John Wycliffe.

Joannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) online

. (page 1 of 34)
Online LibraryJohn WycliffeJoannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


i^-.i^\ *^y^A







■' - .

■V ■'*.■ '*"*^**.V^ -/,'■■: *:

'*'■'■ j"" '■■' *

■. .wv: !■

















.57 AND ;-.'.) LlIDGAl !■: 1111,1-.













The publication of the two philosophical works, De Ente Praedi-
camentali and Quaestiones A'lIT, is the fulfilment of a promise made
five years ago by the writer, in his edition of De Composicione hominis,
to edit some more of Wyclif's philosophical works, and thus to make
this great master's system of thought better known. I began these
ulterior labours in 1886, by copying the Quaestiones for the Wyclif
Society; but they were interrupted and unavoidably postponed for
some time on account of travels and various other engagements. At
length Dr. Furnivall, whose untiring activity in all matters concerning
Wyclif is so well known, prevailed upon me to edit the Qiiestiones XIII;
and as this treatise was not sufficient to make up a volume, another
was to be adjoined to it, I chose De Ente Praedicavientali, copied the
MS. in 1888 — 1889, and continued preparing the volume for press up
to the present time.

I must add a few remarks, necessary for a Just appreciation both
of the treatises themselves and of the present edition as it stands.

I. De Ente Praedicamentali.
1. Title and place of the work in Wyclif's philosophical writings.

The first question regards the title. The earliest writer, so far
as 1 know, who mentions this work is Michael Denis, in his Codices
Manuscripti thcologici Bibliothecae Palatinae Vindobonensis. Vindo-
bonae I7(j4, Vol. 7, part. II, page i5ii. His mention runs thus:
Cod. CCCVI,fol. igo, p. 2. Absque titulo; tractatus De Ente Particulari
qui incipit: Suppositis ex superius declaratis et declarandis ' in posterum

' Our edition has dicendis, the only right reading of d'^'^.



quod ens communissimum etc. The same title is repeated, nearly in
the same words, not only by Shirley (Catalogue, p. 2) but also in
the I'abulae Codicum, vol. 2, s. n. 4307. In Denis' notice, it may
seem strange that absque titulo is immediately followed bv so precise
a description of the heading: De Bute Particulari. Yet it does not
follow that the heading is of Denis' invention. It is true that we
find no title upon fol. 190', where the work begins; but at the top
ff. 193 and 194 we read an abbreviated title as follows: d' eiite phtli.
This accounts for the heading; but the abbreviation has certainly
been hitherto misread. We can no more read pnth as particularly
according to the rules of palaeography, than we can deny that the
contents of the work relate to the praedlcamenta. I have therefore had
no hesitation in reading De Ente Praedlcamentali as the true title
of the work.

We see that the marginal notes are not without a certain
significance. They have been of use, not only as regards the preceding
question, but in determining the right place of the work in Wyclif's
philosophical series. At the end of De Composltlone Homlnis (a separate
work, as is well known), there follows on f. i58 (in red ink on the
top of the page i):

Incipit tctat9 p'mg Lib' p'm9 d' ente 191 Ca"^p'm

which is the first part of the first book De Ente (Shirley, p. 2, N° 8,
Book I). The same heading is also on the following pages but divided,
so that half is on each page. The following diagram will explain these
details vet more clearly:

F. I 58'

Tractatus p'mo

J.ib' p'mo

d' ente 19111

F. 1 59

and so on until f, 167', where Tractatus Primus comes to an end.
and a note in red ink, evidently by the same hand, says: Explicit



tractatus primus de ente in communi; and on the same line: Incipit
tractatus seciindus libri de ente prima in communi; and Shirley's
treatise follows (p. 2, N° 8, Book II). Here too we find, on If. 168
and i6q for instance the appropriate heading:

K. 1 68'
TctaU) 2()

liber p'mo

'ente p'mo i<ini

F. 160

Shirley's statement as to pagination requires correction here,
Book I, 1,2, does not end at f. 167 (as stated p. 3, end), but goes on
to f. 177, where we read the closing words of tr. 2: "indirecte occasio
peccandi" . We must also notice a regrettable omission in Shirley's
otherwise valuable catalogue. F. 177' begins with the words Consequens
est purgare: it is the treatise referred to p. 2, N° 8, Book 1, 3; but
Shirlev does not mention this. The copyist, intending to remove all
doubts as to the connection of this treatise with the former ones, has
taken care to point it out as before, by a note at the top of the page;
and we find on flf. 181', 182,

F. 181'

d'ente 19111 Tctatg39

lib' p'mq

F. 182


in the same hand as all along. This third treatise ends on f. 184 with
ihe words lalia signa oportet, as given bv Shirley.

