John Wycliffe.

Joannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) online

. (page 2 of 34)
Online LibraryJohn WycliffeJoannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) → online text (page 2 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

paragraphs was originally a complete and separate section. On pp. 202
and 2o3 we meet with wide gaps, of which the series might perhaps
be much more numerous, had we any sure test at hand by which to
discover them. But our unique MS. is the only witness to the text, and
we have to deal with it alone. It will be seen hy whoever takes the
trouble to study our method of arranging the text, that it is strictly
conservative in this sense, that we have carefully avoided tampering
with it unless in cases of absolute necessity. In all that concerns the
desideratum of legibility, we have kept as close as possible to the
excellent model given by Dr. Buddensieg; closer indeed than in our
first edited work. This may be especially noted in the punctuation
(which cannot be too frequent with the rambling construction of
Wyclif's sentences) and certain peculiarities of spelling, of which I now
recognize the importance. Notwithstanding all this, a certain amount
of asperity and want of polish, which I trust will be excused, was

A few words more must be said about the explanatory notes
and references, and an observation or two made on a field of work
which gives unspeakable trouble to the Editor. To look at the number
of quotations verified in the author's writings, which, together with
their place, are to be found at the end of the published edition, is
to have but the faintest idea of the trial of patience involved in such
work. Wyclif, as we have seen, often quotes titles of books without
the name of the author, authors without naming their works; the
quotations are often wrong or not in agreement with the titles and
divisions now given to the works. Of the treatises quoted, many are
to be found only in first editions, or in MS. Only the man who has
gone through the test can properly understand what it is to read a
whole MS. or printed book for the sake of a quotation, in some
cases only to say that the work was all in vain and must be gone
through once more. Now if we consider that Wyclif, in the De Ente
Praedicamentali and the XIII Questiones makes almost Jive hundred
such quotations, we may perhaps see that the editor's patience must
have undergone a hard trial, with such endless work and such enormous
waste of time — often with so little to show for it. These were the


difficulties that were primarily the cause of the delay in the publishing
and printing of the present treatise.

A conscientious verification of the sources from which Wyclif
drew, is, it is quite true, not without interest. We at once see that
the author prepared himself for none of his yet published works —
not even for the Trialogus — with such care and study of other
writers as for De Ente Predicamentali. Wvclif does not indeed
always quote Aristotle or other philosophers immediately; he often
does so indirectly through the writings of other celebrated men (see
p. 102 note; p. 167 and particularly, p. i35), especially Bradwardine
(from whom he often quotes the 'Philosopher'), Anselm and others.
But is would not be by any means allowable to conclude that he
was not perfectly acquainted with the great masters of thought whose
works he thus quotes at second hand. Not only in Scripture and
in the Fathers, but also in Scholastic lore, Wyclif is quite at home;
he knows all about the old grammarians and mathematicians as well
as about the Stagyrite and his Arabian commentators. It is curious
to attempt to buckle on the armour of learning which the students and
masters of an English University in the second half of the XIV"^
century had to wear. Writings of which the titles are now scarcely
known (much less read), were then in general use as a sort of
intellectual panacea; other logical and philosophical books, then
supremely important, have now fallen into complete oblivion. Plato
is known to Wyclif only by Aristotle and Augustine; but he is quite
master of all his sources of knowledge, and deals with them as he
chooses.^ But it is not our task to go into these phases of Wyclif's
mental activity and thought: it belongs much rather to such as use
and study his works. And if we have been able to put into their
hands for this purpose an edition which, though not without many
imperfections, is yet of real use to them, all the trouble that we have
taken will have been amply rewarded.

' This may be seen in his original manner of expounding the Bible, his
controversy against Aristotle, and in general with all the authors that he quotes,
whether patristic or profane. Note especially his treatment of a certain letter of
Grosseteste, p. 148, 1. i3 — i.^.



