chapter  5
41 Pages

LATIN PHILOSOPHY IN THE TWELFTH CENTURY

Historians of the Latin West often speak of a ‘twelfth-century renaissance’. The label usefully signals how, in the twelfth century, especially in Paris, a whole constellation of gifted masters competed for students, exchanged ideas and criticized each other’s arguments. There had been isolated brilliant figures, such as Eriugena and Anselm, but never before in the Latin Middle Ages such an interaction of sophisticated, philosophical thinkers. Yet the label can also mislead. The intellectual flowering of the 1100s was not, like the Renaissance proper of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, stimulated by the availability of new texts or translations. The basis for the thinking of the great twelfthcentury philosophers was provided by the texts of the logica vetus, most of which was in use from the ninth century and the rest from about 1000; by Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae, studied since the eighth century; by patristic texts and, especially, Boethius’s Opuscula sacra; and by the quartet of Platonizing works which were known even in Carolingian times – Plato’s Timaeus, Macrobius’s Commentary on the Somnium Scipionis, Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis, Boethius’s Consolation. True, it was in the middle of the twelfth century that the great translation movement began in Toledo (Chapter 5, section 8), but it was not until after 1200 that its products began to transform intellectual life and to destroy the precocious philosophical culture which had flourished on such a thin soil of ancient philosophical material.