Jacques Maritain Center

Scholasticism in the Thirteenth Century

1. The Library of the thirteenth-century Schoolman. IN judging of the Schoolmen we must remember how destitute they were of those instruments of study and research without which any modern student would consider the progress of his work impossible. Not that the privation was altogether a dead loss. Devoid of helps from without, men thought harder. For physics they depended upon their unaided senses. No telescope, no microscope, no battery, no chemical re-agents; no museums nor collections either. For the literary student there were books, manuscript of course. He had in his hands, and by frequent quotation showed his diligent use of, most of the Latin Classics, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Terence, Juvenal, Seneca, Quintilian. Pliny's Natural History be knew at least by extracts. Knowing no Greek, as we have said, he had in his book-chest no Greek manuscripts. Supreme importance is therefore attached to the translations of Aristotle: indeed it is not too much to say that had Aristotle never been put into Latin, scholastic philosophy never would have arisen. Abélard in 1136 had in his hands translations of what was quaintly entitled the Perihermenias (Aristotle on Interpretation) and the Categories. The second half of that same century possessed the whole of the Organon, but no more. Had you asked a clerk of our own King John's Court who Aristotle was, he would have answered with a shrug of the shoulders, 'Oh, a crabbed logician.' The throne of the Stagirite was not yet firmly planted in the West. By the middle of the thirteenth century, however, besides versions from the Arabic, a translation from the Greek of nearly the whole of Aristotle was achieved by two Dominicans, Henry of Brabant and William of Moerbeke. * All that the Schoolmen had of Plato was a fragment of the Timaeus, translated by Chalcidius, also the Phaedo and Meno: further information about the philosopher was gathered from St. Augustine and sundry Neo-Platonists. Chief of these latter was the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (probably a monk of the sixth century), whose treatises Of the Divine Names and Of the Heavenly Hierarchy had a great hold on the mediaeval mind. A still greater treasure was the works of Boethius, who was long the chief authority on Aristotle. Many fragments of the ancient learning were found embedded in the works of the Latin Fathers, notably St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Isidore, Lactantius, and Latin versions of Clement of Alexandria and Origen. There was also a sort of Cyclopoedia, the work of Martianus Capella, bearing the strange title of The Nuptials of Mercury and Philologia. Last but not least, diligently conned over and continually transcribed, there was the Bible according to the Latin Vulgate.

2. The topics of scholastic disputation. Scholasticism was a thing made at Universities, made at Oxford and elsewhere, but above all in the great University of Paris, the Athens of the Middle Ages. Throughout the forty days of Lent the candidate for the Bachelor's degree 'determined'; that is, put forward propositions and defended them against opponents. Then two or three years' study, and more 'determining,' converted him into a Licentiate. Further delay and further disputation saw him at last a Master or Doctor of the Sorbonne, the highest intellectual distinction which the world had to bestow.* The 'determinations' which carried the persevering student finally up to the Master's Chair presented lists of propositions of which these may serve as specimens: -- 'There are [or there are not] in primordial matter (materia prima) special aptitudes of being (rationes seminales).' 'The rational soul is [or is not] the only form in man.' 'There is not [or there is] a real distinction between the soul and its faculties.' Reading over the propositions, one sees at a glance that the Schoolmen were not all of one mind in philosophy: in fact they disputed with one another fiercely and in grim earnest. At the same time it is difficult for our minds to see the points at issue.

But what they fought each other for,
I never could make out.

The gauge on which the mediaeval mind ran was not our modern gauge. Which of the two is broad, and which is narrow, we need not argue: anyhow the gauge is different, and the passage of the train of thought from the one to the other is a troublesome operation. Whatever difficulty we experience in making out the Schoolman's objective, we shall be wise in presuming that he had some real question before him, and that the disputations in mediaeval Paris and Oxford were not as Molière has represented them, mere wars of words.

