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History of Philosophy
Third Period of Scholasticism: Alexander of Hales to Ockam (1200-1300)
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)

The second period in the history of Scholastic philosophy was the period of storm and stress; the third is the period of relative perfection -- the Golden Age of Scholasticism. The twelfth century was a century of criticism and controversy; the thirteenth is a century of synthesis and construction. The great masters of Scholastic thought in the thirteenth century take as lively an interest in the problem of universals as Roscelin and Abelard did; they have all Abelard's relish for the use of dialectic, without any of his frivolous love of display; they are not less appreciative of the value of piety and contemplation than the Victorines were; they are as keenly alive to the advantages to be gained from the learning of the Greeks and Arabians as were the members of the school of Chartres; in a word, they neither despise nor neglect what their predecessors accomplished, but, going beyond the limits which circumstances set to the speculations of their predecessors, they carry the Scholastic idea and the Scholastic method into new regions of inquiry and succeed in constructing the great Scholastic systems of metaphysics and psychology. The schoolmen of the thirteenth century are not, like their predecessors, condemned to work and think in a milieu unfavorable to constructive speculation. The time is ripe for vast constructive attempts. From the union of the Latin and German races there has sprung up a new Europe, dominated everywhere by Christian ideals; the new civilization has reached its complete development, and the time has come for Christian thought to put forth its best efforts.

There were three events which more than any others influenced the development of Christian thought at the beginning of the thirteenth century: the introduction of the works of Aristotle, the rise of the universities, and the foundation of the mendicant orders.


Authorities. A. Jourdain, Recherches sur l'age et l'origine des traductions latines d'Aristote (2me éd., Paris, 1843); Mgr. Talamo, L'Aristotelismo della Scolastica (1873); Launoy, De Varia Aristotelis in Academia Parisiensi Fortuna (ed. at Wittenberg in 1820); Brother Azarias, Aristotle and the Christian Church (in Essays Philosophical, Chicago, 1896).

The schoolmen of the eleventh and twelfth centuries were, for the most part, acquainted with Aristotle merely as a master of dialectic. Indeed, it was not until the time of John of Salisbury that even the Organon was known to Christian philosophers in its entirety. It is true that some of the physical doctrines of Aristotle were known to the members of the school of Chartres, but it was only at the beginning of the thirteenth century that all the physical, metaphysical, and ethical treatises of Aristotle were translated into Latin and became part of the library of the schoolmen.

The first translations were made from the Arabic, probably through the medium of the Hebrew. The work of translating, begun in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by Constantine the African, Adelard of Bath, and Herman the Dalmatian, was systematized between the years 1130 and 1150 by Raymond, bishop of Toledo, who founded a college of translators. To this college belonged John Avendeath (Johannes Hispanus), Dominicus Gundisalvi, Alfred de Morlay, Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187), and, at a later time (about 1230), Michael Scott [1] and Herman the German. The translations, as has been said, were often made through the medium of Hebrew. This is true of the translations of commentaries and possibly also of the translations of the text of Aristotle's works. Renan [2] says of the commentaries of Averroës, "The printed editions of his works are a Latin translation of a Hebrew translation of a commentary made upon an Arabic translation of a Syriac translation of a Greek text."
[1] Cf. Jourdain, Reckerches, etc., pp. 124 ff.; Renan, Averroës, etc., p. 205, and Chartul. (ed. Denifle), I, 105, 110.

