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Idealism in Medieval Philosophy: The Case of Johannes Scottus Eriugena

Idealism in Medieval Philosophy: The Case of Johannes Scottus Eriugena

Moran, Dermot (University College Dublin)

Medieval Philosophy and Theology 8 (1999)

Abstract

In this article I wish to re-examine the vexed issue of the possibility of idealism in ancient and medieval philosophy with particular reference to the case of Johannes Scottus Eriugena (c. 800–c. 877), the Irish Neoplatonic Christian philosopher. Both Bernard Williams and Myles Burnyeat have argued that idealism never emerged (and for Burnyeat, could not have emerged) as a genuine philosophical position in antiquity, a claim that has had wide currency in recent years, and now constitutes something of an orthodoxy. Richard Sorabji (instancing Gregory of Nyssa) and Werner Beierwaltes (citing Proclus and Eriugena), and Eyjólfur Kjalar Emilsson (discussing Plotinus), on the other hand, have all argued that idealism is to be found in the Neoplatonic tradition, a tradition neglected by Burnyeat.

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