Leaving f. 184, we come, on f. i85, to the words: Obiciencium
contra dicta de universalibus, unfortunately without any heading; but
there is no doubt whatever that it is identical with Shirley's treatise



(p. 2, N" 8, Book I, 4), although he has read circa for contra. This
treatise ends at f, 190; it is perhaps incomplete, as the desinit of
the Vienna MS. (saltern si deus vellet, nan superflueret) is not in
agreement with that of Shirley.

Here we come to the critical point of the whole question. De
Elite Praedicamentali begins on f. 190', and on 193' and 194 we read:

F. io3'

d'entc Kini tctatcj p'mq q'nto Ip'o

d'cnte pntli

F. 194

This heading, taken together with the former ones, completely
decides the following points:

1 . That this treatise is the fifth by order of the different works
of which the series begins on f. i58 of Shirley's Cod. 4307.

2. That they are all parts of one great whole: De Ente in
Commiini; i. e. of the first book of the Sunima.

3. That the treatise on f. i85, though not provided with a
separate heading, is obviously the fourth by order.

4. And that the treatise De Ente Praedicamentali is not, as has
been hitherto believed, a distinct work, but an integral part of the
book De Ente; that is, the fifth division of the first book; and there-
fore the treatises numbered 5 and 6 by Shirley (p. 3), vi\. De Uni-

versalibus and De Tempore, are really the sixth and seventh parts
of the rt^ork.

The question follows, how far this view is borne out by the MS.
of Trinity Coll. Cambridge, B. 16, 2 which Shirley calls the "MS. of
the whole work except the prologue of I. Tract. 6"; whether it merely
bears testimony to the text of De Ente Praedicamentali, or has more
lacunes than those mentioned by Shirley; in a word, whether the
fifth treatise is or is not completely wanting.

By the friendly services of Mr. Matthew, my fellow-worker of
the Wyclif Society, I have been enabled to ascertain that the MS. is


indeed incomplete; hut not so truncated as to leave no indication
that the original plan of the copyist was to introduce in that place
the present treatise.

Several pages are left blank at the very spot where De Ente
Praedicamentali should have been, the scribe obviously intending to
insert this treatise at some more convenient time. This also accounts
for the want of a prologue to the sixth treatise.

Besides this important fact, many intrinsic proofs confirm the
truth of our hypothesis. We hardly find in any of Wyclif's hitherto
published works so many quotations from himself as in De Ente
Praedicamentali: they have all been collected in the "Index of
quotations".^ But what gives them so much importance in the present
question is the form in which they are put. Wyclif, at the very outset
ip. I, 14), says: nt probatum est secimdo libro, tractatu de ydeis.
A little further (p. 2, 24): Secunda pars declarabitur in materia de
ydeis. Afterwards (p. 12, i3 and 32): oportet notare dicta tractatu
primo, capitulo 4° . . . . Ideo, sicut dictum est tractatu primo, capitulo
primo. And lastly (p. 118): sicut est dare primum intellectum et
volitum extra deum . . . ut patebit secundo libro. All these references
to a liber secundus in which the subject is dealt with more fully,
or to a tractatus primus in which the point in question has already
been discussed, can have no meaning unless we admit that De Ente
Praedicamentali is part of a whole to which both tractatus primus
and liber secundus belong. This great work is no other than the two
voluminous books De Ente. Wyclif's multitudinous quotations all agree
perfectly well with the divisions of the work as given in the MS. of
Trinity Coll. Cambr., B. 16, 12; and we may for brevity's sake, refer
the reader to the different places where they occur in the text.

