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Adelard's Questions and Ockham's Razor:
Connections between Medieval Philosophy and Modern Science

(Released November 2008)

  by Carolyn Scearce  


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  1. The Fate of Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy in the Middle Ages: Islam and Western Christianity

    Edward Grant.

    Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 61, No. 3 (243), March 2008, pp. 503-526.

  2. Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus: Natural Theology in the High Middle Ages

    Alexander W. Hall.

    Philosophy in Review (Comptes rendus philosophiques), Vol. 28, No. 1, February 2008, pp. 19-21.

  3. Albert the great and the revival of Aristotle's zoological research program

    Michael W. Tkacz.

    Vivarium, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2007, pp. 30-68.

  4. Demonstration and Scientific Knowledge in William of Ockham: A Translation of Summa Logicae III-II: De Syllogismo Demonstrativo, and Selections from the Prologue to the Ordinatio

    John Lee Longeway and William Of Ockham.

    Notre Dame: Univ Notre Dame Pr, 2007,

    This book makes available for the first time an English translation of William Ockham's work on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, which contains his theory of scientific demonstration and philosophy of science. John Lee Longeway also includes an extensive commentary and a detailed history of the intellectual background to Ockham's work in the Latin Middle Ages. Longeway puts Ockham into context by providing a scholarly account of the reception and study of the Posterior Analytics in the Latin Middle Ages, with a detailed discussion of Robert Grosseteste, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Giles of Rome. In a series of appendices, Longeway includes shorter translations of some important related work by Giles of Rome and John of Cornwall. In his introductory discussion, Longeway examines the exact character of the highest sort of demonstration (demonstratio potissima), the relations of the empirical sciences to mathematics, natural causation and the manner in which natural laws come to be known, the possibility of natural knowledge, our knowledge of God, and the relation of theology to the other sciences. (publisher, edited)

  5. William of Ockham's The Sum of Logic

    Stephen Read.

    Topoi: An International Review of Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2007, pp. 271-277.

    Topoi's "Untimely Reviews" are designed to take a "classic" of philosophy and review it as if it had just been published. Can Ockham's Summa Logicae still provide inspiration? It is a classic of metaphysics, not of logic. Ockham uses a work on logic to defend his central reductive ontological theme. As a work of logic, it is embedded in its own cultural milieu; as a work of metaphysics, it is timely and timeless. It is a model of analytical philosophy whose reductive metaphysics is as arresting now as it was in 1324.

  6. Albertus Magnus and the Categorization of Motion

    Steven Baldner.

    Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review, Vol. 70, No. 2, April 2006, pp. 203-235.

    Albert, in his paraphrase of the Physics, gives a faithfully Aristotelian analysis of motion when he explicates the definition of motion, but he contradicts this analysis when he tries to explain how it is that motion is related to the four categories (substance, quantity, quality, and place) in which motion is found. In arguing that motion itself and the terminus of motion are essentially the same, Albert implies that motion can be reductively understood as a kind of act, but to do so to fail to appreciate that motion is a peculiar mixture of act and potency.

  7. Medieval Education

    Ronald B. (eds ). Begley and Joseph W. (eds ). Koterski.

    International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 183, September 2006, pp. 377-378.

  8. Medieval Science and Truth. A Linguistic Study of the Expression of Truth in Vernacular Scientific Discourse

    David A. Trotter.

    Zeitschrift fur romanische Philologie, Vol. 122, No. 3, 2006, pp. 551-554.

  9. Was There No Evolutionary Thought in the Middle Ages? The Case of William of Ockham

    Sharon M. Kaye.

    British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 2, May 2006, pp. 225-244.

    This paper shows how the concept of evolution was preserved and advanced in the Middle Ages, especially by William of Ockham. It begins by tracing the "official history" according to which Empedocles' original suggestion of natural selection lay dead at the hands of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Giles of Rome. It then supplies the "missing history" in which the idea lives on, gaining momentum from John Philoponus to Averroes to Ockham. Ockham was critical of Aristotle's teleology. In challenging Aristotle's argument against Empedocles and in promoting nominalism, Ockham lays important groundwork for Darwin's revolutionary theory.

  10. Philosophy, God and Motion

    Simon Oliver.

    New York: Routledge, 2005,

    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 with physics. This work shows that this is a relatively recent understanding of motion and that prior to the scientific revolution motion was a broader and more mysterious category with profound significance for metaphysics and theology. Beginning with Plato's Timaeus and moving through studies of medieval natural philosophy and Newtonian theology and physics, Oliver argues that motion can be analogically related to a transcendent source. Moreover, such nonmechanistic and analogical understandings of nature are more akin to contemporary cosmology than early modern science.

  11. Reason and Authority in the Middle Ages: The Latin West and Islam

    Edward Grant.

