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


313. Dominicans. Giles of Lessines. -- Unbending opposition from some called forth earnest and unflinching adherence from others. In the Dominican order the hostility was short-lived and soon gave way to an unbounded admiration for St. Thomas. When Albert the Great, now a venerable octogenarian, arrived at Paris to defend his old pupil, animosities were quickly banished from the convent of St. James. Proud of the already world-wide reputation of the Angelic Doctor, a general assembly of the chapter at Milan in 1278 discountenanced the reaction of which Oxford was the centre;{1} and another at Paris in 1279 commanded the entire order to adopt the teaching of St. Thomas, under threat of serious penalties.{2}

Among the many Dominicans who studied under St. Thomas himself, or lived in the later years of the thirteenth century, there do not seem to have been any philosophers of the first rank. Numerous works on philosophy,{3} as yet undiscovered or unedited, are attributed to BERNARD OF TRILIA (about 1240-1292), JOHN OF PARIS or QUIDORT (d. 1306, notably a treatise Contra Corruptum Thomae), PTOLEMY OF LUCCA (says himself that he followed the lectures of St. Thomas in 1272, "ipsius auditor fui": his De Regimine Principum completes L. II. and adds L. III. and L. IV.{4} to the work of St. Thomas), WILLIAM OF HOTUN (d. bishop of Dublin, 1298), HUGH, archbishop of Ostia (d. 1297; Contra Corruptionem Thomae), BERNARD OF AUVERGNE, bishop of Clermont (thirteenth and fourteenth century), and WILLIAM OF MACKELFIELD (d. 1304). Bernard of Auvergne undertook to defend all Thomism against the deviations of Godfrey of Fontaines and Henry of Ghent. William of Mackelfield wrote a treatise Contra Henricum de Gande quibus impugnat Thomam, contra corruptionem Thomae. ROBERT OF ERFORT, another Englishman and an intrepid supporter of Thomism, wrote Contra Dicta Henrici de Gande and Contra Primum Egidii THOMAS SUTTON, probably an Oxford man, wrote, about the close of the thirteenth century, a treatise De Concordia Librorum Thomae.{5}

A special mention is due to GILES OF LESSINES. An intimate friend of Albert the Great, whose lectures he followed, probably at Cologne, Giles taught as bachelor in the convent of St. James at Paris. It was he that wrote to Albert in 1270 ("patri ac domno Alberto, episcopo quondam ratisponensi") to warn him of the threatened condemnations (266 and 312) of Thomism. He requested enlightenment from his old master, and received it in the treatise De Quindecim Problematibus, in which Albert is not very explicit about the Thomist teaching. A treatise De Usuris, often attributed to St. Thomas, an undiscovered Tractatus de Praeceptis, another De Concordia Temporum (a chronology of events down to 1304, whence Quetif and Echard conclude that Giles died about the latter date), and, more important than those, a treatise De Unitate Formae, constitute the whole literary legacy of Giles of Lessines. The De Unitate Formae, dated July, 1278, is a controversial work written against Robert Kilwardby ("cantuariensis archiepiscopus").{6} In fact, Giles' exposition of the pluralist theory, the special interpretation he gave it (functional subordination of forms), the arguments he set forth, and even his very forms of expression, are found in an apologetic letter of Robert Kilwardby to Peter of Conflans. Giles must have possessed a treatise by Robert, perhaps a treatise on forms, from which the latter made extracts in the letter referred to.

The treatise of Giles contains, in addition to the exposition of Robert's theory, two other parts, comprising respectively: (a) general notions on matter and form; (b) the formulation and proof of the unity theory, together with a refutation of the opposite theory. The constructive portion of the work restates the arguments of St. Thomas, but as the treatise is mainly controversial it dwells at greater length on the difficulties of pluralism. The style is clear and the reasoning cogent and logical. In the closing portion especially the author gives us the benefit of his own personal views ("de quo principaliter describimus secundum intellectum nostrum").

The De Unitate Formae of Giles of Lessines occupies a leading place -- if not the very foremost place -- in the rich literature of the end of the thirteenth century on this controversy about forms.{7}

{1} Ibid., i., p. 566.

{2} Cf. EHRLE, Archiv, etc., p. 605. Those injunctions were subsequently repeated.

{3} List published by DENIFLE, Quellen, etc., pp. 226-40.

{4} QUETIF-ECHARD, Scriptores, i., p. 541.

{5} DENIFLE, op. cit., pp. 227, 233, 239. A master named JOHN THE TEUTON (a common designation among the Dominicans of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) wrote against the real distinction between essence and existence. The text, taken from commentaries on the Sentences, is published by GRABMANN, Die Lehre d. Johannes Teutonicus O.P. über d. Unterschied v. Wesenheit u. Dasein (Cod. Vat. Lat., 1092), in the Jahrb. f. Philos. u. spekul. Theol., 1902, pp. 43 sqq.

{6} Pp. 13 and 14, DE WULF's edit.

{7} In the list of Dominican works, published by DENIFLE, op. cit., pp. 238-40, there are treatises De Unitate Formae by WILLIAM OF HOTUN, HUGH OF OSTIA and THOMAS SUTTON. To later dates (unknown, fourteenth or fifteenth century) belong the treatises of JOANNES FAVENTINUS and JANINUS DE PISTORIO.

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