2. Contents of the work.

After the foregoing explanations, we may study the work from
the stand-point of its philosophical contents and value. As has been
seen, the author considers it as a part of a whole; but the place he

' We of course except two sentences from the Trialogus and the De Com-
pnsitione Hominis, which are placed in the Index merely for the sake of completeness,
as they are accompained by no signs of qurttation.


assigns it is not accidental; it is the result of a plan well thought out,
and in strict harmony with an inflexible arrangement of each separate
part. When Wyclif quoted preceding and subsequent developments
of his doctrine, he had probably already completed the whole of
De Ente in his mind. The basis of his system was so firm, so
unshakable, that such references as these: '^We have discussed the
question at length in the first treatise: . . . this will be dealt with in
the second book;'' far from doing any injury to the work, are of
real use, as aiding towards a comprehensive view of the whole. But
the consequence is a difficulty that critics ought not to underrate:
how can we properly appreciate a work that is not indepedent,
and has no value except as connected with what precedes and follows
it? And such an appreciation will be possible only when all the
contents of the Trinitv MS. are published.

As concerns the work in itself, especially the first part, the title
J)e Ente Praedicamentali is well chosen. In the first eleven chapters,
Wyclif follows pretty closely the plan of the celebrated Organon,
then a classical work, ^ After having dealt in general with predicamental
being in the first chapter, which concludes thus (p. 14) omnia noveni
predicainenta accidencium reduciintur ad cathegoriam siibstanciae ut
siium principium^ he imitates Aristotle and gives us a preliminary
discussion of the known subjects — the Aequivoca and the Univoca
(cap. ^, Categ.). Afterwards (ch. IV, V.) he treats of the very foundation
of all the categories, coinciding with the ideas ens or genus: these
chapters correspond more or less closely to cap. 2, 3, Categ. The
sixth chapter deals with qiianiitj- (^cap. 4, Categ.). Chapters 7 and 8
have to do with Relation (cap. 5, Categ.), which is stated to be
naturaliter consequens ad quantitatein et qualitatetn. Quality is not
admitted to be a category, as Aristotle affirms (cap. 6, Categ.). Wyclif
derives the genus Action immediately from that of Relation and deals
with the idea of movement, which he includes in the former. The last
chapter is but the prelude of a question which will be debated throughout
several other sections; viz: whether Action and Passion are identical.

' It is obvious that wc cannot here discuss tlic controversial question as to
whether the Categories, as thev now stand, are really the work of Aristotle (see
Prantl, Geschichte dcr l.ogik im Abcndlandc, 1, p. 90J.


Chapter lo is a verv singular one. While continuing the foregoing
discussion about the identity or difference of action and passion, he
enters upon a quite different subject, which it was at first very difficult
for the editor to understand. At the beginning of the chapter
(pp. 102 — io5), Wyclif lays down six points, which the reader will
find in the side-notes. But the difficulty of discovering what rhose
six points in debate signify, proceeds from the fact that instead of
laying down the arguments jt^ro and contra, as usual with him, and thus
ending the discussion at once, he prolongs it through a considerable
part of the work (about thirty pages). Thus we find that he mentions
the first point on p. 102 and discusses it on p. 108; the second, on
p. io3 and p. 112; the third on p. 104 and p. 118; the fourth on
p. 121; the fifth on p. i25; and the sixth, stated on p. io3, appears
only at p. i3i: so that the questions concerning action and passion
are dealt with in the most comprehensive way throughout chapters Xf,
XII, XI H, XIV, XV, XVI. This is all the more remarkable, as showing
that Wyclif was extremely methodical in his treatment of every part
of this work, and that he strictly adheres throughout to the plan laid
down: and it is clear that the treatise before us is a mature and
deeply meditated production of the illustrious writer.

The discussion of the idea of Action in its highest form, the
action of God, particularly in the concursiis Dei ad actuiii is also
continued in Chapter XVIl; and as the Divine concursus to every event
is an indispensable requisite, it is asked whether bad actions are
included in this assertion; for, according to Wyclif, God is the Supreme
Genus of all Praedicabilia, so that everything predicable appears as
a creature of God. Here the author answers with much truth that
the pe7' se malum does not exist anv more than the inseparabiliter
malum, because their non-existence is caused by God; and that for
the same reason there is nothing evil volitum et inseparabiliter. The
will and action of Lucifer are here adduced as an instance. His
determination to be "like unto God", was good: the fault lay only
in the manner of carrying it out (p. 161), This section of the work
(which is continued into Chapter XVI 11) is one of the most perfect of
the whole treatise, and may be called the culmination of the development
of Wyclif's doctrines. We may perhaps look upon this as a strange
culmination, that sets up God as the First Cause of all Predicaments,


and absolutely denies the genus of malum per se. But it bears witness
to most profound philosophical and theological thought, valuable
chiefly on account of the pleasing light it throws on the humble and
pious character of the writer.

