Paris arts faculty (The): Siger of Brabant, Boethius of Dacia, Radulphus Brito


Paris arts faculty (The): Siger of Brabant, Boethius of Dacia, Radulphus Brito
The Paris arts faculty: Siger of Brabant, Boethius of Dacia, Radulphus Brito Sten Ebbesen Throughout the thirteenth century Paris overshadowed all other universities in the arts as in theology. This chapter will deal almost exclusively with Paris. In pagan antiquity philosophy had not only been the pursuit of an ever better understanding in all sorts of fields, it had also been expected to provide the intellectuals with a sense of purpose in life, reconcile them with death and console them in difficult times. In a Christian society philosophy must leave the second task to religion. The division into arts and theology faculties at the universities institutionalized the division of tasks, leaving the artists with the obligation not to offer their own way to salvation, but also with a freedom to do penetrating research in a wide spectrum of disciplines, unfettered by demands that their insights be relevant to the achievement of existential satisfaction. On the whole, the division of tasks worked well, but problems arose when a considerable body of non-Christian literature on ethics, cosmology and natural theology became available to the artists and was taught in class. A crisis occurred in Paris in the 1270s. An episcopal condemnation of thirteen theses in 1270 marks the beginning of the crisis. Then in 1272 the artists (that is, those teaching and studying in the arts faculty) think it necessary to codify their own obligation not to meddle in theological matters, ‘overstepping, as it were, the limits set’ for them. Finally, in 1277 the bishop, Stephen Tempier, issues a stern letter in which unnamed members of the arts faculty are accused of actually ‘overstepping the limits of the faculty’s competence’, and of thinking that theories found in the writings of pagan philosophers could be true notwithstanding the fact that they conflict with the truth of Scripture. Tempier appends a list of 219 theses and threatens severe sanctions against anyone who may teach any such errors in the future or who has already done so. Among the condemned theses some appear to deny creation, some to deny the immortality of individual souls, others are less obviously relevant to Christian dogma. The bishop had culled most of them from writings by arts masters. However, his attack on the artists was only the first move in a campaign designed, it seems, to culminate in a condemnation of a recently deceased theologian, Thomas Aquinas. The artists had less powerful supporters than the theologians; attacking them first meant beginning with the weakest opponent, but it also meant striking at the root. It was the study of non-Christian writers that inspired the theories that Tempier would not tolerate, and that study had its permanent base in the arts faculty, whence it infiltrated the higher faculty of theology. Aristotelizing theologians could, in turn, influence the artists. In the 1260s and 1270s Thomas Aquinas made a strong impact; masters like Siger of Brabant borrowed freely from Thomas, though also occasionally polemicizing against him. The contents of the arts had changed considerably since the twelfth century. Traditional Latin rhetoric had all but vanished. Grammar thrived, and conscious attempts were made to develop it into an axiomatized science of the type delineated by Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics. Logic underwent a deep transformation; the twelfth century had revelled in detailed propositional analysis; a technical vocabulary had been developed and theorems established that permitted much preciser determination of the possible interpretations of a sentence and of its truth-conditions than Aristotle’s logic could provide. This was the ‘native tradition’ of Western logic, already highly developed before the entry of the ‘New Aristotle’ after 1130. At first the native tradition had been enriched by the encounter with the new books, in particular with the On Sophistical Refutations whose subject-matter, fallacious reasoning, lay within the existing sphere of interest. But in the thirteenth century the New Aristotle started to act as a cuckoo in the nest. His Topics killed the study of Boethius. His Posterior Analytics, Metaphysics, Ethics, Physics, etc. drew the attention away from the niceties or technical logic. The theorems (regulae, ‘rules’) formulated by the preceding generations were repeated in elementary handbooks but provoked little discussion and were not significantly added to. The foci of the masters’ interest were elsewhere. In logic, one focus of interest was metalogical problems; what sort of things are the objects (arguments, universals, topics, etc.) logicians deal with? Another was how to apply basic notions of metaphysics, such as substance, subject and accident, matter and form, movement and rest to the analysis of the meaning (significatio) of terms. Above all, there was a lively interest in the theory of scientia: knowledge, science. At the same time the old logic course expanded into a general course of philosophy, comprising metaphysics, ethics, natural philosophy and all. It looks as if Oxford kept the native tradition more alive, and that this prepared for the spectacular breakthrough of English logic in the fourteenth century. But be that as it may, the thirteenth century was Paris’s. The present state of scholarship allows no clear picture of theoretical developments prior to c. 1265–70. We get fascinating glimpses only. Thus one anonymous logician from about the middle of the century considers the relations ‘parenthood’ (paternitas) and ‘being a child’ (filiatio); they are one species of relation, he says, in conformity with tradition, but then he proposes that a father plus his child will be one individual of that species, just as one unity plus another unity are an individual of the species ‘set of two’ (binarius). This seems to amount to treating dyadic relations as predicates or properties of (ordered) pairs of things. Is this theory peculiar to the one text in which I found it? Perhaps; but it is quite possible that an examination of unedited texts will show that it was widely known. Though nobody can claim to be able to survey the extant writings from the early Parisian arts faculty, it is possible to name some of the most important masters. One was John Lepage, who was active in the 1230s. Another was Robert Kilwardby (d. 1279), archbishop of Canterbury from 1272, who, teaching in the years round 1240, was to influence his successors for several decades. When Albert the Great (c. 1200–80) compiled the logical part of his vast encyclopaedia, he relied on Kilwardby to an extent that nowadays would be called plagiarizing. Though full of inconsistencies, Albert’s encyclopaedia became popular as a work of reference among the artists, much to the regret of Roger Bacon (d. 1292 or slightly later). Bacon seems to have taught at Paris in the 1240s, but the extent of his influence is difficult to gauge. John of Secheville was a promine nt master in the 1240–50s who found a lot of inspiration in Averroes, who was now eclipsing Avicenna as the leading authority on what Aristotelian philosophy was about. Secheville is now best known for his De principiis naturae (On the Principles of Nature), a treatise