Gersonides was a highly original Jewish philosopher, scientist and biblical exegete, active in Provence in the first half of the fourteenth century. Ruth Glasner explores his impressive achievements, and argues that the key to understanding his originality is his perspective as an applied mathematical scientist. It was this perspective that led him to examine Aristotelianism from directions different from those usually adopted by contemporary scholastic scholars.
Gersonides started on his way, as he himself claims, as a 'mathematician, natural scientist, and philosopher', who believed in his power to solve the main problems of medieval science. He ended up concentrating on his work as a mathematical astronomer, developing techniques of observation and
computation, and somewhat less optimistic about the prospect of scientific knowledge.
Ruth Glasner is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her PhD research focused on Greek philosophy, and she later turned to work on medieval science, notably physics, mathematics and astronomy. Glasner studies mainly Hebrew medieval texts with a special interest in the genre of the commentary.
Preface: A true Aristotelian? ; 1. The background: the state of the applied mathematical sciences ; 2. Gersonides: outline of a scientific biography ; 3. Physics: breaking the Aristotelian harmony ; 4. Cosmology: examining the assumption of celestial animation ; 5. Method: empiricism and the examination of hypotheses ; 6. Metaphysics: doubts and reservations ; 7. Cosmology: the science of stellar influences ; 8. Astronomy: specialization and hesitation ; Concluding remark: Gersonides and western science