Guide Starting Points: Medieval Elements

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David's in Wales; and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Geoffrey Chaucer 's Canterbury Tales became popular at the end of the 14th century. The most prominent authors of Jewish secular poetry in the Middle Ages were Solomon ibn Gabirol and Yehuda Halevi , both of whom were also renowned religious poets. While it is true that women in the medieval period were never accorded full equality with men, some women were able to use their skill with the written word to gain renown.

Religious writing was the easiest avenue—women who would later be canonized as saints frequently published their reflections, revelations, and prayers. Much of what is known about women in the Middle Ages is known from the works of nuns such as Clare of Assisi , Bridget of Sweden , and Catherine of Siena. Frequently, however, the religious perspectives of women were held to be unorthodox by those in power, and the mystical visions of such authors as Julian of Norwich , Mechthild of Magdeburg , and Hildegard of Bingen provide insight into a part of the medieval experience less comfortable for the institutions that ruled Europe at the time.

Women wrote influential texts in the secular realm as well—reflections on courtly love and society by Marie de France and Christine de Pizan continue to be studied for their glimpses of medieval society. For modern historical reflection, D. Green's historical work entitled, Women Readers of the Middle Ages explores literacy and literature in terms of women in medieval society. While medieval literature makes use of many literary devices , allegory is so prominent in this period as to deserve special mention. Much of medieval literature relied on allegory to convey the morals the author had in mind while writing—representations of abstract qualities, events, and institutions are thick in much of the literature of this time.

Probably the earliest and most influential allegory is the Psychomachia Battle of Souls by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Allegory in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, England. Retrieved from " https: Medieval literature History of literature Medieval culture. Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Commons. This page was last edited on 17 September , at The walls that make up the Bailey are also considered to be part of the Bailey.

A castle could have several. Sometimes they were called the upper bailey and lower bailey or the west bailey and east bailey. A stone structure that protected the gate of a castle. Think of it as a gatehouse. It usually had a small tower on each side of the gate where guards could stand watch. A small turret at the corner of a tower or wall. It is usually at the top but not always.

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A tower or turret projecting from a wall or at the junction of two walls. These are the structures at the tops of the walls surrounding a castle. Picture what you have seen in the movies where archers are at the top of the wall and firing arrows between open slots down on the attackers.

These shapes at the top Where the archers position themselves for battle are called battlements. They are also referred to as crenellations. For several centuries a license was required in order to fortify a building and make it more castle-like. This was called a crenellation license. A masonry projection used as additional support for walls. Notre Dame Cathedral is a good examlple of the use of Buttresses. Corbel - A stone projection from a wall.

It supports the weight of a battlement. I have pictures and more here. Drawbridge - This was a wooden bridge in front of the main gate of the castle. In the early centuries of castles it was moved horizontal to the ground and in the later centuries it was built so it could raise up in a hinged fashion. Dungeon - A deep dark cell typically underground and underneath a castle. This is a derivative of the word Dunjon.

GateHouse - A strongly built and fortified main entrance to a castle. It often has a guard house and or living quarters. They could also drop liquids and projectiles. Keep - This definition changed slightly over the centuries of castle building. In the early years of stone castle building the Keep was a standalone structure that could be defended and often square in shape. Over the centuries these structures were improved upon and built around.

Thus a castle was made that was a larger and more complex structure. The main tower that this was built around was still called the Keep and it was usually the tallest and strongest structure in the castle. It was also used as the last line of defense during siege or attack. Machicolations - The openings between the corbels of a parapet. They form areas that stick out along the top of the wall and defenders inside the castle can drop items like boiling oil and rocks onto attackers.

I have pictures and more information about machicolations here: Finally, there is an inclusive view that tries to integrate all of these three positions into one, arguing that categories are words, concepts, and properties but in different ways. These four views are not the only choices available see Gracia , but they are the most popular views considered in the Middle Ages.

The fourth group has to do with causes; they include questions about how categories are established or brought about. These issues have attracted considerable attention in recent years, particularly among post-modern philosophers, such as Michel Foucault — In the Middle Ages the way this question is posed depends heavily on the ontological status accorded to categories, particularly on whether they are mental or extra-mental entities.

