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BOOK REVIEWS 623 Mechthild Dreyer. Nikolaus yon Amiens: Arsfidei catholicae--Ein Beispielwerk axiomatischer Methode. Beitraege zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters. Neue Folge. Band 37. Muenster: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1993. Pp. 136. NP. The comparatively slim volume published by Mechthild Dreyer contains no less than three parts. In the first the author presents a sketch of the use of the axiomatic method from Boethius to the early thirteenth century. The third part contains new and critical editions of two works, viz., the "Ars fidei catholicae" by the little-known late twelfthcentury author Nicholas of Amiens as well as the closely related but anonymously transmitted work "Potentia est vis" (so called after its incipit). Not surprisingly, the second part of the volume consists of an introduction to the edition outlining the manuscript tradition and specifying the editorial principles employed in the edition. Obviously Mechthild Dreyer's main interest in the work of Nicholas of Amiens is from the point of view of methodology. In her very clear and thorough description of the role of the axiomatic method from Boethius to Nicholas of Amiens the author focuses on the contributions of authors such as Gilbert of Poitiers, Thierry of Chartres, Clarembaldus of Arras and Alain of Lille. The role played not only by Boethius but also by Euclid, through the early twelfth-century translation of the "Elements," is succinctly analyzed by the author who argues that the adoption of the Euclidean model was greatly facilitated by the fact that many of the key conceptions of this method lay already dormant in the current early medieval conception of the nature of the "artes." According to Mechthild Dreyer one may view the development of the axiomatic method in the twelfth century as one of progressive refinement and advancement. What was partially attempted by early authors was completed by later writers. In particular, a comparison between Alain of Lille's "Regulae caelestis iuris" and Nicholas of Amiens's "Ars catholicae fidei" reveals that Alain had failed to develop theology in a fully mathematical fashion ("more geometrico"). This last step was, according to the author, taken by Nicholas of Amiens. At this point the reader would have expected a closer analysis of the "Ars fidei catholicae" which would lend credence to this claim. Unfortunately, the author refrains from presenting such an analysis and, instead, proceeds to discuss the questions of authorship and dating of the "Ars fidei catholicae" as well as the "Potentia est vis." Why this--quite lucid--discussion has not been postponed to the second part of the work, is to be wondered at. Perhaps the truncation of the analysis of the "Ars fidei catholicae" is not unrelated to the fact that the author's high claims for this work seem to be not all that easy to substantiate. Obviously, Nicholas experiences grave difficulties in upholding the axiomatic method in the fifth book which deals with the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. Even more pronounced are his difficulties at the start of the third book, which deals with the Incarnation and the Atonement. Achieving a smooth synthesis between divine .justice and divine mercy is no easy task--as, e.g., already Anselm of Canterbury had given such troubled testimony to in chapters nine to eleven of the "Proslogion." Not surprisingly, Nicholas does not appear to succeed in solving this tension and, consequently, to manage to impose the mathematical model on his subject. 694 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 35:4 OCTOBER ~997 The editions of the two works are based on all the available manuscripts, which as regards the "Ars fidei catholicae" amount to no less than fifty-four. Quite interestingly, the majority of the preserved manuscripts date from the fourteenth century. Why this comparatively pedestrian work continued to be held in such high esteem would be a question well worth looking into, but understandably the editor has refrained from addressing this issue. Due to the relatively uniform transmission of the texts the editor has been able to dispense with establishing stemmas which, according to her appraisal, would have been highly speculative. In order to give her readers an opportunity to see what a complete apparatus would amount to, Mechthild Dreyer has...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 623-624
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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