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PETRI IOHANNIS OLIVI TRACTATUS DE VERBO In what follows I have edited part of the beginning of Peter John Olivi's Lectura super Iohannem (LSI), his commentary on the Gospel of John. Olivi (1247/8-1298) discusses at length in this part of LSI a problem of substantial philosophical interest, the nature of a concept, or mental word (verbum). In my introduction to the text I offer a brief overview and analysis of the philosophical argument contained in this Tractatus de verbo (TDV), followed by some editorial details regarding the text. I Medieval debates over the human verbum are in large part debates over how intellect represents conceptual features of the world. For the medievals, intellect is the faculty with which we grasp the universal and abstract. We understand the world in this way in virtue of forming a mental word; this mental word is our representation of reality's conceptual features. Where modern authors speak of concept formation, medieval authors spoke of the formation of a mental word, or verbum. In using the terminology of verbum in this context, the medievals were explicitly fusing theological and philosophical issues. The theological element stems, of course, from the prologue to the Gospel of John, whose original Greek 'logos' was translated into Latin as 'verbum.' In the Latin West it was Augustine who most firmly linked this theological sense of 'verbum' with philosophical questions about mental representation. Augustine writes at length in his De Trinitate about "the word that we speak in our heart, a word which is not Greek nor Latin nor part of any other language.1 Naturally, there was considerable disagreement in the medieval period over how the human verbum should be understood. Most often, the occasion for airing such disagreements came in commentaries on the Gospel of John. And indeed, the text edited 1De Trinitate XV.10.19. Cf. Sermo 288 (PL 38, 1302ff.). 122ROBERT PASNAU below constitutes Olivi's definitive treatment of the human verbum. His position on this subject, although not well-known, is extremely interesting: he argues that intellect forms no concept or verbum distinct from the act of thought. On Olivi's view, then, conceptual thought does not require the formation of a concept; the thought itself is the verbum or concept. Olivi wrote a great many biblical commentaries, on both the Old and New Testaments. LSI seems to have been written sometime in the 1280s.2 After a general prologue, the work runs through 21 chapters, corresponding to the 21 chapters of the Gospel of John. In the beginning of the first chapter Olivi lays out the structure of the work. Then the literal commentary begins, at John's opening sentence In principio erat Verbum. Olivi devotes several paragraphs each to the terms 'in principio' and then 'erat.' After these discussions he turns to the term 'verbum/ which is where the text edited below begins. There are a number of reasons for giving this section of LSI separate attention as a treatise in its own right. First, the length of LSI's discussion of the verbum is noteworthy, taking up far more space than LSI devotes to commenting on other single words or phrases. Also, Olivi himself, in the midst of his most philosophical work, his Sentences commentary, refers to TDV for his theory of the verbum (see below). It is here, then, that Olivi gives us his most extended thoughts on the human word. Further, there is reason to think it would not have bothered medieval audiences to see this discussion removed from its immediate commentary con2LSI contains a reference to Olivi's Matthew commentary, which seems to have been written no earlier than the fall of 1279, and at latest 1281. (See David Burr, "The Date of Petrus Johannis Olivi's Commentary on Matthew," Collectanea Franciscana, 46 (1976): 131-38, and Olivi and Franciscan Poverty: The Origins ofthe usus pauper controversy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989): 47-8.) In turn, LSI is referred to in Olivi's Sentences commentary, which seems to have been written between 1287 and 1289. (See Valens Heynck, "Zur Datierung der Sentenzenkommentare des Petrus Johannis Olivi und des Petrus de Trabibus," Franziskanische Studien 38 (1956): 371...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 121-133
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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