Science and Medieval Thought Part 4

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[48] See Baas, Geschichtliche Entwickelung des arztlichen Standes, 1896, p. 128. Charlemagne journeyed in Italy where some schools still existed, and where Priscian, Donatus, Boetius, Ca.s.siodorus, Augustine, even Virgil and Cicero were read; thence he called teachers to his palace schools; and to Lyons, Orleans or Tours. How Paris became the centre of enlightenment in the Western world is not clear. The "palace school" probably was of no place, but of the royal retinue; that the School of Paris was made up of those of St Genevieve, St Germain des Pres and the Cathedral school seems not to be a very probable conjecture.

[49] The "Arabs" were a mixed throng of orientals; some of them were Aryans, as the Persians and Nestorians; some were Arabs, Syrians, or Hebrews. The Nestorians were eminent as physicians, and it is interesting to this College to know that one of the best translators of Aristotle into Arabic was Johannitius, a Nestorian physician. The Eastern peoples, as the Western, owed all to the Greeks except a double measure of dialectical ingenuity, which was their own, and is their own to-day. By the incisive methods of Aristotle the Christian neo-platonists had been variously carved into heretics-such as the Monophysites; and these when driven eastwards carried Greek to Edessa and Bagdad: from these centres it was, and from Nisibur in Persia and elsewhere, that the "Saracens" drew their culture. Aristotle was first translated into Arabic in the reign of Al Mansur, the son of Harun al Raschid (813-833); Avicenna carried the Aristotelian encyclopedia to its culmination; and Cordova in the tenth century was as full of fervid disciples as was Paris in the thirteenth. The Arabian medicine was Aristotle and Galen. The Arabian philosophy was originally built upon the Alexandrian emanations and hypostases (the soul of the universe, intelligence the first of creatures, nature and mutability, and so forth). Essences and forms were produced, as the "intelligibilia" of "real" knowledge, till, as some one has wittily put it, "universals became almost palpable." Avicenna indeed approached understanding from the senses, and Averroes accepted this right position; but he taught the permanent subsistence of intelligence, as a sphere in a hierarchy of spiritual principles independent of matter and persons. In no long time this was turned into the unity, as opposed to the individuality, of the soul; the universal soul dipping as it were into the individual, and at his death returning into the universal; a virtual denial of personal immortality. Hence the bitter defiance of Albert and St Thomas. The Averroistic doctrines were enthusiastically propagated on the other hand by that "malleus Ecclesiae Romanae" Frederick the Second (1212-1250). The Arabian science consisted in medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and alchemy. Averroes it was who first a.s.serted the independence of the spheres of science and religion; a division popular at the present day, and one which lent itself to many a convenient subterfuge, in Padua.

[50] Dante, Inf. (XX. 115). Michael Scot translated Averroes from Arabian to Latin; also the _De caelo_ and _De anima_ of Aristotle, which reached Roger Bacon about 1230. Thus we may regard Michael as the founder of Paduan Averroism. All persons who busied themselves with natural experiment in the Middle Ages were accused of magic; even Albert did not escape the suspicion or the credit of sorcery.

[51] Renan, Averroes. And to like effect M. Haureau says, "Le peripateticisme d'Averroes ne differe pas moins de l'antique doctrine du Lycee que l'Alhambra du Parthenon"; and he compares "le peripateticisme d'Albert et d'Aquinas" to the "monuments fiers et bizarres du Gothique du XIIIme siecle."

[52] I may venture to quote again the "locus cla.s.sicus":-

"Wel knew he the olde Esculapius, And Deiscorides, and eek Rufus, Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galien; Serapion, Razis, and Avicen; Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn; Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn."

Chaucer, C. T. Prol. 429-434 (Skeat's Ed.).

[53] See pp. 24 and 28.

[54] As a school of thought; in fine art of course it was glorious.

[55] Ozanam (Doc. inedits, quoted by Rashdall, p. 78) says this early light was "une de ces nuits lumineuses ou les dernieres clartes du soir se prolongent jusqu'aux premieres blancheurs du matin."