[2] Op. cit., p. 52.
The translations made directly from the Greek are, as a rule, of later date than the translations from the Arabic. Before the year 1215 or 1220 none of Aristotle's works except the Organon was translated from the Greek. It was after the year 1240 that Robert Greathead (1175-1253) [3] translated Aristotle's Ethics, and Henry of Brabant and Thomas of Cantimpré translated some other portions of Aristotle's works. About 1260 William of Moerbeka, at the request of St Thomas, and, as it appears, of Urban IV, translated the complete works of Aristotle into Latin. This version, known as the "translatio nova," imperfect as it was, held its place as the authoritative translation of Aristotle till the dawn of the era of the Renaissance, although it is evident that in St. Thomas' time there were several other translations in use.
[3] Cf. F. S. Stevenson, Robert Grosseteste (London, 1899).
In the light of the foregoing facts the attitude of the Church towards the study of Aristotle's works is seen to be perfectly consistent. When, in 1210, the provincial Council of Paris, which condemned the doctrines of Amaury and David of Dinant, prohibited the reading of Aristotle's works and the commentaries thereon ("nec libri Aristotelis de naturali philosophia nec commenta legantur Parisiis publice vel secreto"), the prohibition was directed against the Arabian translations rendered into Latin and against the Arabian commentaries. When, in 1215, Robert of Courçon, the papal legate, drew up the statutes for the guidance of the masters of the University of Paris, and therein forbade the reading of the physical and metaphysical treatises, the regulation once more referred to the Arabian Aristotle. When, in 1231, Gregory IX directed that the libri naturales be expurgated of errors, it was a sign that the true Aristotle was beginning to be distinguished from the false, and, indeed, in 1254 we find the writings of Aristotle prescribed by the Faculty of Arts as text-books for the masters' lectures in the University of Paris. The Aristotle that was twice condemned was professedly hostile to Christianity. To the controversies of former centuries Aristotle had contributed merely the weapons of dialectical debate: but as soon as translations were made from the Arabic, and Arabian commentaries were appended to them, Aristotle's works were made to yield material for a new rationalism and a new pantheism essentially hostile to Christian faith and to theism. When, however, translations were made from the Greek text, it became clear that Peripateticism and Scholasticism were by no means hostile to each other; and from the time of Alexander of Hales onward Aristotle's philosophy was made the basis of a rational exposition of dogma: Aristotle became for the schoolmen what Plato had been for the Fathers, -- "praecursor Christi in naturalibus."


Authorities. For the history of the University of Paris, with which we are chiefly concerned here, the authorities, besides Du Boulay's Historia Universitatis Parisiensis (a very uncritical work), are Denifle's Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis (1889-1891) and Die Entstehung der Universitäten des Mittelalters bis 1400 (1885); Rashdall's Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, Vol. I (Oxford, 1895); Laurie's Lectures on Rise, etc., of Universities (London, 1886), a work not always reliable; Feret's La faculté de théologie de Paris (Paris, 1894); and articles in Catholic University Bulletin, July, October, 1895. [4]
[4] Vol. I, pp. 349 ff. and 493 ff.
The event which is now universally admitted as the starting point of the history of the University of Paris is the union of the masters and students of the schools in the island into a corporation (Universitas Magistrorum et Scolarium) under the presidency of the chancellor of the cathedral. This event took place about the end of the twelfth century. During the first decades of the thirteenth century the faculties were organized. About the same time the nations were organized among the students and the masters of the faculty of arts, and a struggle began between the rector of the nations and the chancellor of the university.[5] Privileges bestowed both by the popes and the French kings extended the influence and prestige of the university; Paris became the "city of books," the center of the intellectual life of Christian Europe, and the scene of the greatest triumphs of Scholasticism. It was at Paris all the great masters studied and taught, and so intimately is the history of Scholastic philosophy connected with the University of Paris, that to understand the conditions in which Scholasticism attained its highest development it is necessary to know something of the arrangements made for the study of philosophy at the university.
[5] Chartul., I, xi.
By statutes issued at various times during the thirteenth century it was provided that the professor should read, that is, expound, the text of certain standard authors in philosophy and theology. In a document published by Denifle, [6] and by him referred to the year 1252, we find the following works among those prescribed for the Faculty of Arts: Logica Vetus (the old Boethian text of a portion of the Organon, probably accompanied by Porphyry's Isagoge); Logica Nova (the new translation of the Organon); Gilbert's Liber Sex Principiorum; and Donatus' Barbarismus. A few years later (1255), we find the following works prescribed: Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, De Anima, De Animalibus, De Coelo et Mundo, Meteorica, the minor psychological treatises, and some Arabian or Jewish works, such as the Liber de Causis and De Differentia Spiritus et Animae. [7] The first degree for which the student of arts presented himself was that of bachelor. The candidate for this degree, after a preliminary test called responsiones (this regulation went into effect not later than 1275), presented himself for the determinatio, which was a public defense of a certain number of theses against opponents chosen from the audience. At the end of the disputation, the defender summed up, or "determined," his conclusions. After determining, the bachelor resumed his studies for the licentiate, assuming also the task of "cursorily" explaining to junior students some portion of the Organon. The test for the degree of licentiate consisted in a collatio, or exposition of several texts, after the manner of the masters. The student was now a licensed teacher; he did not, however, become magister, or master of arts, until he had delivered what was called the inceptio, or inaugural lecture, and was actually installed (birrettatio). If he continued to teach he was called magister actu regens; if he departed from the university or took up other work, he was called magister non regens. It may be said that, as a general rule, the course of reading was: (1) for the bachelor's degree, grammar, logic, and psychology; (2) for the licentiate, natural philosophy; (3) for the master's degree, ethics, and the completion of the course of natural philosophy. [8]
[6] Op. cit., I, 227.

