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Professor Peter Harrison - The Cosmos and the Religious Quest, recorded 15 February 2011. In antiquity and for much of the Middle Ages the formal study of nature - natural philosophy - was, as the name implies, part of the discipline of philosophy. Philosophy itself, from its inception in ancient Greece, had been understood as a form of spiritual exercises. As a consequence, a primary goal of what we call science was, in this earlier period, moral and spiritual formation. These conceptions were to influence the identity of Western Christianity, which came to understand itself as 'the true philosophy'. The study of nature in the Middle Ages was thus an important element of the religious life.