All scholastic philosophy is based upon the distinction between matter and form. Modern thought makes light of the distinction. But we must absolutely attend to it, if we are to have any notion of Scholasticism at all. Likewise we must bear in mind the distinction of substance and accident. According to the Schoolmen, substance alone fully is: accident has but a diminished being, inhering in substance. The idealism of our day abolishes substance, or 'permanent being' altogether, and recognises accident, not as anything permanently 'inhering' (for there is nothing left to inhere in), but as a fleeting 'state of consciousness.' Substance to the Schoolmen being something determinate, definitely this and not that (what they with Aristotle called hoc aliquid), they distinguished in it two constituents, the determinable, which they called matter, and the determinant, which they called form. According to the distinction of substance and accident, they distinguished forms substantial and accidental. All accidents are forms, but not all forms are accidents. There is substantial form, that determinant which makes the thing to be what it is, and in the absence of which it would cease to be; whereas an accidental form may be removed without the thing perishing. Lustre, for example, is an accidental form of gold, for gold still remains gold, even though it has grown dim. What was the substantial form of gold a Schoolman would not venture to say: he had not yet analysed material substance into its essential components in detail, nor have we either. The alchemists laboured at finding out the substantial form of gold.

Most interesting of all created substances were the substances of man and angel. Of angels, the Schoolmen, prompted by Holy Scripture and Neo-Platonism, said many curious things. The later Schoolmen took them for pure forms: others attributed to them some sort of matter, not, however, body. But the most perfect type of form, in the scholastic sense, was the human soul. The soul informs the body, which is its matter:* the soul is not merely the prime mover of the body, as is the boatman of the boat -- that was the Platonic conception of human nature -- but the Schoolmen hold with Aristotle that the soul is the prime constituent of the body; soul and body make one entity, one nature, one principle of action. 'Body and soul are not two actually existing substances, but out of the two of them is made one substance actually existing: for a man's body is not the same in actuality when the soul is present as when it is absent: it is the soul that gives actual being' (St. Thomas Aquinas, Contra Gentiles, ii. 69).

A substance may have any number of accidental forms corresponding to its various accidental qualities. Here the substance itself stands for the matter. Here, too, the matter is of a higher and nobler order of being than the form; that is, than the accidental form. But the substantial form is nobler than the matter to which it gives being. Hereupon we come to a prime debate among the, thirteenth-century Schoolmen: Can a substance have more than one substantial form? And notably, besides the soul, are there other substantial forms in the human body? The affirmative to this question was called the doctrine of the plurality of forms. The negative was held by St. Thomas in the teeth of much opposition. His adversaries actually procured the condemnation of his doctrine of the unity of form by the ecclesiastical authorities both at Paris and at Oxford. In the end St. Thomas triumphed. His opponents pleaded for further forms of what they called 'corporeity'; and asked how it was, if the soul alone gave being to the body, that the body did not fall into nothingness at death. Another phase of the difficulty is revealed in the light of modern biology. The lowest types of animal life present to our inspection a few neurones, or nerve-cells, with nerves and muscular fibres corresponding. When we examine the human body, we find similar neurones and fibres repeated, only in vastly greater number and complexity. Has each of these neurones a life of its own, that is to say, a form of its own, for the form is the life? Is the soul then a sort of President of a Republic of forms, or is that dominant life and form, which we call the soul, the one life and substantial form of the human body? Professor M'Dougall lays it down: 'Each nerve-cell, or neurone as it is now commonly called, is, so far as the maintenance of the vital processes of nutrition and growth are concerned, a self-contained individual, not an independent individual but a member of a very complex society, the cells of the whole body' (Physiological Psychology, Temple Primer, p. 24). What would St. Thomas have said to that? I do not judge the question: I merely state it to show that Scholasticism was not that farrago of puerilities which a hasty observer might take it for, but that, in their own way and with the means of research at their command, the Schoolmen busied themselves with many problems that still fasten the interest of philosophers.

One most remarkable theme of scholastic ingenuity was primordial matter (materia prima). Many jokes have been levelled against it, but primordial matter is no laughing matter to any one who understands it. To begin with, primordial matter is not sheer and mere nothing. Were it so, the whole material universe would lapse into nothingness: for of primordial matter the said universe is composed. Primordial matter is simply matter devoid of any substantial form. In that state of isolation matter is never found. St. Thomas holds that it absolutely could not exist in such isolation. Matter can by no power be isolated from all form. On the other hand, form cannot exist without matter, except possibly in the angel -- certainly not in the material universe. * The earlier Scholasticism, however -- sometimes called Augustinianism -- did not take primordial matter to be altogether formless, but ascribed to it certain radical predispositions (called rationes seminales) to turn into this substance in preference to that. The notion of primordial matter came from Aristotle, who seems to have had it suggested to his mind by the Timaeus of Plato. What suggests primordial matter in the Timaeus is the primitive chaos, which was from eternity, ere Mind supervened to reduce it to an orderly world. In the systems of later philosophers primitive chaos was denuded more and more of attributes till it passed into the formless, wholly indeterminate and potential materia prima of St. Thomas.

