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

324. Philosophical Teaching. -- Henry of Ghent decides, in full agreement with St. Thomas, the relations between philosophy and theology: the opening section of his Summa, where he sets forth these relations, is a model of its kind (278).

I. Theodicy and Metaphysics. -- In theodicy he attacks the Thomist thesis on the possibility of creation ab aeterno. He holds that God can produce directly the operations of created causes, and -- in opposition to Duns Scotus -- that the human mind can prove to itself this possibility. His conception of the Divine Science is peculiar. As God, he teaches, has no idea of number, but rather of the continuous as such, so He has no distinct idea of individuals, but knows them through His idea of their species (species specialissima). Does this teaching provide for the individuality of the things of Nature -- an individuality accepted by Henry as a principle, according to the general teaching of Thomistic realism? It is hard to see how it does.{1} Nor does the conception fit in any better with Henry's teaching on the Principle of Individuation.

Opposing the Thomistic doctrine on Individuation, a doctrine which had, moreover, just been condemned (312), he taught that individuals have no positive essential properties other than those of the species.{2} The principle of individuation is not matter; it is a property of the suppositum, as such, securing for the latter its distinction from every other being.

Form and Matter, act and potency, are correlative pairs of concepts, though not entirely convertible. For the angels are subsisting forms, and on the other hand matter could exist without any form, should it please the Creator to derogate from the laws of Nature (against St. Thomas). And since quantity is an attribute of the compositum, and not of the matter, it follows that the possibility of the separate existence of matter involves the possibility of the existence of vacuum.

Even in the substantial compositum the matter has its own proper existence -- in virtue of a principle to which Henry often reverts: Esse sunt diversa quorumcumque essentiae sunt diversae. Every real element of being has, therefore, a distinct existence. The existence of man, in whom we must distinguish a materia prima, a forma corporeitatis and a spiritual soul, is a conjunction of three existences. This brings us to Henry's psychology.

II. Psychology. -- The most original of his theses on the nature of man is that of the forma corporeitatis, existing together with the soul, and necessary in his opinion to insure for the parents on the one hand and the Creator on the other an efficacious intervention in the generation of the human being.{3} It is the only exception the solemn doctor makes to St. Thomas's teaching on unity of form in the individual. But it is sufficient to differentiate from each other the metaphysics of the two philosophers.

In Henry's theory of knowledge, we see the erroneous view of the species impressa once more making its appearance (299). He speaks of a substitute for the object in the sensation-process; but in the genesis of intellectual knowledge he rejects the species as a useless apparatus. Why? Because the species sensibilis, he says, when "transformed" by the intellectus agens, is sufficient to determine the cognitive act of the understanding.

Other theses of his in psychology are penetrated with Augustinism. Thus, intellectual memory gets an important place beside intelligence and will. He holds too, with St. Augustine, that the faculties are not really distinct from the substance of the soul. Finally and especially, the Summa Theologica opens with a brilliant and original paraphrase of the theory of Exemplarism. In fact, he engrafts upon the traditional Augustinian teaching (293) a theory of special illumination that recalls Dominicus Gundissalinus and William of Auvergne. By the spontaneous action of the intellect we know things, and hence we can attain to truth. Nature suffices for acquiring the groundwork of human knowledge, and God intervenes only by His concursus generalis.{4} But: "Aliud tamen est scire de creatura id quod verum est in ea, et aliud est scire elus veritatem."{5} Now, to grasp the veritas or truth of things in its ultimate foundations, that is to say, in the transcendental relation of intelligible essences to the Divine Ideas, God must flood our intelligences with an increase of light. The mind would be incapable of effecting this "synthetic return," if a special Divine light, which God communicates to whomsoever He pleases, in addition to the general enlightenment of His ordinary concursus, did not perfect the native keenness of the mind by bathing it in a brighter illumination.{6}

Henry of Ghent is a voluntarist. The relations of reason to will, he writes, are those of servant to master, but then it is to be remembered that the servant goes before the master, bearing aloft the torch to light the latter's steps.{7} The respective domains of the two great psychic faculties being determined in this general way, the philosopher of Ghent follows out his voluntarism into all its various conclusions. Among his arguments for the superiority of the will there is one drawn from the very manner in which this faculty exercises its activity: while intellect is passive before being active (300), will is simpliciter activa, and is independent of all intrinsic determination from without in its operations. In free volition -- which is acutely analyzed by Henry -- just as in necessary volition, the presentation of the good, whether partial or complete, is merely a conditio sine qua non, not a cause, not even a part-cause, of the functions of this faculty.

{1} Duns Scotus, who is ever ready to criticize Henry of Ghent, attacks him triumphantly on this point. See In I. L. Sent., dist. 36, q. 4, p. 702 (Venice edit., 1589).

{2} "Nihil rei addunt individua super essentiam speciei ad id quod est reale in ipsa" (Quodl., vii., 1 and 2).

{3} Henry has recourse to other arguments, especially the necessity of explaining the incorruptibility of Christ's body during the interval between death and resurrection, and His abiding identity during life and after death. See our Hist. de la Phil. scol. ds. Pays-Bas, etc., pp. 111 sqq.

{4} "Absolute ergo concedere opportet quod homo per suam animam absque omni speciali divina illustratione potest aliqua cognoscere et hoc ex puris naturalibus. Dico autem ex puris naturalibus, non excludendo generalem influentiam primi intelligentis, etc." (Summa Theol., i., 2, n. II).

{5} Ibid. n. 13.

{6} "Nunc autem ita est quod homo ex puris naturalibus attingere non potest ad regulas lucis aeternae . . . non tamen ipsa naturalia ex se agere possunt ut attingant illas, sed illas Deus offert quibus vult et quibus vult subtrahit" (ibid., n. 26). For detailed exposition of those theories, see our Études sur Henri de Gand, ch. iv.

{7} Quodl., i., 14, in fine.

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