Friday, December 2, 2011

Hegel on Eriugena

Scholastic philosophy is considered to begin with John Scotus Erigena who flourished about the year 860, and who must not be confused with the Duns Scotus of a later date. We do not quite know whether he belonged to Ireland or to Scotland, for Scotus points to Scotland, and Erigena to Ireland. With him true philosophy first begins, and his philosophy in the main coincides with the idealism of the Neo-Platonists. Here and there stray works of Aristotle were likewise known, even to John Scotus, but the knowledge of Greek was very limited and rare. He shows some knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew tongues, and even of Arabic as well; but we do not know how he attained to this. He also translated from Greek to Latin writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, a later Greek philosopher of the Alexandrian school, who more especially followed Proclus: namely, De coelesti hierarchia, and others which Brucker calls (Hist. crit. phil. T. III. p. 521), nugæ et deliria Platonica. Michael Balbus, Emperor of Constantinople, had in the year 824 made a present of these works to the Emperor Louis the Pious; Charles the Bald caused them to be translated by Scotus, who long resided at bis court. In this way something of the Alexandrian philosophy became known in the West. The Pope quarrelled with Charles, and complained to him of the translator, against whom he made the reproach that “he should have first sent the book to him in conformity with the general usage, and asked his approval.” John Scotus afterwards lived in England as head of a school at Oxford, which had been founded by King Alfred.

Scotus was also the author of some original works, which are not without depth and penetration, upon nature and its various orders (De naturæ divisione), &c. Dr. Hjort, of Copenhagen, published an epitome of the writings of Scotus Erigena, in 1823. Scotus Erigena sets to work philosophically, expressing himself in the manner of the Neo-Platonists, and not freely, and as from himself, Thus in the method of expression adopted by Plato, and also by Aristotle, we are rejoiced to find a new conception, and on bringing it to the test of philosophy, to find it both correct and profound; but here everything is ready to hand, cut and dry. Yet, with Scotus, theology is not yet built on exegesis, and on the authority of the Church; the Church in many cases rejected his writings. Thus Scotus is reproached by a Lyons church council in these words: “There have come to us the writings of a boastful, chattering man, who disputes about divine providence and predestination, in human fashion, or, as he himself boasts, with philosophic arguments, and without relying on the holy scriptures and bringing forward the authority of the Fathers. And he dares to defend this on its own merit, and to establish it on its own laws, without submitting himself to the holy scriptures and the authority of the Fathers.” Scotus Erigena hence even said: “The true Philosophy is the true Religion, and the true Religion is the true Philosophy. The separation came later on. Scotus then made a beginning, but properly he does not belong to the scholastics.
History of Philosophy

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