'Faculty psychology' is derided in these days. The Schoolmen made much of it, and debated among themselves whether any real, or objectively valid, distinction can be drawn between the soul and its faculties. Such distinction was held by the later Scholastics: earlier writers of the School denied it. The morbid multiplication of personalities in the 'Beauchamp case,' and similar cases, so interesting to our pathologists, tells rather in favour of the later view, which St. Thomas strongly maintained, that the faculties are really distinct from one another and from the soul. The later mediaeval mystics made much of the substance of the soul (fundus animae they called it) as distinct from the faculties: in that substance, as in His inner sanctuary, they maintained that God dwelt by His grace. Professor James, in his peculiar psychology, claims a similar dignity for what he terms 'the subliminal self'

'The principle of individuation,' i.e. that whereby a thing is its own singular self, and not the universal specific nature of the species to which it belongs -- that whereby Jones is Jones, and not man in general -- must seem to an unscholastic mind a quaint conceit. Like most difficulties in philosophy, it grows by thinking, and is no difficulty at all to the irreflective mind. A first solution might be this: as the universal cannot exist in its universality, but every existence must be singular, the existence of the thing itself is the principle of its individuation. But, replies the Thomist Schoolman, a thing can only be individualised by having an individual essence; now the existence even of an existing thing is really distinct from its existing essence; you must seek the principle of individuation somewhere in the essence; existence, being no part of the essence of the thing, cannot be its principle of individuation. The essence of a thing consists of its matter and form. Form cannot be the principle of individuation, for form is a principle of perfection. If a perfection is to be limited, so as to be multiplied and repeated in many instances, the principle of limit must be sought elsewhere than in the perfection itself. The multiplication only can take place through the reception of the form into portions of matter. Matter then must be the principle of individuation. Not, however, matter in a state of absolute indetermination, not primordial matter simply, but 'matter marked by quantity'; for, apart from relation to quantity, there can be no such thing as 'portions of matter,' and hence no individuation by reception into distinct portions.* 'Matter,' says St. Thomas, 'considered in itself is indistinguishable; only inasmuch as it is distinguishable can it come to individualise the form received into it. For form is not individualised by being received in matter, except in so far as it is received in this matter or that matter, distinct and determinate here and now. Now matter is not divisible except by quantity' (Opusc. in Boeth., q. 4, a. 8). The conclusion is that laid down above, that form is individualised by 'matter marked by quantity,' materia quantitate signata.

This conclusion of St. Thomas was by no means received in the School with unanimity. St. Bonaventure looks to both matter and form together for the principle of individuation. Others placed the principle in a negation, inherent in each substance, marking it off from every other. To Duns Scotus the principle was positive, an aptitude of the final form to assume such and such individuality. The discussion lies far off the track of modern thought. To appreciate it, one needs long familiarity with the scholastic concepts of Matter and Quantity. Remembering that, the principle, whatever it be, marks off, not species from species (which is done by the logical differentia), but individual from individual within the same species, whose specific essence is logically common, we may note that the soul of one man is individualised from the soul of another, according to St. Thomas, by the habitude which it bears to this particular body, this particular matter -- which it is apt to inform, and not that, * a doctrine which falls in happily with the 'heredity' of modern science, whereby man is marked off from man even from his mother's womb.

The principle of individuation belongs to metaphysics. Its psychological obverse is the question of the cognition by intellect of things singular and individual. As whatever Midas touched turned to gold, so whatever intellect touches, it universalises, and, bursting beyond the individual, attains to the type. How ever then can intellect be cognisant of the individual? The Schoolmen found an easy and no doubt a correct answer. Sensory perception is not of the universal, in the first place, but of the individual. Man knows individual things through his senses. 'The human soul takes cognisance of the universal and of the singular by two principles, sense [of the singular] and intellect [of the universal]' (Contra Gentiles, ii. 100). The Schoolmen laboured much, and differed among themselves, how the pure intellect of the angel can be cognisant of individually existing objects. Likewise they had a hard fight with the Arabian commentators of Aristotle, who would have confined the knowledge of God to the universal and ideal order. These difficulties about God and the angels we must leave. Enough has been said to give the reader some idea of the preoccupations of the scholastic mind.

