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The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0268017408
ISBN-10: 0268017409
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Editorial Reviews


"[The book] is a text of tremendous value. . . ." -- Faith & Culture, Summer ,1991

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 490 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1 edition (April 30, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268017409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268017408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What does it mean to speak of a Christian philosophy? That is a question that motivated Gilson's work. As a profoundly gifted scholar and historian of philosophy, Gilson was in a perfect position to raise this tendentious question.
This is the first book by Gilson that I had the pleasure to read. Reading it now seven years later after much study of medieval philosophy, I might have a slightly different reaction. But perhaps this first impression will be more useful to the reader who is taking a summary view of the subject, as I was at that time. And, honestly, his thesis has been sustained by my own experience.
In this volume Gilson steers a course between two extremes. The one extreme is to identify Christian philosophy with the Christian Faith. In this sense, Christian philosophy would mean nothing more than apologetics. There would be one Christian philosophy coterminous with the doctrines of the Church. The other extreme is say that there are only Christians who happen also to be philosophers. In this way would there be a great variety of Christian philosophies, but it is difficult to conceive how one could call any of them Christian. There would be no trace of the Christian influence in their writing or their thinking.
Gilson maintains that there is indeed a legitimate sense in speaking of Christian philosophy, one that does not succumb to either extreme. This sense is in the spirit in which the inquiry is done, and it is good to recall that philosophy in its exact sense does not mean a body of doctrine, but a love of wisdom. While distinguishing natural wisdom from supernatural, Gilson maintains that Revelation does have a bearing on the practice of philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
This work is Etienne Gilson's examination of Christian philosophy as it appeared in medieval times, especially as revealed in the thoughts of St. Thomas Aquinas. The main thesis for this book is that Christian philosophy is indeed a coherent concept and indeed prevailed in the middle ages. The book, a series of lectures given by Gilson, is divided into two halves. The first half deals with metaphysics and anthropology as seen from the Christian perspective (particularly questions concerning God and the concept of a person). The second half deals with the Christian noetic and ethics. The major Christian philosophers dealt with include especially St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, St. Augustine, Boethius, St. Bonaventure, and St. Anselm. The relationship (and possible conflict) between medieval Thomism and Augustinism is fully dealt with.
In the first part of this book, the Christian metaphysics is expolored. In particular, God is taken to be Being itself, which is necessarily. Other beings are seen to be contigent. The glory of God as expressed in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas is examined. Finally, the idea of a Christian anthropology and Christian thinking about the person is dealt with.
In the second half of this book, the Christian philosopher's explanation for how things come to be known is explained. Also, the proper objects of the intellect and love as known to the medieval scholastics is examined. In addition, the issue of free will and divine providence and their relations are dealt with. The author next explores Christian law and ethics as seen by the medievals. Finally, the notions of history and nature as experienced by the medieval Christian philosophers are discussed.
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I'm not a philosopher or student of philosophy, but I am continually amazed by this author and this book. I wouldn't have thought that a work of philosophy about a period I hardly know about would provide so much spiritual inspiration and encouragement.

It is a work of philosophy, and there is a limited amount of "technical" vocabulary to absorb in the reading, but it's just a few words, really, nothing a good dictionary can't handle. And Gilson's exposition overall is very plain-spoken and common-sensical. I wouldn't say it's an "easy" read, or a quick one; but that's not because of any lack of facility on the author's part.

The subject matter itself, the historical development, reality, and import of a truly Christian philosophy, demands full attention, and Gilson takes pains to help us really understand why Judeo-Christian revelation is the necessary basis for Western philosophical development, and why that development is undeniably important to the Catholic Church, and to ordinary Catholics.

The author is an eloquent speaker, (the book is drawn from a series of spoken lectures,) and knows how to carry a very lengthy and very complicated topic to a varied audience. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, Gilson repeatedly refers back to supporting material from his earlier chapters.

Also, I was surprised by his wonderfully disarming sense of humor, and upheld by his clear appreciation of and respect for ordinary people who may find themselves interested in his topic. The content, so richly portrayed, is a history that is virtually unknown to the average Catholic or Christian.

If, like me, you've heard the names of great thinkers in Catholic history, like St. Thomas Aquinas, or Sts.
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