    Oxford: Oxford Univ Pr, 2005, 40-58

    The scientific values and civic virtues embedded in Aristotle's natural philosophy were applied to improve the quality of government in France during the reign of King Charles V (1338-1380). Separation of church and state and the study of Aristotle in the medieval universities with its emphasis on reason, and rejection of authority, shaped a "scientific temperament" that paved the way for early modern science. Islam, by contrast, was a theocracy wherein natural philosophy was marginalized as a threat to religious faith, eventually subverting the study of the exact sciences, which had previously attained the highest level in the civilized world.

  12. "Roger Bacon and Language"

    Britannia Latina: Latin in the Culture of Great Britain from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century

    David Luscombe.

    London, England: Warburg Institute, x, 42-54


  13. "Time and Nature in Twelfth-Century Thought: William Of Conches, Thierry of Chartres, and the 'New Science'"

    Reading Medieval Culture

    Charlotte Gross.

    Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame P, ix, 89-110


  14. Boethius and the problem of paganism [Boèce et le problème du paganisme]

    John (1) Marenbon.

    The American Catholic philosophical quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 2, 2004, pp. 329-348.

    Problem of paganism is my name for the set of questions raised for medieval thinkers and writers, and discussed by some of them (Abelard, Dante, and Langland are eminent examples), by the fact that many people-especially philosophers-from antiquity were, they believed, monotheists, wise and virtuous and yet pagans. In this paper, I argue that Boethius, though a Christian, was himself too much part of the world of classical antiquity to pose the problem of paganism, but that his Consolation of Philosophy was an essential element in the way medieval writers saw and resolved this problem. In particular, because it was a text by an author known to be Christian which discusses philosophy without any explicitly Christian references, it opened up the way to treating texts by ancient pagan philosophers as containing hidden Christian doctrine.

  15. The provocative razor of William of Occam

    Jean-Claude Pecker.

    European Review; 12 (2) May 2004, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.185-190 2004, pp. 185-190.

    A consideration of medieval astronomy and the views of the philosopher William of Occam leads to a consideration of the ambiguities in the application of the principle of Occam's razor as it applies to problems in science, including the constants applicable to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and cosmology. The principle can both be used to eliminate unnecessary irrelevancies, but also to constrain the development of imaginative theories. (Original abstract)

  16. Scientific Imagination in the Middle Ages

    Edward Grant.

    Perspectives on Science: Historical, Vol. 12, No. 4, Winter 2004, pp. 394-423.

    Following Aristotle, medieval natural philosophers believed that knowledge was ultimately based on perception and observation; and like Aristotle, they also believed that observation could not explain the "why" of any perception. To arrive at the "why," natural philosophers offered theoretical explanations that required the use of the imagination. This was, however, only the starting point. Not only did they apply their imaginations to real phenomena, but expended even more intellectual energy on counterfactual phenomena, both extracosmic and intracosmic, extensively discussing, among other themes, the possible existence of other worlds and the possibility of an infinite extracosmic space. The application of the imagination to scientific problems during the Middle Ages was not an empty exercise, but, as I shall show, played a significant role in the development of early modern science.

  17. "The medieval church encounters the classical tradition: Saint Augustine, Roger Bacon, and the handmaiden metaphor"

    When science & Christianity meet; When science & Christianity meet

    David C. Lindberg.

    Chicago ; London: Univ of Chicago Pr, 7-32,288-291


  18. Tracing the Logic of Force: Roger Bacon's De Multiplicatione specierum

    Richard A. Lee Jr.

    Epoche: A Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 1, Fall 2003, pp. 103-120.

    Roger Bacon's On the Multiplication of Species is an attempt to analyze efficient causality in terms of forces that are multiplied from agent to patient. This essay argues that this has significant implications for the traditional distinction between appearance and reality in that Bacon refuses to think efficient cause in terms of some other reality that does not appear and yet is the ground of appearance.

  19. Adelard of Bath and Roger Bacon: early English natural philosophers and scientists [Adelard of Bath et Roger Bacon : les premiers spécialistes en philosophie et science naturelles anglais]

    Jeremiah M. (1) Hackett.

    Endeavour (English ed.), Vol. 26, No. 2, 2002, pp. 70-74.

    The image of Roger Bacon as a 'modern' experimental scientist was propagated as historical truth in 19th century scientific historiography. Twentieth century criticisms attacked this tradition, arguing that Bacon was primarily a medieval philosopher with 'medieval' scientific interests. However, recent scholarship has provided a more careful and critical account of Bacon's science, and identifies his greatest achievement in terms of his successful attempt to assimilate the worlds of Greek and Islamic optics. It can be justly claimed that Roger Bacon was the first Western thinker in the middle ages to have mastered most of the Greek sources and the central Islamic source in optics. He made this scientific domain understandable for a Western Latin-reading audience. Yet, Bacon himself acknowledged Adelard of Bath, whose translations and commentary of Euclid's Elements set the foundations for a science of optics, as the true pioneer.