3. The great Schoolmen of the Thirteenth Century. Peter the Lombard, surnamed the Master of the Sentences, died bishop of Paris in 1160. His work, called Sentences, not very profound and not very original, had the good fortune to become the favourite text-book in the schools, and kept its place for centuries. It is divided into four books, on God, on Creatures, on Virtues and Beatitude, on Sacraments. The four books of St. Thomas Contra Gentiles pretty closely correspond. Alexander of Hales, so called from the place of his birth, Hales in Gloucestershire, a locality no longer identifiable,* a Franciscan, was a Master in the University of Paris, and died in 1245, leaving behind him a Sum of Theology, still extant. Alexander perfected the scholastic method of treatment, which is, first to propose a question, then state various arguments pointing to a solution opposite to your own, then to give your own solution, and finally to refute the arguments to the contrary. Alexander stands to St. Bonaventure as Albertus Magnus to St. Thomas. In either case the disciple has outshone the master.

John of Fidansa, known as St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), 'the Seraphic Doctor,' a Franciscan, studied and taught in the University of Paris from 1242 to 1257, being admitted a Master in the last year of his residence. That same year he became General of his Order, and in 1273 was created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, dying at the Council of Lyons in the year following. His extant works fill nine volumes. He was a personal friend of St. Thomas Aquinas, from whom he differs by making more of the will than of the understanding; by being conservative rather than an innovator in philosophy; by not allowing the angels to be pure forms; by allowing a plurality of substantial forms, one, however, dominant over the rest, in the same being; by ascribing to primordial matter some radical predispositions of its own; by denying the reality of the distinction between essence and existence in existing creatures; by making the principle of individuation to be matter and form together; by not allowing the philosophic possibility of creation from all eternity. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), a German, 'the Universal Doctor,' the best travelled, the most erudite, the most vigorous and long-lived of all the Schoolmen, was first a soldier, then became a Dominican, when he was over thirty years old: he studied and taught at Cologne, Hildesheim, Freiburg, Ratisbon, Strassburg, and finally at Paris: he organised the studies of his Order, was consecrated bishop of Ratisbon, then resigned his bishopric and returned to his studies, which he prosecuted with ardour at Cologne even to extreme old age. He was a voluminous writer. Perhaps his greatest achievement in philosophy was a paraphrase of Aristotle, with notes, some his own, some borrowed from others. 'Our intention' he says, 'is to make all the parts of Aristotle, physics, metaphysics, and mathematics, intelligible to the Latins.' Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon were the two chief Schoolmen who applied themselves to physical science and advocated experimental methods. In the width of his studies, Albertus of all the Schoolmen best represents Aristotle. But he had not Aristotle's accuracy, precision, and self-consisteucy, as those qualities shone forth in his great pupil Aquinas.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), 'the Angelic Doctor,' chief of the Schoolmen, born in Southern Italy, entered the Dominican Order in 1243, came to the University of Paris in 1245, and there for three years heard the lectures of Albertus Magnus, taking his Bachelor's Degree in 1248, in which year he followed Albertus to Cologne. He returned to Paris in 1253, took his Master's Degree (along with St. Bonaventure) in 1257, and thereupon lectured for two or three years, lectures the substance of which probably we have in his Summa Contra Gentiles. He left for Italy in 1260, returned a third time to Paris in 1269, finally returning to Italy in 1271, and dying on his way to the Council of Lyons in 1274. His great work is the Summa Theologiae, but his Opera Omnia fill many volumes. There will be more to say of St. Thomas when we come to his great opponent Averroes.

