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

193. The Practical Theologians. -- The over-sensitive theologians just referred to not only refused to touch the dialectic method but even proscribed the study of philosophy for its own sake. They thus ran directly counter to the two great scholastic leaders, Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor. Between those counter-currents another tendency interposed: that of a party of scholastics who were exclusively theologians and who saw in philosophy a mere auxiliary, an instrument that might perhaps be made to serve theology by the application of its methods or otherwise, but not an independent or autonomous science.

The most famous of all the sententiaries, PETER LOMBARD, called Magister Sententiarum (born at Novara in Lombardy, died Bishop of Paris, 1160), took the same general view. He drew on philosophy merely for the purpose of interpreting and illustrating dogma. He is not a philosopher: he is at most a writer with an external show of philosophy.{1} His contributions to the science are fragmentary, incidental, indefinite and without originality. He is "an eclectic who draws informations from all sources, sometimes superficially, sometimes with rare penetration, to illustrate the doctrine of the Church."{2} Nor indeed in theology itself can the Lombard claim any great originality.{3} He imitated and borrowed from the Summa Sententiarum; so that Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor have a right to a large share of the immense prestige enjoyed by the Liber Sententiarum all through the Middle Ages.{4} The Lombard's Book of Sentences is indeed the most marked success in medieval theology. The commentaries written upon it may be counted by hundreds. Down to the middle of the sixteenth century it was the classic which shaped theological studies, and was read side by side with the Bible in the theological faculties of many European universities.

Among the first imitators of the Lombard, special mention is due to PETER OF POITIERS, chancellor of Paris, who compiled five books of sentences prior to 1175. We may refer here also to an excellently arranged treatise on dogma, Catholicae Fidei Libri Quinque, written by Alan of Lille against the contemporary heresies of the Cathari and the Albigenses. We shall have more to say about its author when we come to deal with his philosophy.{5}

{1} This has been clearly established by ESPENBERGER, op. cit.

{2} Ibid., p. 11.

{3} Espenberger denies that Peter Lombard was influenced by Robert Pulleyn (Robertus Pullus, died about 1150, professor at Paris and Oxford, wrote Sententiarum Libri Octo, subsequent to the year 1136), and doubts the dependence of Peter on Master Gandulf. The Lombard's classifications betray the influence of the third part of St. John Damascene's pêgê gnôseôs in Burgondio's version (132, iv.). We may mention among the other sentence-writers of the school of Hugh of St. Victor, ROBERT OF MELUN and HUGH OF ROUEN.

{4} On account of the great historical interest attaching to the Sentences of the Lombard it may be well to give, in bare outline, the contents of the work. The author deals successively with res, or things which do not signify any other thing, and of signa, or tbings that are themselves symbols of other things. The things comprise (a) the object of our well-being: God (L. I.); (b) the means of attaining to this object: creatures (L. II.); (c) the virtues, which are both objects of enjoyment and means of arriving at happiness; men and angels, or the beings destined for this happiness (L. III.). The signa or symbols are the sacraments (L. IV.).

{5} The name of Hildebert of Lavardin (1057-1133) must be removed from the catalogue of summists and philosophers, for the Tractatus Theologicus attributed to him is the work of Hugh of St. Victor (HAURÉAU, Not. et Extr., etc., v., p. 251); and the Philosophia Moralis circulated under his name belongs to William of Conches.

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