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Christian Theology and the Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature

  • Francis Oakley (a1)


R. G. Collingwood has suggested that the basic contrast between the Greek view of nature and what he calls the Renaissance view, springs from the difference between their respective analogical approaches to nature. Whereas, he argues, the Greek view of nature as an intelligent organism was based on an analogy between the world of nature and the individual human being, the Renaissance view conceived the world analogically as a machine. Instead of being regarded as capable of ordering its own movements in a rational manner, and, it might be added, according to its immanent laws, the world, to such a view, is devoid both of intelligence and life, the movements which it exhibits are imposed from without, and “their regularity due to 'laws of nature' likewise imposed from without.” Coiling- wood concludes, therefore, that this view presupposed both the human experience of designing and constructing machines, and the Christian idea of a creative and omnipotent God.



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1. Idea of Nature (Oxford, 1945), pp. 39. As Colllngwood himself admits (p. 4), “the name is not a good one, because the word ‘Renaissance’ is applied to an earlier phase in the history of thought… The cosmology I have now to describe… might, perhaps, be more accurately called post- Renaissance.”

2. Ibid., p. 5.

3. Scrutiny of the Oxford English Dietionary s.v. Law reveals two primary current meanings for the expression natural law. It is defined, on the one hand, as that law, prescribed by no enactment or formal compact, which is implanted by nature in the human mind, or is capable of being demonstrated by reason. On the other it is defined as referring, in “the sciences of observation,” to the theoretical principles deduced from particular facts, applicable to defined groups or classes of phenomena, and expressible by the statement that particular phenoniena always occur if certain conditions are present. For purposes of clarity I propose to use the term natural law to refer to the juristic concept, and the term laws of nature to indicate the scientific usage.

4. See Discours de La Méthode, Cinquième Partie.— Oeuvres de Descartes, ed. Jules Simon (Paris, 1841), pp. 2627.

5. Westfall, Richard S., Science and Religion in Seventeenth Century England (New Haven, 1958), p. 73.

6. “The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law” The Philosophical Review, LI (1942), pp. 245–79.

7. The L. T. Hobhouse Memorial Trust Lecture No. 20, delivered on 23 May, 1950 at Bedford College, London, and published under the title: Human Law and the Laws of Nature in China and the West (London, 1951). An expanded version bearing the same title is to be found in the Journal of the History of Ideas, XII (1951), pp. 3 ff., and 194 ff., and also as Section 18 of Needham, Joseph and Ling, Wang, Science and Civilization in China, II (Cambridge, 1956), pp. 518583—to which book my references will be given.

8. “The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law,” pp. 277–279.

9. Science and Civilization, II, p. 542.

10. Ibid., p. 543.

11. Adventures of Ideas (New York, 1937), pp. 142147.

12. For an interesting attempt to apply the distinction to the juridical sphere see Ginsberg, M., “The Concept of Juridical and Scientific Law,” Palitica, IV, No. 15 (03, 1939), pp. 1 ff.

13. Adventures of Ideas, p. 142.

14. Ibid., p. 144.

15. This pantheistic Stoic view is fundamental to the statements about natural law which are to be found in the Corpus Jutis Civilis—see Inst., I, 2, 11; Dig., I, 1, §, 3; I, 1, 2.

16. Prov. viii, 19.

17. Adventures of Ideas, p. 133.

18. And in so far as it concerns man and is apprehended by his reason, the eternal law is called the natural law —Summa Theologia, Ia 2ae, qu. 94, art. 2 Resp.

19. S.T., Ia 2ae, qu. 91, art. 1 ad tertium.

20. Thus he can argue that God himself “cannot make that which is Instrinsically bad, not be bad.” For “as the essence of things… by which they exist, does not depend on anything else, so also it is with the properties which necessarily follow that essence; and such a property is the evil of certain acts, when compared with the nature of a reasonable being. And therefore God himself allows himself to be judged according to this norm.”—De Jure Bell et Pacis, Bk. I, ch. 1, §X, 5; ed. William Whewell (Cambridge, 1853), p. 12. It should be noted, however, that in his earlier De Jure Praedae, Commentarius— ed. H. G. Hamaker (The Hague, 1868)—he had taken as his point of departure the principle that the divine will is the basis of natural law (see ch. 2, pp. 7–9). This work was written in the winter of 1604–5 but rediscovered only in 1864 and first published in 1868.

