Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Grosseteste or Grossetete

English Statesman, Scholastic Philosopher, Theologian, Scientist and Bishop of Lincoln

"God is said to be in time, because He is absent from no time or because he is in the simplicity of eternity, from which all time flows."

"Command that no one be received, or kept to be of your household indoors or without, if one has not reasonable belief of them that they are faithful, discreet, and painstaking in the office for which they are received, and withal honest and of good manners."

"Command that in no way there be in your household any who make strife, discord or divisions in the hostel, but all shall be of one accord, of one will as of one heart and one soul."

"Command those that govern your house before all you household that they keep careful watch that all your household, within and without, be faithful, painstaking, chaste, clean, honest and profitable."

"United we stand, divided we fall."

"Command that your marshal be careful to be present over the household, and especially in the hall, to keep the household, within doors and without, respectable, without dispute or noise, or bad words."

"The pastoral charge [does not] consist merely in administering the sacraments, chanting the canonical hours, celebrating masses -- though even these are not properly done by hirelings --; it consists also in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, covering the naked, receiving guests, visiting the sick and those in prison. By the doing of these things is the people to be instructed in the holy duties of an active life."

"Also see how many quarters of corn you will spend in a week in dispensable bread, how much in alms."

"And as far as possible for sickness or fatigue, constrain yourself to eat in the hall before your people, for this shall bring great benefit and honor to you."

"And if strangers come to supper they shall be served with more according as they have need."

"And be careful of this, that each day at your meals you have two overseers over your household when you sit at meals, and of this be sure, that you shall be very much feared and reverenced."

"And strictly forbid that any quarrelling be at your meals."

"And with the money from your corn, from your rents, and from the issues of pleas in your courts, and from your stock, arrange the expenses of your kitchen and your wines and your wardrobe and the wages of servants, and subtract your stock."

"And in doing this I advise you to send to the best manors of your lands those of your household in whom you place most confidence to be present in August at the leading of the corn, and to guard it as aforesaid."

"And you yourself always be seated at the middle fo the high table that your presence as lord or lady may appear openly to all, and that you may plainly see on either side all the service and all the faults."

"Every operation in nature is in the shortest, best ordered, briefest, and best possible way."

"Because the purity of the eye of the soul is obscured and weighed down by the corrupt body, all the powers of this rational soul born in man are laid hold of by the mass of the body and cannot act and so in a way are asleep. Accordingly, when in the process of time the senses act through many interactions of sense with sensible things, the reasoning is awakened mixed with these very sensible things and is borne along in the senses to the sensible things as in a ship. But the functioning reason begins to divide and separately consider what in sense were confused...But the reasoning does not know this to be actually universal except after it has made this abstraction from many singulars, and has reached one and the same universal by its judgment taken from many singulars."

"Exhort all your household often that all those who serve you shall know to serve God and you, faithfully and painstakingly, and for the will of God to prefer in all things to do your will and pleasure in all things that are not against God."

"I say that it is possible to have some knowledge without the help of the senses. For in the Divine Mind all knowledge exists from eternity, and not only is there in it certain knowledge of universals but also of all singulars... Similarly, intelligence receiving irradiation from the primary light see all knowable things, both universal and singulars, in the primary light itself. Moreover, the Divine Mind, in the reflection of its intelligence upon Itself, knows the very things which come after Itself, because it is itself their cause. Therefore, those who are without any senses have true knowledge."

"I hold that the first form of a body is the first corporeal mover. But this is light, which as it multiplies itself and expands without the body of matter moving with it, makes its passage instantaneously through the transparent medium and is not motion but a state of change. But, indeed, when light is expanding itself in different directions it is incorporated with matter, if the body of matter extends with it, and it makes a rarefaction or augmentation of matter; for when light is itself charged with the body of matter, it produces condensation or rarefaction. So when light generates itself in one direction drawing matter with it, it produces local motion; and when light within matter is sent out and what is outside is sent in, it produces qualitative change. From this it is clear that corporeal motion is a multiplicative power of light, and this is a corporeal and natural appetite."

"It is not possible for form to do without matter because it is not separable, nor can matter itself be purged of form."

"If you know how many acres you have sown of each kind of corn, inquire how much the acre the soil of that land takes for sowing, and count the number of quarters of seed, and you shall know the return of seed, and what ought to be over."

"Just as the light of the sun irradiates the organ of vision and things visible, enabling the former to see and the latter to be seen, so too the irradiation of a spiritual light brings the mind into relation with that which is intelligible."

"In a vacuum which is imagined as infinite there cannot be local differences, both on account of its infinity, and also because of the fact that the vacuum, if it exists, would have no nature but a privation, and therefore it can have no natural differences."

"Know that each acre of fallow ought to support yearly two sheep at the least, then a hundred acres of fallow can support two hundred sheep, two hundred acres, four hundred sheep and so on."

"Power from natural agents may go by a short line, and then in its activity greater... But if by a straight line then its action is stronger and better, as Aristotle says in Book V of the Physics, because nature operates in the shortest way possible. But the straight line is the shortest of all, as he says in the same place."

"One cause, in so far as it is one, is productive of only one effect. I do not rule out several efficient causes of which one is nearer and another more remote in the same order. Thus when I say simply 'animal', I do not exclude another substance or particular substance. Hence motion, in so far as it is one, is productive of only one effect. But motion is present in every body from an intrinsic principle which is called natural. Therefore an efficient cause simply proportional to the motion is present in all bodies. But nothing is present in common in every body except primitive matter and primitive form and magnitude, which necessarily follows from these two, and whatever is entailed by magnitude as such, as position and shape. But simply through magnitude a body does not receive motion, as is clear enough when Aristotle shows that everything that moves is divisible, not, therefore, simply because of magnitude or something entailed by magnitude is a body productive of motion. Nor is primitive matter productive of motion, because it is itself passive. It is therefore necessary that motion follow simply from the primitive form as from an efficient cause."

