Jack Zupko

Philosophy Among the Artistae: A Late-Medieval Picture of the Limits of Rational Inquiry


 

It is a commonplace in the historiography of medieval philosophy that theology represents philosophy's culmination in the later Middle Ages, and specifically, that it is in the work of theologians and theologically-trained Arts Masters that we find philosophy in its purest and most advanced form. By comparison, the philosophy produced by thinkers who worked exclusively or primarily in the Faculty of Arts is seen as inferior -- by which is usually meant that it is shallow, unsophisticated, immature, and driven by disparate curricular and pedagogical concerns rather than by the more single-minded commitment to rationally articulate that sacred doctrine which, as Aquinas says, "extends [by virtue of its oneness] to things which belong to different philosophical sciences."[1] The source or sources of this commonplace are not easy to trace, and much less interesting, I think, than its historiographical effects. But it was brought into play early in this century by Konstanty Michalski, who wrote in 1923 that "the thought of philosophers of the Middle Ages is expressed above all in commentaries on the Sentences, especially in the first book, where one must take a position with regard to the most difficult problems in the domains of metaphysics and the theory of knowledge."[2] More recently, it has been expressed, sometimes accompanied by disparaging remarks about philosophy in the Arts faculty, by a number of historians in the field. Here is a sampler:[3]

... some of the very best -- indeed, the best -- [late medieval] philosophy was done by theologians and in their theological works (Scotus, Ockham, and Robert Holcot, for example). (Murdoch 1974: 274)

Arts courses in medieval universities, like their counterparts in the modern universities, namely the `service courses' ... tended to be elementary and directed either to basic information that every student must know ... or to more specialized tools that would be useful in the student's intended major field of study. So medieval university structure in general provided only a very limited place for specialization in secular arts and sciences. (Sylla 1974: 350)

Much of this work [i.e., the great quantity of medieval philosophical material connected with teaching in the faculties of Arts] is of mediocre quality ... The most advanced scholarly research in philosophy, however, was made by students and teachers in the faculty of Theology (especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries). Students of theology were more mature and better educated than the Arts students, and they had more leisure and better opportunities, whereas the ŽArtists' were underpaid and relatively underprivileged. That is why so much of the study of medieval philosophy is concerned with theological texts ... There are large sections of pure philosophy in theological texts ... (Pinborg 1982:15)

Although I have only quoted these four authors as representing a general trend, they are esteemed scholars all, which makes the convergence of their judgments is all the more is sobering.

But can this be right? In this paper, I want to sketch an alternative picture which stresses the organic unity of philosophical practice in the Faculty of Arts at Paris, and which might, I hope, lead us to question the idea that the best philosophy in the later Middle Ages was produced by theologians, primarily in the form of Sentences commentaries. Very briefly, this picture is constructed using a method which attempts to describe as clearly as possible the rules of inquiry actually followed by Arts Masters, as well as to show what role they played in both the presentation and resolution of philosophical problems. The method assumes that saying what philosophy in the 14th century is very much an `inside job' in the sense that we have to attend closely to the discourse features of any given inquiry in order to see what (tacitly or explicitly) shared judgments and definitions make that inquiry possible.[4] Thus, I am not concerned here to define what made the practice of philosophy in the Arts Faculty different from Theology, as I don't think any such necessary-and-sufficient conditions analysis will tell us much about what our practitioners took themselves to be doing when they lectured and disputed and reflected.[5] Attending to these features in the way I've suggested will give us lines of demarcation, but they will be fuzzy lines, reflecting the complexity we find in the everyday, ordinary workings of human beings and human institutions. Fuzziness, however, can be a virtue -- or at least I hope to show that it can. In what follows, I will discuss three features or conditions which helped to make philosophy what it was among the `Artists' in 14th-century Paris,[6] showing how each finds expression in the works of several different thinkers. The reception of theological doctrines will be considered as an aspect of the third feature.

I. Discourse Rules

Philosophical problems are not context-free. Rather, they occur within various modes of human discourse, each of which follows certain rules and patterns that govern not only what questions can be asked, but also what circumstances are relevant to answering to them. As is now well known, one of the dominant characteristics of 14th-century philosophy is what John Murdoch has called the "second-intentional point of view,"[7] or the idea that philosophical questions are primarily about our understanding of terms and concepts, and only secondarily or remotely about what extra-mental things they signify. But this is a feature exhibited by the work of artists and theologians alike, and so it can hardly be regarded as distinctive of either. Nevertheless, many Arts Masters seem to have taken the further step of understanding logico-semantic analysis not merely as providing a useful device for modeling philosophical (or theological) problems, but as that which defines the very practice of philosophy. Accordingly, this is a difference of kind, not merely of degree.

Perhaps the best representative of this approach is also its most influential. John Buridan (ca. 1295-1358), a career Arts Master, states in one of his earliest works, the Questions on Porphyry's Isagoge, that Porphyry did not take himself to be introducing Aristotle's categories as a piece of prescriptive or speculative metaphysics, but was only "describing and distinguishing [the categories] according to the different modes of predicating" (QIP 14: 187, ll. 2356-2357). But predication, of course, is proper to both logic and grammar, and Buridan is very clear that logic tells us no more about what things or kinds of things exist than grammar, because like grammar, it is a practical, not a speculative, discipline (QIP 1: 126, ll. 155-156; QIP 2: 362-368).[8] Buridan's conception of the proximity of logic and grammar is hardly surprising in view of their common origin in the trivium,[9] but the interesting question here is what he takes logic and grammar to be about, if not modes of being or reality. The answer is language. As practical, productive arts, logic and grammar both concern language, whose forms and patterns are conventional. Thus, not only is every vox literalis conventionally imposed (QLP I.2: 8), but even at higher levels of articulation, "a word does not have meaning in a proposition on its own, but through us, by convention [sermo non habet in enuntiatione virtutem ex se, sed ex nobis ad placitum]" (QIP 5: 143, ll. 709-710). So rather than being a priori fixed at ten, Buridan concludes that the number of the categories is basically whatever we want it to be (QIP 14: 183, ll. 2210-2211), relative to the circumstances of our inquiry -- a remark echoed by Hugolino of Orvieto, when he observes in his Questions on Aristotle's Physics that there could be more than ten categories as far as natural philosophy is concerned, so that Aristotle and Porphyry should not be understood canonically on this point (Eckermann 1972: 6).[10]

Why does Buridan stress conventionality in this way, and at the very outset of philosophical inquiry? It is not that he is some kind of proto-constructivist, trying to awaken us from the naïve and uncritical slumber of Aristotelian realism. For Buridan does believe that the world exists, quite apart from our conceptions of it, and that it exists in roughly the way Aristotle says it does. Rather, the point he is making is that philosophy is a dialectical activity, and that its speculative insights will come to nothing if we do not first understand what logical and linguistic rules govern our inquiry. That is why, good naturalist and descriptivist that he is, Buridan insists upon first identifying the mode of discourse one is examining. To this end, he explicitly recognizes metaphorical, ironic, and "parabolic" meanings which are subordinated to a term's "primary" or literal signification, as well as poetic modes of discourse (QIP 5: 143-144; 10: 166, ll. 1572-1574). From a practical perspective, this means that the philosopher must endeavor to read texts in keeping with the author's intention, or, if that is opaque, with the discourse features of the text being considered. Definitions must be carefully expounded rather than always being taken literally (QIP 12: 175, ll. 1922-1923). Buridan has only bad things to say about those who deliberately misread an author by treating all his remarks as simple assertions which must be true or false (QIP 5: 145), and his sensitivity on this point further corroborates William Courtenay's thesis that the target of censure in the famous statute issued by the Faculty of Arts at Paris on December 29, 1340 was not William of Ockham or Ockhamist teachings, but "a narrow, somewhat sensationalist method of propositional analysis according to which any proposition that did not meet the criteria of supposition theory (in its proper senses) was considered false," including many propositions from the Bible.[11] Although this problem has all the look of a beginner's error, it evidently presented enough of an obstacle to instruction to have been thought worthy of censure, and perhaps also was a factor in the summoning of William of Autrecourt to Avignon. Nevertheless as Courtenay notes, those whose teachings and writings contributed most to the development of logico-semantic analysis in the Faculty of Arts at Paris - including Buridan, Ockham, and Walter Burley -- all recognized improper modes of supposition, "... and warned of the dangers that would result from analyzing terms and propositions de virtute sermonis without regard for usus loquendi."[12]