The fifth group involves epistemology; they concern primarily how we have access to categories, that is, how we get to know them and under what conditions. Although this is not a widespread topic of discussion in the Early Middle Ages, later on there are various attempts to determine the number and identity of the categories and the basis on which this determination can be carried out. These attempts, and the assumptions which guide them, are closely related to an important issue for the Middle Ages in general that becomes critical toward its end: Some think the relation is isomorphic, whereas others disagree.

The sixth group concerns language; they involve the terms used to talk about categories and the way they function. These issues are particularly relevant for the view that considers categories to be linguistic entities, and therefore become central in twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy. In the Middle Ages, they are especially important in the latter part of the period when issues of language take center stage in philosophical discussions.

The seventh group falls within the philosophy of mind; they have to do with the status of categories in the mind. Since we think about categories and through categories, it is pertinent for a philosopher to ask questions of this sort. This topic is particularly pertinent for those who think that categories are mental entities. In the Middle Ages, the questions raised about the status of categories in the mind are put generally in the context of other topics, such as the status of universals, but much of what medieval authors say about universals can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to categories.

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The eighth group may be characterized as social, political, and axiological; they have to do with the value and use of categories by persons, society, and the polity. Many contemporary philosophers have found in this topic a way of undermining some traditional views of the world that they consider oppressive or inaccurate.

These issues do not seem to be explicitly raised in the Middle Ages and may indicate one important difference between medieval and contemporary philosophical thought. The ninth group is meta-disciplinary; they involve the discipline that studies categories. Obviously, how these issues are addressed depends to a great extent on the position one takes concerning the conception and ontological status of categories, as well as on how the various disciplines of learning are understood.

This is a topic of concern in the Middle Ages, and is explicitly addressed by late medieval authors. They identify various disciplines as the place to study categories, ranging from grammar and logic to metaphysics. Finally, rather than discussing categories in general, one may deal with particular categories, such as substance or relation.

This is perhaps the most frequent way in which categories are discussed in the history of philosophy, including the Middle Ages. Apart from these topics, there are others that are closely related to categories and often discussed together with them. Equivocity is dived into random equivocity and purposeful equivocity. The latter involves the broader issues of analogical predication. Although these issues are originally introduced by Aristotle in the Topics , this work was not available in the Middle Ages until after the period of translations in the twelfth century.

Because of considerations of space, we shall not discuss these related topics here, nor can we refer to all the issues about categories raised by medieval authors or mentioned above. However, the conceptual framework of issues we have introduced should help in the understanding of how categories are approached in the Middle Ages and the differences between the medieval approach and those taken in other periods of the history of philosophy.

We begin with the classical background of the discussion of categories in the Middle Ages. This consists primarily of Aristotle, who is responsible for the first treatise on categories ever written. The philosophical discussion of categories begins with Aristotle B. His view is difficult to interpret, even though the texts dealing with this topic Categories , Topics I, and Metaphysics V are characteristically direct in style.

Still, there is some consensus among scholars that Aristotle proposes three ways of understanding categories: Much of the subsequent philosophical discussion of categories concerns the correctness of this view. Some favor a position according to which categories are realities, which are then said to be reflected in thought and language; some endorse a view of them merely as concepts, which are also said to be reflected in language; some maintain that categories are merely linguistic terms, and reject any implication that they are real entities or concepts; and still others maintain an inclusive view that contends that categories are all three: The Greek term that Aristotle uses for category means predicate categoria so that categories would appear to be kinds of predicates, the most general kinds of predicates.

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However, some commentators claim that Aristotle uses the term rather for kinds of predication and kinds of beings for example in Topics b20—27, and Metaphysics a22—27; see Frede , 29— The Aristotelian categories may be taken as the most general predicates which can be predicated or, alternatively, they are the most general kinds of predication into which the predicates we use in ordinary discourse may be classified. They provide answers to direct questions such as when, where, how, what, and so on. Terms that extend to more than one category e. Predicability, then, is not a sufficient condition of categoricity, but non-predicability is a sufficient disqualification.

For Aristotle, the individual is not, strictly speaking, predicable, although there are places in which he speaks of the individual as predicable. Examples of individuals are this horse and a certain point of grammar present in the knower 1b5. The first is what Aristotle calls a primary substance , which he defines in Categories as that which is neither predicable of, nor present in, a subject 2a The second is, like a primary substance, non-predicable, but it can be present in a subject. Both are individual and neither is predicable.

