Measure and Mathematics in Renaissance Philosophy

Jul 14, 2020
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Richard OosterhoffUniversity of Edinburgh

A webinar lecture with Richard Oosterhoff (University of Edinburgh). Part of our summer webinar series on "Reason and Beauty in Renaissance Christian Thought and Culture," presented in collaboration with the American Cusanus Society

Perspective drawing, map-making, musical harmonics, astronomy, and number theory—these were all mathematical disciplines in the Renaissance. We tend to link measuring sounds, sights, and sensations with outstanding philosophers, from Nicholas of Cusa to Galileo and Descartes. But every university student met these topics, in their first textbooks. This webinar will focus on the hugely popular Paris master and humanist Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (c. 1455–1536), who wove a programme of university reform out of authorities from Church Fathers and mystics, the Victorines, Ramon Llull, and Cusanus. Out of such sources, Lefèvre bequeathed European universities a shared philosophical culture in which mathematics offered an archetype of reason and beauty.

2020 Summer Webinar Series on "Reason and Beauty in Renaissance Christian Thought and Culture"

What do reason and beauty have to do with each other? Since the modern Enlightenment and Romantic movements, it has been tempting to see reason and beauty as separate or even opposed. In the Renaissance, however, rational and artistic pursuits bloomed together and even fed each other. Renaissance culture, including fine art, poetry, architecture, astronomy, and humanistic thought, both drew upon and extended ancient and medieval Christian intellectual traditions. This webinar course will examine different aspects of renaissance Christian thought and culture to explore how pursuits of reason interwove with the love of beauty.

This event is cosponsored by the Beatrice InstituteCalvert House, the Genealogies of Modernity Project, the Harvard Catholic Center, the Nova Forum for Catholic Thought, and St. Paul's Catholic Center.

Richard Oosterhoff is Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Edinbugh. He received his PhD in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Notre Dame. His research areas include the social practices of knowledge communities, early modern data management, the history of print and reading, the visual culture of early mathematics, apprenticeship patterns for learned and craft knowers, women artisans and teachers, and—increasingly—global and comparative approaches to early modern history. He was recenty a collaborator on a major interdisciplinary research project based out of the University of Cambridge, entitled "Genius Before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science." He has held fellowships from the Warburg Institute (University of London), the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, the Huntington Library, and the Houghton Library (Harvard University).