"Ostensive demonstration is that which concludes directly to that which is in question. Reduction ad impossibile is that which, when something the opposite of that which is in question has been assumed, concludes with some other proposition directly to a known and manifest impossibility, from the opposite of which the investigator is led back to the original proposition in question. But there is a difference between ostensive demonstration and reduction ad impossibile, because the former proves from things prior in the order of nature but the latter from things posterior in the order of nature. When things prior in nature are better known in the intellect of the person making the demonstration the process is carried out ostensively; but when posterior things are better known to his intellect then the demonstration is carried out per impossibile... in demonstration carried out per impossibile the showing of the original thing in question is carried out by means of things posterior to it in the order of nature... And there is in the contrary, falsely supposed in predicate of subject, a connecting term by which something is implied to be which impossible in the nature of things."

"Make your free men and guests sit as far as possible at tables on either side, not four here and three there."

"Now, all causes of natural effects must be expressed by means of lines, angles and figures, for otherwise it is impossible to grasp their explanation. This is evident as follows. A natural agent multiplies its power from itself to the recipient, whether it acts on sense or on matter. This power is sometimes called species, sometimes a likeness, and it is the same thing whatever it may be called; and the agent sends the same power into sense and into matter, or into its own contrary, as heat sends the same thing into the sense of touch and into a cold body. For it does not act, by deliberation and choice, and therefore it acts in a single manner whatever it encounters, whether sense or something insensitive, whether something animate or inanimate. But the effects are diversified by the diversity of the recipient, for when this power is received by the senses, it produces an effect that is somehow spiritual and noble; on the other hand, when it is received by matter, it produces a material effect. Thus the sun produces different effects in different recipients by the same power, for it cakes mud and melts ice."

"Say to all small and great, and that often, that fully, quickly and willingly, without grumbling and contradiction, they do all your commands that are not against God."

"That is better and more valuable which requires fewer, other circumstances being equal, just as that demonstration is better, other circumstances being equal, which necessitates the answering of a smaller number of questions for a perfect demonstration or requires a smaller number of suppositions and premises from which the demonstration proceeds. For if one thing were demonstrated from many and another thing from fewer equally known premises, clearly that is better which is from fewer because it makes us know quickly, just as a universal demonstration is better than particular because it produces knowledge from fewer premises. Similarly in natural science, in moral science, and in metaphysics the best is that which needs no premises and the better that which needs the fewer, other circumstances being equal."

"The diligent investigator of natural phenomena can give the causes of all natural effects... by the rules and roots and foundations given from the power of geometry."

"The consideration of lines, angles and figures is of the greatest utility since it is impossible for natural philosophy to be known without them... All causes of natural effects have to be given through lines, angles and figures, for otherwise it is impossible for the reason why (propter quid) to be known in them."

"The experimental universal is acquired by us, whose mind's eye is not purely spiritual, only through the help of the senses. For when the senses several times observe two singular occurrences, of which one is the cause of the other or is related to it in some other way, and they do not see the connection between them... And from this perception repeated again and again and stored in memory, and from the sensory knowledge from which the perception is built up, the functioning of the reasoning begins. The functioning reason therefore begins to wonder and to consider whether things really are as the sensible recollection says, and these two lead the reason to experiment... But when he has administered many times with the sure exclusion of all other things[that could be mistaken for the cause]... then there is formed in the reason this universal... and this is the way in which it comes from sensation to a universal experimental principle."

"The highest part of the human soul, which is called the intelligence and which is not the act of any body and does not need for its proper operation a corporeal instrument?this intelligence, if it were not obscured and weighed down by the mass of the body, would itself have complete knowledge from the irradiation received from the superior light without the help of sense, just as it will have when the soul is drawn forth from the body, and as perhaps those people have who are free from the love and the imaginings of corporeal things."

"The wool of a thousand sheep in good pasture at the least ought to yield fifty marks a year, the wool of two thousand one hundred marks, and so forth, counting by thousands."

"This part of optics [perspectiva], when well understood, shows us how we may make things a very long way off appear to be placed very close, and large near things appear very small, and how we may make small things placed at a distance appear as large as we want, so that it is possible for us to read the smallest letters at an incredible distance, or to count sand, or grain, or seeds, or any sort of minute objects."

"The first corporeal form, which some call corporeity, I hold to be light. For light of its own nature diffuses itself in all directions, so that from a point of light a sphere of light of any size may be instantly generated, provided an opaque body does not get in the way. Corporeity is what necessarily follows the extension of matter in three dimensions, since each of these, that is corporeity and matter, is a substance simple in itself and lacking all dimensions. But simple form in itself and in dimension lacking matter and dimension, it was impossible for it to become extended in every direction except by multiplying itself and suddenly diffusing itself in every direction and in its diffusion extending matter; since it is not possible for form to do without matter because it is not separable, nor can matter itself be purged of form. And, in fact, it is light, I suggest, of which this operation is part of the nature, namely, to multiply itself and instantaneously diffuse itself in every direction. Therefore, whatever it is that produces this operation is either light itself or something that produces this operation in so far as it participates in light, which produces it by its own nature. Corporeity is therefore either this light, or is what produces the operation in question and produces dimensions in matter in so far as it participates in this light itself and acts by virtue of this same light. But for the first form to produce dimensions in matter by virtue of a subsequent form is impossible. Therefore light is not the form succeeding this corporeity, but is this corporeity itself."

"The space of the real physical world must be considered full that is a plenum, because a vacuum could have no physical existence."

"Vacuum stands and remains a mathematical space. A cube placed in a vacuum would not displace anything, as it would displace air or water in a space already containing those fluids."