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SHORTER NOTICES Medieval Philosophy. By FREDERICK C. COPLESTON. Home Study Books; General Editor, B. bOR EVANS. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. [Toronto: British Book Service (Canada) Ltd.]. 1952. Pp. vi, 194. $1.50. Father Copleston, S.J., has set himself the unenviable task of presenting a survey of the whole field of medieval philosophy from Patristic times to the Renaissance in one short volume. The task is further complicated by the fact that he addresses the volume to the general reader. The author has achieved his first objective, the survey, by reducing to much briefer compass the contents of his own two larger volumes covering the same ~aterial. These he has apparently rewritten to produce the present work; and he has eliminated much of the detailed exposition and subtler analysis. Such a course is obviously dictated by the nature of his audience. His second objective, making himself intelligible to the unphilosophic reader, imposes the burden of simplifying much of the precise terminology in which medieval philosophy is expressed. His appeal throughout is for a sympathetic hearing for the ideas he is presenting because, as he says, they are not only a very important part of our Western heritage but also have a profound intellectual value of their own. In his larger volumes Fr Copleston seems to prefer what he calls a linear interpretation, by which he means that he will trace out the main lines of thought current in the Middle Ages and show the connections and influences of one thinker upon another. In the presept volume it would appear that chronology is uppermost in his mind, for he is more concerned with a period by period outline of the main figures and doctrines. The book proceeds from a very brief exposition of the contribution of the Fathers, a presentation that gives their spirit rather than their individual ideas, to the mystical doctrines of the fourteenth century, culminating in the writings of Nicholas of Cusa. Our author is at pains throughout to explain to the contemporary reader that, whereas much of modern thought is determined by the ideal of knowledge it possesses , to wit, experimental science, medieval thought is also largely determined by its scientific ideal, to wit, theology. It is to this theme that Fr Copleston returns as he presents the thought of Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. However, he is always careful to accompany such explanations with words of caution to the effect that the speculative ideas thus generated remain phi99 100 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY losophical. This enables him to make several salutary suggestions to those who would see in the ideas of Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, and Nicholas of Autrecourt early forerunners of modem views. For, the author points out, their thought is in no sense secular even while it is philosophical, for it is mainly inspired by religious and theological motives. The work concludes with a very cursory glance at thirteenthand fourteenth-century political theory, a brief bibliography, and an index. Objection might be taken to one device Fr Copleston constantly uses to make his points clear to a modem audience. This device is the using of modem terms, many of them Kantian, to express his thought. If such terms are intelligible to his reader, then misunderstanding would seem almost unavoidable. And if the reader.is really not skilled in philosophy and its language, then it would seem that such a tactic fails in its purpose. Many of his comparisons with modem systems also put a great burden on the non-specialist reader. And would a student of St. Thomas agree with Fr Copleston's remark that "St. Thomas found the difference between dogmatic theology and metaphysical philosophy to consist primarily in a difference of method" (p. 12)? Perhaps not. However, such minutiae should not puzzle or bother the person who is seeking an introduction to medieval problems and ways of thinking. Since Fr Copleston has addressed himself to such readers, we can only say that his main purposes have been achieved. L. E. M. LYNCH A History of Science. Ancient Science through the Golden Age of Greece. By GEORGE SARTON. Cambridge: Harvard University Press [Toronto: S. J. Reginald Saunders and Company Limited]. 1952...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 99-100
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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