12th Century Renaissance, Rise of Universities, and Scholastic Philosophy (Week #25)

By Haley Daley

What kinds of developments occurred during the renaissance of the twelfth century?

During the time of the Renaissance, there was a growing interest in reacquainting with the classic literature, with ancient rome in particular. Much of Roman law was being revived, Mostly laws by the emperor Justinian. There was also a tremendous outpouring of Latin writing. As well as a focus on philosophy and the sciences, and a large amount of writing history. Through all this time and these revivals and changes, there was placed great trust in writers of this literature, but many did not base their opinions and writings off of personal experience. Some were suspicious of aristotle’s writings, but this changed by the 1300s.


Discuss the origins and features of the university system in the High Middle Ages.

In Universities around this time, they would awards degrees, and also had a fixed program of studies, they had differentiation of undergrad and grad education, and they also had different specializations that different universities had. The actual origins of universities are obscure. We do know that either the pope or the german emperor chartered universities, Universities needed a charter from one or the other for a universally acknowledged degree. In the Universities, there was a lot of debating and disputing of questions. Also, a student had to pass oral exams. And, in order to get a degree, a student would be asked a question where two opposing sides disputed, and they would have to find an answer with a middle ground to please both sides of the debate. The University system, in many ways, was the same, but was also very different from what we have now.


What was Scholastic philosophy? Give an example of someone in the Scholastic tradition (draw from Lesson 123) and discuss that person’s work.

Scholastic philosophy is the examination of faith and reason with the expectation that they will reinforce each other and not contradict each other. Some during this time believed that faith and reason were conflicting principles and that you could not have one with the other and vice versa. Others, such as Thomas Aquinas, St. Anselm, Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, and St. Albert the Great, believed that they supported each other and reinforced each other. I would like to look particularly at St. Anselm. St. Anselm (1033-1109) was an abbot at Bec and archbishop of Canterbury. A few of his many works are Cur Deus Homo? and his Proof of the existence of God. This proof uses reason to prove God exists. He begins by saying in order to prove the existence of God, we must define what we mean by “God”. He defines God as “That being by which nothing greater can be conceived” or, for simplicities sake, God is the greatest conceivable being. He goes on by saying, something that exists in only in my mind is inferior to something that exists in my mind and in reality. Something that only exists in my mind lacks a perfection. If God is the greatest conceivable being, he must possess all perfection, or else he wouldn’t be the greatest conceivable being. So, if God only exists in a person’s mind and not in reality, He wouldn’t be perfect and would therefore not be the greatest conceivable being. Therefore, God exists. If He is the greatest conceivable being, he has to have existence. His Proof of the existence of God is not widely accepted, but there is a minority who do believe that it works and does prove the existence of God.

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