God’s Philosophers

December 3, 2009

James Hannam’s recent book God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science has been on my reading list since it was published.  I haven’t yet had time to get to it, so I perked up when I saw that a long and detailed review had been posted at Armarium Magnum.

Hannam’s book is intended as a corrective to the common belief that medieval Europe was intellectually indigent, hostile to inquiry, and oppressive of proto-scientists.  It introduces us to the work of medieval natural philosophers like Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and many others.  I remember being struck by the similarity between Nicholas Oresme’s work on kinematics, for instance, and arguments Galileo used two centuries later, and I naturally suspected that there was a connection.  The general question of the relationship between early modern and late medieval natural philosophy is extremely interesting, and a popular treatment along the lines of Hannam’s book is certainly welcome.

In the academic sphere at least the “Conflict Thesis” of a historical war between science and theology has been long since overturned. It is very odd that so many of my fellow atheists are clinging so desperately to a long-dead position that was only ever upheld by amateur Nineteenth Century polemicists and not the careful research of recent objective peer reviewed historians.

The review is very positive overall, and I now have another incentive to bump this book forward in my reading queue.  Read the whole thing.

One Response to “God’s Philosophers”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    “Hannam’s book is intended as a corrective to the common belief that medieval Europe was intellectually indigent, hostile to inquiry, and oppressive of proto-scientists.”

    Amen, brother Hannam! This is such an annoying “belief” of our times!


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