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Peter Aureoli as Critic of Aquinas on the Subalternate Character of the Science of Theology
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Peter Aureoli as Critic of Aquinas on the Subaltérnate Character of the Science of Theology INTRODUCTION The question of the scientific nature of theology has its locus classicus in the prologue to commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. The question concerning theology and science itself, however, can only arise after the rediscovery of Aristotle in the Latin West—and, more specifically, with the increasing attention paid to his Posterior Analytics. Aristotle's Posterior Analytics was not immediately studied and commented. Perhaps the first to do so was Robert Grosseteste. However, once this text did become the object of study, its importance grew exponentially. Roughly from the time of Albertus Magnus (another early commentator on Posterior Analytics), the application of this text to theology became a hotly disputed question. For Aristotle, science (episteme) was the kind of knowledge which is brought about by a demonstrative syllogism. If one followed certain rules about choosing premises, arranging those premises, and the function of the syllogism, then one could reach knowledge which is certain. While the arrangement of premises and the rules of syllogistic reasoning were laid down in Prior Analytics, the kinds of premises which could be allowed into a syllogism which was to be demonstrative is the subject of Posterior Analytics. In order for a syllogism to be demonstrative, the premises of that syllogism had to be (1) true, (2) necessary, (3) universal, (4) self-evident, and (5) more known than the conclusion. If these conditions could be met, then a demonstrative syllogism could be formulated and the knowledge of the conclusion acquired through this syllogism would be certain. This was the idea. The reality was, both in Aristotle and in medieval followers of Aristotle, somewhat different. That Aristotle never uses syllogisms which could be called "demonstrative" has been pointed out quite frequently.1 In this regard, medieval readers 1FOr a sense of the issues involved in this problem and some of its possible solutions, cf. Jonathan Barnes, "Proof and the Syllogism," in Aristotle on Science: The 121 Franciscan Studies, 55 (1998) 122RICHARD A. LEE, JR. of Aristotle were no different. One finds precious few examples of syllogisms which could be called properly demonstrative. Yet, this gap between theory and practice was rarely, if ever, pointed out. For example, while there was no shortage of theologians arguing that theology is a science, one finds in their work no examples of demonstrative syllogisms which are theological.2 The problem with the application of Aristotle's conception of episteme (translated into Latin as scientia) to theology relates to the kinds of propositions Aristotle allows as premises of demonstrative syllogisms as well as the kind of knowledge one has ofm these premises. Aristotle argued that the conclusion of a demonstrative syllogism, ought to be unable to be otherwise—that is, it must be necessary. This is the case because knowledge can only be of that which is. Certain knowledge must be knowledge which cannot ever be false. If something can never be false, that means that it can never be otherwise than it is. The fact that the conclusion must be necessary seems to lead to positing that the premises must be necessary. For the premises are going to exhibit the cause of the conclusion being what it is. If, then, the conclusion is necessary, the premises must also be necessary.3 However, the way in which we know these premises ought to be different than the way in which we know the conclusion. For we know the conclusion because it is demonstrated. If the same were true of the premises, then we Posterior Analytics, ed. Enrico Berti (Padua: Editrice Antenore, 1981), 17-59; M. F. Burnyeat, "Aristotle on Understanding Knowledge," in Aristotle on Science: The Posterior Analytics, ed. Enrico Berti (Padua: Editrice Antenore, 1981), 97-139; J. G. Lennox, "Divide and Explain: The Posterior Analytics in Practice," in Philosophical Issues in Aristotle's Biology, ed. A. Gotthelf and J. Lennox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 90-119. 2On the other hand, one does find such syllogisms in William of Ockham. What is interesting about the syllogisms he offers is that they are almost entirely lacking in any meaningful content. This should have...