Now, seeing that all creatures, even those that are devoid of reason, are directed to God as their last end, and that all reach this end in so far as they have some share of a likeness to Him, the intellectual creature attains to Him in a special way, namely, through its proper operation, by understanding Him. Consequently this must be the end of the intellectual creature, namely, to understand God.
—Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles
Though the preceding chapter has quite clearly stated the hypothesis underlying this study and provided a justification of its methodology, it will perhaps have seemed insufficiently attentive to matters of chronology. I am very aware that the selection of such figures as Paracelsus, Agricola, Rabelais, Kepler, and others as my heuristic starting point may well be interpreted as a means of avoiding any consideration of the formidable conceptual machinery mounted by the Middle Ages. In this regard two possible objections need to be confronted immediately, a third being included with them. It is indeed the case that all are of a historical cast, and while their dismissal may not be essential to the analyses to come (inasmuch as these analyses themselves will ultimately have to validate the hypothesis), they cannot be left to simmer unseen.
The first objection concerns the various claims according to which an analytico-referential discourse was installed by Aristotle and his successors, from Boethius (and indeed Augustine) to Abelard, from Aquinas (and Averroës) to Marsilius, from Anselm to Ockham—and thence to Descartes and the modern era. This may be referred to as the argument that analytico-referentiality is hegemonous ever since the golden age of Athens, or the argument of long continuity. As far as the present study is concerned, it carries with it the evident corollary that the dominant discursive class of the Middle Ages is the same as that of neoclassicism. This corollary is often separated from its principal: it then becomes the argument that even if the assertion of long continuity is impossible, there is nonetheless a ‘short continuity’ between the Middle Ages and our modernity in consequence of a radical conceptual break situated somewhere at the beginning of the twelfth century. From Anselm and Abelard, the argument then runs, we can follow the installation of forms of thought of which, for example, Descartes is the direct inheritor.
The third principal objection is to the effect that no form of patterning discourse (or any other that is not analytico-referential) was any longer current during the Middle Ages. Since hegemony by no means supposes unicity, this objection is not a necessary consequence of either of the first two objections—though it is often treated as if it were. On the surface any of these would seem to weaken my basic argument, though the separate textual studies hereafter will have to resolve the matter in the end.
Space does not permit nor the present purpose require that any of these questions be dealt with in depth. It will suffice if I can show why the traditional dating of Renaissance developments remains imperative, even though my conception of their manner may be different.1 I need to show (1) why it is not possible to accept recent arguments, by Husserl, Gusdorf, Derrida, and many others, that the discursive and conceptual changes go back at least to Aristotle and possibly to Plato: a discussion that will lead us to the assertion that we cannot even understand the ancient Greeks in anything like ‘their own terms,’ let alone follow them. I need to show (2) that these changes do not even go as far back as the Middle Ages, though we may be led to accept some idea of a break around 1100, and even to find some scattered elements of a future discourse that may be viewed as emerging (a fact that would be very far from undermining my hypothesis: the break of the twelfth century itself will be seen rather as installing a class of discourse that is becoming inoperative by the Renaissance). I need to suggest (3) the presence during the Middle Ages of dominant discursive practices that are other than analytico-referential. (I will need a measure of goodwill as far as this last is concerned, because only the later textual analyses will provide some detail of the functioning of analytico-referential discourse.)
These objections really need only two, not three, kinds of refutation. It if can be shown, for example, that ‘Aristotelian discourse’ lacks an element essential to the analytico-referential, then the first objection falls. Provided it is essential, the absence of only one such element is enough. It does not, however, resolve the ‘corollary’ to this first objection, since it is evidently possible to set aside any idea of continuity with the Greeks and still maintain, like Colin Morris, Walter Ullmann, F. Edward Cranz, Etienne Gilson, and others, that medieval rationality continues unbroken into neoclassicism. The tactic must change, therefore, and the second refutation will have to be positive rather than negative. I will have to show strong evidence of the dominant presence of another class or other classes of discourse during the Middle Ages (a one or ones that will not be important in the Renaissance, so that we may allow for some kind of conceptual ‘break’ between Antiquity and the Middle Ages, around 1100 say, without having to assume that it therefore leads directly into our modernity).
If these arguments can be convincingly made then the objection of ‘short continuity’ falls and, possibly, the objection concerning the absence of patterning—assuming I can suggest in this case that such a discourse was importantly present during the Middle Ages. Again, for my present purpose it will suffice if the mere possibility of its presence can be affirmed. The necessarily long full demonstration is obviously out of the question in a study whose principal concerns are with a later moment of discursive history.
The first objection, then, is that something closely akin to analytico-referential systematizing discourse has ruled Western thought without any significant break ever since the Greek fourth century. Let us admit immediately that there is no question but that some kind of analogous split did occur between the sixth and fourth centuries b.c. Such an affirmation does not, however, permit us to assume that it resulted in the rule of a discourse identical to that which may have been dominant in the Middle Ages or to one which became dominant from the European Renaissance on (“dominant” in the sense that its organizing elements controlled the analysis and understanding of the majority of human practices). I will propose in a moment a single suggestion as prolegomenon to a more complete refutation than can be advanced here, on the grounds (as I have said) that the absence of one element essential to the analytico-referential discourse is sufficient evidence of the absence of such an episteme. But this sufficiency rests on the assumption that an episteme is a complete network of relations together composing some sort of whole. Only thus does the absence of a single element imply a quite distinct total configuration. Such an assumption needs perhaps some introductory evidence (though I hope the second half of this chapter will provide conclusive evidence, at least for the Middle Ages).
For our episteme it would seem apparent that in the demarcation of mind and matter, of the conceptualizing faculty and its external referent such as we perceive in analytico-referential discourse, the concept of will—indeed of individual will—in some form or another must be of prime importance.2 Yet one can readily follow a considerable change in the way it is conceptualized from the Greeks to the modern period. For our modernity, after the Renaissance, will has become associated with an entirely human reason of which it is the guide and efficient cause (how this was achieved will be part and parcel of the analyses set forth in later chapters). In medieval theory, basically ruled in this matter by Augustine, will could only be associated with the ‘passions’ and opposed to a rational understanding tending toward knowledge of God: untrammeled human ‘will,’ assuming it thinkable, could only lead to error and falsehood. The second half of the present chapter will explore this question in rather more detail. For the Greeks the situation is again quite different.
Before discussing the question of will with some precision, it is necessary to take a quick glance at the more general contexts, conceptual networks of which will is but one element. For will in the modern sense is very clearly a central aspect of some idea of self-identity. F. Edward Cranz has remarked that the mere absence of any self-identity as a center of knowing (and doing) is one of the several characteristics that make it difficult if not impossible for us to ‘understand’ the Ancients. He notes, too, that there is no fundamental dichotomy for the Greeks between the world of thought and that of things—something we saw as essential for analytico-referential discourse and which is clearly of a part with a concept of self-identity. For the Greeks, language and thought, he writes, were essentially conjunctive: from Plato to Augustine one sought knowledge by following a path inward through the “soul” to the imprinted universal. The immense difference Cranz sees in Anselm and Abelard at the beginning of the twelfth century is that knowledge becomes disjunctive.3 Cranz does not discuss the matter in these terms, but such disjunction is still not yet concerned with a ‘modern’ notion of individual will.
