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Science in The West During the Middle Ages

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Science may be defined the rational endeavour to explain natural world. Science definitively acquired its current characteristics since about the 17th century in Europe. Such a synthesis comes a long way from a mostly Greek database of knowledge which was then transformed through Christian West and the Islamic world, and the relations between both

Latin-Speaking Works, The Seven Liberal Arts, Plato and Augustine

The Byzantine Empire, like the Greek and Hellenistic part of the former Roman empire, kept being the place where most of the Greek science achievements had been preserved despite the loss of works due to burning of libraries like the one of Alexandria, Egypt, for cause of anti-paganism or eathquake. Until in the 7th century, Byzantium kept being the leading center of scientific scholarship in the East, using ancient knowledge to build art, architecture or technology. Byzantine scientists preserved and continued the legacy of the great Ancient Greek mathematicians as architects and mathematicians like Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles applied maths to construct the 'Agia Sophia' church in Constantinople. Europe, at the time had fell far behind, mostly due to that none of the Greeks' works managed their way as Westerners were Latin speakers and swiftly turned off from any effort to understand Greek. That early Middle Ages however had Irish and Northumbrian monasteries with the Venerable Bede, Italian Ostrogoths with Boethius and Cassadorius, and Rome-encouraged, North Africa refugee-helped Wisigothic Spain with Isidore to first preserve a part of ancient Latin-speaking works, or even Plato with simplified summaries and compilations, with works by Roman writers as Calcidius, Macrobius, Martianus Capella, Boethius, Cassiodorus, and later Latin encyclopedists, or even non-scientific sources were used too like Roman surveying manuals for geometry. Albeit some of the manuscripts altered by scratching for parchment ressource, or despite some approximate translations, the West had science based upon the seven liberal arts as conceptualized by Boethius in the 6th century. Science, particularly geometry and astronomy, from a theoretical point of view, became the understanding of nature as a coherent system functioning under divinely established laws that could be comprehended in the light of reason. To seek about geometry and astronomy was to seek and worship God who had created the Universe after geometric and harmonic principles. 'Natural philosophy' was a coherent view of the natural world as nature was considered a coherent set of phenomena. Reason was supposed to use logics, intuition and empirism to understand those through maths, pratical science domains and philosophy. More practically, science, daily, was mostly for practical uses like medicine caring of the sick, astronomy and maths serving to proper time of Christian feasts and prayer times. Knowledge also served to find answers to epidemics or loss of harvests. Little institutional support was provided for any disinterested study of natural phenomena and texts of the time are intermingling both the technical details of natural phenomena and their symbolic significance altogether. The Carolingian revitalization of schooling and scholarship as influenced by Wisigothic, British and Byzantines refugees, mostly envisioned astronomy which was also studied from a theoretical point of view. Alcuin broader wanted the revival to use the seven liberal arts to renew the knowledge of Antiquity. It is likely that the endeavour was limited by the unavailability of the Greek fundamental science but the investigation of ancient Latin-speaking scientific works paved the way for the later recovery of Greek texts in philosophy and science. Early Middle Ages however kept at the time to be infused by Platonic and Augustinian views

During the western Middle Ages, pluridisciplinary authors -which basically all are theologians- are, as far the science part of their work is concerned, theoretical thinkers. What is remaining of a physical or mathematical science independent from religion is considered by those like a terrain where thought is needed only as speculation may bypass experimentation. Science in the Middle Ages further does not disdain a certain elitism or even a hermetism as knowledge at the time, generally, despite universities, is remaining the one of a limited circle of persons. Medieval science at last, is not making use of a specific language. If a part of the Church, on the other hand, is admitting that Nature, like the Creation of God, may be the object of study, of marvel and bring to a sentiment of fear before the all-mightness and wisdom of god, a other clerical view always worried to avoid a contamination of Christian attitudes through ideas which, in fine, kept being of a Greek, thus pagan origin