21. Idea of Nature, p. 5.

22. Cf. supra, n. 4.

23. He definitely believed, as Whitehead puts it, “that the correlated modes of behaviour of the bodies forming the solar system required God for the imposition of the principles upon which all depended.”—Adventures of Ideas, p. 144. And thus, in his first letter to Bentley, Newton could write that “the motions which the planets now have, could not spring from any nalural cause alone, but were impressed by an intelligent agent.”—Opera quae exstant omnia, ed. Samuel Horsley, IV (London, 1782), p. 431.

24. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Praefatio; Opera Omnia, II, p. ix.

25. See Principia, Axiomata, Lex I; Opera Omnia, II, p. 13; Principia, Bk. 3, Schol. Gen.; Opera Omnia, III, p. 174.

26. Opera Omnia, IV, p. 263.

27. Opera Omnia, II, pp. xx and xxiii; the translation cited is that of Andrew Motte, revised by Florian Cajori (Berkeley, 1946), pp. xxvii and xxxii.

28. As the Stoics conceived of natural law as immanent in the universe the idea of command could play no part in such a conception.

29. Science and Civilization in China, II, p. 542.

30. ‘Semitic’ rather than ‘Judaic” because as Needham points out (p. 533) the idea was probably of Babylonian origin.

31. A Disquisition about the Final Causes of N˛tural Things. The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, ed. Thomas Birch, V (London, 1772), p. 401.

32. For an example see Mason, S. F., “Science and Religion in 17th Century England,” Past and Present, No. 3 (1953), esp. pp. 2830.

33. For a comparison between the views of Aquinas and those of the followers of the voluntarist tradition, and for a discussion of the importance of this tradition in the juridical sphere, see Oakley, Francis, “Medieval Theories of Natural Law: William of Ockham and the Significance of the Voluntarist Tradition,” Natural Law Forum, VI (1961), pp. 6583.

34. See Gilson, Etienne, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1955), pp. 405 ff.

35. This amounted to an abandonment of any attempt to reconcile the Greek conception of a necessarily existing universe, ruled by strict necessity, with the Biblical notion of a freely created world ruled by a free and omnipotent divine will. Arab thinkers had already faced the same problem and had adopted a comparable solution. Al Ash'ari (d. 936) and his followers vindicated the Semitic notion of God by adopting an atomistie view of the world as constituted of disjointed moments of time and points of space, connected together only by the will of God and possessing, therefore, no natural necessity. They held to this position so strictly that they were driven into a thorough-going occasionalism—see Gardet, L. and Anawati, M-M., Introduction à la théoiogie musilmane, Etudes de phil. méd., XXXVII (Paris, 1948), pp. 5266. This viewpoint was also adopted by early Jewish thinkers—see Renan, Ernest, Averroës et l'averroisme (Paris, 1861), p. 106, and Husik, Isaac, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (New York, 1958), p. xli.

36. S.T., Ia 2ae, qu. 93, art. 1 Resp.

37. See Harris, C. R. S., Duns Scotus, II (Oxford, 1927), pp. 214217.

38. von Gierke, Otto, Political Theories of the Middle Ages, trans. Maitland, (Cambridge, 1927), p. 173, n. 256.

39. Super Quatuor Libros Sententiarum (Lyons: Jean Trechsel, 1495), II, 5 H.

40. Sent. II, 190.

41. Sent. II, 19 P.

42. Sent. I, dist. xli, qu. 1 K.

43. Opus Nonaginta Dierum (Lyons: Jean Trechsel, 1495), ch. 95 (no foliation); see esp. § Nota de duplici potentia dei. Cf. Quodlibeta Septem una cum tractatu de sacramento altaris (Strasbourg, 1491), Quodl. VI, qu. 6; English translation of this question in McKeon, Richard, Selections from Medieval Philosophers, II (New York, 1930), pp. 372375.

44. Sent. I, that. xli, qu. I K. For a more complete analysis of Ockham's position see Oakley, , “Medieval Theories of Natural Law,“ pp. 6872.

45. For d'ailly's views see, e.g., Quaestiones super libros Sententiarum (Lyons, 1500), I, qu. 9, art. 2 5, fol. 122 r; and for Gerson, Vereeke, L., “Droit et morale chez Jean Gerson,” Revue historique de droit françois et étranger, XXXII (1954), pp. 413427.

