Central Works of Philosophy

Central Works of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval

Edited by John Shand
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 289
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  • Book Info
    Central Works of Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Ranging over 2,500 years of philosophical writing, this five-volume collection of essays is an unrivalled companion for studying and reading philosophy. Each essay provides an overview of a work and a clear exposition of its central ideas. Covering the most influential works of our greatest philosophers, the series offers remarkable insights into the ideas out of which our present ways of thinking emerged. VOLUME 1 offers readers a deep understanding of ancient philosophy and the medieval period in Western Europe during which philosophers sought to harmonize the great thinkers of antiquity with Christian belief. The works of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Sextus Empiricus, Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Ockham are considered. Contributors include Hugh H. Benson, Stephen R. L. Clark, Richard Cross, Paula Gottlieb, R.J. Hankinson, Peter King, Christopher Kirwan, Harry Lesser, John Marenbon, and Paul O'Grady.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8457-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    John Shand
  5. Ancient and Medieval Philosophy: Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)
    John Shand

    This book has two main strands of ideas that encompass not only the beginnings of philosophy, but also the foundation of Western civilization and much of what we take for granted in our mental outlook in the modern world. The two strands are: ancient – Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Sextus Empiricus and Plotinus; and medieval – Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Duns Scotus and Ockham. These comprise, roughly speaking, two thousand-year stretches from respectively 600 BCE to 300 CE, and 300 CE to 1600 CE. Without knowledge of these thinkers an understanding of the Western world would be a poor thing indeed. The ancient strand,...

  6. 1 Plato: Republic
    (pp. 18-45)
    Hugh H. Benson

    Plato’sRepublicis many things to many people. To some it is among the first works in political theory in the Western tradition. To others it is a penetrating discussion of the relationship between the arts and the state, the nature of education or the sociological role of myth. To others still it may be the first examination of a fundamental ethical question, or the presentation of a fundamental metaphysical theory, or simply thelocus classicusof classical Platonism. And as far as I can tell they may all be right. Nevertheless, I believe that theRepubliccontains a single...

  7. 2 Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
    (pp. 46-68)
    Paula Gottlieb

    The philosopher, as Aristotle is called by St Thomas Aquinas, was born in Stagira, northeast Greece, in 384 BCE, and was the most eminent of Plato’s students. His father was doctor to King Amyntas of Macedon, and tradition has it that Aristotle later became the tutor of King Philip’s son, the future Alexander the Great. Early on in theNicomachean Ethics,one of his two major works on ethics, Aristotle says that his enquiry is “a sort of Politics”. Despite the lip service to kingship in hisNicomachean Ethics,the virtues Aristotle describes, especially the “nameless” ones, seem well suited...

  8. 3 Lucretius: On the Nature of the Universe
    (pp. 69-89)
    Harry Lesser

    Titus Lucretius Carus, to give him his full name, lived probably from 99 to 55 BCE. Virtually nothing is known of his life, or why he died young; there is no reason to believe the story that he was driven mad by a love potion and committed suicide. He was probably of aristocratic birth, married, and a fairly prosperous farmer, prosperous enough not to have to work on the farm with his own hands, but not so prosperous that he could employ a bailiff. There are references in his poem to the management of the farm keeping him very busy,...

  9. 4 Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Pyrrhonism
    (pp. 90-118)
    R. J. Hankinson

    Until recently, Sextus Empiricus’sOutlines of Pyrrhonismhad been little read in modern times, and less understood. But in the last quarter-century, a revival of interest in later Greek philosophy in general, and scepticism in particular, has seen it largely restored to its rightful place as one of the most influential texts in the entire history of Western philosophy In this chapter, I shall concentrate upon producing my own outline of its contents; but I shall also seek to put it in its proper place in the Greek sceptical tradition, as well as within the longer tradition of Western epistemology,...

  10. 5 Plotinus: The Enneads
    (pp. 119-139)
    Stephen R. L. Clark

    The Enneads of Plotinus(204–70 CE) would, in modern terms, be better entitledThe Collected[or evenComplete] Works of Plotinus, arranged and introduced by Porphyry of Tyre.By his sometime pupil Porphyry’s own account,¹ Plotinus began to write down summaries and expansions of seminar discussion in his early fifties, and continued to write until shortly before his death. Having weak eyes, he could never bear to re-read or revise his work, and his colleagues and students might reasonably have doubted whether every copy had been properly proofread.² Thirty years after Plotinus’s death, Porphyry produced what then became the...

  11. 6 Augustine: City of God
    (pp. 140-168)
    Christopher Kirwan

    Augustine is one of the most influential authors who have ever existed; perhaps only Aristotle has had more effect through his writings on the development of Western culture. That does not in itself make Augustine a fit subject for a volume concerned with philosophy; but I shall try to show that in fact he does qualify to be counted among the philosophers, in our narrow contemporary Anglophone understanding of the word, even though his place among them is not in the premier division (he did not lack the aptitude, I believe, but he did lack the training, and the time)....

  12. 7 Anselm: Proslogion
    (pp. 169-193)
    John Marenbon

    In many general histories of philosophy, Anselm’s role is that of inventing the so-called Ontological Argument for the existence of God, which occupies about two pages in Chapters 2 and (some say) 3 of hisProslogion.The remaining 300 or so pages of close argument that make up his philosophical and theological writings are largely ignored, including the rest of theProslogionitself. One purpose of this essay is to right that imbalance, at least as far as theProslogionis concerned. The other chapters of theProslogionare full of exciting philosophical discussion, on topics as varied as omnipotence,...

  13. 8 Aquinas: Summa Theologiae
    (pp. 194-216)
    Paul O’Grady

    The presence of a book whose title translates as “Summary of Theology” might seem odd in a list of great works of philosophy. Yet Aquinas’s major work does make a significant contribution to the history of philosophy and has had wid-eranging influence on many philosophers. However, the initial puzzlement one might feel about the title is reflected in the different kinds of scholarly responses to Aquinas’s work. Over the centuries, some philosophers have delighted in attacking Aquinas as the philosophical representative of the Catholic Church, and in so doing exposing the perceived errors and perniciousness of that institution. Others have...

  14. 9 Duns Scotus: Ordinatio
    (pp. 217-241)
    Richard Cross

    Beyond a few details, little is known of the life of John Duns Scotus (c.1266–1308). Both the generally accepted date and place of his birth are speculative. According to scholars, 1266 is most likely, given one date that is secure, namely, that of his ordination to the priesthood in Northampton on 17 March 1291. Under canon law, 25 was the earliest age allowable for ordination. The Bishop of Lincoln (in whose huge diocese both Northampton and Oxford were then located) conducted an earlier ordination on 23 December 1290. Thus, assuming that Scotus was ordained at the first opportunity, this...

  15. 10 William of Ockham: Summa Logicae
    (pp. 242-270)
    Peter King

    Ockham’sSumma logicae (The Logic Handbook),writtenc.1323, is a manifesto masquerading as a textbook.¹ Its aim, Ockham disingenuously declares in his Preface, is merely to help beginning students in theology avoid elementary difficulties in logic. His undeclared aim is far more ambitious. In theSumma logicaeOckham puts forward a new philosophical programme designed to supersede the views of his contemporaries and predecessors, views that come in for extensive and trenchant criticism in the course of its many pages. We call that programme and the movement it engendered “nominalism”. Its guiding principle is the conviction that only concrete...

  16. Index
    (pp. 271-278)