Background: Controversy and History 

Project Activities 

Eternity of the World 

Unicity of the Intellect 

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Boundaries of Science: Medieval Condemnations of Philosophy as Heresy

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 701523 (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions – IF – 701523 – BoundSci).

Boundaries of Science is a multi-disciplinary project about the history of science, and conflict between faith and reason during the Middle Ages. It looks at how controversial philosophical theories were sometimes labelled ‘heretical’ by Latin scholastics (medieval academics), even though the theories had not been declared heretical by the Church. The aim of the project is to collect examples of such instances, and to examine the philosophical context and personal/career circumstances of the authors to understand what lay behind their use of this severe term. The project’s focus is on scholastic treatments of the two main issues in the controversy: the theories of Eternity of the World and the Unicity of the Intellect. 

The context of this controversy was a scientific revolution during the 13th century. Aristotelian natural philosophy (what we today call ‘science’) had become central to Latin scholastic scientific thought, but it included ideas unacceptable to Christian readers. At the height of the controversy, these ideas were condemned by the bishop of Paris on pain of excommunication. To read more about this history, the controversial theories, and the question of their heresy, please click here.

Boundaries of Science involves first-time collection of a substantial number of quaestiones (medieval academic essays) on two issues of major interest to historians of medieval philosophy: the Eternity of the World and the Unicity of the Intellect. To share information with others interested in this material, and to encourage research on the issues, the links below present lists of quaestiones and other treatments of the two issues by late 13th- and early 14th-century scholastics.

Eternity of the World    Unicity of the Intellect 

A range of activities has come out of this project, including organisation of an international conference (Forbidden Ideas, April 2018), and presentations at seminars and conferences. Findings have also been disseminated through public engagement activities.  Highlights can be seen here.