From AnthroWiki

Scholasticism (from Greekσχολή skʰoˈlɛː "leisure, idleness, rest", but later also "study, school"; usually derived from the Middle Latinscholasticus "schoolmaster") is a scientific way of thinking and method developed in the medieval Latin-speaking scholarly world.

„Scholasticism comes from the Greek "scole", meaning "attention", which has been mistakenly translated into "scuola", school.“ (Lit.:GA 109, p. 73)

Scholasticism was the attempt to rationally substantiate the Christian revelation of faith and to bring it into a theoretical system. Preliminary stages emerged in the High Middle Ages. In the Late Middle Ages, this method was fully developed and dominated the entire higher education system. Even in the early modern period, it was still authoritative at universities and educational institutions.

"Scholasticism" is also used to refer to the epoch in which this method prevailed at universities, or to the totality of medieval philosophy and theology (including early medieval philosophy). Such usage, however, partly does not correspond to historical reality, for scholasticism had not yet been developed before the turn from the first to the second millennium, and in the Late Middle Ages there was already non-scholastic intellectual life, early humanism.

The terms "scholasticism" and "scholastic" are also used in connection with other epochs to refer to ways of thinking at the time that are supposedly or actually similar to late medieval scholasticism. Occasionally, the term is even applied to other cultures, e.g. to the history of Indian philosophy.


Scholasticism is not limited to a particular philosophical direction or school and its theses. Rather, it is a method (see below) whose application could and did lead to a wide variety of results. The only thing that all scholastics had in common was the application of the scholastic method. At the time, this was the only method accepted as scientific in the university world. It consisted of a further development of ancient dialectics, the doctrine of correct (scientifically correct) discussion. In terms of content, the opinions of the scholastics on the questions discussed differed to some extent. Since the method was influenced by Aristotle's understanding of science and logic and his writings were the most important textbooks, the influence of this philosopher was very great. However, one cannot equate scholasticism with Aristotelianism. There were also Platonists and Aristotelian critics among the scholastics. In principle, a scholastic could hold any point of view, as long as he justified it methodically and cleanly. In practice, one was expected to take into account the teachings or dogmas of the Church, which the majority of scholastics did.

Faith and Knowledge

„In the Middle Ages we would not have had what is called scholasticism, what is called the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and other scholastics, if this philosophy, this world view and all that it socially entailed had not been inspired by the most important idea of the Church: the idea of Easter. In the view of the descending Christ, who leads a temporary life on earth in man, who then passes through the resurrection, that spiritual impulse was given which led to the establishment of that peculiar relationship between faith and knowledge, between knowledge and revelation, which is precisely the scholastic one. That one can only gain knowledge of the sensual world from within the human being, that everything that relates to the supersensual world must be gained through revelation, that was essentially determined by the Easter thought as it followed the Christmas thought.

And if today's world of scientific ideas is actually entirely the result of scholasticism, as I have often explained here, then it must be said that, without the scientific knowledge of the present day being aware of it, it is essentially a correct imprint of the seal, I would say, of Easter thought as it prevailed in the older times of the Middle Ages, and as it was then paralysed in the development of the human spirit in the later Middle Ages and in more recent times. If we look at how natural science uses in ideas what is popular today and dominates our whole culture, we see how natural science uses its ideas: it applies them to dead nature; it does not believe it can rise above dead nature. This is a result of that inspiration which was stimulated by looking at the laying in the tomb. And as long as the resurrection could be added to the burial as something to look up to, the revelation of the supersensible was also added to the mere outer sense knowledge. When more and more the view arose that the resurrection was an inexplicable and therefore unjustified miracle, the revelation, i.e. the supersensible world, was left out. The natural scientific view of today is, so to speak, merely inspired by the Good Friday view, not by the Easter Sunday view.“ (Lit.:GA 223, p. 42f)

„So that Christianity could mature calmly, the knowledge of the supersensible had to be withdrawn from human research for a certain time. People had to learn to believe without knowing. That is why Christianity relied for a time on mere faith. People should let the thought mature quietly. Hence you have the merging of faith and knowledge in scholasticism. In scholasticism, the concept only wants to provide a firm support for that which, with regard to supersensible objects, should leave itself for a certain time to that which has come to it through revelation. This is the standpoint of scholasticism: to remove things of revelation from criticism until man's thinking has matured. Aristotle was the father who gave thinking the technique. But this thinking should first be trained on firm bases of external reality.

Today it is a question of understanding the spirit of scholasticism in contrast to that which is dogma. This spirit can only be recognised in the fact that that which was withdrawn from the power of judgement remained the object of supersensible revelation, while the consequence of the knowledge of reason was that man himself should arrive [at the world of sensual experience] at productive concepts, at that which is imperishable in it. This method of constructing concepts was to remain - and it is precisely this method that the newer philosophy has completely lost. Nominalism conquered the newer philosophy by saying: the concepts formed after the manner of the soul are mere names. - One had completely lost the connection with the real because the instrument of those who no longer understood scholasticism properly had become blunt. Early scholasticism wanted to sharpen thinking by the thread of experience [for the supersensible-real]. But then came others who stuck to the documents of experience, while reason was supposed to be trained only on them. And then came the current which said: "The supersensible must forever be withdrawn from all human knowledge of reason".“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 186f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
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Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.