History of Literature, Fhilosophy and Religions


Part III

A Brief History of Western Philosophy

Introduction Phylosophy

The nature of Western philosophy

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy

Medieval philosophy

Renaissance philosophy

Modern philosophy

Contemporary philosophy


Western Philosophy








Western philosophy

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Western philosophy

History of Western philosophy from its development among the ancient Greeks to the present.

Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon

The newly translated Greek and Arabic treatises had an immediate effect on the University of Oxford. Its first chancellor, Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175–1253), commented on some of Aristotle’s works and translated the Nicomachean Ethics from Greek to Latin. He was deeply interested in scientific method, which he described as both inductive and deductive. By the observation of individual events in nature, human beings advance to a general law, called a “universal experimental principle,” which accounts for these events. Experimentation either verifies or falsifies a theory by testing its empirical consequences. For Grosseteste, the study of nature is impossible without mathematics. He cultivated the science of optics (perspectiva), which measures the behaviour of light by mathematical means. His studies of the rainbow and comets employ both observation and mathematics. His treatise De luce (1215–20; On Light) presents light as the basic form of all things and God as the primal, uncreated light.

Grosseteste’s pupil Roger Bacon (c. 1220–1292) made the mathematical and experimental methods the key to natural science. The term experimental science was popularized in the West through his writings. For him, human beings acquire knowledge through reasoning and experience, but without the latter there can be no certitude. Humans gain experience through the senses and also through an interior divine illumination that culminates in mystical experience. Bacon was critical of the methods of Parisian theologians such as St. Albertus Magnus (c. 1200–1280) and Aquinas. He strove to create a universal wisdom embracing all the sciences and organized by theology. He also proposed the formation of a single worldwide society, or “Christian republic,” that would unite all humankind under the leadership of the pope.


Robert Grosseteste
English bishop

born c. 1175, Suffolk, Eng.
died Oct. 9, 1253, Buckden, Buckinghamshire

English bishop and scholar who introduced into the world of European Christendom Latin translations of Greek and Arabic philosophical and scientific writings. His philosophical thinking—a somewhat eclectic blend of Aristotelian and Neoplatonic ideas—consistently searched for a rational scheme of things, both natural and divine.

Grosseteste was educated at the University of Oxford and then held a position with William de Vere, the bishop of Hereford. Grosseteste was chancellor of Oxford from about 1215 to 1221 and was given thereafter a number of ecclesiastical preferments and sinecures from which he resigned in 1232. From 1229 or 1230 to 1235 he was first lecturer in theology to the Franciscans, on whom his influence was profound. The works of this, his pre-episcopal career, include a commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics and Physics, many independent treatises on scientific subjects, and several scriptural commentaries.

Grosseteste became bishop of Lincoln in 1235 and held this office until his death. His career as a bishop (during which he translated, among other works, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics from the Greek) was remarkable for his ruthless pursuit of three abiding principles: a belief in the supreme importance of the cure of souls, a highly centralized and hierarchical conception of the church, and a conviction of the superiority of the church over the state. His challenge of the widespread practice of endowing officials in the service of the crown and papacy with ecclesiastical benefices intended for the cure of souls brought him into conflict with both. He attended the Council of Lyon (1245) and argued before the papal curia at Lyon (1250).



Roger Bacon
English philosopher and scientist
byname Doctor Mirabilis (Latin: “Wonderful Teacher”)
born c. 1220, Ilchester, Somerset, or Bisley, Gloucester?, Eng.
died 1292, Oxford?

English Franciscan philosopher and educational reformer who was a major medieval proponent of experimental science. Bacon studied mathematics, astronomy, optics, alchemy, and languages. He was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder, and he proposed flying machines and motorized ships and carriages. Bacon (as he himself complacently remarked) displayed a prodigious energy and zeal in the pursuit of experimental science; indeed, his studies were talked about everywhere and eventually won him a place in popular literature as a kind of wonder worker. Bacon therefore represents a historically precocious expression of the empirical spirit of experimental science, even though his actual practice of it seems to have been exaggerated.

Early life
Bacon was born into a wealthy family; he was well-versed in the classics and enjoyed the advantages of an early training in geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. Inasmuch as he later lectured at Paris, it is probable that his master of arts degree was conferred there, presumably not before 1241—a date in keeping with his claim that he saw the Franciscan professor Alexander of Hales (who died in 1245) with his own eyes and that he heard the master scholar William of Auvergne (d. 1249) dispute twice in the presence of the whole university.

University and scientific career.
In the earlier part of his career, Bacon lectured in the faculty of arts on Aristotelian and pseudo-Aristotelian treatises, displaying no indication of his later preoccupation with science. His Paris lectures, important in enabling scholars to form some idea of the work done by one who was a pioneer in introducing the works of Aristotle into western Europe, reveal an Aristotelianism strongly marked by Neoplatonist elements stemming from many different sources. The influence of Avicenna on Bacon has been exaggerated.

About 1247 a considerable change took place in Bacon’s intellectual development. From that date forward he expended much time and energy and huge sums of money in experimental research, in acquiring “secret” books, in the construction of instruments and of tables, in the training of assistants, and in seeking the friendship of savants—activities that marked a definite departure from the usual routine of the faculty of arts. The change was probably caused by his return to Oxford and the influence there of the great scholar Robert Grosseteste, a leader in introducing Greek learning to the West, and his student Adam de Marisco, as well as that of Thomas Wallensis, the bishop of St. David’s. From 1247 to 1257 Bacon devoted himself wholeheartedly to the cultivation of those new branches of learning to which he was introduced at Oxford—languages, optics, and alchemy—and to further studies in astronomy and mathematics. It is true that Bacon was more skeptical of hearsay claims than were his contemporaries, that he suspected rational deductions (holding to the superior dependability of confirming experiences), and that he extolled experimentation so ardently that he has often been viewed as a harbinger of modern science more than 300 years before it came to bloom. Yet research on Bacon suggests that his characterization as an experimenter may be overwrought. His originality lay not so much in any positive contribution to the sum of knowledge as in his insistence on fruitful lines of research and methods of experimental study. As for actual experiments performed, he deferred to a certain Master Peter de Maricourt (Maharn-Curia), a Picard, who alone, he wrote, understood the method of experiment and whom he called dominus experimentorum (“master of experiments”). Bacon, to be sure, did have a sort of laboratory for alchemical experiments and carried out some systematic observations with lenses and mirrors. His studies on the nature of light and on the rainbow are especially noteworthy, and he seems to have planned and interpreted these experiments carefully. But his most notable “experiments” seem never to have been actually performed; they were merely described. He suggested, for example, that a balloon of thin copper sheet be made and filled with “liquid fire”; he felt that it would float in the air as many light objects do in water. He seriously studied the problem of flying in a machine with flapping wings. He was the first person in the West to give exact directions for making gunpowder (1242); and, though he knew that, if confined, it would have great power and might be useful in war, he failed to speculate further. (Its use in guns arose early in the following century.) Bacon described spectacles (which also soon came into use); elucidated the principles of reflection, refraction, and spherical aberration; and proposed mechanically propelled ships and carriages. He used a camera obscura (which projects an image through a pinhole) to observe eclipses of the Sun.

