This paper explores the medieval debates concerning problems with the Aristotelian theory of the production and transmission of solar heat as presented in De Caelo II, 7 and Meteorologica I, 3. In these passages, Aristotle states that celestial heat is generated by the friction set up in the air by the motion of celestial bodies. This statement is difficult to reconcile with Aristotle’s cosmology, which presupposes that the heavenly bodies are not surrounded by air, but by aether, and that the celestial spheres are perfectly smooth, and therefore cannot cause any friction. In their commentaries on De Caelo and on Meteorologica, the Latin commentators elaborated a model that solves these difficulties. In this attempt, they invoke a non-mechanical principle, namely celestial influence.
From the time of Albertus Magnus, medieval commentators on Aristotle regularly used a passage from Meteorology 1.2 as evidence that the stars and planets influence and even govern terrestrial events. Many of these commentators integrated their readings of this work with the view that planetary conjunctions were causes of significant changes in human affairs. By the end of the sixteenth century, Italian Aristotelian commentators and astrologers alike deemed this passage as authoritative for the integration of astrology with natural philosophy. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, however, criticized this reading, contending that Aristotle never used the science of the stars to explain meteorological phenomena. While some Italian commentators, such as Pietro Pomponazzi dismissed Pico’s contentions, by the middle of the sixteenth century many reevaluated the medieval integration. This reevaluation culminated in Cesare Cremonini, who put forth an extensive critique of astrology in which he argued against the idea of occult causation and celestial influence, as he tried to rid Aristotelianism of its medieval legacy.
Robert G. Morrison
This article analyzes how the astronomy of Islamic societies in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries can be understood as cosmological. By studying the Arabic translations of the relevant Greek terms and then the definitions of the medieval Arabic dictionaries, the article finds that Arabic terms did not communicate order in the way implied by the Greek ho kósmos (ὁ κόσμος; the cosmos). Yet, astronomers of the period sometimes discussed cosmic order in addition to describing the cosmos. This article finds, too, that a new technical term, nafs al-amr (the fact of the matter) became part of later discussions of cosmic order.
The aim of this article is to draw the attention of scholars of ancient medicine to the need to consider the works of humanists in interpreting and editing medical treatises. Because humanists, especially those who had studied medicine and botany in the Italian universities, had acquired both a theoretical knowledge of ancient writings on medicine and a practical expertise in botany that allowed them to identify the plants mentioned in the major ancient sources such as Dioscorides, Theophrastus, Pliny and to understand their lexical uses in the Byzantine treatises on uroscopy. Such is the case for the word chyménè, which is nowadays completely misunderstood, as our examination of Theophilus Protospatharius’ De urinis (ca. seventh-ninth century) will show. That word, while obscure to the first translators of this treatise, such as Ambrogio Leone (1519), was correctly interpreted by the humanists Onorio Belli (1593), Claude Saumaise (1629) and Bodaeus de Stapel (1644), who were also the first to show us that the Latin version of Theophilus’ treatise on Urines had become corrupted in the course of the centuries.
This article demonstrates how patron-client relationships in mid-eighteenth century England were shaped against the background of the transition to a more negotiated marketplace. By focusing on the twenty-five-year relationship between Thomas Birch and Philip Yorke, we learn how an interesting variant of patronage embroiled with friendship developed between the two. In exchange for his services as intelligencer and agent, Birch enjoyed the benefits of Yorke’s influential network, obtaining new livings as clergyman and advancing his career as historian. Confrontations between the two, particularly on matters involving their work as dedicated historians, did not prevent them from remaining mutually loyal throughout their decades-long affiliation.
Onofrio Panvinio was hired by sixteenth-century Roman families to write their histories and, where necessary, be prepared to bend the facts to suit their interests. This occasionally entailed a bit of forgery, usually involving tampering with specific words in documents. In most respects, however, Panvinio employed the same techniques—archival research and material evidence such as tombs and inscriptions—which distinguished his papal and ecclesiastical histories. This suggests that genealogy, despite being commissioned by aristocratic families to glorify their ancestries, can be seen as a more serious field of historical investigation than is often assumed. Yet the contours of this genre of history for hire in sixteenth-century Italian historiography are nowhere near exact. Panvinio struck a balance between fulfilling the expectations of the noble families who commissioned him and following his own scholarly instincts as an historian, but he nevertheless did not seek their publication. By contrast, Alfonso Ceccarelli, who also composed family histories, veered considerably in the direction of flattering his patrons, even forging entire papal and imperial privileges. Indeed, he was condemned to death for the forgery of wills concerning the property rights of nobles.
Historians of scholarship and intellectual historians have recently been paying more attention to the social and epistemic conditioning of scholarly production. Informed by the history of science, such scholarship has shed light upon how knowledge production changed over time, and how its ‘legislation’, ‘administration’, and ‘institutionalisation’ varied in different contexts. This article explores the reform of intellectual culture in the early eighteenth-century Italian republic of letters, as a case-study in the application of such emergent methodologies. From around 1700, a nexus of ethical, aesthetical and epistemological ideals began to crystallize on the Italian peninsula, codified under the concept of ‘buon gusto’ or ‘good taste’. ‘Buon gusto’ became a point of reference for individual scholars, scholarly communities and literary journals seeking to reform scholarly practice. This led to the normalization of historical criticism as the dominant scholarly mode among Italian scholars by the mid-eighteenth century.