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Divination and Scientific Prediction

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The Epistemology of Prognostic Sciences in Medieval Europe

image of Early Science and Medicine

Starting with a survey of the terminology that was used to describe the epistemological status of the mantic arts during the Middle Ages, this article focuses on the connections between the theoretical assumptions of these arts and of other prognostic disciplines of the time. While during the thirteenth century, mantic disciplines, medicine and meteorology were classified altogether as conjectural sciences that were all based on the interpretation of signs, during the fourteenth century, a more differentiated model of scientific prediction developed in medical theory as well as in meteorology. This model took into account the conditional probability of the expected events, which allowed the option to falsify or at least to revise and adapt a prognosis. Against the backdrop of the epistemological models of prognosis, it becomes obvious that when the mantic disciplines were ultimately excluded from the Western canon of the sciences, it was due not alone to moral and theological concerns.

Affiliations: 1: ICREA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


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