[56] Albert-"nostri temporis stupor et miraculum!"-is an attractive figure, and deserves his renown as the greatest of the medieval sages.

His endowments were richer and wider than those of the great Italian logician, his pupil, whose name has had a greater vogue, and whose doctrines are still the accepted discipline of the Church of Rome.

Albert restored Aristotle, and in astronomy and chemistry sought for truth in nature. That St Thomas was a man of the highest intellectual power and attainments, an eminence which is claimed for him by many scholars, as by Mr Vernon in his edition of the Paradise, I cannot admit; unless it be to a critical scholar who has mastered the contents of his many folios, if such a scholar there be. For my part, after reading much of what is written of St Thomas, I have but done what was possible to me in other such cases; that is, I have run my eye over the t.i.tles of his books and chapters, and formed some rapid judgment here and there of the ways of his thought. Now I venture to a.s.sert that the ways of the thought of Aquinas, subtle and symmetrical as they are, lie wholly within the formulas of his age. He left science for logic, the stuff of thought for its instrument; satisfying himself with such tinkling cymbals as "Nihil potest per se operari, nisi quod per se subsist.i.t; ... Impossibile est quod forma separetur a seipsa ... quod subsistens per se desinat esse" ... and so forth.

Albert though a less symmetrical is a more original genius. To Aquinas indeed I should hesitate to attribute genius; to Albert it seems to me this t.i.tle may be granted, if with some hesitation. "Vir famosus et erroneus" was Roger Bacon's summary of Albert's career, but Bacon was scarcely an indifferent witness.

[57] Among the MSS. in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, are letters of Innocent IV. to the Archdeacon of Canterbury (and others), "Ut (Episc. Linc.) nepotem suum Frederic.u.m (of Lavagna) in canonicatum in ecclesia Lincolniensi, proxime vacaturum, inducat, et Resp. Episc.

Linc. in qua probat talem provisionem esse contra voluntatem et cultus Dei; ideoque negat se concessurum." I see that the authenticity of some of these letters has been called in question by M. Charles Jourdain, but in any case they are contemporary, and consonant with Robert's acts and character. Moreover, two years before, Innocent had suspended the bishop for refusing to induct an Italian, ignorant of English, to a rich benefice in his diocese. I find that Dr Luard, in 1880, had no doubts of the authenticity of these letters (Encycl.

Brit. XI. 211). Mons. Charles Jourdain's collected essays, in which he discusses their authenticity, were published posthumously in 1888; but his Editor makes the slovenly omission of the dates and places of the first publications of the several essays.

[58] There were three ways of access to the Greek texts of Aristotle: by the Arab-latin translations; by translations into Latin direct from the Greek; and by the use of the Greek text itself. These means were modified again by the chances of access to particular authors, and, as in the case of Aristotle for example, to particular treatises. To ascertain the dates of access to these new sources I have made some search; and herein I have found great help in the "Recherches critiques" of Amable Jourdain. We must remember that though the source of Western culture is not Latin, but Greek, yet its meagre channels in medieval Europe were Latin; its best tradition lay in Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, Virgil. The ill-starred Boetius was the last of the Grecians. Greek was driven East and West: West into Ireland, where in the ninth century a few Greek MSS. survived, and were read in the original by Erigena and his disciples; but this Irish Greek tradition was soon lost, and there were no teachers of Greek. Yet it seems certain that, in Oxford, Robert of Lincoln and Adam Marsh had at any rate learned a.s.sistance in the production of some Greco-latin translations of Aristotle, of the Ethics for example. Dr Jackson has pointed out to me a pa.s.sage in Aquinas' Commentary on the Ethics, where "the presentation of the right reading misspelt, and of a ludicrous etymology side by side with one which is very nearly right, seem to show that, whilst Aquinas had about him people who knew Greek, he himself had no substantial knowledge of it." Grosseteste himself may have had some efficient knowledge of Greek; "vir in latino et in greco peritissimus," says Matthew Paris. Dr Jackson (in a private letter) feels a.s.sured that "Roger Bacon was plainly a competent Greek scholar. Of this there is proof in the _Opera inedita_, edited by Brewer for the Master of the Rolls." We know also that more than one scholar of the 11-12th centuries travelled in the East, though, as Dr Daremberg says, travellers to the East were more apt to bring back false relics than genuine ma.n.u.scripts. There was a small Greek community and a Greek monastery at Auriol, near the old colony of Ma.r.s.eilles. Still, for lack of masters and materials, Greek then was a very rare accomplishment; and it is manifest, from much internal evidence, that Albert had no Greek; though he certainly possessed Greco-latin translations of some few Aristotelian treatises by other hands, of the _De anima_ and of the Physics for example, whence he makes quotations without interspersion of Arabic t.i.tles, proper names, nouns and terms, such as he rather helplessly reproduces in his rendering of the ninth book of the _De caelo_ and elsewhere. We know from other sources that a few treatises, such as the _De anima_, and the first two books of the Ethics, existed in Greco-latin rendering before the Arab-latin versions of Michael Scot and others (1220-1225).