  20. Lead and Tin in Arabic Alchemy

    Bassam I. El-eswed.

    Arabic Sciences and Philosophy: A Historical Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2002, pp. 139-153.

    The present article is devoted to two issues. The first is the identification of lead and tin in medieval Arabic alchemy. The second is the investigation of whether Arabic alchemists differentiate between these problematic substances or not. These two issues are investigated in the light of a comparison which is made between the facts that are stated about the two problematic substances in the original Arabic alchemical works and those stated in modern chemical literature. It is proved that Arabic alchemists made a sharp distinction between lead and tin. (edited)

  21. Hypothetical Syllogistic and Stoic Logic

    Anthony Nicholas Speca.

    Dissertation, 2000

  22. Bringing astronomical instruments back to earth - the geographical data on medieval astrolabes (to ca.1000)

    David A. King.

    Between demonstration and imagination: essays in the history of science and philosophy presented to John D. North, Leiden, Boston, Köln, Brill, 1999, 3-53

    Surveys the information on the engraved metal plates of early medieval astrolabes, particularly geographical data. Appendices include a list of surviving eastern and western Islamic astrolabes (9th-11th cs.), Byzantine ones, and a selection of medieval western specimens.

  23. Conversations with His Nephew: On the Same and the Different, Questions on Natural Science, and On Birds

    Adelard Of Bath and Burnett,Charles (ed & Trans).

    Anales del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofia, Vol. 16, 1999, pp. 318-320.

  24. "1277 and Late Medieval Natural Philosophy"

    Was ist Philosophie im Mittelalter; Was ist Philosophie im Mittelalter

    John E. Murdoch.

    Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 111-121


  25. The Discovery of Nature : The Contribution of the Chartrians to Twelfth-Century Attempts to Found a Scientia naturalis

    Andreas Speer.

    Traditio, Vol. 52, 1997, pp. 135-151.

  26. Dragmaticon philosophiae. Summa de philosophia in vulgari

    William of Conches, Italo Ronca, Lola Badia and Jaime Pujol.

    Turnhout: Brepols, 1997, 610

  27. What is the science of the soul ? A case study in the evolution of late medieval natural philosophy [Qu'est-ce que la science de l'âme? Une étude de cas dans l'évolution de la philosophie de la nature du Moyen-Age tardif]

    J. (1) Zupko.

    Synthese (Dordrecht), Vol. 110, No. 2, 1997, pp. 297-334.

    This paper aims at a partial rehabilitation of E. A. Moody's characterization of the 14th century as an age of rising empiricism, specifically by contrasting the conception of the natural science of psychology found in the writings of a prominent 13th-century philosopher (Thomas Aquinas) with those of two 14th-century philosophers (John Buridan and Nicole Oresme). What emerges is that if the meaning of empiricism can be disengaged from modem and contemporary paradigms, and understood more broadly in terms of a cluster of epistemic doctrines concerned with the methodology of knowing, it characterizes very appropriately some ofthe differences between the ways in which late-medieval thinkers both understood and practised the science of psychology. In particular, whereas Aquinas thinks psychology is about reasoning demonstratively to the real nature of the soul from its evident operations (thereby assimilating psychology to metaphysics), Buridan and Oresme, both of whom doubt whether real animate natures can be known empirically, focus on giving detailed accounts of those operations themselves (thereby assimilating psychology to physics).

  28. Science and rhetoric in the middle ages : the natural philosophy of William of Conches

    J. Cadden.

    Journal of the history of ideas (Print), Vol. 56, No. 1, 1995, pp. 1-24.

    L'A. étudie la création et la légitimité de la philosophie naturelle dans « Philosophia », traité écrit par William de Conches en 1125

  29. Adelard of Bath: the first English scientist

    L. Cochrane.

    London: British Museum Press, 1994, 125

  30. Some Considerations of the Role of the Teaching of Philosophy in the Medieval Universities

    John M. Fletcher.

    British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 1994, pp. 3-18.

  31. Essays in Medieval Astronomy and Optics

    S. C. Mccluskey.

    Journal for the history of astronomy, Vol. 22, No. 4, 1991, pp. 322-324.

  32. The Role of Comets in the Copernican Revolution

    Peter Barker and Bernard R. Goldstein.

    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 19, September 1988, pp. 299-319.

    We reconstruct the copernican revolution around the contributions of toscanelli, Regiomontanus, And brahe, Presenting comets as the crisis-Causing anomaly missing from kuhn's account, But historical analysis reveals three defects. First, Toscanelli's cometary observations lie within a tradition of medical astrology. Second, Regiomontanus's parallax method for cometary distances appeared in a fourteenth century work by levi ben gerson. Third, Brahe adopted the prevailing optical theory of comets which had already supplanted aristotle's. We conclude that sixteenth century work on comets was continuous with medieval astronomy, And that revolutionary models have misrepresented early modern science.