We are quite justified in calling this section a culminating point
or finishing touch. The next paragraph discusses an altogether different
subject-matter; so much so, indeed, that we may reasonably believe
that so brusque a transition is the result rather of the very corrupt
state in which the MS. has come down to us, than of the author's
original plan. It is hardly possible to conceive Wyclif writing: Con-
sequens est videre quain extense sit loquendum de tempore, directly
after his disquisitions concerning Lucifer and sin. And our suspicions
are still further strengthened by the fact that at the end of Ch. XVIII
a considerable part of f. 232' is left blank.

The details concerning time-sequences again follow Aristotle's
Categories step by step. But here also Wyclif sets out with the
aeternitas dei, who was, is, and will he per omnia saecula saeculorum
(p. 1 80). From this truth our author works out several conclusions
intended to give us a right index of Time, of the Successive, and of
the Instantaneous. Unfortunately we are not able to go very deep
into these details, as the proof that a Before and an Afterwards exist
requires an enormous scaffolding of assumptions (p. 187, 188). Of
course we have the evolution of the verb de praesenti as thus restricted
in its meaning (Ch. XX). At a given instant of time, the successiviwi
is absolutely inconceivable, for it is made up omnibus suis partibus
per ordinem sibi succedentibus. This conception is linked, in a manner
that reminds us of Aristotle, with the solution of the question
whether condensation (densari) or rarefaction (rarefieri) of time is
possible (Ch. XXI); after which the author again takes up the question
of ampUatio verhi de praesenti, and settles it with a considerable
number of quotations from various authors. This chapter is the end
of the present, but perhaps not of the original text. It is certain that
the treatise, as it stands, is unfinished; of the tres modi dicendi which
relate to the meaning of the verbum de praesenti, only one is dealt
with, the first. But we have certainly no reason to ascribe this to
the author rather than to the copvist.


3. Authenticity and date.

We have already pointed out that the whole of De Ente Predi-
camentali, as also the various treatises of De Ente sive summa in-
tellectialiuin, are but parts of the same whole, and belong to each
other as such. We have noted the c[uotations which prove it to
belong to that whole, and we have alluded to the position of De
Ente Predicametitali in the MS. 4307. It is therefore quite unnecessary
to bring forwards any further proofs concerning the authenticity of
this work, or to attempt to demonstrate that both method and style
have the true Wvcliffian ring throughout; that the circle of writers
whose ideas he brings to his aid are exactly adapted to the world
of ideas in which he habitually moves; and that the Doctor Evangelicus
never swerves from the sense of Scripture in the theories which he
propounds. Yet we cannot help observing certain important, though
less apparent, idiosyncrasies: for instance, a marked liking for examples
taken from optics and physics, as on p. 97, ^ and the repetition of
certain favourite examples taken from other authors, are to be found
here as in the other works of Wyclif (p. 82, lo).

If, however, nothing prevents a satisfactory solution of this
problem, we cannot say the same of the other, relative to the date
of the work. The question has already been debated by a known
authority. Buddensieg- speaking of Wyclifs doctrine on annihilation,
assigns the year i362 to its appearance; but he adds a note of inter-
rogation that leaves us in doubt; and the Editor, not hoping for
greater certitude, does not venture to fix a limit. There is only one
positive and undoubted fact to start from: viz., that in i36o, Wyclif
had already prepared most of his logical and philosophical treatises.
If therefore we assign a date a few years later to his most voluminous
and ripest work in this field of inquiry, we shall probably not be
far wrong. There is no trace whatever of political or theological
debates; we may therefore infer that when Wyclif wrote De Ente,
he had not yet entered the arena that was to bring him such great

' See Buddensieg, Johann Wiclif und seine Zeit. Gotha i885, p. loi.
'^ Buddensieg, Ubi supra, p. 180.