on fundamental physics, probably written in the 1260s after the author’s return to his native England. About 1250 there also was Nicholas of Paris, author of several logical works with some later success. The generation who started their career as masters about 1265 are reasonably well known, though it must be admitted that modern research has been lopsided, the lion’s share of attention going to texts and subjects relevant to the 1277 condemnation or Thomas Aquinas. The fact that a Belgian and a Dane figured prominently among the masters targeted by the condemnation helped launch a Belgian and Danish project to edit each country’s medieval philosophers, thus making the work of artists from those parts of Europe much better known than that done by their French or Italian colleagues. The Belgian was Siger of Brabant, the Dane Boethius of Dacia (‘Bo from Denmark’). All evidence of Boethius’ life before 1277 is contained in the epithet indicating his nationality and the number and nature of his extant or attested writings. He is likely to have commenced teaching about the mid-1260s. His best known works are the short treatises, On the Highest Good and On the Eternity of the World, but considerable parts of his oeuvre in the fields of logic, natural philosophy and grammar have also survived. He wrote one of the very first Latin commentaries on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, but unfortunately it has been lost, and little is known about the early reception of the Rhetoric. Extant sources suggest that the book was rarely taught and then with an emphasis on general problems of logic, ethics or psychology without much attention to the specific problems of rhetorical communication. Scholastics never quite got a firm grip of the art of persuasion. It is the general, but unproven, assumption that Boethius was still teaching in 1277 and that the condemnation stopped his university career. He was almost certainly a secular during his regency in arts, yet his works occur in a medieval catalogue of books composed by blackfriars. It is permissible to speculate that the condemnation made him seek a new life among the friars, but actually his fate is unknown. While some of his works enjoyed wide diffusion, the author’s person was soon forgotten. Only in the twentieth century has he re-emerged as an important figure in the history of philosophy. Siger of Brabant always had more publicity, in life and in death. His very entry into history is spectacular: according to a document from 1265 he was suspected of complicity in the kidnapping of a member of the French nation of the university by scholars from the Picard nation. In 1271 the faculty of arts was split in two; the Normans and one Picard seceded from the rest. The Normans rewarded the Picard by electing him as rector. The Picard was Siger. When the nations were reunited in 1275 through the intervention of a papal legate, the blame was put on the Normans and this may have prompted Siger to leave Paris for Liège where he was a canon. In 1276 he was summoned to appear before an inquisitor to face charges of heresy; he was probably acquitted, but the next year propositions culled from his books were among those condemned in Paris. He himself may have been in Liège and thus out of harm’s way. In 1281 or shortly afterwards he met his end in the papal residential town of Orvieto, stabbed by his own secretary who had gone insane, it is said. Siger was magister regens (i.e. actually teaching) for some ten years (c. 1265–75) and several works from that period have survived, notably his questions on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, on the Liber de causis (Book about Causes), some psychological works, and one about the eternity of the world. Siger’s name was never forgotten. Some decades after his death Dante portrayed him as a denizen of Paradise and let Thomas Aquinas point him out with the words: This is the eternal light of Siger who, when lecturing in rue de la Fouarre [site of the schools of arts], concluded unwelcome truths. (Paradiso 10.136–8) In Italy some people continued to read Siger until the early sixteenth century. The pope’s legate who in 1275 reunited the university that Siger had helped split installed Peter of Auvergne (d. 1303) as rector— probably a wise choice. Peter’s voluminous (and mostly unedited) writings reveal him as a mainstream thinker, a competent man, but a man of compromises rather than one of sharp or innovative positions. Peter later advanced to master of theology and in 1302 was awarded a bishopric. In the 1270s he and Boethius had some sort of collaboration as teachers, though they disagreed on many points, and discretely polemicized against each other. Peter was, after Thomas Aquinas, the first important Latin commentator on Aristotle’s Politics, but his political philosophy is only just beginning to be seriously studied. Simon of Faversham (d. 1306) is another mainstream author of some repute. He is likely to have been somewhat younger than Peter; his Parisian regency in arts probably fell around 1280. Later he taught theology in Oxford. Much of his oeuvre is preserved but only some logical works have been edited and doctrinal studies have been sporadic. About the early 1270s Martin of Denmark (Martinus de Dacia, d. 1304) composed a remarkably well-organized grammar, Modi Significandi, which became widely used. In the 1440s the humanist Lorenzo Valla paid tribute to its continuing actuality by specifically mentioning Martin and his ‘sickening’ Modi Significandi in a virulent attack on scholastic grammar. Martin became master of theology in the 1280s, served as chancellor to the Danish king about 1287–97, and then seems to have returned to Paris; at least he was buried in Notre Dame, of whose chapter he was a member. Modus significandi, ‘way’ or ‘mode of signifying’, is a term with a long history before 1270, but now it had become a key concept of linguistics. Virtually all late thirteenth-century Parisian arts masters were ‘modists’ in the sense that this concept with its complements, modi intelligendi (ways or modes of understanding) and modi essendi (ways or modes of being) played a major role in their thought. The basic idea of modism is this: each constituent of reality (each res) has a number of ways or modes of being (modi essendi) which determine the number of ways in which it can be correctly conceptualized; the ways in which it can be conceptualized (modi intelligendi) in turn determine in which ways it can be signified. Assume that pain is a constituent of reality. Pain is in a way like a substance: a stable thing in its own right that can have changing properties (be intense or weak, precisely located or diffuse, for example); in a way it is like a process occurring in some subject. The concept of pain will then be able to present itself to our mind in two ways and we will consequently be capable of signifying pain in two ways. Any word that signifies it as the stable carrier of properties (per modum habitus et permanentiae) is a noun; any word that signifies it as a process in a subject (per modum fieri) is a verb. The English words ‘a pain’ and ‘to ache’ signify the same thing or ‘common nature’ under two different modes. A third mode is expressed by the interjection ‘ouch’. ‘Whatever can be conceived of by the mind may be signified by any part of speech’, says Boethius; his