Scholasticism, or The Renaissance of Aristotle

The Carolingian effort somehow was taken further through the Clunisian and Ottonian revival by 1000 A.D. Cluny favoured the renaissance of a strong state against the feodality as pilgrimage roads allowed for the circulation of knowledge which the Spanish March had allowed too, with some European scholars, like Gerbert or Gerard of Cremona journeyed into Arabic Spain and came to acquainted to Greek science, through the Arabic texts, and showing how relying upon Latin-speaking texts only produced so meager results compared to the richness of the ancient knowledge. That endeavour became amplified with the birth of first 'studia generale,' or universities in Europe, providing a new infrastructure for scientists and scholars. Holy Roman Empire rulers encouraged scholars to give lecture in other institutes. That also, on a other hand, reintroduced rethorics, dialectics and grammar in the West which allowed for more speculative attitudes. The Crusades leading to more contact with the Islamic world, since the late 11th century, the re-ignition of trade routes in Europe, a strong monasteries-induced technological renewal in agriculture and demographical development by the 12th century, seems to have determined a need for, or more, knowledge. More universities came to life as training improved. By 1200 scholars could readily find reasonably accurate Latin translations of the main works of Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, Archimedes, and Galen, as works of Islamic and Jewish philosophers like Avicenna, Averroes and Maimonides, or the main works of Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, al-Kindi, Rhazes, Alhazen, and Avempace. Plato alone had not been rediscovered then. With the apogee of the Middle Ages, with the one of scholastic under Thomas Aquinias, about 1250, that move which had progressively readmitted Aristotle in the West became officialized such a intellectual renewal however still adhered to empiricism and that secular reason and studies were to serve to support Church doctrines. That formed the base for commentaries and independent treaties in science. Even the Aristotelicain renaissance, in terms of science, always kept close to heresy by its beginnings. As studying Aristoteles had been authorized back since 1234 A.D. and as Greek works kept limited in their spread by Church, the new way of thinking began to be 'domesticated' by Albert the Great only, one of the masters of the scolasticist apogee who commented and largely spread the works of the Stagyrite. He albeit always kept his ability to criticism regarding some ideas of Aristoteles and he had also interested himself into the atomistic theory of Democritus. Albert the Great, with no doubt, was one of the first in the Middle Ages to dedicate a large part of his work to the observation of Nature or even animals. He studied the content of a chicken egg at miscellaneous steps of its development, some aspect of the fetus' nutrition or a classification of vegetals. Even St Thomas Aquinas still had troubles with the Church as he was condemned twice because of his writings. He however was canonized as soon as by 1323, or fifty years only after his death, which allowed the victory of scolasticism. Techniques of Aristoteles and of reason since allowed a interpretation of 'visible' Creation which was complementary to a faith-based study of the 'invisible' one

