Science and Medieval Thought Part 3

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[10] Modern French historians do us the honour of annexing our heroes; in respect of the scholars of the Middle Ages M. Charles Jourdain has set, or followed, this example. John of Salisbury, that charming child of renascence, born out of due time, was first claimed as a Frenchman; then, as this "provenance" becomes untenable, he, and others, are called "Anglo-French." The University of Paris in the XIIth century was no more France than Rome was Italy. In our sedentary arable life we do not realise the nomad habits of our forefathers. Edward the First would inhabit six distant castles in less than as many weeks; indeed Great Britain itself was then no island. The heroes, nay the armies, of Froissart's Story fly about the world in their seasons like migrating birds. All keen scholars of the West went to the University of Paris, the daughter of kings and popes, and the intellectual centre not of a strip of kingdom between Anjou and the Empire, but of Europe itself. And of the scholars of Paris, Englishmen were, we hear, the most turbulent, but the boldest in argument and the most greedy of learning; this last character perhaps it is that now-a-days looks least English. Kuno Fischer admires the procession of great Englishmen down the highway of medieval thought, from Erigena to Francis Bacon.

John was born at Salisbury, spent thirteen of his early years at the University of Paris, the best of them in the stormy service of Thomas Becket, and but the last five as Bishop of Chartres. We do not call Lanfranc an Englishman, nor even Adrian the Fourth an Italian.

[11] The name Realism has been improperly used-improperly because previously engaged-to signify the conception of an objective world, from the play of which our impressions arise, and of which our impressions are, if not likenesses, at any rate symbols, as opposed to the name "Idealism" which, with a like violence, has been turned to signify the conception that the universe of things is but a picture produced by the evolution of the phenomena of consciousness. The proper names for these opposite conceptions are of course Noumenalism and Phenomenalism. Realism proper as a habit of thought, whatever may have been its provisional uses, is now a mischievous habit; noumenalism is a harmless amus.e.m.e.nt.

[12] Roscellinus, the Roger Bacon of the eleventh century, learned, rebellious, lucid and heroic, withstood the Church for philosophy as did Bacon in the thirteenth for natural science. It would seem that in heroism at any rate Abelard was below his master.

[13] Vid. p. 50.

[14] The opponents of the theory of the Ma.s.s are apt to charge the Roman Church with the proposition that therein the elements are changed into "real" flesh and blood. In the nineteenth century, as in the thirteenth, this Church has not, I believe, determined whether the "real" substance be corporeal or incorporeal, separable or inseparable from the sensible properties of things; whether in a word it be something or, as many of us would say, nothing at all. Spinoza regarded "substance" as intelligent and extended.

[15] Thus it was difficult to claim his authority for one side or the other. The metaphysical treatises were not known till the later part of the twelfth century. (See p. 75, note 2.) At the outset of the Physics Aristotle discusses what nature is in itself, and defines first elements; in the Second a.n.a.lytics on the other hand, although thinking of science as deductive and expository, he strongly opposes the primary existence of ideas, though these are predicable of many individuals. By excess of logical formations, the division of properties, the use of such terms as "???? ?p??e?e?a," &c. &c., he laid himself open to misconception, and so was readily platonised by his commentators. It would seem indeed that for Aristotle universals were not merely propositions obtained by negation of individual variations, but something more active. A ???s?? became somehow a p???s??; e.g. "? d???????sasa f?s??." His position may be appreciated briefly thus:-In the Categories Aristotle speaks of individuals as primarily existent, while in Met. Z, and elsewhere, the primary existent is the form. The inconsistency is, however, more apparent than real; for in the Categories it is the individual so far as he represents his natural kind which is primarily existent, whilst the form which in the Metaphysics is primarily existent occurs only in the individual. This terse appreciation is one of my many debts to Dr Jackson.

[16] It were almost to be desired, for our own lucidity, that we could get rid of the words cause and law, and use language significant of order only. Aristotle's influence has weighed heavily in favour of studying "Causes" rather than sequences; thus it is hard to clear our own minds, and impossible to clear the minds of our pupils, of a genetic notion of causation-that an effect comes, as it were, from the womb of its causes. Even Ockham taught as if causes contained their effects. Mr Marshall (West. Rev. loc. cit.) is of opinion that Roger Bacon by his "non oportet causas investigare" intended to confine scientific thought to the relations of phenomena.

[17] As St Anselm put it, "Partic.i.p.atione speciei plures homines sunt unus h.o.m.o." Out of humanity individual men proceed.

[18] Vid. p. 32, note.