When speaking of elements of knowledge and action, of being and human praxis as discursive characteristics of an episteme, we need to remain always aware of their whole context and orientation. Such texts as the Peri hermeneias and the Analytica posteriora seem to proffer theoretical attitudes toward speech and language, reason and judgment not far removed from what we find as well in the Renaissance and seventeenth century (for example): the separation of words and things, the notion of words as signs of concepts, verbal definition as necessary to any referential use of terms, the conventional nature of language, and so on. We seem to be concerned, that is to say, with those very matters of difference and distance, of separation and arbitrariness, of which I spoke in Chapter 1 as an essential part of the emerging new discourse. For the seventeenth century, however, such aspects of language and discourse are ineluctably bound up with a particular characterization of reason, will, human action, and knowledge—with being itself. The nature of the characterizations is specific to a particular ‘conceptual’ (or discursive) network. It may be necessary for a formal treatment of such matters to deal with them separately, as Aristotle does in his various treatises. But it is as a whole network that they become epistemically meaningful, and a fundamental difference in any one of these basic constituents as they appear in diverse cultures and times will imply a different episteme (though this is not to exclude the presence of emerging elements, the process of gradual change within an episteme).
Like the texts of the Organon, Augustine’s early De magistro appears to teach us about the arbitrary and conventional nature of verbal signs, about the relation of distance between signs and things signified or signifiable, between signs and other signs. And that would seem to lead this discussion into a claim of continuity well up through the Middle Ages, for, as Steven Ozment has recently remarked: “Augustine was to the intellectual history of the Middle Ages what classical civilization was to its political and cultural history: a creative source, whose recovery and study spurred new directions of thought and controversy down through the Reformation of the sixteenth century.”4 Reading a text like the De magistro, however (and even more the De Trinitate, as we will see), one becomes rapidly aware of a profound contextual difference between the Augustinian considerations just mentioned and those of a “Cartesian” or of a post-Saussurian linguistics.
For the Bishop of Hippo, all such signs serve a commemorative function. Speaking is reminding, understanding is remembering: “Regarding, however, all those things which we understand, it is not a speaker who utters sounds exteriorly whom we consult, but it is truth that resides within, over the mind itself.” Words remind us of this, so that we come to rediscover, in truth, “He who is said to dwell in the inner man, He it is who teaches—Christ—that is, the unchangeable Power of God and everlasting Wisdom.” Thus Augustine can add that a man is taught not by mere words, verbal signs, “but by the realities themselves made manifest to him by God revealing them to his inner self.” The “arbitrariness” of words needs to be understood as a function of this commemorative operation. Teachers (all speakers) “teach” by bringing their pupils (all listeners) to gaze “attentively at that interior truth,” potentially able to be “unveiled” in anyone through the release of memory.5
While this is evidently as far from our own order of thought as are the classifications of Paracelsus, it is close to Plato and perhaps certain aspects of Aristotle. The Posterior Analytics begin as an effort to rid themselves of the Platonic dilemma as recorded in the Meno: “either a man will learn nothing or [he will learn] what he already knows.” Aristotle’s answer is to assert that the arguments to be presented in the Posterior Analytics, arguments presented as enabling us to discover the first principles of a true scientific knowledge, are such as will permit us to find in ourselves “pre-existent knowledge.” The first example of this given was destined to become an exemplary cliché of Western arguments about the nature of thought: that the angles of a triangle equal two right angles. Aristotle responds to Plato therefore by asserting that the knower “knows not without qualification but only in the sense that he knows universally.” In this sense the premises of such demonstrable knowledge “must be true, primary, immediate, better known than and prior to the conclusion.” Indeed, in themselves they “must be primary and indemonstrable.”6
That this is a response to Plato ignored by Augustine seems clear: but is it Descartes? Are these the “clear and distinct ideas” discovered by the willful reason of the later new man? It would seem absolutely not. As the discussion of the De anima tells us, these elements of knowledge are imprinted in the mind insofar as mind is embodied in corporality, but they are not imprinted in the mind as “pure” mind (that is, independently of “actual knowledge,” which depends upon its concrete embodiment). In some way, therefore, the primary and indemonstrable premises are a potential contained in “universal mind” prior to its actual embodiment. We are not perhaps so far from the Platonic Idea as is sometimes claimed:
Actual knowledge is identical with its object: in the individual, potential knowledge is in time prior to actual knowledge, but in the universe as a whole it is not prior even in time. Mind is not at one time knowing and at another not. When mind is set free from its present conditions it appears as just what it is and nothing more: this alone is immortal and eternal (we do not, however, remember its former activity because, while mind in this sense is impassible, mind as passive is destructible), and without it nothing thinks.7
Embodied mind is passive. It is definable as that which receives whatever is able to be thought: among such things, presumably, the true, primary, and immediate premises of all particular knowledge.8 However one interprets this not always very clear discussion of the De anima and balances it with such texts as the Analytica posteriora, that they produce a very different configuration from what is implied by the term “Cartesian” is apparent. Within that configuration it will be useful to explore in detail one element as definitive evidence of the dominance of a different discursive class. If I take the concept of will as an exemplary case, it is certainly in part because it is just such a fundamental element. It is also, however, because the concept has been discussed at length and the material is readily accessible for an argument that seeks, as here, to be indicative rather than exhaustive.
Jean-Pierre Vernant has observed that the notion of a personal will in the modern sense of a reasoned intellectual process toward (possessive) action cannot be enunciated in ancient Greek. It is, he remarks, no more isolated in Aristotle’s moral thinking than it is in the vocabulary available to him. Nor was it available earlier (Ver-nant’s discussion starts with Aeschylus). The word hekōn, usually translated as “voluntarily” or “by an act of will,” merely means “willingly” or even “wittingly,” in opposition to akōn, “in spite of oneself” or “unwittingly.” It applies to any action that is not externally imposed or entirely contingent upon circumstances. An animal, too, can act hekōn. Gerald Else has arrived, quite independently of Vernant, at very similar conclusions with regard to Aristotle’s Poetics, when he discusses the distinction to be made between acts that are hekousia and those that are akousia.9
The point being made by Vernant and Else is not at all that which Anthony Kenny has dismissed, at the outset of a recent book on the subject, as “a commonplace of Aristotelian scholarship”: namely, “that Aristotle had no theory of the will.” On the contrary, their point is, precisely, that he does have a theory of the will but that it is different from ours. Kenny points out that the terminological pairs “voluntary” and “involuntary,” “voluntarily” and “involuntarily,” by which the above words are usually translated into English, owe more to the Latin terms voluntarium and involuntarium “used in the medieval translations of Aristotle” (a fact whose significance will be seen a little later in the present chapter) than they do to the original Greek vocabulary, to which they are more or less inadequate. He observes, too, that so central a term as prohairesis can only be translated clumsily as “purposive choice”—the clumsiness reflecting “the fact that no natural English concept corresponds to Aristotle’s.” In this context, he observes, “many of the traditional English expressions for Aristotelian concepts are misleading.” In fact, Kenny’s diverse references to French and German commentators would allow him to assert this to be the case for modern European languages in general.10
What such commentaries indicate is not that Aristotle has no concept of the will, but that it fits into a quite different general conception of human action from our own. There is indeed no active and separate intellectual will common only to men and qualitatively different from the generalized faculty allowing of any action (“embodied mind,” argues the De anima, is by definition “passive”). Vernant suggests that the idea of “free will” is not really fixed in the vocabulary until some time between Diodorus Siculus (first century b.c.) and Epictetus (first century a.d.).11 By that time the entire notion is on the verge of being absorbed into a Christian theological problematic and the discussions of neo-Platonism. There we have to deal, as I will suggest shortly, with a different class of discourse altogether.
