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

165. First Group: The Doctrines of William of Champeaux. -- The first name we meet is that of WILLIAM OF CHAMPEAUX, born in 1070, died Bishop of Chalons in 1120. In his youth he had followed the lectures of Anselm (of Laon), at the school of Laon, which was one of the most frequented in Europe early in the twelfth century. In 1103 he held a chair in the cathedral school at Paris and there taught doctrines diametrically opposed to those of Roscelin, under whom he had studied at Compiègne. He was himself in turn bitterly attacked by one of his own pupils, Peter Abelard.

Our main sources of information regarding the teaching of William of Champeaux are the works of Abelard and the treatise De Generibus et Speciebus. William wrote various treatises on dialectic which are lost; also a book of Sentences, from which Lefèvre has published extracts.{1} On the authority of Abelard we have it that William modified his views on the subject of the Universals; and the treatise De Generibus, etc., testifies to a development of opinion. The various phases of his teaching are as follows

(1) The "Identity" Theory. -- The universal essence is numerically one (unica) in all its subordinate members; the totality of its being is in each of them; individuality is but an accidental modification of the specific substance; and the specific, but an accident of the single generic essence.{2}

It was easy to hold this teaching up to ridicule. If each man is the whole human species, the latter must be whole and entire in Socrates at Rome and in Plato at Athens; hence Socrates, containing the whole human essence, must be wherever the latter is: he will be simultaneously at Rome and at Athens; and similarly Plato; which is surely absurd.{3}

The satires of his merciless pupil, Abelard, succeeded in driving William from the school of Notre Dame (1108). Some time subsequently we find him teaching a different theory at the school of St. Victor, of which he is the reputed founder.

(2) The "Indifference" Theory. -- "Sic autem istam tunc suam correxit sententiam ut deinceps rem eamdem non essentialiter sed indifferenter diceret."{4} This text would make William the propounder of a solution that met with widespread popularity at the opening of the twelfth century, and one which his more experienced successors afterwards defended with great vigour (172, e). But poor William himself, if we are to believe Abelard, beaten back once more from his new entrenchments, gave up the fight and laid down his arms.{5} We must, however, discount those boastful assertions of Abelard; though the substantial truth of this one seems to be confirmed by the fact that we find in the Sentences of William a third variety of solution to the troublesome Universals question.

(3) The "Similarity" (similitudo essentiarum) Theory. -- Essences are really multiplied in the individuals, but are similar in each of the latter.{6} Here we encounter a theory which is not extreme realism, but rather its negation; which is in fact the theory of William's former master, Roscelin, and is, moreover, identical with the teaching of Abelard himself.{7} The truth is that William, convinced by the arguments of his own troublesome pupil, modified his teaching, out of a loyalty and deference to truth which is worthy of all admiration.

{1} G. LEFÈVRE, Les variations de Guillaume de Champeaux et la question des universaux. Étude suivie de documents originaux (Lille, 1898).

{2} Erat autem (Gulielmus) in ea sententia de communitate universalium, ut eamdem essentialiter rem totam simul singulis suis inesse adstrueret individuis: quorum quidem nulla esset in essentia diversitas, sed sola multitudine accidentium varietas" (Abel. Op., edit. Amboise, p. 5). Same formula in the De Generibus et Speciebus (in COUSIN'S edition of the Ouvr. inéd. d'Abélard), p. 513.

{3} De Generibus et Speciebus, Cousin's edit., p. 514. We find the following refutation of the elegant inexactitudes (pulchra mentientes) of realism in an anonymous treatise on genera and species published by HAURÉAU (Not. et Extr., etc., v., p. 306): "Sed quotiescumque homo qui eat in Socrate agit vel patitur et homo qui est in Platone agit vel patitur, cum sit eadem essentis, et sic (Platone) agente aliquid, agit Socrates et quaelibet alia substantia, et flagellato Socrate, flagellatur quaelibet alia substantia, quod est inconveniens et etiam haeresis" (n. 17813, Bib. Nat., fol. 16).

{4} COUSIN, Ouvr. inéd. d'Abélard, p. 6. In the text quoted, M. Hauréau reads. individualiter instead of indifferenter (Not. et Extr., etc., v., p. 324, and Hist. phil. scol., i., p. 338). If this be the proper reading, William would not be a promoter of the "Indifference" theory. We prefer, with Cousin, to understand indifferenter, for what possible meaning can be attached to Hauréau's formula: "the same reality existing according to its individuality in all the individuals; Ut eamdem individualiter rem totam simul singulis suis inesse adstrueret"

{5} "Cum hanc ille correxisset, immo coactus, dimisit sententiam," etc. (Cousin, ibid.).

{6} "Ubicunque personae sunt plures, plures sunt et substantiae. . . . Non eat eadem utriusque (scil. Petri et Pauli) humanitas, sed similis, cum sint duo homines" (Gulielmi Campellensis Sententiae vel Quaestiones, xlvii., LEFÈVRE'S edit., p. 24).

{7} This is not the view of M. Lefèvre, to whom is due the credit of having first brought to light this third opinion of William. The latter is not, of course, so explicit as Abelard, for he does not speak of abstraction, but there is nothing in this third view of his to which Abelard could take exception.

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