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Carolingian renaissance

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-B025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 05, 2022, from

Article Summary

The ‘Carolingian renaissance’ is the name given to the cultural revival in northern Europe during the late eighth and ninth centuries, instigated by Charlemagne and his court scholars. Carolingian intellectual life centred around the recovery of classical Latin texts and learning, though in a strictly Christian setting. The only celebrated philosopher of the time is Johannes Scottus Eriugena, but the daring Neoplatonic speculations of his masterpiece, the Periphyseon (On the Division of Nature) are not at all characteristic of the time and are based on Greek sources (Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor) generally unknown to his contemporaries. The mainstream of Carolingian thought is important for the history of philosophy in three particular ways. First, it was at this time that logic first started to take the fundamental role it would have throughout the Middle Ages. Second, scholars began to consider how ideas they found in late antique Latin Neoplatonic texts could be interpreted in a way compatible with Christianity. Third (as would so often again be the case in the Middle Ages), controversies over Christian doctrine led thinkers to analyse some of the concepts they involved: for instance, the dispute in the mid-ninth century over predestination led to discussion about free will and punishment.

Citing this article:
Marenbon, John. Carolingian renaissance, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-B025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

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