Western monasteries

Published 09 Mar 2017

In the early part of the 13th Century, the works of Aristotle were acquired by Western monasteries. As a result, the Aristotelian arguments made an impression on the theologians of the day on a wide array of topics. This represented a challenge to the Church as pure dogma was replaced by logic and reason. The impacts of this became evident on the quest for knowledge and commerce. Additionally, from this new Christianized Aristotelian philosophy came one of the Church most deepest and recognizable thinkers, Thomas Aquinas. As the author of Summa Theologica, Aquinas put learning and trade in a moral context, while retaining the Church’s dogmatic positions. This gave rise to scholasticism, the school of thought and method of learning that attempted to reconcile the philosophy of the ancient philosophers with medieval Christian theology. Scholasticism was a tool and method for learning which placed emphasis on dialectical reasoning. The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to questions as well as to resolve contradictions.

The change in view of the relationship between God and man was altered by the Renaissance. New thinking, rediscovery of the classics from antiquity, and breaks within the Church’s grasp on the people of the day all lead to this shift from Middle Ages thinking, where the power of the Church as an intermediary was absolute. Now, the relationship with God was altered by the application of reason and logic. Renaissance humanism was the intellectual movement in Europe that was an important piece of the Renaissance. The humanist movement developed from the rediscovery by European scholars of classical Latin and later Greek texts. Initially, a humanist was simply a scholar or teacher of Latin literature. Later, humanism described a curriculum comprising grammar, rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry and history as studied via classical authors. Humanists mainly believed that, although God created the universe, it was man that had developed and industrialized it. Beauty came to represent a deep inner virtue and value, and an essential element in the path towards God. The humans were often opposed to philosophers of the earlier movement of Scholasticism. Additionally, modern scientific thought can be traced back to humanism. We still see the impact on learning today.

The movie “Dangerous Beauty” is about the life of courtesan in 16th century Venice. The movie does reflect values that were dominant in Venice at the time. The main character, a female of lower social strata, cannot marry the man she wishes because of her standing. However, she can become his mistress, and become accepted within his social class as such. What she cannot become is his wife. At this time in history in Venice, there was a social pecking order and men married women only at their station in life. The movie depicts the relationship pattern between men and women as being driven, not by love, but by the need to continue the established social order. As for romantic notions such as love or lust, men could choose who they wished to be their mistresses and then keep them in a manner that afforded them access to higher society and a level of legitimacy. However, this could only get the courtesan so far and did not remove all the barriers.

The movie “Lady Jane” is about a young woman, Lady Jane Grey, who is a cousin of the dying man in 16th century England that becomes the Queen of England for 9 days. She sits on the throne of England until she is deposed by Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII. Mary was generally considered not the legitimate heiress to her father due to her being a Catholic. Jane Grey, who is part of related house, via Henry’s sister. As the designated Protestant heiress to the throne, she is placed. The overall theme of the conflict arose due to the alignment of the dynastic houses that had claims to the throne after the death of Henry and his male heir Edward who acknowledged the Greys over his own half-sister Mary. The Greys had accepted the English Reformation to the Church of England, while Mary attempted to keep her Catholicism. The affair ends with Mary taking the crown and executing Queen Jane. Mary was able to regain the throne by capturing enough support in Parliament to have them revoke Jane’s claim. Jane and her husband are charged and executed for treason. Mary additionally consolidated her power by executing those who put Jane on the throne, as well as most of Jane’s family, as there was a rebellion in the backdrop that they joined.

The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BCE. This was a time of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China. The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day. One of the chief theorists was Confucius. Confucianism is the body of thought that arguably had the most enduring effects on Chinese life. It looked back to the early days of the Zhou dynasty for an ideal socio-political order. He believed that the only effective system of government necessitated prescribed relationships for each individual: “Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject.” Furthermore, he contended that a king must be virtuous in order to rule properly. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values; thus his ideal human was the junzi, which is translated as “gentleman” or “superior person.”

Another key figure was Mencius. He formulated his teachings directly in response to Confucius. The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucian thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework by which to order virtually every aspect of life.

Buddhist thought is based on the teaching of “Buddha” who is also called “the Awakened One.” Buddhists recognize him as an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering by understanding the true nature of phenomena, thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth that is, achieving Nirvana. Among the methods various schools of Buddhism apply towards this goal are: ethical conduct and altruistic behavior, devotional practices, ceremonies and the invocation of bodhisattvas, renunciation of worldly matters, meditation, physical exercises, study, and the cultivation of wisdom. Additionally, the concept of reincarnation is part of Buddhist thinking. We are reborn after our death according to our karma, our accumulated deeds, either good or bad.

The revolution of the 16th century that historians refer to is essentially the Reformation. The reformation started out as an attempt to “reform” the Church, which was the Roman Catholic Church. As the growing level of thought in Europe at the focus on changing the relationship between God and man, applying the humanistic ideas of the Renaissance, the power of the Church began to weaken in terms of its standing and power over the various states of Europe. In Northern Europe, Martin Luther noted his grievances with practices of the Church, and broke away establishing his own branch of Protestantism. In England, the conflict between Henry VIII and the Pope over Henry’s divorces of his wives allowed the opportunity to break from Rome, while also seizing property and land from the Church. Additionally, the ideas of the Reformation were able to be reproduced on a mass scale with the invention of the printing press. This coincided with the Industrial & Scientific Revolutions that began around the same time. Ultimately, conflicts developed as states determined whether they would continue to be aligned to Rome or become Protestant, touching off many wars and issues of the day.

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