Inasmuch as I am concerned here with the ‘chronology’ of discourses it is perhaps worth recalling, as P. O. Kristeller remarks, that the Aristotelian corpus remained relatively out of sight after his death. It was kept in the library of his school and was there available only to its own teachers. The corpus was published between the first century b.c. and the first century a.d. (dates that are doubtless not coincidental as regards those just mentioned), and “until the second century a.d., outside the circle of scholars trained in the Aristotelian school, the systematic writings of Aristotle [as opposed to the more popular, literary ones, now no longer extant] exercised little or no influence upon the development of ancient thought, and it would be anachronistic to assume such an influence as a major factor in the Platonic Academy, in Stoicism, Epicureanism, or Skepticism, in Philo or in the early Christian thinkers.” There was no doubt a certain circulation of ideas first propounded by the Stagirite, thanks to his successors at the school, from Theophrastus to Alexander of Aph-rodisias (c. 200 a.d.), but the dominant strain in Greek thought was to be neo-Platonism, which reigned supreme from the third to the sixth century a.d.12 Quite apart from the almost anecdotal corroboration this brings to Vernant’s analysis of the development of a Greek term semantically akin to our own “free will” (since it would doubtless have been in Aristotle if anywhere that such a concept would have been developed), such a situation tends to imply that discourse was so fragmented throughout this period that it is scarcely possible to speak of a single one as hegemonous. Slowness and difficulties of communication together with the dispersion of centers of learning would almost seem to guarantee such a situation.
So far as a particular concept of will is concerned, Vernant adds that the opposition akōn/hekōn was in actuality a juridical one. It was not at all “based in its principle upon the distinction between the voluntary and the involuntary. It rests upon the distinction made by the social conscience, under specific historical conditions, between totally reprehensible action and excusable action, which, beside legitimate action, are posited as a pair of antithetical values.” But even so it is the action itself that is the object of such a judgment, not the agent: “The agent is caught in the action. He is not its author. He remains included in it.”13 The agent here is part of a whole for which his ‘responsibility’ is decidedly limited: had circumstances been different that agent might have been able to do otherwise, and though he may be responsible for his actions within the particular circumstances, he has little or no control either over those circumstances or over the extent of his knowledge of them. In a sense one may say that action is inherent in circumstances rather than in an agent effecting such action. Such a conception is completely coherent with that of the “passive mind” imprinted with “actual knowledge.”
More recently, Vernant has refined his commentary by continuing Emile Benveniste’s discussion of the two different nominal endings in Greek that can be attached to agent-nouns. In the case of endings in -tēr, he remarks that “the agent is immersed in his action, which is conceived as a function; he blends with an activity to which he is unavoidably given up and in which, by destiny, aptitude or necessity, he is as if shut up.” In the case of nominal endings in -tōr, “the agent possesses, in the form of a quality belonging to him, the act seen as already accomplished, completely carried out.” There are therefore two kinds of act and two sets of relations between such acts and their ‘agent.’ In the first kind, “the activity viewed in its functional aspect is superior to the agent, primary in relation to him.” It is a techne inherent in a particular kind of metier and which operates, so to speak, through the agent, just as “actual knowledge” is the imprint of preexistent “potential knowledge” on embodied mind.
The act of the second kind is still neither “inherent to the agent nor is the agent present to his act.” The act does not concern the “series of productive operations that the artisan develops in the course of his work; it dwells in the made object, the produced piece of work.” Whatever may be the status of such a concept of act and action, it evidently ignores, indeed precludes, any treatment of the agent “as source and origin of its acts.”14 This is clearly the case for both modalities of act and agent.
Anthony Kenny goes even further than Vernant in his analysis of these terms as they are found in Aristotle (though he does so only by means of a narrower definition of the term action). With the aid of a useful clarifying example, he comments: “‘Hekousion’ for Aristotle is not a predicate reserved for actions; both what happens around us and what we can do can be divided into things which are hekousia and akousia. If I see a child drowning and don’t jump in when I can and should, then, Aristotle would say, the child’s drowning, so far as I am concerned, is voluntary, or perhaps rather, is voluntary for me.”
He adds that in the Nichomachean Ethics something is defined as “voluntary with respect to a particular agent if there is no compulsion, if there is an appropriate degree of knowledge, and if the originating cause of the situation (the arche) is in the agent.”15 We may note in passing that the definition of hamartia given by Aristotle in the Poetics refers precisely to the lack of these elements. It is not therefore a ‘fault’ or a ‘tragic flaw’ but rather an ‘unwittingness.’ Kenny makes this explicit by observing that in Topics (148a8) as well as in the Nichomachean Ethics (1110b29), Aristotle speaks of hamartia as one kind of agnoia.16 One recalls blind Oedipus’s cry:
It was Apollo, friends, Apollo,
that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion.
But the hand that struck me
was none but my own.
That is just what makes it possible for the protagonist of Oedipus at Colonus to assert that all he did was done “unwittingly.” One thinks, too, of E. R. Dodd’s discussion of how Agamemnon explains his theft of Achilles’ mistress in the Iliad, overcome, he says, by “wild ate.”17
Like Vernant (and Aristotle himself), Kenny remarks that such an account of will can clearly include animals. For him, this is itself a “failure” of conceptualization. Referring to an argument advanced by G. E. M. Anscombe, Kenny thus approves what he takes to be her implication that “the weakness in Aristotle’s account is a lack of the concept of intention” (another rendering of prohairesis).18 Such a view is akin to the one he expresses in his later volume on the subject where, speaking of a passage in the Nichomachean Ethics that appears to make no distinction between classes of action and individual actions, Kenny continues: “A bizarre metaphysic seems implied, according to which one and the same individual action may have certain properties before being performed and others while being performed, and may have certain properties if it is performed and different properties if it is not performed.” At the very least Aristotle’s “mode of expression is clumsy.”19 But surely, one may ask, such a metaphysic would have to do with events and actions conceived not as static ‘objects,’ not as provided with some kind of fixed (and once and for all knowable) ontological status, but rather with praxis as ‘ongoing process,’ as a movement that acquires meaning as it goes, so to speak (“je peins le passage,” as Montaigne was to write later)?