In later life Albert had the a.s.sistance of Aquinas to whom we have attributed some knowledge of Greek; for we find Aquinas, with the countenance of Urban the Fourth, not only searching Europe for Greek ma.n.u.scripts, sending emissaries to Spain to make versions for him, and supervising the preparation of translations directly into Latin, but also personally comparing the Latin translations with the Greek texts of the Ethics and Politics, and recording variants; variants which Albert copied from his disciple. (It may be worthy of remark that even so late as 1586 there were no Greek types in Oxford, and that in 1599 Casaubon (Life by Pattison) could find no compositors for Greek in Lyons.) The great debt of the West to the Arabs was a new enthusiasm for learning, and for the "Princeps philosophorum"; not their travestied texts and unwieldy commentaries, which Roger Bacon, probably perceiving that his contemporaries swore by the Arab rather than by the Greek, wished he could burn.

[59] To wonder why Roger Bacon became a clerk and a Franciscan is to look upon the thirteenth century with the eyes of the nineteenth. The vision of St Francis had not grown dim; the strange beauty of his life held men captive still, and his cheerful natural religion still animated his disciples. None could have said more truly than St Francis

"While others fish with craft for great opinion, I with great truth catch mere simplicity."

The grey friar of the fourteenth century, as we know him in Langland and Chaucer, or later in the degraded fanaticism of the Observants, had fallen far from the example of his master. Perhaps the chief reason for Bacon's decision was that his friend Grosseteste, who on the first coming of the friars wrote eloquently to Gregory the Ninth of their illumination, humility and piety, was a member of the Order, and was the first of its Rectors in Oxford. (Rd. Grosseteste, Epist.

ed. Luard; Rolls, 1861, p. 179.) Even in Cambridge, till 1877, teachers and professors, save those of Law or Medicine, were generally speaking in holy orders; for instance, the following extract, of date 1849, which I owe to the kindness of Dr Donald MacAlister, "Caeterum neminem in socium unquam admitti volumus qui non sit aut Theologiam professurus et sacros ordines post certum temporis intervallum inferius definiendum suscepturus aut e Collegio discessurus, nisi unus e duobus sociis qui Medicinae aut ex illis duobus qui Juris Civilis studio deputati sunt, electus fuerit." (Stat.

Coll. Div. Joh. Evan. Cant. cap. xii. 28 April, 12 Vict. 1849.) To this hour in England the clergy command the public schools. In a warlike society learning and contemplation must fall to the clergy; without the fortresses of war or learning, if there was any safety, there was not dignity or peace. The mendicant orders were young inst.i.tutions, ascendant, and in favour with the great. Of their usurpations in the universities I have spoken. Within them even Popes could not meddle, as Bacon found to his sorrow. Hales and Ockham also became Minors, as Albert and St Thomas, both of ill.u.s.trious descent, became Preachers. Moreover the Franciscans had devoted themselves to the care of the sick, and especially of those smitten with the new pestilences-such as leprosy, syphilis, and plague-which Oriental dirt and asceticism had engendered or inflamed; and thus a bent to observation of natural phenomena may have been encouraged (see art.

