The Mediaeval Mind: A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages - Vol. 2

By Henry Osborn Taylor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLIV
THE MEDIAEVAL SYNTHESIS: DANTE

IT lies before us to draw the lines of mediaeval development together. We have been considering the Middle Ages very largely, endeavouring to fix in mind the more interesting of their intellectual and emotional phenomena. We have found throughout a certain spiritual homogeneity; but have also seen that the mediaeval period of western Europe is not to be forced to a fictitious unity of intellectual and emotional quality -- contradicted by a disparity of traits and interests existing then as now. Yet just as certain ways of discerning facts and estimating their importance distinguish our own time, making it an "age" or epoch, so in spite of diversity and conflict, the same was true of the mediaeval period. From the ninth to the fourteenth century, interrelated processes of thought, beliefs, and standards prevailed and imparted a spiritual colour to the time. While not affecting all men equally, these spiritual habits tended to dominate the minds and tempers of those men who were the arbiters of opinion, for example, the church dignitaries, or the theologian-philosophers. Men who thought effectively, or upon whom it fell to decide for others, or to construct or imagine for them, such, whether pleasure-loving, secularly ambitious, or immersed in contemplation of the life beyond the grave, accepted certain beliefs, recognized certain authoritatively prescribed ideals of conduct and well-being, and did not reject the processes of proof supporting them.

The causes making the Middle Ages a characterizable period in human history have been scanned. We observed the antecedent influences as they finally took form and

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