Once upon a time, the universe was much simpler: before our modern understanding of an infinite formless space scattered with pulsating stars, revolving planets, and mysterious black holes, the universe was seen as a rigid hierarchical system with the earth and the human race at its center. Medieval Views of the Cosmos investigates this worldview shared by medieval societies, revealing how their modes of thought affect us even today. In the medieval world system--inherited by Christians and Muslims (...) from the Greeks and Romans, and modified by their own religious tenets--spheres bearing the planets and stars wheeled around the earth, and at every level there was a moral lesson for humanity and a satisfying metaphor for the nature of God. The authors of this volume explain how the medieval view of the universe was harmonious on theological and practical levels, providing answers to the most puzzling of questions. Medieval Views of the Cosmos is an engaging and beautifully illustrated introduction to a world where every moment was a theater of human drama directed by the hand of God. (shrink)
Drawing on a half century of scholarship, of Polish studies of Copernicus and Cracow University, and of Copernicus's sources, this book offers a comprehensive re-evaluation of Copernicus's achievement, and explains his commitment to the ...
This paper is a sequel to my 'Theological Misinterpretations of Current Physical Cosmology' (Foundations of Physics , 26 (4); revised in Philo , 1 (1)). There I argued that the Big Bang models of (classical) general relativity theory, as well as the original 1948 versions of the steady state cosmology, are each logically incompatible with the time-honored theological doctrine that perpetual divine creation (creatio continuans') is required in each of these two theorized worlds. Furthermore, I challenged the perennial theological doctrine (...) that there must be a divine creative cause (as distinct from a transformative one) for the very existence of the world, a ratio essendi. This doctrine is the theistic reply to the question: 'Why is there something, rather than just nothing?' I begin my present paper by arguing against the response by the contemporary Oxford theist Richard Swinburne and by Leibniz to what is, in effect, my counter-question: 'But why should there by just nothing, rather than something?' Their response takes the form of claiming that the a priori probability of there being just nothing, vis-à-vis the existence of alternative states, is maximal, because the non-existence of the world is conceptually the simplest. On the basis of an analysis of the role of simplicity in scientific explanations, I show that this response is multiply flawed, and thus provides no basis for their three contentions that (i) if there is a world at all, then its 'normal', natural, spontaneous state is one of utter nothingness or total non-existence, so that (ii) the very existence of matter, energy and living beings constitutes a deviation from the allegedly 'normal', spontaneous state of 'nothingness', and (iii) that deviation must thus have a suitably potent (external) divine cause. Related defects turn out to vitiate the medieval Kalam Argument for the existence of God, as espoused by William Craig. Next I argue against the contention by such theists as Richard Swinburne and Philip L. Quinn that (i) the specific content of the scientifically most fundamental laws of nature, including the constants they contain, requires supra-scientific explanation, and (ii) a satisfactory explanation is provided by the hypothesis that the God of theism willed them to be exactly what they are. Furthermore, I contend that the theistic teleological gloss on the 'Anthropic Principle' is incoherent and explanatorily unavailing. Finally, I offer an array of considerations against Swinburne's attempt to show, via Bayes's theorem, that the existence of God is more probable than not. (shrink)
A study of problems, all revolving around the subject of intellect in the philosophies of Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, this book starts by reviewing discussions in Greek and early Arabic philosophy which served as the background for the three Arabic thinkers. Davidson examines the cosmologies and theories of human and active intellect in the three philosophers and covers such subjects as: the emanation of the supernal realm from the First Cause; the emanation of the lower world from the transcendent active (...) intellect; stages of human intellect; illumination of the human intellect by the transcendent active intellect; conjunction of the human intellect with the transcendent active intellect; prophecy; and human immortality. Davidson shows that medieval Jewish philosophers and the Latin Scholastics had differing perceptions of Averroes because they happened to use works belonging to different periods of his philosophic career. (shrink)