only restriction on this rule is that the mode of signifying of the part of speech must not be incompatible with the thing to be signified. Fully elaborated theories of modes of signifying would, by similar means, account for all the traditional grammatical categories, not only parts of speech, but also cases, tenses, etc. Latin provided the examples used, but the modes were assumed to be completely independent of any particular language. What is around to be talked about is independent of the speaker’s cultural background; ‘what is there’ (ens) is things (res) and their ways or modes of being; we can form concepts of no more things than there are and conceive of things only in as many ways as things are. Moreover, we can express whatever we can understand, but no more. All peoples, then, have the same intellectual equipment (concepts plus ways of understanding) with which to grasp a common reality (things plus ways of being); the several ways of being of things determine the ways in which they may be known (modi sciendi), and those ways are what logic is about. So logic must be pan-human, says Boethius, and so must language in the sense that whichever thing can be signified in one tongue can be signified in another, and whichever mode of signifying is actualized in one tongue can be so (or even: is so) in any other. All languages have the same grammar and total translatability is guaranteed. True, some peoples may know things others don’t and have a richer vocabulary, but this is accidental; new words can always be added to a language. Grammar is not disturbed by the fact that the same thing is called ‘homo’, ‘anthropos’, and ‘man’ in different languages; how to match sounds with concepts is a matter of convention (though it was generally assumed that some sort of mimetic system underlay the choice of sounds for the basic vocabulary of each language). Similarly, any device can be used to express masculinity (more precisely modus significandi per modum agentis)—suffixes, particles, whatever—but you cannot have a language incapable of expressing that fundamental category. Nor can you have a significative word with the lexical component [male human] and the grammatical category [female], as the result would be incomprehensible and hence non-significative. Such clashes between lexical component (significatum) and mode of signifying apart, there are no restraints on which combinations of significate and mode of signifying a particular language may choose to lexicalize by assigning them a certain sound value. Thus the same thing, X, may have a feminine name in language A and a masculine name in language B. The difference only means that the ‘impositor’, i.e. whoever introduced the word in A, paid attention to one mode of being of X (‘as something acting’), whereas the B-impositor paid attention to another mode (‘as something acted on’). Various strategies were used to block simple-minded inferences from surface grammar to reality; one would not like to be saddled with ‘nothing’ as a genuine thing in its own right just because ‘nothing’ is a noun, but at least in the 1270s and 1280s it must have seemed to most men as if such difficulties were surmountable. It was possible to describe a grammar that abstracted totally from phonetic realization, yet was easily correlatable to it, and which promised to yield a list of elementary modes of cognition all with a sure foundation in the reality subject to cognition. Modistic theories promised easy shifts between the levels of being, understanding and signifying. Some went so far as to hold that the modes of signifying, understanding and being are fundamentally identical, just, said Martin, as the thing that is signified and the thing that is understood are basically identical with the thing out there. In other words, the mode of being is a mode of understanding when cognized by an intellect, and a mode of signifying when related to a linguistic sign. Others, notably Boethius of Dacia, strongly opposed this identification, which threatened to leave the intellect as a mere mirror of extramental reality with the result that there could not be different sciences based on the same modes of being of things; thus logical relationships (habitudines locales) and grammatical modes of signifying would be strictly identical when derived from the same modes of being. Moreover the way would be open to facile deductions from expressions and thoughts to extramental reality. One weakness of all variants of modistic theory was that it was difficult to combine it with a theory of reference, for whatever the ‘things’ (res) of modistic theory were, they certainly were not singular extramental entities. On the other hand, no one wanted to be a fullfledged Platonist. There was a tendency to answer all questions about the relation between words and reality by referring to the set of significate and modes of signifying encoded in each lexical item when it was ‘imposed’. Modistic semantics possessed few tools to deal with the contribution of linguistic context to the meaning of a term, and none at all to explain how extralinguistic context contributes to the way an expression is understood. Nor was it possible to offer a plausible modistic account of figurative expressions, metaphors, and the like. Desperate attempts were made to explain how ‘man’ can change its meaning from ‘living rational body’ into ‘lifeless irrational body’ on being joined by the adjective ‘dead’. ‘Man’ was declared an ‘analogical’ term, and as such equipped on imposition not only with signification and modes of signifying but also with a rule to the effect that in isolation it signifies its primary significate (living human being), but its secondary significate (cadaver) when combined with the adjective ‘dead’. Radulphus Brito in the 1290s gave up many of the makeshift solutions proposed by the generation before him, but then he introduced instead a factor that simply does not belong in a modistic theory: the intelligent listener’s ability to correct badly transmitted information and understand ‘dead body’ when the message strictly speaking says ‘dead living body’. Another, and ultimately related, difficulty was that it was not obvious why one should resist the temptation to describe all sorts of distinctions in terms of modes of signifying, thus endangering the position of grammar as a separate science. In works from the late thirteenth century there is an uneasy relationship between the properly grammatical modes of signifying (such as the substantive’s modus per se stantis) and socalled modes of category (modi praedicamentorum, such as the modus substantiae of ‘whatever’). Finally, the old trick of introducing non-things called modes to make distinctions without splitting one entity into several, always leaves the unpleasant question, ‘What is the thing without the modes?’ Perhaps the best answer is ‘Nothing’, for the ‘common nature’ hiding under the modes has no job in isolation. Its job is to glue together a number of items: thing-cum-mode-A, thing-cum-mode-B, etc. Traditionally the common nature was identified with the essence of a thing which, according to Avicenna, is nothing except self-identical: horsehood is horsehood, blackness is blackness (well, you may add a few trivial analytical statements, like ‘blackness is a sort of colour’, but that’s all you can say about it). A common nature neither exists nor does not exist, it is neither universal nor particular. It can be thus modified, but in itself is beyond those oppositions. There was in Avicenna and in the Latin tradition an ambiguity. On one hand the essence or common nature was thought to be prior to such determinations, on the other hand it was given positive determinations: it does not exist, but it has essential being; it is not concrete, but it is abstract. The identification of the common nature with what was felt to be the least determinately modified alternative was a major source of theoretical inconsistency. Boethius may have sensed the problem, for he discusses whether it is possible to signify a thing under no mode. Since he believes we can think of it thus, he must—and does—hold that we can signify it thus, i.e. that it would be possible to institute a word for pain, for example, that would belong to no part of speech. However, he does not enter into a closer investigation of how such a word could be significative. The root of the trouble with the common nature seems not to have been localized till Radulphus Brito did so. Brito may have been born about 1270. He was regent master of arts in the 1290s and possibly also in the first decade of the next century, while preparing for his degree in theology (obtained 1311/12). He may have died in the 1320s. The bulk of his extant oeuvre is non-theological, consisting of questions on Aristotle, Manlius Boethius and Priscian plus some sophismata. Brito’s work may be seen as a clever attempt to mend and save a theoretical framework in crisis, though in his day the crisis of modism would not be obvious. Sometime around 1300 a new handbook was written by Thomas of Erfurt; called Novi modi significandi it was to dominate in German schools, while the old Modi significandi by Martin continued to be used in Italy. Philosophy began to drop the modes only about 1315, and in grammar they lived till much later. Some of the problems besetting modistic theories had been realized as early as the 1270s. Thus it had been shown that explaining a lexical unity in terms of its modes of signifying had the awkward result that an equivocal noun, say canis=‘dog, dog-fish, dog-star’, could not actually be one noun but would have to be as many nouns as it had meanings. An attempt was made to save the situation through a distinction: each of the things signified would possess its own passive mode of signifying (i.e. mode of being signified) as a noun, but to the three passive modes of signifying would correspond only one active mode on the vocal level. Canis would be one noun. This, on the other hand, threatened the basic modistic idea of isomorphy between the levels of being, understanding, and signifying. Radulphus therefore proposed that the distinction between active and passive modes is merely notional. It is, after all, a question of a relation of signification between word and thing. If you look at the relation from one end it is an accidental property of the word, if from the other, then of the thing. It is called active or passive according to which end it is viewed from. The lengths to which Brito had to go to save the fundamental ideas of modism are signs of a theory in trouble. The greatest of the modists, Boethius, did not have to worry about any ‘crisis for modism’. But he found other worries when Bishop Tempier in 1277 lashed out against him and Siger because he thought they had said objectionable things about the human soul, creation, and the ultimate aim of human life. There always was a hot debate about the nature of the human soul, but it was unusually hot in the 1260–70s. It centred on four questions, namely: (1) On the common presupposition that the intellect (=intellective soul) has two components, an active one (intellectus agens) which, inter alia, forms universal concepts on the basis of the particular pieces of information provided by the senses, and a passive one (intellectus possibilis or potentialis or materialis) which is the initially blank wax tablet on which the active one leaves its imprints in the form of concepts and knowledge acquired. On this presupposition, is the agent intellect a genuinely different thing from the ‘possible’ one, or are they fundamentally identical? There was an old tradition for treating the two as genuinely different and considering the agent intellect to be an extra-human separate substance. Roger Bacon and many others had identified the agent intellect with God, others had held that this ‘Giver of Forms’ was a created intelligence, closer to God than men are but not identical with the First. On either view the agent intellect would be the same for all men; the common source of our intellectual insights would explain the possibility of communication. The individuality of our passive intellects would explain why we do not share all thoughts with one another. However, the radical separation of the agent intellect from the possible one had become rather old-fashioned in the 1260s and 1270s; the main combatants of the time agreed that the two intellects are not as many substances. (2) Is the intellect an extra-human separate substance? This was assumed to be Averroes’ opinion (though earlier in the century he had been taken to represent the opposite view). Siger of Brabant seems to have gradually changed his mind on this question, but initially, at least, he thought Averroes was right. This position allows the vegetative and sensitive souls to die without this affecting the intellect. Like the old assumption of a separate agent intellect it also accounts for men’s ability to share knowledge, but it has a weakness that the old theory has not: however much such an ‘Averroistic’ intellect is supposed to exercise its activity in corporeal men it is hard to see how it can be individualized so that my intellect is different from yours. Siger accepted the consequence that there is just one shared intellect for all men, but tried to save some private thought for the individual by making the operation of the intellect in a particular human depend on representations (intentiones imaginatae) with an origin in sensation and formed without the help of the intellect. When explaining how the individual ‘plugs into’ (continuatur) the supraindividual intellect Siger relies heavily on Averroes, but is no less obscure than his master. Contemporaries were alert to the ‘Averroistic’ theory’s inability to explain how men can share an intellect without sharing all thoughts. However, the gravest objection against such ‘monopsychism’ (a modern term) was that it could leave no individual rational soul to carry responsibility for a deceased person’s acts. Nor was it easy to see how an immaterial intellect could fail to be eternal; but it was Christian doctrine that God creates new souls every day and that they are in principle perishable (God could annihilate a soul, if he so wished). (3) If each living man has his own intellect, this may be assumed to be the substantial form that makes him a member of the human species rather than of the asinine one. But is the intellect fundamentally identical with the sub-rational ‘parts’ of the soul? Or is a man constituted by a compound of hierarchically ordered substantial forms (corporeality, vegetative, sensitive and intellectual soul), corresponding to the definition ‘man is a rational animal’=‘man is a rational, sensitive, vegetative