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Medieval Philosophy Paperback – 27 Jun 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (27 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851685782
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851685783
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

William Irwin, Professor of Philosophy, King's College Pennsylvania and Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series - "Beautifully written and wonderfully accessible. Discussing all the major thinkers and topics of the period, Kaye's volume does exactly what it should."Martin Tweedale, Professor Emeritus of Medieval Philosophy, University of Alberta - "Simultaneously entices students into and prepares them for the riches of the abundant literature that lies ready for their exploration."

Review

"Beautifully written and wonderfully accessible. Discussing all the major thinkers and topics of the period, Kaye’s volume does exactly what it should." (William Irwin - Professor of Philosophy, King's College Pennsylvania and Editor of The Blackwell)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jonathan on 26 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an accessible book, written clearly and well. Kaye presupposes no philosophical knowledge in her reader, so takes the trouble to introduce key concepts. E.g. in the first chapter she introduces deductive logic by defining validity and soundness, and identifies common deductively valid argument-forms. Elsewhere she identifies common informal fallacies. The first chapter also touches on empiricism and rationalism (which Kaye calls 'innatism'); the rest of the book portrays medieval philosophy as playing out the conflict of these epistemologies.

The book is arranged thematically, with each chapter introducing and developing a concern of medieval philosophy (e.g. the ontological, cosmological, teleological arguments; the problem of universals). Each is written with admirable clarity. There is also a useful glossary.

There are a few problems.

Kaye's approach to the beginning of the Middle Ages is idiosyncratic. She regards the period as beginning c.400, so includes Augustine and Boethius as medieval philosophers. Most other writers place the start of the period much later (e.g. Copleston gives a date of c.800). Chopping up history into periods is pretty arbitrary, so it would be difficult to argue that Kaye is simply wrong. However the reader should be aware of this.

There is a problem with Kaye's logic. She seems to regard analogy as a deductively valid argument-form, and uses it to reconstruct some arguments from primary texts. She schematizes it thus:

A is to B as C is to D;
A is P with respect tp B;
So C is P with respect to D.

But this is not deductively valid. Consider:

Romulus is to Remus as James is to John;
Romulus is the murderer of Remus;
So James is the murderer of John.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OK, as a general introduction to mediaeval (not medieval!) philosophical thought this is absolutely fine, but as other reviewers have commented there are a couple of minor issues with some of the content.

Firstly, there is a big assumption around proofs of god, and secondly there are some issues around analogy and induction that may trip up some readers and lead them to erroneous conclusions.

Personally I'd say it's a pretty decent read, but pair it up with some other stuff like Hodges' "Logic" and some listening to say, "History of Philosophy without any gaps" podcasts (historyofphilosophy.net) to get some wider perspectives.

Oh, and try some Spinoza and Augustine as a side order!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Shoddy and Erroneous 2 Sep 2008
By A. Keiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sharon Kaye makes attempts to condense Medieval Philosophy into less than 200 pages. Obviously, any such survey is necessarily cursory at best. The difficulty is that the work is simply not very good. It over-simplifies the arguments of the philosophers contained therein and, at times, makes blatant errors. For a work aimed at beginners, this is simply unacceptable. Further, we get the now obligatory feminist diatribe at the postscript.

Both too much and too little is included in the book. The first chapter is the longest and deals with ancient philosophy only! Obviously, such a discussion should be given in another book. Eight chapters in 164 pages is simply too much and the chapters are themed by subject, not thinker. In the chapter on Universals, we move from Abelard, to Scotus, to Ockham. A moderate realist (such as Aquinas) is totally omitted! Such a glaring oversight cannot be ignored by the instructor.

Furthermore, as was mentioned above, some of the facts advanced are erroneous. One example of this is a reference to St. Augustine's "Confessions". The incident of the destruction of pears and a subsequent reflection on evil is related in an adumbrated form, but the author states that "As Augustine reflects on the sheer irrationality of this act, he develops his conception of the nature of evil. True evil is done for its own sake"(50). This summary is simply incorrect. Augustine muses on the nature of this evil and determines that we never will evil as evil but we will lesser goods in place of higher goods. The deliberate choosing of these lesser goods is what is evil. Granted, this conclusion comes several pages later and Augustine muses over various possibilities, but the conclusion that the author gives is NOT the conclusion of Augustine. This error is an example of lamentable academics.

In conclusion, then, Kaye's book is a poor text. It is a beginners text littered with errors and omissions. As such, it is more likely to confuse than to teach, and therefore it should be avoided as a text for students. The text is also too simple for graduate students, so it is difficult to know what good such a book is for anyone. My advice is not to waste your own (or your students') money on this book. Copleston's two volumes on Medieval philosophyHistory of Philosophy, Volume 2 and History of Philosophy Volume 3 are extremely thorough, and they concentrate on individual thinkers. He also wrote a more general text entitled A History of Medieval PhilosophyA History Of Medieval Philosophy, and it is also pretty good. Etienne Gilson, though problematic has a decent work entitled "The Spirit of medieval philosophy" The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
No, really, it's not bad. 26 Aug 2010
By jonathan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Pace another reviewer, I think that this is a good book.

It is written clearly and well. Kaye presupposes no philosophical knowledge in her reader, so takes the trouble to introduce key concepts. E.g. in the first chapter she introduces deductive logic by defining validity and soundness, and identifies common deductively valid argument forms. Elsewhere she identifies common informal fallacies. The first chapter also touches on empiricism and rationalism (which Kaye calls 'innatism'); the rest of the book portrays medieval philosophy as playing out the conflict of these epistemologies.

The book is arranged topically, with each chapter introducing and developing a concern of medieval philosophy. This arrangement is, I think, well suited to an introductory text. A lot of ground is covered; however, a review of medieval philosophy that did not touch upon everything here would be incomplete.

There are a few problems.

Kaye's approach to the beginning of the Middle Ages is idiosyncratic. She regards the period as beginning c.400, so includes Augustine and Boethius as medieval philosophers. Most other writers place the start of the period much later (e.g. Copleston gives a date of c.800). Chopping up history into periods is an arbitrary business, so it would be difficult to argue that Kaye is simply wrong. However the reader should be aware of this.

There is a problem with Kaye's logic. She regards analogy as a deductively valid argument form, and uses it to reconstruct some arguments from primary texts. She schematizes it thus:

A is to B as C is to D;
A is P with respect to B;
So C is P with respect to D.

But this is not deductively valid. Consider:

Romulus is to Remus as James is to John;
Romulus is the murderer of Remus;
So James is the murderer of John.

The problem here is not that analogy is not deductively valid; rather, it is not deductive at all. Kaye's presentation of medieval arguments using analogy is worthwhile; however the reader should not be led to suppose that analogy belongs to the same class of argument forms as modus ponens or hypothetical syllogism.

A final gripe: Kaye uncritically refers to the arguments for the existence of God as 'proofs'. This begs the question: whether they prove anything is what is at issue.

All that said, this is a worthwhile book, and a good point of departure for the subject. Worth considering if you're a beginning student of theology or philosophy of religion.
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