Cover image for Aristotle's children : how Christians, Muslims, and Jews rediscovered ancient wisdom and illuminated the Dark Ages
Aristotle's children : how Christians, Muslims, and Jews rediscovered ancient wisdom and illuminated the Dark Ages
Rubenstein, Richard E.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando : Harcourt, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 368 pages ; 24 cm
Prologue : the medieval star-gate -- "The master of those who know" : Aristotle rediscovered -- The murder of "Lady Philosophy" : how the ancient wisdom was lost, and how it was found again -- "His books have wings" : Peter Abelard and the revival of reason -- "He who strikes you dead will earn a blessing" : Aristotle among the heretics -- "Hark, hark, the dogs do bark" : Aristotle and the teaching friars -- "This man understands" : the great debate at the University of Paris -- "Ockham's razor" : the divorce of faith and reason -- "God does not have to move these circles anymore" : Aristotle and the modern world.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B734 .R79 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
B734 .R79 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
B734 .R79 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Europe was in the long slumber of the Dark Ages, the Roman Empire was in tatters, and the Greek language was all but forgotten, until a group of Arab, Jewish, and Christian scholars rediscovered and translated the works of Aristotle. His ideas spread across Europe like wildfire, offering the scientific point of view that the natural world, including the soul of man, was a proper subject of study. The Catholic Church convulsed, and riots took place at the universities of Paris and Oxford.
Richard Rubenstein recounts with energy and vigor this magnificent story of the intellectual ferment that planted the seeds of the scientific age in Europe and reflects our own struggles with faith and reason.

Author Notes

Richard E. Rubenstein is a professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at George Mason University.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 12th-century Toledo, in Spain, a group of Christian monks, Jewish sages and Muslim teachers gathered to study a new translation of Aristotle's De Anima (On the Soul). In Rubenstein's dazzling historical narrative, this moment represents both the tremendous influence of Aristotle on these three religions and the culmination of the medieval rediscovery of his writings. In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle fashioned a new system of philosophy, focusing on the material world, whose operations he explained by a series of causes. As Rubenstein (When Jesus Became God) explains, in the second and third centuries A.D., Western Christian scholars suppressed Aristotle's teachings, believing that his emphasis on reason and the physical world challenged their doctrines of faith and God's supernatural power. By the seventh century, Muslims had begun to discover Aristotle's writings. Islamic thinkers such as Avicenna and Averroes, in the 11th and 12 centuries, embraced Aristotle's rationalist philosophy and principles of logic. Christian theologians rediscovered Aristotle through the commentaries of the monk Boethius, who argued in the sixth century that reason and understanding were essential elements of faith. There resulted a tremendous ferment in the study of Aristotle in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, culminating in the work of Thomas Aquinas, who used Aristotle's notion of an Unmoved Mover and First Cause to construct his arguments for God's existence. Aquinas, too, argued that reason was a necessary component of faith's ability to understand God and the world. Although the book purports to trace Aristotle's influence on Christianity, Islam and Judaism, it devotes more attention to Christianity. Even so, Rubenstein's lively prose, his lucid insights and his crystal-clear historical analyses make this a first-rate study in the history of ideas. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This intellectual history describes the tragic loss of Aristotelian philosophy at the beginning of the Dark Ages and traces its successful revival in the works of "Aristotle's Children"--the great Christian, Islamic, and Jewish philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages. Rubenstein (public affairs, George Mason Univ.) proposes 13th-century Europe as the perfect model for understanding the contemporary debate between religion and science. On encountering Aristotle, the medieval schoolmen sought to forge a "creative tension" between faith and reason; they longed to reconcile the "culture of the head" with the "culture of the heart." Rubenstein covers much historical ground here. Starting with the tribulations of St. Augustine during the final days of the Roman Empire, he soon turns to a discussion of the development of the medieval university in 13th-century Paris. Though he does mention significant Islamic and Jewish figures (e.g., Averroes and Maimonides, respectively), his discussion focuses principally on the Christian rediscovery of Aristotle in the work of Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus. Rubenstein writes well and has a solid grasp of the fundamentals--but anyone hoping for a more substantial treatment of the philosophical issues at hand should look elsewhere. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduates. W. P. Haggerty Gannon University

Booklist Review

In today's sterile disputes between dogmatic religionists and chop-logic rationalists, political scientist Rubenstein sees evidence of cultural amnesia: we have forgotten how the Aristotelian thinkers of the late middle ages once reconciled faith with reason. To reverse this amnesia, Rubenstein resurrects the complex personalities who first delved into the treasure trove of Aristotelian manuscripts made available to European scholars by the Spanish reconquest of Toledo in the late fifteenth century. Without wearying general readers with excessive detail, Rubenstein chronicles the daring work that reshaped Aristotelian philosophy into a cogent Catholic synthesis of metaphysics, morality, and science--a synthesis dispelling the doubts of the pious and silencing the sophistry of the heretic. But the Christian-Aristotelian synthesis proved volatile: a canny historical sleuth, Rubenstein exposes the political calculations behind papal strategies for managing the Aristotelian revolution, and he probes the private ambitions of the incendiary scholars who subverted or defied these strategies. Rubenstein mourns the eclipse of Aristotle and the consequent divorce of religion and reason, which he blames for the vacuity of modern debates that pit superstition against desiccation. Perhaps like manuscripts recovered long ago in Toledo, Rubenstein's book will rekindle interest in a thinker who promises wholeness. --Bryce Christensen Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