Some think of predicates as properties of some kind, some as concepts, some as words, and so on. Therefore, to say that something is a predicate does not necessarily mean that it is a linguistic term. In the case of Aristotle, there is ample evidence in Categories itself which suggests that categories are not just linguistic terms that reflect the fundamental ways in which we speak about things, but also ways in which things are.

Consider for example how Aristotle introduces the categories: At the same time, these statements do not imply that what is signified necessarily has to be linguistic. This text begins with a reference to things that are ta onta , but goes on to speak about things that are said ta legomena. The same occurs in other places 2a In a text from Metaphysics a23—25 , the isomorphism between being and language is openly expressed.


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Aristotle is less explicit about the understanding of categories as concepts. In Categories generally he does not speak about how things are conceived ; rather, he speaks about how things are called or how they are. At the same time, from what he says elsewhere about signification and the way we think, it is not unreasonable to surmise that he also thinks of categories as concepts of some kind. And just as written marks are not the same for all men, neither are spoken sounds.

None of this, however, is very clear. Indeed, Aristotle never actually says that categories are words, concepts, or realities; he only speaks of them as categories, that is, predicates. Aristotle does speak of categories as if they were realities or linguistic terms, and one can further infer that he could have spoken of them as if they were concepts. But this does not definitely clarify what he thinks about them.

Indeed, on the basis of what he says we cannot determine for sure that he even raises the question of the ultimate ontological status of categories. The situation is further obscured because Aristotle never identifies the discipline where categories are supposed to be studied and he treats them in both logical Categories , Topics and metaphysical Metaphysics contexts. One more point needs to be made clear. Aristotle never clearly and consistently ties the categories to sentential or propositional structure. In Categories he appears to consider them in isolation from their syntactical context, but in Topics b20—27 and Metaphysics a23—25 he seems to tie them to predication and, thus, to consider them in relation to a syntactical context.

This ambiguity gives rise to different interpretations, such as that of Frede, who considers them to be kinds of predications , and that of Ryle, who views them as independent from syntactical context In short, the picture is far from clear, and this serves to separate Aristotle from authors who explicitly and exclusively view categories as reflecting syntactical contexts.

The same ambiguity with respect to the ontological status of categories that we find in Aristotle is found in many of his medieval commentators. Perhaps this can be taken as a sign that they believe categories to be realities, concepts, and linguistic terms, that is, that categories are ways in which the world is, ways in which we think about the world, and ways in which we speak about the world.

Medieval Theories of the Categories (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

However, there are some who argue for purely linguistic or conceptual ways of understanding categories. In modern philosophy, the emphasis shifts toward the language of thought, a prime example of which is Immanuel Kant —; see Gracia Long before the Middle Ages, a well-defined tradition of writing commentaries on philosophical works had been established. It is perhaps natural, then, that the most common way of engaging philosophy throughout the Middle Ages consisted in writing commentaries on what were considered authoritative philosophical texts, and particularly works by Aristotle.

So popular was commentary writing that thousands of Medieval Latin commentaries on Aristotle's writings are still extant, of which nearly two hundred concern the Categories Lohr , , , , , These commentaries were not always intended simply to explain texts; often, they became the means of developing the thoughts of the commentators on various philosophical topics.

Moreover, commentators did not comment on Aristotle's works in isolation, but also consulted other commentaries on the same texts. In this way, they engaged and often challenged other interpretations, and developed their own insights. At the beginning of the sixth century, we find several late Neoplatonic philosophers who continue the ancient tradition of commentary writing. Two of these in particular deserve mention. Simplicius — is important because his Commentary was translated into Latin by William of Moerbeke in and was subsequently read by Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Ockham, among others, though apparently not by Albertus Magnus.

In addition, Simplicius attempted to prove that there are ten and only ten categories, something that became the subject of dispute in the later Middle Ages. Unfortunately, his untimely death prevented him from accomplishing his ambitious goal, though he did succeed in translating Aristotle's Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, and Porphyry's Isagoge.

Moreover, Boethius had hoped to write two commentaries on many of Aristotle's works: But again, his early death prevented him from producing second commentaries. Like other Neoplatonic commentaries, Boethius' work draws heavily from Porphyry and perpetuates the view of the categories which became the canonical interpretation of Aristotle's text, i. Due to the closure of the Academy in and the dominance of the Latin language in the West to the virtual exclusion of Greek, little of the ancient commentary tradition exerted any influence on the Latin Middle Ages.

