Little Bits of History

March 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 7, 2017

1277: Stephen Tempier condemns 219 propositions. There were several issuances of condemnation at the University of Paris during the 13th century. The first, in 1210 was the beginning of a list of times when the learned leaders of the University tried to rein in the teachings offered there. Tempier was born in Orleans but studied in Paris. He became a master of theology and canon of Notre Dame and eventually the chancellor there. He also served as chancellor at the University of Paris before he was ordained as bishop of Paris in 1268.

Tempier was encouraged by Henry of Ghent (a Catholic philosopher and theologian). Certain Aristotelian teachers were under fire as were some other theological questions. There is a theory that Pope John XXI asked for Tempier to look into heretical teachings at the University, but did not ask for the list of banned ideas. The ideas of Aristotle under attack were the eternity of the world and unicity of the intellect. Tempier also threw in several issues from the works of Thomas Aquinas. Astrology came under attack within the list as did many other secular philosophical discussions.

The penalty for teaching or listening to the instruction of any of 219 condemnations was excommunication. The hope was that Master of Arts classes would discontinue teaching the ideas of Aristotle where they conflicted with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Also banned were teachings on the subjects of Capallanus’s De amore (a treatise on courtly love), geomancy, necromancy, witchcraft, and fortunetelling. Part of the list was later annulled, especially where it was concerned with the teaches of Aquinas.

The long list has been seen as being poorly organized to the point of confusion. It has been suggested the list was not set up by topic, but rather by a time line based on when the original “mistake” was made. Tempier also did not list the primary targets for his list, rather just the Arts Faculty in Paris, although two men were thought to have been singled out for censure. Whatever the hoped for effect of the list, recent historians have made their own assessment of this last and longest list of banned teachings. There may have been a positive effect on the development of science, a topic which Aristotle was interested in, but had no idea of current scientific methodology. With his teachings banned, a new and more modern science, one based on observations and testing of theories, could emerge.

That there was no first man, nor will there be a last; on the contrary, there always was and always will be generation of man from man. – condemnation #9

That God could not move the heavens with rectilinear motion; and the reason is that a vacuum would remain. – condemnation #49

That the world is eternal as to all the species contained in it; and that time is eternal, as are motion, matter, agent, and recipient; and because the world is from the infinite power of God, it is impossible that there be novelty in an effect without novelty in the cause. – condemnation #87

Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand. – Thomas Aquinas

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