Career as a friar.
In 1257 another marked change took place in Bacon’s life. Because of ill health and his entry into the Order of Friars Minor, Bacon felt (as he wrote) forgotten by everyone and all but buried. His university and literary careers seemed finished. His feverish activity, his amazing credulity, his superstition, and his vocal contempt for those not sharing his interests displeased his superiors in the order and brought him under severe discipline. He decided to appeal to Pope Clement IV, whom he may have known when the latter was (before his election to the papacy) in the service of the Capetian kings of France. In a letter (1266) the pope referred to letters received from Bacon, who had come forward with certain proposals covering the natural world, mathematics, languages, perspective, and astrology. Bacon had argued that a more accurate experimental knowledge of nature would be of great value in confirming the Christian faith, and he felt that his proposals would be of great importance for the welfare of the church and of the universities. The pope desired to become more fully informed of these projects and commanded Bacon to send him the work. But Bacon had had in mind a vast encyclopaedia of all the known sciences, requiring many collaborators, the organization and administration of which would be coordinated by a papal institute. The work, then, was merely projected when the pope thought that it already existed. In obedience to the pope’s command, however, Bacon set to work and in a remarkably short time had dispatched the Opus majus (“Great Work”), the Opus minus (“Lesser Work”), and the Opus tertium (“Third Work”). He had to do this secretly and notwithstanding any command of his superiors to the contrary; and even when the irregularity of his conduct attracted their attention and the terrible weapons of spiritual coercion were brought to bear upon him, he was deterred from explaining his position by the papal command of secrecy. Under the circumstances, his achievement was truly astounding. He reminded the pope that, like the leaders of the schools with their commentaries and scholarly summaries, he could have covered quires of vellum with “puerilities” and vain speculations. Instead, he aspired to penetrate realms undreamed of in the schools at Paris and to lay bare the secrets of nature by positive study. The Opus majus was an effort to persuade the pope of the urgent necessity and manifold utility of the reforms that he proposed. But the death of Clement in 1268 extinguished Bacon’s dreams of gaining for the sciences their rightful place in the curriculum of university studies.

Bacon projected yet another encyclopaedia, of which only fragments were ever published, namely, the Communia naturalium (“General Principles of Natural Philosophy”) and the Communia mathematica (“General Principles of Mathematical Science”), written about 1268. In 1272 there appeared the Compendium philosophiae (“Compendium of Philosophy”). In philosophy—and even Bacon’s so-called scientific works contain lengthy philosophical digressions—he was the disciple of Aristotle; even though he did incorporate Neoplatonist elements into his philosophy, his thought remains essentially Aristotelian in its main lines.

Sometime between 1277 and 1279, Bacon was condemned to prison by his fellow Franciscans because of certain “suspected novelties” in his teaching. The condemnation was probably issued because of his bitter attacks on the theologians and scholars of his day, his excessive credulity in alchemy and astrology, and his penchant for millenarianism under the influence of the prophecies of Abbot Joachim of Fiore, a mystical philosopher of history. How long he was imprisoned is unknown. His last work (1292), incomplete as so many others, shows him as aggressive as ever.

The Rev. Theodore Crowley, O.F.M.


Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » William of Auvergne

At the University of Paris, William of Auvergne (c. 1180–1249) was one of the first to feel the impact of the philosophies of Aristotle and Avicenna. As a teacher and then as bishop of Paris, he was concerned with the threat to the Christian faith posed by pagan and Islamic thought. He opposed the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the world as contrary to the Christian notion of creation. His critique of Avicenna emphasized the latter’s conception of God and creation. Against the God of Avicenna, who creates the universe eternally and necessarily through the mediation of 10 intelligences, William defended the Christian notion of a God who creates the world freely and directly. Creatures are radically contingent and dependent on God’s creative will. Unlike God, they do not exist necessarily; indeed, their existence is distinct from their essence and accidental to it. God has no essence distinct from his existence; he is pure existence. In stressing the essential instability and temporality of the world, William attributed true existence and causality to God alone. Although a follower of Augustine, William, like others of his time, was compelled to rethink the older Augustinian notions in terms of the newer Aristotelian and Avicennian philosophies.

William of Auvergne
French philosopher

born after 1180, Aurillac, Aquitaine
died 1249, Paris

also called William Of Paris, or William Of Alvernia, French Guillaume D’auvergne, or De Paris the most prominent French philosopher-theologian of the early 13th century and one of the first Western scholars to attempt to integrate classical Greek and Arabic philosophy with Christian doctrine.

William became a master of theology at the University of Paris in 1223 and a professor by 1225. He was named bishop of the city in 1228. As such he defended the rising mendicant orders against attacks by the secular clergy, which impugned the mendicants’ orthodoxy and reason for existence. As a reformer he limited the clergy to one benefice (church office) at a time if it provided them sufficient means.

William’s principal work, written between 1223 and 1240, is the monumental Magisterium divinale (“The Divine Teaching”), a seven-part compendium of philosophy and theology: De primo principio, or De Trinitate (“On the First Principle,” or “On the Trinity”); De universo creaturarum (“On the Universe of Created Things”); De anima (“On the Soul”); Cur Deus homo (“Why God Became Man”); De sacramentis (“On the Sacraments”); De fide et legibus (“On Faith and Laws”); De virtutibus et moribus (“On Virtues and Customs”).

After the condemnation of Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics in 1210 by church authorities fearful of their negative effect on the Christian faith, William initiated the attempt to delete those Aristotelian theses that he saw as incompatible with Christian beliefs. On the other hand, he strove to assimilate into Christianity whatever in Aristotle’s thought is consistent with it.