There is no better illustration of the regard given to usus loquendi by Buridan and other Parisian Arts Masters than their discussions of the so-called `problem of universals'. When asked whether universals really exist, Buridan always replies by telling us how the term `universal' should be understood (QIP 3: 136, ll. 477-488).[13] And for him, the primary signification of `universal' is `predicable of many', which is of course a term of second intention, or a term of terms, since only terms are predicable (QIP 3: 135-136; 4: 139; TDUI: 148).[14] This idea occurs early and often in the Parisian tradition. Hugolino of Orvieto, for example, argues that some concepts, all of which are singular, are predicable of many, and that this is what it means to be universal (Eckermann 1972: 57). Within a proposition, the second-intentional status of the term `universal' emerges in Buridan's claim that it does not signify a `what' but a `how', i.e., how we conceive of something else -- in this case that the term so designated is `indifferent to many supposits' (TDUI: 159).[15] Logic is accordingly described as the study of terms such as `proposition', taken materially, or as signifying only actual, particular tokens of the general type (QLP I.1: 6).[16] Moving from propositions to arguments, Buridan insists that the terms in the premisses and conclusions of demonstrative arguments be taken as standing materially, i.e., for themselves in the particular discourse conditions which surround them, rather than personally, for their extra-mental significates (QIP 1: 128, ll. 223-237). Likewise, the proximate object of scientific knowledge is the actual demonstrated or demonstrable conclusion,[17] not the state of affairs it signifies -- although Buridan is willing to concede that "the terms of those demonstrable conclusions, or even the things signified by those conclusions," might be considered "remote", or secondary, objects of knowledge (QIP 1: 127, ll. 208-209).

But the definitive role played by logic and grammar in the practice of philosophy is really brought home, I think, in a single remark of Buridan's, offered almost as an aside: "it would be easy," he says, "verbally to persuade a person [who had never actually heard a horse] that horses do not utter any sound, if he had no training at all in philosophy [si nihil esset edoctus in philosophia]" (QIP 13: 2137-2138). Now why on earth should philosophical learning matter here? Because it is philosophy, not empirical science, that gives us the criteria for the application of a term or its corresponding concept. If we were to try to correct someone persuaded that horses are naturally silent by saying to him, `Look, horses are capable of whinnying,' we would be explaining to him what the term `horse' means, not making an empirical observation. The evidence is not an issue here.

Psychological accounts of universal cognition provide a further illustration of how the concept of usus loquendi functioned to structure philosophical inquiry among the Arts Masters. According to Buridan, abstract names are derived from concrete names by what he calls a `grammatical' process (QIP 11: 172, l. 1828), and ultimately, it is the intellect which confers universality upon things (TDUI: 166; 175).[18] But what guarantees the veridicality of universal names and their associated concepts? Buridan says that mental propositions are passions or concepts of the soul, which bear a natural likeness to the things they signify (QLP II.11: 100). But he gives no argument for this, nor does he tell us whether the similarity in question is to be construed literally or figuratively. Rather, it is simply taken as given that we cognize in this way, just as it is assumed in his writings on human knowledge that our minds are naturally disposed to assent to what is true.[19] For Buridan, as for Ockham before him, further inquiry into the phenomenon of universal cognition is effectively closed off by the quotation of a well-known passage from the Liber Sex Principiorum that "nature operates obscurely in universals" (TDUI: 142).[20] Now the important thing to see here is that natural similarity functions for Buridan as a rule which makes inquiry possible. There is no end of trouble if one loses sight of this, as is evidenced by those who have searched Buridan's writings (in vain) for some definitive refutation of the skeptical arguments of Nicholas of Autrecourt.[21] There is no such refutation. There are, however, many indemonstrable principles, which Buridan and other Arts Masters believe must be granted if one wants to do philosophy. Into this category, for example, falls the remark of Marsilius of Inghen in the Prologue of his Abbreviationes on Aristotle's Physics that species similarity is not only given, but context relative (AP Proemium: 3rb).[22] Likewise, Hugolino defends his conclusion that universals are natural signs existing only subjectively in the soul (Eckermann 1972: 56), not with positive arguments, but by systematically demolishing the views of his arch-realist rival, Burley. There is a good reason for Hugolino's via negativa. If the first move in solving the problem of universals consists in adopting a second-intentional point-of-view, as it did for Buridan, Hugolino, Marsilius, Albert of Saxony, Peter d'Ailly, and many others, then no first-intentional argument could ever demonstrate it. The solution consisted in a method that is properly shown, not said; practiced, not speculated about. And 14th-century Parisian Arts Masters were very accomplished in all of these activities.[23]

II. Human Experience As Adequate for Scientific Knowledge

Although Arts Faculty inquiries into metaphysics, natural philosophy, and ethics were all shaped in various ways by the second-intentional point-of-view, they were further delineated by the working assumption that experiential considerations in the form of `evidentness [evidentia]' are an adequate basis for human knowledge of the external world. This assumption was expressed in a variety of ways, again relative to the mode of discourse. It is what Ernest Moody was referring to when he described the 14th-century as an age of "rising empiricism".[24]

As with most working assumptions, the main lines of this feature emerge only when it is challenged. In this case, the challenger was Nicholas of Autrecourt, who, in his Second Letter to Bernard of Arezzo, argued that "the certitude of evidentness has no degrees," and that "with the exception of the certitude of faith, there is no other certitude but the certitude of the first principle, or one that can be resolved into the first principle."[25] Buridan was the first Arts Master to address this challenge in an academic, rather than a disciplinary,[26] setting. After charitably setting out Nicholas's objection,[27] he offers the astonishing reply that although experience alone does not permit us to demonstrate the truth of any principle of nature, assenting to such principles is something the intellect is disposed to do anyway, whether we like it or not:

... there are some universal principles which the intellect concedes on the basis of experience with many similar singulars and its natural inclination to the truth [propter naturalem inclinationem intellectus ad veritatem], such as that every fire is hot, that the sun is a warming agent ... that every mixture is corporeal, and so on for many natural principles. And these principles are not cognized [as principles] immediately and from the beginning, but we are able to entertain doubts about them for a long time. But even so, they are called principles because they are not demonstrative, and cannot by any means be demonstrated or proved by a formally conclusive argument. Indeed, they are conceded only because we have seen many singulars to be that way, and have been unable to find a counter-instance in any of them. (QM II.2: 9rb)

Autrecourt's mistake was to suppose that the ground rules of inquiry must be certifiable a priori by reduction to the principle of non-contradiction. Buridan's insight is to point out that, on the contrary, inquiry depends upon the discernment and mutual recognition of those fixed, indemonstrable principles which serve as the hinges on which the activity turns. Can such principles be epistemically justified, even if they cannot (by definition) be proved? In an earlier paper, I showed that Buridan does offer justificatory remarks which closely approximate contemporary reliabilism.[28] But his initial reply to Nicholas's arguments says more about him as a philosopher and Arts Master. Without actually dignifying Nicholas by naming him, Buridan refers to "some exceedingly malevolent individuals [aliqui valde mali]" who, by their improper use of the concept of divine omnipotence, "wish to destroy the natural and moral sciences" by their insistence that any principle not a priori certifiable "can be falsified by supernaturally possible cases" (QM II.1: 9ra). The suggestion here is that formal proof of the principles of nature is impossible, but also irrelevant. Accordingly, one does not reply to Autrecourt by trying to prove him wrong, but by showing that it is not part of physics, for example, to claim that we don't know for certain that the next unsupported body we examine won't remain suspended in the air rather than falling downwards. Far from being a kind of juvenile name-calling, Buridan's reference to "aliqui valde mali" is actually a magisterial reminder to his students of the dangers of obstinacy in any field of inquiry. In this respect, his approach is pedagogically enlightened. After all, Duns Scotus had suggested that "those who deny that some being is contingent should be exposed to torments until they concede that it is possible for them not to be tormented."[29]