There is however a seemingly very weighty objection against
this date. We read at the very beginning of the treatise the following
words: *'Et ex isto patet quod omnes pretericiones et futuriciones,
cum sint eterne, independentes ab existencia substancie, non possunt
dici accidencia substancie create, et in raulto magis negaciones, i^t
patet tractatu de Veritate capitulo 4°". It at first seemed probable
to me that Wyclif was referring to his own treatise De Veritate
Sacrae Scripturae; and I took that for granted, not having the treatise
at hand at the time (it belongs to the series of yet unpublished
works), and not being able to identify Anselm's book De Veritate,
in a quotation of so vague a description. When Wyclif quotes the
great Saint of Canterbury, he usually employs more determinate
expressions, such as (p. 84, 16): Unde . . . docet Anselmus in lihello
sito de Veritate; or (p. 102, 13). Et confirmacio istiiis est Anselmus
in De Veritate, capitulo &'' ; or again (p. 172, 21): Ansehnus in De
Veritate. Now, if this quotation reallv belonged to Wyclifs treatise
De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae, we should be obliged to ascribe a much
later date to the whole of De Ente, which would then have been
written towards the close of the seventh decade of the fourteenth

But such is not the case. I have since had the opportunity of seeing
the Vienna MS. De Veritate Sacrae So'ipturae. A close perusal of the
whole of the fourth chapter convinced rae that it contained nothing
concerning the accidents of the substancia creata, or the negaciones.
On the other hand it seems quite possible that Wyclif alludes not to
Ch. 4 but Ch. 2 of Anselm's De Veritate. In this place (Migne, Ser.
lat. Vol. CLVIII, col. 471) the writer expounds the essence of the
Affirmation and the Negation in regard to proposition. We may
therefore completely and decidedly set aside the idea of a quotation
from Wyclifs treatise, and this objection against the date assigned
by us falls to the ground.

4. Critical examination of the text in its present state.

A fact that seldom occurs in the series of WvcJif's writings, is
noticeable: the written basis of the edited text consists of only one
MS., the Cod. 4307, already described by us in the Introduction to


our edition of De Compositione Hominis, and therefore requiring no
further detailed description. '

This circumstance renders it necessary to make all the more of
the text, as it stands in the only existing source, and examine it
more thoroughly; but here there is no sufficient foundation for a
critical review of the text. As the many corrections (partly copied in
the Adnotatio critica) obviously show, it was not transcribed as
carefully as might have been desired. Mistakes of quite an elementary
order are to be met with, which certainly have their source in igno-
rance alone. The matins altera of the corrector was indispensable in
many and many a passage. Sometimes whole words are left out, and
others are inadvertently repeated. In this edition we have kept to
the plan of supplying the omitted words in italics, and of enclosing
within brackets those that have been superfluously repeated.

These unintentional omissions lead us to a subject closely allied
with them: the more considerable gaps with which the text abounds.
We do not allude even to the omission of individual sentences (see
pp. 69, 118, 199, &c.) but to the more regrettable fact that we do
not edit Wyclifs De Ente F^-edicameutali in the form given to it by
the author: it is shortened and mutilated. This occurs not only
towards the end of the book (we have already mentioned the circum-
stance that, of the tres modi dicendi, p. 21 3, onlv one has been
transmitted to us) but throughout the treatise; it is many
important places, disfigured by considerable gaps. Thus neither the
fourth chapter nor its epilogue winds up in the way we are led to
expect; and the same observation applies to the appendices of Ch. V,

' I cannot here pass over the fact that Prof. I.oserth, noticing my edition of
De Compositione Hominis in Sybel's Historische Zeitschrift, has pointed out
several mistakes — for the most part clerical errors — in the description of the
MS. If the reader takes into consideration that my Introduction was written in
Madrid, and not at all subsequently corrected by me, he will surely view those
oversights with indulgence. But if Prof. I.oserth thinks that his duty as the reviewer
of so arduous a work goes no farther than to note these unimportant currigenda,
and to ascribe it only philosophical interest, I must raise a protest against
such a proceeding: all the more earnestly, because a man who knows by his own
personal experience all the difficulties of an edition of Wyclif, might be expected
to review rather less cursorily a work that is the fruit of many years of laborious


which have certainly not come down to us in their first form. It is
much more probable to assert, that on the contrary, each of these

Online LibraryJohn WycliffeJoannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 34)