Talk:Condemnations of 1210–1277

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Good article Condemnations of 1210–1277 has been listed as one of the Philosophy and religion good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
November 2, 2009 Good article nominee Listed
Did You Know A fact from this article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "Did you know?" column on April 21, 2008.

Papal Authority[edit]

While the sources cited say that Tempier's investigation of heresy was conducted, at least in part, under Papal authority; they do not say that the actual condemnations promulgated under Papal authority. --Joey1898 23:21, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

Ethnocentric Point of View[edit]

The "preview" on Wikipedia's main page said this lead to the "Birth of Science", but shouldn't it be reworded to say "the Birth of Science in the Western World"? A number of civilizations in the Middle East and Asia were far more advanced than Europe was during its Dark Ages. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 131.194.226.35 (talk) 15:14, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Actually, what was meant was more along the lines of modern science - Aristotellian science was of course the system that had existed in Europe and the Middle East before it was displaced by the Condemnations.
Perhaps you have shown another problem: the assumption that Europe was in the "Dark Ages" at this time. The term "Dark Ages" is no longer used by historians today - the traditional assumptions of backwardness in the arts, technology, political and social organizations of the time have been shown to be outdated. The correct term is "Early Middle Ages" (up to AD 1000); the Condemnations of Paris, on the other hand, took place in the High Middle Ages, following on from the Renaissance of the 12th century. This was a period of great advance in Europe.
Other civilisations were of course more technologically advanced at this time - China being the best example. However, for all its achievements (as you will see from History of science and technology in China), China failed to produce science. The Greeks came closest to science, and after them the Islamic philosophers. The importance of the Condemnations (along with other important developments in medieval Europe) is that they forced scholars not to take previous assumptions for granted, which led toward Western Science and (ultimately) the modern science which is based upon it. --Grimhelm (talk) 17:51, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

How could replacement of one dogma with another be considered as a birth date of science?? Did Aristotel ever claimed to be a prophet or any kind of messenger who tells absolute divine truth? – No It was church who dogmatized his teachings, because at the time when church was founded only Aritotels teachings were trying to give some answers to wide range of questions not covered by holly books. So church simply adopted his theories and dogmatized them. And it took almost 1000 years for church to realize that some of his teachings actually contradict to holly books. Church dogmatized his theories, church then condemned them. What it has to do with science? – Nothing! Claiming that Paris condemnation gave a start to a modern science is not just baseless it is simply ridiculous. Methods and approaches used by Aristotel and his contemporaries were much closer to modern science than those used by authors of Paris condemnations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 59.101.231.132 (talk) 11:42, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

The Church never "dogmatised" Aristotle's teachings. It would not even have been possible for the Church in Europe to do so, and then fail to notice the apparent contradictions for over a thousand years as you suggest, because much of their influence in the 13th century had been a reintroduction from Arab texts. Aristotle's teachings were not dogmatised, but they were highly respected by philosophers in Europe and the Middle East (and indeed they are still are). The question of the period was how philosophy could be reconciled with religious belief; the Averroeists taught what is often summarised as the "double truth" (that what it is true in philosophy does not have to be true in religion, and vice versa); the Thomists taught that apparent contradictions were based on a misunderstanding of either faith or reason.
Saying that Aristotle had a more scientific approach than Tempier is irrelevant as to whether the events initiated modern science (or at least had positive effects on its development). The discussion is not over the scientific merits of the authors of the Condemnation, but about the effect that the Condemnation had on science. Try and explain how the rejection of geomancy and witchcraft had no effect on science. Or perhaps Aristotle's stance on the concept of the vacuum? It had previously been accepted based on Aristotle that a vacuum could not exist, but within the immediate aftermath of the Condemnations, it was admitted that such a position was possible. The most basic piece of evidence is that scientists were simply more imaginative after the Condemnations.
Lastly, I can not see why you would refer to the claims as "baseless", when the historical evidence of their effects (as well as the historians of science who analysed them) are laid out quite clearly in this article. I would suggest that your argument may be based on popular assumptions rather than academic research. --Grimhelm (talk) 16:58, 24 April 2008 (UTC)


Church did dogmatise some postulates of Aristotellian science, most notably geocentric universe model and furiously defended it against all revisionist attempts. Remember repressions suffered by Galileo Galilei or Giordano Bruno from hands of inquisition. And these actions had much stronger and evident effect on hindering scientific development than Paris condemnation on stimulating it. But my main objection was on calling Paris condemnations a birth day of modern science. Having effect on development of science and be considered as an immediate cause of its existence (that what term “birth date” implies) are completely different things. Yes, arguably, this event may be ONE of many factors which in long term gave rise to modern science. But it can’t be considered as the main or even the most important one. Was there anything what could be considered a modern science next day after condemnations? A year later? A century later? So how can we consider that event a starting point of modern science if there was no modern science for ages to come after it? After all, how can condemnation and prohibition of something be considered a starting point of modern science??? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 59.154.63.92 (talk) 07:03, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Again, these are the assumptions of traditional popular histories, which have been shown to be incorrect by the most recent research of historians of science. For example, it was widely believed that all medieval thinkers thought the world was flat, whereas it was in fact the earth's spherity was universally accepted in the Middle Ages (see here). Similarly, it is often forgotten that Copernicus, the scientist and father of heliocentrism, was a Catholic cleric (with evidence suggesting that, more specifically, he was a priest). Pope Clement VII was impressed by a public lecture on heliocentrism that he requested in Rome, and Copernicus' book De revolutionibus was dedicated to Pope Paul III; it was received with great interest by many throughout the Church. The Church never dogmatised heliocentrism - the Church can and has only ever dogmatised theological positions.
Later, many of Galileo's discoveries were confirmed by Jesuit astronomers, and the prominent scientists among the clergy were excited by his hypothesis of heliocentrism. It was only when he began persistently teaching his then unproven hypothesis as truth that he was subjected to censure (some parts of his theory were actually later proven wrong, it must be noted; he felt, for example, that the motion of the Earth was the cause of the tides). And even with the frenzy that normally surrounds the Galileo affair, it is useful to remember that it is virtually the only case that springs to mind. (Bruno is the other example you mention, although this was based on his theological beliefs, and had nothing to do with Copernicanism.)
The Church certainly did more to stimulate science than to stifle it: Nicolas Steno (father of geology), Roger Boscovich (father of modern atomic theory) and Gregor Mendel (father of genetics) were all priests. The Jesuits were the order most associated with the concept of the "scientist-priest" (of which a whole list exists).
But you ask whether there was any immediate increase in science after the Condemnations. Robert Grosseteste (contemporary with the Condemnations of 1210) and Roger Bacon (contemporary with the effects all the condemnations in this article) are seen as precursors of the modern scientific method. Greater emphasis was placed on experiment. Much important scientific work was undertaken in the early 14th century: William of Ockham introduced the principle of parsimony, while Jean Buridan and Nicole Oresme reinvestigated Aristotelian mechanics. (Buridan developed the theory that impetus - which paved the way for Copernicus and was the first step toward the modern concept of inertia). The Oxford Calculators mathematically analysed the kinematics of motion. It was only with disasters such as the Black Death in 1348 that the massive scientific development was suddenly halted. The Scientific Revolution was resumed during the Renaissance, and was well rooted in the work that had been carried out in the Middle Ages. --Grimhelm (talk) 23:16, 26 April 2008 (UTC)


Sorry, but I don't follow your logic. According to this article, condemnation of 1210 states: "Neither the books of Aristotle on natural philosophy or their commentaries are to be read at Paris in public or secret, and this we forbid under penalty of excommunication."

From article about Robert Grosseteste:

"In his works of 1220-1235, in particular the Aristotelian commentaries, Grosseteste laid out the framework for the proper methods of science... Grosseteste was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle's vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalizing from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars."
Do you mean that condemnations in fact had opposite effect and stimulated interest towards Aristotellian works?
To put it simple, the essence of this article is:
1. Some clerics condemned and prohibited some ancient scientific works.
2. It gave a birth to science.
Huh? What is the logic? Yes I don't have academic knowledge on this matter and never did any deep original research either. But that is the good think about logic, if something is apparently illogical; there is no need to dig for details to understand that it is wrong. Saying that condemnations and prohibitions gave birth to science is similar to presenting induction of tyranny as a birth day of democracy or introduction of censorship as a freedom of speech or declaration of war as a commencement of peace!
From this [1]timeline I can’t see any indirect effects of condemnations on development of scientific method. The closest significant even is 50 years after the latest condemnation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 59.154.63.92 (talk) 01:01, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon read Aristotle's works, as did many in the period. You neglected to mention that, also according to this article, the condemnations of 1210 were "restricted to the Arts faculty at the University of Paris. Theologians were therefore left free to read the prohibited works…" The condemned works at least "continued to be read in Paris in private, and there are also signs that their discussion had become public by 1240." The point was not that the Condemnations stamped out Aristotle (which they clearly did not), but that their effect was in undermining his works as the unquestioned basis of scientific discussion.
You asked whether science was emerging in the 13th century, and indeed it was. Also from this article, historians of science "no longer fully endorse his view that modern science started in 1277". The reason for this is that days or events that represent a change in the course of history are never isolated from the broader historical context. Their effects are felt over the wider course of history, and are recognised by historians as significant in retrospect. In this context, I feel it would be useful to quote the historian Hywel Williams, from Days that Changed the World:
"The currents of history run deep and often unseen beneath the everyday flow of events… [but] there are moments when these currents rise to the surface - with an effect that is often shattering, occassionally moving, but always transforming - to shed an exceptional light on the meaning of history. …the patterns of world history are also shaped by less obviously dramatic occurrences and by processes whose significance only became apparent much later."
The rudiments of modern science were already appearing before 1277, but scientific progress accelerated after 1277. As Duhem said, 1277 was the most dramatic event that represented the break with Aristotle. (Grosseteste, whose work emphasised the importance of mathematics on science, was the only one I mentioned who died before 1277.) Your analogy was that censorship cannot be considered the birth of free speech; but, on the other hand, declaring previous assumptions to be false is not an attack on science, but something that science does everyday. You overlook the stated facts in the article: the most obvious being that that within three years the possibility of the vacuum was accepted, and that this gave rise to dynamics. It was Buridan, Oresme and the Oxford Calculators who made important developments to dynamics in the following century.
To refine your simplified logic:
1. Some clerics condemned certain flawed positions of ancient philosophers, astrologers, works on witchcraft, and some contemporary theologians.
2. It had positive effects on scientific thought, and represented the birth of science.
Now that's still more simplified than outlined in the article, but it is a bit more accurate than your logic. Ultimately, we go with the conclusions of the historians of science and the sources cited for articles such as this, and broadly, these are they. Also, the list you to which you refer ("Timeline of the history of scientific method") has its own flaws - it fails to mention Grosseteste, Bacon, Buridan or Oresme; and it is very short on sources. --Grimhelm (talk) 13:17, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
This topic is an excellent example of how we could treat competing points of view Wikipedia style. There are at least three different opinions in the historical literature on the effects of the condemnation; this article should present all of them.
  • It seems to treat fairly well the view held by Duhem, and in a more moderate form by Grant, holding that the condemnations freed scholars to speculate about alternative world models and physical laws, contrary to those held by Aristotle. The biggest gap at present is that it doesn't deal with the problem that these alternatives were treated hypothetically or "according to imagination."
  • I don't see much mention of the rival view held by Jean Gimpel, Gordon Leff (in his early writings) and others who maintained that the condemnations suppressed scientific inquiry and led to a rise of skepticism.
  • There's also a third point of view, touched on in the works of William Courtenay that the dialectic between the absolute and ordained powers of God sharpened epistemological issues. It was conventional that three sources of knowledge were logic, experience, and revelation. After the Condemnations of 1277, which emphasized God's ability to establish the orders of nature and of salvation freely without any logical constraints, logic was no longer probative by itself. Thus we began to see an increasing concern with epistemological questions in philosophy, with observation in science, and with revelation in theology.
Documenting the varied points of view among historians would do much to strengthen this article. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 14:52, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Little Green Men[edit]

It is commonplace in Science Fiction circles to cite the condemnations of 1277 as evidence that the Church viewed positively the possibility of intellegent life on other worlds. Maybe I'm just guilty of (sub)cultural centrism, but it might be worthwhile to mention the particular article which condemned the notion that extraterrestrial intellegent life was impossible, if indeed such an article exists. Rwflammang (talk) 19:30, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

Needs a more meaningful title[edit]

Last December this article's title was changed from Condemnations (University of Paris) to Condemnations. As it stands the title lacks precision; it does not give the reader an idea of what to expect in the article. I would suggest one of the following:

  • Condemnations (University of Paris) — Returning to the former title
  • Philosophical condemnations (13th century) — Fits fairly well
  • Condemnations of Aristotelianism — Seems overly broad
  • Condemnations of 1277 — Seems too specific; the article discusses other condemnations

Comments please --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 20:12, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree with you that the latter two don't adequately fit the scope. I think the problem with "Philosophical condemnations (13th century)" is that the Condemnations of 1277 in particular targeted both philosophical and theological ideas. "Condemnations (University of Paris)" or even "Condemnations of Paris" would fit well, although I would counsel for Condemnations of 1210-1277 as the title which best reflects the scope of the article. --Grimhelm (talk) 10:14, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Nice suggestion, it includes the dates that are often mentioned in the literature -- esp. 1277 of course. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:59, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
I moved the page from Condemnations (University of Paris) because the parentheses implies that the title is ambiguous and needs to be distinguished from other articles with the same name. That was not the case here, as we have no other article called "Condemnations". The WP:NCDAB guideline discusses how parentheses may be used, but warns against using adjectives even in cases of an ambiguous title. Since "Condemnations" would just be a redirect back here, no parentheses should be used if we are to change the title. I would suggest something like "Condemnations at the University of Paris" or "Condemnations of the 13th century".--Cúchullain t/c 17:22, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
We seem to agree on avoiding parentheses and on being more specific than mere Condemnations. We can either specify by place or by time. As I've thought about this, Condemnations at the University of Paris looks like a bad idea as it would forestall the logical expansion of this article to include the related condemnations that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Kilwardby, issued for Oxford (also in 1277). That leaves us with the two time candidates Condemnations of the 13th century or Condemnations of 1210-1277. I slightly favor the latter, because both the condemnation of Aristotle in 1210 and Tempier's condemnations of 1277 are well known among historians of medieval thought. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 22:08, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
That seems fine to me.--Cúchullain t/c 12:03, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Notes and references[edit]