46. See Kölmel, W., “Von Ockham zu Gabriel Biel: Zur Naturrechtslehre des 14 und 15 Jahrhunderts,” Franziskanische Studien, 37 (1955), pp. 218259.

47. De Legibus ac Deo Legislatore, Bk.I, ch. 5, 8–9; Selections from Three Works of Francisco Suaree S. J., I (Oxford, 1944), p. 26.

48. D. Martin Luthers Werke, 43 (Weimar, 1912), p. 71—“Vorlesungen über 1 Mose,” ch. 19, 14; cf. also ch. 19, 17 20 and ch. 20, 2.

49. de Lagarde, Georges, Recherches sur l'esprit politique de la Reforme (Douai, 1926), pp. 147187.

50. McNeil, John T., “Natural Law in the Teaching of the Reformers,” The Journal of Religion, XXVI (1946), pp. 177178.

51. Institutio Christianae Religionis. Bk. IV, ch. 20, § 16; (Berlin, 1846), p. 486. Cf. the voluaitarism of the Protestant scholastic Zacharius Ursinus (1534–84), Opera Theologia, I (Heidelberg, 1612), p. 483.

52. Bk. II, ch. 6, 20–23; pp. 126–128.

53. Apologia pro Joanne Gersonio (Lyons, 1676), pp. 47.

54. De Jure Naturae et Gentium (London, 1672), Bk. II, ch.3§, XX.

55. Leviathan, Part II, chs. 30–31; ed. Michael Oakeshott (Oxford, 1946), pp. 219235.

56. A Compleat Body of Divinity (Boston, 1726), Qu. XIV, Sermon LIV, p. 188. It should be noted that Willard was less extreme on this matter than were many of his predecessors among the New England divines—cf. Qu. IV, Sermon XXIV, p. 76.

57. Commentaries on the Law of England, Sect. II, 40; (New York, 1830), p. 26.

58. Preston, , Life Eternall or A Treatise of the Knowledge of the Divine Essence and Attributes, 2nd ed. (London, 1631), Part I, p. 143; Ames, , The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London, 1642), Bk. 2, ch. 3, §14, p. 210; Bk. 1, eh. 5, pp. 44–45; Norton, , The Orthodox Evangelist (London, 1654), ch. 4, pp. 9195.

59. Sanderson, , De obligatione conscientiae Praelationes Decem (London, 1710), Praelectio Quarta, pp. 97101. This work was first published in 1660 at the request of Robert Boyle, to whom it is dedicated. Culverwell—An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature (London, 1652), chs. VI and IX, pp. 78, 9899—professes a modified form of voluntarism.

60. Essays on the Law of Nature, ed. W. van Leyden (Oxford, 1954), Essays I and VI, pp. 110–113, 187–189; cf. the editor's introduction (pp. 37–43) where he points out the extent to which Locke was influenced by Culverwell and Sanderson. Grew, , Cosmologia Sacra (London, 1701), Bk. 3, ch. 5, § 4, p. 121. Cf. also John Wilkins (1614–1672), also a Fellow of the Royal Society, who is, however, more ambiguous on this point—Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion (London, (1675), Bk. II, ch. 9, pp. 395396.

61. Treatise concerning immutable morality, Bk. I, ch. 3, 1; New York, 1838), p. 18. It is worth noting that Cudworth, along with other Cambridge Platonists who attacked ethical voluntarism, did so in terms of a theory of immanent or quasi-immanent natural law—see Cudworth, , Treatise, Bk. I, ch. 2,§ 2, p. 14; Bk. IV, ch. 6,§ 3, p. 130. Cf. Fowler, Edward (1632-1714), The Principles and Practices of Certain Moderate Divines of the Church of England abusively called Latitudinarians (London, 1671), pp. 1213, and Tulloch, J., Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century, II (London, 1872), pp 172173, 435436, where he discusses the views of George Rust (d. 1670) and John Smith (1618- 1652).

62. Treatise, Bk. I, ch. 1,§ 4, p. 9.

63. Cf. d'entrèves, A. P., Natural Law; An Introduction to Legal Philosophy (London, 1951), p. 11.

64. S.T., Ta 2ae, qu. 91, art. 2 Resp.

65. History of Christian Philosophy, pp. 410, 498. Cf. Quodl. VI, qu. 6; McKeon, II, p. 373; Baudry, L. (ed.), Le Tractatus de Principiis Theologiae attribué à G. d'occam (Paris, 1936), p. 45 and n. 1.