II. Quaestiones XIII.

1. Coutents and critical estimation of tlie work.

As a good many of the questions that indispensably require an
answer have already been replied to in that part of the Introduction
that concerns De Elite Pi'aedicamentali, we can here afford to be
brief, merely dealing with such points as must almost exclusively be
considered as peculiar to these 'thirteen logical and philosophical
questions'. The first is the collection of heterogeneous matters under
an argumentative form, to which we cannot find a parallel in any other
of Wyclii's productions. As the title indicates the subject of each
question in almost every case, it were needless to repeat them here
in order. Onlv 11, concerning the forms of hypothetical propositions,
IX which discusses the different theories of ideation by means of
intellect, and XIII upon the sources of cognition can properly be
called problems of logic, dealing with the formal laws of right
reasoning. In the choice of the other debatable matters, Wyclif seems
above all to have consulted variety. I and VIII discuss the creation
of the world and the time and conditions of its existence; III, IV
and VII have to do with free-will, the happiness of man, and the
possession of riches; V and X go into the nature of the First Cause
and the Prima Substantia; VI enquire whether and how the heavens
are composed of matter and form; XI deals with the indivisibility of
forms in animated beings; and lastly XII is an exceedingly curious
investigation into the nature of comets!

But each of these questions is solved according to the same
fixed and invariable plan. First, arguments in favour of one opinion,
and then reasons proving the opposite, are adduced: certain general
principles are then laid down^ from which conclusions and corollaries
are drawn, until at length the truth or falsehood of the first proposition
appears. It would however be a great mistake to infer from the
shortness of each question, taken separatelv, and this mechanical way
of solving them all, that the results of the disquisitions are themselves
of but small value. Two or three remarks will suffice to make this
clear. As for the question of free-will, v. g. there is no doubt (and
this we can most decidedly affirm), that Wyclif follows Anselm very
closelv (p. 247 and scq.) Rarelv has it been stated in so terse and


pregnant a form that the loss of tlie will is a much greater injurv
than any temporal loss, that the voluntary abandonment of that will
is a far more criminal act than suicide, and that the restitution of
free-will to the sinner by the grace of God is a miracle far more
stupendous than the raising of the dead. No less important is the
discussion on happiness, how far and by what means this desire of
man can be appeased and satiated; it is dwelt upon at considerable
length (p. 25 I and seq.) Wyclif grants that earthly concupiscence may
in some cases be satisfied bv that which is temporally desirable: but,
says he very pointedly, that cannot be "racione et racionabiliter" ,
nor "plene et totaliter sine errore". Only the ^'ultimus finis simpliciter"
is able to give true and complete satisfaction to the yearning heart
of man: which no temporal good can do. It is extremely remarkable
that Wyclif is here thinking, not of the contemplatio Dei of Christian
faith, but of Aristotle's Metaphysics and of his conception of the
siimmuni boniim itijinitiim, to which our author seems to revert.

We cannot but notice a very interesting development that occurs
in Wyclif's handling of the seventh question: Of riches. Riches, he
concludes (p. 267) are useful even for a virtuous man. The possession
of riches is allowed, because indigentia temporalis exists. But, he
continues, what would happen if this indigentia no longer obtained?
All things would then be possessed in common, ''quia in extrema
necessitate status miserie omnia debent esse communia, sicut aer
necessarius omnibus debet esse communis" . It is clear that Wyclif fails
bv onlv one step to reach the doctrine of Communism, now so much
in vogue, which considers this extremus status as already existing in
reality. We will not trv to find in these words more than thev
contain: but they unmistakeably bridge over the gap between our
author's earlier opinions and those social and political theories which
inspired him and were translated into actions at a later period.

Power and energy of language, a keen logical acumen and
plenitude of learning give value to this remarkable collection of
questions, and make them to rank equally with the other works of
the same writer in the same field. If the latter contain profounder
doctrine, the XII I Qiiaestiones are excellent contributions to dialectical
discussion: the opposition of affirmative and negative theses, the pro
and contra of contradictory arguments, are all made to serve his


purpose, and to draw the desired conclusion together with its con-
sequences. And it is quite in agreement with this point of view that
the questions chosen belong to such evidely different subjects of in-
vestigation. The author wished to show how useful the dialectical
method is in such various matters, and what advantages may be
gained by following that plan.

