Recent work in historical philosophy on the Aristotelian concept of qualities — that is, hot, cold, wet, and dry, the fundamental causal agents of the natural world — offers a moment to reconsider the connections between medicine, religion, and natural philosophy in late medieval England. Though hidden and obscure to most modern scholars, how qualities operated in contemporary remedies, such as those for horses suffering from founder, raises questions about the nature of vernacular knowledge of philosophical and theological concepts and their relation to lived everyday life. We not only find connections between grace and physics, but that knowledge of the physics of qualities brings considerable nuance to why men and women used holy words, objects, and actions as ingredients in cures. Standing alongside the extensive scholarship on magic and the supernatural, this article illustrates how understandings of qualities were central to the contestations over rationality and vernacularity in fifteenth-century culture.
Matthew Milner; The Physics of Holy Oats: Vernacular Knowledge, Qualities, and Remedy in Fifteenth-Century England. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2013; 43 (2): 219–245. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2081960
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