John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), a native of the British Isles, the 'Subtle Doctor,' was to the Franciscans what Thomas Aquinas had been to the Dominicans. For centuries afterwards Schoolmen were divided into Thomists and Scotists. Scotus was the glory of Oxford as St. Thomas of Paris. We find him lecturing in Oxford for ten years, 1294-1304; thence he went to Paris; thence in four years to Cologne, where he was welcomed like a prince, and died almost immediately upon his arrival. He commented on the Logic, Metaphysics, and De anima of Aristotle. His commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard is called the Opus Oxoniense. His later work at the University of Paris, where he became Doctor of Theology, is the Opus Parisiense. In Scotus, great Schoolman as he was, Scholasticism overreached itself, and entered upon a subtlety which was the beginning of its decline. Scholastic philosophy works out like algebra: and as in algebra one easily forgets the data of sensible experience from which one started, and revels in formulae alone, so, too, Scholasticism tends to lose itself in formalism away from a posteriori facts. There is such a thing as a delicious oblivion of external realities, and a joy in the workings of one's own mind; yet a dangerous joy, as is the joy of the inebriate, who in his transport is robbed of his property. Truth, objective truth, is or ought to be the possession of the philosopher. Scholasticism is not the only philosophy that has suffered by excess of formalism: the philosophies that have grown upon the foundations laid by Kant have suffered yet more.

Scotus had a genius for mathematics: he delighted in distinctions and differences, and in criticism of the standard philosophers of his day, including 'Brother Thomas.' He bequeathed to the discussion of posterity a distinction called 'formal and real' (formalis a parte rei), as that between animality and rationality in man, or between wisdom and goodness in God. He says: 'It is a distinction in every way antecedent to our thought: wisdom is in the thing from the nature of the thing; and goodness is in the thing from the nature of the thing; but wisdom in the thing is not formally (precisely) goodness in the thing.' All the Schoolmen, it may be remarked, took wonderful interest in the differences of things, and in the hierarchy of being. Scotus makes Will the chief faculty: St. Thomas is an Intellectualist. Scotus ascribes to the Will of God not only the existence of creatures, but even their very natures and essences. Other Schoolmen have held the same. The doctrine would change the whole face of philosophy. Some think that it would conduct to the sheerest Nominalism and be the ruin of all truth. Scotus places Beatitude in an act of the Will. St. Thomas, with Aristotle, places it in Vision, the act of the Understanding. Beyond the primordial matter of St. Thomas (materia prima, which he calls secundo-prima), Scotus discovers a primo-primordial (primo-prima) matter, which he asserts to be the fundamental element in the constitution of all creatures, even the angels, whom he will not allow to be pure forms. This primo-primordial matter is never found in isolation, but God, if He willed, could isolate it. On the relation of reason to revelation, Scotus and St. Thomas are agreed that it is the office of reason to bow to revelation, to prove by argument some truths of religion, and to answer difficulties in the way of other truths, which it cannot directly prove, but must accept as revealed. Scotus, however, critical spirit that he was, was less confident than St. Thomas as to the range of religious truth that reason could directly establish. Thus he found the philosophical arguments for the immortality of the soul unconvincing, as also those for the resurrection of the body: for a 'sure and certain hope of resurrection' he considered that we must fall back upon faith. Nay, he was not clear as to the rational proof of the omnipotence of God. He writes in his thesis (called Quodlibetum) for his Doctorate at Paris (q. 7, n. 32): 'It is true then that sovereign active power, or infinite power, is omnipotence; but it is not known by natural reason that the highest power possible (suprema potentia possibilis), even though infinite in intensity, is omnipotence properly so called, that is to say, power immediately available to act upon any and every possibility.' This growing distrust of reason as an active support of faith is to be noted. It is the first autumn tint of decay. In its bloom Scholasticism was more confident of its powers.

Roger Bacon (1214-1294), an Englishman, 'the Wonderful Doctor,' studied at Oxford; in 1245 was teaching at Paris; entered the Franciscan Order, probably in the convent at Oxford, when he was over forty years of age; got into trouble with his Superiors, but was vindicated in 1266 by Clement IV, then newly seated in the papal chair. To that Pope he dedicated his Opus majus, his Opus minus, and his Opus tertium, the two latter works being a sort of second and third editions of the first, put in briefer form, with some new matter. When the Pope, his protector, died, Bacon was in trouble again. He was summoned from Oxford to Rome to answer for himself in 1278, and spent some time in prison. He is said to have been buried at Oxford, where 'Folly Bridge,' on which in the eighteenth century stood what was then called 'Welcome's Folly,' and had been Friar Bacon's Observatory, still dimly preserves his memory *.