2. Autlienticity and Date of tlie work.

We have but very few external proofs that the Quaestiones XIII
are a genuine work of Wyclif. There is neither inscriptio nor sub-
scriptio naming or even indicating Wyclif as the author. Yet we find it
along with other works of Wyclif (see below); and some writing on
the cover of the MS. which we shall have occasion to mention
more at length, and which was certainly of the same date as the
volume itself, seems to refer to the treatise in the words questiones
proposicionum. But here intrinsic evidence abundantly makes up for
the want of extrinsic proof. As already remarked, not only a series
of ideas peculiar to Wyclif, but the form, the diction, the dialectical
acuteness, make it an easy task to recognize the author of works
already known to us. The sources quoted in the work belong to the
same general circle of writers, save that they are here slightly
enlarged by a few new quotations. And our demonstration may be
considered as complete, if we add some details that are seemingly
without importance. Take, v. g. the example on p. 293; "matiente
eodem serpente, abscisa aliqua parte eius, majiet eadem forma sub-
stanciali, que priiis fuH" (from Augustine, De Quantitate Aniinae,
XXXI, 62, on p. 295); it is repeated, and repeated in the same
manner in Wyclifs book De Compositione Hominis. We may say
the same of his interesting treatment of the theory of ideas, a com-
parison of the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle which coincides with
a similar passage in the Trialogiis. Thus each of these treatises are
links in a chain, and connected one with another.

There is one passage which is of very great importance in fixing
the dale of the work. Towards the end of Qu. I, Wyclif examines
the signification of the verb creare, and gives as an example the
transsubstantiation that takes place in the Mass. Now it is well known



what an important part this question plays in the gradual development
of Wyclif s theological ideas. In his great work De Ente, he has given
the doctrine of annihilation a different turn.' But in this place there
is not to be seen the slightest trace of an opinion which he afterwards
expressed with so much conviction. On the contrary, speaking of the
priest, Wyclif uses the following unmistakable expressions: "Pane
totaliter et plene cessante existere facit ibi sub specie visibili esse
corpus Cristi &c'' (p. 232). We must therefore place the date of
the Quaestiones XIII rather earlier, between De Composicione Hominis
and De Ente; and to fix the date yet more accurately, between i36o
and 1 362, though nearer the former than the latter.

3. State of tlie Manuscript.

The XIII quaestiones are unfortunately lo be found only in a single
MS. It is the Codex of the University Library at Prague^ V, E. 14.
a paper Manuscript of 220 numbered leaves, and several others not
numbered \by^2\'5 centim. Upon the wooden binding outside is the
following inscription on two bits of parchment:




















- — -






which we may read thus: Questiones —Wikleph de probandis propo-
sicionibus et de yppoteticis et questionibus (?) proposicionum. The
smaller piece of parchment is evidently an old library number. The
MS. belongs to the XV^'^ century.

With regard to the contents, we have only to notice that the
Quaestiones extend from f. 177 to 202, and may refer the reader for
the rest of the MS. to a very interesting publication of Mr. Dziewicki,
which is shortly to appear. He is at present making the MS. the object
of his most serious study.

The circumstance that caused the greatest difficulty in forming
a text, in the case of De Ente Praedicamentali, was that we could
recur to but one source; but the difficulty is greatly enhanced in

1 Compare this passage with Buddensieg, Jolianii W'iclit und seine Zeit, p. iSo.


the case of the XIII Qiiaestiones. The copyist, we are almost forced
to believe, did his very best towards rendering his writing as illegible
as possible. The editor, who has for the laiit eight years been occupied
with XV^'' Century MSS., of which many were rather illegible, must
admit that he never met with so hard a palaeographic problem as
the present one. All through the work we continually meet with
sentences that must rather be guessed at than read: and I may add
with much satisfaction that my esteemed fellow- worker in Wyclif,
Mr. Dziewicki, fully endorses my opinion as to the difficulty of deci-
phering the MS. The principal defect of the scribe is his excessive
thoughtlessness, which absolutely required the revision of a corrector:
but there are still many regrettable mistakes to be found in the work,
which in general can hardly be corrected by the guesses of a modern
editor. We may give an extremely characteristic instance, showing
how much the MS. has suffered in its successive transcriptions. On

p. 261, we read: '^Alia autem est forma extrinseca et talis

dicitur esse forma exemplaris rei, que non est aliud quam exemplar
ad quod respicit opifex, ui ad eius similitudinem formet opus suum
sicut poliges kopyto* respicit siitor, ut secundum ipsam formam
soleam dicitur forma solee." The words, poliges Kopyto, though quite
incomprehensible, are unmistakably distinct, and I could make nothing
of them until I remembered that the same idea was to be found in
De Ente Predicamentali, p. 148. Robert Grosseteste is the authoritv
cited in both passages (Ep. I; see notes and index), and an inspection of
the original shows that poliges Kopyto is, a mistake, for ''pes ligneus ad
quem'', &c.! There is no need for comment on such corruption of
the text, that baffles every conjecture of criticism; but two conclusions
may be drawn hence. First that the basis with which we have to deal is
very far from certain. Second, that the knowledge of the sources from
which Wyclif draws is indispensable for the reconstruction of the text.
With this second treatise, as with the first, the greatest trouble
has been taken to verify every reference. They have been collected
together in order to assist a comparative study of sources, and the
Greek texts have been given in the original: although I was of course

' To Mr. Dziewicki I am indeblcd fur tlio following cxpiaiiiUion: 'Kopyto'
means in Bohemian the very same as pes ligneus; a cobbler's last.


well aware that Wvclif understood and studied Aristotle, Euclid and
Theodosius only in their Latin translations.

