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The Legend of the Middle Ages: Philosophical Explorations of Medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam

by Lydia G. Cochrane Rémi Brague

Modern interpreters have variously cast the Middle Ages as a benighted past from which the West had to evolve and, more recently, as the model for a potential future of intercultural dialogue and tolerance. The Legend of the Middle Ages cuts through such oversimplifications to reconstruct a complicated and philosophically rich period that remains deeply relevant to the contemporary world. Featuring a penetrating interview and sixteen essays--only three of which have previously appeared in English--this volume explores key intersections of medieval religion and philosophy. With characteristic erudition and insight, Rémi Brague focuses less on individual Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thinkers than on their relationships with one another. Their disparate philosophical worlds, Brague shows, were grounded in different models of revelation that engendered divergent interpretations of the ancient Greek sources they held in common. So, despite striking similarities in their solutions for the philosophical problems they all faced, intellectuals in each theological tradition often viewed the others' ideas with skepticism, if not disdain. Such divisions, Brague contends, debunk notions that the medieval Mediterranean world was a European or Islamic cultural center in which different groups of people harmoniously mingled. His clear-eyed and revelatory portrayal of this misunderstood age brings to life not only its philosophical and theological nuances, but also its true lessons for our own time.

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