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Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages

Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages

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Published by Abhishek Gandhi

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Published by: Abhishek Gandhi on Apr 14, 2010
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Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages page
Running Head: Preservation and Transmission of Greek Philosophy in theMiddle Ages
Preservation and Transmission of Greek PhilosophyIn the Middle Ages
Abhishek GandhiProfessor FlemingReligion and Philosophy
Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages page
Greek philosophy focused on the role of reason and inquiry in the study of the natural world. Many philosophers today concede that Greek philosophy hasshaped all of Western thought since its inception. As Alfred Whitehead oncenoted, with some exaggeration, "Western philosophy is just a series of footnotesto Plato," (Brickman, 1961). Clear and unbroken lines of influence lead fromAncient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers, to medieval Muslim philosophers,and to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment. Early Greek philosophy, inturn, was influenced by the older wisdom literature and myths of the Near East.As M.L. West points out: "contact with oriental cosmology and theology helped toliberate the early Greek philosophers' imagination; it certainly gave them manysuggestive ideas. But they taught themselves to reason. Philosophy as weunderstand it is a Greek creation," (Griffin, 2001).Prior to the Middle Ages, the ideas of Aristotle and Plato were lost toEuropeans for centuries. The introduction of Greek philosophy and science intothe culture of the Latin West in the Middle Ages was an event that transformedthe intellectual life of Western Europe. It consisted of the discovery of manyoriginal works, such as those written by Aristotle in the Classical period,commentaries by Hellenistic philosophers written in Late Antiquity, andcommentaries from early Muslim philosophers in the Arab world written duringthe Islamic Golden Age from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, (Grant, 1996).
Greek Philosophy in the Middle Ages page
Preservation and Transmission of Greek Philosophy
As knowledge of Greek declined with the fall of the Roman Empire, so didknowledge of Greek texts, many of which remain un-translated,
Lindberg, 1978).The fragile nature of papyrus meant that older texts not copied onto expensiveparchment would eventually crumble and be lost. The Byzantines, for whomGreek was the dominant language, made use of only parts of their classicalGreek heritage, and were more interested in preserving Christian writings. Thus,for a long time in Europe there was a disregard for Greek ideas. Scribes oftenrecycled old books, scraping off old, philosophical texts in order to createreligious books. After a while, only a few monasteries had Greek works, andeven fewer of them copied these works, (Laughlin, 1995). In mainly Irishmonasteries, monks had been taught by Greek and Latin missionaries whoprobably had brought Greek texts with them, (Laughlin, 1995). However, Irishpreservation of these ideas, though valuable, did not introduce nearly as muchGreek philosophy and science to the West as did the work of Arab translatorsfrom 1100 – 1300 CE. Arab logicians had inherited Greek ideas after their invasion of southern portions of the Byzantine Empire. Their translations andcommentaries on these ideas worked their way through the Arab west into Spainand Sicily, which became important centers for transmission of these ideas. Thiswork of translation, though largely unplanned and disorganized, constituted oneof the greatest transmissions of ideas in history.The transfer of Greek works from the Byzantines to the Latin West tookplace in two main stages. The first occurred in Babylon, when Greek works were

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