My own view is that to speak of a “weakness,” to dismiss the discussion as “clumsy” or the metaphysic as “bizarre,” is to endow something like an analytico-referential concept of will with a permanent, true reality and to assert that Aristotle was simply unable to contain that truth in an adequate theory. My argument is rather that such concepts as those of will and intention (as well as the actions and events that ‘follow’ from them) are epistemic developments borne in specifiable classes of discourse. The lack of our concepts of will and intention in Aristotle is not a “weakness” but the mark of a different sort of human functioning, a different social and individual praxis, a different kind of conceptualization and action. Such, too, is Ver-nant’s implication. Kenny asserts another view, arguing further that though we may find Aristotle’s account “greatly improved” by Aquinas later on, we will find that St. Thomas’s account is also, in other aspects, “wrong”: the argument there being that although the extent to which the Angelic Doctor developed a concept of intention is admirable, his notion of “deliberate action” is simply unacceptable, because it fails to account for certain permanent human realities (familiar to us and, presumably, to Aquinas—and Aristotle before him).20
I would suggest that if the Greeks lacked our modern concepts of will and intention, if Aquinas omitted our notion of deliberate action and thought that the end of man was in God and the human soul in its essence a mediation of the Divine, then that is not because Aristotle was insufficiently intelligent to see that he “ought” to have elaborated deliberation as “a key concept in the theory of action” or that Aquinas was too obtuse to realize that he ought to have provided an even fuller “account of practical reason.” Rather is it because they did not need such theories and such “complete” accounts (for Aristotle does provide “fragments” of an account of practical reasoning, and Aquinas does give a partly “adequate” one).21 Human action and human relations, we may suppose, were different. What is this residual claim to cultural hegemony which asserts that humanity “must” always have functioned as we think we do—or else be condemned as less intelligent or insufficiently sophisticated, as “primitive” or “pathological”?
Indeed, Kenny seems to recognize such a fundamental difference when he speaks of both Aristotle and Aquinas as basing their concepts of practical reasoning upon a first premise that assumes such reasoning to be transmitting an objective and universal value or plan of life—the good—and when he asserts in consequence that “such a line of thought is very alien.” Unfortunately, what it is alien to is not an entire practice of human thought and action but “contemporary philosophical fashion” taken as more “correct” than that of its predecessors, of which it would therefore be desirable “to attempt a serious evaluation.”22 Such a view strikes me as simply insufficient to the evidence Kenny himself provides. Like Vernant, Else, and Cranz, I think we can give Aristotle and Aquinas the benefit of an intellectual doubt—should they perchance require it. It may well be they were speaking of something else. Only a certain cultural complacency permits us to assert that they were simply unsuccessful in an attempt to describe experiences and phenomena familiar both to them and to us because a permanent part of things human. It is perhaps more useful to assume that they were at least as successful as analytical philosophy may be at describing a kind of human praxis that is as different from what is familiar to us as is their description of it. Kenny’s ‘solution’ to his difficulty is to use the Eudemian Ethics to show that Aristotle’s views actually “bear a remarkable resemblance” to those of such analytical philosophers as Ryle and Wittgenstein. But we may well prefer the view expressed by Rousseau in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality : “Humankind of one age is not the humankind of another, and the reason why Diogenes did not find the [kind of] man [he sought] is that he was looking among his contemporaries for a man of a time that was no more.”23
Will and intention, following the evidence provided by Vernant, Else, and Kenny, and a reading such as the first two imply, are the product of a particular sociohistorical organization. Rousseau is not simply adopting the tradition of the “ages of man” but is insisting that human sensibility, thought, and practice undergo change of so radical a kind as to make the participants in one age of social order incomprehensible to those of another. Will and intention are by no means a permanent given reality, supposed as proper to the human species and a fundamental part of its very definition. The term translated as “will” appears rather as the sign of a discourse functioning in terms of an assumed immediate perception of supposedly enveloping phenomena: the agent is an actor within the action. The interpretation of that (social) world must be attempted in its terms and not in ours: in terms, that is to say, in which the human has no dominant control over that of which it is merely a part. I myself doubt such an interpretation is possible for us, and that we will have to be content with simply noting the difference. A conceptualization of this kind is more akin to Lévi-Strauss’s “ordering of the mind by the world” than its contrary, and it is utterly different from what we can see in neoclassical discourse. This last creates its phenomenal events as a function of its own system: at first avowedly, later covertly. The will is then the name given to the subject that enunciates the predicative discourse of analysis and reference.24
At this point we may begin both to broaden the argument and to extend it up to the Middle Ages. For the concepts of will and intention are but two (very important) aspects of our concept of ‘person.’ This is itself a concept the Greeks seem simply not to have had. Colin Morris comments on the great difficulty we have today in understanding the ancient Greeks, Hellenistic philosophy, and the Greek fathers, a difficulty “largely due to the fact that they had no equivalent to our concept ‘person,’ while their vocabulary was rich in words which express community of being, such as ousia, which in our usage can be translated only by the almost meaningless word ‘substance.’” We may note that this word is the principal component of the words commonly translated as “willful” and “nonwillful.” Morris goes on later to remark that a similar situation is the case with regard to our relation with the Middle Ages.
In the twelfth century, he writes, the “nearest equivalents” to the modern word “individual” were such terms as “individuum, individualis, and singularis, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations.” Indeed, in this matter human relations were subordinate to the logical problem: “a central problem of medieval philosophy was the relation of the individual object (unum singulare) with the general or universal class to which it belonged, and humanity was often taken as a test case in this argument.”25 The consequences of such a relation were grave. A belief in the reality of universals, for example, such as one finds in Anselm, was likely to imply that individuals were simply a part of them, but not so much a divisible part as an indivisible component, an integral feature. Here the “individual” could not be conceived of as preceding the universal, and if, as Cranz suggests, Anselm marks a moment when conjunction is replaced by disjunction, then it is safe to say that it is a disjunctive form of thought that spends its time trying to reason its way back to conjunction. Indeed, the celebrated “ontological argument” put forward in the Proslogium and the Reply to Gaunilon is perhaps comprehensible only in such a light. If one understands universals to be primary, then words are present as concepts in the mind only as they reflect the reality of such universals. Only thus does the association between the mental concept of a Perfect Being (whose perfection must include existence) and the actual existence of the Divinity become not only comprehensible but essential. Anselm’s ontological argument assumes an Augustinian framework and background and a discourse of conjunction: the reliability of concepts in the mind and of human reason in general depends upon the prior reality of universals, of which the guarantor is the ultimate Universal, the Divinity itself. The difficulty we have today in comprehending such a view may explain (apart from other factors) why we may have more sympathy for a thinker such as Abelard, whose tendency toward nominalism seems to place more emphasis on the individual. But we should not place too much faith in any similarity with our own views, for the underlying concepts are quite different.
It seems clear, for example, that despite many commentators’ insistence to the contrary, Augustine’s Confessions do not at all portray a willful self entirely responsible for its own ‘individual life.’ They portray rather the discovery of the Divine in and through reflection. They do not affirm an individual, but show the absorption of the human into the Divine. The human is significant (in the full sense of the term) only to the degree that it becomes visible as a part of and a path toward God. The memory of internal (“imprinted”) knowledge is the sacred memory of a sacred history: Augustine’s confessions of ‘his’ life necessarily conclude with the spiritual interpretation of the beginning of all life as recounted in Genesis, the scriptural memory of the passage from the Divine to the material. This relation of the human to the Divine also explains why John of Salisbury concludes his Metalogicon, a book defending the Trivium, with a lament over the world’s decay and a call to prayer (addressed to Thomas Becket), that the reader may be joined with Christ. Just as speech and its necessity proceed from the Divine, so they must lead back into It. The exemplary text here is of course the De Trinitate, which I will discuss later as positive evidence of the presence of a non-analytico-referential discourse.
