will evil as evil but we will lesser goods in place of higher goods. The deliberate choosing of these lesser goods is what is evil. Granted, this conclusion comes several pages later and Augustine muses over various possibilities, but the conclusion that the author gives is NOT the conclusion of Augustine. This error is an example of lamentable academics.
In conclusion, then, Kaye's book is a poor text. It is a beginners text littered with errors and omissions. As such, it is more likely to confuse than to teach, and therefore it should be avoided as a text for students. The text is also too simple for graduate students, so it is difficult to know what good such a book is for anyone. My advice is not to waste your own (or your students') money on this book. Copleston's two volumes on Medieval philosophyHistory of Philosophy, Volume 2 and History of Philosophy Volume 3 are extremely thorough, and they concentrate on individual thinkers. He also wrote a more general text entitled A History of Medieval PhilosophyA History Of Medieval Philosophy, and it is also pretty good. Etienne Gilson, though problematic has a decent work entitled "The Spirit of medieval philosophy" The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy.