Sunday, January 12, 2003

Influence of Medieval Synthesis on the West:

Rewrite and Expansion of Class Notes
of Prof. Dwight W. van de Vate
Dept of Philosphy, 1956
University of Mississippi

Emory L.Warrick

In Two Sections
Influence of Medieval Synthesis on the West:

Rewrite and Expansion of Class Notes
of Prof. Dwight W. van de Vate
Dept of Philosophy, 1956
University of Mississippi

Emory L.Warrick



Section 1

The Graeco-Roman civilization which produced the philosophers
Plato, Aristotle, and their compatriots was superior to anything
following it for a millennium. The Roman Empire encompassed the
corpus of the then known world. Its legions defended, its public
works supported, its just and efficient laws regulated a way of
life more humane, cultured, literate, more prosperous and secure,
than any coming after, prior to the twelfth century medieval
Renaissance. Paved roads, some in use today, spanned the empire
from end to end, making it possible to travel from Rome to Paris
in 200 CE in less than half the time it took in 1700, a
millennium and a half later. Roman and Greek cities were
provided with excellent water and sewerage systems, systems not
duplicated prior to the nineteenth century, leaving the Middle
Ages known as the "millennium without a bath". Since medieval
townsmen disposed of their personal wastes by way of the window,
a medieval town could be detected by its smell from a distance of
five miles and periodically would be swept by epidemics (e.g.,
influenza, typhoid, bubonic plague); the "Black Death" of the
fourteenth century reputedly killed a quarter of Europe's

The major precondition of the creation of civilization is PUBLIC
ORDER, a system of just, well-enforced laws to regulate the
behavior of humans to each other. Plato is highly conscious of
this; all his writings center primarily around problems, not of
personal salvation nor scientific understanding, but of political
reform. The "Good Life" is the natural aim of humankind, but its
essential precursor is the "Good State". Aristotle tells us that
man is, by nature, a political animal. Measured by this
standard, it is the decline of Roman Law which initiates the
Middle Ages. Politics simply is applied metaphysics, and Roman
legal theory derives principally from Stoic philosophy.

Stoicism is constructed around the conception of an inner
rationality to the universe, the LOGOS. If we could survey the
entire universe, not just a small portion of it, the evils
apparent from our finite perspective would apparently disappear,
not be evil at all, but contributions to the reasonableness of
the whole. This conception of reason immanent in the workings of
the world descends directly from the long line of Greek
rationalists beginning with Pythagoras and Parmenides. The
Romans being world conquerors necessitated Roman courts
adjudication of disputes between people of a multitude of
ethnicities and cultures, and consequently necessitated basing
laws on principles less parochial than those governing Roman
citizens or other specific peoples. The Stoic notion of "laws of
nature" or "laws of reason" articulating what ought to happen in
any given set of circumstances was adapted admirably for this, so
Roman legal theorists developed a set of principles, the "ius
gentium" (i.e., the "law of nations"). These reflected
similarities in various cultures, customs and laws of various
populations, in accordance with which, consequently, it appeared
equitable and fair to adjudicate particular conflicts.

Conceiving these as laws of nature based the Roman legal system
not on legislative fiat or arbitrary customs, but rather on the
nature of humans as rational beings. Roman Law declined, but
never disappeared; in the fifth century CE its population,
wealth, and public spirit having declined, the Roman Empire was
conquered by migrant teutonic peoples. Two things were preserved
in this general collapse of public order, the Christian Church
and the eastern half of the Empire. The Eastern Empire lasted
for another millennium until the Ottoman Turks captured
Constantinople in 1453 CE. Moderately stable, static, and
decadent, the eastern half of the classical Roman Empire, the
"Byzantine Empire", remained as a bulwark for the medievals
against Asiatic invasion. It provided a living example of what a
civilization could be, a model of classical excellence.

Justinian, the eminent Byzantine emperor, between 529 and 534 CE
published the JUSTINIAN CODE, a codification of Roman Law which,
with the THEODOSIAN CODE (438 CE) "proved to be the tutor of the
legal growth and much of the intellectual ripening of medieval
Europe." The Church also was preserved. Life in the early
Middle Ages was difficult; Western Europe in the eleventh century
still was an outpost of human life. The majority of the land was
covered with sparsely populated dense forest, with England having
barely a million population, for example, dwelling in mud huts
and cultivating tiny clearings in savage woods. The great stone
cathedrals and castles of romantic legend came later, there not
being much such building in England prior to the eleventh
century. Few were built earlier than the Norman invasion (1066)
in the eleventh century.

Castles prior to that time were wooden block-houses built on a
mound and surrounded by a wooden palisade and ditch. A rough
parallel between early medieval Europe and late eighteenth
America can be drawn. Northwest Europe would correspond to the
primitive frontier of the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi
rivers; the Atlantic seaboard might correspond to higher cultures
of southern Europe and Italy. The Eastern Empire, Byzantium,
corresponding to the urban northeast (Europe-across-the-seas).
The parallel is amorphous like a movie run backwards, it is as if
the history of the colonial period had run backwards, so the
Indians had conquered the 1850s United States and then were
slowly rising from the dim depths of savagery through the dimly
remembered impact of a superior culture. The early Middle Ages
best are understood in this way, as sort of a colonizing period,
with the medieval church best understood as a missionary church.

The church was the preserver and transmitter not solely of
religion, but of civilization itself, of all arts, sciences, and
knowledge. After the miserable devastations of the Viking and
Magyar invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries the rebirth of
of western culture in the high Middle Ages begins with the
consequence that such culture has a thorough-going religious
orientation. The medieval church and the medieval civilization
closely approach congruence, and average people consider
themselves not as French or German or English, but rather as a
member of Christendom, as one whose ideological shape and
substance is determined throughout by membership in the Church
Universal. Erving Goffmans concepts of "role engulfment" and
"personal re-definition" describe these phenomena. Medieval
thought, coincident with medieval religion, results from the
union of three influences: Hebrew theology, Greek philosophy,
and the peculiar circumstances in which the early medieval church
found itself. All medieval theologians took Augustine (354-430
CE), the earliest important Christian philosopher, as their
intellectual mentor.

Augustine was a Neo-Platonist in his youth, and when converted to
christianity turned this transcendental version of Platonism into
an intellectual apologetic for Christianity. Augustine followed
St. John and St. Paul, who had done much the same thing earlier,
but with less powerful intellectual vigor. A healthy growth of
Aristotelianism was engrafted on this Platonism by Thomas Aquinas
in the high Middle Ages, creating a shift from transcendence to
immanence culminating in the late medieval nominalism of thinkers
like William of Ockham. This obviously is a complicated and
subtle tradition virtually impossible to characterize briefly.
One can take Plato's "Good" and call it "God" (which Plato did
not), and endow that concept with the attributes of personality
and concern (which Plato did not), and then trifurcate that
concept into three parts (e.g., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
By identifying "God" with the "Good", God then will be the most
perfect being, possessing all possible perfections, and at the
very pinnacle of the hierarchy of beings that begins with
inanimate things like sticks and stones, passing through plant
life, animal life, human life, and angels to God at the very top.

As in Aristotle, God will be the final cause of the entire
universe, so that lesser beings will endeavour, will utilize as
final cause, the imitation of His matchless perfection in-so-far
as their natures permit. Unlike Aristotle and Plato, not only
will the world be concerned with God, but that God, having given
His only begotten Son for the world's salvation, will be
concerned with the world. The forms become God's mind so that
when God creates He endows His ideas with existence (cf. St. John
1:1 LOGOS). The whole universe consequently bears the stamp of
its creator, and the created things serve as symbols of the
matchless perfection which created them. There are two note-
worthy characteristics about God's mind: it is rational through
and through, neither capricious nor arbitrary, and being the
"Good" plus existence, and the "Good" being the Form of the
Forms, the intelligibility of the forms, God's mind not only is
rational, but is RATIONALITY - the very essence or form of
rationality (i..e., the LOGOS). Consider the congruence of
Plato's "method of Recollection" in the MENO with what the
arbitrary despot of the OLD COVENANT has become - rather a
reasonable presence.

That God's mind is rational in the Greek sense of rationality is
the second consequence of the identification of "God" and the
"Good". In the PHAEDO Socrates promptly concludes that Mind
therefore will arrange all things for the best when he heard that
Anaxagoras maintained that Mind makes all things. In the milieu
of Greece c. 500 BCE that seems the most natural thing to say,
but would not be now. When, for example, a physicist is solving
a theoretical problem he is using reason, but the concepts of
"better" or "worse" are inapplicable. For the Greeks Mind was
teleological, concerned primarily with final rather than formal
causes, with how things OUGHT to be, not with how things are.
That the world appears to be terribly imperfect, not perfect,
creates a formidable problem, especially for someone like
Augustine who lived in the chaos of the breakdown of Public Order
as the Roman Empire died.

It was necessary to give some reason for the imperfection of the
world, and a variety of reasons (some of which will be discussed)
were given then and throughout the history of theology. It is
important that in the Christian story of the fall of Adam
Augustine found an apt mechanism to account for evil. Augustine
asserted that evil and imperfection are consequences of Original
Sin, of the disobedience of EVE in the matter of the apple.
Both nature and man were perfect prior to the fall, but after the
fall both were doomed, Nature to imperfection and man to death,
until the merciful God in the human form of Christ made salvation
possible through faith, works, and the Sacraments of the Holy
Church. Medieval man therefore viewed the universe in the light
of the perfection of God and imperfect men's need for reunion
with that perfection (i.e., of man's need for salvation). Man's
final cause is the "Good" for Plato, man striving to achieve that
purified intellectual enjoyment of the "Good" (i..e., of
intellectuality itself) which is perfect bliss or beatitude.

Augustine simply absorbs this Platonic concept and theologizes
it, turning the Platonic "Good" into "God", and the Platonic
afterlife into Heaven. The Platonic duality of soul and body, of
universal and individual, is retained. Augustine's world is like
the inside of the Cave, Heaven like the outside, and God like the
sun, so things of this world are like the shadows in the Cave.
Such worldly things have no importance whatsoever in themselves,
their only value lying in their symbolizing what is outside the
Cave. For medieval people Nature in itself, Nature qua Nature,
is unimportant, for humans should be concerned with nature and
natural things only as symbols of God's perfection and redemptive
power of Christ. To contemporary people, medieval people showed
an amazing lack of concern for literal scientific truth.

What happens in this fallen, disorderly world is unimportant;
what is important is the life to come. Whether or not the
pelican really nourishes her young with her own blood is
unimportant, nor is it important whether or not there truly
exists a bird called the phoenix which rises from its own ashes
so long as these creatures betoken and make manifest the Saviour
who shed His blood upon the Cross and rose the third day. The
medieval universe is a sacramental, symbolic universe, and there
will be required a radical shift of emphasis, from heaven to this
world, from final to efficient causes, from symbolic religious
belief to literal scientific truth to make it possible for modern
natural science to materialize. A primary purpose of this
account will be to review this shift of emphasis through which
our modern intellectual world was created. For medieval humans
the universe was small, having a spherical shape with the earth
at the exact center, surrounded by a series of concentric (or
nesting) crystalline invisible spheres bearing the heavenly
bodies, conceived to be embossed upon them. Nearest the earth is
the sphere of the moon, and beyond it those of Mercury, Venus,
the Sun, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and then the sphere of the fixed

The less sophisticated perceived beyond this the Empyrean (i.e.,
Heaven) where dwelt the saints in glory around the celestial
throne. This cosmology is derived from Greek cosmology,
especially Aristotelian through Ptolemy, a Hellenistic astronomer
from Alexandria who wrote ALMAGEST, the astronomical gospel of
the Middle Ages upon which the Ptolemaic system was based. The
solution it provided for the problem of planetary motion was a
principal distinguishing characteristic. The heavens were
considered divine by the Greeks, the realm of mathematical order
and perfection. For the medievals the heavens bore the stamp of
God's handiwork in a fashion lacking in this fallen earth, "the
sink and cellar of the universe." The heavens being divine must
be perfect, and if perfect then motions of heavenly bodies also
must be perfect.

Given that the circle, a symbol of God's infinity, has no
beginning or end, being the same in every part, is the perfect
geometrical figure, then heavenly motions also must be circular.
Though this seems like ridiculous mathematical apriorism which
disregards completely the facts we perceive when we view the
heavens at night, this is simply a classical specimen of an
Aristotelian argument from final causes. The perceived
(apparent) motions of the fixed stars are in fact circular.
Consider what might constitute an explanation accounting for this
phenomenon. In the PHAEDO Socrates asserts: "if Mind (i.e.,
God) makes all things, Mind will make them for the best." The
circle is the perfect figure , and therefore the orbits of the
fixed stars are circular.

We perceive what we perceive, their circular motion, because it
is for the best. It is not because it neglects or contradicts
the fact of perception that we find this argument to be strange,
but rather because they are accounted for in terms of final
causation. For humans their language constitutes "spectacles"
through which they view "reality"; in PROCESS AND REALITY
Whitehead asserts (p.13.) that most human error results from use
of undisciplined common sense (i.e., "uncritiqued assumptions"):
"The primary advantage (for philosophy) thus gained is that
experience is not interrogated with the benumbing expression of
common sense." Our minds having descended from the medieval
mind, do we value more highly, or consider more important, earth
or heaven, and should a rational human choose the few, vain,
transitory pleasures of this life in lieu of eternal bliss in the
arms of the Creator. Given that mindset, is it more important
that the heavenly bodies are masses of fusion reactions, or that
they symbolize God's perfection. The conflict of Dogmatic
Sacredness with secularization proceeds apace.

Hell was in an enormous funnel-shaped cavity in the earth,
reaching down to its very center. There, Satan was chained in
eternal torment, and from those cracks in the earth which we call
volcanoes medieval humans saw the flames and sulphurous smoke of
Hell escaping, and imagined hearing the screams of the damned.
With Heaven above the earth, and Hell below, there was a neat
tri-partite, orderly, divinely ordained universe. The motion of
those strange, wandering lights, the planets, do not not fit
cleanly into such a scheme because they are, apparently, not
circular. Ptolemy's solution accounting for such variance was to
suppose them each to be the resultants of TWO circular motions, a
smaller circle revolving around the periphery of a larger circle.
Mathematicians refer to such a figure as "epicycloid", or an
"epicycle", and Ptolemy used "epicycles" to assert a circular
account of the sort required by his principles explaining the
planetary orbits.

The earth lay stationary at the center of all these heavenly
spheres. At the center of the surface of the earth was Jerusalem
(the goal of the Crusades), and at the opposite position was the
Antipodes where rumor placed the "Garden of Eden", surrounded by
a wall of fire, whose only inhabitants were Enoch and Elijah. The
medieval intellectual scheme of reality encompassed religion,
science, and philosophy, all, in the last analysis, becoming
religion. To complete the "Great Synthesis", what Tawney in
RELIGION AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM (p.23.) called the "Medieval
Synthesis", was the integral component of art as a prime mode of
expression of sacredness in this synthesis of all elements of
human life and thought into a sacramental conception of the
world. Acknowledged as the greatest of medieval aesthetic
achievements were the cathedrals of Notre Dame, Chartres, Wells,
Beauvais, Exeter, Nevers, and others. These towering monuments
of stained glass and stone consecrated and embodied all the
wealth, labor, and talents of generations of a pious community.

The Church Fathers structured these "Dwellings of the Divine"
according to their interpretation of the scriptures. Augustine,
taking as his biblical text "Thou hast ordered all things in
measure, number, and weight," developed an aesthetic of music and
architecture based upon the Platonic and Pythagorean conception
of mathematical perfection. For Augustine beauty is a matter of
proportion, as in the ratio 1:2, the square, and equilateral
triangle. The equilateral triangle represents, for him, the
perfection and perfect beauty of the mystery of the Trinity. As
the architect of the cosmos, God, frames the heavens in due
proportion with his celestial hand, the medieval bishop,
following this example, constructs his cathedral in accordance
with those mathematical proportions and harmonies, as a series of
proportionate projections of a single square (among other
examples). The cathedral embodying the same universals as the
heavens, that constituted the mind of their Creator, the
cathedral literally is a model of heaven in glass and stone; such
was the sacramental universe of medieval humanity.

In Chapter One of SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD Whitehead writes

The Greek view of nature, at least that cosmology
transmitted from them to later ages, was essentially
dramatic. It is not necesarily wrong for this reason:
but it was overwhelmingly dramatic. It thus conceived
nature as articulated in the way of a work of dramatic
art, for the exemplification of general ideas converging
to an end. Nature was differentiated so as to provide
its proper (i.e., final) cause for each thing. There
was the center of the universe as the end of motion for
those things which are heavy, and the celestial spheres
as the end of motion for those things whose natures lead
them upwards. The celestial spheres were for things
which are impassible and ingenerable, the lower regions
for things passible and generable. Nature was a drama
in which each thing played its part.

There are things non-temporal (i.e., eternal) and things temporal
(i.e., finite). Mass (per se) does not operate on velocity of
fall (i.e., velocity is not a function of mass), but specific
gravity affects velocity from the standpoint of friction and
resistance. Aristotle attempts to account for the various
phenomena of gravitation, for the fact that heavy things tend to
fall while light things tend to rise, quite straightforwardly in
terms of final causes. He assumes (as does Empedocles, and later
the medievals) that there are four elements (i.e., earth, water,
fire, and air), each of which has a proper place where by nature
it ought to be. The proper place of earth and water is at the
center of the (spherical) universe, while air and fire have
theirs at the periphery. As each thing in the universe tends to
realize its final cause, earth and water tend to descend toward
the center, while fire and air tend to rise toward the periphery.

Aristotle has an additional mechanism to account for the fact
that the elements are not always where they should be that will
not here be considered. Since Aristotle thinks the heavens are
divine he therefore assumes them to be composed of a fifth
element (i.e., ether) of which the invisible celestial spheres
are made, and further assumes that ether moves naturally in a
circle, just as the four terrestrial elements move naturally in a
straight lines. The facts of perception are not ignored and
sense-experience is not dismissed any more than in the case of
the circular and epicyclical orbits of the heavenly bodies.
Aristotle is entitled to call himself an empiricist in that
sense, because what we see is accounted for, not ignored.
Aristotle would assert that heavy bodies descend: "Because their
final cause is to be at their proper place, the center, and
everything endeavours to realize its final cause." Experience is
accounted for, but the account is a teleological account in terms
of final causes.

The characterization by Whitehead of the Greek view as
essentially dramatic is apt; he means that the Greeks conceived
nature as permeated by final causes, but the characterization is
even more apt for medieval cosmology. According to Aristotle a
drama, a story, has a beginning, middle and end, a temporal
element. For the Greeks this was lacking. For Aristotle,
inconsistently, the world was never created, but simply exists in
the present as it has always, and always will. For the Greeks
time is a cyclical occurrence and everything always recurs; the
world never goes anywhere, but the same things just happen over
and over again. Plato describes his Republic, and describes the
mode of its passing; there is no arrival at a final Golden Age,
but simply arrival at the apogee, the highest point, of an
eternal cycle, from which things necessarily must descend, once
more to rise, ad aeternus.

Medieval thought, from which much of our intellectual universe is
derived, represents a fusion of Greek philosophy and Hebrew
theology, from which the dramatic element of medieval thought is
likely more derived from the Hebrew than from the Greek. It
spreads the Greek teleological hierarchy out in time,
contributing the temporal element of beginning, middle and end
essential to the story. The "Good" of Plato is an atemporal
principle having no element of time, even though it has effects
in time which are recurrent, whereas Jehovah takes a hand in
history. Medievals believed that Jehovah had created the world
in 4004 BCE, a specific temporal point, after which event Eve
sinned, humans fell, and the prelapsarian perfection of the world
was corrupted. Augustine declared that history from that point
was a struggle between two cities, the City of God and the City
of Satan, the world of God and this fallen world. God sent
Christ at a specific temporal point, intervening in history out
of the fullness of His mercy to redeem the world.

Ages of conflict will come to an end with the terrible day of
reckoning when those who believed that the things of religion
were imaginary will behold with dismay the sight of the Lord
descending through the clouds of heaven, preceded by angels
sounding trumpets of alarm, all generations of the dead arising
from their graves, and judgement without appeal passed on every
human, to the edification of the universal company and that
human's unspeakable joy or confusion. The wicked will pass to
eternal torment, the righteous to eternal bliss, and history will
draw to a close. This constitutes a drama, a story taking place
in time, with a beginning, middle, and end, and our modern sense
of uni-directionality of time, of progress, is much beholden to
it. There is recurrent contemporary consideration of what, if
any, meaning there is to life, and there definitely has arisen no
consensual conclusive answer to this eternal conundrum. It is
possible that those considering this conundrum earnestly desire
that life resemble a story, to have to have an ending satisfying
specific aesthetic criteria; the differentia between a series of
events telling a story and a series of events with no pattern is
aesthetic. Whitehead ends Chapter One of SCIENCE AND THE MODERN
WORLD discussing aesthetic standing before the universe (i.e., in
the future) as a living ideal, "moulding the general flux in its
broken progress toward finer, subtler issues." Community
valuation of the aesthetic side of experience (i.e., art, and the
beautiful) apparently has become degraded as materialism has
devoured other contemporary values.

One can detect very good historical reasons for this phenomenon,
but it seems important to point out that the position of many
that art is something unimportant is intolerable, and markedly
stupid, and the human believing this has failed in that
elementary labor of self-examination demanded claiming, not
simply to be existing, but to be alive, and rational. Medieval
thought ideally was a great religious synthesis, combining all
elements of human life and experience into one harmonious God-
centered whole, however unsatisfactory realization proved to be
in practice. This synthesis encompassed art, history, science,
and philosophy, and theologized and oriented all disciplines
toward the over-riding problem of salvation. The way in which
medieval physical science supports medieval theology is worth
considering. This world, though fallen, bears the imprint of the
creative hand of God, and all nature is ordained teleologically
(i.e., through final causes) to serve as the arena for the upward
struggle of humans toward heavenly bliss. The final cause of
vegetable life is to sustenance for animals, animals for humans,
and humans ordained for the everlasting enjoyment of the divine

The function of God in the medieval scheme of things is to start
and end history, direct history throughout, and serve as the
final cause for earthly being, as end and goal of all His
creation. Given the fundamental teleological orientation of the
medieval scientist, God serves as the ultimate principle of
explanation. God has a job to do, and He does it. As our
consideration moves on toward the modern world it will become
apparent how the process of secularization causes God to lose His
job. The "Medieval Synthesis", permeated by religion, continued
to influence and shape social, economic, and political medieval
life. The collapse of public order at the beginning of the Dark
Ages essentially involved a reversion to what amounted to late
Bronze Age conditions.

We find, in a history of Merovingian France, that:

When it is compared to the Roman Empire it replaced, the
Merovingian period appears as an eclipse of
civilization. The old organized, centralized,
bureaucratic government, with its hierarchy of
officials, its penetrating control, its city-councils,
gave way to turbulent Counts and Nobles and endemic
disorder. Its civilized law, its security, its public
works, and its intercommunication alike failed, while
its heavy taxation dwindled to mere unrequited
exactions. Public buildings fell into ruin; town
population decreased still more (than it had in the late
Roman Empire, whose fall in part was consequent on a
severe manpower shortage, because for some reason people
just ceased to reproduce), leaving vacant spaces within
the walls, as trade withered away . . . Literacy almost
vanished outside the Church. . . 'The world is growing
old,' wrote some author of the time a little later, 'the
keenness of intelligence is becoming blunted in us.'

Towns and trade disappeared leaving a primitive agricultural
society built around the developing feudal and manorial systems.
Since a civilization primarily is a set of habitual behaviors
buttressing, and buttressed by, a theoretical superstructure, the
reconstitution of a civilization necessitates a process of
developing institutions (i.e., values, norms, culture). Humans
are rational beings only imperfectly, partially, and
occasionally. All but a miniscule proportion of our actions are
performed habitually, reflexively without thought.

Ideas are not ephemeral and lacking in substance, to be
manipulated and chosen with ease, and then discarded, but rather
are extremely difficult to conceive, and even more difficult to
embody in institutions and collective habits. Inadequacy of
human conceptions, of abstractions structuring their environment,
restrict human attitudes and actions, binds and limits them, and
makes their life difficult, where it might have been comfortable
and pleasant. The obstacles and limitations imposed by physical
nature appear almost inconsequential by comparison. Nothing
isolated the medievals from the ease, comfort, and security of
Roman life except a few ideas which, assimilated by human minds
as habits, would have conduced to such ease and comfort. The
Roman law upon which Roman civil society was founded was the most
important of these. These ideas were not remembered in the Dark
Ages and nearly a millennium passes before these ideas arose
again in human consciousness, moving humans to resume a life
style comparable to that of Rome.

The Church was the principal, though not sole, agency in
developing civilization and its intellectual apologetic. The
ideas developed by the church regarding the respect owed by
humans to one another and their environment are conditioned and
influenced by the environment in which they were conceived, the
milieux of manorial and feudal systems. The manorial system was
the form of community agricultural organization serving as
medieval society's material foundation. There apparently were
three basic occupations during the early Middle Ages, those being
fighting, farming, and praying; mendicancy seems to have been a
quasi-holy occupation. Villeins and serfs, living in tiny
villages or on manorial lands, each cultivated strips of land in
the common village fields and set their beasts out in the common
village pasture. The status of serfs varied markedly from region
to region, even though bound to the land, but was generally
superior to the villein who, like a slave, belonged to the Lord
of the Manor.

The serf owed the Lord numerous onerous obligations, in return
for which he was supposed to enjoy enough of the benefits of his
labor to keep himself and his family alive, and to be secure from
invasion or plunder. Land and wealth are synonymous in an
agricultural society, and all land was owned, ultimately, by the
King. The King granted the land in "fief, in exchange for
military service and economic considerations, to lesser nobles
(i.e., his vassals) who, in turn, bestowed the land thus
enfoeffed to even lesser nobles in exchange for like obligations,
until the land was granted ultimately as a manor to one who
served directly as manorial lord. This combination of systems of
government and land tenure, with its structure of mutual rights
and obligations, we call the feudal system. Theoretically, the
aristocracy constituted both the managerial and military class.
This managerial function which structured the bread-and-butter
social activities was theoretically subordinate to the
governmental function of the Church, but the function of the
Church was so to guide humans through this vale of woe as
suitably to prepare them for the life hereafter.

The overall direction of the society was in the hands of the
Church, with the Church deputizing secular rulers for most non-
spiritual activities. The Pope was the supreme ruler of the
hierarchically organized Church, and theoretically was, under the
guidance of God Almighty, the absolute ruler of Christendom. In
800 CE Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire, instituted as a
revival of the ancient Roman Empire. This Holy Roman Empire was
refounded in 962 EC by Otto the Great and endured (even though,
as was pointed out by Voltaire, it was neither holy, nor Roman,
nor an empire) until the Battle of Jena in 1806 CE, when it was
overthrown by Napoleon. Pope and Emperor contested their rival
claims to be temporal ruler of Christendom for three centuries,
until both claims were emasculated by the waxing power of
national monarchs. In 1302 CE the beleaguered Pope Boniface VIII
promulgated the Bull "Unam Sanctum Ecclesiam" (i.e., "One Holy
Church"), very late in the contest, which is the most lucid and
definitive claim for papal supremacy, and for the necessity of a
single, world-wide society organized by, and subordinate to, the

Boniface's theorizing was belated, because by that time the power
of the papacy was waning, and Boniface died of shame and chagrin
after being captured by Philip the Fair of France at Anagni.
However imperfectly theories regarding human conduct and social
organization may be realized, their importance lies in the fact
that they serve as a lure and guide for human activity as a final
cause, giving their lives import and direction. Humans have
sinned always, but the codes against which they have sinned, and
the ideals violated, have in the extended saga of history
undergone radical changes. A theory or ideal retains its
importance even when humans never behaved in accordance with it,
so long as it was thought that they ought to. Furthermore, ideals
and theories effectively operate below the conscious level of
human minds before rising to the conscious level of influence so,
frequently, as in the case of medieval political theory, only
late in the game did they realize what their ideals truly were,
and what they were doing. This demonstrates imperatively that we
may have real objectives and ideals molding our behavior and
directing our activities, and have never acknowledged the
difference between them and the ideals and objectives we
acknowledge consciously.

It is vital that we examine ourselves to determine what we truly
want, our ideals regarding how the world truly ought to be, and
avoid pursuing false goals and expending our energies recklessly;
to this end we study ethics. Tawney (RELIGION AND THE RISE OF
CAPITALISM) illustrates the type of career an ideal has in
history, being unconsciously followed prior to its conscious
acknowledgment. Medieval social thought was directed toward an
agricultural society with a sacramental purpose. Tawney asserts
that society was interpreted as held together by a system of
mutual, though varying, obligations. Social well-being existed
in-so-far as each class performed its functions and enjoyed the
rights appertaining thereto, the analogy of society being an
organism (cf. Toennies "gemeinschaft"), a mutually interrelated
system where the welfare of each part is dependent upon the
welfare of the whole. The correspondence to the REPUBLIC of
Plato is impressive, the clergy being the philosopher-kings, the
nobility the guardians, and the serfs the artisans.

There is the same Platonic organic conception of society,
involving the same three-fold class division, structured upon the
ideal that justice consists in each element performing its proper
function. The principal differentia lay in the fact that the
Republic is not a single community for the medievals, but is as
large as Christendom, for Plato preceded the empire of Alexander
while the medievals could recall the unity of the Roman Empire,
and Christian elements are fused in the Platonic religion in the
minds of the medievals. There are two forms of metaphysics:
That of Parmenides which asserts that a thing either is real or
unreal, either real or nothing, and that conveyed by the Eleatic
Stranger to the Younger Socrates asserting the possibility of
admitting degrees of reality, admitting one thing can be less
real than another without being nothing, without being absolutely
unreal. Plato lurks in the shadows whenever the conception of
degrees of reality appears. The hallmark of Platonism is that in
all its variants is incorporated the concept that one thing can
be less real than another without being nothing, the idea of
degrees of reality. When Boniface VIII avers: "The way of
religion is to lead things which are lower to the things which
are higher through the things which are intermediate," the
accuracy of the expression may be Aristotelian, but the thought
is Platonic.

Tawney points out that though for the medievals all human
activities are sanctified, some activities are more sanctified
than others. The closer a thing is to God, the holier it is; the
saint is holier than the warrior, the warrior than the serf;
nonetheless the serf has his own due degree of holiness and
possibly can find his seat in Paradise, after perhaps a short
wait of preparation in the "anteroom", in Purgatory. This
organic ideal concept of society requires that each human must
strive for perfection in his place, the serf to be the
personification of peasant industry and frugality, the knight of
martial vigor and Christian gallantry, the monk or priest of
devoutness and piety. Chaucer's Knight (203), Parson (217) and
Plowman (219) are reassonable representatives of these ideals.
The attitude of such a society toward wealth will be precisely
that of Plato, that wealth is not good in itself, but humans
should possess just enough of it to keep one in one's station,
one's place, to enable one to perform the functions proper to
one. Cupidity was no more rare then than in the present, but
Tawney emphasizes that it was not blessed then.

In what was considered to be a declining society where land and
wealth were synonymous and where clergy and aristocracy
necessarily must live off the surplus of peasant agriculture, the
conception is implicit that there only is so much to divide, and
to increase one's share necessarily is to diminish the share of
someone else. Humans should keep their place, seeking to perform
their function to the best of their ability, while paying mind to
their contribution to the social organism rather than to personal
aggrandizement. Wealth and power always are almost
synonymous,and when humans strive for wealth virtually always
their unacknowledged real aim is power, even though the power
structure of a hierarchical society is, in some sense, ordained
to be both sacred and static. For the betterment of human souls
God has ordained that the Pope shall be their ruler, and, ranking
below him, his deputies, secular and clerical, each in their due
degree down to the lesser aristocracy, the manorial lords. The
attempt to accumulate great wealth beyond the needs of one's
station is to attempt to gain by one's own efforts power which
God has not chosen to bestow, and so to sin against the Almighty
Himself. The history of the early modern period is to a great
degree the amelioration of a disequilibrium, an inequity, between
economic wealth and political power (i.e., dismantling the "caste

Money, capital, and economic power accrues hugely to the middle
class while political power remains in the hand of the feudal
aristocracy. The power shifts in this period, slowly on occasion
through through the growth of parliamentary, bureaucratic, and
monarchical institutions, and rapidly on occasion through
revolutions, so as to correct this disequilibrium. There are
three modes of change progressing simultaneously. Economically
there is a tremendous increase in wealth in European society,
concentrating in the hands of the middle class, of commercial and
industrial entrepreneurs. Political power shifts from the Church
and feudal nobility into the hands of the rising middle class and
national monarchs, mutually supportive of each other. There is an
ideological shift, a change in the ideals of society, which will
be very difficult to characterize.

It is imperative to grasp that the medieval synthesis, linch-pin
of medieval society, was disrupted. Tawney declares that there
were two fundamental assumptions with regard to wealth. First,
that economic interests are subordinate to the real business of
life, salvation. Second, that economic conduct is one aspect of
personal conduct, upon which, as on all other aspects of personal
conduct, the rules of morality are binding. Humans whose primary
concern is for riches sin primarily in that their concern is
mis-directed. They are pointed in the wrong direction, because
they are operating from the wrong final cause.


Every historical period is a period of change and transition, but
for the historian of ideas there are certain periods when changes
are simultaneously more rapid and more fundamental than prior to
that time, and the sixteenth century is one of those periods (cf.
Whitehead, SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD, Chapter I). There are
certain discernable patterns in the ebb and flow of human ideas.
One can assert that there is a particular grand conception of the
nature of human life and society and its place in the universe
which can be denominated the "Medieval Synthesis". It began in
the fifth century CE when Augustine fused together Greek
philosophy and the Christian religion. Through the long
colonizing period of the early Middle Ages it builds to an apogee
of clarity and influence in the high Middle Ages (c.1300 CE)
immediately following its most definitive statement by Thomas
Aquinas. The Medieval Synthesis disintegrates approximately at
the end of the sixteenth century CE, so that prior to the
sixteenth century the world was medieval more than modern, and
after the sixteenth century the world was modern more than

Virtually every ideological feature characterizing the modern
period can be found in thinkers living prior to 1500 CE, and
certainly it is not difficult to discover men with medieval minds
living after 1600 CE. Both are in the minority because the key
concepts, the fundamental abstractions have changed.
Fundamentally, the world grew too large for that key set of ideas
denominated the Medieval Synthesis, so that the ideological
schema which had been structural to the Middle Ages, a conceptual
corset, had to be discarded because it no longer could confine.
Platonic and Aristotelian political theory had suffered the same
fate because it was adapted to a society of a certain type and
size (i.e., the POLIS), the small, homogeneous city-state. Even
in the life of Plato the the Greek city-states were bursting at
the seams. When Philip of Macedonia conquered Greece c.338 CE,
then his son Alexander subsequently conquered the known world,
and then the energetic Romans succeeded Alexander, political
theory founded upon the conception of the small city-state
becomes obsolete, resulting in a shift from the narrow
nationalism of Platonic and Aristotelian thought to the
cosmopolitanism of late Stoic thought. In the sixteenth century
transition from the medieval to the modern period, one perceives
the like phemenon of a set of ideas becoming outgrown, except one
perceives a reverse shift from cosmopolitanism to nationalism.
It is not just medieval political conceptions outgrown, but the
whole medieval synthesis, encompassing the political, economic,
philosophical, artistic, and religious.

Tawney provides a case history of medieval economic thought
conceptually bloated to the point of rupture in the attempt to
incorporate alien new elements, as well as older elements on a
stressful new scale. Historians acknowledge that it is difficult
and perilous to assert that one event caused another, especially
events of great magnitude such as the Discoveries, or the rise of
towns and trade. Precision often is impossible when declaring
what came first to cause what followed. It has to be recognized
that a large number of changes are occurring simultaneousy,
reciprocally influencing all other changes, and creating new
changes. Newtonian cosmology is succeeded by organic cosmology,
traditional science by modern science, and reductionism a la
SYMPOSIUM and THEAETETUS by systematic conception a la
Heisenberg. The analytic milieu of medievalism is succeeded by
the modern synthetic milieu.

The early Middle Ages here have been characterized as a
colonizing period, a period ending when the colonial area is
colonized and settled. During the Middle Ages Roman Christian
civilization almost is eradicated in the West by the barbarian
conquests, but gradually regains vigor and influence while
converting the barbarian invaders, and slowly expanding its
influence from France and Italy through Germany and further east
through Poland and the Danube Valley, and north into Scandinavia.
This "colonization" spread both intensively and extensively,
encroaching upon more territory, which it then administers with
more efficient political forms as it it integrates new migrant
populations. Forests are levelled and waste places settled as
the population increases, and networks of culture and political
obligations binding humans into a group become better recognized
as they are more lucidly formulated, and more firmly established.
In the process of settlement and conversion of Europe the Roman
Catholic civilization is transmuted into what we have denominated
as the "Medieval Synthesis". The extended colonizing career of
the civilizing impulse bore three apparent hallmarks.

The first hallmark was an extreme emphasis on otherworldliness;
if life in the Dark Ages was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and
short", to use the styling of Hobbes' "state of nature", the
Church offered at least a paradise in the after-life to come,
made important by the consensual conviction that this world was
declining rather than progressing. The misery and meanness of
this earthly exiistence intensified the conclusion that heaven
was the only proper goal for mankind. This ideology is Eastern
as well as Medieval, and provides some insight into why Lenin-
Marxism was successful in societies which were "tribal" in
nature, and failed in societies where the individual was valued.
Max Weber gets at this in his concept of "verstehen", that
meaning is the causal element of behavior. The second hallmark
was an accentuation of the unity and synthetic quality of the
civilizing impulse. There was tremendous synthetic power in the
Medieval Synthesis; it gathered in all the elements of human life
and transformed them into so many instruments of salvation.

As the Church began its colonizing career it was confronted with
a fairly simple society, tiny isolated agricultural settlements
lacking the complicated appurtenances of civilized life, but
lacking as well those distractions and attractions which can
divert the attention of humans away from religion. To convert
such societies to the true religion was the single conservative
purpose of the colonizing impulse. It must be understood that
the true religion faced vigorous rivals in both the pagan
religions of the barbarians and in the multitude of variants of
Catholic Christianity which flourished on occasion. The history
of the early Church and the medieval Church is replete with
repeated battles against heresy (i.e., theological ideologies of
defeated parties), as well as with numerous tedious complicated
theological controversies (e.g., the Trinity, the Filioque
Clause). There are, for example, no Churches of St. Arius in the
Roman Catholic tradition. That such a doctrine such as "The
Trinity", prima facie preposterous and unlikely, should achieve
consensual acceptance was not accidental; Unity was an
achievement, a guerdon to be won, and when won to be preserved
and cherished.

The long career of the Church as the agent of civilization left
it entangled inextricably in affairs of this world. This
entanglement was not unidirectional; the function of the Church
was to lift up this world, but it certainly was arguable that the
entanglement seized upon the Church in such a way as to drag it
down. The Church became the largest vested interest in Europe,
the largest landholder, the best developed and most widespread
bureaucracy, and held the greatest capital accumulation. The
political history of the early modern period was inextricably
intertwined with governmental finance; the money necessary to
operate a government has to come from some source, and must be
exacted in some predictable fashion. This problem continually
plagued the highest levels of the feudal hierarchy because Crown
and Papal Estates never produced the revenues necessary to
finance the ever-increasing activities of government due to
limitation of customary feudal exactions by traditional
restrictions. The desperate need for finances by rising national
monarchies led them to initiate those gatherings of principal
citizens which developed into our modern parliaments and
legislative assemblies.

The Papacy, the largest govenmental entity in Europe, had an
insatiable appetite for revenue which forced it in consequence to
employ questionable practices in raising funds. Roland Bainton
in HERE I STAND details the contest between John vanEyck and
Martin Luther over sale of indulgences (i.e., buying forgiveness
from the Church before one commits the sin) and relics by the
Church. In THE CANTERBURY TALES Chaucer describes the Pardoner,
the enterprising small businessman whose function was to retail
Papal Pardons, relics of saints, and such. In the Middle Ages
this sordid side of religion was a common practice, necessitated
by the huge size of the Church consequent upon the undeniable
success of the Church. The Church grew with the society, and
society more or less exploded. As extensive and intensive
settlement increased bringing with it the development of public
order, an increasing surplus emerged out of the social stability
to bring the growth of towns and trade satisfying the eternal
human craving for luxury.

The steady increase in population which has continued almost
unbrokenly, and lately at a functional rate of increase to the
present, has been a fundamental fact of modern life. Towns and
trade always were an alien influence in the medieval systhesis
because never had they been present in the primitive agricultural
economy in which the Church had developed. Out of these alien
conditions grew a new class of people, the bourgeois middle class
to which most Americans of the new twenty-first century belong.
Bourgeois morality, adapted to the commercial and industrial
activities through which their livlihood was gained, were ill-
adapted for spiritual transformation by the Church. The
catalogue of these circumstances by Tawney truly is impressive.
To a certain limited extent the Church harnessed and
spiritualized merchant and tradesman activities up to the
sixteenth century using as tools the doctrines of usury and "just
price", the doctrine of "just price" being a straight-forward
attempt to stabilize the commercial status quo.

The stringent enforcement of the doctrine of usury was common to
all three religious traditions followed by descendents of
Abraham, Islam, Judiasm, and Christianity. The doctrine forbade
selling anything for more than the seller paid for it - profit
was forbidden, and forbade the charging of any interest upon any
money lent under any circumstances. It was in the "intellectual
crucible" created in Spain by the simultaneous presence of
Muslim, Jewish, and Christian universities that these doctrines
were most seriously weakened. By the introduction of the Indo-
Chinese decimal system of intergers, and the concept of "Zero"
both scientific research and commercial credit/debit accounting
became possible. All modern commercial and industrial societies
survive on credit, which necessarily involves interest. We have
inherited currency (i.e., the symbol of expenditure of human
vitality and part of a human life), credit, debit/credit financ-
ing, and banking from these changing social conditions.

Influence of Medieval Synthesis on the West:

Rewrite and Expansion of Class Notes
of Prof. Dwight W. van de Vate
Dept of Philosophy, 1956
University of Mississippi

Emory L.Warrick



Section 2

That money breeds money, and that money ought to breed more money
without limit, were the two most fundamental propositions of
finance, and against both of these theses the Church resolutely
resisted. The sixteenth century Commercial revolution probably
had more influence on modern societies than the more recognized
nineteenth century Industrial Revolution. With the Commercial
Revolution one gets a monumental increase in volume and pace of
commercial activity, enhanced by the Discoveries of the New
World, new trade routes to India, and introduction of some 500
tons of precious metals into an economy with an annual per capita
income of five dollars a year. Population pressure resulting
from a functional increase in population had, apparently, an even
more stimulative influence, effecting numerous and far reaching
social changes. The demise of the manorial system was inherent
in the rise of a money economy, enabling serfs to buy their
freedom or substitute monetary recompense for labor services, or
transform payment in goods to monetary payment. Inflation was
consequent upon increased volume of trade and increased supply of
money in circulation.

Inflation is a potent facilitator of social disorganization,
favoring those whose income fluctuates with the market, and not
tied absolutely to income in the form of such things as fixed
customary feudal dues. Between 1500 and 1650 the stock of
precious metals in Europe tripled, with a corresponding rise in
prices, and a somewhat smaller increase in wages. The "price
revolution" therefore favored the trading middle classes with
variable incomes to the detriment of feudal nobility with fixed
incomes, with a consequent steady increase in the economic power
of the middle classes. Since trade is a concentrating,
centralizing element, the middle classes favored national
monarchs as opposed to the feudal nobility. The maintenance of
public order was dependent upon these national monarchs, for they
enforced justice, suppressed piracy, and created infrastructure
necessary to successful commerce. Feudalism essentially was
particularistic, having a distinct tendency to disintegrate into
continual contention among knights and nobility more concerned
with personal honor than with public peace.

To understand the structure of modern history one must grasp the
importance of the phenomenon of SECULARIZATION which is the
process of shifting from a SACRED society, a society based upon
religious beliefs and orientation, to a SECULAR society which is
a society based upon rationality in which religion has become
nearly meaningless as an influence. A vital component of this
shift is the diminishing of the power of AWE (OXFORD UNIVERSAL
DICTIONARY defines AWE as a subjective emotion resultant from
experience of mysterious sacredness). Religion distrusted science
because as more phenomena were explained, the less "awe" was
available to religion to use as a social control. An instance of
this process in its beginning stages was the alliance between the
middle class and national monarchs which issued ultimately in the
enlightened despotisms of Tudor England and seventeenth century
France. The Papacy showed an increasing political tendency in
the High Middle ages not to restrict itself to the function of
being Christendom's spiritual overlord, but to become another
temporal government along with all the others; this temporal role
was disasterous. Since the control exercised by the Church had
diminished, when national monarchies begin to feel themselves
well established enough to perform adequately the functions of
governmental administration, the Papal establishments as the
richest holders of lands and capital in the West, appeared to
them a wonderful opportunity for plunder.

The seizure of Church lands and properties in England by Henry
VIII is only the most widely recognized example. In England, the
Netherlands, Germany, and Scandinavia, Protestantism becomes the
official state religion , no longer recognizing Papal authority.
Especially in Spain and France, as well as elsewhere, the Pope
loses authority as the Papacy becomes dependent upon national
monarchs for protection and support. The Renaissance, the
Enlightenment following the millennium of the Dark Ages, looked
both forward and backward. It was an embodiment of the
rediscovery by Europe of its classical heritage, the revival of
ancient letters and learning. It was fostered monumentally by the
introduction of aristotelian thought through Muslim Universities
in Spain resulting from Muslim discovery of the Aristotle Corpus
in a monastery in Alexandria, Egypt.

This renewed interest in classical antiquity was accompanied by a
recognition of the merit of national languages, enabling humans
to write in French, Italian, and English those things they think
important to communicate. A hallmark of tribal, catholic social
organization is the "instrumental" valuation of humans (i.e.,
individuals are important only a means to a social end, not as
ends in themselves), while the hallmark of secular, protestant,
democratic social orgianzation is "intrinsic" valuation of humans
(i.e., valuable as ends in-and-of-themselves, not as means to
another end). This outburst of personal written expression,
reminiscent of liberties of pagans, exhibited a primary interest
in humans as natural beings, as themselves, rather than as
spiritual beings who were potential inhabitants of Paradise; this
phenomenon adumbrated HUMANISM. The Renaissance begins in Italy
in the fourteenth century (Petrarch and Chaucer are
contemporaries) and spreads to the lowlands and France early in
the sixteenth century, reaching England late in the sixteenth
century. Karl Marx was known as the "last of the Scholastics"
(Tawney, p.36) which would indicate that the Dark Ages ended, and
the Renaissance reached Germany in the eighteenth century. By
the time the Renaissance reached Italy the Church officially was
Aristotelian, provoking rebellious humanists to revive Plato and
establish a Platonic Academy at Florence, and in other places.

The Platonic revival and renewed interest in nature qua nature
paralleling interest in humans qua humans (i.e., Platonism and
Naturalism), are the chief contributions of the Renaissance to
the rise of modern science. The Reformation had been principally
a rearward-looking phenomenon. Calvin and Luther intended, not
to preach a new gospel, but rather to preach the old gospel
purged of the abuses and errors with which it had been encumbered
by the medieval Church. Since it was not modern, but medieval in
spirit, it legitimately can be argued that the peasant mystic
Luther was more medieval than the Middle Ages. The medievalism
of Luther tended to be a factor in reversing the process of
secularization. The Reformation and the Roman Catholic Counter-
Reformation as the Roman Catholic reaction to the protestant
Reformation, combined to encourage humans to give religion
immediacy and influence in human lives which never, or rarely,
had been present prior to that time.

More specifically, politics came to have a religious, crusading
spirit never before evident. This crusading spirit culminated in
a century of laying waste to large sections of Europe, especially
Germany, through religious wars of unparalleled ferocity. Not
until the nineteenth century did Germany recover. The total-war
experience culminating with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia created
a human disgust with religious enthusiasism from which most of
the world has never recovered. Religion no longer was a primary
factor in politics after the Thirty Years' War. The experiment
of the Reformation in taking religion so seriously helped develop
the modern concept of toleration and foreclosed the possibility
of that experiment being repeated, until the twentieth century.

Tawney traces the shifting status of religion in human lives in
the sixteenth century in a masterful fashion, a shift:

Between the conception of society as a community of
unequal classes with varying classes organized for a
common end, and that which regards it as a mechanism
adjusting itself through the play of economic motives to
the supply of economic needs.

It is a shift between the conception that:

the felicity of man consists in the discharge of
obligations imposed by God, (and the conception) that
the end of activity is the satisfaction of desires.
(Tawney, p.189)

Toennies refers to the "community of unequal classes" by the term
"gemeinschaft" and that "community as economic mechanism" as
"gesellschaft. The shift is between the conception of property
as a gift given in trust to be employed to the advantage of the
community, and the conception of property as something of right
to be employed for the personal advantage of the "owner". It is
a shift from a philosophy of humans and society regarding
religion as a factor permeating and animating both, leading from
the things lower to things higher through things intermediate,
economic desires to spiritual benefit through community service,
to the philosophy regarding religion as something to be kept over
to the side and not allowed to interfere with business.
Fragmentation was concomitant with secularization as the strains
of art, science, philosophy, and religion woven together into the
Medieval Synthesis are rent apart to be led in various different
directions. Religion passes from being the ideological glue
holding the human intellect together to become a single factor
among many in uneasy juxtaposition, and hypostatization of
partial aspects of humans considered to stand for humans in their
fullness, which Whitehead defines as "misplaced concreteness".


Early medieval philosophers had no access either to the Corpus of
Plato or to the Corpus of Aristotle. Only the two minor logical
writings of Aristotle, CATEGORIES and ON INTERPRETATION were
available to them, and only part of Plato's TIMAEUS. Through the
works of Augustine, Boethius, and Porphyry the influence of Plato
was tremendously important, even at second hand. The ancient
writings themselves had been preserved and commented upon by an
extended coterie of Jewish and Arabic philosophers until c. 1200
CE they became available to Western Christendom. The SUMMA
THEOLOGIA and others of the works of Acquinas (1225-74 CE) were
based upon Latin translations of the Corpus of Aristotle by his
Dominican Brother, William of Moerbeke (1215-86 CE). The Church
fairly rapidly accepted as official the Aristotelian Thomistic
philosophy even though it was not until 1879 that such acceptance
was acknowledged as official.

This brought to an end the prior Platonic tradition, even though
there are markedly Platonic elements in Acquinas' theology.
Before the Aristotelian Corpus gained acceptance there was
virtually nothing which could claim to be "natural science", but
after such acceptance the cosmology and physics of Aristotle
become official teachings of the Church with regard to those
phenomena. As the economic disintegration of the Medieval world
is known as the "Commercial Revolution", so the disintegration of
the bases of , and rejection of, medieval physical science is
known as the "Copernican Revolution" in honor of Nicholas
Copernicus (1473-1543 CE) whose discoveries disproved the
assumptions of Ptolemic astronomical theory, and forced a
recasting of astronomical theory, such recasting shattering
deeply ingrained philosophical and theological beliefs based on
the erroneous assumptions of Ptolemy. To understand the
"Copernican Revolution" it is vital that one first must
understand medieval Aristotelian natural science. Aristotle
attempted rationally to systematize and organize common sense,
attempting to make coherent the ordinary, everyday facts
available to all humans through the untutored use of one's
senses. Knowledge was principally, for Aristotle, that which
dispels wonder, the human urge to understand why things are as
they are.

