# Nicole Oresme

Nicole Oresme (c. 1320–1325 – July 11, 1382), also known as Nicolas Oresme, Nicholas Oresme, or Nicolas d'Oresme, was a significant philosopher of the later Middle Ages. He wrote influential works on economics, mathematics, physics, astrology and astronomy, philosophy, and theology; was Bishop of Lisieux, a translator, a counselor of King Charles V of France, and probably one of the most original thinkers of the 14th century.

## Quotes

### Tractatus de Configurationibus et Qualitatibus et Motuum (c. 1350)

Treatise on the Configuration of Qualities and Motions, Tr. Marshall Clagett in Nicole Oresme and the Medieval Geometry of Qualities and Motions: A Treatise on the Uniformity and Difformity of Intensities Known as "Tractatus de configurationibus et qualitatibus et motuum" (1968) Ch. 1-2.
• Every measurable thing except numbers is imagined in the manner of a continuous quantity. Therefore, for the mensuration of such a thing, it is necessary that points, lines, and surfaces, or their properties, be imagined. For in them... measure or ratio is initially found... Therefore, every intensity which can be acquired successively ought to be imagined by a straight line perpendicularly erected on some point of the space or subject of the intensible thing, e.g., a quality... And since the quantity or ratio of lines is better known and is more readily conceived by us—nay the line is in the first species of continua, therefore such intensity ought to be imagined by lines... Therefore, equal intensities are designated by equal lines, a double intensity by a double line, and always in the same way if one proceeds proportionally.

### Traictie de la Première Invention des Monnoies (1355)

"On the First Invention of Money", in Monroe (ed.), Early Economic Thought.
• Since money belongs to the community … it would seem that the community may control it as it wills, and therefore may make as much profit from alteration as it likes, and treat money as its own property.
• Ch. 22: Whether the community may alter money.

### De Moneta (c. 1360)

Charles Johnson, trans., The De Moneta of Nicholas Oresme, and English Mint Documents (London, 1956).
• I am of the opinion that the main and final cause why the prince pretends to the power of altering the coinage is the profit or gain which he can get from it.
• Ch. 15: That the Profit accruing to the Prince from Alteration of the Coinage is unjust
• Whenever kingship approaches tyranny it is near its end, for by this it becomes ripe for division, change of dynasty, or total destruction, especially in a temperate climate … where men are habitually, morally and naturally free.
• Ch. 25: That a Tyrant cannot be lasting

### De causis mirabilium (c. 1370)

• People marvel at … things only because they rarely happen; but the causes for these are as apparent as for others … For example, at night a fearful man who sees a wolf in the fields, or a cat in his room, will immediately assert and judge that it is an enemy or a devil … because he fixes his imagination on these and fears them. And a person devout and rapt [in ecstasy] will judge that it is an angel … A vigorous imagining of a retained species, then, together with a small external appearance or with an imbalance of some internal disposition … produces marvelous appearances in healthy as well as in sick people.
• Nicole Oresme and The Marvels of Nature, Bert Hansen's translation (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1985), p. 73.

### Le livre du ciel et du monde (1377)

Albert Douglas Menut's edition and translation (University of Wisconsin Press, 1941).
• God in His infinite grandeur without any quantity and absolutely indivisible, which we call immensity, is necessarily all in every extension or space or place which exists or can be imagined.
• Book II, Ch. 2, p. 279.
• The heavenly bodies move with such regularity, orderliness, and symmetry that it is truly a marvel; and they continue always to act in this manner ceaselessly, following the established system, without increasing or reducing speed and continuing without respite, as the Scripture says: Summer and winter, night and day they never rest.
• Book II, Ch. 2, p. 283.

• It appears that here and there some of our modern ideas were anticipated by writers of the Middle Ages. Thus, Nicole Oresme... first conceived the notion of fractional powers, afterwards, rediscovered by Stevin, and suggested a notation [other than our modern notation]. Since ${\displaystyle 4^{3}=64}$ and ${\displaystyle 64^{\frac {1}{2}}=8}$, Oresme concluded that ${\displaystyle 4^{\frac {3}{2}}=8}$. Some of the mathematicians of the Middle Ages possessed some idea of a function. Oresme even attempted a graphic representation. But of a numeric dependence of one quantity upon another, as found in Descartes, there is no trace among them.