The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century - Vol. 1

The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century - Vol. 1

The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century - Vol. 1

The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century - Vol. 1


This book is about the development of scholastic argumentation in thirteenth-century Europe. It traces the rise of a formal model of science and resulting accommodations in traditional attitudes towards human cognition, especially with regard to the role of divine illumination.Investigated are ten theologians from Robert Grosseteste to Duns Scotus, all commonly associated with a so-called Augustinian current. The analysis focuses on theory of knowledge and of mind, relating both to the account of human understanding of divinity in the world.Of interest to historians of medieval culture and historians of science, the book lays bare the intellectual transformations ultimately setting the stage for the emergence of modern science. It furthermore advances a novel argument about the reality of Augustinianism" and "Aristotelianism" in high-medieval thought."


Though Pope Leo xiii hardly spoke for the world of scholarship when in the encyclical Aeterni patris of 1879 he called for increased study of the work of Thomas Aquinas, his general interest in drawing attention to high-medieval Scholasticism in the history of philosophy was shared by academics throughout Europe. By the late nineteenth century it had become commonplace to associate the thirteenth century with the flowering of medieval thought. the idea has maintained a grip on the historical imagination up to the present day. Even as competing centuries vie for attention, the thirteenth continues to monopolize the energies of historians of medieval philosophy, with the vast majority of studies in medieval intellectual history devoted to thirteenth-century thinkers.

Of course the tenor of scholarly investigation into the thirteenth century in the more than one hundred years since Aeterni patris has varied, with programs of research reflecting the intellectual fashions of the day. Nevertheless, two lines of inquiry have stood out for their persistent ability to generate scholarly debate. Their stories are well known to students of the Middle Ages.

The older investigative track goes back to the start, and it has to do with the question of intellectual schools. Maurice De Wulf, virtual founder of modern scholarship on medieval philosophy who echoed Aeterni patris in his admiration for high-medieval scholastics, like Leo xiii viewed their achievement as monolithic, Scholasticism comprising a unified intellectual system most perfectly embodied in the work of giants such as Aquinas. Yet already in De Wulf’s day there was dissatisfaction with the notion of Scholasticism as a seamless fabric of knowledge. Karl Werner, and more famously still Franz Ehrle, argued that it had to be divided into two separate doctrinal

This notion pervades De Wulf’s work but was perhaps most eloquently expressed early in his career in “Qu’est-ce que la philosophie scolastique?” rns 5 (1898): 141–53, 282–96. in English, see De Wulf’s Medieval Philosophy. Illustrated from the System of Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge, Mass., 1922); and Philosophy and Civilization in the Middle Ages (Princeton, 1922), where on pp. 82–83 he points to a “common fund of doctrine, to which [he] was the first to limit the name of ‘scholastic philosophy.’”

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