That Buridan's response to Autrecourt was taken to be decisive is suggested by the minimal attention given to the latter's arguments by Arts Masters after 1350. What we find instead are regular appeals to what is evident through sense, memory, and experience as the proper basis for assenting to scientific principles and conclusions. Thus, when Marsilius of Inghen mentions -- again, in his Abbreviationes of Aristotle's Physics, a work probably composed when he taught in the Arts Faculty at Paris between 1362 and 1378 -- in a reluctant and almost pro forma way that "... it is usually asked here whether every demonstrative conclusion must be founded on the first principle and proved by it," he replies that although this is necessary for absolutely perfect knowledge of a thing, such knowledge is "not possible for us in this life," since it would require knowing a thing through every one of the infinitely many conclusions that could be deduced from it.[30] "It suffices," for us wayfarers, he says, "to know a thing through one conclusion that is perfectly known."[31] Now this is just the right thing to say, given Marsilius's assumption that all human knowledge, whether complex or incomplex, originates in the senses.[32a] Interestingly enough, the latter view is echoed his Sentences commentary -- a work presented in Heidelberg some fifteen years after he left Paris -- in his observation that "the only [knowledge] said to be known in the pure, natural light [of reason] is what is known by experience, whether through the senses or per se."[32b] Marsilius concludes that we cannot know by the natural light of reason that God is infinitely powerful, because the corresponding proposition is not evident to us by sense, experience, or even per se, by the inclusion of its terms.[33a] Albert of Saxony -- another Buridan student who, like his teacher, but unlike Marsilius, remained a career Arts Master -- does not even consider Autrecourt's objection at the appropriate juncture of his Questions on the Posterior Analytics. Rather, after adopting without argument Buridan's definition of human knowledge as the act of intellectually assenting to a conclusion on the basis of its evidentness (per evidentiam),[33b] Albert stresses that conclusions in the natural sciences are inferred from a wide variety of principles evident to anyone who experiences them.[34] The notion that an omnipotent God could deceive us about the truth of such principles does not make them any less evident, as so does not undermine the possibility of empirical knowledge. In a remark which seems obliquely directed against Autrecourt, Albert comments that "those who reject natural evidentness aren't interested in proof,"[35] by which he means the sort of proof that is relevant to the practice of natural philosophy. For it isn't as if Autrecourt has advanced some dramatic new counterexample, like the proverbial stick which looks bent in the water, which might cause us to doubt the veridicality of our senses under the prescribed conditions. The principle of non-contradiction isn't sensitive to context or circumstances. What Autrecourt failed to see is that this principle belongs to a different mode of discourse than other indemonstrable principles, and that as such, it provides no basis for either the skeptical attack or the dogmatic advocacy of conclusions and principles in natural philosophy. Epistemology is for Arts Masters made of humbler stuff, focusing on the actual operation of the wayfarer's modes of cognition in the world as given, i.e., by God.

A slightly more complex case is presented by Nicole Oresme, another former student of Buridan. As Edward Grant has shown, although Oresme appears to follow Buridan's lead in his question-commentaries on Aristotle by defending the epistemic adequacy of human cognition assuming the common course of nature, he is skeptical about the possibility of such knowledge in his independent, thematic treatises, and in his French commentary on De caelo.[36] This is, to be sure, a tantalizing dissonance, but no obvious explanation for it emerges from Oresme's literary corpus as we have it, and until his Sentences commentary has been positively identified, such efforts must remain speculative.[37] Be that as it may, Oresme is clearly aware of Autrecourt's argument in his Aristotle commentaries, sketching two versions of it in his Questions on De anima.[38] He is even clearer about where he thinks the argument goes wrong. The problem with those who apply the principle of non-contradiction in this way, he says, is that "they state it too generally [nimis generaliter enunciant]," applying it to all forms of reasoning when it really concerns only formal consequences such as, `Something has been caused; therefore, a cause exists', or `A father exists; therefore, a son exists'.[39] Again, Oresme's observation suggests that Autrecourt has made the 14th-century equivalent of a category mistake by using a purely logical principle to try to impugn every form of human philosophical inquiry. But the practice of natural philosophy, at least, is not threatened by such a flagrant violation of its discourse conditions, for we do know what is evident to us, and in a way that is entirely appropriate to our creaturely status.

III. Autonomous Interpretation of Theological Doctrines

That philosophical methods developed in the Faculty of Arts influenced theologians in the 14th-century is now well known. But the converse relation has not been carefully studied, and it is there, I suggest, that we find some of the best evidence for the claim that philosophy spoke its own language in the Arts Faculty, and that it did so autonomously. I shall discuss two such cases here: the doctrine of intuitive cognition, and the doctrine of the complexe significabile as the proper object of scientific knowledge.

As Stephen Dumont has shown, the doctrine of intuitive cognition first comes into full view in Duns Scotus's Parisian Commentary on the Sentences, which date from the fall of 1302.[40] In those lectures, `intuitive cognition' is introduced in contrast to `abstractive cognition' as a development and refinement of Henry of Ghent's distinction between the `lumen gloriae' and the `lumen medium,' respectively. The problem which the distinction was intended to solve, and the primary context in which 14th-century theologians would have understood it, concerned the status of theology as a science. Scotus argued that "a fully rigorous propter quid science of theology is compatible with the wayfarer state," because it is possible for the wayfarer to know the divine nature distinctly, i.e., "under the proper aspect of its Deity," through an abstractive cognition of the divine nature.[41] Conversely, intuitive cognition, like Henry's lumen gloriae, was held by Scotus to be the mode of cognition proper to beatitude.[42] Some years later, as a result of Peter Aureol's and William of Ockham's criticisms of Scotus's teachings, a secondary debate emerged on the question of whether intuitive cognition could, by virtue of its immediate and non-inferential character, be used to certify existential judgments about contingent beings.[43] What happened to this doctrine once Arts Masters got their hands on it?

Buridan understands intuitive cognition in an epistemological context, but one that is mediated by the discourse feature discussed in Section II above, viz., by the idea that appearances and judgments evident in the common course of nature are sufficient for human knowledge of the created world. Intuitive cognition never plays the role of a certifier, if by that we mean a cognitive mechanism capable of shoring up empirical knowledge in the face of skeptical doubt.[44] As we saw above, Arts Masters tended to see Autrecourt's challenge as a violation of the rules of rational discourse, for which the appropriate response is correction, not refutation. Buridanian intuitive cognition is a mode of awareness phenomenologically assimilated to the way objects in our presence appear to us, and whose epistemological significance is that it is the most evident form of empirical, a posteriori cognition. It plays a key role in Buridan's explanation of the genesis of singular concepts:[45]

And so in the final analysis, it seems to me that it must be said that there is no singular concept unless there is a conception of a thing in the mode of existing in the presence and prospect of the person cognizing it [per modum existentis in praesentia et in prospectu cognoscentis], just as that thing would appear to a cognizer if it were designated by an act of pointing. And some call that mode of cognizing Žintuitive'.

