“Education is all about changing your mind.”

This is a quotation from Kathy Bader, one of the PhD students involved in the Ordered Universe Project. It sums up an almost self-evident truth, and nonetheless it’s something one can sometimes forget when it comes to thinking about choosing between courses or jobs or generally between things to which one could devote one’s time and effort. Continue reading

Back to the roots

During the most recent of the Ordered Universe Symposia, medieval specialists and modern scientists applied their minds to Robert Grosseteste’s De sphera (On the sphere). In this early treatise of his, Grosseteste describes the movements of the heavenly bodies in the firmament according to the observer’s position on earth. The astronomical knowledge available during the supposedly so dark Middle Ages is of impressive accuracy Continue reading

‘Writing is thinking.’

Collaborative reading sessions very much form the backbone of Ordered Universe Symposia. The members of the interdisciplinary working group sit around a large table and go through the draft translations provided by Sigbjorn Sonnesyn, and they often find themselves discussing how to best render individual Latin terms in English. The ideal translation conveys what Grosseteste had in mind in a way that’s faithful to the Latin, yet understandable to modern-day readers, and avoidant of terms loaded with modern-day concepts that diverge from the medieval connotations. Continue reading

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Materialism and the Value of Conscious Life

IMG_2881Apart from the time devoted to collaborative reading sessions during Ordered Universe Symposia, there is also room for broader conversation and exchange of ideas. These conversations are very interesting and maybe also quite unusual, as they represent a rare instance of academics from very different disciplines being brought together. Interdisciplinary discussions are challenging in many ways and they require trust and respect on both sides. It is wonderful to see how during Ordered Universe Symposia, an atmosphere of open-mindedness and friendliness is all around so that this kind of true interdisciplinary exchange becomes possible. Continue reading

About What It Takes: Assumptions About Skill Sets in the Humanities and Sciences

20140320_10553120140320_105649From relatively early on in school, young people start to think of themselves as ‘more sciency’ or ‘more of a humanities or languages person’. With these two poles, to one of which many students sooner or later find themselves gravitating, we tend to associate different personality attributes and skills. For humanities subjects, creative and outside-the-box thinking is deemed to be important, and we tend to expect people in the humanities to have a vivid imagination and maybe also an elaborate, ornate writing style. For the natural sciences, by contrast, we assume that what’s needed is sharpness and coherence of thought, quickness of the mind, and maybe most importantly, good quantitative reasoning skills.

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Unity in Diversity

IMG_404205125th – 28th November 2015, Durham, UK. A group of around 25 people gather for another symposium on the scientific writings of the 13th century English bishop Robert Grosseteste. It’s the first symposium under the umbrella of the generous AHRC grant that started in October. Whilst most academic conferences bring together experts from more or less the same subject area, this symposium is different. Its attendants span the academic disciplines from medieval history to modern vision science, from Middle English to computational cosmology, from church history to physics and applied mathematics, and from linguistics and acoustics to music composition. Continue reading

(Medieval) Science and some Spin-Off Contemplations about Ethics and Interdisciplinarity

IMG_4051During the introductory session on the Liberal Arts and modern scientific methodologies, Giles posed the question to the group whether failure of a scientific theory could ever be due to moral rather than intellectual failure. Whilst Giles is the one to turn to if you’re interested in the motivation behind this question, I’d like to share some thoughts on some of the comments that ensued. Continue reading

Education Revisited – Lessons to Learn from the Medieval Curriculum

IMG_4084In the De artibus liberalibus (On the Liberal Arts), Grosseteste positions the Liberal Arts as having their proper, natural place in scholarly thought and the educational curriculum. In the set of the seven Liberal Arts, the so called trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric is complemented by the mathematical arts, that is, the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Continue reading

Living in an Ordered Universe

Hortus_Deliciarum,_Die_Philosophie_mit_den_sieben_freien_KünstenAstrolabeThe De artibus liberalibus (On the Liberal Arts) has felt somewhat different from the three treatises that the Ordered Universe group had looked at before. Unlike the De colore, the De iride, the De luce and the De generatione sonorum, the De artibus liberalibus isn’t primarily aimed at elucidating a phenomenon of natural order – be this colour, the rainbow, the cosmos, or sound.[1] Instead of focusing on aspects of the natural world, the De artibus liberalibus offers a justification for the foundational structure of scholarship and education that was around at Grosseteste’s times: the seven Liberal Arts. Continue reading

Grosseteste’s ‘scientific’ treatises – reflecting on principles of investigation

20140719_153317IMG_5592One of the unifying themes across Grosseteste’s ‘scientific’ treatises is that he carefully observed the natural world around him and furthermore assumed that there should be a set of fundamental, universally applicable principles explaining the ordered complexity with which he was confronted. For Grosseteste creation was an act of divine generosity, an overflowing of God’s joy and goodness, and, as a product of the fount and origin of reason (as well as love, justice, joy and so forth), was itself inherently rational. Nature forms a source of knowledge about God alongside the revelation of Scripture. Continue reading