A professor of conflict resolution relates the fights that broke out when scholars introduced Aristotle to medieval, Church-bound Europe. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-This is a challenging, intricate book for mature students who are fascinated by the paradox of the Middle Ages: How was the knowledge of Greece and Rome lost, and how was it found again? To set the scene, Rubenstein provides an introduction to the lives and works of Plato and Aristotle, and to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. He then shifts his focus to the year 1136, when a group of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars working together in Toledo began translating the philosopher's forgotten works. The dissemination of those translations sent shock waves through Europe as religious leaders tried to reconcile Aristotle's scientific theories with Church doctrine. The struggles between secular rulers and the Church hierarchy, and the development of the medieval universities, are presented with rich detail and feeling. The author shows readers the similarities between those conflicts and the Darwinist/creationist clashes. Students researching topics on the Middle Ages will find this title a useful reference source. Multiple pages are devoted to the lives and works of important figures, such as Abelard, Aquinas, and Innocent II, but the author does not neglect the less well known, such as William of Ockham or Siger de Brambant. Religious orders, heretical movements, and philosophical works are equally well covered. This is a compelling account of how the rediscovery of the writings of Aristotle changed the way the Western world looked at humans, God, and nature.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER ONE"The Master of Those Who Know"ARISTOTLE REDISCOVEREDIT IS HARD NOT TO think of twelfth-century Spain as a scholar's paradise. The picture that comes to mind is that of a broad table, well lit by candles, on which are spread out dozens of manuscripts written in Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek. Around the table, poring over the manuscripts, taking notes, or conversing animatedly, are bearded Jews, tonsured Christian monks, turbaned Muslims, and dark-haired Greeks. The setting is Toledo, a Spanish city long ruled by Islamic authorities but now under Christian control. The table occupies the center of a hall in the city's cathedral, whose archbishop, Raymund I, stands to one side, benevolently watching the polyglot scholars at their work. In his own hands, he holds a book written in Latin-apparently a Catholic missal or one of Saint Augustine's works. But close examination reveals its distinctly non-Christian authorship. The book that the archbishop holds so carefully, as if he were afraid it might once again disappear, is a new translation of De Anima-Aristotle's lost book on the soul.How was this famous work-along with the rest of the Aristotelian corpus-rediscovered? The story really begins in the tenth century, when Christian knights launched the Reconquista (Reconquest)-a lengthy, on-again, off-again struggle to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims who had ruled it for more than three hundred years. The Christians would not drive the Muslims out of Spain altogether until the fall of Grenada in 1492, but by 1100, great centers of Islamic culture like Toledo and Lisbon were already under their control. The very length of this campaign, and the fact that the cities and peoples conquered were among the most civilized on earth, made it more "a work of co-penetration and synthesis" than a simple military crusade. One commentator justly calls it "a long-term, sensible, humane, even liberal process of fusion between different faiths and races, which does great honour to the people of medieval Spain and Portugal."1In a way, the Reconquest resembled the "barbarian" takeover of Rome centuries earlier, for the society that the conquerors acquired was far more developed than their own. While Europe was just emerging from centuries of poverty and social strife, Muslim Spain-al Andalus, as the Arabs called it-was a land long enriched by international trade, brilliant artisanship, and a highly productive agriculture. The kingdom's rulers were literate men, heirs of the Roman tradition of rational-legal bureaucracy, and generous patrons of scholarship and the arts. Its world-famous poets anticipated and probably inspired the love songs of the troubadours. Its intellectuals were admired for their achievements in law, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences, as well as chemistry, metallurgy, and the practical arts. At a time when learning in Europe was confined to a few monasteries and church schools, Excerpted from Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages by Richard E. Rubenstein All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Prologue: The Medieval Star-Gatep. 1
1 "The Master of Those Who Know" Aristotle Rediscoveredp. 12
2 The Murder of "Lady Philosophy" How the Ancient Wisdom Was Lost, and How It Was Found Againp. 47
3 "His Books Have Wings" Peter Abelard and the Revival of Reasonp. 88
4 "He Who Strikes You Dead Will Earn a Blessing" Aristotle Among the Hereticsp. 127
5 "Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark" Aristotle and the Teaching Friarsp. 168
6 "This Man Understands" The Great Debate at the University of Parisp. 206
7 "Ockham's Razor" The Divorce of Faith and Reasonp. 239
8 "God Does Not Have to Move These Circles Anymore" Aristotle and the Modern Worldp. 271
Notesp. 299
Select Bibliographyp. 337
Acknowledgmentsp. 351
Indexp. 353