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By Anthony Kenny

Sir Anthony Kenny the following maintains his attention-grabbing account of the background of philosophy, concentrating on the thousand-year-long medieval interval. this is often the second one quantity of a four-book set during which Kenny will spread a magisterial new heritage of Western philosophy, the 1st significant single-author background of philosophy to seem in decades.

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John was born in Ireland in the Wrst decades of the ninth century. He is not to be mistaken for the more famous John Duns Scotus, who Xourished in the fourteenth century. It is undoubtedly confusing that there are two medieval philosophers with the name John the Scot. What makes it doubly confusing is that one of them was an Irishman, and the other was for all practical purposes an Englishman. The ninth-century philosopher, for the avoidance of doubt, gave himself the surname Eriugena, which means Son of Erin.

He was a Persian, born near Bokhara (in present-day Uzbekistan), who was educated in Arabic and wrote most of his works in that language. He is reputed to have mastered logic, mathematics, physics, and medicine in his teens. He began to practise as a doctor when he was 16. In his autobiography, edited by his pupil Juzjani, he describes how he then took up philosophy: For a year and a half, I devoted myself to study. I resumed the study of logic and all parts of philosophy. During this time I never slept the whole night through and did nothing but study all day long.

We can see only the apparent disorder of the operation of fate; if we could see the overall scheme as designed by providence, we would realize that whatever happens happens justly, and whatever is, is right. Throughout the Wrst four books Lady Philosophy has had much to say about Lady Luck. ’ There cannot be purely random chance, if philosophy is to be believed; but human choice is something diVerent from chance. Free choice, however, even if not random, is diYcult to reconcile with the existence of a God who foresees everything that is to happen.

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