Pagans and Philosophers explores how writers—philosophers and theologians, but also poets such as Dante, Chaucer, and Langland, and travelers such as Las Casas and Ricci—tackled the Problem of Paganism. Augustine and Boethius set its terms, while Peter Abelard and John of Salisbury were important early advocates of pagan wisdom and virtue. University theologians such as Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham, and Bradwardine, and later thinkers such as Ficino, Valla, More, Bayle, and Leibniz, explored the difficulty in depth. Meanwhile, Albert the Great inspired Boethius of Dacia and others to create a relativist conception of scientific knowledge that allowed Christian teachers to remain faithful Aristotelians. At the same time, early anthropologists such as John of Piano Carpini, John Mandeville, and Montaigne developed other sorts of relativism in response to the issue.
A sweeping and original account of an important but neglected chapter in Western intellectual history, Pagans and Philosophers provides a new perspective on nothing less than the entire period between the classical and the modern world.
Christopher I. Beckwith traces the origins of a major tradition in Western philosophy to Gandhara, a country in Central Asia and northwestern India. He systematically examines the teachings and practices of Pyrrho and of Early Buddhism, including those preserved in testimonies by and about Pyrrho, in the report on Indian philosophy two decades later by the Seleucid ambassador Megasthenes, in the first-person edicts by the Indian king Devanampriya Priyadarsi referring to a popular variety of the Dharma in the early third century BC, and in Taoist echoes of Gautama's Dharma in Warring States China. Beckwith demonstrates how the teachings of Pyrrho agree closely with those of the Buddha Sakyamuni, "the Scythian Sage." In the process, he identifies eight distinct philosophical schools in ancient northwestern India and Central Asia, including Early Zoroastrianism, Early Brahmanism, and several forms of Early Buddhism. He then shows the influence that Pyrrho's brand of scepticism had on the evolution of Western thought, first in Antiquity, and later, during the Enlightenment, on the great philosopher and self-proclaimed Pyrrhonian, David Hume.
Greek Buddha demonstrates that through Pyrrho, Early Buddhist thought had a major impact on Western philosophy.
Medieval Philosophy gives a chronological account which:treats all four main traditions of philosophy that stem from the Greek heritage of late antiquity: Greek Christian philosophy, Latin philosophy, Arabic philosophy and Jewish philosophy provides a series of 'study' sections for close attention to arguments and shorter 'interludes' that point to the wider questions of the intellectual context combines philosophical analysis with historical background includes a helpful detailed guide to further reading and an extensive bibliography
All students of medieval philosophy, medieval history, theology or religion will find this necessary reading.