Influenced by the Aristotelianism of Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā), an 11th-century Islāmic philosopher, and by the Neoplatonism of Augustine and the school of Chartres, William, nevertheless, was sharply critical of those elements in classical Greek philosophy that contradicted Christian theology, specifically on the questions of human freedom, Divine Providence, and the individuality of the soul. Against Avicenna’s determinism, he held that God “voluntarily” created the world, and he opposed those proponents of Aristotelianism who taught that man’s conceptual powers are one with the single, universal intellect. William argued that the soul is an individualized, immortal “form,” or principle, of intelligent activity; man’s sentient life, however, requires another activating “form.”

The complete works of William of Auvergne, edited in 1674 by B. Leferon, were reprinted in 1963. A critical text of De bono et malo by J.R. O’Donnell appeared in 1954.


Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » Bonaventure

The Franciscan friar St. Bonaventure (c. 1217–1274) reacted similarly to the growing popularity of Aristotle and his Arabic commentators. He admired Aristotle as a natural scientist, but he preferred Plato and Plotinus, and above all Augustine, as metaphysicians. His main criticism of Aristotle and his followers was that they denied the existence of divine ideas. As a result, Aristotle was ignorant of exemplarism (God’s creation of the world according to ideas in his mind) and also of divine providence and government of the world. This involved Aristotle in a threefold blindness: he taught that the world is eternal, that all men share one agent intellect (the active principle of understanding), and that there are no rewards or punishments after death. Plato and Plotinus avoided these mistakes, but because they lacked Christian faith, they could not see the whole truth. For Bonaventure, faith alone enables one to avoid error in these important matters.

Bonaventure did not confuse philosophy with theology. Philosophy is knowledge of the things of nature and the soul that is innate in human beings or acquired through their own efforts, whereas theology is knowledge of heavenly things that is based on faith and divine revelation. Bonaventure, however, rejected the practical separation of philosophy from theology. Philosophy needs the guidance of faith; far from being self-sufficient, it is but a stage in a progression toward the higher knowledge that culminates in the vision of God.

For Bonaventure, every creature to some degree bears the mark of its Creator. The soul has been made in the very image of God. Thus, the universe is like a book in which the triune God is revealed. His Itinerarium mentis in Deum (1259; The Soul’s Journey into God) follows Augustine’s path to God, from the external world to the interior world of the mind and then beyond the mind from the temporal to the eternal. Throughout this journey, human beings are aided by a moral and intellectual divine illumination. The mind has been created with an innate idea of God so that, as Anselm pointed out, humans cannot think that God does not exist. In a terse reformulation of the Anselmian argument for God’s existence, Bonaventure states that if God is God, he exists.

Saint Bonaventure
Italian theologian
Italian San Bonaventura, original name Giovanni Di Fidanza

born c. 1217, Bagnoregio, Papal States
died July 15, 1274, Lyon; canonized April 14, 1482; feast day July 15

leading medieval theologian, minister general of the Franciscan order, and cardinal bishop of Albano. He wrote several works on the spiritual life and recodified the constitution of his order (1260). He was declared a doctor (teacher) of the church in 1587.

He was a son of Giovanni of Fidanza, a physician, and Maria of Ritella. He fell ill while a boy and, according to his own words, was saved from death by the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi. Entering the University of Paris in 1235, he received the master of arts degree in 1243 and then joined the Franciscan order, which named him Bonaventure in 1244. He studied theology in the Franciscan school at Paris from 1243 to 1248. His masters, especially Alexander of Hales, recognized in him a student with a keen memory and unusual intelligence. He was also under the tutelage of John of La Rochelle. After their deaths (1245) he studied further under Eudes Rigauld and William of Meliton. He was later probably influenced by the Dominican Guerric of Saint-Quentin.

By turning the pursuit of truth into a form of divine worship, he integrated his study of theology with the Franciscan mode of the mendicant life. In 1248, he began to teach the Bible; from 1251 to 1253 he lectured on the Sentences, a medieval theology textbook by Peter Lombard, an Italian theologian of the 12th century, and he became a master of theology in 1254, when he assumed control of the Franciscan school in Paris. He taught there until 1257, producing many works, notably commentaries on the Bible and the Sentences and the Breviloquium (“Summary”), which presented a summary of his theology. These works showed his deep understanding of Scripture and the Fathers of the early church—principally St. Augustine—and a wide knowledge of the philosophers, particularly Aristotle.

Bonaventure was particularly noted in his day as a man with the rare ability to reconcile diverse traditions in theology and philosophy. He united different doctrines in a synthesis containing his personal conception of truth as a road to the love of God. In 1256 he defended the Franciscan ideal of the Christian life against William of Saint-Amour, a university teacher who accused the mendicants (friars who wandered about and begged for a living) of defaming the Gospel by their practice of poverty and who wanted to prevent the Franciscans and their fellow mendicants, the Dominicans, from attaining teaching positions. Bonaventure’s defense of the Franciscans and his personal probity as a member of his religious order led to his election as minister general of the Franciscans on Feb. 2, 1257.

Founded by St. Francis according to strict views about poverty, the Franciscan order was at that time undergoing internal discord. One group, the Spirituals, disrupted the order by a rigorous view of poverty; another, the Relaxati, disturbed it by a laxity of life. Bonaventure used his authority so prudently that, placating the first group and reproving the second, he preserved the unity of the order and reformed it in the spirit of St. Francis. The work of restoration and reconciliation owed its success to Bonaventure’s tireless visits, despite delicate health, to each province of the order and to his own personal realization of the Franciscan ideal. In his travels, he preached the Gospel constantly and so elegantly that he was recognized everywhere as a most eloquent preacher. As a theologian, he based the revival of the order on his conception of the spiritual life, which he expounded in mystical treatises manifesting his Franciscan experience of contemplation as a perfection of the Christian life. His Journey of the Mind to God (1259) was a masterpiece showing the way by which man as a creature ought to love and contemplate God through Christ after the example of St. Francis. Revered by his order, Bonaventure recodified its constitutions (1260), wrote for it a new Life of St. Francis of Assisi (1263), and protected it (1269) from an assault by Gerard of Abbeville, a teacher of theology at Paris, who renewed the charge of William of Saint-Amour. He also protected the church during the period 1267–73 by upholding the Christian faith while denouncing the views of unorthodox masters at Paris who contradicted revelation in their philosophy.

