Book Series Studies and Texts, vol. 68

Nicole Oresme

Nicole Oresme and the Marvels of Nature

The De causis mirabilium

Bert Hansen (ed)

  • Pages: 490 p.
  • Size:175 x 260 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:1985

Out of Print
  • ISBN: 978-0-88844-068-6
  • Paperback
  • Out of Print


Nicole Oresme (d. 1382), professor of arts and theology at the University of Paris and later bishop of Lisieux, was highly regarded by his contemporaries as a natural philosopher, theologian, translator of Aristotle, economic theorist, critic of astrology, and royal adviser. During our time, he has become widely known through modern editions of his works in mathematics, physics, and astronomy.

In the De causis mirabilium, Oresme examines a wide range of ‘marvelous’ phenomena. Arguing against attributing them to celestial influence, to demons, or to God, he shows that they happen no less naturally than do common events about which no one marvels. He claims further that ‘marvels’ often result from misperceptions, errors of sensation, or faulty reasoning – an assertion supported by many examples. The book shows an early scientist at work in the act of providing natural explanations and trying to justify this approach, supplementing nicely the more formal discussions of the methodology of medieval science.

The study preceding the annotated edition and translation of the De causis mirabilium sets this text not only in the context of Oresme’s career, but also against the background of other ancient and medieval attempts to shift the boundary between the natural and the preternatural. It becomes clear that Oresme’s treatise was shaped by various philosophical disputes of his own day, including nominalism, the theology of God’s power, the psychology of vision, prophecy, the knowledge of particulars, and the causes of monstrous births.