Strand Definitions: Philosophy and Political Thought

Philosophy (philosophia) had in the Middle Ages a very broad meaning. Besides the universally accepted definition of 'love of wisdom', traditional and widespread definitions of philosophy included topics such as 'demonstrative knowledge of divine and human beings', 'knowledge of beings as beings', 'assimilation to God', 'contemplation of death', 'foundation of all sciences', 'help in good living'. Monastic forms of living were also interpreted as 'true philosophy' ('vera philosophia'), and the hermit Arsenius was praised in the 14th century as 'summus philosophus'.

Philosophy in its historical, medieval understanding was as 'spiritual exercise' and well reflected motivation to praxis, as founded knowledge deriving from reflection in search for truth. This approach concerned theoretical, ethical and methodological issues on the Divine, man, nature and society, and was developed along a standing discussion with the positions of the classical philosophical tradition. The object of this strand is therefore the way in which the thinker in the Middle Ages formulated their questions on the topics they recognised as being 'philosophical', the discussions they had about, and the answers they gave to them.

This strand includes studies in the philosophical discussions in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and in the Vernacular between 500 and 1500. It includes areas such as history of logic, dialectic, ethics, metaphysics, cosmology, philosophy of nature, liberal arts. Moreover, this strand includes studies of political thought, broadly conceived to include such areas as thought about the nature of human society; laws; relations between and definitions of religious and lay authority in the Islamic and Christian traditions; and treatises on political life and conduct.