William of Auvergne
William of Auvergne (c. 1190 – 1248), Bishop of Paris from 1228 until his death in 1249, was the first of the thirteenth century theologians to attempt to reconcile Aristotle with Christian doctrine, particularly with the teachings of Augustine of Hippo. His writings played a decisive role in the early development of medieval philosophy, and laid the foundation for future Aristotelians such as Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Robert Grosseteste.
William was thoroughly acquainted with the works of Aristotle, and with the Islamic philosophers, including Averroes and Avicenna. William borrowed many ideas on the nature of God and existence from Avicenna, but refuted doctrines such as the eternality of the world and the Cathar dualism. His major dogmatic treatise "De trinitate,” discussed the triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, explaining the procession of the Son from the Father in terms of the Father’s speaking his eternal Word, and the Holy Spirit as the mutual love between Father and Son. William strongly supported the mendicant orders and admitted the first member of a mendicant order to the faculty of the University of Paris.
William of Auvergne was born in the last years of the twelfth century in Aurillac, in the former province of Auvergne, in south central France. Little is known of William’s early life; the date of his birth is calculated from the fact that the usual age at which someone could become a professor of theology was 35. He studied at the recently-founded University of Paris and was made a professor, first in the faculty of arts and then in the faculty of theology in 1220. He became a canon of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and served as Bishop of Paris from 1228 until his death in 1249.
His episcopacy was an active one. In 1229, after some students rioted over a bar bill, Blanche of Castille, regent for the future king Louis, sent troops to quiet the disorder. Several students were killed and others injured. The masters and students protested to William and asked redress for the violations of their rights. Dissatisfied with his response, the masters and students went on strike and withdrew to other cities, from where they appealed to Pope Gregory, who wrote William a blistering letter of reprimand regretting having made William bishop. The pope also appointed a commission to settle the dispute and later intervened with Blanche to allow the masters to return. Before their return, William appointed Roland of Cremona, a Dominican, to a chair in theology, admitting the first member of a mendicant order to the faculty. Later, he allowed Alexander of Hales to retain his chair when he became a Franciscan.
William soon regained the favor of Pope Gregory IX and carried out many ecclesiastical missions on his behalf, such as the reformation of monasteries, and secular negotiations such as a peace treaty between France and England. Although he was devoted to Pope Gregory, when the Pope asked William for troops to defend him against the emperor, Frederick II, whom he had excommunicated, William sent only money.
On January 13, 1241, William, along with his chancellor and the masters in theology of the University of Paris, condemned ten propositions in theology. Though this was not a momentous event, it foreshadowed the condemnation of 219 propositions by another bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, in 1277, which significantly influenced the character of philosophy and theology taught at the University of Paris. As bishop, William was a strong supporter of the university school. He also took action against prostitution in the city.
In 1244, King Louis suffered from a fever that brought him near to death. When he recovered, he immediately asked William, who was at his bedside, for the cross of a crusader. William resisted but eventually conceded, convinced that once the king was fully recovered, he would come to his senses and give up the idea of a crusade. In 1247, when Louis again attempted to take up the crusader’s cross, William warned that this would throw France into turmoil and bluntly told the king that he had not been in his right mind when he had decided upon a crusade. Queen Blanche, the king’s brothers, and even the Pope took William’s side, and Louis gave in, but then threatened a hunger strike if he did not get his crusader’s cross. In 1248, during Louis IX's absence on the Seventh Crusade, William served on the regency council. By the time Louis returned from his crusade, William was dead, having died on Palm Sunday, 1249. He was buried in the church of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris.
Thought and Works
William D’Auvergne wrote several treatises on practical theology, including "De virtutibus," "De moribus," "De sacramentis;" philosophical works, "De universo," "De anima," "De immortalitate animae" (a modification of a work bearing the same title by Dominic Gundisalvi), and his great dogmatic treatise "De trinitate." His works were collected and published at Nuremberg (1496), and republished in Venice(1591), and in Orléans(1674).