Although we most readily assent to the existence of things which appear before us in good lighting conditions (something which, again, just happens to us, whether we like it or not), there is nothing in this passage about our being able to infer the actual existence of what we intuitively cognize. Indeed, Buridan's thoroughgoing representationalism on this point is underscored by his concession in the sentences which follow that one can also have intuitive cognitions of dream-objects and memory traces.[46]

A second example of this phenomenon can be found in Arts Masters' treatments of the complexe significabile as the proper object of scientific knowledge. Very briefly, the origins of the doctrine can be traced to the first question of the first distinction of Adam Wodeham's Lectura secunda, where the author extends the epistemological discussion begun in the Prologue by asking "whether the act of knowing has for its immediate object a thing or a sign."[47] Wodeham argues that "the immediate total object [of the act of assent] is the total object or total significate of the proposition immediately conforming to it, concausing [the act of assent] and necessarily presupposed by it ...".[48] What drives Wodeham to this holistic position on the object of knowledge are deficiencies he finds in the rival accounts of his Franciscan confrères William of Ockham and Walter Chatton, viz., that the proper object of knowledge is the conclusion of a demonstrative syllogism and the extra-mental thing, respectively.[49] Wodeham is well aware that these alternative solutions might appear more parsimonious,[50] but he believes that neither does justice to the discursive nature of scientific understanding, and in particular to the idea that the premisses and conclusion of a valid scientific demonstration must together signify the state of affairs which, in turn, "concauses" them.

Wodeham's doctrine was significantly transmuted, however, before it became a regular topic of discussion for Arts Masters at Paris. First, as Katharine Tachau, and, more recently, Hans Thijssen, have shown, there is some evidence to connect an article in the December 1340 Arts statute, condemning those who "assert without distinction or explanation that `Socrates and Plato are nothing,' or that `God and creatures are nothing'," with Nicholas of Autrecourt. That is because Nicholas concedes in the proceedings of the 1346 condemnation of his views to having previously stated before the Arts Faculty that "what is complexly signifiable by the proposition, `God and creatures are distinguished,' is nothing" [51] Now the interesting thing here is that the latter statement can easily be read as a botched interpretation of Wodeham's attempt to rebut parsimonious objections to his doctrine by treating all questions about the ontological status of complexe significabilia -- e.g., whether they are something or nothing -- as ill-formed.[52] But regardless of the chain of transmission, the die was cast in the 1340 statute for a generation of Parisian thinkers to understand the doctrine ontologically rather than semantically. Second, it is an ontological version of the doctrine that is presented by Gregory of Rimini, an Augustinian hermit who knew of Wodeham's teachings and who offered what came to be the most influential defense of the complexe significabile when he lectured on the Sentences at Paris in 1343-1344.[53] For whereas Wodeham had downplayed the ontological status of the complexe significabile, not wishing to divert attention from either its reciprocal dependence on the epistemic act of assent, or its essential connection to its propositional signifier, Rimini concedes that we can call the complexe significabile a "thing [res]" in two of the three senses he attaches to that term.[54] This was bound to rub more parsimonious Arts Masters the wrong way, with the result that its initial reception in that Faculty was a cool one.

John Buridan was the first to consider the doctrine of the complexe significabile in a context clearly associated with the Arts Faculty, dismissing it as either trivially true or superfluous in his Questions on Aristotle's Metaphysics. Buridan argues that if we understand `complexe' as an adverbial reference to what can be signified by a `complexum' - i.e., by a phrase, proposition, or complex term - then "everything in the world is a complexe significabile," since even God, who is an absolutely simple being, can be signified by description.[55] Conversely, if complexe significabilia are to be counted the natural order of things, then it would seem that "everything can be easily explained without [them]," since they "are not substances, or accidents, or subsistent per se, or inherent in anything else. Therefore, they should not be posited."[56] At least one of Buridan's students who went on to study theology took this reply with him. Indeed, Marsilius of Inghen is even harsher in his assessment of the doctrine, suggesting in his Sentences commentary that the complexe significabile "was introduced by writers ignorant of logic."[57] As Gabriel Nuchelmans has shown, the position on the proper object of scientific knowledge Marsilius actually defends in his Sentences is almost identical to Buridan's,[58] as is the motivation for several of his criticisms of the complexe significabile, all of which are directed against Rimini's version of the doctrine.[59] It is indicative of the level of sophistication of Arts Faculty discussion of this issue that Marsilius found it appropriate to import Buridan's position virtually wholesale into Theology.[60] And although Marsilius lectured on the Sentences after he moved to Heidelberg, the Buridanian strategy of attacking complexe significabilia on ontological grounds found a later voice in the Parisian Faculty of Theology, i.e., in the Sentences commentary of Peter d'Ailly, who borrows several of Buridan's criticisms - including the argument that everything that exists can be signified in a complex way - in his own attack on Rimini.[61]

One would think that the case against complexe significabilia would have been closed, save for pro forma refutations, as a result of Buridan's criticisms. Other Arts Masters, however, were not so quick to employ the razor against this novelty from Theology - even though they were clearly working from Rimini's less subtle version of the doctrine. Hugolino of Orvieto, Albert of Saxony, and Nicole Oresme all defend interesting variants of the complexe significabile in works they composed while teaching in the Faculty of Arts. Hugolino emerges as an early defender of his fellow Augustinian Rimini in his Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, written in 1352 (curiously enough, after he lectured on the Sentences in 1348-1349). In the former work, Hugolino seconds Rimini's view that the "total significate of the conclusion" is the object of science,[62] since all knowledge involves the act of assenting to some state of affairs. Indeed, the total significate is the object of any act of assent, be it of science or opinion, "for through it," Hugolino says, "that which is signified by the proposition is believed."[63] On the ontological question of what sort of thing complexe significabilia are, Hugolino follows Rimini almost verbatim in distinguishing between three senses of the term `something' and its "synonyms", `being' and `thing', so that the total significate can be said to be a thing in the first sense that it is signifiable, and in the second sense that it is signifiable truly, but not in the third sense that it is "some existing essence or entity," i.e., as opposed to what does not exist and is hence nothing.[64] Albert of Saxony presents and even more interesting case because he is typically a staunch defender of the Buridanian line. But here he insists, with Rimini, that "the significate of the demonstrated conclusion is the object of science," on the grounds that "the conclusion is said to be the object of science only because it is the sign of that complex act of knowing under which it is brought and properly determined."[65] Buridan stops too soon, in Albert's view, because signs owe their role as signifiers to what they signify. Nicole Oresme also mentions the complexe significabile favorably in his Questions on De anima. But his apparent advocacy of the doctrine is muted by his claim that "the things signified by the terms [of the conclusion]," not complexe significabilia, "are strictly speaking what science is about," as well as by his treatment of complexe significabilia as equivalent to conclusions in a passage in which he ranks objects of knowledge in terms of their relative proximity and remoteness.[66] The latter view, of course, is reminiscent of the trivializing move used by his former teacher and fellow Arts Master, Buridan, against Rimini. Why Oresme did not take the further step of eliminating complexe significabilia entirely remains a matter of speculation.[67] In any case, the picture which emerges from discussion of the complexe significabile in the Faculty of Arts at Paris is one of diversity, giving every indication that the debate had a complicated life of its own once Arts Masters began to treat it in those contexts which were proper to them as Artistae.

