Medieval Philosophy<br />The term medieval refers to the Middle Ages, the time in European history between classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance, from about 500 A.D. to about 1350.<br /><ul><li>Medieval philosophy is theocentric in its character.
During the decline of Greco-Roman civilization, Western philosophers turned their attention from the scientific investigation of nature and the search for happiness in this world, to the problem of salvation and life in another, better world.
The torch of civilization in Western Europe was carried mainly by the Christian Church, where thought were conducted under the context of Christian doctrines.
By the 3rd century AD, Christianity had spread throughout the Roman Empire. The religious teachings of the Gospels were combined by the Fathers of the Church with many of the philosophical concepts of the Greeks and Roman schools.
The tendency of the philosophers during this period was to seek orthodoxy as well as truth. Nearly all medieval thinkers—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—were determined to merge or synthesize philosophy with religion.
Islamic civilization performed the function of preserving the culture of classical antiquity, particularly the philosophy of Aristotle.
Their thoughts were more imposing than informative due to the prevalence and dominance of paganism and barbarianism.
Much of what we now regard as Christian doctrine had its origin in Greek and Hellenistic philosophy.</li></ul>Prominent Philosophers of the Medieval Period<br /><ul><li>St. Augustine
Avicenna</li></ul>Modern Philosophy<br />Modern philosophy is characteristically anthropocentric.<br />Renaissance and Reformation<br /><ul><li>The Renaissance was a literary and cultural movement that spread through Western Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries; it represents a transitional period from medieval synthesis to modern analysis.
The 15th and 16th centuries were periods of radical social, political, and intellectual developments. The exploration of the world; the Reformation, with its emphasis on individual faith; the rise of commercial urban society; and the dramatic appearance of new ideas in all areas of culture stimulated the development of a new philosophical world view.
By the end of the 15th century, the authority of medieval scholasticism—which utilized Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophy to support Christian theology—began to erode as many thinkers began to reject the scholastics’ excessive reliance on authority of earlier scholars and theologians.
Just as religious reformers challenged ecclesiastical authority and made individual believers responsible for their own relation to God, prominent Renaissance thinkers proposed an analogous elimination of all appeals to authority in education and science.
The Renaissance revival of Greek and Roman studies emphasized the value of the classics for their won sake, rather than for the relevance of Christianity.
An explosion in shared ideas was made possible by the expansion of universities and the invention of the printing press. Educational practice was revolutionized by the recovery of ancient documents, the rejection of institutional authority, and renewed emphasis on individual freedom.
Renaissance philosophers drifted away from abstract speculations in life after death and developed an intense interest in the visible world and in knowledge derived from concrete sensory experience.
Political institutions and ethical principles ceased to be regarded as reflections of divine command and came to be seen as practical devices created by humans.
The medieval view of the world as a hierarchical order of beings created and governed by God was supplanted by the mechanistic picture of the world as a vast machine, the parts of which move in accordance with strict physical laws, without purpose or will.
In this new philosophical view, experience and reason became the sole standards of truth.
The Renaissance was marked by a conspicuous rise in individualism and secularism, illustrated in the following areas: humanism, religious reformation, politics, science and skepticism.
The ‘Age of Enlightenment’ is term used to describe the trends in thought and letters in Europe and American colonies during the 18th century, prior to the French Revolution of 1789-1799.
The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself, convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and a respect for humanity.
The precursors of the Enlightenment can be traced to the 17th century philosophers and earlier. Equally important, though, were the self-confidence engendered by new discoveries in science and the spirit of cultural relativism encouraged by the exploration of the non-European world.
Of the basic assumptions and beliefs common to philosophers and intellectuals of this period, perhaps the most important was an abiding faith in the power of human reason. People came to assume that through a judicious use of reason, an unending progress would be possible—progress in knowledge, in technical achievement and even in moral values.
Although they saw the church—especially the Roman Catholic church—as the principal force that had had the enslaved the human mind in the past, most Enlightenment thinkers did not renounce religion altogether.
Many opted for a form of Deism, accepting the existence of God and of a hereafter, but rejecting the intricacies of Christian theology.
Human aspirations, they believed, should not be centered on the next life, but rather on the means of improving this life. Worldly happiness was placed before religious salvation.
More than a set of fixed ideas, the Enlightenment implied an attitude and a method of thought. A desire arose to reexamine and question all received ideas and values, to explore new ideas in many different directions.
During the first half of the 18th century, the leaders of the Enlightenment waged an uphill struggle against considerable odds. Several were imprisoned for their writings, and most were hampered by government censorship and attacks by the church.
The Age of Enlightenment ended with the French Revolution. It was followed by the period of Postmodernism which associates with the critique of Enlightenment values and truth claims.</li></ul>Prominent Philosophers of the Modern Period<br /><ul><li>Rene Descartes