ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

259. Peter John Olivi (1247-1298) occupies a place apart in the history of the Franciscan order towards the close of the thirteenth century. His efforts in regard to disciplinary reform in his order are no less noteworthy than his teachings in philosophy and theology.

He ventilated the question De usu Paupere -- endeavouring to interpret evangelical poverty as the use of the minimum necessary for subsistence. He gathered around him a party called "spirituals," who got into conflict with the community. In 1282 a chapter of the order, at Strassburg, decided to examine into Olivi's doctrines. The following year, a meeting of Franciscan university doctors condemned thirty-four propositions taken almost exclusively from his Quaestiones. He was not cited to appear in his own defence, but he sent his judges a long written justification of his teachings. The condemnations were directed in part against certain philosophical views to which Olivi had given expression: most notably against his teaching about the plurality of substantial forms in the individual.

Olivi regarded the principles of vegetative, sensitive and intellectual life as three distinct substantial parts or portions, all alike rooted in a common spiritual matter, and uniting with one another to form by their union one single human soul (anima rationalis) in each individual man. There was no novelty, at that time, in the doctrine of a plurality of forms in the individual, nor in the doctrine of a spiritual matter. The Dominican, Kilwardby, and even Richard of Middleton, who was one of Olivi's Parisian examiners, subscribed to both doctrines in practically the same terms as the latter. But Olivi advanced, in addition to these, some new and dangerous theories. He maintained that the intellectual part (pars intellectiva) does not directly "inform" the human body, but only through the intermediary of the sensitive part: its union with the body, though substantial, is not formal.{1} The bitter complaints of the Franciscan community against this teaching induced Pope Clement V. to take cognizance of the dispute.{2} Protracted negotiations, opened in 1309, led up to the council of Vienne in Dauphiné, in 1311. One of the propositions condemned at the council concerned the union of the soul and body. It is dealt with under this formula: ". . . Quod si quisquam deinceps asserere, defendere seu tenere pertinaciter praesumpserit, quod anima rationalis seu intellectiva non sit forma corporis humani per se et essentialiter, tanquam haereticus sit censendus". This definition does not touch the question of the number of forms in man, but it implies that if there be many, each of them informs the composite individual essentially and of itself The doctrine of Olivi was condemned, but the controversies on the unity or plurality of forms in the individual were left free and untouched.

{1} See Olivi's arguments in his works and in Duns Scotus. The same opinion was defended by Petrus de Trabibus, a faithful disciple of Olivi (Arch. f. Litt. u. Kirchengesch. d. Mitt., Cf. ZIGLIARA, op. cit., p. 101: "Dico quod anima rationalis sic est forma corporis quod non est per omnes partes suae essentiae, utpote non per materiam nec per partem materialem, nec per partem intellectivam, sed solum per partem sensitivam". The anima rationalis would, therefore, be itself composed of substantial parts, namely, the pars sensitiva, the pars intellectiva and the pars materialis.

{2} In the complaint formulated by the community against the "spirituals," in 1312, we read: "Item docuit, quod anima rationalis non est forma corporis humani per seipsam, sed solummodo per partem sensitivam; adjiciens, quod si esset forma corporis, sequeretur, quod aut communicaret corpori esse immortale aut ipsa non haberet esse immortale de se; ex quo posset inferri quod Christus, qui veraciter nostram humanitatem assumpsit, non fuit inquantum homo ex anima rationali et humana carne compositus et subsistens, sicut fides docet catholica" (EHRLE, Arch. f. Litt., etc., ii., p. 36).

<< ======= >>