Bacon himself was a bridge, or point of connection, between Scholasticism and the Physical Science of our day. Aristotle had said (De generatione animalium, iii. 10): 'We must believe the evidence of our senses rather than arguments, and believe arguments if they agree with the phenomena'; and Bacon wrote: 'Without experience nothing is known.' St. Thomas would have said the same, and the Schoolmen generally, with their own qualifications and explanations. Bacon quite speaks the mind of his scholastic contemporaries in writing: 'There are two modes of knowing -- by argument and by experience: argument concludes and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not produce certainty and remove doubt, and enable the mind to rest in sight of the truth, unless it find it by the way of experience.' But it may be admitted that as there are minds to-day who revel in pure mathematics and have small taste for physical research, so the Schoolmen as a body preferred abstract argument to a posteriori inquiry, although they acknowledged the utility of the latter. And this was a weakness of the School. The brilliant exception, as we have seen, was Albertus Magnus, along with Bacon. Bacon, then, did make experiments and take observations, as he was able: he was astronomer, alchemist (the chemist of those days), optician, geographer, and geometer. He seems to have made a telescope: he argued the possibility of 'cars moving with incalculable speed without draught-cattle,' also of suspension-bridges and flying-machines. Tradition ascribes to him the invention of that dubious instrument of civilisation, gunpowder. He declared the Milky Way to be a collection of many stars. He had also a great zeal for history, a subject on which his age was sadly ignorant, and for the study of languages as an instrument of history. This predilection for history was connected with his philosophical views. It is dangerous and misleading to register philosophers of earlier centuries under names of schools that have appeared in our time. With this caution we may say that Bacon was something of an Ontologist and something of a Traditionalist. He was an Ontologist (as was Rosmini) in this, that what scholastics call 'the active intellect,' the maker of universal ideas in the mind, he took to be no part of the human mind, but God Himself. In this, Bacon went some way at least with the Persian Avicenna (Contra Gentiles, ii. 74, 76: Of God and His Creatures, pp. 142 sq.). However wrong Bacon and Avicenna be in this opinion, they are not for that Pantheists.* As a Traditionalist (approximating to but not coinciding with De Bonald and De Lamennais), not as a votary of physical science, Bacon wrote: 'Philosophy, taken by itself, is no use.' It had to be eked out, he considered, by revelation. That revelation was given in the beginning, and must be sought in the writings of the ancient sages. Hence his insistence on language and history, as things indispensable for our placing ourselves in the current of tradition. 'It was impossible,' so writes this great investigator of nature, 'it was impossible for man to arrive of himself at the great truths of sciences and arts, but he must have had revelation . . . . The fulness of philosophy was given to the same persons to whom was also given the law of God, that is, to the holy patriarchs and prophets from the beginning of the world.' St. Thomas would hardly have gone so far.

Bacon was at Oxford while St. Thomas was at Paris. Oxford, however, was unfriendly in his life-time to the great Paris Doctor, and even condemned him after his death. As a scholastic, Bacon is pre-Thomist and Augustinian. He believes in rationes seminales, or predispositions in primordial matter, as also in that plurality of substantial forms which St. Thomas abhorred. Like Scotus, Roger Bacon was critical of his contemporaries, nay even abusive, a defect of judgment which embroiled him with the heads of his Order. Still there is no evidence to show that Roger Bacon was aught else than a devout Friar Minor and a staunch Catholic.

4. The Antagonists of Scholasticism, the Arabians. Fas est ab hoste doceri, 'it is right to make your enemy your teacher.' The Arabians taught the Schoolmen; and the Schoolmen first learnt from, then battled with, the Arabians, using the weapons which their masters had placed in their hands. Not that there was any personal intercourse between Mohammedan and Scholastic. The teaching was received through books; it was done by translations. At Toledo, in the twelfth century, there was a regular school of translators from Arabic into Latin, or often from a Hebrew translation of the Arabic. The wares sold well, Toledo translations as well as Toledo steel; and the labour of translating went on briskly in the century succeeding. The translations referred to were of Aristotle, and of commentators on Aristotle, sometimes Jewish, sometimes Greek. The Arabs got their Aristotle originally from the Syrian Greeks. More than any other Greek writer, Aristotle captivated the Arabian mind In his person once more did captive Greece take captive her rude conqueror, as Mohammedanism gradually engulfed the provinces of the Byzantine Empire. The Castor and Pollux of the Arabian philosophy, in the appreciation of their Western compeers, were Avicenna and Averroes. Both were strong Aristotelians. The latter, for his success in commentating on Aristotle, is usually referred to in scholastic writings as 'The Commentator.' Aristotle in his Arabian dress so alarmed the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church as to be proscribed in the University of Paris. It was the glorious function of St. Thomas to remove the stigma from the Stagirite, to set aside the Arabian interpretations, and to put Christian constructions upon the sayings of him to whom he ever lovingly refers as 'The Philosopher.' Truth and orthodoxy are one thing, Aristotelianism is another. Whether Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas, or Avicenna and Averroes, more faithfully represented the real mind of Aristotle, is a large question not to be gone into here. Probably Aristotle was neither quite so orthodox on the one hand, nor quite so erratic on the other. The Arabians, it must be confessed, wove into his text pieces of Neo-Platonist and Oriental mysticism and astrology, to which his sober mind was a stranger.

