Porto experiences: arrivals and first sessions


So the Porto conference and workshops were upon us, eighteen members of the Lost Legacies Network, the Ordered Universe Durham Grosseteste Project set off for Porto from their various locations: Durham, Oxford, Oban, Munster, Washington D.C., Toronto, Montreal, Rome and Turin.

Giles, Per, Lydia, Dorothy and Sam at Lisbon Airport

Flying via Manchester,
myself, Per Kind, Dorothy Warren, Lydia Harris and

Tastes of Lisbon...but we were soon on the way to Porto
Tastes of Lisbon…but we were soon on the way to Porto

Sam Sargeant met up in Lisbon for transfer to Porto. A long journey, but the work and discussion about the project had already started on the aeroplane and would continue for the whole week. It was a great week in which to be part of the inter-disciplinary discussion, and also to observe the group dynamics and changing perceptions. The Hotel Ipanema Porto was hospitable, the FIDEM Congress equally so, and Porto a wonderful setting for our joint enterprise. And we were straight away to work…

The team delivered sessions and papers within the FIDEM Congress, and also worked in the afternoons to advance the reading of the De luce and the De iride. First up were Giles, Richard and Tom, on the De luce, with Faith in the chair. Giles presented a general introduction to the surprising contexts in which the treatise has been discussed, in popular science, in popular theology and in modern literary theory, as well as the problems of dating (especially the issue of whether thought on Grosseteste’s career affects his writing – it surely did, but using the writing to work out the career in this context carries a high-degree of circularity in the argument). The whole team are happy to follow Cecilia’s proposed date of c.1225, as opposed to Gieben and Southern’s rather later suggestion of 1235-1241. Tom followed with reflections on Grosseteste from a modern physicist , including reflection on how the ordered universe team originated, and the various problems that using a modern scientific approach poses, as well as the hugely positive gains. So, Grosseteste the ordered thinker, who works through to conclusions, who operates in a mathematical as well as metaphysical frame are key anchor points here. IMG_0240Richard then rounded off the session with a paper on the mathematical ‘translation’ that occurs in trying to actualise the treatise on light, and to model it in the manner of modern cosmological practice. A wonderfully useful notion, and a moment in which the whole group nodded: the notion of the multiple nature of translation of Grosseteste’s writings is an essential component of our investigations. The session on Tuesday morning was attended loyally by all network participants, and to a total audience of over 30.

The afternoon was dedicated to a read-through of the treatise, with particular attention to the sections on infinite sequences, the nature of the spheres, the qualities of lux and lumen and the notion of minimum density

The first workshop on the De luce in action. At the Hotel Ipanema Porto.
The first workshop on the De luce in action. At the Hotel Ipanema Porto.

and maximum rarefaction. A baptism of fire for those not used to the workshops – Latin edition and English translation were scrutinised, as well as philosophical terms, scientific perspectives and historical context.

After the morning and afternoon, and the necessary cooling of overheated brains, the group continued discussions more informally, another important aspect of getting to know each other and forging the bonds of trust these projects absolutely require.


Richard Bower and Pietro Rossi, with Dorothy, Phil Anderson, Mike Huxtable, then Brian Tanner, and others, with lots of pointing at the view of the older town of Porto as it tumbles from the Cathedral to the riverbank and over to Gaia. But, Grosseteste discussion continued all evening….and so to Wednesday.

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