Bonaventure’s wisdom and ability to reconcile opposing views moved Pope Gregory X to name him cardinal bishop of Albano, Italy, in May 1273, though Bonaventure had declined to accept appointment to the see of York, England, from Pope Clement IV in 1265. Gregory consecrated him in November at Lyon, where he resigned as minister general of the Franciscans in May 1274. At the second Council of Lyon he was the leading figure in the reform of the church, reconciling the secular (parish) clergy with the mendicant orders. He also had a part in restoring the Greek church to union with Rome. His death, at the council, was viewed as the loss of a wise and holy man, full of compassion and virtue, captivating with love all who knew him. He was buried the same day in a Franciscan church with the pope in attendance. The respect and love that was held for Bonaventure is exemplified in the formal announcement of the council: “At the funeral there was much sorrow and tears; for the Lord has given him this grace, that all who saw him were filled with an immense love for him.” His exemplary life as a Franciscan and the continual influence of his doctrine on the life and devotion of the Western church won for him a declaration of sanctity by Pope Sixtus IV; he was designated a doctor of the church by Sixtus V.

Modern scholars consider him to have been one of the foremost men of his age, an intrepid defender of human and divine truth, and an outstanding exponent of a mystical and Christian wisdom.

The critical edition of St. Bonaventure’s works is Opera omnia, 10 vol. (1882–1902). Translations of his works by Jose de Vinck are “The Journey of the Mind to God,” in vol. 1 of The Works of Bonaventure (1960); and vol. 2, Breviloquium (1963).

John Francis Quinn


Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » Albertus Magnus

The achievement of the Dominican friar Albertus Magnus was of vital importance for the development of medieval philosophy. A person of immense erudition and intellectual curiosity, he was one of the first to recognize the true value of the newly translated Greco-Arabic scientific and philosophical literature. Everything he considered valuable in it he included in his encyclopaedic writings. He set out to teach this literature to his contemporaries and in particular to make the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he considered to be the greatest philosopher, understandable to them. He also proposed to write original works in order to complete what was lacking in the Aristotelian system. In no small measure, the triumph of Aristotelianism in the 13th century can be attributed to him.

Albertus’s observations and discoveries in the natural sciences advanced botany, zoology, and mineralogy. In philosophy he was less original and creative than his famous pupil Aquinas. Albertus produced a synthesis of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism, blending together the philosophies of Aristotle, Avicenna, and Ibn Gabirol and, among Christians, Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius.

Saint Albertus Magnus
German theologian, scientist, and philosopher
English Saint Albert The Great, German Sankt Albert Der Grosse, byname Albert Of Cologne, or Of Lauingen, or Doctor Universalis (Latin: “Universal Doctor”)

born c. 1200, Lauingen an der Donau, Swabia [Germany]
died November 15, 1280, Cologne; canonized Dec. 16, 1931; feast day November 15

Dominican bishop and philosopher best known as a teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas and as a proponent of Aristotelianism at the University of Paris. He established the study of nature as a legitimate science within the Christian tradition. By papal decree in 1941, he was declared the patron saint of all who cultivate the natural sciences. He was the most prolific writer of his century and was the only scholar of his age to be called “the Great”; this title was used even before his death.

Albertus was the eldest son of a wealthy German lord. After his early schooling, he went to the University of Padua, where he studied the liberal arts. He joined the Dominican order at Padua in 1223. He continued his studies at Padua and Bologna and in Germany and then taught theology at several convents throughout Germany, lastly at Cologne.

Sometime before 1245 he was sent to the Dominican convent of Saint-Jacques at the University of Paris, where he came into contact with the works of Aristotle, newly translated from Greek and Arabic, and with the commentaries on Aristotle’s works by Averroës, a 12th-century Spanish-Arabian philosopher. At Saint-Jacques he lectured on the Bible for two years and then for another two years on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, the theological textbook of the medieval universities. In 1245 he was graduated master in the theological faculty and obtained the Dominican chair “for foreigners.”

It was probably at Paris that Albertus began working on a monumental presentation of the entire body of knowledge of his time. He wrote commentaries on the Bible and on the Sentences; he alone among medieval scholars made commentaries on all the known works of Aristotle, both genuine and spurious, paraphrasing the originals but frequently adding “digressions” in which he expressed his own observations, “experiments,” and speculations. The term experiment for Albertus indicates a careful process of observing, describing, and classifying. His speculations were open to Neoplatonic thought. Apparently in response to a request that he explain Aristotle’s Physics, Albertus undertook—as he states at the beginning of his Physica—“to make . . . intelligible to the Latins” all the branches of natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics, and metaphysics. While he was working on this project, which took about 20 years to complete, he probably had among his disciples Thomas Aquinas, who arrived at Paris late in 1245.

Albertus distinguished the way to knowledge by revelation and faith from the way of philosophy and of science; the latter follows the authorities of the past according to their competence, but it also makes use of observation and proceeds by means of reason and intellect to the highest degrees of abstraction. For Albertus these two ways are not opposed; there is no “double truth”—one truth for faith and a contradictory truth for reason. All that is really true is joined in harmony. Although there are mysteries accessible only to faith, other points of Christian doctrine are recognizable both by faith and by reason—e.g., the doctrine of the immortality of the individual soul. He defended this doctrine in several works against the teaching of the Averroists (Latin followers of Averroës), who held that only one intellect, which is common to all human beings, remains after the death of man.

Albertus’ lectures and publications gained him great renown. He came to be quoted as readily as the Arabian philosophers Avicenna and Averroës and even Aristotle himself. Roger Bacon, a contemporary English scholar who was by no means friendly toward Albertus, spoke of him as “the most noted of Christian scholars.”

In the summer of 1248, Albertus was sent to Cologne to organize the first Dominican studium generale (“general house of studies”) in Germany. He presided over the house until 1254 and devoted himself to a full schedule of studying, teaching, and writing. During this period his chief disciple was Thomas Aquinas, who returned to Paris in 1252. The two men maintained a close relationship even though doctrinal differences began to appear. From 1254 to 1257 Albertus was provincial of “Teutonia,” the German province of the Dominicans. Although burdened with added administrative duties, he continued his writing and scientific observation and research.

Albertus resigned the office of provincial in 1257 and resumed teaching in Cologne. In 1259 he was appointed by the pope to succeed the bishop of Regensburg, and he was installed as bishop in January 1260. After Alexander IV died in 1261, Albertus was able to resign his episcopal see. He then returned to his order and to teaching at Cologne. From 1263 to 1264 he was legate of Pope Urban IV, preaching the crusade throughout Germany and Bohemia; subsequently, he lectured at Würzburg and at Strasbourg. In 1270 he settled definitively at Cologne, where, as he had done in 1252 and in 1258, he made peace between the archbishop and his city.

During his final years he made two long journeys from Cologne. In 1274 he attended the second Council of Lyon, France, and spoke in favour of acknowledging Rudolf of Habsburg as German king. In 1277 he traveled to Paris to uphold the recently condemned good name and writings of Thomas Aquinas, who had died a few years before, and to defend certain Aristotelian doctrines that both he and Thomas held to be true.

Albertus’ works represent the entire body of European knowledge of his time not only in theology but also in philosophy and the natural sciences. His importance for medieval science essentially consists in his bringing Aristotelianism to the fore against reactionary tendencies in contemporary theology. On the other hand, without feeling any discrepancy in it, he also gave the widest latitude to Neoplatonic speculation, which was continued by Ulrich of Strasbourg and by the German mystics of the 14th century. It was by his writings on the natural sciences, however, that he exercised the greatest influence. Albertus must be regarded as unique in his time for having made accessible and available the Aristotelian knowledge of nature and for having enriched it by his own observations in all branches of the natural sciences. A preeminent place in the history of science is accorded to him because of this achievement.



Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » Thomas Aquinas

Albertus Magnus’s Dominican confrere and pupil Thomas Aquinas shared his master’s great esteem for the ancient philosophers, especially Aristotle, and also for the more recent Arabic and Jewish thinkers. He welcomed truth wherever he found it and used it for the enrichment of Christian thought. For him reason and faith cannot contradict each other, because they come from the same divine source. In his day, conservative theologians and philosophers regarded Aristotle with suspicion and leaned toward the more traditional Christian Neoplatonism. Aquinas realized that their suspicion was partly due to the fact that Aristotle’s philosophy had been distorted by the Arabic commentators, so he wrote his own commentaries to show the essential soundness of Aristotle’s system and to convince his contemporaries of its value for Christian theology.

Aquinas’s own philosophical views are best expressed in his theological works, especially his Summa theologiae (1265/66–1273; Eng. trans., Summa theologiae) and Summa contra gentiles (1258–64; Summa Against the Gentiles). In these works he clearly distinguished between the domains and methods of philosophy and theology. The philosopher seeks the first causes of things, beginning with data furnished by the senses; the subject of the theologian’s inquiry is God as revealed in sacred scripture. In theology, appeal to authority carries the most weight; in philosophy, it carries the least.

Aquinas found Aristotelianism and, to a lesser extent, Platonism useful instruments for Christian thought and communication; but he transformed and deepened everything he borrowed from them. For example, he adopted Aristotle’s proof of the existence of a primary unmoved mover, but the primary mover at which Aquinas arrived is very different from that of Aristotle; it is in fact the God of Judaism and Christianity. He also adopted Aristotle’s teaching that the soul is the human being’s form and the body his matter, but for Aquinas this does not entail, as it did for the Aristotelians, the denial of the immortality of the soul or the ultimate value of the individual. Aquinas never compromised Christian doctrine by bringing it into line with the current Aristotelianism; rather, he modified and corrected the latter whenever it clashed with Christian belief. The harmony he established between Aristotelianism and Christianity was not forced but achieved by a new understanding of philosophical principles, especially the notion of being, which he conceived as the act of existing (esse). For him, God is pure being, or the act of existing. Creatures participate in being according to their essence; for example, human beings participate in being, or the act of existing, to the extent that their humanity, or essence, permits. The fundamental distinction between God and creatures is that creatures have a real composition of essence and existence, whereas God’s essence is his existence.

Saint Thomas Aquinas
Italian Christian theologian and philosopher
also called Aquinas, Italian San Tommaso d’Aquino, byname Doctor Angelicus (Latin: Angelic Doctor)

born 1224/25, Roccasecca, near Aquino, Terra di Lavoro, Kingdom of Sicily
died March 7, 1274, Fossanova, near Terracina, Latium, Papal States; canonized July 18, 1323; feast day January 28, formerly March 7

Italian Dominican theologian, the foremost medieval Scholasticist. He developed his own conclusions from Aristotelian premises, notably in the metaphysics of personality, creation, and Providence. As a theologian he was responsible in his two masterpieces, the Summa theologiae and the Summa contra gentiles, for the classical systematization of Latin theology; and as a poet he wrote some of the most gravely beautiful eucharistic hymns in the church’s liturgy. His doctrinal system and the explanations and developments made by his followers are known as Thomism. Although many modern Roman Catholic theologians do not find St. Thomas altogether congenial, he is nevertheless recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as its foremost Western philosopher and theologian.

Early years
Thomas was born to parents who were in possession of a modest feudal domain on a boundary constantly disputed by the emperor and the pope. His father was of Lombard origin; his mother was of the later invading Norman strain. His people were distinguished in the service of Emperor Frederick II during the civil strife in southern Italy between the papal and imperial forces. Thomas was placed in the monastery of Monte Cassino near his home as an oblate (i.e., offered as a prospective monk) when he was still a young boy; his family doubtless hoped that he would someday become abbot to their advantage. In 1239, after nine years in this sanctuary of spiritual and cultural life, young Thomas was forced to return to his family when the emperor expelled the monks because they were too obedient to the pope. He was then sent to the University of Naples, recently founded by the emperor, where he first encountered the scientific and philosophical works that were being translated from the Greek and the Arabic. In this setting Thomas decided to join the Friars Preachers, or Dominicans, a new religious order founded 30 years earlier, which departed from the traditional paternalistic form of government for monks to the more democratic form of the mendicant friars (i.e., religious orders whose corporate as well as personal poverty made it necessary for them to beg alms) and from the monastic life of prayer and manual labour to a more active life of preaching and teaching. By this move he took a liberating step beyond the feudal world into which he was born and the monastic spirituality in which he was reared. A dramatic episode marked the full significance of his decision. His parents had him abducted on the road to Paris, where his shrewd superiors had immediately assigned him so that he would be out of the reach of his family but also so that he could pursue his studies in the most prestigious and turbulent university of the time.

Studies in Paris
Thomas held out stubbornly against his family despite a year of captivity. He was finally liberated and in the autumn of 1245 went to Paris to the convent of Saint-Jacques, the great university centre of the Dominicans; there he studied under Albertus Magnus, a tremendous scholar with a wide range of intellectual interests.

