CLEP Humanities : Understanding terminology used to describe Medieval and Renaissance nonfiction and philosophy

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for CLEP Humanities

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Understanding Terminology Used To Describe Medieval And Renaissance Nonfiction And Philosophy

Which of the following best describes the outlook concerning philosophy during the Middle Ages?

Possible Answers:

Formal logic

Atheistic foe of theology

Handmaiden of theology

Introduction to the sciences

Disputant in petty matters

Correct answer:

Handmaiden of theology

Explanation:

The Middle Ages were a complex period of time—spanning many centuries and having many thinkers. There were some thinkers Peter Damian who had negative thoughts about theology, as well as Bernard of Clairvaux, who warred at length with the Peter Abelard, accusing the latter of heresy. Indeed, even the philosophically erudite Bonaventure of Bagnoregio had his reservations regarding the place of philosophy in the curriculum at the University of Paris.

However, many figures (indeed, including Bonaventure) supported the use of philosophy in teaching. Such figures include the "big names" as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and many, many others. Indeed, even in the monastery schools (that would be important for thinkers like Bernard), some philosophy was indisputably necessary for learning.

However, what was quite unique to the Middle Ages—whether in academic settings like Paris or in the humblest of monastic schools—was the overall structure of the disciplines. For a Medieval philosopher, philosophy was always a "stepping stone" to something else. Indeed, its most important role was to be an assistant to theological studies. Hence, it is most often known as the "handmaiden of theology." (Indeed, Peter Damian gave this name to it so as to insult it—as if to say, "It is only a handmaiden.) Philosophy studies were really just a gateway to medical, legal, and theological studies (whether academic theology or the biblical theology of the monasteries). Above all, though, if we wanted to characterize the outlook regarding philosophy during these centuries, the best phrase (at least among those provided here) would be, "Handmaiden of theology."

Example Question #2 : Understanding Terminology Used To Describe Medieval And Renaissance Nonfiction And Philosophy

What were the three subjects in the trivium in the medieval conception of the liberal arts?

Possible Answers:

Philosophy, Theology, and Law

Geometry, Music, and Reading

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Humanities, Logic, and Mathematics

Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic

Correct answer:

Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic

Explanation:

The notion of the "liberal arts" is notoriously slippery. In different ages, different things are said to be part of the liberal arts. As the curriculum of the medieval university solidified, however, the seven liberal arts took up a basic form that became normalized by the twelfth / thirteenth century. These were divided into the "trivium" and the "quadrivium"—or, the "three subjects" and the "four subjects." The trivium was devoted to topics needed for all other learning, so it focused on grammar, rhetoric, and logic. These introduced the quite young students to the tools needed for later studies. The quadrivium was made up of primarily mathematical courses, namely arithmetic, geometry, astronomy (like physics today), and music (a study of harmonies and proportions).

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