Just a brief request; it would be helpful for readers if those cited works whose details are not fully listed in the References section were listed in the Notes section. For example, this Rubenstein citation is ok given that the ISBN, publisher, author, year of publication and full title of the book is listed below, whereas this citation to the Catholic Encyclopaedia is incomplete, giving no author/date of publication/date of URL access. Mahalo,  Skomorokh  22:18, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Amended accordingly. --Grimhelm (talk) 18:06, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Condemnations of 1210–1277/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Pyrotec (talk) 20:36, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Starting review. Pyrotec (talk) 20:36, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Initial comments[edit]

After a quick read-through this article appears to be at or about GA-level. I will now do a more detailed review. Pyrotec (talk) 20:56, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

  • Condemnation of 1270 -
  • I assume that there is a typo in the statement:- "However, it seems "inconceivable" that any teacher would present deny God's Providence or present the Aristotelian "Unmoved Mover" as the true God.[8]". I assume that it should read - "However, it seems "inconceivable" that any teacher would present deny God's Providence or present the Aristotelian "Unmoved Mover" as the true God.[8]"?
    • Effects -
  • This:- "(Ironically, the concept of vacuum energy in quantum mechanics now shows that empty space, devoid of both matter and energy, is not possible.)" appears to be, possibly, a point of view or original research. Can be it be validated by means of a citation?

Overall summary[edit]

GA review – see WP:WIAGA for criteria


A readable, well-referenced, well-illustrated article.

  1. Is it reasonably well written?
    A. Prose quality:
    B. MoS compliance:
  2. Is it factually accurate and verifiable?
    A. References to sources:
    Well-referenced.
    B. Citation of reliable sources where necessary:
    Well-referenced.
    C. No original research:
  3. Is it broad in its coverage?
    A. Major aspects:
    B. Focused:
  4. Is it neutral?
    Fair representation without bias:
  5. Is it stable?
    No edit wars, etc:
  6. Does it contain images to illustrate the topic?
    A. Images are copyright tagged, and non-free images have fair use rationales:
    Well-illustrated.
    B. Images are provided where possible and appropriate, with suitable captions:
    Well-illustrated.
  7. Overall:
    Pass or Fail:

I have left two (unanswered) comments above. Other than resolving these two minor points, I consider that the article is fully compliant with the requirements of a GA. I'm therefore awarding GA status. Congratulations on the quality of the article. Pyrotec (talk) 21:59, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Can we balance the Effects section?[edit]

In Effects, most paragraphs begin with "Pierre Duhem [said] ...", where Pierre Duhem just happens to be the author who was most perused by the authors of this article. I find that quite annoying and distracting. Should we try to improve that wording (how?), or is it actually good that it's so clumsy, because it may warn readers and invite the eventual addition of other viewpoints? — Sebastian 04:26, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

It's been a long time since I've looked at the literature, but a place to start would be by fleshing out the discussions that maintained that the condemnations led to skepticism and a consequent decline of philosophical and scientific investigation. People who come to mind are Gordon Leff, John Murdoch, and a wide range of early (say pre-1960) historians of philosophy.
That being said, I find something like Grant and Lindberg's modifications of the Duhem thesis most convincing. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:04, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Duhem was a giant in the field. I don't see any more of a problem with the repetitive use of "Duhem said" than I would of "Newton said" in a physics article. If your objection is purely stylistic, you could replace the phrase "Duhem said" with an appropriate inline citation. Rwflammang (talk) 00:45, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the helpful comments. If Duhem was that important for assessing the effects, then my complaint indeed reduces to a purely stylistic one. As for inline citations, I find they are already used too often at WP in situations like this, as an ersatz for actually writing an article. I agree with the essay Wikipedia:Quotations, which advises against "constructing articles out of quotations with little or no original prose". How about putting a nice frame around the three paragraphs by starting with an introductory sentence that explains why Duhem's opinion is important (fleshing out in half a sentence what Rwflammang hinted at) and announces that much of the following is based on his research, and then concluding with another sentence that introduces opposing opinions? — Sebastian 21:37, 3 January 2012 (UTC)