Escape from the feudal world, rapid commitment to the University of Paris, and religious vocation to one of the new mendicant orders all meant a great deal in a world in which faith in the traditional institutional and conceptual structure was being attacked. The encounter between the gospel and the culture of his time formed the nerve centre of Thomas’s position and directed its development. Normally, his work is presented as the integration into Christian thought of the recently discovered Aristotelian philosophy, in competition with the integration of Platonic thought effected by the Fathers of the Church during the first 12 centuries of the Christian Era. This view is essentially correct; more radically, however, it should also be asserted that Thomas’s work accomplished an evangelical awakening to the need for a cultural and spiritual renewal not only in the lives of individual men but also throughout the church. Thomas must be understood in his context as a mendicant religious, influenced both by the evangelism of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order, and by the devotion to scholarship of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order.

When Thomas Aquinas arrived at the University of Paris, the influx of Arabian-Aristotelian science was arousing a sharp reaction among believers; and several times the church authorities tried to block the naturalism and rationalism that were emanating from this philosophy and, according to many ecclesiastics, seducing the younger generations. Thomas did not fear these new ideas, but, like his master Albertus Magnus (and Roger Bacon, also lecturing at Paris), he studied the works of Aristotle and eventually lectured publicly on them.

For the first time in history, Christian believers and theologians were confronted with the rigorous demands of scientific rationalism. At the same time, technical progress was requiring men to move from the rudimentary economy of an agrarian society to an urban society with production organized in trade guilds, with a market economy, and with a profound feeling of community. New generations of men and women, including clerics, were reacting against the traditional notion of contempt for the world and were striving for mastery over the forces of nature through the use of their reason. The structure of Aristotle’s philosophy emphasized the primacy of the intelligence. Technology itself became a means of access to truth; mechanical arts were powers for humanizing the cosmos. Thus, the dispute over the reality of universals—i.e., the question about the relation between general words such as “red” and particulars such as “this red object”—which had dominated early Scholastic philosophy, was left behind; and a coherent metaphysics of knowledge and of the world was being developed.

During the summer of 1248, Aquinas left Paris with Albertus, who was to assume direction of the new faculty established by the Dominicans at the convent in Cologne. He remained there until 1252, when he returned to Paris to prepare for the degree of master of theology. After taking his bachelor’s degree, he received the licentia docendi (“license to teach”) at the beginning of 1256 and shortly afterward finished the training necessary for the title and privileges of master. Thus, in the year 1256 he began teaching theology in one of the two Dominican schools incorporated in the University of Paris.

Years at the papal Curia and return to Paris
In 1259 Thomas was appointed theological adviser and lecturer to the papal Curia, then the centre of Western humanism. He returned to Italy, where he spent two years at Anagni at the end of the reign of Alexander IV and four years at Orvieto with Urban IV. From 1265 to 1267 he taught at the convent of Santa Sabina in Rome and then, at the request of Clement IV, went to the papal Curia in Viterbo. Suddenly, in November 1268, he was sent to Paris, where he became involved in a sharp doctrinal polemic that had just been triggered off.

The works of Averroës, the outstanding representative of Arabic philosophy in Spain, who was known as the great commentator and interpreter of Aristotle, were just becoming known to the Parisian masters. There seems to be no doubt about the Islamic faith of the Cordovan philosopher; nevertheless, he asserted that the structure of religious knowledge was entirely heterogeneous to rational knowledge: two truths—one of faith, the other of reason—can, in the final analysis, be contradictory. This dualism was denied by Muslim orthodoxy and was still less acceptable to Christians. With the appearance of Siger of Brabant, however, and from 1266 on, the quality of Averroës’s exegesis and the wholly rational bent of his thought began to attract disciples in the faculty of arts at the University of Paris. Thomas Aquinas rose in protest against his colleagues; nevertheless, the parties retained a mutual esteem. As soon as he returned from Italy, Thomas began to dispute with Siger, who, he claimed, was compromising not only orthodoxy but also the Christian interpretation of Aristotle. Aquinas found himself wedged in between the Augustinian tradition of thought, now more emphatic than ever in its criticism of Aristotle, and the Averroists. Radical Averroism was condemned in 1270, but at the same time Thomas, who sanctioned the autonomy of reason under faith, was discredited.

In the course of this dispute, the very method of theology was called into question. According to Aquinas, reason is able to operate within faith and yet according to its own laws. The mystery of God is expressed and incarnate in human language; it is thus able to become the object of an active, conscious, and organized elaboration in which the rules and structures of rational activity are integrated in the light of faith. In the Aristotelian sense of the word, then (although not in the modern sense), theology is a “science”; it is knowledge that is rationally derived from propositions that are accepted as certain because they are revealed by God. The theologian accepts authority and faith as his starting point and then proceeds to conclusions using reason; the philosopher, on the other hand, relies solely on the natural light of reason. Thomas was the first to view theology expressly in this way or at least to present it systematically, and in doing so he raised a storm of opposition in various quarters. Even today this opposition endures, especially among religious enthusiasts for whom reason remains an intruder in the realm of mystical communion, contemplation, and the sudden ecstasy of evangelical fervour.

The literary form of Aquinas’s works must be appreciated in the context of his methodology. He organized his teaching in the form of “questions,” in which critical research is presented by pro and con arguments, according to the pedagogical system then in use in the universities. Forms varied from simple commentaries on official texts to written accounts of the public disputations, which were significant events in medieval university life. Thomas’s works are divided into three categories: 1) commentaries on such works as the Old and New Testaments, the Sentences of Peter Lombard (the official manual of theology in the universities), and the writings of Aristotle; 2) disputed questions, accounts of his teaching as a master in the disputations; 3) two summae or personal syntheses, the Summa contra gentiles and the Summa theologiae, which were presented as integral introductions for the use of beginners. Numerous opuscula (“little works”), which have great interest because of the particular circumstances that provoked them, must also be noted.

The logic of Aquinas’s position regarding faith and reason required that the fundamental consistency of the realities of nature be recognized. A physis (“nature”) has necessary laws; recognition of this fact permits the construction of a science according to a logos (“rational structure”). Thomas thus avoided the temptation to sacralize the forces of nature through a naïve recourse to the miraculous or the Providence of God. For him, a whole “supernatural” world that cast its shadow over things and men, in Romanesque art as in social customs, had blurred men’s imaginations. Nature, discovered in its profane reality, should assume its proper religious value and lead to God by more rational ways, yet not simply as a shadow of the supernatural. This understanding is exemplified in the way that Francis of Assisi admired the birds, the plants, and the Sun.