Thus, in spite of the many commentaries produced in the ancient world, the main texts available to authors dealing with categories after the sixth century were Boethius' translation of and Commentary on Aristotle's Categories , the Categoriae decem a Themistian paraphrase of Aristotle's Categories traditionally attributed to St. Augustine , and a composite translation which included the lemmata of Boethius' Commentary and some glosses. A few other works refer to categories, such as Porphyry's Isagoge , translated and commented on twice by Boethius, and Boethius' two Commentaries on On Interpretation and his treatise On the Trinity.

However, the growing interest in logic that began in the ninth century and then was revived in the eleventh century made Boethius' translation and Commentary on the Categories the center of attention on this topic. From the sixth to the ninth century, most commentaries on the Categories were written in Syriac. These include commentaries by Paul the Persian fl. The last Commentary, in turn, appears to be the source for the Arabic tradition see King Beginning in the tenth century, Islamic philosophers such as Alfarabi ca. This process introduced many technical terms that came to have considerable impact on philosophical and theological discussions.

Although commentaries on Aristotle's Categories written before tend to be expository, still they raise important philosophical questions, such as whether the categories time and place are synonymous with when and where , or whether action and passion are reducible to motion. Even more important is the lively debate between realists and nominalists concerning whether categories are words, concepts, or things for Abelard's influence, see Marenbon , The position they take on it determines the discipline in which they think the categories are studied and affect the degree of isomorphism they believe holds between language words , thought concepts , and reality things.

If Aristotle's Categories is a book about words, then categories are studied in grammar; if it is about concepts, they are studied in logic; and if it is about extra-mental things, they are studied in metaphysics. By the early thirteenth century, an inclusive view, according to which Aristotle's Categories is about words, concepts, and things, became standard.

This view, shared by almost everyone up to Ockham Pini, , 11—18 , had two important results. First, it lent support to the belief that categories are legitimately studied in three disciplines: Second, it suggested a certain isomorphism between language words , thought concepts , and reality things. The second point was supported by at least two passages in Aristotle's writings. And in the text of On Interpretation cited earlier 16a 4—8 a similar point is made.

Taken together, these texts suggest that in some ways language words , thought concepts , and reality things are like each other in important ways, a fact that explains their relations. At the beginning of the thirteenth-century, works of Aristotle and his Islamic commentators previously unknown in the Latin West became available.

Among these were four works on logic— Prior and Posterior Analytics, Topics, and Sophistical Refutations —that became known as the new logic logica nova Zupko , Their study did not displace the study of the older ones the old logic, or logica vetus , but rather helped to intensify and expand it, and resulted in an increase in both the number and the complexity of the commentaries written about Categories.


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  7. In addition, works on metaphysics and natural philosophy, such as Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics , as well as commentaries by Islamic authors on them, circulated widely. These works introduced a new context and terminology in the discussion of categories. For example, an important factor in the new discussions was the notion of science articulated by Aristotle in Posterior Analytics.

    Generally, it was thought that scientific knowledge involves three things: Faced with this notion, scholastics explicitly asked whether categories are the subject of scientific knowledge, and if so, whether the scientific knowledge in question is what Aristotle regarded as a knowledge of fact scientia quia or a knowledge of reasoned fact scientia propter quid. Eventually they asked whether categories could be defined and the kind of definition they could have; whether they have properties and, if so, what properties they have; and whether a causal analysis of them is possible and in what such an analysis would consist.

    These questions led them to question the discipline in which categories are studied—is it grammar, logic, or metaphysics? A second important factor, found in Islamic commentators, was the introduction of a distinction between first and second intentions, and the understanding that the first are studied in metaphysics and other sciences that deal with the extra-mental world, whereas the second are studied in logic Pini This new terminology led thirteenth century authors to ask what the concepts of category and of particular categories e.

    Most popular among these was the effort to tie the categories to different kinds of predication, but there were authors who explored other possibilities, such as derivations based on the modes of being. The most famous and influential of the authors who engaged in this exercise was Thomas Aquinas, who followed Albertus Magnus in trying to derive the categories from modes of predication.

    Simon of Faversham and Radulphus Brito, though, followed the tradition of deriving them from modes of being. Robert is responsible for one of the first Latin commentaries on Aristotle's Categories since Boethius' Commentary over six centuries earlier, even though his conception of logic is highly influenced by Boethius.