A conjunctive mode of discourse still seems dominant even in a thinker as ‘modern’ as Abelard. Though Morris and many others have argued that Abelard is such a modern in some ways, it appears doubtful whether he would have viewed himself in so radical a light. If a disjunctive “center of knowing” (but by no means yet anything like a ‘self’) has replaced a conjunctive manner of being, that center still conceives of its genuine fulfillment only in some kind of ‘union’ with the Divine. Robert Elbaz suggests that the letters of Abelard vacillate between a view that emphasizes God’s control over all human life and lives and one that accentuates man’s responsibility for his own decisions. This is also the opinion of so important an interpreter of Abelard as Jean Jolivet.26
Yet it is clear at the end of Abelard’s first letter, for example, that his life’s process as he has just finished recording it is to be viewed as figured in Christ’s and as exemplary of man’s suffering on earth within the divine plan. This, it seems to me, is the implication of Abelard’s taking for himself St. Jerome’s view of himself as figured in Christ:
St. Jerome, whose heir methinks I am in the endurance of foul slander, says in his letter to Nepotanius: “The apostle says: ‘If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.’ He no longer seeks to please men, and so is made Christ’s servant” (Epist. 2). And again, in his letter to Asella regarding those whom he was falsely accused of loving: “I give thanks to my God I am worthy to be one whom the world hates” (Epist. 99).27
In the light of such a view, Abelard’s “vacillation” becomes itself an image of all the ambiguities inherent in the concept of Christ as the Divine Word made flesh. And if the Eucharist is the means by which man can reverse that process—through flesh to union with God— then Abelard’s letters, too, are the image of that means. They are not merely the relating of Abelard’s own passage through suffering of the flesh to identification with Christ, but that of the reader (particularly if the principal reader was intended to be Heloise).
The “eucharistic” value of Abelard’s letter (or its aspect of “imitatio Christi”) puts us once again face to face with the concept of human thought and practice as memory, and indicates the full potential of Augustine’s theorizing about speech and teaching in the De magistro. That potential is realized in the De Trinitate, but for the moment I merely want to suggest the extent to which it carries through to the so-called renaissance of the twelfth century. Eugene Vance can rightly comment on the “special importance” granted by medieval culture “to the faculty of memory.” Indeed, the “commemorative model” is absolutely central to that culture.28 For Augustine, but still for Abelard and Aquinas (and the continuity of the overwhelming ideal of the imitatio Christi is further evidence), memory provides access to the presence of the Divine in man. It is in just that sense that medieval discursive structures may still be considered conjunctive.
These views of ‘person’ and ‘self,’ of ‘will’ and ‘intention,’ are utterly different from what will be found by the time of the Renaissance. I suggest that anything like discursive control of the “other,” whether as event in the world, as object or person, or as a concept humanly originated, could simply not be enunciated. (Institutions based on such control may exist, but they do not yet provide tools permitting the analysis of diverse human practices.) The lack of these concepts implies that the human creation of order is literally inconceivable. It argues that the view of true knowledge as the application of an abstract human schematization to the concrete is in the strict sense unthinkable. I would therefore affirm that the first objective is refuted: there can be no continuity of a hegemonous analytico-referential discourse from the Greeks on because of the lack of an absolutely fundamental element of such discourse. We have, quite clearly, already been brought to the corollary of that first objection: that is, the matter of continuity between the Middle Ages and our modernity. And already the suggestion had been made that the same element may be lacking through most of the Middle Ages.
Nonetheless, it remains a fact that many of those very commentators who readily accept the radical heterogeneity of the Greeks find it perfectly possible to insist that many medieval thinkers are direct ancestors of the moderns. One can argue, for example, that Carte-sianism and Scholasticism are chronologically unified as the continuous development of one perennial structure of human thought— as Etienne Gilson has tended to do in his book about the relation between medieval thought and the system of Cartesian philosophy.29 The same philosopher-historian is able to write elsewhere that “the Averroistic tradition forms an uninterrupted chain from the Masters of Arts of Paris and Padua, to the ‘Libertins’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” A Fontenelle is the direct descendant of John of Jandun and Marsilius of Padua. And while Ockham marks the “final divorce of reason and Revelation” in favor of reason, Erasmus establishes the end of the same line in favor of Revelation. We are thus provided with a kind of genealogy of the Renaissance that runs from Duns Scotus’s disagreement with St. Thomas, through Ockham, Gehrard Groote, Thomas à Kempis, and Erasmus himself. In this way, while it may be admitted that Cardinal Cajetan (died 1534) represents the end of the Thomist road (‘reason’ and ‘faith’ being part of a single pattern), it also becomes possible for the reason of neoclassicism to be viewed as the immediate and uninterrupted successor of medieval discursive practices.30
In a similar way, both Colin Morris and F. Edward Cranz assert continuity between the work of an Abelard on the one hand and the conceptual developments achieved by Descartes on the other, just as Arthur O. Lovejoy could do between that same medieval thinker and Spinoza. Walter Ullmann argues that there is no real break between certain aspects of medieval political thought and that of the era since Machiavelli (though the subtlety of his arguments suggests that the continuity is of a very complex kind).31 But assertions of some kind of simple continuity are possible, it seems to me, only at the cost of taking isolated elements from different discourses and aligning them on the prior assumption that, for example, Abelard, Descartes, and Spinoza (not to mention Augustine and Ockham) are all representatives of the same unchanging human mind, which itself is in some way unbound by the discursive network of sociohistorical praxis. The critic’s ‘knowledge’ of that supposedly self-identical mind precedes his examination of the thinkers in question. It proceeds, whether one recognizes it or not, from a modern view of which the opening line of Descartes’s Discours de la méthode is doubtless the most celebrated example—and model: “Good sense is the most evenly divided (widespread) thing in the world.” But isolatedly similar strains of thought do not make up the network of relations of an episteme, even though they may form an element within it. Emergent and residual elements are always present within a dominant discourse. What we need to recognize are the elements that are essential to the dominance itself: that is, the elements that are a fundamental part of the episteme.
I have suggested that our concepts of ‘will,’ ‘intention,’ ‘person’ and so on are not even available to the Greeks, and that they are barely so even as late as the European twelfth century. The difficulty commentators have experienced in unearthing such notions as ‘individual’ in that period is itself a sign of their relative lack of importance. In this manner, speaking of the Chanson de Roland (eleventh century), Eugene Vance reminds us that the voice of the “individual” is not that of “an individualizing psychology.” The formulae of conquest spoken by Roland himself just before he dies “belong to a repertory of deeds that are not his alone, and his voice becomes more and more that of history itself speaking to us.” Once again we are dealing here with a commemorative effect grounded in the Divine, for Roland’s “silent interlocutor” at this moment is Durendal, his sword, given to Charlemagne by God (through an angel) and therefore brilliant “with the light of good works that originate, ultimately, with the Father in heaven.”32 As Vance has written elsewhere: “Roland’s heroism was always to have remembered Charlemagne in his ordeal at Ronceval; then, as he died, to have remembered God.” What is clearly expressed here is that conjunctive network indicated by F. Edward Cranz as characteristic of the Greeks. Vance writes: “in the poetics of voice and memory there was to be no separation of word from gesture, of hero from poet, of the knower from what was known.”33 But the same author views the Roland as marking a moment of change from such a conjunctive and commemorative episteme to something quite different.