Roger Bacon, Westminster Rev. loc. cit.). To say that to the monks we owe the conservation of learning is not so true as to say that learned men betook themselves to the religious houses in order to find relief from turmoil, to secure the subsistence of life without its cares, to get access to books, and to profit by the counsel of comrades who had enjoyed not only the culture of their own house, but also the interchange of ideas and ma.n.u.scripts with all the learned houses in Europe. When these advantages were to be had in the world, learning deserted the monasteries. Again, Bacon was not an unbeliever, nor anything like it; in the _Opus Majus_ he declares the Holy Scriptures to be the source of all truth; not only, like Socrates before him and Kant after him, did he fix his eyes on moral perfection as the end, but also on the Church as the means: on the other hand the resentments of pa.s.sionate genius under harsh duress did not make a naturally rebellious temper more tractable. "Fames et mora bilem conciunt." It is evident that within the Franciscan order there were three well-marked parties; namely, of the naturalists, as Bacon; of the mystics, as Bonaventura; and of the sophists, as John Duns the Northumbrian. Now Bacon's troubles did not begin till the succession to the Generalship of the Order of the seraphic Bonaventura, an argumentative mystic (like Duns, and unlike the ecstatic mystics of St Victor), who, rejecting Aristotle, had steeped himself in the neo-platonism of Augustine and "Dionysius the Areopagite"; and Bonaventura and his party it was who stopped Bacon's mouth at Oxford, and shut him up in Paris. What the life of Bacon and the direction of medieval thought might have been had Grosseteste been able to spare Adam Marsh from Oxford for the Generalship it were perhaps too curious to consider; yet we may profitably remember that Bacon, brushing aside Porphyry and his questions, and denouncing the "vain physics" of Paris, urged that enquiry should begin with the simplest objects of research, and rise gradually to the higher and higher; every observation being controlled by experiment. He says indeed that by experiment only can we distinguish a sophism from a demonstration.

(Op. Tert. XIX.) Earnestly he tried to follow this method; he seems to have spent on it substance of his own, and, after this was exhausted, to have appeared for the first time in history as a pet.i.tioner for "scientific grants in aid." Diderot speaks of Bacon as "Un des genies les plus surprenants que la nature ait produits, et un des hommes les plus malheureux"; he lived in vain, died unhonoured, and left no disciple.

[60] "Colliget," Mr E. G. Browne tells me, is a corruption of Kulliyyat. It does not exactly mean "Summary" (as commonly stated) but rather "General Principles" (Kull means "the whole"; Kulli universal or general; fem. pl. Kulliyyat). It may also mean collected writings (e.g. of a poet).

[61] Vid. p. 50.

[62] I venture to say "even of Caius," though Caius was a competent and indeed for his time an able clinical physician, as we observe in his work on the sweating sickness. (Vid. note, p. 96.)

[63] Oxford fell in the first instance under Franciscan influence, yet Alexander Hales (of this order) gave the peripatetic bent to Oxford which it retains to this day. Creed rather than conduct was the dominant note of the Faith (p. 85); it is interesting therefore to learn that for Oxford Robert of Lincoln and Adam Marsh translated, or procured a translation of, the Ethics. On the probability that Grosseteste had some substantial knowledge of Greek, see p. 75, note 2.

[64] In Casaubon's diary we get a glimpse of Oxford in 1613. The University was wealthy enough; it had escaped the Paris devastation, but had scarcely deserved its good fortune. There was much active teaching of a routine kind, many formalities, much serving of tables; but of living interest in science, learning, or high culture there was not a trace. Of cla.s.sical learning, in Casaubon's sense, there was naught. Ecclesiastical controversies absorbed or overwhelmed all other subjects; and the University was regarded by the Government as an instrument of party. The professors were all clerks, and ardent only as pamphleteers. Thus, says Pattison, "the University took its full share of national pa.s.sion, prejudice and religious sentiment, but was wholly dest.i.tute of any power to vivify, to correct, to instruct, or to enlighten." Pattison's Casaubon, p. 417.

