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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nicholas of Kues

 Scott Horton today had an interesting post on one of the writings of Nicholas of Kues. I'd never heard of him. My main focus of Medieval history is on England and Cusanus (the name most preferred for him) was a Catholic theologian in northern Italy a century before the Reformation. When I delved deeper by looking up his biography in Wikipedia he knocked my socks off. Here was someone who really made a difference in history in many aspects that is under the radar for me at least.

To summarize just some of his accomplishment reveals a truly great intellect and what might be a proto-Renaissance man and forerunner of the Reformation as he predates them by a hundred years.

1. Theologically he stood for reconciliation. He was part of a delegation to try and rejoin the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, where he encountered Islam. When Constatinople fell to the Ottoman Turks shortly after his return his was the voice of moderation and reason against the call of Crusade. (This was the main thrust of Scott Horton's article where he discusses on of Casanus' works De Pace Fidei (On the peace born of faith).

2. He impacted philosophy with De Docta Ignorantia (Of Learned Ignorance), De Visione Dei (On The Vision of God), and On Conjectures. Here he predates the Enlightenment by numerous centuries with a reliance on Reason. He influenced such later Philosophers as Bruno and Leibniz.

3. In science Johannes Kepler referred to him as "divinely inspired" in the first paragraph of his first public work. His work inspired Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Bruno in astronomy. In mathematics his books on numerology led to Leibniz developing Calculus. This is the accomplishment that affects me -- he was the first to use concave lenses to correct myopia (near sightedness) -- Wow the father of all reading glasses. This field alone should have him in all science and history books (in my humble opinion). But that's not all.

4. Politics. Here I'll paste what Wikipedia says:

In 1433, Nicholas proposed reform of the Holy Roman Empire and a method to elect Holy Roman Emperors. Although it was not adopted by the Church, his method was essentially the same one known today as the Borda count, which is used in many academic institutions, competitions, and even some political jurisdictions, in original form and a number of variations. His proposal preceded Borda's work by over three centuries.

Nicholas' opinions on the Empire, which he hoped to reform and strengthen, were cited against papal claims of temporal power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Protestants writers were happy to cite a cardinal against Rome's pretensions. Protestants, however, found his writings against the Hussites wrong. Nicholas seemed to give the church too much power to interpret Scripture, instead of treating it as self interpreting and self-sufficient for salvation, the principle of sola scriptura.

It's not often enough I come upon someone that did so much that I had never heard about. Scott Horton is expanding my education into so many fields with his blog I can't praise it enough.

As Epicuris said: "Knowledge is Pleasure"

Neitsche is credited with saying: "Knowledge is Power"

When I learn of men like Casanus I get both joy and am empowered.

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