A conservation principles tell us that some quantity, quality, or aspect remains constant through change. Such principles appear already in ancient and medieval natural philosophy. In one important strand of Greek cosmology, the rotatory motion of the celestial orbs is eternal and immutable. In optics, from at least the time of Euclid, the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence when a ray of light is reflected. According to some versions of the medieval impetus theory (...) of motion, impetus remains in a projected body (and the associated motion persists) permanently unless the body is subject to outside interference. These examples could be multiplied. But it was in the seventeenth century that conservation principles began to play an absolutely central role in scientific theories. Each of Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Christiaan Huygens, Gottfried Leibniz, and Isaac Newton founded his approach to physics upon the principle of inertia—that unless interfered with a body will undergo uniform rectilinear motion. A multitude of other conservation principles gained currency during the seventeenth century—some still with us, some long ago left behind. Descartes provides an interesting example of an author who attempted to derive all of his physical principles from conservation laws (Principles of Philosophy, see especially articles 36 to 42 of Part II). Descartes believed that the principles of his physics could be derived from the immutability of God, supplemented only by very weak assumptions about the existence of change in the world. He claims, in fact, that we ought to postulate the strongest conservation laws consistent with such change. These include. (shrink)
How do the variegated forms of sublunar substances (the elements, homoeomerous substances, plants, animals) arise in prime matter? Averroes throughout his life believed that “a principle from without” was involved, but changed his mind over its identity. While in an early period of his life he maintained that all forms emanate from the active intellect, he later discarded that metaphysical notion and sought to develop a more naturalistic, astrologically inspired account, which identified the heavenly bodies as the source of sublunar (...) forms. Comparing different versions of Averroean texts, this paper seeks to spell out how, in Averroes' view, the heavenly bodies generate forms in matter. Averroes claims that this is brought about by means of their “heats,” an answer that is however problematic seeing that in the Aristotelian cosmology the celestial realm is quality-less. The paper examines Averroes' ideas on the relationship between light and heat, concluding that the Commentator was unable to integrate the postulate that the heavenly bodies inform matter within his Aristotelian theory of matter. (shrink)
The philosophical image of a “universe of discourse” can be misleading in the suggestions it carries about how to read Wittgenstein and how to approach the topic of the relation between language and reality. That is what I try to show by examining Ilham Dilman's discussion of medieval cosmology. I sketch an alternative account of the relation between medieval beliefs about the heavens and our astronomical beliefs, and I consider in detail the disagreement between the two accounts.
In the post-Newtonian world motion is assumed to be a simple category which relates to the locomotion of bodies in space, and is usually associated only with physics. Philosophy, God and Motion shows that this is a relatively recent understanding of motion and that prior to the scientific revolution motion was a much broader and more mysterious category, applying to moral as well as physical movements. Simon Oliver presents fresh interpretations of key figures in the history of western thought (...) including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Newton, examining the thinkers' handling of the concept of motion. Through close readings of seminal texts in ancient and medieval cosmology and early modern natural philosophy, the book moves from antique to modern times investigating how motion has been of great significance within theology, philosophy and science. Particularly important is the relation between motion and God, following Aristotle traditional doctrines of God have understood the divine as the 'unmoved mover' while post-Holocaust theologians have suggested that in order to be compassionate God must undergo the motion of suffering. Philosophy, God and Motion suggests that there may be an authentically theological, as well as a natural scientific understanding of motion. (shrink)
Apparently alone among medieval Christians, Eriugena argues that all life is immortal. He relies on Plato’s Timaeus as his primary source for this claim, but he modifies the argument of the Timaeus considerably. He turns Plato’s cosmic soul into the genus of life, thereby taking a treatise that originally dealt with cosmology and using it to explore the ontological significance of definition. All species that fall under the genus of life must be immortal, because a mortal species would contradict (...) the genus. No later medieval author would take up Eriugena’s arguments explicitly, although Aquinas comes close. The two thirteenth-century thinkers to address universal immortality seriously—Aquinas and Bonaventure—argue against it, but they are more faithful than Eriugena himself to a literal reading of the Timaeus. (shrink)
Part 1. Lecture 1. What is big history? ; Lecture 2. Moving across multiple scales ; Lecture 3. Simplicity and complexity ; Lecture 4. Evidence and the nature of science ; Lecture 5. Threshold 1, Origins of Big Bang cosmology ; Lecture 6. How did everything begin? ; Lecture 7. Threshold 2, The first stars and galaxies ; Lecture 8. Threshold 3, Making chemical elements ; Lecture 9. Threshold 4, The earth and the solar system ; Lecture 10. The early (...) earth, a short history ; Lecture 11. Plate tectonics and the earth's geography ; Lecture 12. Threshold 5, Life -- Part 2. Lecture 13. Darwin and natural selection ; Lecture 14. The evidence for natural selection ; Lecture 15. The origins of life ; Lecture 16. Life on earth, single-celled organisms ; Lecture 17. Life on earth, multi-celled organisms ; Lecture 18. Hominines ; Lecture 19. Evidence on