[65] Both in Bologna and Padua of course there was a faculty of Medicine; but its tradition in Bologna was traditional and galenical, in Padua independent and progressive. Montpellier had suffered in the desolation of Languedoc.

[66] See page 82.

[67] Contra Medic.u.m quendam Invectivarum Libri Quatuor. (Op. T. II.

pp. 1086, 801. Ed. Basel, 1555, quoted Renan, Aver. p. 331.)

[68] The Royal College of Physicians of London had its birth in the schools of Italy; and perhaps in revolt from Averroism the elegant humanity of Linacre has too often prevailed in this College rather than Harvey's strenuous control of tradition and rhetoric by more positive conceptions, and of all conceptions by direct experimental verification.

[69] Niccol Leonico (I give his Latin name in the text as Ueberweg gives it) seems to have been a spirited and effective philosophical lecturer of h.e.l.lenist and critical qualities, and of much charm both of style and character. He is not to be confounded with his elder contemporary, Nicolaus Leonicenus, of Vicenza and Ferrara, professor of medicine and an elegant latiner, who translated the aphorisms of Hippocrates; and whose friend Linacre, in translating parts of Galen, did a like service to medicine and letters in England.

[70] Not only of the circulation of the blood. In his treatise _De generatione_ Harvey disposed of the belief in spontaneous generation (so far as regards visible creatures, its abolition we owe to Pasteur), yet Bacon (N. O. II. 41) accepts it, perhaps as fully as did Sir Thomas Browne. The _De generatione_ however was not actually published till 1651, some 30 years after the _Novum Organon_.

[71] Galileo and Kepler had proved the validity of terrestrial physics and mathematics in astronomy. Aristotle of course was the first to apply physics to astronomy, but wrong physics.

[72] With which Malpighi was in close a.s.sociation.

[73] The _Consilia medica_, or Consultations, were published records, either of particular cases or of diseases in a more general sense, which seem to have been inst.i.tuted by Thaddaeus of Florence in the thirteenth century, were abundant in the fifteenth, and were continued into the sixteenth, and even later. In the fifteenth century these records have a considerable historical value, and no little clinical interest, as the questions to the patient and the records of symptoms are often orderly and graphic, and enable the modern reader to revise the diagnoses, many of them grotesque enough. These Consilia make a great bulk of matter, and one which has not been thoroughly explored.

A general account of the Consilia may be read in any good history of medicine, but perhaps the most interesting is to be found in the chapters on medieval medicine in Daremberg's "Histoire et Doctrines"

(e.g. tom. 1. p. 334 et seq.).

[74] Originally by Fracastorius, Monta.n.u.s and others, in the former half of the sixteenth century. Caius in England, Mercado in Spain, Baillou in Paris, if not bedside teachers, had done good clinical work, in Consilia and otherwise, in the same century. What Fracastorius did for syphilis, Caius did for the sweating sickness, and Mercado for petechial typhus. Baillou was too dependent upon the letter of tradition.

[75] Even Descartes has some share with Hegel in the profound error that whatsoever is clearly and definitely conceived is true. The inference if true for formal logic, is not true for natural processes; for instance, Descartes' well-known attribution of the soul to the pineal gland, because all other parts of the brain are double, and the soul is single!

[76] "The share of Servetus was small"; that is, the effect of his remarkable discovery was small, for it was buried in a theological work of which but a few copies were rescued from the burning; namely "Christianismi rest.i.tutio. Viennae Allobrogum, 1553." (Haeser gives the reference to pp. 170-177, De Trinitate divina.) The work was reprinted at Nuremberg in 1790.

[77] Quae, simul aethereos animo conceperat ignes, Ore dabat vero carmina plena dei.

Ovid, _Fasti_ I, 473.

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