Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science

Article excerpt

EARLY MODERN EUROPEAN Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science. By Craig Martin. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2014. Pp. viii, 262. $54.95. ISBN 978-1-4214-1316-7.)

In Subverting Aristotle, Craig Martin takes us on a brisk trot through the history of anti-Aristotelianism from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century. Singling out one particular strand of hostility to Aristotle, he first traces the problems that arose from the continuous attempts on the part of both philosophers and theologians to adapt a pagan Greek philosophy to the needs of European Christendom and then shows how these eventually contributed to the downfall of Aristotelianism. Covering such a large amount of intellectual territory in just 180 pages of text and 58 pages of endnotes is something of a tour de force, for which Martin deserves not only plaudits but also warm gratitude from the many readers who will find a mine of useful information in his survey. By taking account of so many authors-some well known, but others scarcely familiar even to specialists-over such a long period of time, he leaves himself very little space to discuss any of them in detail or, more regrettably, to place them in their historical context. In compensation, however, Martin has a sharp eye for apt quotations, which he provides in abundance, usually giving just an accurately (if at times a bit clumsily) translated snippet, with the original cited in the endnotes.

The Ariadne's thread by which Martin leads the reader through this labyrinth of accusations and counter-accusations is his conviction that "the religious motivations of promoters of new natural philosophies who attacked Aristotelianism were sincere" and that "subverting Aristotle's authority was necessary for and concomitant to the ascent of modern science" (p. 10). His aim is to counter the Whiggish, and now rather outdated, view that the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century was a reflection, if not a direct result, of the progressive secularization of European thought. …

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