[19] Erigena, "the miracle of the Holy Ghost"; a figure of almost mythical grandeur, arising in the far west, full of new learning, of lyric enthusiasm, and heroic courage. He did not protest, with St Columba, against the Papacy only; he protested against authority, and he protested against mighty ignorance; neither of which should withstand the persuasion of right reason. "Ratio immutabilis ... quae ... nullius auctoritatis adstipulatione roborari indiget." His works were proscribed and burned.

[20] The one, to which alone Parmenides and Melissus attributed existence, was a material although an incorporeal unity. We must beware of accepting "matter" in the current dualist sense; for Aristotle himself ??? was hardly distinguishable from d??a??.

[21] With every allowance for the phases of church and school in successive academical generations it seems strange that in 1209 Aristotle should have been forbidden under excommunication, and in 1231 restored to such favour that for the disciples of Albert and St Thomas the master almost attained the authority of a father of the church; the explanation probably is that "Aristotle" meant for a time the paynim interpretations of Toledo, particularly of the Physics (the Metaphysics were not translated from the Greek till about 1220); and meant not this only, but also liberal quotation and incorporation of the writings of Arab philosophers. To show how learning, even in the University of Paris, lay under ecclesiastical control, some extracts from the Edicts of the Synod of Paris and of Gregory the Ninth may be cited in ill.u.s.tration:-After directing that "Corpus magistri Amaurici extrahatur e cimiterio, et projiciatur in terram non benedictam" the Synod farther orders that the "Quaternuli ["Quaternuli" is translated by Ducange, Quatuor quartae chartae, seu octo folia: i.e. the octavos]

magistri David de Dinant, ... afferantur et comburantur; nec libri Aristotelis de naturali philosophia, nec Commenta legantur Parisiis, publice vel secreto. Et hoc sub pna excommunicationis inhibemus.... De libris theologicis scriptis in romano, praecipimus quod episcopis diocesanis tradantur, et Credo in Deum et Pater noster in romano, praeter vitas sanctorum." The order two years later confirming these prohibitions differs but in form. Even the Bull of Gregory in 1231, relieving the schools of this proscription, says, "Ad haec jubemus ut magistri artium unam lectionem de Prisciano et unam post aliam ordinarie semper legant, et libris illis naturalibus, qui in concilio provinciali ex certa causa prohibiti fuere, Parisiis non utantur, quousque examinati fuerint, et ab omni errorum suspicione purgati." The pope adds paternally, "Magistri vero et scholares theologiae, in facultate quam profitentur, se studeant laudabiliter exercere, nec philosophos se ostendant, sed satagant fieri theodocti: nec loquantur in lingua populi, et populi linguam hebraeam c.u.m azotica confundentes" [azotica or arethica means the profane tongue (Ducange); Hebrew being a Sancta lingua]. The pantheistic outburst of the later twelfth century, although deriving in part from Erigena, was probably fed by the commentary of Alexander of Aphrodisias. This commentary was widely read in Arabic and Arab-latin translations, the latter of which were made, as we know (v. A. Jourdain, p. 123 and seq.), by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187). Alexander's more material interpretation of ???

involved the return of All into G.o.d; hence no resurrection, no future life. In his followers these doctrines become grosser and grosser, and, fused with other Arabian doctrine, prepared for and afterwards strengthened the Averroism of Padua, in the XV-XVIth century, in which system it was taught that the universal soul, dipping for the time into the individual man, is at death resumed into the universal soul. This virtual denial of personal immortality was of course bitterly resented by the Church. (Vid. p. 68, note.) Thus from the thirteenth century onwards pantheistic infidelity survived and even defied the menaces and the punishments of the Church.

[22] Both Albert and Aquinas were inconsistent. Haureau points out that St Thomas was a vitalist in physics, an animist in metaphysics, a nominalist in philosophy, and a realist in theology. "Il a cherche a reconcilier des morts (i.e. Plato and Aristotle) qui, toute leur vie, se sont contredits." But even sceptics contradict themselves; and it is fair to add that St Thomas pushed universals back to immanence in the Divine mind. For Plato the ideas are thoughts of universal mind; for Aristotle G.o.d, or Nature by its thoughts or plans determines the lines of phenomena: thus Plato and Aristotle were more alike than Thomas knew, or Haureau admits. There was no such thing of course as The Scholastic Philosophy, of which I read again but the other day in a modern work. Scholasticism is the very various teaching of the schools of the XI-XVth centuries; though its general tendency was to search rather into the origin and nature than into the functions of being. The philosophy of the thirteenth century on the whole was eclectic;-though perhaps eclectic by confusion rather than by reconciliation. The rule of authority prevented an appreciation of the relative values of opinions; the recognised authorities were equally true, and had to be dovetailed together somehow. Critical interpretation had not begun.

[23] The objection should not lie against hair splitting, for thought cannot be too penetrating; but against the splitting of imaginary hairs.

