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

341. Siger of Brabant: His Life and Works. -- We are certain of only a few meagre details in the life of SIGER OF BRABANT.{1} Renowned he certainly was in his day -- "the professor of the rue de Fouarre" -- winning honourable mention from that strange pamphleteer, Pierre du Bois,{2} and flattering verses from Dante in his Divina Comedia;{3} dangerous too, in no less degree, for even the most illustrious of his contemporaries felt called upon to write in refutation of his teaching, and the ecclesiastical authorities to prohibit and condemn it. Master of Arts at Paris, he was for ten years a source of perpetual disturbance in the University. In 1266 he gave trouble to the legate, Simon de Brie, in matters of discipline, which were in themselves only youthful excesses, but which also revealed Siger's proud and unruly spirit. From 1272 to 1275 he defied the rector of the University, Alberic of Reims, and gathered around him a party of supporters. Finally and especially, he was the recognized leader of the Averroïsts at Paris during the sixth and seventh decades of the thirteenth century; and the talent he displayed in defending his opinions attracted a considerable section of the arts students (Scholares Golardiae{4}) to his lectures. Censured first in 1270, he still continued to propagate his views and to oppose the scholastic masters. A second condemnation in 1277 put an end to his teaching. Perhaps it was in connection with this condemnation that on the 23rd of October, 1277, Simon Duval, the Inquisitor for France, summoned Siger to his tribunal. It is very likely. Anyhow Siger left Paris about this time and appealed from the inquisitor's jurisdiction to that of the Roman Court. He died prior to 1300 (for, that year Dante encounters him in his journey through Paradise) and perhaps prior to November, 1284.{5} The Brabantian continuator of the chronicle of Martin of Troppau{6} adds that he died by the sword, assassinated by his clericus. "Qui Sygerus, natione Brabantinus, eo quod opiniones contra fidem tenuerat Parisius subsistere non valens, Romanam curiam adiit; ibique post parvum tempus a clerico suo quasi dementi perfossus periit." This text, discovered by Baeumker,{7} throws a new light on the much disputed question of the end of Siger.

His principal work is the De Anima Intellectiva. It directly inspired the De Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroïstas of St. Thomas.{8} Both treatises were composed between 1266 and 1277, in one of the periods of feverish controversy between scholastics and Averroïsts.{9} Siger has also left a Quaestio De Aeternitate Mundi, two Quaestiones Naturales and three logical treatises -- the latter of minor importance towards the study of his Averroïstic teaching (the Quaestiones Logicales; a question Utrum hec sit vera "Homo est animal, nullo existente"; and a collection of six Impossibilia).

{1} The attempt to identify Siger of Brabant and Siger of Courtrai has been finally abandoned.

{2} One of the most peculiar personages in the literary history of the fourteenth century, author of a treatise De Recuperatione Terre Sancte (edited by Langlois), in which he advocates, as a means for recovering the Holy Land, a number of educational and social reforms that seem centuries in advance of their time.

{3} Paradiso, X.,v., 136.

{4} Garlande was the name of the school district.

{5} According to a hypothesis of Mandonnet, who sees an allusion to Siger of Brabant and Boëthius the Dacian in a letter of Peckham, dating from November, 1284 (op. cit., pp. cclxx sqq.).

{6} Monumenta Germaniae Hist., t. xxiv.

{7} Arch. f. Gesch. Philos., 1899, p. 74.

{8} Chartul., i., p. 487.

{9} Mandonnet dates them from 1270, but without very convincing reasons.

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