body’? Such was the traditional view about 1270. It could be used to explain how human semen develops into an irrational embryo and thence into a genuine human by successive acquisition of higher forms, and it might seem to allow the highest form to survive bodily death. However, it may be doubted if the notion of a plurality of substantial forms is at all consistent; a substantial form is supposed to make its thing into the kind of thing it is; several such forms would seem to dissolve it into several things, as was often pointed out by medieval critics. Thomas Aquinas was the leading proponent of the thesis that one substance can have one substantial form only: a nobler form enables its owner to do anything a lower form would, and so no independent ‘vegetative soul’ is needed to explain the fact that intelligent beings metabolize. A main problem with this theory is that the embryo cannot acquire rationality without shedding its previous substantial form and thus becoming a new thing; nor can the dead Christ’s body have been identical with that which existed before he expired on the cross or that which existed after the resurrection. The form-question was intensively debated both among theologians and among artists. Boethius of Denmark was for the unity of form. John of Denmark—a contemporary about whose life nothing is known—believed in a plurality; in the short run, at least, he was on the winning side, for Stephen Tempier had the same belief and so had Robert Kilwardby, who in 1277 made the University of Oxford condemn the unity thesis. (4) How can the corporeal man’s form survive bodily death? Aristotle had indicated that the intellect should not be treated as an ordinary material form; for a material form to be there, is for some matter to be organized in some particular way. The intellect, he felt, was of a different type; matter is no essential ingredient of thought. If Aristotle could sit on the fence, so can we, many medievals thought. Thus Aquinas came to argue that the intellect is a self-subsistent form, substance-like in its capability of being on its own, but like a material form in that it is an incomplete entity if deprived of its matter. A disembodied Thoman intellect has the capacity for metabolizing, it just does not have the requisite tools for so doing. Siger of Brabant scoffed at this notion and Boethius did not like it either. He agreed that a man has just one substantial form, namely his soul, which, of course, is rational. It is a material form and can only in a very weak sense be called a substance. It must perish if it ceases to inform its body. If the intellect survives somehow—and Boethius does leave this possibility open—it does not do so as a disembodied Thoman form craving for a body; a separate intellect is neither a soul nor a form at all, it is a substance. One would like to ask Boethius which sort of identity such a substance has with the living man’s form, and whether separate intellects can have individuality. It is a fair guess that he would answer ‘No’ to the second question, but I have no idea how he would tackle the first one. The discussions about the soul ended in an impasse. The soul was required to do too many jobs. It was required to be a form that vivifies a body, yet to be a substance capable of surviving the body; to be individualized, yet to be totally immaterial qua intellect; to bestow identity over time, yet be able to acquire or lose essential properties; to have an intellective ingredient which is immaterial and not naturally generable, yet with a beginning in time and capacity for being annihilated as well as a capacity for lasting forever. There are clear signs that many artists felt that all these requirements could not be simultaneously satisfied. Stephen Tempier forbade them to obtain consistency by dropping one or more of the requirements. Although his ruling was legally binding only in Paris, it effectively provided the framework within which philosophers could move for the next two and a half centuries, and it became a standard procedure to describe first the philosophically tenable theories, namely (1) the whole soul is a material form and perishes with bodily life (ascribed to Alexander of Aphrodisias); (2) the intellect is as a whole an eternal and supra-individual substance (ascribed to Averroes). Then, after indicating which alternative he favours, the author will add, ‘But according to truth and the catholic faith neither of these theories is acceptable, but…’, without seriously trying to provide reasons for the ‘true’ theory. Incidentally, such tactics had already been used by Siger and others before 1277 and were denounced by Tempier, but to no avail. The late ancient philosophical way to salvation was an ascent from the miserable world of matter towards ultimate being or even to the transcendent One. This ascent was effected via the theoretical study of ever more exalted objects: from the earthly you pass to the heavenly, etc. This way of thinking with its strict hierarchy of beings gained new impetus in the thirteenth century. Avicenna’s theory of emanation from The First played a major role and the anonymous Book about Causes (based on Proclus’ Elements of Theology) helped cement the notion of a hierarchically structured universe in which each species of thing was ultimately conditioned by its relative proximity to The First (Cause), no two species being equidistant from The First. Averroes’ and Greek authors’ panegyrics of the blessings of the theoretical life lent support to the belief that an intellectual ascent up the ladder of being was possible, and when Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics became commonly known after 1250 everybody could see in Book X that ultimate happiness for man consists in theoretical insight. Such intellectualism appealed to an age which had reasons for epistemological optimism in view of the rapid growth of knowledge, as all the disciplines treated by Aristotle plus some more were coming to the artists’ attention. It was, of course, agreed on that no man can know all particular things, but both Siger of Brabant and others held that a human intellect may in principle achieve exhaustive knowledge of all genuine objects of knowledge. This would be impossible if the proper objects of knowledge were infinitely many, or if there were infinitely many avenues to knowledge, or if knowledge of some object could be more or less clear on a scale going on to infinity. But none of these cases obtain, they held. There is a limited number of proper objects, the natural species; there is a limited number of avenues to knowledge: demonstration and definition; demonstration does not go on ad infinitum and definition provides an insight which is not just optimal in the sense that we cannot manage better, but in the sense that it exhausts what there is to be known about the object. The climate was there for claiming that immaterial beings (‘separate substances’), and even The First, are not outside the reach of the human intellect. Proud assertions to this effect almost became a commonplace in introductions to Aristotelian commentaries; mastering the theoretical sciences is what makes a man a man in the fullest sense, says one artist, echoing Averroes. Simon of Faversham invokes the support of Proclus for the claim that all things strive to assimilate themselves to the