The inclusion of Aristotle’s Physics in university programs was not, therefore, just a matter of academic curiosity. Naturalism, however, as opposed to a sacral vision of the world, was penetrating all realms: spirituality, social customs, and political conduct. About 1270, Jean de Meun, a French poet of the new cities and Thomas’s neighbour in the Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris, gave expression in his Roman de la Rose to the coarsest realism, not only in examining the physical universe but also in describing and judging the laws of procreation. Innumerable manuscripts of the Roman poet Ovid’s Ars amatoria (Art of Love) were in circulation; André le Chapelain, in his De Deo amoris (On the God of Love) adapted a more refined version for the public. Courtly love in its more seductive forms became a more prevalent element in the culture of the 13th century.

At the same time, Roman law was undergoing a revival at the University of Bologna; this involved a rigorous analysis of the natural law and provided the jurists of Frederick II with a weapon against ecclesiastical theocracy. The traditional presentations of the role and duties of princes, in which biblical symbolism was used to outline beautiful pious images, were replaced by treatises that described experimental and rational attempts at government. Thomas had composed such a treatise—De regimine principum (On the Government of Princes)—for the king of Cyprus in 1266. In the administration of justice, juridical investigations and procedures replaced fanatical recourse to ordeals and to judgments of God.

In the face of this movement, there was a fear on the part of many that the authentic values of nature would not be properly distinguished from the disorderly inclinations of mind and heart. Theologians of a traditional bent firmly resisted any form of a determinist philosophy which, they believed, would atrophy liberty, dissolve personal responsibility, destroy faith in Providence, and deny the notion of a gratuitous act of creation. Imbued with Augustine’s doctrines, they asserted the necessity and power of grace for a nature torn asunder by sin. The optimism of the new theology concerning the religious value of nature scandalized them.

Although he was an Aristotelian, Thomas Aquinas was certain that he could defend himself against a heterodox interpretation of “the Philosopher,” as Aristotle was known. Thomas held that human liberty could be defended as a rational thesis while admitting that determinations are found in nature. In his theology of Providence, he taught a continuous creation, in which the dependence of the created on the creative wisdom guarantees the reality of the order of nature. God moves sovereignly all that he creates; but the supreme government that he exercises over the universe is conformed to the laws of a creative Providence that wills each being to act according to its proper nature. This autonomy finds its highest realization in the rational creature: man is literally self-moving in his intellectual, volitional, and physical existence. Man’s freedom, far from being destroyed by his relationship to God, finds its foundation in this very relationship. “To take something away from the perfection of the creature is to abstract from the perfection of the creative power itself.” This metaphysical axiom, which is also a mystical principle, is the key to St. Thomas’s spirituality.

Last years at Naples
At Easter time in 1272, Thomas returned to Italy to establish a Dominican house of studies at the University of Naples. This move was undoubtedly made in answer to a request made by King Charles of Anjou, who was anxious to revive the university. After participating in a general chapter, or meeting, of the Dominicans held in Florence during Pentecost week and having settled some family affairs, Thomas resumed his university teaching at Naples in October and continued it until the end of the following year.

Although Thomas’s argument with the Averroists had for years been matched by a controversy with the Christian masters who followed the traditional Augustinian conception of man as fallen, this latter dispute now became more pronounced. In a series of university conferences in 1273, Bonaventure, a Franciscan friar and a friendly colleague of Thomas at Paris, renewed his criticism of the Aristotelian current of thought, including the teachings of Thomas. He criticized the thesis that philosophy is distinct from theology, as well as the notion of a physical nature that has determined laws; he was especially critical of the theory that the soul is bound up with the body as the two necessary principles that make up the nature of man and also reacted strongly to the Aristotelians’ denial of the Platonic-Augustinian theory of knowledge based upon exemplary Ideas or Forms.

The disagreement was profound. Certainly, all Christian philosophers taught the distinction between matter and spirit. This distinction, however, could be intelligently held only if the internal relationship between matter and spirit in individual human beings was sought. It was in the process of this explanation that differences of opinion arose—not only intellectual differences between idealist and realist philosophers but also emotional differences. Some viewed the material world merely as a physical and biological reality, a stage on which the history of spiritual persons is acted out, their culture developed, and their salvation or damnation determined. This stage itself remains detached from the spiritual event, and the history of nature is only by chance the setting for the spiritual history. The history of nature follows its own path imperturbably; in this history, man is a foreigner, playing a brief role only to escape as quickly as possible from the world into the realm of pure spirit, the realm of God.

Thomas, on the contrary, noted the inclusion of the history of nature in the history of the spirit and at the same time noted the importance of the history of spirit for the history of nature. Man is situated ontologically (i.e., by his very existence) at the juncture of two universes, “like a horizon of the corporeal and of the spiritual.” In man there is not only a distinction between spirit and nature but there is also an intrinsic homogeneity of the two. Aristotle furnished Aquinas with the categories necessary for the expression of this concept: the soul is the “form” of the body. For Aristotle, form is that which makes a thing to be what it is; form and matter—that out of which a thing is made—are the two intrinsic causes that constitute every material thing. For Thomas, then, the body is the matter and the soul is the form of man. The objection was raised that he was not sufficiently safeguarding the transcendence of the spirit, the doctrine that the soul survives after the death of the body.

In January 1274 Thomas Aquinas was personally summoned by Gregory X to the second Council of Lyons, which was an attempt to repair the schism between the Latin and Greek churches. On his way he was stricken by illness; he stopped at the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova, where he died on March 7. In 1277 the masters of Paris, the highest theological jurisdiction in the church, condemned a series of 219 propositions; 12 of these propositions were theses of Thomas. This was the most serious condemnation possible in the Middle Ages; its repercussions were felt in the development of ideas. It produced for several centuries a certain unhealthy spiritualism that resisted the cosmic and anthropological realism of Aquinas.

The biography of Thomas Aquinas is one of extreme simplicity; it chronicles little but some modest travel during a career devoted entirely to university life: at Paris, the Roman Curia, Paris again, and Naples. It would be a mistake, however, to judge that his life was merely the quiet life of a professional teacher untouched by the social and political affairs of his day. The drama that went on in his mind and in his religious life found its causes and produced its effects in the university. In the young universities all the ingredients of a rapidly developing civilization were massed together, and to these universities the Christian church had deliberately and authoritatively committed its doctrine and its spirit. In this environment, Thomas found the technical conditions for elaborating his work—not only the polemic occasions for turning it out but also the enveloping and penetrating spiritual milieu needed for it. It is within the homogeneous contexts supplied by this environment that it is possible today to discover the historical intelligibility of his work, just as they supplied the climate for its fruitfulness at the time of its birth.

