Divine omnipotence
There is no clear point at which the Dark Ages ended in Europe. Learning in some form had been kept alive in the monasteries, but the interest of the Christian fathers had lain in mysticism and religious relevance rather than practical or theoretical science. The Arabs, who had made great strides in the understanding of alchemy, mathematics and astronomy throughout the period, maintained an interest in pure science, and as this knowledge filtered gradually into Europe the shadow of ignorance lifted. But. it was a slow process, taking three or four hundred years.
Sometime between 1200 and 1225, Aristotle's works, which had been saved in part by the Arabs and amalgamated with their own ideas, were rediscovered by European intellectuals and translated into Latin. From this point on, Aristotle's science returned to favour and took over from Platonic mysticism, gradually fusing with Christian theology.
Although this development may be viewed as an improvement upon the Dark Age mistrust of science and the Stoics' preoccupation with spirituality, it created a new obsession - a marriage of Aristotelian natural philosophy with Christian dogma. This meant that any attack upon Aristotle's science was also seen as an attack upon Christianity. Together, the two doctrines formed a powerful alliance and created a world- view that was taught by rote almost unchallenged in every university in Europe for almost half a millennium, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.
These twinned beliefs produced a self-contained picture of the universe: God created the world as described in the Scriptures and guided all actions. All movement was not only set in motion by God but was supervised by divine power. The Church's doctrine of divine omnipotence thus dovetailed perfectly with Aristotle's belief in the Unmoved Mover - that no movement was possible unless initiated by an unseen hand. All matter consisted of the four elements and was not divisible into atoms as Democritus had proposed. To Aristotle, every material object was an individual complete entity, created by God and composed of a particular combination of the four elements. Each object possessed certain distinct and observable qualities, such as heaviness, colour, smell, coolness. These were seen as solely intrinsic aspects or properties of the object, and their observed nature had nothing to do with the perception of the observer.
To the thirteenth-century mind, the notion that properties of an object such as smell, taste or texture were partly open to interpretation in the mind of the observer would have been totally alien. Every property of an object was intrinsic and the same for all observers. Furthermore, because Aristotle had rejected atomism, the concept that matter was composed of tiny, indivisible elements would have been equally foreign to most people of the time. And, because Aristotelian ideas were now bound up inextricably with religion, any philosopher who openly challenged any aspect of accepted scientific ideology put his life in danger.