Porto Experiences Thursday 27th June: De luce, Education and the History of Science

The Lost Legacies Team
The Lost Legacies Team

Thursday and the team kept at it, moving through the rest of the De luce, through the creation of the 9 celestial spheres (they are not named by Grosseteste but presumably followed the pattern 1 First Mover, 2 Fixed Stars, 3 Saturn, 4 Jupiter, 5 Mars, 6 Sun, 7 Venus, 8 Mercury, 9 Moon) and then the four terrestrial ‘spheres’. The property of matter, especially of lux and lumen, the notion of lumen as a very particulararistotle_universe type of body, of spiritual matter (possibly derived from Avicebron [Ibn Gabriol, 1021-1057/8]), were all topics considered. So to was the question of time: the operation of light and matter is not so much a notion as an activity of substantial change, and therefore indendent of time. 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

De colore – impressions from a first-time, non-medieval, reader

I started my reading about Grosseteste and his scientific works with ‘The Dimensions of Colour’ on the De colore. Although when reading the translation I couldn’t picture Grosseteste’s model in my head, I was baffled by its complexity and sophistication. Such an abstract account of the phenomenon of colour was certainly not what I expected from a medieval scholar and theologian, who later in his life even became bishop. Furthermore, I found that the critical edition and translation broadened my horizon not only with respect to the content of the treatise, but also concerning the challenge of establishing in the first place what the original content was. As I said, I know embarrassingly little about history and the methods involved in the discipline, and it was very interesting to see how the multitude of diverging manuscripts can be a caveat to appreciating the coherence of medieval scientific thought. Continue reading

The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student

My name is Ulrike, and I just finished the second year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology with Philosophy at Oxford. The first time I heard about the Grosseteste project was at a drinks reception we had with our College tutors. We asked Hannah about the various research strands she is involved in, and it came as a surprise to hear about an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists who interpret the scientific writings of a medieval philosopher and theologian. That out of all my tutors, the perception expert would collaborate with experts from the humanities was all the more unexpected, given that perception is probably at the very hardcore science end of the psychology spectrum. I remember asking tentatively what the point of such a joint project would be, (I really hope I found a more subtle way of saying this back then). I don’t trust my memory enough to now quote Hannah’s answer, and I’m sure you are familiar with it anyway. If not, I definitely recommend asking her about it because it was certainly very interesting. Back then, I was definitely very intrigued by this approach of doing both history and science in symbiosis. However, I couldn’t quite picture how this would actually work, and how fruitful the conclusions drawn would be for either field. Continue reading

Ordered Universe Sessions at Porto

Cafe Majestic in Porto
Cafe Majestic in Porto

These are the details of the three formal sessions we have organised for the FIDEM Congress in Porto: focusing on the treatises on light and on colour. Each session has a mingling (to use a Grossetestian phrase) of scientific and humanities based scholars; all of which are needed to convey the richness and depth of these wonderful, and original expositions of Aristotle together with his Arabic commentators. The De luce we date to about 1225, the De iride is one of the last scientific texts Grosseteste composed, dated to 1228-1230.

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Durham Grosseteste Project in Portugal

IMG_1119So, our next engagement as a team will be the FIDEM congress in Porto. The congress gathers around 400-500 medievalists of various sorts and meets every 5 years. FIDEM itself is a network of institutes for medieval studies, with individual as well as institutional membership, and has been running since 1987. Greti sits on the executive board. Jose Mereinhos very kindy and enthusiastically accepted our suggestion that we might present the project in Porto. Continue reading