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28 October, 2012
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History of Philosophy
Predecessors of Ockam
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)


Life. Durandus of St. Pourçain, Doctor Resolutissimus , was born at St. Pourçain, in Auvergne, towards the end of the thirteenth century. He joined the order of St. Dominic, and was at first a most ardent defender of the doctrines of St. Thomas. About the year 1313 he taught theology at Paris. After spending some years in Rome as Master of the Sacred Palace during the reign of John XXII, he returned to France and occupied successively the sees of Limoges, Puy, and Meaux. He tells us himself that he was bishop of Puy. [4] The year 1332 is the most probable date of Durandus' death.
[4] Ecclesia Aniciensis cui praefui (In IVum Sent., Dist. XXIV, Q. III); cf. also Chartul., II, 218, note 11.
Sources. The most important of Durandus' works is entitled Super Sententias Theologicas Petri Lombardi Commentariorum Libri Quatuor. It was published in Paris in 1550. Trittenheim mentions several minor treatises. (cf. Praefatio to above edition.)


By his independence of thought and his advocacy of certain principles which his contemporaries considered dangerous, Durandus earned the title of Doctor Resolutissimus. Still, he never exceeded the limits of orthodoxy. Indeed, the independence which he advocated, and which he formulated in the principle "Naturalis philosophia non est scire quid Aristoteles aut alii philosophi senserint, sed quid habeat veritas rerum," had been professed before his time and formulated almost in the same words by St. Thomas and the other great schoolmen. Such independence of thought was recognized as the birthright of every philosopher, and the fact that Durandus exercised this right without incurring ecclesiastical censure is the best refutation of the calumny that the Church refused to tolerate independent thinking as long as she could enforce obedience to her commands. Durandus manifested his independence:

1. In rejecting the Sensible and Intelligible Species. The reason which he adduces is a priori rather than empirical, and is based on a misconception of the Scholastic doctrine of species. In his Commentary on the Books of Sentences, [5] he first gives his opinion that the doctrine of species was introduced to explain sense-perception, and was transferred to the explanation of intellectual knowledge; he then proceeds to criticise the doctrine of sensible species as follows:
Omne illud, per quad, tamquam per repraesentativum, potentia cognitiva 
fertur in alterum, est primo cognitum; sed species coloris in oculo non 
est primo cognita seu visa ab eo, immo nullo modo est visa ab eo ergo 
per ipsam, tamquam per repraesentativum, non fertur in aliquid aliud.  
[5] Lib. II, Dist. III, Q. VI, Nos. 9 and 10.
Now this argument is simply irrelevant. The predecessors of Durandus, so far from teaching that the species is a medium repraesentativum, maintained, on the contrary, that it is merely a medium by which the object becomes present to the subject -- what may be called a medium praesentativum, that is to say, a medium communicationis. It is owing to a similar misunderstanding that later nominalists and so many modern writers regard the scholastic doctrine of species as untenable.

2. In rejecting the Active Intellect. This follows as a natural consequence from the rejection of the species. Durandus teaches that there is no more need of an active intellect than of an active sense. [6] Here, again, he misunderstands the Scholastic doctrine. There is need of an active intellect, because, although the object of intellectual knowledge -- the universal nature -- exists in the world of sense-phenomena, it exists there clothed in material conditions, of which it must be divested before becoming actually intelligible, and the task of separating the universal from these material conditions is the work of the active intellect.
[6] Cf. In Ium Sent., Dist. III, P. II, Q. V.
3. In his Advocacy of Nominalism. This follows from the rejection of the active intellect. Durandus teaches that the object of the intellect is the individual as it exists, and that the universal exists nowhere outside the mind.
Universale non est primum objectum intellectus, nec praeexistit 
intellectioni, sed est aliquid formatum per operationem intelligendi . 
. . esse universale, esse genus vel speciem dicuntur entia rationis. [7]  
[7] Op. cit., Lib. I, Dist. III et Dist. IX.
Durandus, however, does not openly profess nominalism, that is, he does not teach expressly, as the followers of Ockam do, that the only universality is the universality of names.

4. In his Doctrine of the Principle of Individuation. Durandus teaches that the principle of individuation is not distinct from the specific nature of the individual, since everything is individuated by actual existence. "Non oportet praeter naturam et principia naturae quaerere principia individui." [8]
[8] Op. cit., Lib. II, Dist. III, Q. II.
5. In his Rejection of Divine Cooperation with Secondary Causes. This is the doctrine by which Durandus places himself in most pronounced opposition to the current teaching of his time. The Scholastics of the thirteenth century unanimously taught that God is not only creator and preserver of all finite things, but also cooperator in all the actions of secondary causes. Durandus maintains that all the actions of the creature proceed from God inasmuch as it is God Who gave creatures the power to act, but he denies that there is an immediate influxus of the Creator in the actions of the creature.
Non oportet quod Deus immediate coagat, sed solum mediate, conservando 
-- naturam et virtutem causae secundae. [9] Deus non est causa actionum 
liberi arbitrii, nisi quia liberum arbitrium ab Ipso est et 
conservatur. [10]  
[9] Op. cit., Lib. II, Dist. I, Q. V.

[10] Ibid., Dist. XXX VII, Q. I.
The theological doctrines of Durandus are still more at variance with current teaching, and on some points his dogmatic opinions cannot without difficulty be reconciled with Catholic belief.

Historical Position. If Duns Scotus is the Kant, Durandus is the Locke of Scholastic philosophy. His treatment of the most serious problems of psychology and metaphysics is marked by superficiality. He seemingly took no pains to make himself acquainted with the doctrines which he criticised, and his own solution of many a problem stops short of the point where the real problem begins. Simplicity, even at the expense of thoroughness, appears to have been his motto.


Life. Peter d'Auriol (Aureolus), Doctor Facundus, was born about the end of the thirteenth century at Toulouse. [11] In 1318 he became master of theology at the University of Paris. In the following year he was made provincial of the Franciscans in Aquitaine. In 1321 he was promoted to the metropolitan see of Aix. [12] He died in 1322.
[11] Verberie (Vermerie)-sur-Oise is usually given as the place of his birth.

[12] Cf. Chartul., II, 225.
Sources. The works of Aureolus, Quodlibeta and Commentaria in Libros Sententiarum, were published at Rome (1596-1605) in four folio volumes.


Aureolus was at first a Scotist. Later, however, actuated apparently by the idea which inspired Durandus to simplify Scholasticism, he arrived at conclusions which are practically identical with those of the Doctor Most Resolute. He denied the reality of universals, the existence of species and of the active intellect, the distinction between essence and existence, and the distinction between the soul and its faculties. Referring to the doctrine of species, he says:
Unde patet quomodo res ipsae conspiciuntur in mente, et illud quod 
intuemur non est forma alia specularis sed ipsamet res habens esse 
apparens, et hoc est mentis conceptus, sive notitia objectiva. [13]  
[13] In IIum Sent., Dist. XII, Q. I, Art. 2.
The expression forma specularis, and the word idolum which occurs in the same article, both being used to designate the species, show that Aureolus was as far as Durandus was from understanding the rôle which the great schoolmen assigned to the species.

Historical Position. The doctrines of Aureolus as well as those of Durandus prepared the way for the outspoken conceptualism of Ockam.


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