IV. Conclusion

The late Charles Schmitt once remarked in a discussion of late medieval science that medievals put the study of optics and motion, for example, "... in categories different from ours. But it is very difficult to sort out just how they are different and what difference this makes in our interpretation."[68] Schmitt's remark points to two special problems in our understanding of medieval philosophical texts. First, differences are often a matter of `how' and not `what', i.e., of practice, not of doctrine. If this is right, then some differences will not only resist articulation, but suffer positive distortion if we force them to `make sense' in terms of some literal formula. I argued above that the practice of philosophy in the Arts Faculty at Paris was constituted by certain discourse rules and assumptions about nature which were never defended because without them, philosophical inquiry would have been impossible. It is hardly surprising that no Arts Master felt the need to codify something so basic. Challenges were met with correction, not disproof - as the case of Autrecourt shows. This brings us to the second problem suggested by Schmitt's remark. The judgment that philosophy in the Arts Faculty was somehow lacking in comparison to what went on in the Faculty of Theology - as illustrated, say, by the failure of Arts Masters to reply to Autrecourt on his own terms - probably says more about us as historians of philosophy than it does about the institution or period in question. For if differences are primary, then no interpretation, including our own, is context-free. This places upon us the burden of revealing what it is that privileges our position. To return to the passage quoted at the beginning of this paper, it is not difficult to understand why Michalski saw theology as the apex of medieval philosophy, speaking as he does of the need to "take a position with regard to the most difficult problems in the domains of metaphysics and the theory of knowledge." The problem, of course, is that no medieval would have thought about what he was doing in this way, since the distinction between separate "domains" of metaphysics and epistemology is modern, not medieval. Equally modern is the self-induced perplexity and confusion which has dogged attempts to separate epistemology from metaphysics since Descartes. That 14th-century Arts Masters were able to steer clear of all this is surely to their credit, though contemporary historiography has yet to recognize the full value of their accounts.

Jack Zupko

Emory University

References

 

Albertus de Saxonia: 1492; 1497, Quaestiones subtilissime in libros Aristotelis de celo et mundo
(Venetiis); Quaestiones subtilissime super libros posteriorum (Venetiis). Rpr. in Albertus
de Saxonia: 1986, Questiones subtilissime, Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim-Zürich-New
York.
Buridan, John: 1509, Subtilissimae Quaestiones super octo Physicorum libros Aristotelis, Paris. Rpr.
1964, as Kommentar zur Aristotelischen Physik, Minerva, Frankfurt a. M. [QP]
Buridan, John: 1513, Quaestiones super decem libros Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum, Paris.
Rpr. 1968, as Super decem libros Ethicorum, Minerva, Frankfurt a. M. [QNE]
Buridan, John: 1588 (actually 1518), In Metaphysicen Aristotelis Questiones argutissimae, Paris.
Rpr. 1964, as Kommentar zur Aristotelischen Metaphysik, Minerva, Frankfurt a. M. [QM]
Clagett, Marshall: 1959, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages, University of Wisconsin
Press, Madison.
Courtenay, William J., and Katharine H. Tachau: 1982, "Ockham, Ockhamists, and the English-
German Nation at Paris, 1339-1341," History of Universities 2, 53-96.
Denifle, Heinrich, O.P., and Emile Chatelain: 1889-91, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Vols.
1-2, Delalain, Paris.
Eckermann, Willigis: 1972, Der Physikkommentar Hugolins von Orvieto OESA. Ein Beitrag zur
Erkenntnislehre des spätmittelalterlichen Augustismus, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York.
Grant, Edward: 1993, "Jean Buridan and Nicole Oresme on Natural Knowledge," Vivarium 31, 84-
105.
Hansen, Bert: 1985, Nicole Oresme and the Marvels of Nature, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval
Studies, Toronto.
Hubien, Hubert (ed.): Iohannis Buridani Quaestiones in duos libros Aristotelis Posteriorum
Analyticorum, unpublished typescript. [QAnPo]
Kennedy, Leonard A.: 1986, Peter of Ailly and the Harvest of Fourteenth-Century Philosophy. The
Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.
Kretzmann, Norman, Anthony Kenny, and Jan Pinborg (eds.): 1982, The Cambridge History of Later
Medieval Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Lang, Helen S.: 1989, "Aristotelian Physics: Teleological Procedure in Aristotle, Thomas, and
Buridan," The Review of Metaphysics 42, 569-591.
Lohr, Charles H.: 1982, "The Medieval Interpretation of Aristotle," in Kretzmann, Kenny, and
Pinborg (1982). Pp. 80-98.
Maier, Anneliese: 1958, Zwischen Philosophie und Mechanik, Studien zur Naturphilosophie der
Spätscholastik, Bd. V, Storia e Letteratura, Roma.
Maier, Anneliese: 1968, Zwei Grundprobleme der scholastischen Naturphilosophie, Storia e
Letteratura, Roma.
Marshall, Peter: 1980, "Nicolas Oresme's Quaestiones super libros Aristotelis de anima: A Critical
Edition with Introduction and Commentary," Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University.
Michalski, Konstanty: 1924, "Les sources du criticisme et du scepticisme dans la philosophie du XIVe
siècle," La Pologne au Congrès International de Bruxelles, Imprimerie de l'Université,
Cracovie, 37-64. Rpr. in Michalski: 1969, pp. 1-28.
Michalski, Konstanty: 1969, La Philosophie au XIV Siècle: Six Études, ed. Kurt Flasch, Minerva,
Frankfurt.
Moody, E. A.: 1958, "Empiricism and Metaphysics in Medieval Philosophy," The Philosophical
Review 67, 145-163. Rpr. in Moody 1975, pp. 287-304.
Moody, E. A.: 1975, Studies in Medieval Philosophy, Science, and Logic: Collected Papers, 1933-
1969, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Murdoch, John E.: 1975, "From Social into Intellectual Factors: An Aspect of the Unitary Character
of Late Medieval Learning," in Murdoch and Sylla (1975), pp. 271-348.
Murdoch, John E.: 1979, "Propositional Analysis in Fourteenth-Century Natural Philosophy,"
Synthese 40, 117-146.
Murdoch, John E.: 1982, "The Analytic Character of Late Medieval Learning: Natural Philosophy
Without Nature", in Roberts (1982), pp.171-213.
Murdoch, John E. and Sylla, Edith (eds.): 1975, The Cultural Context of Medieval Learning.
Reidel, Boston
Nuchelmans, Gabriel: 1973, Theories of the Proposition. Ancient and Medieval Conceptions of the
Bearers of Truth and Falsity. North-Holland, Amsterdam and London.
Patar, Benoît: 1991, Le Traité de l'âme de Jean Buridan [De prima lectura], Philosophes
Médiévaux, Tome XXIX, Éditions de l'Institut Supérieur de Philosophie, Louvain-La-Neuve.
Pinborg, Jan: 1982, "Medieval Philosophical Literature," in Kretzmann, Kenny, and Pinborg (1982),
pp. 11-42.
Pluta, Olaf: 1987, Die philosophische Psychologie des Peter von Ailly: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte
der Philosophie des späten Mittelalters, B. R. Grüner, Amsterdam.
Roberts, Lawrence D. (ed.): 1982, Approaches to Nature in the Middle Ages, Center for Medieval
and Early Renaissance Studies, Binghamton.
Rijk, L. M. de: 1994, Nicholas of Autrecourt: His Correspondence with Master Giles and Bernard
of Arezzo, E. J. Brill, Leiden.
Serene, Eileen: 1982, "Demonstrative Science," in Kretzmann, Kenny, and Pinborg (1982), pp. 496-
517.
Sobol, Peter Gordon: 1984, "John Buridan on the Soul and Sensation: An Edition of Book II of His
Commentary on Aristotle's Book of the Soul, with an Introduction and a Translation of
Question 18 on Sensible Species," Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University. [QDA II]
Sylla, Edith: 1982, "The Oxford Calculators," in Kretzmann, Kenny, and Pinborg (1982), pp. 540-
563.
Szyller, Slawomir: 1987, "Johannis Buridani, Tractatus de differentia universalis ad
individuum," Przeglad Tomistyczyny 3, pp.137-178.
Tachau, Katharine H.: 1988, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham. Optics, Epistemology, and
the Foundations of Semantics, 1250-1345. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
Tatarzynski, Ryszard: 1986, "Jan Buridan, Kommentarz do Isagogi Porfiriusza," Przeglad
Tomistyczyny 2, pp.111-195.
Thijssen, J. M. M. H.: 1991, `The "Semantic" Articles of Autrecourt's Condemnation. New
Proposals for an Interpretation of Articles 1, 30, 31, 35, 57, and 58', Archives d'histoire
doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 58, 155-175.
Wolter, Allan B., O.F.M.: 1986, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality, Catholic University of
America Press, Washington, D.C.
Wood, Rega, and Gedeon Gál, O.F.M. (eds.): 1990, Adam de Wodeham: Lectura Secunda in Librum
Primum Sententiarum: Prologus et Distinctio Prima, St. Bonaventure University Press, St.
Bonaventure, NY.
Zupko, John Alexander: 1989, "John Buridan's Philosophy of Mind: An Edition and Translation of
Book III of his `Questions on Aristotle's De anima' (Third Redaction), with Commentary and
Critical and Interpretative Essays," Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University. [QDA III]
Zupko, Jack: 1993a, "How Are Souls Related to Bodies?: A Study of John Buridan," Review of
Metaphysics 46, 575-601.
Zupko, Jack: 1993b, "Buridan and Skepticism," Journal of the History of Philosophy 31, 191-221.
Zupko, Jack: 1994-1997, "How It Played in the rue de Fouarre: The Reception of Adam Wodeham's
Theory of the Complexe Significabile in the Arts Faculty at Paris in the Mid-Fourteenth
Century," Franciscan Studies 54, 211-225.
Zupko, Jack: 1997, "What Is the Science of the Soul?: A Case Study in the Evolution of Late
Medieval Natural Philosophy," Synthese 110.2, 297-334.