If we consider the wealth of quotations in these Quaestiones,
we at once perceive the enormous preparation and study requisite
for each thesis (cf. the question on Cornets), and the extent to which
the writer was master of his work: in this point of view, the second
treatise is by no means inferior to the first.

At the conclusion of our Introduction a very pleasant duty
remains to be fulfilled: I beg to thank all those whose kind aid
has forwarded the completion of this work. It is already well known
how much the Managers of the Wyclif Society have deserved of
learning for their publication of these works. Most especially would
I thank Mr. F. D. Matthew, who not only took the trouble to translate
my side-notes, but very carefully and at a great sacrifice of leisure
and repose several times looked through every one of the proof sheets.
The result of this aid rendered valuable by Mr. Matthew's ripe
experience and erudition, has been a great many corrections, excellent
hints and useful explanations, that I have inserted in almost every
page of the book. I here beg to ofier Mr. Matthew the thanks which
are due to him for his labour and self-denial.

The Editor wishes at the same time to name the man to whom
this edition is inscribed. The active good will and ever-ready help
of Herr Ho/rath Ritter von Birk have never once failed me in all
my studies and labours. For this assistence, both in counsel and by
acts, my dedication of this work to him is but a very small token
of gratitude; appropriate, however, in so far as I have chosen the
occasion when the veteran amongst the librarians of Austria now closes
his sixtieth year of administrative service.

In the very numerous problems that have arisen as to the
authorities cited by Wyclif and the difficulties in deciphering the
MS. I have received much assistance from Herr Gustos Dr. Goeldlin
von Tiefenau, whose experience and knowledge was of great service
to me; I may also thank Mr. Dziewicki, who unfortunately joined the
band of Wyclif workers only quite lately. And lastly I wish to
acknowledge the kindness of the Directors of Prague University for
twice sending me the codex V. E. 14.

Vienna, September i8c(0.

Dr. R. Beer.


Supposito ex superius declaratis et dicendis in posterum, On

quod ens communissimum possibile equum cum intelligi- clnft'^irany

bili: Restat videre, si omne ens sit ens predicamentale, J^^'^^Y ,,
r ^ •, ^ J . ,. , ' Dredicamental?

et videtur, quod non, quia omne ens predicamentale est Examination of

substancia vel accidens; non omne ens est substancia ac5ord1ng^o°the

vel accidens, er^O etc. definition of the

»f '' 1 •! , ... conception

Minor patet de negacionibus, de pretericionibus, acciclent.
futuricionibus et potenciis cum aliis veritatibus yppoteti-

locarum, que non possunt appropriare alicui predicamento.

Fit oppositum tripliciter: Primo per hoc, quod sin-

gulum incomplexorum significat substanciam, quali-

tatem etc., ut ponit Philosophus in predicamentis etc.

Item omne intelligibile est, ut probatum est secundo

i5 1ibro, tractatu de Ydeis, ergo omne intelligibile habet
esse necessarium et eternum, et per consequens omnis
futuricio vel pretericio est accidens rei, cuius est
futuricio vel pretericio, cum presupponit subiectum,
cuius est pretericio vel futuricio, et posset sibi deesse.

20 Sic enim dividit autor Sex Principiorum quando in
presens, preteritum et futurum. Et de negationibus
patet, quod omnis negacio est quidlibet preter suum

14. Relegamur ad ipsiiis WicHjii opus amplissimum „de Ente
sive Summa Intellcctualium" cuius libri alterius partem quintam
esse tractatum dc Idcis voluit Shirley, A Catalogue of the original
works of John Wyclif, Oxford, 1865, p. 3. 20, Alitor Sex

