- Slides: 38
Medieval Biological Knowledge
Medieval Period (aka the Middle Ages) • • • 476 AD – 800 (“Dark Ages”) 1000 -1300 “High Middle Ages” 1300 -1450 End of the Middle ages “War in Heaven, ” France, c. 1320, in The Cloisters Collection, New York City http: //www. mythinglinks. org/euro~west~medieval. html
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD • The beginning of the middle ages witnessed the destruction of the Western Roman Empire
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD • Various “barbarian” tribes conquered the previously Roman controlled territories
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD • Civilization collapsed and there was a return to a simpler, more rural form of society • Cities were depopulated • Trade and arts declined • Learning and knowledge declined (including biological knowledge) • Literacy almost disappeared • Reading and writing barely survived.
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD • Most importantly, the philosophical approach to understanding reality also declined • The ancient Greek and Roman texts almost completely disappeared
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD • One institution did survive from Roman times:
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD The Roman Catholic Church Its explanation of reality was deeply influenced by the Bible and by the teachings of the Church fathers.
The Dark Ages 476 -800 AD The Roman Catholic Church There was a return to supernatural explanations of reality
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • However, beginning in the 11 th century, trade, commerce, and urban life revived. • Knowledge also revived and the first European universities were built in this period.
The High Middle Ages Damn! I wish somebody 1000 -1300 AD would invent a Wordprocessor Marie de France – some Medieval female scholars existed too.
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD Will this be on the test, sir? Medieval students at the University of Paris
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD One reason for the revival of knowledge was the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman texts.
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Many of these texts were discovered in Arabic translation in Muslim Spain • Spain had been conquered by Muslim forces since the 8 th century • Cities like Toledo, Cordoba and Granada became centers of great learning. The Alhambra of Granada (Spain). Picture by G. Tordjman
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD Cordoba had dozens of libraries, some of which contained the writings of Aristotle, and other great Greek, Roman, Jewish and Arabic thinkers. The Great Mosque (“Mesquita”) of Cordoba (Spain). Picture by G. Tordjman
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • As the Christian Spanish forces in the north slowly re-conquered Spain (The Reconquista), they came across these lost ancient works. • Jewish and Arabic translators translated them into Latin. • These works made a huge impact on the elite back in Europe.
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD Leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides ("The Pharmacy"), dated 1224 Iraq, Baghdad School Colors and gilt on paper; 12. 3 x 9 in. (31. 4 x 22. 9 cm) Cora Timken Burnett Collection of Persian Miniatures and Other Persian Art Objects, Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956 (57. 51. 21) Ancient Greek texts like this in Arabic translation were then translated again in Latin (a language of Europe)
Euclid, Elements of Geometry with commentary by Persian scholar Nasr al din Al Tulsi
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Thanks to the re-discovery of these lost Greek and Roman texts, the Europeans rediscovered the philosophical approach to understanding reality • This included the stress on: – observation of fact (empiricism) – Logic and deduction (rationalism)
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Even the Catholic Church was influenced by the Greek philosophical approach • This produced a kind of “fusion” of the Greek philosophical approach with the Christian religious approach to knowledge • Two examples of this are: – The Great Chain of Being concept – Natural theology
The High Middle Ages The Great Chain of Being • The Great Chain of Being was a Christian inspired view of the universe but also contained philosophical concepts borrowed from the ancient Greeks • It pictured the entire world as divided into a hierarchy of “beings” from lowest to highest (finally ending up in God).
• On the lowest rung was inanimate matter, rocks, minerals and the sort, themselves subdivided into ranks • Higher up were the plants, themselves also subdivided into higher and lower • Then came the lower animals, higher animals and human beings, which, as Psalm 19 says “are just lower than the angels”. Imagine this picture so that the center is like the bottom of a well and the outside rings are “higher” and more “spiritual”
The High Middle Ages The Great Chain of Being • Above humans were the angels and then God, the “Architect” of the entire chain. • Thus, as one moved up the Chain, one moved from the purely material to the purely spiritual • Each rung or link on the chain ruled over the rung below.
• The Chain was static, meaning nothing could move up or down the Chain and no being could be removed or added to the Chain. • Everything was in its place and there was a place for everything
The High Middle Ages The Great Chain of Being • The Chain was anthropocentric, meaning that humans occupied the central position (between God and the rest of creation) and were the highest creatures on earth.
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Natural theology – “regular” theology is the study of religion, esp. the study of Sacred Scriptures • Aka “the study of God’s word” – Natural Theology is the study of nature to reveal evidence of the existence, power, wisdom, goodness of God. • Aka “the study of God’s works”
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • The two main arguments of natural theology: – The argument from design – The cosmological argument (or, the argument from first cause) (we will be examining only the former here)
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Natural theology – The argument from design • 1. Things in the universe (esp. living things) show evidence of purposeful design (i. e. , they show nonrandom, complex structure and organization) • 2. Designed things must have a designer • 3. The Designer of such things must be none other than God • Therefore, 4. God exists
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • Darwin’s theory posed a serious challenge to the argument from design • Darwin’s theory also gave the last blow to the Great Chain of Being concept.
The High Middle Ages 1000 -1300 AD • There are few believers in the Great Chain concept today, • However, the argument from design is still popular among some religious groups
Medieval Biological Knowledge Summary • Dark ages see collapse of Western civilization and decline of knowledge • High Middle ages revival of learning due partly to rediscovery of ancient Greek philosophy found in Arabic translation in Muslim Spain • Two key concepts show evidence of revival of philosophy: natural theology and great chain of being concept • Natural theology includes “argument from design” seeking to prove God exists by using evidence from nature • Great Chain concept of universe as a hierarchy of beings from lowest to highest with God at the summit
Credits • • • Mark Damen, USU 1320: History and Civilization, SECTION 8: The Fall of Rome http: //www. usu. edu/markdamen/1320 Hist&Civ/chapters/08 ROMFAL. htm Elizabeth Swanstrom, Comparative Literature 30 C: Major Works of European Literature from the Romantic to the Contemporary Period, University of California at Santa Barbara. http: //cl 30 c. wordpress. com/2007/08/20/links-the-victorians/ British Views Of 18 th Century Africa, http: //courses. wcupa. edu/wanko/LIT 400/Africa/index. htm http: //www. roman-empire. net/ Kathleen Jenks, Ph. D. , “Mything Links An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions” http: //www. mythinglinks. org/euro~west~medieval. html