Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Blame Bernard, not Henry of Ghent, Peter John Olivi, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham

     "This investigation has shown that there was in the middle of the 12th century a tradition of thought with several representatives that, following Bernard of Clairvaux [(1090-1153)], both adopted a substantive distinction between will and reason and also granted to the will the possibility of itself deciding freely at any time against the judgments of reason.  Add to this the fact that these authors [(those of the Summa sententiarum and the Sententiae divinitatis, Robert of Melun (d. 1167), and Philipp the Chancellor (1160/85-1236))] in [their] different ways ascribed freedom primarily to the will, which was for Bernard already itself the defining characteristic of the human being, [and] it is in fact appropriate to call them voluntarists.  Their significance is underscored by the fact that in opposition to them other authors of the late 12th century [(Master Udo, Alexander Neck(h)am (1157-1215), and Praepositinus of Cremona)] proposed a [consciously] intellectualistic interpretation of human activity.  Thus, Praepositinus of Cremona [(c. 1140-c. 1210)] especially transmitted essential information about early voluntarism in the [early] 13th century.
     "Accordingly, the conflict between theories of human action of [1] a voluntaristic character [on the one hand and] [2] an intellectualistic [one on the other] had arisen by c. 1130 at the latest, and continued from that point on in varying degrees of intensity right on into the [supposedly foundational] 14th century."

     Matthias Perkams, "Bernhard von Clairvaux, Robert von Melun und die Anfänge des mittelalterlichen Voluntarismus," Vivarium 50 (2012):  20 (1-32).  According to Perkams, this indicates that medieval voluntarism wasn’t just rooted in a defensive reaction against an intellectualism inspired by the recovery of Aristotle, but in the peculiarities of the Christian doctrine of man, with its emphasis on the perversity of the will (20).  Perkams admits, though, that he finds in this period no evidence of a properly theological voluntarism (19), and suspects that the beginnings of this aren’t to be sought before the middle of the 13th century (20).

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