Thomas Aquinas was canonized a saint in 1323, officially named doctor of the church in 1567, and proclaimed the protagonist of orthodoxy during the modernist crisis at the end of the 19th century. This continuous commendation, however, cannot obliterate the historical difficulties in which he was embroiled in the 13th century during a radical theological renewal—a renewal that was contested at the time and yet was brought about by the social, cultural, and religious evolution of the West. Thomas was at the heart of the doctrinal crisis that confronted Christendom when the discovery of Greek science, culture, and thought seemed about to crush it. William of Tocco, Aquinas’s first biographer, who had known him and was able to give evidence of the impression produced by his master’s teaching, says:

Brother Thomas raised new problems in his teaching, invented a new method, used new systems of proof. To hear him teach a new doctrine, with new arguments, one could not doubt that God, by the irradiation of this new light and by the novelty of this inspiration, gave him the power to teach, by the spoken and written word, new opinions and new knowledge.

The Rev. Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P.


Medieval philosophy » The age of the Schoolmen » Averroists

A group of masters in the faculty of arts at Paris welcomed Aristotle’s philosophy and taught it in disregard of its possible opposition to the Christian faith. They wanted to be philosophers, not theologians, and to them this meant following the Aristotelian system. Because Averroës was the recognized commentator on Aristotle, they generally interpreted Aristotle’s thought in an Averroistic way. Hence, in their own day they were known as “Averroists”; today they are often called “Latin Averroists” because they taught in Latin. Their leader, Siger de Brabant (c. 1240–c. 1281), taught as rationally demonstrated certain Aristotelian doctrines that contradicted the faith, such as the eternity of the world and the oneness of the intellect. The Latin Averroists were accused of holding a “double truth”—i.e., of maintaining the existence of two contradictory truths, one commanded by faith, the other taught by reason. Although Siger never proposed philosophical conclusions contrary to faith, other members of this group upheld the right and duty of the philosopher to follow human reason to its natural conclusions, even when they contradicted the truths of faith.

This growing rationalism confirmed the belief of theologians of a traditionalist cast that the pagan and Islamic philosophies would destroy the Christian faith. They attacked these philosophies in treatises such as Errores philosophorum (1270; The Errors of the Philosophers) by Giles of Rome (c. 1243–1316). In 1277 the bishop of Paris condemned 219 propositions based on the new trend toward rationalism and naturalism. These included even some of Aquinas’s Aristotelian doctrines. In the same year, the archbishop of Canterbury made a similar condemnation at Oxford. These reactions to the novel trends in philosophy did not prevent the Averroists from treating philosophical questions apart from religious considerations. Theologians, for their part, were increasingly suspicious of the philosophers and less optimistic about the ultimate reconciliation of philosophy and theology.

Siger De Brabant
Belgian philosopher

born c. 1240, duchy of Brabant
died , between 1281 and 1284, Orvieto, Tuscany

professor of philosophy at the University of Paris and a leading representative of the school of radical, or heterodox, Aristotelianism, which arose in Paris when Latin translations of Greek and Arabic works in philosophy introduced new material to masters in the faculty of arts.

Beginning about 1260 Siger and some of his colleagues inaugurated purely rational lectures that reinterpreted works of Aristotle without regard for established teachings of the church, which had blended orthodox Aristotelianism with Christian faith. In addition to Aristotle, Siger’s sources include such philosophers as Proclus (410–485), Avicenna (980–1037), Averroës (1126–98), and Thomas Aquinas (1225?–74).

From 1266, when his name first appears, to 1276, Siger was prominent in the disputes at Paris over Aristotelianism. Bonaventure, the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, and Aquinas, head of the Dominicans, both attacked Siger’s teachings. In 1270 the bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, condemned 13 errors in the teaching of Siger and his partisans. Six years later the inquisitor of the Roman Catholic Church in France summoned Siger and two others suspected of heterodoxy, but they fled to Italy, where they probably entered an appeal before the papal tribunal. A few months later, in March 1277, Tempier announced condemnation of 219 more propositions. Siger is believed to have been restricted to the company of a cleric, for he was stabbed at Orvieto by his cleric, who had gone mad, and he died during Martin IV’s pontificate, sometime before Nov. 10, 1284. Dante, in the Divine Comedy, put Siger in the Heaven of Light in the brilliant company of 12 illustrious souls.

Siger’s written works gradually came to light, and 14 authentic works and 6 probably authentic commentaries on Aristotle were known by the mid-20th century. Among them are Quaestiones in metaphysicam, Impossibilia (six exercises in sophistry), and Tractatus de anima intellectiva (“Treatise on the Intellectual Soul”). The last discusses his basic belief that there is only one “intellectual” soul for mankind and thus one will. Although this soul is eternal, individual human beings are not immortal. This view, though not lucidly expressed, suggests Siger’s disregard for doctrines of the church and his emphasis on maintaining the autonomy of philosophy as a self-sufficient discipline.



Giles of Rome
Augustinian theologian
Latin Aegidius Romanus, also called Doctor Fundatissimus (Latin: “Best-Grounded Teacher”)
born c. 1243, –47, Rome [Italy]
died 1316, Avignon, Fr.

Scholastic theologian, philosopher, logician, archbishop, and general and intellectual leader of the Order of the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine.

Giles joined the Augustinian Hermits in about 1257 and in 1260 went to Paris, where he was educated in the house of his order. While in Paris from 1269 to 1272, he probably studied under St. Thomas Aquinas, whose philosophical doctrines he defended against ecclesiastical condemnation (1277). He supported the Thomistic doctrine of substance in his Theoremata de esse et essentia (“Essays on Being and Essence”). A storm of opposition from other theologians forced Giles to take refuge in Bayeux, Fr. (1278–80).

In 1281 he returned to Italy and was made provincial of his order in 1283 and vicar-general in 1285. That year Pope Honorius IV effected Giles’ reinstatement at the University of Paris, where he taught theology until 1291. He served as general of the Augustinian Hermits from 1292 to 1295, when Pope Boniface VIII made him archbishop of Bourges, Fr. During the political conflict between Boniface and King Philip IV the Fair of France, Giles wrote, in 1301, a defense of the pope, De ecclesiastica potestate (“On the Church Power”); he proposed that the pope must have direct political power over the whole of mankind.

Developing in an original way Augustinian and Thomistic doctrines, Giles’s vast literary production includes Aristotelian and biblical commentaries and theological and political treatises. Numerous editions of his collected and individual works appeared in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. His commentaries on Aristotle’s entire Organon (i.e., the logical writings) are considered valuable by logicians.



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy