Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Richard Rufus of Cornwall

An article on Richard Rufus of Cornwall

Some choice quotes:

Richard Rufus of Cornwall may be the most important figure in Western philosophy you’ve never heard of. A project based at Indiana University and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities aims to change that.

“Still, if we want to learn how the Western university curriculum was shaped, we need to know the works of Richard Rufus, works that were entirely lost between 1350 and 1950 and which are just now beginning to be published,” Wood said. “The importance of the project explains why the NEH has supported the project with modest funding for more than a decade.”

“Indiana University proudly partners with the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of basic research in the humanities,” said Sarita Soni, IU Bloomington vice provost for research. “Without critical editions such as those that the NEH supports, higher-level interpretative scholarship and teaching would lack a solid foundation. We take special pride in the research accomplishments of our entire faculty, so we are particularly pleased when exceptional achievements such as Dr. Wood’s are recognized nationally.”

Rufus is the earliest Western philosopher whose commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics and natural sciences are known to have survived. He played a key role in the transformation of philosophy and theology as a university lecturer in Paris and Oxford between 1231 and 1255. When Rufus began lecturing, the university curriculum focused only on the liberal arts, and the teaching of Aristotle’s Metaphysics or his natural philosophy was forbidden. Within two decades, the libri naturales were required reading, and all students were examined on them.

These works established the foundations of philosophy and were fundamental to Western science — without the translations and commentaries in the 13th century, “not only would medieval science have failed to materialize, but the scientific revolution of the 17th century could hardly have occurred,” wrote IU Distinguished Professor Emeritus Edward Grant.

Rufus not only restated Aristotle’s arguments for his contemporaries, but he also frequently challenged them, Wood said. In so doing he influenced the great Scholastic philosophers who followed him. His influence can be seen in Roger Bacon and Bonaventure on cosmology, in Albert the Great’s theory of universals, and in John Duns Scotus’ account of individuation.

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