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  • The Providence of God Regarding the Universe. Part Three of the First Principal Part of The Universe of Creatures
  • E. R. Truitt
William of Auvergne . The Providence of God Regarding the Universe. Part Three of the First Principal Part of The Universe of Creatures. Roland J. Teske, SJ, translator. Mediæval Philosophical Texts in Translation, 43. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2007. Pp. 204. Paper, $25.00.

Roland Teske's new English translation of The Providence of God, part of William of Auvergne's sprawling work, De universo, is a necessary addition to the works of William available in English. William (c. 1190–1249), theologian, philosopher, and Bishop of Paris, was one of the first scholars to attempt to assimilate Aristotelian philosophy (at that time available from Arabic sources and commentaries, and translated into Latin by Christian and Jewish translators) into a Christian intellectual and moral framework. His works comprise a seven-part opus called Magisterium divinale et sapientale, translated by Teske as Teaching on God in the mode of wisdom. De universo, or The Universe of Creatures, is part of the first principal part of the Magisterium, and is itself divided into two principal parts on the material and spiritual universe, respectively. The first principal part of De universo has three sections, of which this volume is the third. Teske previously published a translation of selections of the first and second parts of De universe, with a lengthy introduction to William's life and works. It is not clear, from reading this volume, why Teske chose to translate this part in its entirety, but the inclusion of all of William's text in The Providence of God is welcome and valuable, as there is no other translation from the Latin available.

In The Providence of God Regarding the Universe, William demonstrates the importance of God's providence, that is, the manner in which God provides for all things in the universe, and how the refusal to believe that good will be rewarded and evil punished is contrary to Christian belief. According to William, God is omniscient and attentive to everything in the universe, and created each thing for a specific purpose and particular goal. The purpose, or final end, of humans is to experience divine union, and thus, bliss. William spends a significant amount of time discussing apparent evil in the universe, refuting any claims that the presence of evil negates any idea of a loving or just God. Some evident cruelties, such as the manner in which insects are eaten by spiders, are actually indications of the teleological nature of the universe, in that God intended flies to fulfill this role. Other evils, such as pestilence, are manifestations of divine justice. In William's formulation, pain is God's [End Page 468] way of disciplining or conditioning people to achieve their divinely appointed purpose, not evidence of his callousness. Likewise, human iniquity results from a misuse of free will, rather than from an uncaring or tyrannical God.

Teske has provided a clear and accurate translation of William's often digressive and confusing Latin prose. He points out that a new critical edition of William's opera is overdue, as the Latin in the 1674 Hotot edition is often confusing, and he has made it clear where he has conjectured at what he believes is the intended meaning of the original. The introduction contains a succinct overview of the material in each chapter and brief context, although it is a shame that one must turn to his earlier translation of the first two sections of De universo for comprehensive information on William's biography and writings. However, as William's philosophy is integral to understanding the development of scholasticism and medieval theology, this translation will be useful for undergraduates and scholars in the history of philosophy and science, medieval history, and intellectual history.

E. R. Truitt
Bryn Mawr College