By Christopher Martin
Takes the scholar step by step throughout the highbrow difficulties of Medieval proposal, explaining the significant strains of argument from Augustine of Hippos to the 16th century.
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Additional info for An Introduction to Medieval Philosophy
The fact that believing or acting in such-and-such a way is enjoined by some authority, whether divine or human, does not count as a good reason at all. This seems to me crazy, and would have seemed crazy to any medieval. All of us have to believe and act without thinking out good reasons most of the time: even when we do have time to think out good reasons we certainly cannot think out each time why those reasons count as good reasons: and, philosophers are now beginning to realise, we cannot really think out why what we count as good reasons do count as good reasons.
In the Summa, he usually limits himself to three objections, the strongest he can think of. In a live debate, it was the students, the bachelor and the other masters present who came up with the objections, and they might present dozens of them. As the tradition has developed, arguments against almost any given thesis will have cropped up from time to time. In a live debate, it would usually be the task of the bachelor, in general, to marshal the objections, make any distinctions between different senses of words and different kinds of argument that might be necessary, and put forward some arguments against the objections.
We are in a far worse position. We do not accept that it is reasonable to believe or act on authority: but when we reject authority, we are faced with the impossible task of working things out from the first principles of reason. We are forced into a choice between believing or acting unreasonably, as we think, by following tradition, and believing or acting reasonably by going back to first principles, to the 'given'. We cannot go back to first principles: so we very seldom even perform the modest amount of reasonable checking of authority and custom which were carried out by thinkers in the Middle Ages.