(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

Grosseteste goes public: disseminating medieval and modern science

IMG_2853IMG_2856The Mahfouz Forum on Grosseteste’s De generatione sonorum (On the generation of sound) culminated in a set of public lectures held in the Pichette Auditorium of Pembroke College. With this having been the third time that I got to enjoy being part of an Ordered Universe gathering, I had heard before some elements of these talks given by Tom McLeish, Giles Gasper, Hannah Smithson and Richard Bower. But far from making the experience repetitive, it has been very inspiring to see how the speakers’ approach and evaluation of the topics has been evolving and expanding. In addition, it’s rewarding to see how my own understanding of the themes has developed from when I first joined, and how some of the concepts I initially couldn’t get my head around by now seem quite familiar. Continue reading

Clarifications on Medieval Multiverses and Multidisciplinarity

IMG_0032The recent interest in the Ordered Universe project following summary articles, in Nature, TheConversationUK, The Economist, The New Statesman, and various republished versions of the above, has been very gratifying (in the most part) but has also made it clear that some clarification is needed on both the way the project works, and on what we are saying.  Continue reading

Grosseteste – a theologian and scientist. Or: Did Grosseteste see a science-religion divide? Further Reflections on the Network…

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of studying Grosseteste is that he wrote about both theology and science (in the medieval sense). The first-time, non-medieval reader is quick to ask herself whether Grosseteste had some split-brain features; after all IMG_1326religion and science often take opposing stances in contemporary debates. As Giles Gasper mentioned in his conference presentation at Porto, Grosseteste didn’t comment explicitly on how he saw the relationship between these two areas of interests. However, the scholars explained that in medieval times there was not yet the conceptual divide between religion and science. Instead, the elucidation of natural phenomena was thought of as giving depth to the wonders of God’s creation. Nonetheless, it is striking that Grosseteste, who was to become bishop of Lincoln later on, didn’t explicitly frame his scientific treatises in theological terms. Nonetheless, under closer inspection of the De luce, there are some references and fundamental assumptions that seem to hint at his theological commitments. Continue reading

Interdisciplinarity – chances and challenges

It took me some time to realise how rare truly interdisciplinary work is at the research level. For me as an undergraduate student, cross-subject talk within friendship groups is something that I have always taken for granted. Since I have been introduced to the Ordered Universe Project I have learned firstly that only few scholars and scientists collaborate with each other, and secondly that such collaboration bears the potential for a uniquely broad and deep perspective. To see how researchers from humanities and sciences work together in an open-minded, patient and accommodating fashion has been very impressive, as this research methodology allows for an elucidation of Grosseteste’s writings at multiple different levels. Continue reading

Medicine, Science and a Porto Perspective

En route to Porto – lay-over in Lisbon Airport…

I first heard about The Ordered Universe Project in a seminar led by Giles Gasper and Tom McLeish at Durham last autumn. As someone who specialises in medieval medicine and gender, I was initially fascinated by their willingness to combine medieval science with modern physics, yet I was unaware of what contribution (if any) I could ever bring to such a combining of minds. Medieval medicine, though within the same frame of understanding as medieval science, was a very different thing to what Grosseteste was trying to do. Or at least that is what I originally thought. Continue reading

Why the scientists?

Bridging humanities and sciences
Bridging humanities and sciences

At the heart of the Ordered Universe Project is the interdisciplinary collaboration between medievalists and scientists. In this way light is shed onto Grosseteste’s scientific work from very different angles, and this allows for an all-around and in-depth elucidation of his writings. That medievalists contribute to our understanding of medieval science seems straightforward and not a subject of debate. However, doubts are more likely to be raised about whether modern scientists can add anything useful at all in this endeavour.  Like many others who first hear about the Ordered Universe Project I was having these very doubts before joining the group during the FIDEM congress. Continue reading

Porto experiences: Wednesday 26th June: De luce

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The creation of the spheres by the activity of lumen, expanding inwardly.
Lumenocentric universe
First Form, Light, and First Matter form the first sphere, ‘as big as the world machine’.

Wednesday 26th June provided another intense day for discussion and reading. The morning session of the conference featured papers by Cecilia Panti, Neil Lewis and Brian Tanner, chaired by Pietro Rossi. Cecilia presented a detailed exposition of Grosseteste’s use of mathematical sequences within the De luce, especially in its first half. The infinite multiplication of form (light) within matter is a key concern here, and Grosseteste may have been responding to an articulation by Averroes of the difficulties inherent in expressing infinite multiplication. Continue reading

Ordered Universe Workshops

A record of the main collaborative workshops we have held, from the birth of the project to read scientific works of the High Middle Ages in an interdisciplinary forum, to the most recent focused sessions on the treatise on the rainbow. The process of team-building is a long one, and involves forging bonds of trust, personally and intellectually, between team members, and across disciplines. Each workshop advances the project, sharpens translations and interpretative questions, introduces new issues and new participants. Workshops are democratic and open to all, current and retired staff, post-docs, PhD and MA students and undergraduates. Continue reading