You are on page 1of 5

Medieval Psychology

Early concerns
St. Augustine
Aquinas and rediscovery of Aristotle
Problems of empiricism

Early Christianity & Psychology

All thinking dominated by Church
Had a corner on education
All thought dictated by religious concerns

Dominated by Plato and Stoics

Reason replaced by faith
Sensory knowledge seen as limited
God is unknowable
Hence faith becomes central
And motivation replaces cognitive concerns

Augustine (354-430) General Concerns

Continued Platos emphasis on reason, but with limits
Concerned with universality
Stoic influence

Commonality comes from participation in divine

Thus eliminating issue of obvious differences

Interior sense and faith

Augustines Interior Sense

Interior sense grounded in faith and grace
How to account for evil
Either God does not control
Or is responsible for evil

Solution in notion of free will

Adopted Socratic notion that people who knew truth would do good
Hence evil results from ignorance

Ignorance does not result from lack of reason

Must lack interior sense which comes only from faith

Later Medieval Period

Rediscovery of Aristotle
Sense data more central

Rediscovery of Aristotle
Basically lost until rediscovery about 1000 from Arab
Obvious parallels with Christian thought

Final causes
Essential vs. accidental properties

Major figure was Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Wrote a universal philosophy which incorporated Aristotle
(The Phil9osopher)
Intellect begins with sense data
Could abstract general principles through reason
But guided by God because reason is limited
Hence God is no longer hostile to sensory data

Aquinas and Faith

There are fundamental limitations on cognitive abilities
Sense data are unreliable
And reason is limited

Faith is crucial
Knowledge of God allows correct abstractions and hence aids reason
And allows participation in divine and ethical principles

Problems with Sense Data

British empiricist tradition
Robert Grosseteste (1168-1253)
Roger Bacon (1214-1294)
Duns Scotus (1265-1308)

William of Ockham (1284-1350)

More important as Medieval period advances

Two basic issues

We form abstract categories from sense data
Platos Forms vs. Aristotles categories
How real are these abstractions

The realist position is that they are real

God creates
And individual exemplars created through his handiwork

The nominalist position

Linguistic realities
No larger, God-given realities

William of Ockham
Nominalist and hence extreme empiricist
Other importance
Ockhams razor
First since Aristotle to take a psychological perspective
Experience and habit

Nearly excommunicated for views

Categories have an essence
Realist position
Essence identified with final cause
More generally with purpose often Gods purpose

Distinction between essential and accidental properties.

Legacy of medieval period

Wrestled with issues we no longer see as major
Provided ways of thinking that subsequent generations tried
to overcome
Lack of interest in empirical data