The term Scholasticism – literally 'of the schools' - designates both a method, and a philosophical system, that flourished among the Christian philosophers of the Latin west in the Middle Ages. The method of Scholasticism was logical and dialectical. Its system was a set of doctrines about the nature of man, God, creation, and the relation between these. Its ultimate goal was the reconciliation (concordia) of the dogmas of Christian faith, with logic and reason - particularly as found in the thought of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Scholastic thought dominated European theological and philosophical thought from about the tenth century A.D. to about the sixteenth century, and was influential well beyond that. The scholastic tradition was the principal means by which the philosophical and theological thought of the ancient world was transmitted to the modern world.
Neo-Scholasticism refers to the revival of scholastic thought and methods that began in the nineteenth century, and still flourishes today. Analytical Thomism is a mid-twentieth century branch of neo-scholasticism that seeks to reconcile the broad aims of Scholastic, and particularly Thomistic thought, with more recent developments in logic and analytic philosophy.
Scholasticism has three distinct phases. The first is the period of the Dark Ages and its immediate aftermath, the second the 'High Scholastic' period of the twelfth, thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. The third is the period of decline from the late fourteenth to the beginning of the Early Modern period.
Early period (5th to 10th century A.D.)
Early Christian thought, particularly in the Patristic period, tended to to be intuitional and mystical, and not to rely on reason and logical argument. It also placed more emphasis on the sometimes mystical doctrines of Plato, and less upon the thought of Aristotle. This tendency also dominated Christian thought in the Dark Ages, the period that followed the destruction of the Roman empire and the end of the Patristic era in the fifth century until the beginning of the Scholastic era in the ninth century.
The first renewal of intellectual activity in the West was when Charlemagne attracted the best scholars of England and Ireland, and by imperial decree in 787 A.D. established schools in every abbey in his empire. Peter of Pisa and Alcuin of York were his advisers. These schools, from which the name Scholasticism is derived, became centres of medieval learning. Much of the work of Aristotle was unknown in the West in this period. Scholars relied on translations by Boethius into Latin of Aristotle's Categories, the logical work On Interpretation, and his Latin translation of Porphyry's Isagoge, which is a commentary on the Categories. The thought of Augustine was also influential in this period (as it was in practically all periods of the Christian church's history).