hominine evolution ; Lecture 20. Threshold 6, What makes humans different? ; Lecture 21. Homo sapiens, the first humans ; Lecture 22. Paleolithic lifeways ; Lecture 23. Change in the Paleolithic Era ; Lecture 24. Threshold 7, agriculture -- Part 3. Lecture 25. The origins of agriculture ; Lecture 26. The first agrarian societies ; Lecture 27. Power and its origins ; Lecture 28. Early power structures ; Lecture 29. From villages to cities ; Lecture 30. Sumer, the first agrarian civilization ; Lecture 31. Agrarian civilizations in other regions ; Lecture 32. The world that agrarian civilizations made ; Lecture 33. Long trends, expansion and state power ; Lecture 34. Long trends, rates of innovation ; Lecture 35. Long trends, disease and Malthusian cycles ; Lecture 36. Comparing the world zones -- Part 4. Lecture 37. The Americas in the later Agrarian Era ; Lecture 38. Threshold 8, the modern revolution ; Lecture 39. The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500-1350 ; Lecture 40. The Early Modern Cycle, 1350-1700 ; Lecture 41. Breakthrough, the Industrial Revolution ; Lecture 42. Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900 ; Lecture 43. The 20th century ; Lecture 44. The world that the modern revolution made ; Lecture 45. Human history and the biosphere ; Lecture 46. The next 100 years ; Lecture 47. The next millennium and the remote future ; Lecture 48. Big history, humans in the cosmos. (shrink)
The appellation “Western” is, in my view, inappropriate when applied to Ancient Hellas and its greatest product, the Hellenic philosophy. For, as a matter of historical fact, neither the spirit of free inquiry and bold speculation, nor the quest of perfection via autonomous virtuous activity and ethical excellence survived, in the purity of their Hellenic forms, the imposition of inflexible religious doctrines and practices on Christian Europe. The coming of Christianity, with the theocratic proclivity of the Church, especially the hierarchically (...) organized Catholic Church, sealed the fate of Hellenic philosophy in Europe for more than a millennium. Since the Italian Renaissance, several attempts primarily by Platonists to revive the free spirit and other virtues of Hellenic philosophy have been invariably frustrated by violent reactions from religious movements, the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and the bloody wars which followed their appearance in Europe. Modern science succeeded to a certain extent, after struggle with the Catholic Church, in freeing itself from the snares of medieval theocratic restrictions. Thus, it managed to reconnect with the scientific spirit of late antiquity and its great achievements, especially in the fields of cosmology, physics, mathematics, and medicine, which enabled modern science to ad-vance further. But it seems that the mainstream European philosophy has failed to follow the example of science and to liberate itself, too. As in the Middle Ages, so in modern and post-modern times the “European philosophy” has continued to play the undignified and servile role of handmaiden of something. In addition to the medieval role of “handmaiden of theology” (ancilla theologiae), since the seventeenth century philosophy in Europe assumed the role of “handmaiden of science” (ancilla scientiae) and, with the coming of the Marxist “scientific socialism,” the extra role of ‘handmaiden of ideology” (ancilla ideologiae). In this respect, the so-called “Western philosophy,” as it has been historically practiced in Christian and partially Islamized Europe, is indeed a very different kind of product from the autonomous intellectual and ethical human activity, which the Ancient Hellenes named philosophia and honored as “the queen of arts and sciences.” In this historical light, Hellenic philosophy would appear to be closer to the Asian philosophies of India, China, Japan, and Korea than to Western or “European philosophy.” So as we stand at the post-cold war era, witnessing the collapse of Soviet-style Socialism and the coming of the post-modern era; as we look at the dawn of a new millennium and dream of a new global order of freedom and democracy, the moment seemspropitious for reflection. We may stop and reflect upon our philosophical past as exemplified in the free spirit of Hellenic philosophy and its misfortunes, its great “passion” in Christian Europe in the last two millennia or so. (shrink)
For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis's famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia's symbolism has remained a mystery. -/- Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that (...) class='Hi'>medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - - Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn - - planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation". Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called 'the kappa element in romance', the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaître knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody. -/- Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major revaluation not only of the Chronicles, but of Lewis's whole literary and theological outlook. Ward uncovers a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized, whose central interests were hiddenness, immanence, and knowledge by acquaintance. (shrink)
This thought-provoking classic investigates how the Renaissance spirit fundamentally questioned and undermined medieval thought. Of value to students of literature, political theory, history of religious and Reformation thought, and the history of science.