things that are one step higher up the ontological ladder, and that it is therefore natural for man to desire knowledge, which is the means through which we may assimilate ourselves to the separate substances. Radulphus Brito also repeatedly says that philosophizing can make us godlike, and gives the thought a special twist by also stressing Seneca’s Stoic description of the effects of philosophy: it makes a man free. Such exaltations of the intellectual’s life hardly ever contain any reference to the standard doctrine of two types of highest good, one obtainable in this life, another obtainable only afterwards. Few appear to have been shocked. There is no sign either that any authority was shocked by Boethius’ disparaging remark that ‘laymen…are only quasi-human (deminuti homines) since they do not have the human perfection bestowed by theoretical sciences’. But Stephen Tempier did not like Boethius for saying that ‘when a man is occupied with this [the best and most perfect of the operations of the intellective power] he is in the best state possible for a man. And the people [who get into that state] are the philosophers, for they spend their life in the study of wisdom.’ The formulation is provocative because it seems to allude to the theological notion of a ‘state of perfection’ attaching to the taking of religious vows. Moreover, Boethius’ views on perfection enter into a fairly coherent set of views about human knowledge, and he also declares that there can be no question which is debatable with reasons and which nevertheless the philosopher ought not debate and determine how it is with truth in the matter as far as it [i.e. the truth] can be grasped by human reason. This is so because all reasons by means of which the debate is carried out are derived from reality, or else they would be a figment of the mind. Now, the philosopher teaches the natures of all things, for as philosophy teaches being, so the parts of philosophy teach the parts of being… Therefore it is the philosopher’s job to determine every question that is debatable with reasons, for every question which is debatable with reasons falls in some part of being, and the philosopher investigates every being, the natural, the mathematical and the divine alike. Boethius’ philosopher is the perfect man, he studies and gains an understanding of all sections of reality and in particular the most noble of all, the First Cause; his is human happiness in this life. On one occasion Boethius says that such earthly perfection also brings its possessor closer to happiness in the next life. Only the repeated phrase ‘debatable with reasons’ suggests there may be questions about which it is no use to reason. Up to the early 1270s there had been some intense debates about the compatibility of certain Aristotelian doctrines and Christianity, and whether un-Christian doctrines could be refuted without using arguments from faith. By the early 1270s it must have been clear to nearly everybody in the arts faculty that Aristotle did not think the world as a whole or any of its biological species has once begun to be. It was further clear that his sempiternalism is logically coherent, and it was clear that creationism is so too. This had not always been obvious; Siger of Brabant seems to have realized only gradually that the main argument against creationism relies on an unwarranted subsumption of the un-Aristotelian concept of creation under the Aristotelian notion of change (mutatio); considered as a species of change, creation is an inconsistent concept, since change presupposes the existence before the change of that which was changed. But does not Aristotelian science require the sempiternity of the world? If scientific axioms are necessary, and necessity means being always true, a biological axiom like ‘every man is an animal’ would seem to require sempiternal existence of men to act as verifiers. A standard question in our period was ‘Is the proposition “every man is by necessity an animal” true if no man exists?’ Some answered ‘Yes’ and held it was enough if some intelligent being still had a concept of man and animal; some used the Avicennian idea that existence is an accident of essences to hold that even with no men around the essence of man could be, though could not exist, and could act as verifier. Siger thought the question involved a pragmatic inconsistency, for the condition that there exists no man can never be fulfilled, he held. In an Aristotelian universe any species is always represented by existing members, and so there are always individuals to verify the proposition. Boethius answered ‘No’. He accepted the permissibility of the hypothesis that there might at some time be no men, and firmly held that with no existents around there would be no essences, and that analyticity is no guarantee of truth; with no men in existence even ‘man is man’ would be false. He held a simple correspondence theory of truth; an affirmative proposition is true if and only if such things as its subject and predicate signify are actually combined in the way the proposition indicates; a negative proposition is true if and only if such things are not combined. This means that all negative propositions about non-existents are true and all affirmative propositions about non-existents are false. As ‘every man is an animal’ would be false in the case posited, so ‘every man is by necessity an animal’ would a fortiori be so. But even when men exist the modal proposition is false, for there can be no necessary, i.e. unchangeable, truths about changeable and corruptible beings. Apparently, then, God and the separate substances (intelligences, angels) are the only objects about which there can be scientific knowledge. But Boethius holds that natural science is possible, for science only requires a weaker form of necessity, namely that the causal relationships stated in its propositions obtain without fail presupposing that such things as the propositions are about exist. Whenever there is a man there is in him a cause why ‘animal’ should inhere in him. Boethius does not go so far as to call categorical scientific propositions covert conditionals (‘man is an animal’=‘if there is a man, he is an animal’)—that was left for the next century—but he comes close to so doing. Natural science takes the existence of the physical world with its population of natural species for granted. And it has to do so, Boethius thought, for every science must presuppose the existence of its subject and the truth of its axioms. Aristotelian natural science is a science about the material world and thus cannot incorporate a theory of how things may come to be otherwise than through matter acquiring a form. Boethius stresses that each science is an autonomous system of primitive terms, axioms and derived theorems. There is, he admits, more to be said about the structure of reality than natural science can say, and in fact there are causes stronger than those proper to the sublunary sphere and thus capable of eliminating the work of natural causes. Hence in a particular case, the expected effect may fail to follow its natural causes, or an effect may be due to other causes than natural ones. Reality is organized in a hierarchy of entities of increasing causal power the closer one gets to the First Cause. When doing natural science we deal with cause-effect relationships that hold