William was the first of the thirteenth century theologians to attempt to reconcile Aristotle with Christian doctrine, especially the with the teachings of Augustine. His writings played a decisive role in the early development of medieval philosophy. William was thoroughly acquainted with the works of Aristotle, which were, except for Metaphysics, all available by then in Latin translation, as well as with the Islamic philosophers, including Averroes and Avicenna. William sought to rescue Aristotle from the Arabian philosophers and to refute doctrines such as the eternality of the world and the Cathar heresy. He did not completely reconcile Augustine and Aristotle, but laid the foundation for future Aristotelians such as Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and Robert Grosseteste and St. Thomas. His interpretation of the Platonic theory of ideas identified the intelligible world (Kosous nontos) with the Son of God.
Ten Errors in Theology
On January 13, 1241 William, along with his chancellor and the masters in theology of the University of Paris, condemned ten theological propositions which they found to be in error:
- One claimed that neither angels nor human beings will see the divine essence.
- Two and three were highly technical errors about the Trinity.
- Four held that blessed souls were in the aqueous, not in the empyrean heaven.
- Five claimed that the bad angel (malus angelus) was evil from the moment of creation.
- Six stated that angels can be in different places at the same time.
- Seven maintained that many truths existed from eternity independently of God.
- Eight stated that there was no first moment of time, a claim maintained by Aristotle.
- Nine held that gifts of grace and glory are necessarily proportionate to natural gifts.
- Ten claimed that neither the bad angel nor Adam could have remained innocent.
De Trinitate (The Trinity)
De Trinitate was written as a polemic intended to refute the logical arguments of heretics and pagans, who did not accept the authority of the church as a legitimate basis for an argument. It was therefore a philosophical work in which Holy Scripture and tradition took a subordinate role. The treatise was the first part of William's Magisterium divinale, which also included The Universe of Creatures (De universo creaturarum), Why God Became Man (Cur Deus homo), and part of The Virtues and Morals (De virtutibus et moribus).
De Trinitate was divided into three sections; the first seven chapters were a discussion of being and divine creation, the modes of existence of created beings, and their relationship to the divine. William refuted the dualism of the Neo-Manicheans (Albigensians and Cathars) by demonstrating that being culminates in the sole supreme being upon which everything depends and participates. Although William’s philosophical arguments for the existence and nature of God borrowed from thought of the Islamic philosopher, Avicenna, chapters 8 through 12 were directed against the Islamic doctrine of an eternal and necessary creation. The second section discussed the triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, explaining the procession of the Son from the Father in terms of the Father’s speaking his eternal Word, and the Holy Spirit as the mutual love between Father and Son. William also discussed the divine notions: paternity, filiation, and spiration. The third section of the treatise focuses on the ten predicaments and ended with a long chapter on speaking correctly about God in terms of the relations among the trinity and in terms of God’s relations to creatures.
- The Trinity (De trinitate)
- The Universe of Creatures (De universo creaturarum)
- Why God Became Man (Cur Deus homo)
- The Faith and Laws (De fide et legibus)
- The Sacraments (De sacramentis)
- The Virtues and Morals (De virtutibus et moribus).
William’s other works include
- The Art of Preaching (De arte praedicandi)
- Good and Evil (De bono et malo)
- The Cloister of the Soul (De claustro animae)
- The Bestowal and Singleness of Beneficence (De collatione et singularitate beneficiorum)
- The Faces of the World (De faciebus mundi)
- Grace and Free Choice, (De gratia et libero arbitrio)
- The Immortality of the Soul (De immortalitate animae)
- The Praises of Patience (De laudibus patientiae)
- The Mass (De missa)
- The Passion of the Lord (De passione Domini)
- A New Treatise on Penance (De paenitentia novus tractatus)
- A Commentary on Ecclesiastes (In Ecclesiaten)
- A Commentary on Proverbs (In Proverbia)
- Divine Rhetoric (Divina rhetorica).
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Jordan, William Chester. Europe in the High Middle Ages. Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN 9780140166644
- Marrone, Steven P. William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste: new ideas of truth in the early thirteenth century. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1983. ISBN 9780691053837
- Teske, Roland J. Studies in the philosophy of William of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris (1228-1249). Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2006. ISBN 0874626749
- William, of Auvergne Bishop of Paris, and Teske, Roland J. The Trinity, or, The first principle = De Trinitate, seu De primo principio. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1989. ISBN 9780874622317
All links retrieved May 14, 2023.
General Philosophy Sources
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Paideia Project Online
- Project Gutenberg
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