The legacy of the Middle Ages

The scholastic synthesis ofAristotelianism and Christianity was made possible by the reception of Aristotelian philosophy into the newly founded universities of Europe during the thirteenth century. This reception was not unproblem-atic. The early teaching of Aristotle in the Latin West triggered a series of condemnations culminating in 1277 when the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tem-pier, condemned as impious 217 theses which he feared were being drawn from Aristotle.4 The condemnations of 1277 highlighted a number of points of tension between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian beliefs. Aristotle could be read as supporting both the eternity of the world and the mortality of the soul, although Thomas Aquinas skilfully averted conflict by arguing that Aristotle concluded that these points could not be decided from reason alone; without impugning reason or the authority of Aristotle, Aquinas argued that these human sources had to be supplemented with the authority of revelation, with its doctrines of Creation and of the immortality of the soul. The necessity of natural law was another major point of tension, which continued to surface in various forms even as Aristotelianism gave way to new philosophies in the early modern period. The scholastic distinction between the absolute and the ordained power of God served to acknowledge both that God had the power to suspend the laws of nature and that in practice God chose to abide by them. This distinction legitimated the naturalistic study of God's ordained power without seeming to deny divine omnipotence.5

Thanks to these resolutions of points of conflict, developed by Thomas Aquinas among others, by 1325 Aristotle was fully entrenched in the curriculum

3 For the most recent studies, see Helm and Winkelmann (eds.), Religious confessions and the sciences; Fatio (ed.), Les églises face aux sciences and Sciences et religions de Copernic à Galilée. On science and religion more generally see especially Brooke, Scienceandreligion, Lindberg and Numbers (eds.), God and Nature and Ferngren, Science and religion.

4 See Grant (ed.), A source book in medieval science, pp. 45-50. For the debates surrounding these theses, see Thijssen, 'What really happened on 7 March 1277?'

5 On this theme see Courtenay, Capacity and volition.

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