Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I recently read, and very much enjoyed, Eifelheim (can be bought from amazon, or downloaded for free in pdf format from the author's literary agency), Michael Flynn's novel of aliens landing outside a Black Forest village in the 14th century. The best parts--from my point of view--of the novel were the interactions between the village's pastor, a man of formidable Parisian education (yes, this might seem unlikely, but there is a story there) and a friend of Ockham, and the aliens. Flynn captures cutting-edge 14th century scientific and philosophical thinking with great sympathy and surprising fidelity, and shows how a smart 14th century scholastic with Ockhamist tendencies would interact with 21st (or later) century science. We see the flexibility of scholastic categories, a flexibility that is going to be of interest to those of us still interested in a reconciliation between contemporary science and scholastic metaphysics.

I did not expect to read a novel that alludes to an Ockhamist argument against the possibility of nested accidents. (This is in support of an argument that the pastor gives against light having a velocity. The idea is that light is an accident of fire, so if light had a velocity, that velocity would be an accident of an accident, which is impossible.)

The medieval and alien characters are well-drawn and develop over the course of the novel. I was somewhat less happy with the portions set in the 21st century, but they were relatively briefer (and they may have been written first). All in all, quite an excellent piece of science fiction.

1 comment:

Alexander R Pruss said...

Unfortunately the PDF file seems no longer to be available.