Today we tend to separate questions of logic from questions of belief, philosophy from religion, reason from faith. But for 1,000 years during a pivotal era of Western thought, reason and faith went hand-in-hand in the search for answers to the most profound issues investigated by Christianity's most committed scholars. In 24 ambitious lectures, Professor Williams examines the great Christian philosophers from Augustine to Ockham, following their efforts to illuminate the full scope of Christian doctrine using philosophical tools inherited, in large part, from the ancient Greeks.
Far from being a "dark" age, this was an era when faith was not blind and reason was not godless, when the great philosophers and the great theologians were the very same people, and no one saw anything surprising about that.
Building on the work of Plato and Aristotle, medieval philosophers worked diligently to show how the Christian faith is consistent with what can be demonstrated by reason, asking such questions as: Can God's existence and attributes be established by reason alone? Are there Christian doctrines that are beyond the scope of logical demonstration? How can Christian beliefs be defended and shown to be internally consistent?
During this extraordinarily rich period of intellectual ferment, philosophers participated in a common struggle with transcendent questions, using reasoning in the service of faith. This course serves as a fascinating philosophical backdrop to illuminate the stimulating debates that occupied many of the greatest minds of the era.
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Professor Williams Blends Reason with History
Organized, factual and informative.
When Prof. Williams addressed the nature of Evil, he unleashed, in my mind, a new way of looking at things as they ought to be. By defining Evil as an absence of Goodness where Goodness ought to be, I thought of the light spectrum, where White is all colors and Black is no color at all. As different shades of light are removed from White it moves toward Black. Goodness works the same way demonstrating the continuity of the universe.
Prof. Williams made a point that some philosophers participated in the quest for truth with a focus on the methods of reasoning rather than on the discovery of truth; it was more of a game than a search. Today there are many who employ philosophical reasoning in a quest to support a predetermined personal agenda much to the detriment of mankind's quest for truth.
One point that bothers me still is the persecution of those who are truly in search of the truth. No single moment, unless it was chapters 5 and 6 with Boethius' Lady Philosophy dialogue about the fickleness of fortune, depicts the helplessness of the crusader in search of the truth.
The entire series of lectures puts the history of mankind's struggles with logical reasoning in perspective. It puts a spotlight on mankind's transition from infancy to adolescence to adulthood and God's grace in delivering knowledge at the appropriate time to a world hungry for the truth. Anyone with serious questions about his purpose should indulge themselves in this presentation.
History of Medieval Thought
"Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages" checks religious and philosophical thoughts from Boethius and Augustine up till Aquinas and others... Contrary to the modern view that philosophy and reason are against faith and belief, this course is evidence that Christianity has been interested in "faith seeking understanding" since its beginning. The course is more of a Who said What and Why rather than an actual theology course, which, to some extent, is a bit disappointing, especially given other The Great Courses courses that do get more philosophical/theological.
Having studied many of these thinkers in my philosophy career, I can say that this course is good but I thought it'd be better, that it'd delve deeper into the thoughts instead of merely surveying them, almost superficially at points. Nonetheless, it's at least a very good introduction to Christian thought, which showcases that Christians throughout ages have indeed been interested in philosophy (and thus science) and have actually asked harder questions that modern atheists ask.