[24] M. Charles Jourdain thus describes the procession of Rector, doctors and disciples of the University of Paris at the beginning of the fourteenth century. At the end of this century its decay began.

[25] For Aristotle the principle of individuation was matter and form (vid. note, p. 33); for Averroes it was form; for St Thomas it was matter. For all "vitalists" the ident.i.ty of form, soul and life is essential; thus Stahl regarded soul as bestowing on body all activity, as determining all vital functions. In Aristotle ???? is untranslatable = anima and animus-soul and vital principle. ??e?a again in various writers may mean anything, from air to spirit or other essence; cf. Arist. De Generat. An. II. 3, and the "aura" of Harvey, and even of Haller in the same connexion as the fertilising element.

[26] Not for all, not for the greatest of them! Aristotle, in vain, warned later generations against prophesying what seems likely, instead of looking to see how things come about:-"??? ????? ?????te?, ???? a?te??e??? t? s??s?e??? ?? t?? e???t??, ?a? p??s?a????te?

?? ??t?? ???? p??? ????e??? ??t?? ?de??." (De Gen. Anim. IV. i.) "Croire tout ce qu'on reve," if useful and possibly admirable in its day, in "neo-Hegelians" is a little stale.

[27] Thus, in ascending from general to more general, in the most general will be sought unique and perfect being; the primary cause and sole object of science-the a?t????? of the Alexandrians: whereas by successive eliminations utter abstractions would become utter vacuity. To such realists all subordinate beings are integral parts of the primary being. It would serve no useful end here to a.n.a.lyse these doctrines, or to indicate the pythagorean or stoical elements of them; for platonists and realists had their schools and degrees of subtlety; and Plato himself was inconsistent. Some brought secondary agents-demiurges or angels-into more creative activity, others carried creative reason back to the ideal good, and so on.

[28] Held by Gilbert, and attributed to Averroes; but older than Averroes. In turning to Francis Bacon's hypothesis I read (Ed. E. and S. II. 263. Hist. Densi et rari-chapter, "Dilatationes per spiritum innatum se expandentem," a Paracelsian sort of chapter) "Pulsus cordis et arteriarum in animalibus fit per irrequietam dilatationem spirituum, et receptum ipsorum, per vices." The muscular quality of the heart was known to Galen, forgotten, and rediscovered. Spiritus vitalis, for Bacon, was "aura composita ex flamma et aere" (cf. aen.

VI. 747). Glisson has been fortunate in two generous judges, in Haller and Virchow; it would ill become me to depreciate a distinguished Fellow of my own College, and as a clinical observer Glisson had considerable merits; but as a physiologist he was sunk in realism. He was happy in the invention of the technical term "irritability," but for him this virtue was as metaphysical an essence as the vital spirit; his prime motor was not physical. As a philosopher I fear the independent reader of his works will find him fanciful and wearisome.

[29] Herein Harvey's sagacity brought him towards the truth. "Air," he says in the _De generatione_, "is given neither for the cooling nor the nutrition of animals ... it is as if heat were rather enkindled within the ftus (at birth) than repressed by the influence of the air." Boyle (who says that he worked under the influence of Harvey's discoveries) carried this matter forward by most interesting and sagacious experiments with his air-pump. For the layman, I may add that (to speak generally) before Harvey's time respiration was regarded not as a means of combustion but of refrigeration. How man became such a fiery dragon was the puzzle!

[30] Perfection was attributed, not only by medieval philosophers but also by Plato and Aristotle, to the circle. Circular movement was therefore the most perfect, and therefore again must be that of the planets. This is a good ill.u.s.tration of the almost necessary tendency in the earlier excursions of thought to equate incoordinates, and to fill gaps in reasoning from alien sources.

[31] Not only movement but also formative activity. The ???? t??

????se?? is the efficient cause of Aristotle; for him final causes direct motion-the ?? ??e?a. Thus dialectic was taken for dynamics.

Even Kant confused cause and effect with reason and consequence in hypothetical propositions (Benn). Caverni (Storia del methodo sperimentale in Italia, 1891-5) says that Jorda.n.u.s Nemorarius (of Borgentreich near Warburg, d. 1236) made the great advance of extending the static physics of the ancients to establish dynamics; and that he introduced the word "moment." In a cursory survey of the two works of Nemorarius which we have in Cambridge I have not been able to verify this statement; the notion I have found but not the word itself.

[32] Vid. p. 44, note 2.

[33] And Goethe:

"Wie Himmelskrafte auf und nieder steigen Und sich die goldnen Eimer reichen!

Mit segenduftenden Schwingen Vom Himmel durch die Erde dringen, Harmonisch all das All durchklingen."

Faust I. i. 1.