Avicenna (Abu Ali Ibn Sina),* a native of Persia, 980-1037, interests us on two accounts: for his view of the 'active intellect' and for his view of Providence. The former topic has been brought out already, in speaking of Bacon. On Providence Avicenna held, and interpreted Aristotle, Metaphysics xii., to teach, that God knows nothing but Himself and the ideal order of things possible, that He is ignorant of all other actualities and individual existences besides His own, and particularly that things evil, trivial, and mean, are wholly beyond His ken and His care. This doctrine is confuted by St. Thomas, Contra Gentiles, i. 63-71, 50-54. Ultimately, however, Avicenna did admit in God a knowledge of particular things, not got by virtue of His own nature, but by knowledge communicated to Him from the angels, spirits emanating from God, who presided over the heavenly spheres, and thence observing earthly things, made report thereof to the Most High.

Averroes (Abu Walid Mohammed Ibn Roschd), 1120-1198, born at Cordova, died in Morocco, had many followers in the University of Paris, with whom St. Thomas was in continual warfare, chief of them being Siger of Brabant. Averroism was rife in Europe for four centuries; and he who shall study it well, will scarcely think it extinct at this day. It fascinates without satisfying. The great Commentator was wrong, egregiously wrong, in his conclusions; yet he had before him a truth which he never reached, which none has reached since, though many have endeavoured; a discovery the making of which would renovate philosophy. I refer to the conjunction of the human mind with the divine, called by the Arabs ittisâl. Averroes, then, held that every human mind was in contact with an Intelligence greater than itself. This commanding Intelligence not only formed universal concepts for all mankind, and so was identified with the Aristotelian 'active intellect' (here Avicenna went with Averroes), but also stored and kept the concepts when made, being also one with the Aristotelian 'potential intellect' (here Averroes stood alone).* Thus man could neither form intellectual concepts for himself, nor keep them in himself when formed. His act of understanding, in fact, was done for him, and put into him from without. Man by himself was but the highest of sentient natures; a sentient nature, however, in contact with intelligence. The manner of this contact (ittisâl; in Latin continuatio) was thus: By his senses man gets impressions which are stored in him as sensory images, or phantasms; with the phantasm in the human mind the corresponding idea in the external* Intelligence conjoins itself. Having thus a phantasm of his own, conjoined with an idea belonging to another, man thereby has an intelligent view of what the phantasm represents, and thus man understands.

But, urges St. Thomas (Contra Gentiles, ii. 59), 'the fact that an intelligible impression united with a foreign understanding comes somehow to be in man, will not render man intelligent; it will merely make him understood by that separately subsisting intelligence.' Any one interested in the conflict of Aquinas with Averroes should study the long chapters Contra Gentiles, ii. 73,75; Of God and His Creatures, pp. 135-141, 144-148.

This doctrine, called the doctrine of the 'Unity of the intellect,' and consequently of the will, in all mankind, created immense excitement in the Western Schools, and called down the condemnation of the Church. It removed individual responsibility, individual rational souls, and consequently individual immortality. No Averroist was ever able to state what their one Active and Potential Intelligence, which did the office of understanding for all mankind, in itself was. Averroes declined to say that it was God, so escaping the charge of pantheism. Somehow it seemed to be dependent for its being on the continuance of the human race, which Averroes declared to have existed from all eternity and to go on for ever. It was the eternal common stock of many individual minds. It was a sort of Impersonal Tradition. But it was nothing definitely.

Apart from this strange doctrine, which he opposed with all his might, St. Thomas took many things from Averroes, as did Albertus Magnus from Avicenna.

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