Focus questions for Seminar 1
Ede & Cormack Chapters 2-3
1. What reasons do Ede and Cormack give for the flourishing of natural philosophy in
medieval Islamic culture? What reasons do they give for its decline?
1. Natural Philosophy Flourished in Islamic Medieval Culture because...
- Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave By learning as much as you can
you get to appreciate God’s creations
- The empire is very multi at the time wealthy empire access and strong
support from libraries and schools etc.
- Supernatural and spiritual issues became intertwined with natural philosophical
- They control the big learning centers (library of Alexandra) access to Greeks
and other philosophy
- Access to different trading networks
- al-Mamun around 815 created the House of Wisdom which was a extensive
library, an observatory a research centre and part school
- al-Mamun translated over 100 works many of which medical
- by 1000 AD almost every surviving Greek medicine, natural philosophy, logic,
mathematics was translated into Arabic
-Interest in education fostered the appearance and high status of hakim
- Islamic scholars had to conduct their work within the framework of their religion
-Islamic scholars were also more interested in testing observations than Aristotle
- Many Islamic scholars were educated as physicians and thus trained through
- Islamic alchemy was founded on Egyptian and Greek ideas about the material
-One of the pillars is going to Meca important in religion unifying feature
more scholars teaching each other.
-More materially orientated society thus medicine was made not just
interested in thought but in physical applications and empirical research
-More keen on experimenting they needed proof then speculations (from
Greeks notes they have)
Decline of Natural Philosophy
-Waleed Muhammad ibn Rushd was the last great thinker of the Islamic
Renaissance educated in philosophy and trained as a physican
-Religion and Philosophy could not conflict
-Culture and religious changes also affected natural philosophy
-Church lost authority in the 16th century
2. According to Ede and Cormack, how did the new universities of medieval Europe
function to promote the study of natural philosophy? Why was there some tension over
the teaching of Aristotelian natural philosophy?
Lindberg, “The Medieval Church Encounters the Classical Tradition”
1. According to Lindberg, how did Augustine define the relationship between medieval
Christianity and the classical tradition, especially natural philosophy?
-Classical tradition consisted of the accumulated learning of ancient Greece
-Classical tradition included poetry, drama, history, political theory and ethics,
metaphysics and the natural sciences
-Scholars frequently present long discussions of the form and shape of the
heavens, matters that sacred writers in their profound wisdom have omitted
-Natural knowledge was not to be loved but to be used
-Example literal commentary on Genesis with the first three chapters of the
Book of Genesis Greco - roman ideas elements
2. What were Roger Bacon’s attitudes about the value of the classical tradition and how it
might be assimilated to church doctrine? According to Lindberg, what specific challenges
did Aristotelian natural philosophy present to theology?
-Pagan learning of classical tradition was a vital resource capable of offering
essential services to theology and the church
-The universe described by Aristotle was deterministic, governed by casual
chains rigidly prescribed by the nature of things
-Human reason seemed poised to shove biblical revelation aside and become
the sole arbiter of truth
-Aristotle’s philosophy is based on senses, while the church’s philosophy is
based on faith.
3. Why was there arguably more at stake in Bacon’s day in terms of resolving tensions
between science and theology?
-Bacon attempts to rescue the traditional orientation by distinguishing true and
-The false kind is associated with magic, deterministic, claiming to judge
infallibly concerning all future events
-True mathematics is nondeterministic and places Christ’s miracles in a
separate category out of reach of the analysis applicable to other remarkable
-Aristotle’s natural philosophy’s works are banned in university of Paris and
Roger Bacon tried adding it to his teaching