In many of the older poets the same motive is found. Vaughan, a contemporary of Harvey, says:

"And round beneath it Time in houres, dayes, yeares, Driven by the spheres Like a vast shadow moved."

The only celestial messenger who has discussed this matter with mankind was something of an obscurantist. Vid. Paradise Lost, Bk.


[34] The word "philosophy" in the Middle Ages signified the pursuit of knowledge of things human and divine, and of the causes of them. It was often divided into Physics, Ethics and Logic. Cicero, to some of whose writings I have referred as then popular, says (in many pa.s.sages, e.g. in the Acad. I. and II.) that philosophy "Prima rerum naturam scrutatur, secunda animum componit, tertia bene disserendi rationem docet."

[35] Vid. note, p. 77.

[36] The judicious reader will remember in the Letters to Martinus Scriblerus the "familiar instance" of the jack. "In every roasting jack there is a meatroasting quality which neither resides in the fly, nor in the weight, nor in any particular wheel of the jack ... but is inherent in the jack.... As sensation, reasoning, volition &c. are the several modes of thinking, so roasting of beef, roasting of mutton, roasting of pullets, geese, turkeys &c. are the several modes of meatroasting.... And as the general quality of meatroasting, with its several modifications as to beef, mutton, pullets &c. does not inhere in any part of the jack, so neither does consciousness" &c. &c.

[37] Or indeed he shrank from them, as the continual exclusion of divine interference seemed to him a starvation of moral growth. Vid.

Phaedo, 96, the interesting pa.s.sage beginning "??? ??? ???? ??

Ta?ast?? ?? ?pe???sa ta?t?? t?? s?f?a? ?? d? ?a???s? pe?? f?se??

?st???a? ?.t.?."

[38] The encyclopedic method, followed by Francis Bacon, and perpetuated even in the nineteenth century by some German metaphysicians, was not the mere collection of matter from any or all quarters, after the manner of Pliny; nor again mere omniscience; but was the demonstration of a cosmical theory from all departments of knowledge. When knowledge was a theological philosophy theologians were bound to supply thinking men with "Summae," or comprehensive applications and casuistries of it. Hugo of St Victor (d. 1141) and Robert Pullen (d. 1150) were the first scholastic Summists.

[39] Aristotle made many experiments, but experiments are not necessarily verification; and for the most part his were not. It is not experiment which makes science but the experimental method. Dr Payne, in the Harveian Oration of 1896, reminded us that among the ancients the forerunner of Harvey in this method was Galen.

[40] Those who are curious in manners will observe that during the last few years the medievalising clergy in England have discarded that fair linen which in the elder clergy was the emblem and the example of cleanliness.

[41] "Nemo psychologus nisi prius physiologus," said Johannes Muller.

[42] For example, one man, fixing his eyes on a sublime ideal of holiness, confesses on his knees that he is a miserable sinner; another, surveying men about him, repudiates this imputation: it is a matter of parallax.

[43] Boyle, Essays, 2nd Ed. 1669, p. 119. In his Edition of 1661 Boyle speaks of the discovery of Harvey "our English Democritus" (published 1628) as commonly accepted. Whereby, he says, other "very plausible and radicated opinions" (the old schemes of the circulation) ... "are generally grown out of request."

[44] Haeser says (vol. II. p. 433): "Einen sehr bedeutenden Aufschwung nahm die Chirurgie im Zeitalter Harvey's bei den Englandern, unter denen bis dahin kein Wundarzt ersten Ranges aufgetreten war. Nach kurzer Zeit erlangten die englischen Chirurgen durch allgemeine Bildung, grundliche Kenntniss der Anatomie, und praktische Gelegenheit ein entschiedenes Uebergewicht uber die bis dahin herrschende franzosische Schule." Cf. also Daremberg, Hist. et Doct. vol. I. p.

281 et seq.

[45] In the Medical Magazine (May, June, July, August, and Sept. 1899) is an interesting essay by Mr D'Arcy Power, "How Surgery became a profession in London." Mr Power tells us that a scheme for the unity of the medical profession in London was set on foot in 1423, when the surgeons were the more highly organised body. A "Rector of Medicine"

was indeed elected (Master Gilbert Kymer). It is not known how long the conjoint faculty of medicine and surgery lasted in London; but unhappily for our profession it seems to have been dissolved in a very few years.

[46] This relation was somewhat one-sided: the philosophers forged doctrines and presented them to the Church; whereupon the Church consecrated them to eternity, and the philosophers were not allowed thereafter to improve or to restore their own creations. "La theologie n'est quelque chose qu'a condition d'etre tout."

[47] As Erigena and Raba.n.u.s knew some Greek, Ireland, like Edessa and Bagdad, seems to have shared the honour of preserving original texts; we may infer from the doctrines of Erigena that in Ireland the Timaeus was the chief of them.

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