[7] Cf. op. cit., I, 279, note 10. The work De Differentia Spiritus et Anima was published by Barach, Innsbruck, 1878.

[8] Cf. Rashdall, Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, I, 437.

The University of Paris owed its origin to the union of the cathedral schools, which were in charge of the diocesan clergy. Soon, however, the two great orders, the Dominicans and the Franciscans, were founded, and began to revive in their monasteries the best traditions of the Benedictine cloister schools of former centuries. On the occasion of the great dispersion of 1229, when, after having had recourse to a cessatio, or suspension of lectures, the masters left the city, as a protest against the infringement of their privileges, the Dominicans obtained a license to establish a chair in the convent of St. James. After the return of the secular masters, in 1231, the Dominican master was allowed to continue his lectures. In the same year the Dominicans secured another chair, and the Franciscans obtained their first chair in the university, Alexander of Hales being installed as the first Franciscan master. [9] In 1252 or 1253, under circumstances very similar to those of 1229, the great body of masters once more proclaimed a cessatio, and a struggle between the "regulars" and "seculars" was precipitated by the refusal of the regular professors to leave their chairs or to swear obedience to the statutes of the university. This controversy was still raging in 1257, when St. Thomas presented himself for his solemn inceptio as master in theology. William of St. Amour was the champion of the seculars, while St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure advocated the cause of the regulars. [10] The outcome was that the mendicants obtained a secure standing in the university, and the fate of Scholasticism was practically committed to the teachers who belonged to the Dominican and Franciscan orders.[11] In this way, within the Scholastic movement itself, two distinct currents of thought soon began to be defined, -- the Dominican tradition and the tradition of the Franciscan schools. The mendicant orders are thus associated with the greatest triumph of philosophy in the thirteenth century, as well as with the tendencies which, in subsequent centuries, led to the downfall of Scholasticism.
[9] Cf. Chartul., I, 135, n.

[10] The status of the mendicants was defined in the bull Quasi lignum vitae (1255; apud Denifle, Chartul., I, 279), which settled practically every point in favor of the regulars. Meantime, the controversy was extended beyond the question of university privilege, and touched on the rights of religious in general, the vow of poverty, etc. After the death of Alexander IV, the university obtained a confirmation of its privileges, and the mendicants quietly submitted to take the oath to which they had formerly objected.

[11] In 1252, seven chairs out of twelve were occupied by regulars. cf. Denifle, op. cit., I, 258, note 12.


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