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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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Scholarship Journal Articles

Journal Articles

  1. The refashioning of Christianity and science
    Richard G Olson. The World & I
    Washington: Oct 2000. Vol. 15, Iss. 10; pg. 154

    Prior to and during the scientific revolution, discussions and debates between theologians, arts masters, and scientists led to the profound restructuring of both science and Christian theology.

    On the face of it, the period from the high Middle Ages through the scientific revolution (1200-- 1700 c.E.) seems characterized by continual open conflicts regarding the place of science in Christian culture and the place of religious commitments in scientific activity. On careful examination, however, it turns out that most of these were not hostilities between religion and science per se. More often, they were rivalries between contesting groups of equally religious scien`tists who saw different theological implications in different sciences, or between theologians with dif feting views of the nature of scientific activity In some cases, there was clearly an element of contention over relative social status, with theologians battling to retain their authority in the emerging universities of Europe and natural philosophers seeking to establish a legitimate social role of their own.

    Prior to 1200, Western monastic education had adopted the Roman organization of learning into the seven liberal arts-the trivium (rhetoric, logic, and grammar) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music)-as preparation for study of Scripture. Emphasis was on the more scientific quadrivium, but logic was also deemed important far its value in defending Christianity against the arguments of nonbelievers. Some ancient scientific knowledge was kept alive by Western monasticism, but the level of knowledge retained in all but a handful of Irish and Northumbrian monasteries was extremely low.

    At the same time, Islamic science was vastly more advanced than European science. . . .

    Copyright Washington Times Corporation

  2. Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion
    Peter Harrison. Church History
    Chicago: Sep 2006. Vol. 75, Iss. 3; pg. 493, 18 pgs

    Readers of the New Testament could be excused for thinking that there is little consistency in the manner in which miracles are represented in the Gospels. Those events typically identified as miracles are variously described as "signs" (semeia), "wonders" (terata), "mighty works" (dunameis), and, on occasion, simply "works" (ergo).1 The absence of a distinct terminology for the miraculous suggests that the authors of the Gospels were not working with a formal conception of "miracle"-at least not in that Humean sense of a "contravention of the laws of nature," familiar to modern readers.2 Neither is there a consistent position on the evidentiary role of these events. In the synoptic Gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-Jesus performs miracles on account of the faith of his audience. In John's Gospel, however, it is the performance of miracles that elicits faith.3 Even in the fourth Gospel, moreover, the role of miracles as signs of Christ's divinity is not straightforward. Thus those who demand a miracle are castigated: "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."4 Finally, signs and wonders do not provide unambiguous evidence of the sanctity of the miracle worker or of the truth of their teachings. Accordingly, the faithful were warned (in the synoptic Gospels at least) that "false Christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders [in order] to deceive."5

    The subsequent history of "miracle" saw the formalization of the rather imprecise first-century terms "signs," "wonders," "works," and their evolution into the more exact medieval categories "marvels," "portents," "preternatural" events, and "miracles." This was followed by the eventual emergence in the early modern period of a simple dichotomy between the natural and supernatural along with the familiar notion of miracles as violations of the laws of nature. These different ways of conceptualizing exceptions to nature's normal course are of central importance to historians both of science and of Christianity: the former, because of the intimate connection between the idea of miracle and the idea of a law of nature; the latter because of the miracle narratives of Scripture and the role assumed by miracles in the justification of doctrinal claims. In both spheres, moreover, the issues of evidence and the reliability of testimony are central.

    In this paper I shall set out three claims relating to the role of the miraculous in the histories of early modern science and religion. The first of these is that in the early modern period we witness a clear shift in the religious function of miracles, from which time they gradually cease to be understood within the context of faith and increasingly play a primary role in the rational justification of religious beliefs. . . .

    Copyright American Society of Church History

  3. God's Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science
    James B McSwain. History
    Washington: Summer 2002. Vol. 30, Iss. 4; pg. 169, 1 pgs

    Howell, Kenneth J. God's Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 319 pp., $39.95, ISBN 0-268-01045-5 Publication Date: September 2001

    Kenneth J. Howell, institute director and adjunct professor, examines the influence of biblical hermeneutics on early modern cosmology to determine how Protestant intellectuals integrated data from astronomy, mathematics, and theology.

    Howell notes that many sixteenth-century thinkers relied on the complementary books of nature and divine revelation to understand God, mankind, and the material world. However, Fracastoro's Homocentria (1538) stressed reliance on experience, suggesting that astronomers should rely on "mathematical precision and observational confirmation" to attain "predictive success" (19). The goal was a realistic model of the heavens, rather than a technical theory that could make no claim to describing things as they existed.

    Biblical hermeneutics raised the issue of how Scripture related to natural philosophy. Howell emphasizes St. Augustine's pursuit of unity between scriptural and natural truths. This led to the notion of accommodation, or the viewpoint that Scripture addressed some nonredemptive issues in a way that many different societies and cultures could under stand. . . .


News Articles taken from ProQuest's History Study Center.
  1. Gyula Klima
    Professor, Department of Philosophy, Fordham University
    Medieval philosophy, semantics, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and language, comparative studies of medieval and modern theories.

  2. John Haldane
    Professor of Philosophy, Department of Moral Philosophy, University of St Andrews
    The history of philosophy: most particularly the medieval period (especially Aquinas) and the influence of scholasticism in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and value theory

  3. David Bradshaw
    Associate Professor/Director, Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky
    Professor Bradshaw is a specialist in ancient and medieval philosophy, especially metaphysics, natural theology, and philosophy of mind. He also has interests in philosophy of religion and the interaction between philosophy and theology

Scholars taken from ProQuest's Community of Scholars