Disjoining Wisdom and Knowledge: Science, Theology and the Making of Western Modernity

Date of this Version

January 2006

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Harrison, Peter (2006) Disjoining Wisdom and Knowledge: Science, Theology and the Making of Western Modernity is a chapter in Wisdom or Knowledge? Science, Theology and Cultural Dynamics, Meisinger, Hubert, Drees, Willem B., and Liana, Zbigniew (eds), T & T Clark International, Continuum Imprint, London, 2006, Chapter 4, pp. 51-73.
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2006 HERDC submission


This chapter focuses on four distinct phases of the relationship between science and wisdom in the West and deals with them in chronological order: (1) Early Christian and patristic views that oppose heavenly and earthly wisdom, and which identify classical science with the earthly wisdom. (2)Thomas Aquinas's thirteenth-century adaptation of Aristotle's classification of the sciences, according to which both theology and the study of nature (natural philosophy) count as sciences and as virtues. In a sense, both are forms of wisdom, with the earthly wisdom of the sciences not being opposed to the heavenly wisdom of theology, but rather providing a path to it. (3) The early modern rejection of the Thomist notion that science (scientia) was a virtue, and the tendency to regard both theology and natural science as activities related to propositions. (4)The final stage of the dissociation of wisdom and science that came with the professionalization of science in the nineteenth century, when both moral and theological issues are explicitly excluded from the scope of the natural sciences. This is followed by concluding remarks about what all of this might mean for our current understandings of the relationship between science, religion and wisdom.

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