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USUS AND USURA: POVERTY AND USURY IN THE FRANCISCANS' RESPONSES TO JOHN XXII'S QUIA VIR REPROBUS l INTRODUCTION: CONSUMPTIBILITY, USURY AND POVERTY In his fundamental treatment of economic issues in Ordinatio IV, dist. 15, John Duns Scotus discusses also the problem of usury. What he has to say is probably not so relevant for the originality of his conclusions as much as for one ratio against lending money at usury which he dismisses. One doctor, he says, maintains that usury is unjust because the use of money consists in its consumption, and giving it to another as a loan means consuming it.2 Such an argument is well known to historians of medieval economic thought and is often called the Thomistic argument, although its "paternity " is not ascertained beyond any doubt.3 In his most recent and brilliant monograph, Economics in the Medieval Schools, Odd Langholm names it "the argument from the consumptibility of money", because it rests on the assumption that the use of money 'The present paper rests on some results of a more comprehensive research on Francis of Ascoli originally made possible by a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. I should like to express my gratitude not only to the Foundation, but also to Prof. C. Dolcini, to Prof. O. Capitani, and to Prof. Dr. J. Miethke for their valuable advice. For her improvements to my English I am particularly indebted to Annalisa Lambertini. Footnotes are limited to the essentials; further information can be found in the secondary sources cited. Johannes Duns Scotus, Ordinatio IV, d. IS, q. 2, n. 17 (ed.Vivés 18, 292-94), now edited in Duns Scotus' Political and Economic Philosophy, Latin Edition and English Translation by Allan B. Wolter (Santa Barbara CA: Old Mission Santa Barbara, 1989), 58-60. 3See now Odd Langholm, Economics in the Medieval Schools. Wealth, Exchange, Value, Money and Usury according to the Paris Theological Tradition, 1200-1350 (Leiden-New York-Köln: Brill, 1992), 166-167, 196-197, 241-244; cf. the almost "classic" analysis by John T. Noonan Jr., The Scholastic Analysis of Usury (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957), 53-57. Noonan, however, should be read together with Ovidio Capitani's review article "Sulla questione dell'usura nel Medioevo," Bulkttino dell'Istituto storico italiano per U Medio Evo 70 (1958), 539-566, now in L'etica económica médiévale, ed. O. Capitani (Bologna: Patron, 1974), 23-46. 185 Franciscan Studies (54) 1994-1997 186ROBERTO LAMBERTINI (like that of other fungibles) coincides with the consumption of its substance. For this reason, money can not have any separate use value.4 According to Scotus, however, an objection can be raised against this ratio. The surprising fact is not that Duns Scotus disagreed with Aquinas on one point (according to Fr. Allan Wolter, he might actually be addressing directly Richard of Mediavilla, who sided with the Doctor communis on this issue5), but the reason for his rejection of the consumptibility argument. He does not in fact criticize it on rational grounds, but refers to the papal Bull Exiit qui seminat issued in 1279 by Nicholas III to defend the Minorites against the criticism raised from outside the Order with regard to the way Franciscans interpreted and claimed to follow the idea of evangelical poverty.6 According to Scotus, this papal declaration, included by Boniface VIII in Liber Sextus of the Decretals, states that "quarundarum rerum usus perpetuo separatur a dominio."7 The connection underlying Scotus' rather succinct counter-argument can be explained by recalling an aspect of the controversy which flared up in Paris, opposing secular clerics and mendicant friars.8 At about the same time at which Aquinas began to insert the consumptibility argument into his case against usury, the impossibility of distinguishing use and ownership in goods whose use involved their consumption was exploited by secular masters like Gerard 4Langholm, Economics in the Medieval Schools, 166, 241ff. sAllan B. Wolter, Introduction to Duns Scotus' Political and Economic Philosophy, 11; cf. Richardus de Mediavilla, Quaestiones super quartum Sententiarum, IV, d. 15, a. 5, q. 5 (Brixiae, 1591; reprint Frankfurt a.M.: Minerva, 1967), 223; there is, however, no literal agreement between...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 185-210
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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