Call for paper “Doctor Virtualis” 19
Fragments of order and disorder in the Middle Ages
«Sosteneva, fra l’altro, che le inopinate catastrofi non sono mai la conseguenza o l’effetto che dir si voglia d’un unico motivo, d’una causa al singolare: ma sono come un vortice, un punto di depressione ciclonica nella coscienza del mondo, verso cui hanno cospirato tutta una molteplicità di causali convergenti. Diceva anche nodo o groviglio, o garbuglio, o gnommero, che alla romana vuol dire gomitolo»
(C.E. Gadda, Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana)
If, as Paul Valéry says in his Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci, “thinking is only an effort to pass from disorder to order”, it can then be complicated to move from need to knowledge and to be able to grasp, if indeed there is one, the ordered structure of the world.
Starting from the conviction that the requirement for order is peculiar to man, almost like a cognitive and practical need, this issue intends to reflect on the problem of order in a particular historical moment, the Middle Ages. It is a period in which, unlike the Greek world, eternity, which should present itself almost as a paradigm of order, appears cluttered and intricate. “His eternity registers once and for all (uno intelligendi actu) not only every moment of this replete world but also all that would take place if the most evanescent instant were to change – as well as all that are impossible. His precise and combinatory eternity is much more copious than the universe” (J.L. Borges, History of Eternity, p. 134).
The Middle Ages provide an interesting viewpoint from which to observe the problem of order, beginning with its significant declination in the thought of Augustine of Hippo, where it is closely connected to the concept of “relation” that allows one to think about and articulate the complexity of the world. It is not so much the objects that are of interest, but rather their relationships, not least because the very paradigm of the ordered texture of the world, namely the Trinitarian God, is by essence relationship.
“Doctor Virtualis” 19 therefore intends to collect contributions that reflect on the theme of order and disorder and their relationships, seeking to encourage both investigations into medieval thought, as well as research that intends to emphasise the real or merely possible dialogues that the Middle Ages entertains or may entertain with other historical periods.
We propose to articulate the issue in two general section that nevertheless cannot be conceived as radically distinct.
Firstly, the question of order can refer to the “understanding of the world”, i.e. how the phenomena that appear, the cognitive structures that grasp them and their mutual relationship are conceivable. Observing the entanglement of connections that connect natural, human and divine phenomena, and attempting to intervene in the search for a meaning, a criterion, an order to understand the world, represent a first possible line of investigation. Throughout the Middle Ages, various disciplines were established as attempts to respond to the need to understand the world: from theories of knowledge and language, through physics to eschatology.
Secondly, alongside the attempt to understand the world, there emerges the desire to create and organise new ones, which would rationalise and regulate a sometimes shapeless and evolving matter in order to turn it towards higher aims, such as the good and justice. The order-disorder dialectic is therefore also manifested in the proposals that aspire to confer an order, a legality to human actions and associated life. Ethics, politics and law present themselves not only as models for understanding the world, but also as instruments for the constitution of the self and associated living.
Contributions are therefore welcome that reflect on the theme of complexity, of the nexus between order and disorder in the Middle Ages, trying to fit within (though not exclusively) the following thematic lines:
1. Understanding the world
How did the Middle Ages attempt to respond to the need to understand the complexity of the world? What understanding of complexity and relational entanglement?
a) Gnoseological theme: disciplines, language, exegesis.
b) Physical subject matter: metaphysics of the relationship, exegetical symbolism, Platonic and Aristotelian physics; does the Middle Ages question contemporary physics?
c) Eschatological theme: salvation history and revealed signs in the Scriptures, in the world, in history; relationship between Old and New Testament; relationship between eschatology and forms of life.
2. Creating and regulating worlds
How did the Middle Ages attempt to intervene not only to understand, but also to regulate passions, actions, behaviour? Did theoretical reflection help to create a new ethical, political, legal 'subject'?
a) Ethical theme: the passions of the soul and their classification, moral order and disorder
b) Political: order and disorder in the constitution of associated life, political harmony/harmony
c) Legal theme: plurality of legal norms (ordo iuris and horror discordantium canonum), expressions of the spirit (movements, doctrines, arts) and law, social behaviour and legal norms
1. Submission of the article proposal in the form of an abstract (6000/8000 characters) by 30 April 2023.
2. Following acceptance of the proposal, articles (35/45 thousand characters) will be due by 15 January 2024 (please follow the journal's editorial rules available on the website).
3. Expected publication: September 2024.
Please send your article proposal to the following addresses: