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Monday, March 7, 2022

when genius of Aristotle was condemned by Church !!

Étienne (Stephen) Tempier  was a French bishop of Paris during the 13th century. He was Chancellor of the Sorbonne from 1263 to 1268, and bishop of Paris from 1268 until his death. He is best remembered for promulgating a Condemnation of 219 philosophical and theological propositions (or articles) that addressed concepts that were being disputed in the faculty of arts at the University of Paris. 

The University of Paris (Université de Paris), metonymically known as the   was the main university in Paris, France, active from 1150 to 1970, with the exception of 1793–1806 under the French Revolution.


‘nature is everywhere the cause of order’ - —Aristotle, Physics VIII.1 

While consistent with common human experience, Aristotle's principles were not based on controlled, quantitative experiments, so they do not describe our universe in the precise, quantitative way now expected of science. Contemporaries of Aristotle like Aristarchus rejected these principles in favor of heliocentrism, but their ideas were not widely accepted. Aristotle's principles were difficult to disprove merely through casual everyday observation, but later development of the scientific method challenged his views with experiments and careful measurement, using increasingly advanced technology such as the telescope and vacuum pump.   Confusing to say the least !! 

Pantheism is the belief that reality is identical with divinity,  or that all things compose an all-encompassing, God.  Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal God,  anthropomorphic or otherwise, but instead characterizes a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity.  Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, and pantheistic elements have been identified in various religious traditions.  Pantheism was popularized in Western culture as a theology and philosophy based on the work of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, in particular, his book Ethics.  

Aristotelian physics is the form of natural science described in the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC). In his work Physics, Aristotle intended to establish general principles of change that govern all natural bodies, both living and inanimate, celestial and terrestrial – including all motion (change with respect to place), quantitative change (change with respect to size or number), qualitative change, and substantial change ("coming to be" [coming into existence, 'generation'] or "passing away" [no longer existing, 'corruption']). To Aristotle, 'physics' was a broad field that included subjects that would now be called the philosophy of mind, sensory experience, memory, anatomy and biology. It constitutes the foundation of the thought underlying many of his works. 

Key concepts of Aristotelian physics include the structuring of the cosmos into concentric spheres, with the Earth at the centre and celestial spheres around it. The terrestrial sphere was made of four elements, namely earth, air, fire, and water, subject to change and decay. The celestial spheres were made of a fifth element, an unchangeable aether. Objects made of these elements have natural motions: those of earth and water tend to fall; those of air and fire, to rise. The speed of such motion depends on their weights and the density of the medium. Aristotle argued that a vacuum could not exist as speeds would become infinite. 

Aristotle described four causes or explanations of change as seen on earth: the material, formal, efficient, and final causes of things. As regards living things, Aristotle's biology relied on observation of natural kinds, both the basic kinds and the groups to which these belonged. He did not conduct experiments in the modern sense, but relied on amassing data, observational procedures such as dissection, and making hypotheses about relationships between measurable quantities such as body size and lifespan.


As we read and believe, Aristotle was a great thinker, philosopher and his theories were widely affected and appreciated .. .. perhaps not fully so !! 

The Condemnations at the medieval University of Paris were enacted to restrict certain teachings as being heretical. These included a number of medieval theological teachings, but most importantly the physical treatises of Aristotle. The investigations of these teachings were conducted by the Bishops of Paris. The Condemnations of 1277 are traditionally linked to an investigation requested by Pope John XXI, although whether he actually supported drawing up a list of condemnations is unclear. Approximately sixteen lists of censured theses were issued by the University of Paris during the 13th and 14th centuries.  Most of these lists of propositions were put together into systematic collections of prohibited articles.  Of these, the Condemnations of 1277 are considered particularly important by those historians who consider that they encouraged scholars to question the tenets of Aristotelian science. 

The Condemnation of 1210 was issued by the provincial synod of Sens, which included the Bishop of Paris as a member (at the time Pierre II de la Chapelle).  The writings of a number of medieval scholars were condemned, apparently for pantheism, and it was further stated that: "Neither the books of Aristotle on natural philosophy or their commentaries are to be read at Paris in public or secret, and this we forbid under penalty of excommunication”.. 

The University of Toulouse (founded in 1229) tried to capitalise on the situation by advertising itself to students: "Those who wish to scrutinize the bosom of nature to the inmost can hear the books of Aristotle which were forbidden at Paris." However, whether the prohibition had actually had an effect on the study of the physical texts in Paris is unclear.  By 1270, the ban on Aristotle's natural philosophy was a dead letter.  Nevertheless, the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, convened a meeting of conservative theologians and in December 1270 banned the teaching of certain Aristotelian and Averroist doctrines at Paris. Thirteen propositions were listed as false and heretical, some relating to Averroes' doctrine of the soul and the doctrine of monopsychism, and others directed against Aristotle's theory of God. The banned propositions included: 

•        "That there is numerically one and the same intellect for all humans".
•        "That the soul separated [from the body] by death cannot suffer from bodily fire".
•        "That God cannot grant immortality and incorruption to a mortal and corruptible thing".
•        "That God does not know things other than Himself"
•        "That human acts are not ruled by the providence of God".
•        "That the world is eternal".
•        "That there was never a first human".

Interesting !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
7th Mar 2022.


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