- Lectura super Sententias: Liber I, Distinctiones 1–2, 3–7, 8–17
Walter Chatton (ca. 1290–1343) is not exactly a household name—even among historians of medieval philosophy. Indeed, to the extent that he is known to scholars, it is more for his role as a critic of William of Ockham (d. 1347) than for any particular philosophical contribution of his own. Part of the reason for this owes to Chatton's own philosophical style: he uses his objections to Ockham's (and, to a lesser extent, to Peter Aureol's) views as a foil for developing his own. Another, larger part of the explanation, however, is that the bulk of Chatton's philosophical writings have not been accessible for research and study. Thanks to the efforts of the late Joseph Wey and Girard Etzkorn, this is no longer the case. Over the last eight years, Etzkorn (drawing on Wey's transcription of the manuscripts and his textual annotations) has published critical editions of all of Chatton's commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Indeed, with the publication of these three volumes of Chatton's Lectura super Sententias (the second of his two Sentences commentaries), almost the whole of Chatton's surviving philosophical corpus is now available in a critical edition. All that remains is his Quodlibet, currently being edited by Etzkorn, Rondo Keele, and Chris Schabel.
Chatton studied and lectured at Oxford in the early decades of the fourteenth century. It was at Oxford that he encountered Ockham, who was at the time (ca. 1317–19) delivering his own lectures on Lombard's Sentences. This encounter was to shape much of Chatton's subsequent philosophical thinking. Chatton was among Ockham's earliest and fiercest critics, but he was also enormously influenced by him. Indeed, Ockham's opinions are treated (and criticized) in nearly every question of the Lectura. Thus, Chatton frequently takes up precisely those issues Ockham treats along with the terminology and conceptual apparatus in which he frames them, only to reject his conclusions—typically in favor of Scotus's. For this reason, the publication of the Lectura promises to advance not only the recovery of Chatton's philosophy, but also our understanding of the early reception of and reaction to Scotus's and Ockham's thought among scholars at Oxford. And because Chatton is both an insightful critic of Ockham and an able defender of Scotus, there is reason to expect that the positions he himself advocated made important contributions to the debates most current in his day.
The Lectura itself is incomplete. It covers only the first of the four books of the Sentences, and (for reasons which remain unknown) breaks off at question 7 of distinction 17. Following the structure of Lombard's discussion in Book I, Chatton's commentary focuses on the [End Page 120] doctrine of God. His discussion includes questions about our knowledge of God's existence and nature, about the divine attributes, and a host of questions addressing various aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity. Because adequate treatment of such thorny theological issues often requires recourse to philosophical doctrines and distinctions, a great deal of Chatton's Lectura is devoted to issues of purely philosophical interest. For instance, in the course of explaining the relationship between the divine essence and divine attributes (d.2, q.3), Chatton offers an interpretation and defense of Scotus's formal distinction. Similarly, he uses a question about whether God alone is individual de se as an occasion for a...