Charlemagne’s presence does away with any efficacious commemoration. The end of the Roland is thus marked by a kind of dispersion of signification, where language is no longer clear and joyous, but opaque, dark and painful, sign of the passing of the old as yet unreplaced by any new form of totalization. Words lose their familiar meaning, and with it their life. Vance recalls here a passage from John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon, a text more or less contemporary with the Roland: “To inquire into the effective force of speech and to investigate the truth and meaning of what is said are precisely or practically the same. A word’s force consists in its meaning. Without the latter, it is useless, and (so to speak) dead. Just as the soul [anima] animates the body, so, in a way, meaning breathes life into a word.”34 This is a passage we will have good cause to remember later on, for the operation of anima will appear to be particularly central to medieval discourse.
If Roland does mark a particular discursive development, it is not toward a discourse whose center would be some concept of self-identity. Of Gace Brulé, for example (late twelfth century), Vance warns us against hypostatizing “the authorial figure of Gace into any kind of subjective principle, into any kind of unifying ‘original’ presence, in terms of which his poems might take on ‘meaning’: indeed, the flatly conventional surface of these poems discourages any such temptations.” In Gace, he notes later, the je is almost always negated, a fact that corresponds to a more general discursive habit: “The je of medieval lyric is merely the index of a basic principle of activity, and no more.”35 The dispersion of meaning Vance sees in the Roland, the presence of je as no more than a mark of enunciation in the lyric, is confirmed by his reading of Chaucer’s Troilus, in which he traces a gradual decay of language, of truth, of meaning. Finally the reader is placed before the only guarantor of “truth,” the Divine, in “prayer and illumination.”36
The movement of the text of the Troilus is thus identical to that of the Metalogicon as it advances toward its final prayer. The same movement is the subject of the epilogue to this chapter from Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles. It suggests that if there is indeed the growth of a disjunctive mode of discourse from this period through the remainder of the Middle Ages, then such discourse is no less marked by a straining to overcome that disjunction in a new ‘wholeness’ that will be completely foreign to what will later develop. But negative suggestions of this kind are not sufficient for my purpose (and all the authors mentioned would be willing to recognize the ambiguity of their claims). The only genuine way to refute the notion of short continuity is to show that some other class of discourse is dominant throughout this period. Whether or not one accepts my claim that the discourse of primary importance was that of patterning, I believe it can indeed be shown that another discourse was hegemonous.
It has been argued that the division between patterning and ana-lytico-referentiality (as I am calling it) was already assumed in the Middle Ages to have occurred in time immemorial. Thus Philippe Wolff writes: “There was a general idea that what had been lost among these diverse tongues was the essential and primitive bond which had united a thing and its name ever since the time of the Creation. The languages created at Babel were arbitrary and had no connection with things.”37 The similarity of the concept mentioned in the first sentence here to the views of Paracelsus (for example) is apparent. But we have also seen that the term “arbitrary” is not one to be used loosely. It is not necessarily evidence of a disjunctive discourse such as Wolff clearly has in mind. The question, therefore, is whether a statement such as Wolff’s is tenable. I will suggest that it is at best only partly correct: it is clear that the assertion of “no connection” is quite inaccurate.
If such were the case, then etymologizing of the kind practiced by Isidore of Seville in the ninth book, on “languages and kingdoms,” of his Originum sive etymologiarum libri XX (c. 600 a.d.) would be an utterly senseless operation. If there is “no connection” at all, what is the purpose of looking for it? The diverse references Wolff himself provides at this point demonstrate the opposite of his contention and assert that some such link was believed still to exist: there was some inherent relation between a thing and its name, making of the latter a simple feature of the object it named.38 The immediate presentation of the object gave the name, if only the nature of the original link could be rediscovered. For it is indeed the case that for Isidore, in these fallen times, the process has to be followed in reverse. But the underlying ideology is the same: the inherency is not doubted. It is simply that it has been hidden from immediate comprehension and must now be sought out by interpretation. Indeed, in the pre-Babel language interpretation would have been quite unnecessary, just because the connection was immediate between the word and the world: as an inherent feature of the object, the name presented it without ambiguity. On the other hand in analytico-referential discourse interpretation would be incomprehensible.
Only in between, when the link was taken as existing but seen, as it was said, per speculum in aenigmate, “through a glass darkly,” could interpretation have (and make) sense. This is exactly what Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine is all about. Whether or not this may then be accepted as the sign of a patterning discourse remains to be seen, but I will take the opportunity of quoting here from Erich Kahler, who asserts unequivocally that “throughout classical antiquity and until the end of the Middle Ages, mythic and hieratic bonds deeply affected everyday life. Men lived in myth, lived its patterns, performed in their lives an imitatio of myth.”39 That is a strong statement, and perhaps unjustifiable as it stands: certainly it needs nuancing.
One should not overestimate Isidore’s own influence in the late Middle Ages. But that period as a whole would seem to be within an episteme of patterning and of a class one may perhaps call ‘mediation’ (for I certainly do not seek to deny that several classes of discourse may have been of equal importance during this period, as I remarked at the beginning of Chapter 1). By a discourse of ‘mediation’ I mean to suggest a discursive relation where the emphasis falls on the actual producing of discourse, where ‘concepts’ (recognizing this to be a term taken from analytico-referentiality) are inseparable from enunciation. One could oppose something like an operative concept of process to a fixed concept of models. For whether it is a matter of “an ordering of the mind by the world” or of “an ordering of the world by the mind,” both operate upon a model composed: ‘things’ fit into a fixed schema (however flexible it may be). The relation of mediation would accentuate rather the very process of modeling.
Isidore of Seville and the “Cratylism” he endorses are doubtless less important than the succession of thinkers working in the Stoic tradition. This is generally taken as resolutely anti-Cratylist. Yet recent research makes it less clear than ever that such was entirely the case throughout a Middle Ages supposed to be following a Ciceronian and Augustinian tradition. In the first place, the mere opposition Cratylism/anti-Cratylism is a serious oversimplification of a very complex theoretical discussion. In the second place, the situation of the Stoics themselves is not unambiguous. We may well be dealing in their case with a discourse of mediation. Claude Imberfs recent work on Stoic logic is very suggestive of such a view. She is able to note that for the Stoics, the term “Logos has three interconnected meanings: those of divine reason organizing matter, of human reason and of discourse. The qualifier logike reminds us that representation obtains its discursive state from the human reason that gives it birth, and that this reason is a fragment of divine reason, and therefore able to penetrate the physical organization of sensible appearances.”40
An argument of this kind suggests a view of human reason and discourse as ordered by and from the Divine: that is, as a part organized by and within some overarching totality. At the same time it emphasizes the productive role of discourse itself. John of Salisbury had spoken in similar terms of the Stoics. He remarks that for certain purposes we may well imitate their practice in order to reach back to the “truth,” a practice of etymologizing: “In imitation of the Stoics, who are much concerned about the etymology or resemblance [literally: the analysis or analogy] of words, we observe that [Latin] uerum [true] comes from the Greek heron, which means stable or certain and clear.” Such a technique, writes John, enables the interpreter to work back to the divine origin, even though, he says, the Stoics here go astray: “the Stoics believe that [both] matter and the ‘idea’ are coeternal with God.” John denies this belief, agreeing with Bernard of Chartres that God precedes and makes both matter and idea. For John, therefore, the analysis of words is indeed a way toward the Divine, but it is very definitely at a considerable remove. He distinguishes his view from that of the Stoics on the grounds that for the Stoics the discovery of matter and idea, through that of the etymon, was also the discovery of the Divine.41 John’s view is supportive of Imbert’s analysis. Furthermore, though a certain disjunction has been introduced into the series of signifying relationships, it is clear that John’s arguments remain relatively close to and situated in terms of Stoic theory.