Science Like a Questionment of Religion

That move however also came with threats which had existed since the beginnings in terms of science, or that more science inquiry leads to a questionment of religion. Some scholars of the time, for example, laid the foundations for modern scientific reasoning. Mathematics emphasis by Grosseteste, the founder of Oxford Franciscan school, used Aristotle concept of dual path for science reasoning, like concluding from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again, calling that 'resolution and composition,' with experimentation like the verification. Like some Arabic authors, like al-Haytham, whence he took inspiration, he considered optics like the fundamental science and subordinated that one and astronomy to geometry. He even gave the first description of the principle of the astronomical telescope. His influence was very large. Beacon (1214-1294), disciple of Grossetête and as he worked from Arabs like Al Battani, also described a scientific method, as he recorded the processes he used so other could independently test them albeit his works however still remained far from a real experimental method. He, with no doubt, was the one who the most clearly questioned authority or even a ignorant public opinion like brakes to the discovery of truth. He was even imprisoned for that as a also was a astrologer and a alchemist.That trend kept into the 14th century, with William of Occam postulating a formulation of his own of the principle of parsimony, or Occam's Razor, a way of deciding between two or more undetermined theories without multiplying causal factors beyond necessary, and still used today. Some more controversial scholars still then went unto new insights and speculation like the works of the early Byzantine scholar John Philoponus, inspiring Buridan to even question Aristotle's mechanics and developing the theory of impetus, a first step towards the concept of inertia. Such a attitude led other scholars to emit the first lineaments of what was to be fully demonstrated by the Renaissance scientists of the 17th century like speed theorem, possible motion of the Earth and not the heavens. Such scholars often affronted natural philosophy, or science against religious explanations of phenomena. That trend came to a end due to the mid-14th century crisis of the European Middle Ages when Black Death and the Hundred Years War plagued the West and especially the cities which had been the center of innovations. France and then England, especially were affected as Italy, Flanders, German Rhine countries tended to escape. Varied new conditions emerged at that time too. The invention of printing in 1453. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks that same year, which brought Byzantine scholars to take refuge, with their libraries, especially in Italy. Missionary and discovery journeys to the Far East and Africa as undertaken from Italy or Portugal. That brough to a renewal of intellectualism, or the Renaissance, which mainly built upon the Greeks, both ancient and medievals. With the Arab conquest of its middle eastern dominions, Greeks had fallen behind. Mathematicians then like Michael Psellos considered mathematics as a way to interpret the world and the Greeks preserved by Byzantines served to feed classical knowledge to the Islamic world instead. Some revival occurred by the late Byzantine times, after the 12th century, when Byzantines scholars in turn translated Arab-speaking works into Greek such as Gregory Choniades in astronomy, mathematics and science with works of Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi, Ibn Yunus, al-Khazini, al-Khwarizmi, or al-Tusi among others, the latter the inventor of the Tusi-couple, a idea which could have inspired Copernicus into getting rid of the Aristotle epicycles. Byzantines also could acquire some knowledge from Sassanid or Indian sources as quoted by Arabs. Some scholars at last eventually used Arabic terms to describe some concept intead of Greek. It is such a late endeavour which was transmittend to Europe after the fall of Constantinople

What Science Had the Arabs Reached?

As far as science in the Islamic world is concerned, those swaths of lands and dominions, with Arabic like its unique language, had provided for a large craddle for the development of a unified culture as its borders and trade with India or the Far East, or the ressource found by the Persian Sassanids, allowed too to further cultural source. Islamic scholarship built on a period of 8 centuries upon texts from Greeks, as taken in Egypt and Byzantine dominions and Indians as ethics plaid a important role by the beginnings of Islamic science. They mostly used previous work in medicine, astronomy and mathematics like their base to develop more advancements or independent fields. Muslims may be considered the inventors of science experiments. That began with the 'demonstrations" of 11th-century polymath and physicist, Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen on optics circa 1021 as experiments then served to distinguish between competing scientific theories. Al-Biruni, as far as he is concerned, developed experimental method for mechanics in the 11th century too or with Al-Khazini unified statics and dynamics into mechanics, and combined hydrostatics with dynamics into hydrodynamics. Avicenna theorized the concept of inertia or the idea of momentum. 12th century Avempace developed the concept of a reaction force as Abu’l Barakat developed the concept that force applied continuously produces acceleration. Modern chemistry was invented by Islamic scholars particularly Jabir ibn Hayyan with the alembic, still, retort, or the chemical processes like distillation, filtration, crystallisation, purification, or oxidisation, etc. In terms of applied sciences, the Islamic world produced a lot of engineers, like al-Jazari as scientists in relation with that were useful to a world of trade and commerce. Significant advances were made in botany, heralding modern agronomy. Meteorology, climatology, hydrology, soil occupation, irrigation and varied agricultural techniques and processes, and the economy of agricultural enterprises also helped. In astronomy, Arabs are credited with conceptual search thought to have inspired the Copernician revolution in astronomy by the Renaissance, like a solar model by Ibn al-Shatir which eliminated epicycles in order to match observations, planetary models by Al-Battani, Averroes, and Maragha, the Tusi-couple or Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi. Earth's rotation also was a theme, with heliocentrism, to Biruni, Al-Sijzi, al-Shirazi and al-Tusi. Precession also was refined on the millenium's legacy of Babylonia and Chaldea. With algebra and algorithms, Arabs were too main contributors to mathematics, with the help of refined Indian numerals system, and the invention of trigonometry, frequency analysis, analytic geometry and a general formula for infinitesimal and integral calculus due to such scholars like Al-Khwarizmi, al-Kindi, Ibn al-Haytham or Omar Khayyam. Attemps to refutations of Euclidean geometry and the parallel postulate, or algebraic or symbolic geometry also occurred. Muslim physicians made a number of significant contributions to medicine like hospitals including psychiatric ones and medical schools. They applied quantification and mathematics to medicine and pharmacology, with Al-Kindi, experimental medicine and clinical trials with Avicenna, and worked too about experimental psychology. Numerous surgical instruments are due to the Islamic world as they knew pulmonary and the capillary and coronary circulations. Current Algeria' Ibn Khaldun was a forerunner of social sciences and history

What About the Case of Alchemy in The Middle Ages?

Alchemy had been born by the 3rd century A.D. in Egypt as it came to be used again in the medieval West since contacts were re-established with the works of the Arabs. Alchemy basically is a mysticism first because it is aiming to a parallelism between the development of experiments and the one of the experimentator's spirituality. When the 'Great Work' is attained, the alchemist has become a 'awaken man.' Such a spirit was feeded through rites and encrypted texts, or relations with such domains like esoterical architecture or astrology. Alchemists, on a other hand, surely were the first figure of modern scientists. As the techniques had come from the Arabic lands they necessarily were ones of experimentation. Through that aspect, alchemy already bore, like the Arabic science, the scientific method which was to develop since the Renaissance. To a point that Albert the Great, for example, knew how to make caustic potassium or he described that cinabrium was in fact a mercury sulfur. Potassium bicarbonate, zinc, knowledge or handling of gases, alambics, lasting distillations or cookings alreay were in use at that time. Some pratices of alchemists further even are heralding some contemporary advanced science practices like the zonal fusion (a multiplied refinement and purification), the use of polarized light (alchemists used light reflected by a mirror, or the moonlight), or catalysts. Even atomic physics, throug some aspects, is able to yield gold isotopes by bombarding some mercury with rapid neutrons. European medieval alchimist writers did not assume that matter was made of particles, and they instead adopted a idea from Islamic alchemy, which saw metals in terms of two primordial constituents: hot, dry 'sulfur' and cool, running 'mercury;' at the same time, both Islamic and Christian philosophers followed Aristotle in defining substances according to bundles of properties: hardness, yellowness and heaviness, for instance, in the case of gold. Aristotle suggested that these attributes were carried by an underlying 'prime matter' that had no form of its own and existed in a potential, indiscernible state. The representation of properties, rather than structures, thus became a major feature of European alchemical imagery. Eventually, by the 18th century A.D., proponents of the new discipline of chemistry had adopted their own forms of nomenclature and representation

Like a conclusion, one may say that modern science mostly built from the works of ancient Greeks as rediscovered through the Arabs since about 1000 A.D. in Europe. Renaissance mostly was a offshot of both the Byzantine refugees and the pursuit of a trend to think independently from the Church which had emerged since the 13th century. One of the merits of the western medieval science is that it eventually passed the Greek thinkers to the Renaissance as a mutation of the conception of knowledge however through printing, the generalization of universities or the advent of scientist-engineers like Leonardo da Vinci was what by which Renaissance accomplished a real conceptual revolution. It generalized experimentation or a mathematization of physics through quantitative tools and a scientist then, like Galileo, does not depise anymore to use a tool, like the astronomical telescope which is a production of the mechanic and technical arts! About the relationship between science and Church, the following may be stated. The claim of science is to work apart from any non-scientific presupposition. That seems basically illogical as scientist must first accept the truth, for example, of his own existence and of a world outside of himself. He should be able to deny neither that the external world is recognized only through the senses, the impressions of which are understood through reason. It looks false in that sense to state that science may work independently from any non-scientific presuppositions especially as science always has to borrow a number of established principles from philosophy or simple reason. Proponents of science mostly always held Church essentially unscientific as resting on unwarranted presuppositions, and that Christian scientists can never be true men of science. Such a conflictual approach has been pecularily true from the part of a certain kind of atheistic, theistic or anti-Christan science and philosophy, which took like its premises that science freedom can only be attained should one evict any notion of a Creator of Nature. Regarding that, Church of course easily points to that such a scientific approach needs to erect boundary stakes around what remains a assumed premise which until now never could be demonstrated on a scientific basis

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