Life and works -- Language, logic, and the art of demonstration -- What we can say about God -- Philosophical cosmology -- Philosophical anthropology -- Natural and supernatural: prophecy, miracles, and divine will -- Philosophical theology: providence, human freedom, and theodicy -- Morality, politics and the law -- On human felicity.
We will give a new cosmological argument for the existence of a being who, although not proved to be the absolutely perfect God of the great Medieval theists, also is capable of playing the role in the lives of working theists of a being that is a suitable object of worship, adoration, love, respect, and obedience. Unlike the absolutely perfect God, the God whose necessary existence is established by our argument will not be shown to essentially have the divine (...) perfections of omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, and sovereignty. Furthermore, it is not even shown that he is contingently omnipotent and omniscient, just powerful and intelligent enough to be the supernatural designer-creator of the exceedingly complex and wondrous cosmos that in fact.. (shrink)
There is no such thing as the cosmological argument. Rather, there are several arguments that all proceed from facts or alleged facts concerning causation, change, motion, contingency, or Hnitude in respect of the universe as a whole or processes within it. From them, and from general principles said to govern them, one is led to deduce or infer as highly probable the existence of a cause of the universe (as opposed, say, to a designer or a source of value). Such (...) arguments have a venerable history. A cosmological argument from heavenly motion to a ‘world soul’ is found in Plato’s Laws, bk. l0. This kind of argument is given extended elaboration and defense by Aristotle, both in the Physics (bks. 7-8) and the Metaphysics (hk. 12/lambda), where he argues for an ‘unmoved mover` from the existence of motion within the cosmos (again, primarily astronomical). Cosmological arguments abound in medieval Arabic philosophy. There are arguments to the existence of a necessary cause of the universe from the existence of contingent beings (due to the falsafa (‘philosophy’) scholars, a school heavily influenced by Greek thought) and arguments to the existence of a iirst cause of the universe from the temporal frnitude of the universe (due to the lcalarri (‘discourse’) scholars, a rival school of more traditional Qufanic theology) (Craig 1980: ch. 3). Defenders of the contingency argument include al-Farabi/Abu Nast (c.870—950), ibn Sina/Avicenna (980—lO3Y), and [bn Rushcl/Averroes (1i26e98). Supporters of what is now known as the kalam cosmological argument include al·lshrink)
The paper raises the question of the function of visual representations in medieval cosmographical texts. It proposes to view diverse functions of figures in relation to changing discursive environments, including differing philosophical positions and changing social and intellectual contexts. It further suggests a distinction between figures that were elaborated within the highly specialized disciplines of mathematics and philosophy of nature in Greek Antiquity and figures that were instrumental in transmitting accepted world models, thus avoiding the opposition between scientific and (...) unscientific types of verbal and pictorial documents. Simplifying changes, when figures are abstracted form their geometrical context and accompany doxographical, descriptive accounts, are characterized in terms of schematization. Concomitantly, mathematical and philosophical demonstrations tend to give way to proofs of a predominantly rhetorical nature: images are verbally construed and, in order to enhance these, actual visual figures— mostly linear, diagrammatic constructs—are added. With regard to the Middle Ages, the paper distinguishes two principal periods: the period from the seventh to the eleventh century and the period of the so-called twelfth-century Renaissance. First, the verbal and pictorial cosmological corpus of Roman origin gave rise to explanations and variations but not to consequential theoretical developments and cosmological diagrams tended to fuse with summarizing tables at this time. Then, during the twelfth century, mathematical and philosophical documents of a specialized kind that were translated from the Arabic and also from the Greek became available in the Latin West. In mathematics, specialized types of study remained, however, sparse. Continuous elaborations of the assimilated material set in later only, within the thirteenth-century university context. Nevertheless, twelfth-century authors of cosmographical accounts became increasingly aware that their expositions and visual figures were ultimately derived from geometrical models of the universe. More diversified types of demonstration and corresponding visual figures were being used, as exemplified by William of Conches’ Dragmaticon philosophiae. (shrink)