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



311. Two Forms of Opposition. Tracts against Thomism. -- The new Thomistic doctrines threatened to drive many venerable old theories out of the schools, and this naturally aroused the opposition of the masters who were brought up in those earlier theories. Excessively suspicious of Thomism, they withdrew into the fortress of their traditional inheritance and defended themselves and it against the supposed enemy. This reactionary party was recruited not merely from the seculars and the Franciscans, but even from among the Dominicans themselves. John Peckham informs us that St. Thomas's teaching on the unity of substantial form was combated, even in the heyday of his renown at Paris (1269-1271), by his own brother-religious of the convent of St. James, "etiam a fratribus propriis arguebatur argute".{1} So, too, at Oxford, for many years the leader of the opposition to Thomism was a Dominican. The hostilities assumed two distinct forms: the Thomist doctrines were attacked in pamphlets and condemned by censures.

Only incidental refutations of Thomism appear in the writings of Matthew of Aquasparta,{2} but other Franciscans wrote pamphlets expressly against Thomism. The Correptorium Fratris Thomae by WILLIAM DE LA MARE, a pupil of William Varo, is a veritable manifesto, a rallying cry to the older scholasticism against Thomism.{3} The attacks were directed mainly against the theory of the unity of substantial form. RICHARD OF MIDDLETON composed a treatise De Gradu Formarum{4} in defence of plurality. JOHN PECKHAM, who was all his life an intemperate opponent of Thomism, relates in a boasting way, in 1285, how he took St. Thomas to task (in 1269-1271) on the unity of form, in a scholastic tourney before the bishop of Paris and the masters of theology. Were we to believe Peckham, he alone defended St. Thomas as far as truth permitted. "Nos soli ei adstitimus, ipsum, prout salva veritate potuimus, defendendo;" and, finally, the adversary, driven to bay, was obliged to submit his theses humbly to the censorship of the Faculty, "donec ipse omnes positiones suas quibus posset imminere correctio, sicut doctor humilis subjecit moderamini Parisiensium magistrorum").{5} But we must largely discount this version of the matter. BARTHOLOMEW OF CAPUA, a witness in the process of canonization of St. Thomas, paints the scene in very different colours. Peckham apparently tried by using strong language to exasperate St. Thomas, but elicited in return only words of sweetness and humility.{6} There is also preserved a letter from the Dominican, ROBERT KILWARDBY, to his confrère, Peter of Conflans, archbishop of Corinth, complaining of the many inconvenient consequences of the new doctrines.

Hostility to Thomism also issued in a series of official condemnations. The history of these makes some of the most lively and interesting pages in the University annals of Paris and Oxford.

{1} Letter of J. Peckham, 1st June, 1285. Chartul., i., p. 634.

{2} And also most probably in the authors mentioned, 260, and not yet studied.

{3} He also wrote Quaestiones Disputatae and a commentary on the Sentences.

{4} Which we discovered in a Paris MS. immediately preceding the De Unitate Formae of Giles of Lessines.

{5} Chartul., i., p. 634.

{6} Ibid., p. 635.

<< ======= >>