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Berlin neo-Kantian Philosopher Susan Neiman has claimed that western philosophy ought to acknowledge that it draws from two ancient sources. One is Plato, but for Neiman and for me! The Book of Job , of all ancient literature, succeeds in articulating in timeless and plangent depth the difference between what human beings consider the world ought to be, and how they find it.

Its response, in poetic dialogue of beautifully structured form, but of brutally honest content, has also shocked and offended many of its readers.


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Where is the realm where heat is created, which the sirocco spreads across the earth? The invitation to Job and his descendants is contemplative, universal, shared, deeply creative itself. This is not, however, a necessary fiction — the object is also to find a pathway back from knowledge alone to the engagement with nature that is also driven by love and wisdom.

Robert Grosseteste (Great Medieval Thinkers) - PDF Free Download

The two leading critiques of science mounted by the Romantic poets, and echoed by late modern commentators as well, are linked. A science that appears to fragment and tear apart or compartmentalise the object has the same effect on its subjects. A holistic science, or natural philosophy, is also a communal one. Wisdom seeks to unite not divide and to build communicative bridges not pull them up.

Natural philosophy therefore needs to develop a polyvalency and inclusivity that even the best current science communication fails to do. I had the opportunity to speak with her at the award ceremony at the Royal Society in London, where she spoke of the discouragement she had experienced at school in regard to science.

Then she said something that made a great impression on me:. Science is a palace with many doors, but at school we only show children one of them. Not all of us can enter through that door — I was one that could not.

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But I found another door into the palace through researching and writing about the life of Alexander von Humboldt. We need to find paths to other doors for other people. But these still do not touch those for whom the mention of science is still a painful one that speaks unnecessarily of personal inability and failure. Developing a natural philosophy that shares with art and music the notion of a contemplative good for the non-expert, a concept of critical participation of active audience, is a second aspect of a reformed natural philosophy that needs to find new life. It did not outlast the 17 th century unless you count the vestiges in amateur astronomy and ornithology — as well you might , but there are aspects of this permissive lay science at work at present as well.

One of the saddest personal and repeated experiences I have when visiting schools is to hear from young people that the reason that they have given up on any science is because they saw no room for their own imagination of creativity were they to continue it.

An education that purports to include science yet restricts itself to the imparting of a body of fact is no better than an art course that looks at biographies of artists but never allows brush to contact paper.

Robert Grosseteste (Great Medieval Thinkers)

I have spent the last three years researching a new book The Poetry and Music of Science , that takes as its raw material conversations with scientists, mathematicians, artists, composers, poets and novelists, and asks them to talk through the narratives of their most innovative and pleasing projects. Much much more needs to be said here, and nuanced into visual, textual and abstract forms of imagination, the role of non-conscious thought, and in particular the entanglement of affective, emotional and cognitive thought in all creative process.

Robert Grosseteste (Great Medieval Thinkers)

Those avenues also belong to a natural philosophical approach to the material world. Forth, is the poetic structure of science itself, and the comprehension that functional and methodological as well as objective and linguistic ties exist between science and poetry.

To take first the structural aspect, if poetry is the creative constraint of imagination by form, then one might ask what could call on a greater force of imagination than the re-imagination of nature itself, and what might constitute a greater constraint than nature as it is observed?

Finally, if it is perhaps hard for the church to recover from a two centuries of being indoctrinated with the narrative that science is a threat to faith and to the community of believers, then perhaps a reformed natural philosophy might more easily be accepted under the correctly perceived heading of gift. For the truth is that science needs the church far more than the other way around. One consequence of the divorce of science from the humanities, its cult of expertise and its hegemony of epistemology is, paradoxically, its newly-suffered optionality.

Take the temperature of public and political debates on tense scientific topics, be the subject genetic medicine or global climate change, and you will measure high readings in both the dissemination of untruth, and the propagation of fear. If there are two core values of at least the Christian tradition that are needed now as much as at any other time, they are those of truth and the removal of fear.

Yet there is still very little informed public service of debate by the church a glowing exception is the papal encyclical Laudato Si , but even this has limited reach at local level. A church does not have to come down on one side or other of a scientific or technological debate in order to make a transformational illumination of its process.

The love of wisdom to do with nature will surely be more powerful to do this than a mere system of knowledge. Tom McLeish , Durham University. Science is about evidence-based fact, religion is about faith-based belief. The actual entanglements of religious tradition and the development of science are far more interesting than the superficial conflict common today — and far more important. And rethinking how we view the relationship between science and religion could help give scientific thinking the wider public support it needs. The history of scientific thought is closely linked to that of religious thought, and with much more continuity than discontinuity.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle effectively set the Western template for studying the natural world in the 4th century BC. Early Islamic figures were responsible for very rapid progress in a number of scientific fields , notably maths, medicine and the study of light optics. When Aristotle was reintroduced to Europe in the 12th century, his scientific work had a great influence on medieval scholars, who were invariably thinkers within a church, synagogue or mosque. A key example is the 13th-century Oxford theologian and later Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, who was also a pioneering early scientist.

Read more: Our latest scientific research partner was a medieval bishop. By this he means a sort of intense and perceptive ability to look beyond the surface of the material world into its inner structure. This is remarkably similar to our approach to science today. For Grosseteste, our sollertia comes in turn from being created in the image of God. It is a theologically motivated task that contributes to the fulfilment of being human.

When 16th-century philosopher Francis Bacon argued for a new experimental approach to science, he drew explicitly on such theological motivations. Taking this history lesson seriously helps us see just how ancient the root system of science is. Insisting that science is a purely modern advance does not help the important process of embedding scientific thinking into our wider culture.


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In fact, science also has roots in ancient Jewish history that are as influential as the ancient Greek precedents. Philosopher Susan Neiman recently argued that the Biblical Book of Job should be understood as a foundation pillar of modern philosophy alongside Plato. This is because Job deals head-on with the problem of an apparently chaotic and fitful world, alien to the human predicament and unmoved in the face of suffering. And this, Neiman claims, is the starting point for philosophy. It might also be the starting point for science, for Job also contains at its pivotal point the most profound nature poem of all ancient writings.

Its verse form of questions is also striking to scientists from all ages, who know that asking the right creative questions — rather than always having the correct answer — is what unlocks progress. Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea? And can you apply them to the earth? In all, the book contains as many as questions from the fields we now know as meteorology, astronomy, geology and zoology. The content of this timeless text has clearly steered the story of science for centuries. Faith communities urgently need to stop seeing science as alien, or a threat, but rather recognise their own part in its story.

The influence people of faith have on society through their relationships can then be hugely supportive of science. To give one current example, the Church of England has recently cosponsored a major national project, Scientists in Congregations. By embracing and supporting science, in turn, religious communities can contribute important perspectives on how we use it in our global future. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Liberation from Ignorance: Science vs. Religion, Robert Grosseteste

Read the original article. The first eight projects have just been announced , as varied in geographical placement around the UK as they are in approach. And it is in medieval thinking that we find. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis Robert Grosseteste c was the initiator of the English scientific tradition, one of the first chancellors of Oxford University, and a famous teacher and commentator on the newly discovered works of Aristotle.

Grosseteste, Robert

In this book, James McEvoy provides the first general, inclusive overview of the entire range of Grosseteste's massive intellectual achievement. Excerpt Many people would be surprised to be told that there were any great medieval thinkers. Read Overview. Read preview Overview. The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. Times Higher Education, No. Merle Rubin regularly reviews books for the Monitor.