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12o JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29:1 JANUARY 1991 William of Auvergne. The Trinity, or the First Principle (De Trinitate, seu de primo principio). Translated by Roland J. Teske, S.J., and Francis C. Wade, S.J. Medieval Philosophical Texts in Translation, No. 98. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1989. Pp. v + 286. Paper, NP. William of Auvergne (c.119o--1249) was professor of theology at the University of Paris and bishop of Paris. His major work, the massive seven-part Magisterium divinale et sapientiale, was composed between c. 1223 and a236. The work under review contains an introduction to and translation of its first part, De Trinitate, in which William sets out his metaphysics of being and an investigation of the Trinity based on it. This review focuses on the metaphysics, perhaps the first systematic Latin metaphysics in the thirteenth century and a work heavily influenced by Avicenna's metaphysics, one of those works of Greek and Arabic philosophy then coming into circulation in the Latin West for the first time. William's metaphysics rests on two distinctions, one between two concepts of "a being," the other between two concepts of "being." Something may be a being either through its essence or by participation. The former's essence includes its being, the latter's does not; such a being partakes of another's being. There must be a being through its essence, for the alternatives, a circle of participators of being or an infinite regress, are impossible, the latter because it would render impossible a concept of being. As for "being," in its first sense it refers to the essence left when we strip away a thing's accidents. So understood "being" signifies what is signified by a defining expression or name of a species. Teske suggests William also includes under this head a notion of being as a bare entitas left when things are stripped of all forms, including substantial forms. But William mentions no stripping away of substantial forms. Elsewhere in his corpus he does talk ofentitos, but this refers, I think, to the second sense of "being." In this sense, being is what "it is" says of everything and is something besides the essence of a thing, except in the case of something that is a being through its essence. William intends this second concept of "being" when he talks of beings as participating in being. This suggests Aquinas's later distinction between being and essence. There is a unique being through its essence, God, in which being and essence are not distinct. It is numerically one and particular, but does not fall under a genus. Other beings derive their being from it. Though possible in themselves, their existence and its continuation are due to the overflow of first being into them. William is critical of those views of the philosophers he cannot assimilate to a Christian world view. Unlike Avicenna, he argues that a free, omnipotent, wise, and good first being is the creator of all else. He rejects the doctrine of a world infinite in past time, arguing that the world has a starting point. Against the idea that all possibility is rooted in matter (and hence that the creation of things requires a pre-existent uncreated matter) he defends a doctrine of creation ex nihilo by grounding all possibility in God's power. The philosophers also attribute too much causal autonomy to creatures' natures. William rather stresses God's providence and continual sustenance of natures in their being. Indeed, he may view creatures as mere conduits for the divine causality, not genuine causes--a reading Teske, however, disputes. BOOK REVIEWS 121 Teske's introduction is clear and well done. The translation is generally accurate, though one might quibble at the translators' common practice of altering the tense or mood of verbs and at the fact that they have made the text less metaphorical in tone than it actually is They also often omit inferential particles and the like to shorten long sentences and ratify William's dense prose. Consequently the English reader bears a somewhat heavier burden in determining the argumentative structure of the text than did his or her medieval...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 120-121
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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