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Who were the influential philosophers during the Middle Ages?

We speak of Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Machiavelli, etc... but were there any philosophers during the Middle Ages that were significantly influential and important to the history of philosophy?

If so, please specify their contributions to philosophy.

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    I am not sure if this question belongs to Phil.SE. Isn't that easily answerable just by reading encyclopedic entries on medieval philosophy? See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_philosophy and plato.stanford.edu/entries/medieval-philosophy Maybe you can narrow down your question somehow or give some context which explains what aspects you are interested in? – DBK Mar 8 '12 at 13:50
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    @DBK - It's borderline. The term "influential" is misleading and makes it seem like a very subjective question, but technically it doesn't ask who were the most influential, but simply who were those who had any influence at all (i.e., just a list of all medieval philosophers). So, while you are correct in that you can just look at wikipedia/SEP for this, there is nothing inherently wrong with asking questions that have been covered on wikipedia or otherwise have answers which are obvious. SE is a repository of knowledge (not just "elite" knowledge), so even trivial questions are OK. – stoicfury Mar 8 '12 at 15:46
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    @stoicfury: I would urge that we discourage trivial questions which have obvious answers; if we want this to be a place where knowledgeable people come to share expertise, I think it is reasonable that we require that people do a rudimentary amount of homework before asking. Perhaps we should take this conversation to Meta... – Michael Dorfman Mar 8 '12 at 20:11
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    Sure, start a meta post and we can discuss how we want to handle these (presuming it's within our purview to do so). I'm under the impression that SE policy is not to arbitrarily judge how "easy" or "hard" a question is and answer every one just the same. And indeed there is no categorical difference between two questions rated "easy" vs. "hard" except insofar as how much work is required to obtain the answer, and yet the work will vary depending on what kind of experts are available. A board with all logic experts may find questions on ethics "harder" (i.e. requiring more research)... – stoicfury Mar 9 '12 at 1:35
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    Some stuff is too basic -- this is definitely a core SE principle, and to boot it is repeated in our FAQ -- and my understanding is the various SEs are encouraged to interpret that in a way that contributes to constructive question-answering (I.e., we should try to interpret our topicality/notability line so that the work of our community here "clearly" improves the internet.) – Joseph Weissman Mar 9 '12 at 15:16
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Here is a brief list of those medieval philosophers I myself am aware of, so it is certainly not exhaustive:

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine (4th-5th century) is borderline medieval, but very crucial to an understanding of much of medieval philosophy (since theology dominated during this period). Augustine's Confessions is a work of metaphysics and Christian theology that had (and continues to have, to a lesser degree) a very prominent influence in proceeding philosophy. Augustine himself is the leader of an entire monastic movement, and so also has a strong religious influence today.

Anselm of Canterbury

St. Anselm was another quite prominent Christian philosopher, although he came much later than Augustine - the 11th century. Anselm is probably best credited for the ontological argument for God (referenced by later philosophers Descartes and Kant), a very influential argument that has been both widely supported and objected to.

Maimonides

Maimonides was perhaps the most influential Jewish philosopher, and lived in the 12th century. His works included significant interpretations of the 613 Jewish commandments, and an analysis of the concepts entailed by monotheism. He also focused his philosophy on creation, and developed a theory with classical influences. His philosophy, too, has been very influential in theology and metaphysics.

Ibn Sina

Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) was one of the most prominent Muslim philosophers of the Medieval era, and also lived in the 12th century. Although it is difficult to point out a specific Islamic thinker that dominated this period, Ibn Sina is likely one of the more significant influences. Like other medieval philosophers, his extensive works often covered metaphysics, but from an Islamic point of view. Much of his philosophical pursuits focused on the reconciliation of rational philosophy with religion (a very relevant issue, soon made apparent in the Renaissance). His other influences include law and medicine.

Again, this list is in no way complete; I have just listed those philosophers I know of.

  • very useful information, thanks. I'm 1 reputation away from being able to vote up :( – Jack Row Mar 8 '12 at 19:55
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    Surely you also know of St Thomas Aquinas, and William of Ockham, and most likely you also know of John Duns Scotus, and Averroes, and... – Michael Dorfman Mar 8 '12 at 20:13
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    @Michael Ah... actually, I don't (although I have heard of Thomas Aquinas). Medieval philosophy is far from my strong point (if I could be said to have any). I'd love it if you put them in an answer, though! – commando Mar 8 '12 at 20:15
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This is the list that Wikipedia offers, which is arbitrary, but as good a place to start as any:

Abd-el-latif · Peter Abelard · Petrus Aureolus · Abu'l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī · Abu Rayhan Biruni (Alberonius) · Alcuin · Al Amiri · Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) · Al-Ghazali (Algazel) · Al-Jahiz · Alkindus · Al-Razi (Rhazes) · Alain de Lille · Albertus Magnus · Albert of Saxony · Alexander of Hales · Anselm of Canterbury · Anselm of Laon · Thomas Aquinas · Athir al-Din al-Abhari · Augustine of Hippo · Averroës · Avicenna · Ayn-al-Quzat Hamadani · Bernard of Chartres · Boethius · Bonaventure · Brethren of Purity · Jean Buridan · Dominicus Gundissalinus · Durandus · Duns Scotus · Francesc Eiximenis · Fakhr al-Din al-Razi · Gersonides · Gilbert de la Porrée · Giles of Rome · Godfrey of Fontaines · John Hennon · Henry of Ghent · Hugh of St Victor · Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) · Ibn al-Nafis · Ibn al-Rawandi · Ibn Arabi · Ibn Bajjah (Avempace) · Ibn Hazm · Ibn Khaldun · Ibn Masarrah · Ibn Miskawayh · Ibn Taymiyyah · Ibn Tufail · Isidore of Seville · John Peckham · Johannes Scotus Eriugena · Lambertus de Monte · Maimonides · Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Haq Ibn Sab'in · Nasir al-Din al-Tusi · Nicole Oresme · Paul of Venice · Peter Lombard · Pierre de Maricourt · Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi · Ramon Llull · Rashid al-Din · Richard of St. Victor · Robert Grosseteste · Roger Bacon · Roscelin · Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi · Vincent Ferrer · William of Ockham · Zachariah Kazwin ·

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