Medieval Philosophy, Barbarians and cultural change.

“It remains, then, a historical fact that “barbarian” peoples made themselves at home in a house they had not themselves built.  And this fact makes more comprehensible an otherwise troublesome discord which from the very beginning–especially at the beginning–characterized medieval philosophy.  Hegel, in spite of the summary haste of his survey, made a very penetrating remark concerning this: “The chief element in the Middle Ages is this division, this duality: two nations, two languages.  We see peoples who had previously ruled, who had previously rounded off their own world, their own language, their arts and sciences; and we see the new nations settling down upon this alien foundation.  Thus these new nations began with a serious cleavage within themselves.  Thus Hegel explains the aspect of scholasticism which so alientated him, the “total confusion of dry reason in the gnarledness of the Nordic-Germanic nature.”  Upon that Germanic nature, he continues, “the infinite truth of the spirit weighed like a ponderous stone whose tremendous pressure it could only feel but not digest” during those centuries.  It is false, and demonstrably false, that the “stone” could not be digested.  But on the other hand it is true that the incorporation of something not sprung from native soil, the acquisition of both a foreign vocabulary and a different mode of thinking, the assimilation of a tremendous body of existing thought–that all that was in fact the problem  which confronted medieval philosophy at its beginnings, and which it had to master.  In the very act of mastering it, medieval philosophy acquired its own character” (Josef Pieper, Scholasticism, p. 21-22).