NATURAL PHILOSOPHY INTO SCIENCE: FROM THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE TO THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
David Wolfe, Emeritus Professor, University of New Mexico, visiting lecturer, Physics Department, University of Cape Town
The distinction between natural philosophy and modern science is a subject of much debate amongst scholars. One of the most significant elements concerns the important place that theology and the belief in God played in natural philosophy for many centuries. The tendency of historians to label periods with terms such as ‘the Dark Ages’, ‘the Middle Ages’, ‘the Renaissance’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ has had the effect of leading us to think that nothing worthwhile could have happened in a ‘Dark Age’, while an era of ‘Enlightenment’ must surely be a positive thing. That this is not true is confirmed regularly, for instance by recent discoveries of lovely art work from the Dark Ages and by clear threads leading from the eighteenth century Enlightenment to various rigid dictatorial regimes. But one cannot understand modern science or modern philosophy without looking at their roots from 400 ADE. This course will explore key periods which created the questions, the search for answers, the theology and the technology that allowed modern science to flower.
1. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Arab conquest of Spain
2. Philosophy from the neo Platonism of Plotinus to Abelard
3. The rediscovery of Aristotle and the birth of scholasticism
4. Late Middle Ages, Buridan, Oresme, Duns Scotus, Swineshead
5. The Renaissance and the growth of humanism
Collins, R. 1999. Early Medieval Europe 300–1000. 2nd ed. New York: St Martin’s Press.
Hannam, J. 2009. God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. London: Icon Books.
Russell, B. 2004. The History of Western Philosophy. London: Routledge
Course code: 1012
Date & time: 20–24 January 11.15 am
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