The fact that divine reason and human reason are identified with one another in that theory is of prime importance. It enables discourse to be viewed as self-sufficient and, in a way, ‘auto-referential,’ while at the same time permitting the fact of that self-production to be an entirely adequate presentation of reality. The utterance itself, qua utterance, presents the interconnection:
It follows that discourse has no claim to express external reality, save only to the extent that it refers to a representation of internal language, to a thought [itself referred to divine reason]. Properly speaking, there is therefore [in Stoic theory] no semantics to bind the parts of speech to some division or other of physical reality; no discursive truth outside the situation in which the protagonists state or interpret it.42
As Imbert observes, following Erwin Panofsky, this is not at all Platonic. It does not ascribe the possibility of conception to Idea, but to an incessant and indivisible interplay of divine reason, human reason, and discourse. Though John of Salisbury deliberately opposes Stoic theory to Platonism, preferring the latter, it may be just this ‘interplay’ that makes certain aspects of Stoic aesthetic theory peculiarly similar to medieval theories of interpretation. One starts with a “presentation” which “can go proxy for a feeble perception and prepares a commentary suitable for God.” This presentation does have properties associated with Platonic views. It is (1) a “reflection,” presenting “a vision of reality, less rough than that given in sensory contact or simple sense-impression, and containing only the essential differentiating properties (notae) of the object.” It is (2) like a mirror, in that it composes “fictional presentations,” particularly focused or synthesized images of the real. It is (3) like an “eye,” in that “it links rays of external light with the inner movements of the soul: cutting through appearances, it identifies its object under the bright light of revelation.” It provides “a paradigm of cognitive activity.” We may note, too, that this view is very similar to Augustine’s concept of the intellectual “eye” that emits a point (acies) of vision allowing it to be informed with the remembered intelligibles. In the Stoics, the theoretical movement corresponding to these properties starts with mere wonder, progresses to analysis and to “interpretation by a master, which involves a detour into things divine,” and concludes with an initiation into “the truth behind appearances.”43
How can we not see in this movement an anticipation of the most familiar medieval theories of interpretation? There we pass from the literal (for example, “Jerusalem” as the name of a city geographically situated in Palestine: Stoic “reflection”) to the metaphorical (“Jerusalem” as the Church Triumphant: Stoic analysis), to the allegorical or moral (“Jerusalem” as the soul of man: Stoic “interpretation”), to the anagogical (“Jerusalem” as divine union in Paradise: Stoic “initiation”). From the spiritual allegorical reading of Scripture, for which Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine was the exemplar, to the interpretations of secular poetry made popular by Boccaccio, the theory was standard. Let us glance at Dante on the subject:
In order to make this manner of treatment clear, it can be applied to the following verses: “When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people, Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” Now if we look at the letter alone, what is signified to us is the departure of the sons of Israel from Egypt during the time of Moses; if at the allegory, what is signified to us is our redemption through Christ; if at the moral sense, what is signified to us is the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace; if at the anagogical, what is signified to us is the departure of the sanctified soul from bondage to the corruption of this world into the freedom of eternal glory.
Probably one should not insist on too close an identification between this and Stoic theory, though a brief quotation from Varro suffices to indicate just how traditional a commonplace this concept was. In the De lingua latina, a text generally considered to be heavily influenced by Stoic linguistic theory, the Roman polymath writes:
Now I shall set forth the origins of the individual words, of which there are four levels of explanation. The lowest is that to which even the common folk has come. . . . The second is that to which old-time grammar has mounted, which shows how the poet has made each word which he has fashioned and derived. . . .
The third level is that to which philosophy ascended, and on arrival began to reveal the nature of those words which are in common use. . . . The fourth is that where the sanctuary is, and the mysteries of the high-priest. [Bk. V.7–8]44
That such an order and such a similarity should exist at all suggests on the one hand that Stoicism moves in a discursive class quite different from the analytico-referential, and on the other that elements of such a class are strong in the Middle Ages.
So far as this difference from a later discursive class is concerned, then (since that is what I wish to emphasize above all here), we should note that it is utterly misleading to insist upon the arbitrary nature of the sign (essential in analytico-referentiality) as we may find it from Augustine on, if we attempt to interpret such ‘arbitrariness’ in the light of a post-Saussurian linguistics. Such terms as ad placitum and voluntas significare, used in this connection by the Bishop of Hippo, are caught up in a particular epistemology that is not to be confused with what develops during the European Renaissance. Words may be learned from men (“at least the alphabet”); they may be arbitrary in the sense that they are not inherent in the thing they signify, but they are not arbitrary in the sense that their meaning is determined by human control. They are pointers toward an inner truth set in man by the Divine: “Although I can lift my finger to point something out,” says Augustine, “I cannot supply the vision by means of which either this gesture or what it indicates can be seen.”45 He is speaking here specifically of the use of words to interpret Scripture. Clearly the context of voluntas is quite akin to the meaning of the term hekōn as explored by Vernant, Else, and Kenny.
In her admittedly disputed book The Mirror of Language, Marcia Colish has observed that for Augustine
words may represent really existing things truly, if partially, and . . . they function either commemoratively or indicatively in the subject’s mind, depending on his previous relationship to the object. Although seen as an epistemological necessity, verbal signs are never held to be cognitive in the first instance. They must be energized by the action of God in the mind of the knower in order for them to conduce to the knowledge of their significata.46
Verbal signs depend on the object for their meaning, not the reverse: being, that is to say, always precedes knowing. And the object in question is an “inner” object, imprinted upon the mind and retrievable through memory, activated by the commemorative verbal sign. It is in that sense that the sign, as Augustine writes in the De magistro, is learned through the ‘object’ not the object through the sign.47 This is also the way the child learns from adults as recounted at the beginning of the Confessions: but it is worth noting Augustine’s emphasis there, to the effect that everything adults can teach a child is owing to the grace of God. If the child learns the names of things because adults constantly relate those names to objects, this is only possible because God has implanted this capacity in the adults to start with: signs are learned from objects, but the necessary connection predates human utilization of that relation.
Words are not to be confused with things, for then they would be immediately cognitive; but clearly some kind of natural relationship enables the combination of verbal signs and divine action to provoke a true knowledge of the object. We find that we are not, after all, so very far from a “conjunctive” tradition: “Augustine also follows the Stoics in arguing that the natural significance of words provides a basis for the science of etymology.” The discussion of the term grammaticus in Anselm’s De grammatico six centuries later still has much in common with such a notion of etymologizing and moves in the same tradition.48 This relationship, and all signification, is seen in terms of a natural connection between individual words and their “objective significata.” What is signified may be either a real object or a conceptual one, but either is considered to be an “entity identifiable outside of any relation and susceptible of being designated properly by its name, in such a way that not only is every word a name, but every name is the proper name of something in the mind,” as Claude Panaccio writes of Augustine’s conception of naming.49 I have already suggested that Anselm’s ontological argument depends on the assumption that such natural connection and such “properness” both suppose and are guaranteed by the priority of universals.
