Registrations are open for the 2023 CSMBR Summer School on
Intensity and the Grades of Nature
Heat, Colour, and Sound in the Ordering
of Pre-Modern Cosmos: 1200-1600
11-14 July 2023
Tawrin Baker, Georgiana Hedesan, Martin Kemp, Andreas Lammer, Alexander Marr, Vivian Nutton, Sylvain Roudaut, Alain Touwaide, Giulia Martina Weston
Held in the stunning premises and terrace of the Domus Comeliana, this summer school will explore how heat, colour, and sound have been used, conceptualised and graded in the pre-modern cosmos shaping both disciplines of knowledge and everyday life.
Central to the various cosmologies that developed throughout the period 1200-1600 was the idea that phenomena are subject to a variation in intensity. Intensity determined why objects were of higher or lesser temperature, speed, brightness, porous or dense texture, pitch, and so forth. And yet, intensity also had wider metaphysical, theological, political and cultural implications: it was instrumental to justify the order of the cosmos, the necessity of evil, and the need for hierarchies in maintaining social peace, with shades of colour especially used to mark social status, both in garments and buildings.
Linking back to Greek philosophy and medicine (i.e Aristotle, Galen, Dioscorides) theories of intensity (intensio et remissio formarum) blossomed in the late middle ages but remained vital in early modern philosophy (e.g. Galileo, Leibniz) up to the eighteenth century, with Baumgarten and Kant attempting at measuring the quantity of virtue (quantitas virtutis) necessary to the human subject to perceive (aesthetica) an object in the external world.
On the one hand, medieval and early modern theories of intensity developed an ancient desideratum to classify the world in a hierarchical order, also known as scala naturae or ‘the great chain of being’. At the extremes of the ‘chain’ were located respectively God, as the metaphysical grantor of order and the embodiment of perfection, and matter, embodying imperfection and chaos. However, on the other hand, the pre-modern period moved beyond previous attempts, as the cosmos is now spatialised and measurable. As comprehended within two opposites (i.e. perfection/imperfection, hot/cold, up/down, etc.), change occurs within “a range” (latitudo), wherein objects acquire or lose certain “degrees” (gradus) of the quality that is being intensified; thus hotter or brighter objects are so because they participate more in the specific property (formae) of heat or light. In this sense, it is significant that, while the modern cosmos was consciously built on “number”, “weight” and “measure”, the fabric of the pre-modern world was textured in grades and shades.
The event is organised as part of the DFG project Measuring the World by Degrees. Intensity in Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy 1400-1650 (Project no: 461231785).
The event is supported by five Santorio Fellowships worth 500 euros each.
Info and Registration at: https://csmbr.fondazionecomel.org/events/the-intensity-of-nature/
Santorio Fellowship: https://csmbr.fondazionecomel.org/grants-and-awards/santorio-fellowship/
Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance (C S M B R)
Domus Comeliana, Via Cardinale Maffi 48, 56126 Pisa, Italy
Tel.: +39.02.006.20.51 – Mobile: +39.3126.96.36.199