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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: May 2006

13 - Medieval philosophy in later thought


Histories of medieval philosophy often conclude with chapters on the disintegration of the scholastic synthesis or the defeat and neglect of scholasticism. From the standpoint of the present volume, where scholasticism and medieval philosophy are not seen as identical and where synthesis is not regarded as incontestably the supreme philosophic ideal, the situation is more complicated. An adequate history of the presence of medieval philosophy in later thought would require a volume in itself. In what follows some major points are touched on, including those bearing on defeat and neglect, but the story concludes with an account of the revival of interest in medieval philosophy of which this Companion is itself an effect and which it hopes to augment.


In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the Oxford scholar would sooner have volumes of “Aristotle and his philosophy” than worldly attractions. For Bacon in 1597, philosophers of that tradition were cymini sectores – “hair-splitters,” say – whose writings can help us to draw distinctions. And for Molière in 1673, they were people who explained how opium induces sleep by saying that it has a “dormitive virtue.”