invariably provided no superior, non-natural cause intervenes. Similarly within natural science there may be sub-sciences, it seems, the causal laws of one of which may occasionally annihilate the effects of those of another. The important thing for Boethius’ scientist is always to remember which science he is doing at the moment; whatever he may know as a metaphysician, for example, he is not permitted to use it in any other science unless it is incorporated in the principles of that science. And men have access to information which simply cannot be incorporated into the principles of natural science, because it would turn it into an inconsistent set of propositions. This is the case with some information which only faith provides, such as that the world started its existence a definite time ago and there was a first couple of humans. Such revealed information the Christian has to accept; but when he is doing biology he has to stick to the principle that every human being has two parents, and, Boethius expressly says, he has to deny the allegation that someone was the first man. Boethius’ terminology suggests that to him a scientist at work was like someone participating in one of the formalized ‘games’ of disputation practised at the university. Doing science, then, is partaking in an activity governed by rules about what you have to concede or deny, these being the ‘principles’ of the science in case. In a dialectical disputation it is a rule that only generally accepted propositions be taken as premisses, and Boethius explicitly says that a disputant commits a mistake and ‘lies’ if he uses a premiss which is not generally acceptable, although it may as a matter of fact be true. In other words, saying that a universal theorem p is true in science A does not amount to a claim that p is true in the fundamental sense of corresponding with particularized reality. It only means that it follows from the rules (axioms) of that science and will apply to particular cases if no causality the description of which belongs in another science intervenes. Scientific truth is truth relative to some assumptions, not truth simpliciter. The superior cause could impede the applicability of p by failing to provide entities of the sort p describes or by making some of them have other causal relationships than described by p. It could not, of course, make all instantiations of p false, for then p would be a theorem of a pseudo-science whose axioms could not be based or tested on observation. But wouldn’t it be possible to create a super-science that would take all causes into account? Couldn’t metaphysics provide an adequate description of all matter-less causes, including the First Cause? No, Boethius holds, metaphysical reasoning can lead to some knowledge of The First, but given the assumption of a Free Divine Will, there is no way to give a full account of causation. It can be rationally inferred that the world is created, but not that it is not co-eternal with its creator. The First Cause endowed its creation with a causal structure that we can partly understand; but part of a correct understanding is the realization that at the head of the causal chain stands an inscrutable cause. Thomas Aquinas would allow no genuine conflicts between scientific propositions and articles of faith; apparent conflicts arise from flaws in the scientific argumentation; in principle a unified system of knowledge must be possible. Scripture is an answer book which can tell us if a rational theory needs revision. Thomist man may have a hard job to spot the flaw in the theory, but he is not troubled by the spectre of an inconsistent world. Siger of Brabant rather took the attitude that there are irresolvable inconsistencies between the data of revelation and correctly derived scientific theorems. To Sigerian man the clash between science and revelation is catastrophic, because he has to sacrifice one of the two; if he does not want to become a heretic, he must decide that the results of rational enquiry are wrong though he cannot see how they could be so. To Boethian man it comes as no surprise that historical facts do not always exemplify the causal mechanisms described in scientific propositions. It is exactly what scientific metaphysics should make us expect: it leads to the assumption of a first cause, but cannot possibly tell exactly how this cause wields its power. Boethian man bows to Scripture without abandoning any scientific theorems. Boethius toiled to find a philosophically tenable way out of the apparent contradiction between Christian dogma and philosophy. His deference to faith was probably sincere. Siger’s is more suspect; his true belief may have been that philosophy was right but that Christianity could be shown to conform with philosophy if properly demythologized. In his Questions on the Metaphysics he follows Averroes in holding that man-made religions (leges) contain mythological elements, falsehoods designed to scare the plebs and make them behave. As an example the Pythagorean doctrine is mentioned that a good man’s soul will migrate to that of a good body after death, while a bad man’s will enter a beast’s body. It is easy to see a parallel to Christian doctrines about purgatory, heaven and hell, and, in fact, Siger once tried to show that fire could not affect a disembodied soul. Stephen Tempier did not forget to condemn that view, just as he remembered one that Siger did not openly profess, but very nearly did so, namely that there are mythological falsehoods in all religions, including the Christian one. Sometimes the reader feels that Siger is mocking would-be censors or other philosophical opponents. Investigating whether there must be just one first principle and cause, he refutes all serious arguments for the necessity of this and then presents various bad arguments for it as if they were conclusive. When discussing whether any natural desire could be in vain, he introduces the class of those desires which are directed to aims that cannot possibly be achieved, like immortality. Isn’t that mocking the idea espoused by, among others, Thomas, that there must be an eternal life since men have a desire for it and no natural desire can be in vain? The debate about philosophy versus faith did not stop in 1277, but for a long time it was rather low-key. Philosophers avoided any Boethian attitudes that were provocative, while generally following the trail he had blazed, considering creation and other unpredictable manifestations of divine power as irrelevant to the construction of scientific theories. Important as the collision between philosophy and religion was, it should be stressed that there is no sign that the driving force behind the philosophers was a wish to do away with traditional Christian doctrine. Their primary occupation was with a rational enquiry into all aspects of reality, including the divine. They just happened to arrive at conclusions that did not harmonize well with standard beliefs. The ‘invention’ for which Radulphus Brito was best known to posterity is a good example of theologically neutral everyday work from the arts faculty. Radulphus invented a fourfold division of ‘intentions’ to account for the genesis and ontological status of universals. There was a well-entrenched distinction between primary intentions such as ‘horse’ and secondary ones such as ‘species’, which presuppose