The result is that humans became scientists, and as they gained
knowledge the wonder dissipated for they then knew. Science
purposed to create explanation and understanding for these Aris-
totelians, not to reveal new facts nor to change perceived facts,
but rather to order facts already at our command. As Greeks, to
put the world in order reasonably the order must be in terms of
final cause, teleologically. Plato principally was a mathemati-
cian for whom science was essentially mathematical. Aristotle
tended strongly to biology, and for him science was classificato-
ry as contemporary biology principally remains. Aristotle had
invented the powerful new intellectual tool of LOGIC, and his
natural science represented an attempt to bring his new tool to
bear on the facts of the natural world.

Logic best is adapted to catagorizing and classifying what is
experienced, and Aristotelian natural science was qualitative and
classificatory embodying an attempt to catagorize our commonsense
observations in terms of the qualities of things with the aim of
dispelling curiosity or wonder. The comment of Whitehead
(PROCESS AND REALITY, p.13) on this approach was that most of the
major errors made by humans result from their unrestricted
application of common sense which yields "uncritiqued
assumptions". The basic fundamental differentium segregating
Aristotle and the medieval Aristotelians from contemporary
natural scientists resided in their different criteria for
distinguishing scientific knowledge. When one achieves
knowledge, how does one judge "rightness" or "wrongness" of that
knowledge; does one actually know, or merely think one knows. It
is Aristotle's intuition that one arrives at fundamental
scientific truths, from which all else can be deduced, by
induction, by generalizing from sense-experience, which analysis
reveals to be virtually indistinguishable from the RECOLLECTION
of Plato. Aristotelian induction is assumed to be fool-proof
process which will prevent the intellect from erring with regard
to anything of prime importance.

One simply accepted facts as one perceived them, and as they were
apparent and obvious to ordinary humans, and then one was to
arrange them with a teleological systematization to demonstrate
how all the parts of the world fit together with every part in
its theoretical "proper place". For Aristotle in Athens this was
an impressive achievement, but Aristotle made the error of
assuming that the facts were known, were available to common
sense. The medievals were concerned to show exactly how the
physical world is related to the thing most vital, religion. If
it is the function of physical science to systematize the facts
as known in such a way as to reveal the perfection of God, then
it is sufficient for one to take the facts as known, as
perceived. That this common sense perception of the world might
be erroneous, and that the theories constructed on the basis of
their perceptions of "fact" to account for such perceptions were
erroneous also, were irrelevant, because such facts did not
exist, never occurred to them. The modern scientist strives to
frame theories which will test perceived facts, not simply accept
them on the basis of "uncritiqued assumptions".

The modern scientist has assimilated the crucial criterion that
the test of a valid scientific theory is prediction. A valid
theory predicts the future accurately, while a false theory fails
this vital test. It is not sufficient that one accept
uncritically, as did Aristotle and the medievals, unaided sense
perception as interpreted by common sense. One must critique
common sense perceptions, and must employ carefully controlled
experiments and precise measurements to gain the gestalt of the
facts necessary for prediction. The desire of the Aristotelian
scientist uncritically to accept the results of unaided
observation so as to systematize them teleologically to dispel
awe and order the world differentiates him from the modern
scientist who desires to analyze the supposed facts of common
sense and unaided observation so as to test grasp of facts and
validity of theories by experiment by attempted prediction of the
future. This shift of emphasis from explanation and
understanding to prediction and control places at the command of
humans an agglomeration of natural world facts exceeding
immeasurably all those available prior to such a shift.

It was as if some diety has so arranged a mirror that the sun
reflected directly into the Cave illustrating how humanity had
stumbled in obscurity and error through all the history of the
world until science achieved the ability to illuminate the actual
reality of the world. Medieval ideology was so restricted as to
be unable to deal with the multitude of new discoveries and
complications that the bonds of constriction simply exploded. It
took a long time for humans fully to grasp intelligibly precisely
what the new natural science is doing. One could maintain that
until the advent of Immanual Kant in the eighteenth century that
no one grasped fully what was occurring. The rise of modern
science demonstrates the paradox that to discover the truth about
nature one must ignore the facts, relying instead upon a
mathematical idealization of the facts. Galileo (1564-1642)
asserts in 1638 that "Every body perseveres in its state of rest,
or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it be compelled
to change that state by forces impressed thereon."

This informal statement of principles later were embodied in the
First and Second Laws of motion of Newton (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 1968, v.9.,p.1088). Aristotle would assert that the
natural state of a soccer ball rolling across a level surface
would be a state of rest, and if rolling a force would be
required to keep it rolling, which is congruent with the facts of
perception. Galileo would maintain that experiment would enable
us to discover that the smoother the surface, the less force
required to maintain the motion of the ball. If one speculates
that if the surface is so smoothe as to constitute a frictionless
plane, and moving in a perfect vacuum, then no force would be
required to maintain its motion. Galileo then frames his law to
declare that uniform motion in a straight line is just as natural
as rest. The truly interesting aspect of this statement is that
it involves perfect vacuums and frictionless planes which, in
fact, do not exist. Every experienceable plane exerts friction
and no perfect laboratory produced vacuum has been created.

It is in terms of a mathematical idealization (or simplification
of experienceable nature) that this law is framed, not in terms
of raw nature experienced. Galileo states: "Suppose we were
rolling a ball down a plank, and suppose we neglect the friction
of the surface of the plank and the resistance of the air: then
the ball will keep on rolling in a straight line forever without
any further assistance from us." To neglect the friction of the
surface of the plank and the resistance of the air, conditions
always present in any experimental situation, certainly was not
an obvious solution to the problem of validity. To frame
accurate laws of motion, however, these are necessary conditions
of the experiment (i.e. "Ideally Isolated Situation"), and having
done this one then can take account of modifications in the ideal
conditions such as roughness of the plank and air resistance in
such a way as to permit accurate predictions. Galileo made
accurate predictions, not appreciated by theological authorities.
Galileo ignored the facts in lieu of dealing with mathenatical
idealization of the facts using such mathematical idealization to
return to observed facts to test theory; since his predictions
worked the theory was demonstrated to work.

Aristotle created a very powerful new intellectual tool in the
form of logic. Whitehead and Russell, in PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA
(1910, 1912, 1913), c. 1910 took a further step by establishing
that mathematics constitutes a tremendously powerful form of
logic, infinitely more powerful than the logic of Aristotle.
Humans were forced to learn how to focus this powerful tool upon
the facts of nature prior to developing significant scientific
knowledge. This process required that humans learn what must be
omitted in order to simplify nature in such a fashion as to make
it amenable to mathematical treatment. Consider how Newton's
First Law of Motion omits virtually all of what one might refer
to as "primary characteristics", only specifying that it be a
"body with mass". This law employs only mathematically
quantifiable characteristics (e.g., mass, velocity) of bodies,
creating an entirely new field of implications.

The heavens appear to be a realm of mathematical simplicity to
perceptions of the unaided eye, the fixed stars revolving in
perfect circles and planetary motions of such further complexity
that Ptolemy employed epicycles so as to give an accurate
mathematical account consistent with Ptolemaic theory. Nicholas
Copernicus (1473-1543) was a polish astronomer, astronomy being
the first genuine exact science, who employed careful
observation in the astronomical research detailed in his book DE
OF THE HEAVENLY SPHERES) which was published posthumously in
1543. Copernicus asserted:

Suppose the earth were not the center of the system of
Sun, Moon, and Planets; suppose instead that the Sun
were at the center, so that the earth goes round the
Sun, rather than the Sun around the earth (as in the
Ptolemaic system). Then it is possible to give a
mathematical account of the planetary motions using only
17 epicycles, where the Ptolemaic system requires 83.

In this amazing simplification Copernicus apparently was
influenced by the Neo-Pythegorean movement showing some vitality
about that time, he purposing to discover the hidden divine
mathematical simplicities of the heavens. The Greeks considered
mathematics to be the "music of the spheres", so the Platonic and
Pythagorean conviction that reality was basically mathematically
harmonious, symmetrical, and simple provided motivation for all
the early scientific pioneers. Except for astromers most others
harbored a blind unempirical faith in the efficacy of
mathematics. It was fortuitous for humans in the West that
nature was approached in this spirit for which there was actually
no scientific reason. Early in the sixteenth century there were
"scientific" reasons considered valid by the medievals for
retaining the Ptolemaic theory. Medievals wondered why the
atmosphere was not left behind if the earth actually moved, and
why no parallaxis was perceived in posiitions of fixed stars.

There were four vital imperatives in the theory of Copernicus
which troubled authority exceedingly. First is the fact that the
theory is valid, for relative to the fixed stars the earth
revolves around the sun, and not vice versa. Secondly, the
simplification of the Ptolemaic perception of the universe
reignited human faith in the mathematical simplicity of nature
creating the path down which scientists like Kepler and Galileo
would progress. Thirdly, it weakened Church authority by
demonstrating that the Church could err in its dogmatic
scientific doctrines, and maybe in its dogmatic theology.
Fourth, Copernican theory removed the earth from its divinely
ordained position at the center of the universe, and it was this
shattering blow to Church authority which proved the wisdom of
not publishing his book until he was dead. Closely following
upon this startling assertion by Copernicus that the earth was
not the center of the universe there were several tremendously
influential quasi-Neo-Platonistic philosophers, of whom Giordano
Bruno (1548 - 1600) is an example, accepting Copernicus and
maintaining further that the universe is infinite in extent, and
that the Church scientific dogma asserting that the universe was
spherical and finite was seriously in error.

In a sphere the center is the unique point, so for the Church the
earth was the principal character in the cosmic divine drama, but
in an infinite universe where is no center the earth is removed
from its unique position, is no longer unique, but potentially
one of many. If the assumption of the infinity of the universe
is valid this implies that there must be infinitely many worlds
including planets earth, a belief which many modern astronomers
and Copernicus held, of which it is highly probable that at least
one is inhabited like earth. This assumption of the infinity of
the universe created terrible threats to the Church's doctrines
of the drama of human's fall and redemption, and whether Christ
arose on each of those worlds and was crucified a multitude of
times. The editor of Copernicus' book prefaced the work with a
disclaimer to the effect that doctrines in the book were not to
be considered true, but rather were a convenient mathematical
fiction, which placated the Church until the time of Galileo when
it recognized the threat to its authority, put the book on the
Index as heresy, and condemned Copernical astronomy officially.
Tyco Brahe (1546-1601), the great astronomer from Denmark,
supplied a much-needed corrective to the mathematical apriorism
of Copernicus. Brahe was a skilled and patient observer who
supplied the burgeoning field of astronomy woth a tremendous
store of accurate, reliable observational data.

It is of interest that Brahe was not a Copernican and knew not of
the telescope; it was Galileo who first employed the telescope in
his observational research. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) became
associated with Brahe late in Brahe's life. The Pythagorean
faith of Kepler in the mathematical construction of nature
exceeded that of Copernicus, and he was the peer of Copernicus in
his tremendous theoretical genius. As a Copernican, Kepler
proposed to vindicate the mathematical rationality of nature
through providing a mathematical description of planetary motions
since the observations of Brahe had demonstrated that no circle
or compound of circles could provide an adequate explanation.
Kepler then proceeded to demonstrate his laws of planetary

1. The planetary orbits are ellipses with the sun in
one focus. (1609)
2. The line joining a planet to the sun sweeps out
equal areas in equal times. (1609)
3. The squares of the periods of the planets are as the
cubes of their mean distances from the sun. (1619)

Kepler approached nature with devout faith that in the secret of
planetary motion there must lie a simple mathematical key.

The availability of the tremendous agglomeration of accurate data
provided by Brahe for which account must be rendered delivered
Kepler's task from futility. Kepler and Brahe demonstrate a
classic example of the intellectual accomplishment made possible
by joining theory with experiment. About this time Galileo had
begun to employ the telescope in his observations. It was not
until 1660 that the Royal Society was founded, and not until 1666
that the Academie des Sciences came into being, so there was no
mechanism available to coordinate scientific knowledge and
efforts, leaving Kepler and Galileo to pursue their efforts
independently, ignorant of the efforts of each other. Galileo
made a number of revolutionary astronomical discoveries using the
telescope. Monumental discoveries by Galileo include revelation
that planets are finite physical bodies full of detail and
"corruption" like earth, and not simply structureless points of
light and that the sun has spots, saturn is surrounded by rings,
Jupiter by moons like a miniature Copernican solar system, and
that Venus has phases like the moon.

This revelation that the heavens were not incorruptible struck at
the validity of Aristotelianan Cosmology, and degraded even more
the Church's aura of infallibility. The Church already was on
the defensive as it attempted mount the Roman Catholic Counter-
Reformation. The Medieval Synthesis was, as its name suggests, a
complete synthesis, and discrediting of the cosmology of the
powerful theoretical structure of Thomas Acquinas impressed the
Church authorities as shaking and weakening the entire structure,
if not precipitating its collapse. For the Church this was not
simply a social theory bonding civilization together but also a
religion involving the eternal fate of the soul of humans.
Church authorities refused absolutely to look through the
telescope, nor to countenance any who did, and denied what was
obvious prima facie. Leo X forced Galileo to recant his theory,
but the historic image persists of Galileo descending the steps
of the throne of Leo X muttering under his breath "But yet it

Bruno was burned at the stake, suffering much more severe
punishment than Galileo, but striking fear into the heart of Rene
Descartes. The medieval authoritanism of the Counter-Reformation
was a gift to the rising Atlantic nations of the northwest,
accelerating the shift to them of enterprise and influence as it
suffocated scientific progress in nations such as Spain, Italy,
and Portugal where Church authority was strongest. The
discoveries in physics by Galileo, the first real physicist since
Archimedes, were far more important even than his discoveries in
astronomy, making him the founder of modern mathematical physics.
Galileo created the science of mechanics which describes the
motions and forces of physical bodies, demonstrating the
possibility of obtaining precise mathematical of nature. One
does this by obtaining mathematical idealizations of physical
occurrances and testing such mathematical idealizations by using
them to predict the future. In SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD
(p.3) Whitehead states: "It is this union of passionate interest
in the detailed facts with equal devotion to abstract
generalization which forms the novelty in our present society";
this is the indispensible foundation of successful physical

In Galileo this "passionate interest" lucidly is exhibited.
Galileo is experimenter and theoretician who employs mathematics,
the most powerful intellectual weapons he possesses. He tests
those theories by their ability acccurately to describe the
actual workings of physical nature. Galileo developed the theory
of the pendulum thereby initiating the modern treatment of
periodicity. He also developed accurate gravitational laws,
recognizing that acceleration of a body due to gravity is
independent of its mass indicating that heavy bodies fall at the
same precise speed as lighter ones; his invention of the concept
of inertia was fundamental to creation of the science of
mechanics. Where Aristotelian physics and its medieval
derivitives were qualitative and based on common sense, more
metaphysics than physics, Galileo's precise mathematical
treatment of matter and motion truly was physics.


published, followed in 1638 by TWO NEW SCIENCES by Galileo and in
The system of physics delineated in the PRINCIPIA of Newton as
that system was refined and elaborated by the successors of
Newton over the following two centuries constituted "Classical
Physics", succeeded by "Modern Physics after the work of James
Clerk-Maxwell (1863), Max Plank (1901) and Albert Einstein
(1905). The two parallel developments we have analyzed were
that of Copernican astronomy developing into Kepler's laws of
planetary motion, and Galileo's creation of the science of
mechanics, the basic branch of physics. A third development was
the rise of the new mathmatics which has no clear cut path to
trace as was the case with the two prior developments. Aristotle
basically was a mediocre mathematician, and ecclesiastical
authority did not grasp the threat to them, and the new
mathematics was not a Western European creation. It was the
Muslims in Spain who introduced the indo-chinese decimal system
of notation and integers, and introduced the concept of ZERO
through their universities to the universities of Judiasm and

The first important scholars to elaborate on this Islamic gift
were sixteenth Italians (e.g., Cardan, Ferraro, Tartaglia) who
were followed by a multitude of others including Frenchmen (e.g.,
Viete, Fermat, Descartes, Desargues) and Englishmen (e.g.,
Napier, Harriot). The development comes to full flower with the
independent discovery of the infinitesimal calculus by Leibniz
(1646-1716) in 1675, and by Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in 1666.
Galileo's mechanics resulted from the discovery of a fertile set
of abstractions, and Newton employed the new mathematics to apply
the physics of Galileo to the new astronomy of Kepler. In the
"epoch making" PRINCIPIA of Isaac Newton these three independent
streams of development are combined and woven together into a
scientific fabric which, over the next two centuries, the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the emerging community of
modern scientists were engaged in assimilating. The
"weltanshauung", the world-view, implicit in the PRINCIPIA
militated toward this continuing assimilation into the twentieth
century. Revisions of this cosmology have continued into new
Third Millennium as modern science accumulated monumental amounts
of new knowledge, as the scientific conceptions of Clerk-Maxwell
and Alfred North Whitehead are assimilated by modern scientists.

The new physics, elaborated and refined by Newton, means that
given any isolated system of bodies (i.e., any system of bodies
whose behavior is unaffected by any influence outside the system)
and given masses, speeds, positions, and velocities (i.e., speed
and direction of motion) at a given time, then the state of that
system at any time, present, past or future, can be predicted.
If one assumes a square or rectangle of some size, for example,
with perfectly elastic boundaries containing a given number of
identical ball-bearings, knowing the mass, position, speed, and
velocity of each ball-bearing, then the position and actions of
each entity could be predicted accurately for any given moment in
time. Newton developed the concept of body "mass (i.e., the
quantity of of matter contained), the weight of that body is its
"gravitational mass", and the resistance offered to acceleration
(i.e., change in velocity) is its "inertial mass".
"Gravitational mass" and "inertial mass" are identical (a mystery
finally solved by Albert Einstein) and both may be "employed" as
mass. Velocity consists of speed and direction, and the product
of "mass" and "velocity" is "momentum". The new physics asserts
that given positions and momenta of any isolated system of bodies
at any given time, it then is possible to predict positions and
momenta of each entity at any other time.

It is irrelevant what the bodies or entities are, animal,
vegetable, or mineral, for abstraction removes all irrelevant
characteristics from those entities, and knowing positions and
momenta at any time enables prediction of their positions and
momenta at all times. Prediction requires employment only of the
four basic laws of Newtonian mechanics, the three laws of motion
and the law of universal gravitation:

1. Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform
motion in a straight line, unless compelled to change
such state by forces impressed thereon.

2. The alteration of motion ever is proportional to the motive
force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right
line in which that force is impressed (i.e., force equals
mass times acceleration, where acccleration is defined as
the second differential of distance with respect to time.

3. To every action there always is opposed an equal an equal
reaction; or the mutual action of two bodies upon each other
always are equal, and directed to contrary parts.

And the law of universal gravitation:

4. Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other
particle with a force directly proportional to the masses of
the two particles and inversely proportional to the square of
of the distance between them.

Newton was able to demonstrate Kepler's laws of planetary motion
by using these four laws. Newton was able to exhibit a simple,
uniform, mathematically elegant set of laws governing the entire
panoply of mechanical phenomena, both terrestrial and celestial.
Heavenly planetary motion, tidal flow and ebb on seacoasts, and
the fall of an autumn leaf are governed by specific cases of laws
of motion and universal gravitation asserted by Newton.

Newtonian Cosmology is the first true cosmology since Plato, and
is structured by these four simple laws which constitute an
elegant set of principles encompassing the entire universe.
Newtonian Cosmology functioned adequately, and thereby fulfilled
the prime criterion, prediction. Given the momenta and positions
of any given isolated system of bodies at any given time, then
the four laws of Newton enabled one to calculate individual
positions and momenta at any other time. The PRINCIPIA was
publishen by Newton in 1687 and the spread of its popularity was
amazingly swift. In the following century the PRINCIPIA went
through eighteen editions and generated more than forty books
about it in English, seventeen in French, eleven in Latin and one
in Italian, three in German, and one in Portuguese. Voltaire

Those laws perfected by Newton, and whose scope he expanded
throughout the entire universe through the science of mechanics,
dealt with the motions and forces of masses. The implicit
conception of nature (explicated by Hobbes) in this new science
was mechanical. Newton shows that appropriate explanation for
machines (e.g., pulleys, cogs, levers, wheels, etc.) could be
applied to the entire universe so that scientific explanation
could demonstrate what bumped what, and how hard. The
theological result developing out of this mechanical
weltanshauung was DEISM. Huygens developed the pendulum clock in
1657, and in a few years spring-driven clocks had been invented.
The population of the age developed a fascination with the
mechanical clocks.

The book of nature resembles a manufacturer's manual for a very
complicated clock for the Newtonians, a causal sequence where
later occurrences are utterly dependent upon a prior series of
pushes and pulls. Nature is like a machine and the logical
development from this conception was the concept of lineal
chronological causality (i.e., univariate causality). Nature for
Greeks and medievals was a living organism in form, organized
teleologically; for the Newtonians it was a clock-work universe
motivated entirely by efficient causation. This is manifest in
the "Introduction" to the LEVIATHAN by Thomas Hobbes:

Nature, the art whereby God hath made and governs the
world, is by the art of man, as in many other things, so
in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial
animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the
beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why
may we not say, that all automata (engines that move
themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have
an artificial life? For what is the heart but a spring;
and the nerves, but so many strings, and the joints but
so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as
was intended by the artificer? (p.xxvii)

The obvious correlation is that humans are like clocks, except
they are far more complicated machines; La Mettrie hits at this
in his MAN, THE MACHINE. It was from Galileo rather than from
Newton that Hobbes (1588-1679) learned of the new physics.

The younger Hobbes was intensely influenced by Francis Bacon
(1561-1626) of whom we should take note at this point. Francis
Bacon was a politician who was made Lord Chancellor by the Stuart
James I. As the High Priest of empiricism he develops a number
of thematic concepts highly influential for later philosophy.
Bacon develops the idea that that the purpose of the new science
is to give humans power to turn nature to human ends rather than
to enhance human comprehension of nature. Paradoxically one has
to employ a simple method of unguided induction (i.e.,
phenomenology), to submit one's understanding to nature,
cataloguing facts and taking note of which events are associated,
and which events are not. It was the intuition of Bacon that
simply cataloguing and sorting out experiences (i.e., that
offensive odor warns one that oysters are deadly while limburger
cheese does not) will winnow out general laws from the data
without the guidance of antecedent hypotheses.

This approach proved to be flawed, and none of his contemporary
scientific peers shared this fascination with induction, being
under the spell of mathematics and desiring to produce deductive
natural sciences. It would be more than a half-century before
scientists grasped the importance of logical induction, but
Francis Bacon has great importance as the first chief advocate,
and first of the long tradition of British Empiricists. He was a
vigorous and widely read prophet of the new science even if his
grasp of the necessary method was flawed. Hobbes may have been
one of the worst mathematicians, but he shared the fascination
with mathematics of his era. He believed that geometry was "the
only science that it has pleased God hitherto to bestow on
mankind," and therefore philosophers ought to follow the
geometric method by beginning their works with precise
definitions of their terms and similarly precise axia (cf.
Whitehead), and proceeding therefrom to rigorously to deduce the
consequences of such axia and definitions using protocols of
geometry. Hobbes apparently considers reasoning to be a type of
ideational arithmetic in which ideas are added and subtracted,
which are important crucial conceptions for Spinoza and
Descartes, and come to flower in the adumbration by Leibniz of
modern symbolic logic dating from the later nineteenth century, a
method of "adding and subtracting" ideas.

The intellectual environment created by the emerging concepts of
science showed a pronounced shift from the "sacred" to the
"secular", and were markedly mechanistic and materialistic.
Hobbes certainly was not immune to these influences, and some of
his statements are inconsistent with his theory of reason:

The world (I mean not the earth only, that denominates
the lovers of it worldly men, but the universe that is,
the whole mass of things that are) is corporeal, that is
to say, body; and hath the dimensions of magnitude,
namely, length, breadth, and depth: also every part of
the body, is likewise body, and hath the like
dimensions; and consequently every part of the universe
is body; and that which is not body is not part of the
universe: and because the universe is all, that which
is not part of it is nothing; and consequently no where.

Writing during the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War, an
era when religion dominated politics, Hobbes writes as a
philosopher with a quintessentially political intent. The 1651
publication of the LEVIATHAN was congruent with the Cromwellian
Interregnum. In this age of savage total war the political
writings of Hobbes are enlivened by what he calls the "First Law
of Nature." This is the first of those principles obvious to a
rational human meditating on the human condition: "Seek peace,
and follow it." (p.88)

Hobbes is convinced that peace only can be made secure if the
power of the sovereign is concretely established in theory and
practice so as to secure immunity from internal disturbances and
civil war. The political theory of Hobbes, therefore, is
centered upon the concept of Absolute Monarchy. Living in an era
of religious contention, Hobbes wanted the theory of Absolute
Monarchy based upon a more stable foundation than the shifting
sands of religion, desiring instead to found it upon the new
science which he considers to be simple "Common Sense". Hobbes
considers politics simply to be applied metaphysics, so he seeks
a sensible metaphysics upon which to found the political theory
which he considers vital. All the writings of Hobbes, therefore,
appeal to Common Sense, the natural light of reason, as an
antidote to the nonsensical verbiage of Scholasticism, and the
irrelevant jargon imposed on humankind by generations of priests,
to delude humans:

What is the meaning of these words, "The first cause
does not necessarily inflow anything into the second, by
force of the essential subordination of the second
causes, by which it may help it to work?" They are a
translation of the title of the Sixth Chapter of Suarez'
When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not
mad, or intend to make others so? (p.52)

If flawed metaphysics, and even more erroneous political theory
based upon it, can be purged from human minds, and humans focus
upon the sober voice of common sense, abandoning their senseless
religious contentions, then peace is possible for the world once
more. The quote above regarding the whole universe being nothing
but "body" indicates that to Hobbes common sense is a thorough-
going materialism where matter exhibits the properties and
behavior required by the physics of Galileo. There are no
universals which obviates the possibility of immortal souls,
leaving as existents but matter (i.e., body) and matter possesses
only the qualities demanded by the physics of Galileo (i.e.,
shape, quantity, motion). Galileo has demonstrated this
irrefutably as regards non-human occurances. It remains only for
the metaphysician to show that which is obvious to unprejudiced,
sensible minds (i.e., Hobbes), that humans are no exception and
they too are simply so much matter in motion as is everything
else in the universe. Hobbes then develops an elegantly simple
epistemology asserting that outside the human mind there is
nothing but matter in motion.

When an external object impacts one of the sense organs it creats
vibration in the nerves, which vibration is transmitted to the
brain creating a counter-pressure experienced by humans as
sensation. The actual qualities perceived (e.g., warmth, sound,
coldness, taste, smell, softness, hardness) exist only in the
brain, and only are so many motions in the object. Galileo makes
the distinction between "primary" and "secondary" qualities,
"primary" qualities being the "real qualities" of shape,
quantity, and motion, while "secondary" qualities are those
qualities sensately perceptible and generally used to describe an
object (i.e., color, texture, etc.) which are contributed by, and
only exist in, the brain. Primary qualities truly exist in
nature and an object of knowledge really possesses them, while
secondary qualities exist only in human minds and truly cannot be
ascribed to any object in the natural world. Medieval
Aristotelians who spoke of "secondary" qualities they perceived
as being real were guilty of "insignificant speech". Humans
resist change vigorously, and human language provides the
"spectacles" through which humans perceive reality, so "secondary
qualities" still are experienced as "real".

Our experience of natural phenomena is structured, for the most
part, as univariate causation, a chronological sequence of
occurrences where A follows B follows C, and therefore A causes B
causes C. Experience is constituted by memory and imagination,
"decaying sense" (i.e., mental after-images), in quantities which
create experience. The mind vibrates accordingly and A*B*C
develop a relationship of association, what David Hume calls "the
association of ideas". On the basis of similarities of
occurrences we assign names, some particular, some universal.
There is nothing in the object to which universal names
correspond, names being simply useful "hitching-posts" for
memories of causes and effects, etc. Names can be assembled to
create affirmations, and are capable of being added and
subtracted, a process we denominate as reasoning.

External objects communicate their motions to sense organs, and
produce sensations from which we can produce all those tools of
our minds (i.e., imagination, anticipation, memory, concepts,
propositions, inference, argument). These mental phenomena are
explained as Hobbes' theory of explanation demands, as so many
motions. Mental phenomena traditionally are trifurcated into
three distinct categories, intellect, affect, and will. Having
demonstrated that intellect and affect are simply motions, it is
necessary to consider the third category, will, upon which the
political theory of Hobbes is founded. Hobbes believes that all
living things endeavor to preserve themselves, just as all bodies
persist in their endeavor to maintain their state of motion. We
desire the impetus tending to promote this vital motion because
we from it derive pleasure, while we desire to avoid that impetus
opposing such motion because it causes pain.

When the mind is presented with several alternative courses of
action consequences that are reverberations of things originally
presented follow naturally creating a situation in which desire
opposes desire, and aversion opposes aversion, resulting in
deliberation. Such an unstable state will resolve itself with
motion countervailing motion, until all this activity results in
"a vector sum" of the warring motions . This last motion, be it
appetite or aversion in deliberation, will be be the motion
determining action, and is will. It is worth noting that this
activity simply resolves itself in a purely mechanical fashion
without any action on the part of the subject, and, therefore,
Hobbes is a determinist. Hobbes maintains essentially that if we
strip away from humans all the encrusted prejudices and habits of
civilization and observe the state of humans were there no civil
society, that we can think ourselves back to the "State of
Nature" to perceive the state in which humans existed prior to
the development of civil government. The necessities driving
humans to institute governments become perceptible, and
demonstrate the path of bumps and pushes which necessitated such
creation (i.e., its efficient cause), through analysis of such
occurances humans might understand the nature of civil

Given the natural motions of humans for self-preservation, it
would appear that the state of nature resembled this:

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre,
where every man is Enemy to every man, the same is
consequent to the time, wherein men live without other
security, than what their own strength, and their own
invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition
there is no place for Industry; because the fruit
thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of
the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities
that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no
Instruments of moving, and removing, such things as
require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the
Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no
Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare,
and danger of violent death; and the life of man,
solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short. (p.84)

In order to escape this misery humans agreed together to
surrender their natural rights and liberties (so far as feasible)
to a single human or group, a sovereign. Humans do this on the
condition that the sovereign maintain the peace among them. Thus
the "social Contract" comes into being, and in it this
contractual obligation of subject to sovereign, civilization,
society, and ethics costituting the normative element in human
life originate. Hobbes envisions a race of humans endowed only
with certain simple vital motions, a mechanical functioning of
human groups with the inevitable natural consequences of mutual
collisions resulting in that complex structure called
civilization. Political theory turns out to be just a
complicated branch of mechanics.