Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner



Life. St. Eric (841-881?), a monk of St. Germain of Auxerre, studied at Fulda, where he had for teacher Haimo, the successor of Rhabanus, and afterwards at Ferrières, where Servatus Lupus, who was also a disciple of Rhabanus, was at that time master. After returning to Auxerre, Eric became master in the monastic school ot that place, and under his guidance the school became one of the most renowned in all France.

Sources. Hauréau{1} has shown that the marginal glosses found in manuscript, No. 108, of the National Library of Paris are the work of Eric. The manuscript contains the Categoriae Decem (falsely attributed to St. Augustine), the Perihermenias of Aristotle, the Isagoge of Porphyry, and several works of Boethius. Naturally, therefore, the glosses added by Eric deal almost exclusively with logical or dialectical problems. In addition to this document, Hauréau mentions a poem by Eric on the life of St. Germain, to which the author attached, as a marginal note, an extract from Erigena's treatise De Divisione Naturae. The poem is published by Migne, Patr. Lat., Vol. CXXIX.


Eric affirms with Aristotle and Boethius that the concept is the image of the object, while the word is the expression of the concept. "Rem concipit intellectus, intellectum voces designant, voces autem litterae significant." With regard to the universal (generic and specific) concept, he expresses himself as follows:

Genus non praedicari (de animali) secundum rem (id est substantiam) sed designativum esse nomen animalis quo designatur animal de pluribus specie differentibus dici. Namque neque rationem animalis potest habere genus, cum dicitur animal est substantia animata et sensibilis. Similiter, neque species dicitur de homine secundum id quod significat, sed juxta illud quod de numero differentibus praedicatur.{2}

This passage indicates a departure from the realistic view and a leaning towards the nominalism which appeared in more definite form in the eleventh century. In a similar spirit Eric accounts for the collocation of individual things in genera and species, and even in the highest genus, ousia.{3} In Eric's glosses there are several indications of an acquaintance with the writings of Erigena. His doctrines may be described in general as a protest against the extreme realism of his predecessor.


Life. St. Remi (Remigius) of Auxerre was a monk of the abbey of St. Germain of Auxerre. He had for teacher Eric of Auxerre and Servatus Lupus. After the death of Eric be taught at Auxerre, Rheims, and Paris. At the last-mentioned school he had for disciple Otho of Cluny. He died in 904.

Sources. Besides a theological treatise entitled Enarrationes in Psalmos, we possess Remi's Glosses on the grammatical works of Priscian and Donatus and a dialectical commentary, entitled Commentum Magistri Remigii super Librum Martiani Capellae de Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae et super Septem Artes Liberales. As a secondary source we have the biography of Otho of Cluny by the monk John.{4}


From the commentary on Martianus Capella it appears that Remi attempted to reconcile the extreme realism of Erigena with the anti-realism of Eric. Martianus Capella had defined genus as "multarum formarum per unum nomen complexio." Erigena, on the contrary, had defined it as "multarum formarum substantialis unitas." The definition given by Remi is evidently a compromise. "Genus est complexio, id est adlectio et comprehensio, multarum formarum."{5}

Remi seems to have occupied himself with the problem of the world of Ideas. The Ideas, he maintained, exist in an invisible sphere, hidden in the mind of God.

Per sphaeram (Martianus) vult intelligi mundum invisibilem qui in mente Dei latebat antequam iste visibilis per varias produceretur causas; quem mundum, id est invisibilem, philosophi vocant ideas, id est formas.{6}

. . . . . . . . . . .

Associated with the school of Auxerre is the unknown author of another Commentary on Madianus Capella. This commentary, on account of the frequent occurrence of Greek words, is judged by some to be the work of an Irish monk.

Mention must also be made of a work entitled Glosses on the Isagoge of Porphyry, discovered by Cousin and by him assigned to the ninth century. Both Cousin and Hauréau attribute the work to Rhabanus Maurus; Prantl, Kaulich, and Stöckl are of opinion that it should be assigned to a pupil of Rhabanus who is called Iepa.{7} On the question of universals the author of the Glosses propounds certain realistic principles which approach more closely to what afterwards became known as Thomistic realism than do any of the tenets of the other dialecticians of the ninth or tenth centuries.

Genus et species subsistunt alio modo, intelliguntur alio. Et sunt incorporalia; sed sensibilibus juncta subsistunt in sensibilibus, et tunc est singulare; intelliguntur ut ipsa substantia, ut non in aliis esse suum habentia, et tunc est universale.{8}

Retrospect. During the ninth and tenth centuries the philosophy which formed part of the general intellectual movement inaugurated by the foundation of the schools was still in its beginnings. Here and there different springs gave rise to different streams of thought, but it was not until the following century that these streams began to flow in a common channel, and the philosophy of the schools, uniting all its tributaries, took a definite course, the direction of which may be easily traced. Rhabanus, Erigena, Gerbert, and the monks of Auxerre are practically independent of one another; yet each in his own way exhibits the essential traits of the Scholastic, vague and ill-defined as these traits are, when compared with the characteristics of the Scholasticism of the thirteenth century: All these philosophers agree in maintaining that there is no contradiction between philosophy and theology; they hold that dialectic should be applied to the great problems of human thought and they all attempt, on a more or less restricted scale, to make faith reasonable. Scholasticism in the ninth century draws the first rough sketch of what Scholasticism in the thirteenth century will be.

This period is generally described as "an age of blind realism"; but it is far from being so. True it is that Erigena's philosophy, the most ambitious constructive attempt of the ninth century, is based on the realistic concept of the universe; but it must be remembered that Erigena's realism did not go uncontradicted, and while Eric, Remi, and the author of the Glosses did not succeed in finding the formula best fitted to express the doctrine of moderate realism, they refused with unmistakable emphasis to accept the ultra-realistic concept. It was through the storm and stress of the age of Roscelin and Abelard that moderate realism struggled to an adequate expression. In that age, too, there first appeared rationalism, which, in a sense to be subsequently explained, is regarded by Cardinal González as an essential phase of the Scholastic movement. The occasion of the extraordinary intellectual activity of the second period of Scholasticism was the problem of universals.

{1} Op. cit., I, 785.

{2} Quoted from the manuscript by Hauréau, op. cit., I, 192.

{3} Ibid., 194.

{4} Cf. Hauréau, op. cit., I, 202.

{5} Ibid., 203.

{6} Ibid., 205.

{7} Poole (Illustrations of History of Medieval Thought, p. 337) shows that in the line Iepa hunc scripsi glossans utcunque libellum, the word Iepa is an interpolation.

{8} Cousins Ouvrages inédits d'Abélard, LXXXII.

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