Reason and Authority in the Middle Ages

Edward Grant

in Scientific Values and Civic Virtues

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780195172256
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835546 | DOI:
  Reason and Authority in the Middle Ages

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Scientific values embodied in Aristotle’s natural philosophy and the civic virtues embedded in his practical sciences (ethics and politics), were used to improve the quality of government in the 14th century by King Charles V of France. This was readily feasible because of the separation of church and state, the favorable attitude toward natural philosophy by medieval theologians, and the institutionalization of the study of Aristotle’s theoretical and practical sciences in the medieval universities, which relied heavily on reasoned argumentation and a rejection of arguments from authority, as exemplified by Nicole Oresme. The intellectual habits developed in this process shaped a “scientific temperament” that ushered in early modern science. In stark contrast, Islam was a theocracy with no separation of church and state. Natural philosophy was viewed as a potential threat to religious faith and was marginalized, leading eventually to a gradual deterioration in the study of the exact sciences, which had previously attained the highest level in the civilized world.

Keywords: church and state; Aristotle; Nicole Oresme; King Charles; medieval theologian; natural philosophy; university; scientific temperament; Islam

Chapter.  10398 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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