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Both an outgrowth and a departure from Christian monastic schools,[1] European scholasticism was both a method of learning taught by the academics (scholastics, school people, or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context.

Not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, scholasticism placed a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference, and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions. In the classroom and in writing, it often takes the form of explicit disputation: a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents' responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponent's arguments rebutted. Because of its emphasis on rigorous dialectical method, scholasticism was eventually applied to many other fields of study.

As a program, scholasticism was part of an attempt at harmonization on the part of medieval Christians thinkers: to harmonize the various "authorities" of their own tradition, and to reconcile Christian theology with classical and late antique philosophy, especially that of Aristotle but also of neoplatonism.[2] (See also Christian apologetics.)

The main figures of scholasticism were Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Abelard, Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas's masterwork, Summa Theologica, is often seen as the highest fruit of Scholasticism. However, important work in the scholastic tradition was carried on well past Thomas' time, for instance by Francisco Suárez and Molina, but also among Lutheran and Reformed thinkers.


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