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Join Gab (@StFerdinandIII) Western Civilisation was and is superior to anything Islam has developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Raising the alarm about the fascism called Submission since 2000.  

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

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Book Review 2: God and Reason In the Middle Ages, by Edward Grant

Thanks to those 'Dark Ages' Europe was taking over the world by 1500......

by Ferdinand III


First review here. Grant is an expert on medieval history. That is why he never discusses a 'dark age' [maybe the modern era is such an age?]. Grant spends quite a deal of time discussing Aristotle's influence on medieval philosophy, science and theology. Aristotle was known and debated from the 2nd century AD by Christians and pagans alike. It is absurd to claim, as many Marxist historians attempt to do, that the medieval period from 500-1500 AD was bereft of the 'classics' including, the often-wrong and empirically-challenged Aristotle.


Because of Aristotle's own ambiguities and confusions, his legacy to the Latin Middle Ages was a natural philosophy that presented a rather confused relationship between the theoretical and empirical.”


As Grant makes clear, there was a dearth of observation in the Middle Ages.


..although we might concede that scholars in the Middle Ages were philosophically committed to Aristotelian empiricism....The 'experimental arguments and practices' that did reach the university environment were introduced there by means of mathematically oriented sciences, such as 'optics, acoustics, mechanics and astronomy, through natural magic, and through medicine.'


In other words by the 11th century the scientific method, mathematical principles and the tools for observation were being built. Without the 14th century Christian scholastic genius Oresme, whose own work was built on preceding centuries of rational evolution, Galileo is impossible to imagine:


Oresme's proof of the theorem was thus done geometrically by equating the area of a triangle, which represents the distance traversed in a certain time interval by a uniformly accelerated quality, or velocity....By equating a uniformly accelerated motion with a uniform motion, it was possible to express the former by the latter....it was Galileo, in the seventeenth century who not only applied the mean speed theorem to naturally falling bodies but also devised an experiment to determine if bodies really fell with uniform acceleration.”


From Albert Magnus to Oresme, through Bacon and Buridan, Grant proves that the Middle Ages had plenty of empiricism but not much in the way of observation. This however, does not detract from their great importance in establishing rationalist principles, the scientific method and mathematics.


Without those methodologies, and because of an empiricist theory of knowledge that was largely divorced from direct observation and measurement, the requirements and demands of reason dominated medieval natural philosophy. Solutions to problems about the physical world were almost always resolved by appeal to rational and logical arguments.”


There can be little dispute over Grant's claim. In fact little of 'God' enters even the most pious of medieval natural philosophers. Grant reviews one of St. Thomas Aquinas' opuses and states that in 1000 pages God is mentioned a handful of times. God and faith did not supplant reason. Understanding reality was itself a god-inspired good, and rational intellect premised on facts and evidence a natural obligation.


Some forces in the Church did not take kindly to the irruption into theology and dogma, of Aristotelian rationalism. In 1271, Aristotle's natural philosophy was condemned by a church body, which was easily and quickly ignored by Christian scholastics and the burgeoning European university system. The Church of course funded, extended and supported rational enterprise, including technological innovations, appliances in agriculture and the financing of schools and universities. Reason and faith became entwined together.


What is Grant's conclusion about the Middle Ages?


...between the Age of Reason [17th century] and the late Middle Ages...The most striking similarity is that reason was applied on a large scale to religion and theology in both periods. The most striking difference is that those who applied reason to theology in the Middle Ages did not- indeed, could not – challenge the ultimate truths of revelation, whereas scholars in the Age of Reason began to do so. They could do so because of the emergence of natural theology, a subject that had barely began in the Middle Ages...an attempt to establish fundamental religious truths, especially truths about God, by means of reason applied to nature, God's creation, without invoking, or appealing to, revealed truths.”


The above is certainly correct. The 17th century's Age of Reason is thus a continuation of the revolution of the mind which occurred during the Middle Ages.


Grant also dismisses much slander against the Middle Ages, which is offered as 'fact'. One such cancer is the canard offered by big-brains such as Hollywood producers, that Columbus and his fellows in the 15th century who believed in the spherical nature of the earth, were confronted by a church who demanded that they recant and swear that the earth was flat. This lie is as profoundly ignorant a commentary on Medieval thinking as one can erect. Every single notable Christian thinker from the 2nd century AD knew that the earth – based on Aristarchus, Eratosthenes and Ptolemy – was spherical.


Pierre d'Ailly's [a French Christian geographer who drew a detailed map of the spherical globe] Image of the World, was one of the most popular early printed books and exercised a great influence in the late fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Christopher Columbus owned a copy, which he heavily annotated.”


One of the early criticism's of Christian scholasticism was that they relied too heavily on Aristotle. Aristotle of course believed that the earth was a sphere. So did medieval Christians including Church fathers. But really 'smart' 21rst century brains will maintain that Medieval people believed in a flat earth...


By 1500 Europe had overtaken and easily surpassed every single civilization on the planet in all areas of life. How does a 'Dark Age' accomplish that? From parliaments to vertical water wheels; from advanced ploughs to the world's best hospitals; from the axle and brake to the printing press; from Bede to Giotto; from Charles Martels heavy infantry to ships that traverse the globe; from milling production to the use of gunpowder.....the list of medieval inventions in all aspects of life is almost limitless.


What a Dark Age that must have been. If only they had possessed TV, Oprah and our modern cults to venerate....



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