Faith and reason: charting the medieval concept of the infinite
Undusk, Rein (The Under and Tuglas Literature Centre, Tallinn)
Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol.16:1 (2012)
The infinite, understood as transcendency, stood in the background of most medieval thinking. Embraced in the early Middle Ages by the concept of universal natural symbolism, which organized the reading of the syntax of natura, the infinite posed new epistemic problems for medieval thinking after the re-emergence of Aristotle’s natural philosophy, with some of its strongly finitist strings, in 12th century Europe. In fact, the collision of scholastic natural philosophy with supernatural theology, included judiciously in the
structure of the medieval university, proved highly fruitful from the perspective of the development of knowledge as such. The effective, as regards the preparation of via moderna, entanglement of Franciscan Platonism and Aristotelianism in the philosophies of John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham is testimony to it. The present article undertakes the task to offer some insights into the way infinity was accommodated in medieval Christian thinking, especially from the point of view of concept formation in culture, and of the interrelations between different cognitive demands of the human mind.