Notes

 

[1]. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I, q. 1, a. 4; tr. Anton C. Pegis in Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1948): 8. Unless otherwise noted (as in this case), all translations in this paper are my own.

[2]. "Les sources du criticisme et du scepticisme dans la philosophie du XIVe siècle," extrait de La Pologne au Congrès International de Bruxelles, 1923 (Cracovie: Imprimerie de l'Université, 1924): 1; rpr. as Konstanty Michalski, La philosophie au XIVe siècle: Six Ètudes, herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Kurt Flasch (Frankfurt a.M.: Minerva, 1969): 37.

[3]. See John E. Murdoch, "From Social into Intellectual Factors: An Aspect of the Unitary Character of Late Medieval Learning," in The Cultural Context of Medieval Learning, ed. John Murdoch and Edith Sylla (Boston: Reidel, 1975): 271-348; Edith Dudley Sylla, "Autonomous and Handmaiden Science: St. Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham on the Physics of the Eucharist," ibid.: 349-396; and Jan Pinborg and Anthony Kenny, "Medieval Philosophical Literature" (a note at the head of the article indicates that Pinborg is responsible for passage quoted here) in The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, ed. Norman Kretzmann, Anthony Kenny, and Jan Pinborg (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982): 15. Cf. also Katherine H. Tachau, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham: Optics, Epistemology, and the Foundations of Semantics, 1250-1345 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988): "Difficulties in appreciating the newly arriving methods and ideas [of English logic and theology] were doubtless exacerbated for any member of the Arts Faculty who was not simultaneously studying theology ... Similarly, the two popes during whose reigns Autrecourt's trial progressed had both received their theological training at Paris before the development of the English method, and we can expect that they were equally at sea when confronted with the controversy over Autrecourt's teaching" (357) (emphases mine).

Four pages after the passage quoted above, Sylla offers basically the same explanation as Pinborg for the "mediocre quality" of philosophy in the Arts Faculty: "So one might expect the most advanced philosophical work done in the 13th- and 14th-centuries to have been done in a theological context. This expectation would be reinforced by the fact that most people did their work in philosophy proper when they were young and then did work in theology when they were more mature and might be expected to have deeper insights." (ibid.: 354). In the transcribed discussion which follows his article, Murdoch concurs with Sylla and Pinborg in the quality judgment, but is more circumspect about the cause(s): "A curious thing, of course, is that, with the possible exception of Buridan, those philosophers who didn't do theology seem to me to be quite inferior, as philosophers, to those who did theology as well. Why this is so, I don't know" (ibid.: 393).

[4]. The term `inside job' I borrow from William P. Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993): 217, et passim, who uses it to describe the sovereignty of different doxastic, or belief-forming, practices, especially as regards their defeasibility conditions.

[5]. This is not to say that such necessary-and-sufficient-conditions analyses have no place in the historiography of 14th-century philosophy, since they are obviously of great importance in helping us track the provenance and evolution of certain concepts. My idea is only that something is missed when differences, or which differences are the relevant ones, are legislated `from the outside', as it were, by those aiming to fit the evidence to one paradigm or another, e.g., to Aristotelianism, or Augustinianism.

[6]. I have placed the term `Artists' (which translates the Latin `Artistae') in quotation marks in recognition of its unusual employment in this context. But I shall hereafter use it without quotation marks, as it is much less unwieldy for reference-fixing purposes than `philosophers who worked in the Faculty of Arts', i.e., in contrast to `Theologians'.

[7]. As Edith Sylla has pointed out (1982: 547, n. 20), Murdoch first drew the attention of historians to "the `second intentional' or `metalinguistic' approach of fourteenth-century natural philosophy" in a series of articles, most notably in Murdoch 1974, 1975, and 1979.

[8]. QIP 1: 126, ll. 155-156: "... logica non est scientia loquendo proprie de scientia; ... logica non est habitus speculativus, sed practicus." Buridan here follows a long tradition, going back to Boethius's division of the sciences in De Trinitate, of separating logic and grammar from the speculative sciences of metaphysics, mathematics, and physics. See also QIP 1: 126 and QM VI.2.

[9]. I agree with Paul Spade that the role of grammatical texts in shaping late medieval logic has been very much underappreciated by historians of philosophy.

[10]. Hugolino composed his Questions on Aristotle's Physics in1352, after he had written his Sentences commentary and apparently returned to the Faculty of Arts to teach.

[11]. William J. Courtenay, "The Reception of Ockham's Thought at the University of Paris," in Kaluza and Vignaux 1984: 49.

[12]. Courtenay 1984: 50.

[13]. Cf. QIP 4: 138, ll. 565-566. This can also be seen in Buridan's treatment of transcendental terms, e.g., when he remarks that "the subject of metaphysics is being, that is, the term `being' ..." (QIP 3: 135, ll. 449-450) (emphasis mine).

[14]. Indeed, Buridan even regards the status of universals as second-intentional names as a matter of convention (TDUI: 145-146). Likewise, he says that a universal is a substance in the second mode of substance only, i.e., as a "term in the category of substance" (QIP 4: 140, ll. 635-636; cf. TDUI: 147-148).

[15]. Note also that the differences in universal names correspond not to any real diversity in the things signified by those names, "but in the medium [in mediis] through which we arrive at the concepts by which those names are imposed" (QIP 11: 173, ll. 1853-1854) (the medium being the more common or more general concept: e.g., of sensing, from which the common concept of everything sensitive will be formed, and the name `animal' imposed -- ibid., ll. 1847-1850).]

16. Buridan denies that mental (and written) terms are even relevant to logic (QLP L.3: 16)!

[17]. That the object of knowledge is a complexum, or proposition, rather than an incomplexum, or a term, follows from the fact that we can believe or know only what we can assent to as true or false. And it is propositions, not terms, that can have truth values.

[18]. Likewise, Buridan observes that what matters here is "the fact that a term is called common and a species and a quality of what is appellative according to the grammarians [secundum grammaticos]" (QIP 9: 1233-1234).

[19]. See Zupko 1993b.

[20]. See L. Minio-Paluello (ed.), Porphyrii Isagoge translatio Boethii et anonymi fragmentum vulgo vocatum `Liber sex principiorum' (Aristoteles-Latinus I.6-7) (Bruges-Paris: Desclée, 1966), c. 1, nn. 7-9: 365; and S. Brown and G. Gál (eds.), Guillelmi de Ockham. Scriptum in librum primum Sententiarum, Ordinatio. Distinctiones II-III (Opera Theologica II) (St. Bonaventure, NY: The Franciscan Institute, 1970): 231-232; 262.