the primary ones. Some would say that ‘species’ etc. are concepts of concepts, but Brito wished to tie them more securely to extramental reality. He then divided both primary and secondary intentions into abstract and concrete ones. The abstract primary intention is a formal concept like ‘humanity’. It is based on the modes of being or manifestations (apparentia) of some essence (or ‘nature’); reasoning, for example, is a manifestation of human nature. An abstract primary intention is a mental entity, a thought (cognitio) whose object is man, but it does not include its object. The concrete primary intention is the object of the abstract one, but it is not a purely extramental thing. It is the thing (man, for instance) qua thought of by means of the formal concept (humanity). The concrete primary intention has one foot in the mental and one in the extramental world. Brito also describes it as an aggregate of the thing out there and the thought by which we grasp it. This ontological duplicity was often criticized in later times, but Brito’s theory was at least a brave attempt to secure the lifeline between concepts and their objects without moving the objects into the mind. True, he would need a mechanism by which an essence can function as quiddity, i.e. basis of understanding, via its manifest modes of being, but such a mechanism was provided by fairly standard theory of sensation and abstraction. Apart from the primary intentions Brito operates with a set of two secondary ones; once again the modes of being form the basis of concept-formation, but this time we are not dealing with modes proper to some nature but common ones, as follows. The abstract secondary intention, universality for instance, is a concept derived from the common feature (mode of being) of being capable of occurring in several individuals or types; this feature is shared by man and donkey, for example, both of which can occur in several individuals, and also by animal which can occur in several species. Our intellect can grasp this, and it can do so without comparison: it can construct a Porphyrian tree on the basis of sensory acquaintance with a single individual, recognizing, for instance, that sensing (which characterizes animals) is a trait apt to be shared by more beings than is reasoning (which is reserved for humans). The corresponding concrete secondary intention (in our example: ‘universal’) is the thing (man, for example) qua conceived of by means of the formal concept of universality. Concrete secondary intentions like universals and syllogisms are the sort of things logic is about—that was commonly agreed. Some forty or fifty years before Brito, Robert Kilwardby had said that secondary intentions are thus called because they arise from inspection and comparison of things already grasped by the mind. Brito wants to generate secondary intentions through direct inspection of the entities that gave rise to the first intentions. Why will he not allow the mind to operate on the products of its primary inspection, and why will he allow no comparison? Because this might leave the mind too much power over which secondary intentions there are to be and make them much too mental—thoughts of thoughts. If secondary intentions were mere mental constructs, the whole of logic would be so. And it could quickly be shown that grammar, physics, in fact any science would be in the same situation, for all theoretical entities—modes of signifying, causes, effects, whatever—must have a genesis similar to that of the secondary intentions of logic. If one endeavour pervaded the work done by Parisian artists in the second half of the thirteenth century it was the endeavour to secure an extramental anchoring of scientific knowledge by deriving its categories from features of reality. That was what the modistic triad of ways of being, understanding, and signifying was all about, and that was Brito’s central preoccupation. He tried relentlessly to mend the cracks that had appeared in the edifice of theories built with and around the modistic triad. There was no easy way to fix the cracks, the complexity of Brito’s own theories showed that; the time was ripe for a radically new approach such as the one that John Buridan was to introduce in Paris about the 1330s. BIBLIOGRAPHY Original Language Editions 12.1 Ebbesen, S., Izbicki, T., Longeway, J., del Punta, F. and Stump, E. (eds) Simon of Faversham, Quaestiones super Libro Elenchorum (Studies and Texts 60), Toronto, PIMS, 1984. 12.2 Fauser, W.F. Der Kommentar des Radulphus Brito zu Buch III De anima (BGPTM n.f. 12), Münster, Aschendorff, 1974. 12.3 CIMAGL (journal with a large number of relevant text editions). 12.4 Enders, H.W. and Pinborg, J. (eds) Radulphus Brito, Quaestiones super Priscianum minorem (Grammatica Speculativa 3.1–2), Stuttgart, Bad Cannstatt, Frommann-Holzboog, 1980. 12.5 Roos, H., Otto, A., Pinborg, J. and Ebbesen, S. (eds) Corpus Philosophorum Danicorum Medii Aevi, Copenhagen, Gad/DSL, 1955–. (Contains several relevant works, including those of Boethius, John and Martin of Denmark.) 12.6 Pinborg, J. ‘Radulphus Brito’s sophism on second intentions’, Vivarium 13 (1975): 119–52. 12.7 Van Steenbergen, F. (ed.) Philosophes Médiévaux, Louvain, Institut Supérieur de Philosophie de l’Université de Louvain, 1948–. (Contains several relevant works; the works of Siger of Brabant are in vols 12–14 and 24–5.) English Translations 12.8 McDermott, A.C.S. Godfrey of Fontaine’s Abridgement of Boethius of Dacia’s Modi Significandi sive Quaestiones super Priscianum maiorem (Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science 22), Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 1980. 12.9 Wippel, J.F. Boethius of Dacia, On the supreme good, On the eternity of the world, On dreams (Mediaeval Sources in Translation 30), Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1987. Studies 12.10 Ebbesen, S. ‘Concrete accidental terms: late thirteenth-century debates about problems relating to such terms as “album”’, in N.Kretzmann (ed.) Meaning and Inference in Medieval Philosophy, Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1988. 12.11 Gauthier, R.A. ‘Notes sur Siger de Brabant, I–II’, Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 67 (1983): 201–32 and 68 (1984): 3–49. 12.12 Hisette, R. Enquête sur les 219 articles condamnés à Paris le 7 mars 1277 (Philosophes Médiévaux 22), Paris and Louvain, Publications Universitaires and Vander-Oyez, 1977. 12.13 Marmo, C. Semiotica e Linguaggio nella Scolastica: Parigi, Bologna, Erfurt 1270–1330. La semiotica dei Modisti (Nuovi studi storici 26), Rome, Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 1994. 12.14 Pinborg, J. Die Entwicklung der Sprachtheorie im Mittelalter (BGPTMA 42.2), Münster and Copenhagen, Aschendorff and Frost-Hansen, 1967. 12.15 ——Logik und Semantik im Mittelalter, Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt, Frommann-Holzboog, 1972. 12.16 ——Medieval Semantics: Selected Studies on Medieval Logic and Grammar, London, Variorum, 1984. 12.17 Rosier, I. La Grammaire spéculative des Modistes, Lille, Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1983. 12.18 Van Steenbergen, F. Maître Siger de Brabant (Philosophes Médiévaux 21), Paris and Louvain, Publications Universitaires and Vander-Oyez, 1977.

Routledge History of Philosophy. . 2005.

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