66. Thus God can produce in us intuitions of non-existent objects—Quodl. VI, qu. 6; McKeon, II, pp. 372–380.

67. Baudry, p. 23.

68. See e.g. Miller, Perry, The New England Mind (New York, 1939), pp. 157158, and Rommen, H. A., “The Natural Law of the Renaissance Period,” University of Notre Dame Natural Law Proceedings (Notre Dame, 1949), pp. 9495.

69. Sent. III, 12 CCC.

70. Opus Nonaginta Dierum, eh. 95, § Hereticum est dicere omnia de necessitate evenire.

71. See Crombie, A. C., Medieval and Early Modern Science, II (New York: Anchor Books, 1959), pp. 3233.

72. Ibid., p. 313.

73. Sent. Prol., qu. VII; Sent. II, qu.19 0. Again, discussing the distinction between the absolute and ordained powers of God, Ockam can say: “… est sic intelligenda quod posse aliquid aliquando accipitur secundum leges ordinatas et institutas a Deo, et illa Deus dicitur posse facere do potentia ordinata; aliter…” etc. (Italics mine).—Quodl. VI, qu. 1.

74. De libertate creaturae rationalis, in J. Gerson, Opera Omnia, ed. Ellies du Pin, I (Antwerp, 1706), col. 632; De Trinitate, in Gers., I, col. 619; Quaestiones super I, III et IV Sententiarum (Lyons, 1500), I, art. 2 JJ, fol. 96r. He also uses the expression by the natural or naturally ordained power in contrast with supernaturally …or by the absolute power—Sent. IV, qu. 1, art. 2 J, fol. 188r.

75. Sent. IV, qu. 1, art. 2 N, foL 188r; Tractatus de Legibus et Sectis, in Gers., I, col. 793.

76. The General Scholium which Newton appended to the second edition of the Principles contains the clearest statement of his physico-theological principles. In it he was careful to affirm, not only that “this most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being,” but also that this Being is to be considered as an omnipotent cosmic sovereign who “governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all”—Opera Orania, III, pp. 171–173.

77. The Darkness of Atheism dispelled by the Light of Nature: a physicotheological Treatise (London, 1652), ch. 4; Sect. 5, pp. 125, 136; cf, Grew, Nehemiah, Cosmologia Sacra, Bk. 4, ch. 5, pp. 194195.

78. Darkness of Atheism, ch. 10, Sect. 1, p. 329.

79. A Free Inquiry into the Vulgarly received notion of Nature, Works, V, p. 197; On the Excellency and Grounds of the corpuscular or mechanical philosophy, Works, IV, p. 68.

80. The Christian Virtuoso, Works, V, p. 521.

81. A Free Inquiry, Works, V, p. 216.

82. Some considerations about the Reconcileableness of Reason and Religion, Works, IV, p. 159.

83. Of the High Veneration Man's Intellect owes to God, Works, V, p. 149.

84. Zwingli, Ulrich, Ad iilustrissimum Cattorem Principem Philippum sermonis de providentia dei anamnema (Zurich, 1530), fols. 20r, 63r; Melanchthou, Philip, Initia doctrinae physieae, Opera Omnia, ed. Bretsehneider, C. G., XIII (Halls Saxonum, 1846), pp. 206207. Cf. Ursinus, , Opera Theologiea, I, col. 573.

85. Sacra Theologia (Geneva, 1589), Bk.2, ch. 10, fol. 18r; cf. Perkins, William (1558–1602), An Exposition of the Symbole of the Creed of the Apostles, Workes, I (Cambridge, 1612), p. 160.

86. Ames, Marrow, Bk. 1, ch. 9, p. 40; cf. Mather, Increase, The Doctrine of Divine Providence Opened and Applyed (Boston, 1684), Sermon 2, p. 45; Willard, Samuel, Compleat Body, Qu. XI, Sermon XLVII, p. 146.

87. Willard, , Compleat Body, Qu. IV, Sermon XII, p. 38, Qu. XI, Sermon XLVII, p. 146; Mather, Increase, Doctrine of Divine Providence, Sermon 2, p. 47; cf. Norton, , Orthodox Evangelist, ch. 5, pp. 103104.

88. Metaphysicarum Disputationum, I (Moguntiae, 1600), Disp. XXII, § 4, pp. 568, 569; II, Disp. XXX, § 17, p. 150; De Legibus, Bk. 2, ch. 2; Selections, I, p. 104.

89. De Legibus, Bk. 1, ch. 1, Bk. 2, ch. 2; Selections, I, pp. 8 and 104; Met. Disp., II, Disp. XXX, § 17, p. 150. Robert Boyle himself came very close to the same position—see The Christian Virtuoso, Works, V, p. 521.

90. Essays on the Law of Nature, Essay I, pp. 108–110; Sanderson, De oblig. consc., Prael. Quarta, p. 101. Locke's editor suggests that the position of Locke as well as that of Culverwell was influenced by that of Suarez (pp. 36–37).

91. “The significance of Medieval Discussionis of Scientific Method for the Scientific Revolution,” in Critical Problems in the History of Science, ed. Marshall Clagett (Madison, 1959), p. 80.

92. Charleton, Darkness of Atheism, fols. a2v, b4v. Scrutiny of the catalogue of Ames's library reveals that he possessed a rich collection of scholastic material ranging from Aquinas to the Spanish scholastics of the sixteenth century, and including among others works of Scotus, Buridan and Gabriel Biel—see Catalogus variorum et insignium librorum clariss. et celeberimi viri D. Guilielmi Amesii (Amsterdam, 1634).

93. Orthodox Evangelist, fols. lv-2r.

94. Immutable Morality, Bk. 1, ch. 1, § 5, p. 11.

95. Although it is unimportant in the present context, it should perhaps be noted that this distinction underwent slight fluctuations in meaning in the course of the three centuries during which it was current.

96. D'ailly, Sent. I, qu. 13, art. 1 D, fol. 159r; Major, In primum Sent., dist. 44, qu. 3.

97. See Leff, Gordon, Bradwardine and the Pelagiang (Cambridge, 1957), pp. 165254.

98. It is cited explicitly, to my knowledge, by Luther, , Vorlesungen über I Mose, ch. 19, 1420, ch. 20, 2; Werke, 43, pp. 71–72, 82; the Hubmaier, Anabaptist Balthasar, Das ander Biechlen von der Freywilligkait den menschens (Nicolsburg, 1527)—English translation in Williams, G. H. (ed.), Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers (Philadelphia, 1957), pp. 132133; Perkins, William, A Godly and learned Exposition, Works, III, pp. 233234; Suarez, , Met. Disp., II, Disp. XXX, Sectio 17, p. 150; Ames, , Marrow, Bk. 1, ch. 6,§§ 16–20, p. 21; Norton, , Orthodox Evangelist, ch. 1, p. 19, and Willard, , Compleat Body, Q. 4, Sermon 22, p. 70. and it is at least implied in some of the arguments of Melanchthon, , Initia Doctrinae Physicae, Opera Omnia, XIII, p. 207, and Boyle, Robert himself—Some Considerations about the Reconcileableness of Reason and Religion, Works, IV, pp. 161163. Cf. Malebranche's distinction between the ‘general’ and ‘particular’ will of God which is very similar in its import—see Dreyfus, Ginette, La Volonté selon Malebranche (Paris, 1958), pp. 101109.

99. The New England Mind, pp. 33–34.

100. Ames, , Marrow, Bk. 1, ch. 9, p. 41; Shepard, , The First Principle of the Oracles of God, in Three Valuable Pieces (Boston, 1747), pp. 910; Norton, , Orthodox Evangelist, ch. 5, pp. 103104; Mather, , Doctrine of Divine Providence, Serm. 2, qu. 2, pp. 4547.

101. Wilkins, , Principles and Duties of Natural Religion, Bk. 1, ch. 7, pp. 8587; Charleton, , Darkness of Atheism, ch. 4, Sect. 5, pp. 136137; Boyle, , A Free Inquiry into the Vulgarly received notion of Nature, Works, V, pp. 197198, 211, 216.

102. A Free Inquiry, Works, V, pp. 163–164.

103. Some Considerations, Works, IV, pp. 161–162 (italics mine).

104. Boyle, , Some physieo-theological considerations about the possibility of the Resurrection, Works, IV, pp. 201202; A Disquisition about Final Causes, Works, V, pp. 412414; Luther, , Werke, 43, p. 71; Melanchthon, , Opera Omnia, XIII, p. 207; Suarez, , Met. Disp., I, Disp. XXII, p. 552; Perkins, , An exposition of the Symbole, Works, I, p. 159, A Resolution to the Countreyman, Workes, III, p. 657, A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, Workes, III, p. 609; Preston, , Life Eternall, Part I, p. 32, Part II, p. 200; Ames, , Marrow, Bk. 1, ch. 9, p. 40; Shepard, , Three Valuable Pieces, pp. 910; Norton, , Orthodox Evangelist, ch. 5, p. 124; Increase Mather, , Doctrine of Divine Providence, Serm. I, pp. 2324, Serm. II, pp. 5354; Willard, , Compleat Body, Qu. XI, Serm. XLVI, p. 144.

105. It is perhaps worthy of note that many of these authors also make use of another distinction related to that which they drew between the absolute and ordained powers of God. This distinction concerned the order of salvation and was drawn between what Calvinist theologians usually referred to as the secret will and the revealed will of God, but which the Scholastics called voluntas beneplaciti and voluntas signi. Its history can be traced back as far as the De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei of Hugh of St. Victor (1096–1141)— Bk. I, Part 4, ch. 8 (Patroiogialatina, ed. J-P. Migne, 176 [Paris, 1854], col. 237), but it consorted very profoundly with the voluntarism of the Ockhamists and became a commonplace of Protestant thought. It was cited, for example, by Hubmaier, Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, pp. 132133; Perkins, William, A Treatise of God's free grace, Workes, I, pp. 704705; Ames, , Marrow, Bk. I, ch. 7. §§ 52–54, pp. 3031; Norton, John, Orthodox Evangelist, ch. 4, p. 92;Hobbes, , The Questions concerning liberty, necessity and chance clearly stated and debated between Dr. Bramhall Bishop of Derry, and Thomas Hobbes of Maimesbury (London, 1656), pp. 10 and 78. It was used, among the members of the Royal Society, not only by the staunchly Calvinist John Wallis—A brief and easie explanation of the Shorter Catechism (London, 1662), E 4 — but also by Charleton, , Darkness of Atheism, ch. 10, 4, p. 354. Cf. also Sanderson, , De oblig. consc., Prael. quarta, p. 97.

106. Hardly surprising for, according to d'ailly, “just as the divine will is the first efficient cause in the genus of efficient causality, so also is it the first obligating rule or law in the genus of obligating law”—Sent. I, qu. 14, art. 3 Q, fol. 173r.

107. Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, p. 294.

108. Needham, , Science and Civilization, II, p. 582.

109. Science of Mechanics, trans. T. J. McCormack (London, 1942), pp. 542, 551552; cf. Taube, Mortimer, Causation, Freedom and Determinism (London, 1936), pp. 108109.

110. Whitehead, A. N., Science and the Modern World (New York, 1958), p. 14; Collingwood, R. G., Idea of Nature, pp. 39; Foster, , “The Christian doctrine of Creation and the rise of Modern Natural Science,” Mind, XLIII (1934), pp. 446468, “Christian Theology and Modem Science of Nature,” Mind, XLV (1936), pp. 128. Cf. e.g. Mascall, E. L., Christian Theology and Natural Science (London, 1956), pp. 93100.

111. Mind, XLIII (1934), p. 465.

112. Science and Civilization, II, pp. 578583.

113. Ibid., p. 543.

114. Ibid., p. 582—Needham adds that “Modern Science and the philosophy of organism, with its integrative levels, have come back to his wisdom, fortified by a new understanding of cosmic, biological and social evolution. Yet who shall say that the Newtonian phase was not an essential one.”

115. As long ago as 1909 Pierre Duhem drew attention to the importance of those condemnations for the history of science —Etudes sur Lénard de Vinci, II (Paris, 1909), pp. 411 ff. He did so, however, because he believed that the utterances of the Bishop of Paris on specific points such as the possibility of the existence of a plurality of worlds marked the starting point of the development of modern science, and Alexandre Koyré has convincingly exposed the lack of evidence to support such a belief—“Le vide et l'espace infini au XIVe siècle,” Archives d'hist. doct. et litt. du Moyen Age, 24 (1949), pp. 4591. But if the condemnations and the theological reaction to which they witnessed were unimportant in the realm of specific scientific discoveries, this was far from being the case in the realm of philosophical assumptions about nature— a point which Koyré apparently failed to perceive.

Christian Theology and the Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature

  • Francis Oakley (a1)


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