[21]. For the details, see Zupko 1993b. There is a basis for universal cognition, apart from the fictum account, viz., in "some thing outside the soul which is capable of moving the intellect to a specific concept indifferent to every individual of the same species" (TDUI: 164), but this is the most Buridan ever says about the extra-mental causes for universal cognition. Notice that what is outside the soul is still just a "thing [res]", and not even a "natural likeness".

[22]. Cf. Buridan's remark that we relate things; they don't "come related" (QDDC in Thijssen 1991: 243; 247).

[23]. Lest the solution to the problem of universals be thought the only place where activity plays such a prominent role in philosophy among the Arts Masters, consider the related problem of individuation. This is also associated with a method -- though not, ultimately, a linguistic method For Buridan, as for others, the activity of individuating is clearly understood as a `how', not a `what' (TDUI: 170). Like Buridan, Marsilius regards the truly singular as that which can be designated verbally, or pointed to, not described (AP Proemium: 3ra).

[24]. For the details, see Zupko 1997.

[25]. De Rijk 1994: 60.6: "Certitudo evidentie non habet gradus"; ibid.: 62.7: "Excepta certitudine fidei, nulla est alia certitudo nisi certitudo primi principii, vel que in primum principium potest resolvi." I here use de Rijk's translation. See also Zupko 1993b: 193-195.

[26]. Nicholas's views, or purported views, were condemned by the Papal Commission at Avignon in 1346, including both propositions just mentioned. See de Rijk 1994: 147.

[27]. See QM II.1 and QP I.4: 4vb-5ra, both of which are discussed in Zupko 1993b: 197.]

28. See Zupko 1993b. Reliabilism is "the theory that the justifiability of a belief is a matter of the reliability of the cognitive process(es) which produced it, where reliability is a contingent (and only a posteriori determinable) matter of the way those processes operate under normal conditions, or as Buridan is fond of saying, `in the common course of nature'" (ibid.: 192-193).

[29]. Duns Scotus, Reportatio IA, Prologue, q. 3, a. 1 (Wien: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. Lat. 1453: f. 8vb); tr. Allan Wolter, O.F.M., in Duns Scotus: Philosophical Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987): 9. The preceding sentence reads, "And therefore, those who deny such manifest things need punishment or knowledge or sense, for as Avicenna puts it [Metaph. I; commenting on Aristotle, Topics I.11.105a4-5, regarding the scope of dialectical reasoning]: `Those who deny a first principle should be beaten or exposed to fire until they concede that to burn and not to burn, or to be beaten and not to be beaten, are not identical'."

[30]. Marsilius, Abbreviationes, Prologue: 2vb: "Quaeri solet hic utrum omni consequentia probativa debet fundari supra primum principium, et ipso probari ... [Responsio:] non est nobis possibilis saltem in hac vita cognitio perfecta simpliciter, patet quia impossibile est scire aliquam rem per omnem conclusionem scibilem formabilem de ea, de quaelibet enim infinitae possunt formari."

[31]. Marsilius, Abbreviationes, Prologue: 3ra: "... sufficit scire rem per unam conclusionem perfecte scitam per modum conclusionis." He proceeds to give an example of geometrical proof concerning triangles.

[32a]. Marsilius, AbPhys, Proemium: 2va: "... omnis notitia intellectiva nostra de qua est sermo fit ex sensitiva ...". This passage is discussed in more detail in Hoenen 1993: 110-111.

[32b]. Marsilius of Inghen, Quaestiones super quattuor libros Sententiarum I, q. 42, a. 2 (Strasbourg: 1501; rpr. Frankfurt-a-M: Minerva, 1966: f. 177ra): "Solum illud vocatur notum in puro lumine naturali quod est notum per experientiam, vel per sensum seu etiam per se ...".

[33a] Ibid.: f. 177ra. See also Hoenen 1993: 18. 33

[33b]. See Buridan, QAnPo I.2; QM II.1: 8rb-vb.

[34]. Albert of Saxony, QAnPo I.3: f. 4ra-rb.

[35]. Albert of Saxony, QAnPo I.3: f. 4va: "... et quibus non sufficeret illa evidentia naturalis non essent habiles ad probandum." The nature of the evidentness in question is discussed a few lines previously (ibid.: 4rb-va): "There is natural evidentness when something is so evident to us that the opposite could not be [made] apparent by any human argument, except a sophistical argument; and in this mode the principles and conclusions of natural [science] are said to be evident [Evidentia autem naturalis est quando aliquid est nobis sic evidens quod per nullam rationem humanam nisi sophisticam oppositum posset apparere; et isto modo principia naturalia et conclusiones naturales dicuntur esse evidentes]."

[36]. Grant 1993: 103. See also Grant 1978: 111; 116; and Sylla 1991: 217.]

37. Grant 1993 argues that Oresme appears to have a "double standard" in natural philosophy, viz., "to replace superstitious explanations of phenomena with explanations based on natural causation, while at the same time depicting natural causation and natural knowledge as no more intelligible than the articles of faith. In the final analysis, Oresme's goal was to make faith the centerpiece of all knowledge" (105). In this connection, Grant traces Oresme's skepticism to a deliberate effort "to denigrate natural philosophy and its pretensions to natural knowledge" (ibid.). Based on the evidence I have seen, however, it seems to me that Oresme's skepticism are almost always directed against the view that we can know the natural world as quantified by mathematics (hence his use of the incommensurability doctrine to show that the motions of two or more celestial bodies cannot be precisely related), not against the possibility of natural knowledge in general. See Zupko 1997: 310-311. There is evidence of a similar disciplinary split in the works of Peter d'Ailly, although unlike Oresme, he is anything but skeptical about the prospects of absolutely evident knowledge, at least in the case of the soul. Thus, he argues in his Questions on De anima that the natural philosopher is acquainted with the proper subject of psychology by means of a contextual definition which "inductively" distinguishes souls from non-souls (TDA, cap. 1, prima pars: 5-6). But in his Sentences commentary, he contends that "it is possible for the wayfarer to have absolutely evident [knowledge] concerning many contingent truths ... for example, that he exists, that he cognizes, etc." (Sent. I, a.1: 12). For discussion, see Zupko: forthcoming.

[38]. Oresme, QDA I.4: 144, ll. 7-11; 150, ll. 126-130. Cited in Zupko 1997: 310. This work was probably composed while Oresme was teaching in the Arts Faculty at Paris, 1348-1356 (Clagett 1959: 338n). I can find no basis at all for the 1346-1348 composition date suggested in Patar 1995, which has been arrived at, according to the author, "à la lumière des recherches effectuées jusqu'à ce jour ..." (28*). The `appropriate juncture' in this case is Book III, Question 14 of the commentary, which asks "whether the universal known to the intellect before the singular [utrum universale sit prius notum intellectui quam singulare]."

[39]. Oresme, QDA I.4: 150, ll. 126-133. Oresme's position here is discussed more fully in Zupko 1997: 306-311.

[40]. Stephen D. Dumont, "Theology as a Science and Duns Scotus's Distinction between Intuitive and Abstractive Cognition," Speculum 64.3 (July 1989): 579-599.

[41]. Ibid.: 590-591.

[42]. Hence, Dumont argues (successfully, in my view) that it was abstractive rather than intuitive cognition "which played the important and controversial role" in Scotus's solution to the problem of how theology could be a science (ibid. 580).

[43]. Ibid.: 579-580.

[44]. There is theological precedent in Paris for treating intuitive cognition phenomenologically, leaving aside questions of certitude or epistemic justification, in the Sentences commentary of Peter Aureol, completed in 1317 (I Scriptum, proemium, s.2; for references and discussion, see Tachau 1988: 104-112). There is, however, no evidence at all that this work influenced Buridan or his successors in the Arts Faculty, whose descriptivism seems to have origins in the response to Autrecourt.

[45]. Buridan, QM VII.20: f. 54va.; cf. Buridan, QP I.7: f. 9ra; QDA III.8: 75-79; QIP 6: 148, ll. 939-941; TDUI: 171, ll. 10-13. That it is the theological conception of intuitive cognition which has been transmuted by Buridan in this passage becomes clearer in his concluding remarks: "It must be said that all present and future things exist as intuitively present to God, and so God cognizes them singularly. And so as well, the Saints cognize God singularly in their understanding, because [they do so] in the mode of presence in the prospect of the understanding itself, and in the intuitive mode [per modum praesentis in prospectu [prospectu/conspectu] ipsius intelligentis et per modum intuitus]."

[46]. Buridan, QM VII.20: f. 54va; cf. QP I.7: f 9ra. For discussion, see Zupko 1993: 212-213. I set to one side here the historical question of the origins of Buridan's representationalism, expressed in the doctrine that all cognition occurs by means of species. Federici Vescovini 1965: 145-146 and Marshall 1980: 47-48 have attributed the prominence of species-theory in Buridan (and Oresme) to the gradual assimilation of the medieval tradition of perspectiva, or geometrical optics, into the tradition of commentary on Aristotle's De anima. On the other hand, Maier 1967 has argued that Buridan was most influenced on his species-theory by Giles of Rome. For further details, see Marshall 1980: 48.

[47]. Adam de Wodeham: Lectura Secunda in Librum Primum Sententiarum, ed. Rega Wood and Gedeon Gál, O.F.M. (St. Bonaventure, NY: St. Bonaventure University Press, 1990): 180.

[48]. Wodeham, Lectura Secunda, d. 1, q. 1; Wood and Gál 1990: 192, ll. 19-24. Wodeham's editors note that he departs from tradition in using the Augustine quotation which begins the First Distinction - "all doctrine is either of things or of signs" (De doctrina christiana I, c. 2, n. 2) - to continue the epistemological discussion begun in the Prologue. For most commentators on the Sentences, this quotation prompted discussion of the different problem of fruition and use.

[49]. For discussion, see Zupko 1994-1997.

[50]. See Zupko 1994-1997.

[51]. See the articles of condemnation quoted in Tachau 1988: 353-354, nn. 2-4. See also William J. Courtenay and Katharine H. Tachau, "Ockham, Ockhamists, and the English-German Nation at Paris, 1339-1341," History of Universities 2 (1982): 53-96; and Courtenay, "The Reception of Ockham's Thought at the University of Paris," in Zenon Kaluza and Paul Vignaux, eds., Logique, Ontologie, et Théologie au XIVe Siècle. Preuve et Raisons à l'Université de Paris (Paris: Vrin, 1984): 43-64.

[52]. Tachau 1988 argues that "Autrecourt seems to have been persuaded of the correctness of [Wodeham's] stance" on the ontological status of complexe significabilia as objects of knowledge: "In this way, for example, Autrecourt's statement that `God and creature are nothing' is probably to be understood as a claim denying the independent ontological status of the state of affairs signified by the compound subject `God and a creature' in such propositions as, `God and a creature are distinguished'" (354). Wodeham, however, treats the question of whether complexe significabilia are something or nothing as presenting a false dichotomy. Accordingly, he remarks that "it should not be said that `man is an animal' is a substance, or an accident, or something, or nothing, because none of these replies would be intelligible, or say anything [nulla istarum responsionum esset intelligibilis aut aliquid dictu]" (Wood and Gál 1990: 195, ll. 26-28) (emphases mine). I am therefore doubtful that Autrecourt got Wodeham right on this point. See Zupko 1994-1997.

[53]. The influence of Rimini's version was by default, of course, since Autrecourt was ordered in 1346 to revoke his views and to burn his writings in public (including, presumably, his Sentences commentary). He complied on both counts. For the documentary evidence, see Tachau 1988: 378, n. 77.

[54]. See Wodeham, Lectura Secunda, d.1, q.1; Wood and Gál 1990: 195, ll. 15-28; Gregorii Arminiensis OESA, Lectura super Primum et Secundum Sententiarum, ed. A. Damasus Trapp and Venicio Marcolino, Tomus I (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1981): super Primum, Prologus, q. 1, a. 1; 8, l. 25 - 9. l. 20. For discussion, see Nuchelmans 1973: 233-234; Zupko, 1994-1997.

[55]. QM. V.7: 31rb. Cf. Buridan, Sophismata, ed. T. K. Scott (Stuttgart - Bad Cannstatt: Frommann Holzboog, 1977), cap. 1, quinta sophisma, solutio 33.

[56]. QM V.7: 31ra.

[57]. Marsilius, cited in Nuchelmans 1973: 252. See also Hoenen 1993.

[58]. Nuchelmans 1973: 251-252.

[59]. The nasty remark about logic seems to have been occasioned by Marsilius's belief that Rimini was partly motivated to embrace complexe significabilia by a kind of misplaced formalism, i.e., by his desire to have some positive state of affairs to account for the falsity of false propositions. But as Buridan argues in many places (e.g., QM VI.8), no cause for the falsity of false propositions needs to be sought beyond the mere absence of what would make them true. Hence the charge that advocates of complexe significabila have violated the principle of parsimony. See Nuchelmans 1973: 252-253.

[60]. I have not yet located references to the complexe significabile debate in works Marsilius composed while teaching in the Faculty of Arts. Although his "commentary on the Sentences makes several references to arguments and expositions found in the Abbreviationes [on the Physics]" (Hoenen 1993: 18), there is no discussion of the complexe significabile in the latter work.

[61]. See Nuchelmans 1973: 262-265.

[62]. Eckermann 1972: 41.]

63. Eckermann 1972: 46, ll. 158-159. Indeed, Hugolino assimilates the philosopher's act of saying [dicit] to the faithful person's act of believing [credit], suggesting that assent is for him a kind of propositional attitude connoting the assenter's own, subjective commitment to a state of affairs: "For this reason, just as `God being omnipotent [deum esse omnipotens]' or `matter being ungenerable [materia esse ingenerabilem]' is signified, [respectively,] by the [propositions], `God is omnipotent' or `Matter is ungenerable', so the faithful believe [that] God is omnipotent [deum esse omnipotens], and the philosopher speaks of matter being ungenerable [esse materiam ingenerabilem]" (ibid.: 46, 159-162).

[64]. Eckermann 1972: 47-48.

[65]. Albert of Saxony, QAnPo I.2: 3rb; cf. ibid., I.7; I.33. For discussion, see Nuchelmans 1973: 240-242. That Albert is working from Rimini's version of the doctrine rather than Wodeham's is suggested by his view that the significate of the demonstrated conclusion is the object of science, rather than the significate of the conclusion together with the premisses which figure in its demonstration, which was Wodeham's view. Albert's doctrine has other, interesting nuances in connection with the signification of syncategorematic terms, all of which are discussed in Nuchelmans 1973.

[66]. Oresme, QDA I.1; Marshall 1980: 113, ll. 66-74; cf. ibid. I.4; Marshall 1980: 149, ll. 95-96: "Scientia non dicitur de aliquo nisi de tribus vel de aliquo trium - videlicet de conclusione, vel significabili complexe per conclusionem, si sit aliquod tale, sicut est `hominem esse risibilem'. Dicitur etiam secundo de terminis conclusionis sicut de subiecto aut predicato. Et dicitur tertio de rebus significatis per huiusmodi terminos. Et proprie magis debet dici scientia de rebus significatis per terminos quam de terminis." This passage is also quoted in Tachau 1988: 381, n. 86, who notes (correctly, in my view) that "by `complexe significabile', Oresme understands Rimini's (not Wodeham's) notion."

[67]. And must remain a matter of speculation, until Oresme's Sentences commentary has been positively identified.

[68]. Murdoch and Sylla (1975), p. 346.