Scholasticism is a medieval philosophical and theological system that sought to reconcile Christian theology with the classical philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome, particularly the works of Aristotle. It emerged in the medieval universities of Europe during the 11th century and flourished between the 12th and 17th centuries. Scholasticism was characterized by a rigorous methodology of critical analysis and debate used to explore and resolve contradictions between philosophical reasoning and religious faith.

Key Features of Scholasticism:

  • Methodology: Scholasticism is noted for its use of dialectical reasoning. Scholars employed a methodological approach that involved posing questions, presenting arguments and counterarguments, and then synthesizing these into a coherent conclusion. This approach was often crystallized in the scholastic dictum “faith seeking understanding,” attributed to Anselm of Canterbury.
  • Integration of Philosophy and Theology: One of the main goals of scholasticism was to demonstrate the harmony between reason and faith. Scholastics believed that truth was a unity and that philosophical reasoning could complement and deepen theological understanding.
  • Use of Aristotle: Aristotle’s works, once they were reintegrated into Western Europe through translations from Arabic, became a foundational source for scholastic inquiry. Scholastics used Aristotelian logic and metaphysics to articulate and defend Christian doctrines, adapting his ideas to serve Christian theological purposes.

Notable Scholastic Philosophers:

  • Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274): Perhaps the most famous scholastic philosopher, Aquinas worked to harmonize Christian theology with Aristotelian philosophy. His “Summa Theologica” is a monumental work that systematically addresses the major theological questions of his time, utilizing Aristotelian principles.
  • Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109): Known for his ontological argument for the existence of God, Anselm’s approach exemplifies the scholastic method of starting from a position of faith and seeking rational support for belief.
  • Duns Scotus (1266–1308): Scotus is known for his sophisticated analysis of metaphysics, including the concepts of individuation, the univocity of being, and the formal distinction.
  • William of Ockham (1287–1347): Ockham is famous for his principle of parsimony, often known as “Ockham’s Razor,” which suggests that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. He emphasized empirical evidence and maintained that theology and philosophy should be studied separately.


Scholasticism’s legacy lies in its methodological rigor and its contribution to the development of a systematic approach to theology and philosophy. While its influence waned with the rise of humanism and the Renaissance, scholastic methods and ideas continued to inform theological and philosophical inquiry, particularly within the Catholic Church. The revival of interest in scholasticism during the 19th and 20th centuries, known as Neo-Scholasticism, underscores its enduring impact on the intellectual landscape of the West.

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