The Impact of Christianity on Philosophy

It would seem that not only Christianity’s impact on philosophy should be examined, but also philosophy’s impact on Christianity. The Platonic, Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical traditions were already firmly grounded when the great Christian philosophers lived. Consequently St. Augustine “borrowed” heavily from Plato’s works and one of the other great philosophers, St. Thomas Aquinas “borrowed” from Aristotle’s works. Even Hypatia “borrowed” and amended much of Ptolemy’s theory of the universe. All three philosophers used the same method to develop their philosophies; namely, they adapted well known, traditional philosophies to current day philosophical issues. All three built upon the teachings of the great ancient philosophers.

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Both St. Augustine and Hypatia lived while the Christian Church was still growing in the Roman Empire, during the third and fourth centuries. St. Thomas, however, lived right after the dark ages, during the 12th and 13th centuries.

St. Augustine developed many philosophical/theological arguments that are taken for granted by the bulk of Christian’s today. Firstly, that God is not restrained by time; not only that but that God created time. This philosophical understanding helps us to understand the Biblical understanding of ex nihilo, or creation from nothing. By understanding that God may not be constrained by time then the question of, “Why did God choose to create the world at the time he did and not at some other?” is irrelevant because God does not adhere to the laws of time.

To understand Hypatia it is important to understand Ptolemy. Ptolemy was a second-century scholar who hypothesized that the earth was the center of the solar system. The only way he could do this was to invent elaborate equations and astronomical observations to explain the movements of the stars. Hypatia found errors in Ptolemy’s equations that explained that the sun revolves around the earth. She revised to update and sometimes amended Ptolemy’s observations to better explain how the universe works. Her findings had an impact on the pagans and Christians at the time because if the earth, and by that token humanity, was not the center of the universe then the current philosophies were all wrong in their understandings.

Lastly St. Thomas grafted Aristotelian philosophies into the Christian understanding of the world in an attempt to better describe the world through Christian theology. The Christian Church even acknowledged St. Thomas’s theology as the official theology of the Church and is still taught as such today. St. Thomas differed from the Skeptics in that he believed that knowledge of the world could be attained. St. Thomas ascribed to the Aristotelian understanding of Change, which includes the four-cause theory. St. Thomas did not believe in the Platonic understand of forms; however, he did believe that forms existed. St. Thomas held that the form, the matter, the essence, and its existence all make up a thing. St. Thomas postulated that it is possible to know of God and know characteristics of God, but that some parts of God’s being are inaccessible but through faith. That is where he drew the line between philosophy and theology. He believed that it was possible to know things about the universe and about God, but that theology must be employed to understand the essence of God.      

In conclusion, St. Augustine, Hypatia, and St. Thomas contributed much to the current Christian understand of the universe and God. If it were not for them, we might still think that the universe revolves around us.  

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References

Bruder, K., & Moore, B. N. (2002). Philosophy: The power of ideas (6th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Checkpoint Topic

Write a 350-700-word response describing Christianity’s impact on philosophy. Include the following topics in your response:

  • the rise of Christianity in philosophy
  • key contributors to Christianity’s impact on philosophy
  • principle Christianized philosophical issues
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4 thoughts on “The Impact of Christianity on Philosophy

Add yours

    1. I have mixed feelings about materialism. On the one hand, materialism can ruin out lives if we indulge in the pursuit of things we don’t really need. However, I think that capitalism has done a good job of harnessing the selfishness of materialism for the betterment of the world. With a big enough materialistic carrot we can go to the moon, split the atom, or create a worldwide, interconnected network of computers (like the one we are using to communicate right now). Spiritualism would have never mustered the nerve to force humanity out of the dark ages and into the technological age. On the other hand, if we were all spiritual and non-materialistic we wouldn’t care about things like going to the moon or splitting the atom. The success of capitalism is a strong testament to the innate human condition (i.e the proof is in the pudding). I think that we could all stand to become less materialistic and invest in more lasting pursuits, but a modicum of materialism is always necessary to keep the greedy at work bettering the human condition for us all. What are your thoughts?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Materialism is nothing more than an extension of the ego or self.

        We do not have real capitalism here in the west, Adam Smith rolls over in his grave when we say that we do. A true capitalist economy has no waste what so ever. Any unused byproduct or waste product is lost profit and that cannot be. Mismanagement of any resource both is the short or long term is lost profit and should also not happen. Our capitalism is a failed system, we have not done a good job with it, at best we have a 50/50 result.

        Any result such as going to the moon, splitting the atom, or creating a worldwide, interconnected network of computers May or may not be good, we can do many many things, the trouble is we do them without ever asking if we should. Splitting the atom or genetic modification of the human genome are excellent examples of this.
        A modicum of materialism is needed, I agree, even in spiritual endeavors but what we have in our world is all out greed. It’s too bad really, we have so much more potential.

        Your turn 🙂

        QP

        Like

      2. I can agree with what you said. Many times people are either/or, black/white, good/bad; and in reality there are very few instances where it is all or nothing. We do need a modicum of materialism to subsist as biological entities. I completely agree that we have too much materialism and too little spiritualism in western society. I also think that things like genetic modification and atom splitting are probably best left alone in the long run. If more people were concerned with spiritual matters, like their mental well-being and metaphysical selves, then they would not try to fill the void with materialistic pursuits. In the end, “stuff” doesn’t get the job done. We have a mind that sits atop the physicality of our brain and the metaphysical mind must be provided for just like the physical body.

        Liked by 1 person

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