Principiorum: est Gilbertus Porretanus, cuius opuscuhan introduc-
toriuin legitur in editione: Aristotclis Staj^iritac omnia, quae extant,
opera . . . Averrois Cordubensis in ea opera . . Commentaria . . .
Venetiis, i552, vol. I, ubi fol 32 (cap. Ill), cf. hacc: Differt enim
quando ab eo, quod est ubi: quoniam in quacuinque tenipus est
vel fuit vel erit, in eo quidem, quando est vel fuit vel erit, quod
secundum idem tempus dicitur.



contradictorium positivum, ut non-homo est omne aliud
positum ab homine; ideo, quanto positivum contra-
dictorium est striccius, est negacio amplior, et econtra,
ut non-hoc est omne aliud ab hoc, et non-ens non
potest esse; nee differt quo ad predicacionem, sive 5
negacio ponitur infinite, sive pure negative secundum
suum ordinem.

Item ad esse in predicamento sufficit universalitas
vel singularitas, sed quidlibet citra Deum est universale
vel singulare, ergo quidlibet citra Deum est in genere, lo
et per consequens in predicamento.

Minor patet ex hoc, quod omne tale est communi-
cabile vel incommunicabile, et per consequens univer-
sale vel singulare. Non enim videtur racio, quare est
dare speciem hominis vel asini, quin per idem esti5
dare speciem unitatis et puncti, et sic de singulis
convenientibus; nam esse punctum convenit cuilibet
puncto quiditative univoce et specifice, quod sufficit
ad esse speciei. Functus ergo convenit specifice cum
puncto, et differt genere ab instanti vel angulo, cum 20
omnis dif^'erencia sit generis, speciei vel numeri; cum
ergo plus convenit cum puncto, quam instanti, relin-
quitur, quod una sit conveniencia specitica, et alia
generalis; non ergo est racio, quare talia non essent
universalia. 20

Pro declaracione istius materie oportet supponere,

quod ens dicatur de omni signabili per complexum, et

sic quoddam sit ens actuale vel existencie, quoddam

ens potenciale, quod habet esse in causis secundis, que

possunt ipsum actualiter producere, et quoddam ens est, 3o

quod solum habet esse intelligibile in Deo, ut omne,

quod solum Deus potest producere. et non actualiter

existit. Prima pars huius supposicionis declarata est primo

traclatu. Secunda pars declarabitur in materia de Ydeis.

Transition to Ex ista supposicione patet, quod claudit contra- ?5
the generic ... . . . i- •

conception: diccionem ens esse una vice communius et alia vice

Tlie entity bv jj^i^jg comniune, cum omne intelligibile, ut sit,

itselt cannot be _ _ ' . .

conceived in necessario sit eternum. Secunda pars inferens primam
extended" and^in patet ex hoc, quod si aliquod ens potest intelligi, ipsum
-''-'tricpd intelligitur, et si intelligitur, ipsum est intelligibile, et4o


I. Cod.: positum. 36. communius] cod.: (jiy.

34. Primo tractatii: Cf. y.otam in fine cap. IV huiiisce


sic est; sed assertum est necessarium de quolibet
sensibili, ideo et quodlibet existens ex eodem.

Secundo suppono, quod per se genus, de quo nobis
solum sermo, significat universale univoce quiditative
5 per se communicatum multis speciebus, sicut econtra
species est pars subiectiva universalis contenta sub
genere. Patet ista supposicio ex declaratis de Universa-
libus tractatu primo et quarto. In quolibet enim genere
predicamentali est unum suppositum, quod est minimum

lo in composicione, quamvis sit metrum et mensura omnium
aliorum, et quotquot sunt ordines, tot genera minorum
sunt danda, cum sit status in quolibet processu, natura
abhorrente processum in infinitum. In ordine ergo
composicionis rei ex suis partibus quiditativis est genus

i3 generativum minimum et primum illius ordinis. In

ordine vero composicionis quantitative rei ex suis

partibus est indivisibile primum, ut punctuale substancie

iQi vel punctus aut unitas in genere quantitatis, | vel aliquid

proporcionale, ut minimum naturale quo ad alia. In

2o ordine vero composicionis qualitative est dare materiam
simplicissimam, ut materiam primam, et formam sim-
plicissimam, ut formam corporeitatis quo ad extremum
inferius; sed quo ad extremum perfeccione superius est
anima hominis prima inter formas sublunares, et corpus

25 hominis primum materiale.

Sed cum impossibile sit pluralitatem naturalem esse, Since every

Online LibraryJohn WycliffeJoannis Wiclif De ente praedicamentali (Volume 11) → online text (page 2 of 34)