It thus appears clear that the distinction made by Augustine and his successors (one cannot underscore too heavily Augustine’s overwhelming influence right through the Middle Ages) between natural and conventional signification is entirely misunderstood if we seek to interpret it in terms of our modernity. In Augustine the distinction depends upon the “intentional or unintentional character” of signs:
His natural signs are unintentional. A fire signifies its presence unintentionally through the smoke it produces; a man signifies his feelings unintentionally through his facial expression. These signs do indeed signify physical and psychological realities, but they do so involuntarily. Augustine’s conventional signs also correspond truly with the things they signify. But they are signs used deliberately by animate or intelligent beings to express their ideas, intentions, and feelings to other beings.50
Without any doubt we are dealing here with a concept of the voluntary and involuntary that is in the tradition noted with reference to the analyses of Vernant, Else, and Kenny.
But, we are told, it was a commonplace in the Middle Ages that the order of discourse was the living expression of the order of society. In that case the relationship of words is a societal creation and therefore arbitrary so far as the signification of words themselves is concerned. Words were in some sense the communicative cement of society. Language and society are born together. Society and language are both human artifacts. Again, we should beware of anachronistic interpretations. Such a view implies a concept of political society perfectly alien, as we will see, to the Middle Ages:
Now if man were by nature a solitary animal the passions of the soul by which he was conformed to things so as to have knowledge of them would be sufficient for him; but since he is by nature a political and social animal it was necessary that his conceptions be made known to others. This he does through vocal sounds. Therefore there had to be significant vocal sounds in order that men might live together. Whence those who speak different languages find it difficult to live together in social unity.51
Here in Aquinas, language and society may refer to one another but they do not seem to be coeval. The latter is made possible by the former: words precede society, which is their setting into discourse, just as objects and their concepts precede words, of which they are the natural significata. The view of the relation between discourse and society suggested here did not spring full-blown from the mind of the Middle Ages: “the notion that the order of language constitutes the living order of society was already central to a tradition of classical oratory that any poet such as Chaucer, Dante, or Petrarch knew very well.” Vance goes on to assert that after Dante, “beliefs about the homology between the orders of discourse and culture become articulated as a full-blown philosophy of history, and such doctrines were to be amplified during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”52
We need to remember, however, that human society is God-given, not a free human construction. Whatever may happen to later views, at least in Aquinas, as in John of Salisbury, the relation between the Divinity, discourse, and society seems clear enough. Human society, writes John, is made possible by language. Language itself started from the naming of things, and this activity comes from the Divinity: “In accordance with the divine plan, and in order to provide verbal intercourse in human society, man first of all named those things which lay before him.” If the order is not clear at this point, it was certainly so at the outset when John had considered what happens to society when language is withdrawn. Anyone, he asserts, who attacks the proper use of language (“Eloquence”), as does his adversary, “Cornificius,” takes on an immense responsibility. For
he undermines and uproots all liberal studies, assails the whole structure of philosophy, tears to shreds humanity’s social contracts, and destroys the means of brotherly charity and reciprocal interchange of services. Deprived of their gift of speech, men would degenerate to the condition of brute animals, and cities would seem like corrals for livestock, rather than communities composed of human beings united by a common bond for the purpose of living in society, serving one another, and cooperating as friends.53
The misuse of language is a subversion of humanity itself, since for John humanity is defined (as for Aristotle) as a political and social animal. It is also blasphemous, since both discourse and society are marked by the Divine: “when language became detached from a commitment of faith—faith of any kind—it became a tool of subversion.” So writes Vance of the confrontation between the “feudal” bond represented by Charlemagne, Roland, and the “pairs” and the treachery of Ganelon which provokes the utter downfall of that feudal world.54
The arrangement, then, is a kind of ‘contractual’ one (a word I use here with hesitation, given its later connotations). The correct use of words permits the continuation of society and makes its existence ever more firm. For while particular discourse may be associated with particular sociohistorical circumstances, it is also bound by the proper meaning of words. To misuse words is a derogation of society and indeed of humanity as taken up in it. In that sense words are not at all arbitrary. But what, one will ask, enables one to speak of a “misuse” of words or of discourse? How can such a misuse be judged?
The judgment must rely on two elements: (1) words as naturally given are not the creation of society, but only their ordering, the use to which they are put. Once again we find ourselves in the paradigm of intentionality and unintentionality. (2) We can know correct signification through the “ear of the heart.” This is a faculty of the soul and, as such, is confirmed in its functioning by the Divinity, by the Logos itself. The relationship is that of soul to body: the sign is bound on the one hand by its material existence as the expression of society, while on the other its correct use is guaranteed by its participation in the Logos. It is in just that sense that Augustine can write that the “mouth of the heart” (the “ear’s” counterpart) cannot lie in itself, for it “doth reach to the hearing of the Spirit of the Lord, Who hath filled the whole earth.” Human passions of one kind or another may make the voice of the heart into a lie when it is embodied in a verbal utterance or when it is transformed into material action, but in itself the heart utters the truth of God.55 Here is the root of true discourse and genuine society. As the reference to Augustine just indicated, like all things human since the Fall, this situation was held to be corrupt and fallible in virtue of its material existence, but it was ‘potentially’ perfectible in virtue of Creation and the dispensation of Grace.
The relationship of meaning and knowledge with society is identical to the kind of relationship we find at what we might consider the ‘political’ level. Walter Ullmann has observed that the combination of Christian doctrine with the Roman social and legal heritage meant for the Middle Ages that “the Christian was a member of the all-embracing, comprehensive corporation, the Church.” The act of baptism effected entry as a fully fledged member of that corporation. Nor was it “merely a liturgical or a sacramental act” but a profoundly political one, making of the baptized person a “reborn” member of the society and recognizing him to be “a participant of the divine attributes themselves.” Thus he became a “fidelis,” obedient to a law represented and made concrete by “those who were instituted over him by divinity.” Such law was often referred to as the anima (or ‘soul’) of society, just as that is also the name given to the presence of the Divinity in man.56 One is rather forcibly reminded here of Erich Kahler’s comment regarding the patterns lived by medieval man.
The relationship here is not one of analogy, but of identity. The discursive functioning of sociopolitical relations is the same as that of logico-epistemological ones (which is why to take humanity as a “test case” for a logical relationship has such profound implications). The corporate social relation between the Divinity and societal participant, mediated by the law (anima), and that participant and society as a whole, mediated by baptism, is the same as the relation that holds between the Divinity and the sign, guaranteed by the soul (anima), and the sign and society, guaranteed by concrete discursive practice. The sign’s ordering and the person’s status are both fixed by the discursive organization of society; the sign’s meaning and the mere fact of a person’s participation are bound by the mediation of anima (whose meanings, writes Ullmann, are multiple: immortal law, society itself, King, God, soul, society’s laws).
The term anima may therefore be seen as a kind of focal point. It is an operator, rather than simply a sign bearing ‘meaning.’ It permits the transformation of one set of relations into another. It reveals, as it establishes, the identity of apparently heterogeneous sets of relations.57 Such a view is confirmed by Colin Morris who, while claiming to show the development of a ‘modern’ concept of the individual during the Middle Ages, actually indicates something quite different. He asserts that the use of such terms as “knowing oneself,” “descending into oneself,” or “considering oneself” illustrates that a concept of the “self” is developing during the twelfth century (even though a term such as “individual” remains essentially a logical one). He then remarks that “another common term was anima, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’).”
We have seen that it was used for much more than that. But such use is “ambiguous” only if one is determined to find a modern meaning for the concept of self, taken as unchangingly human. The examples I have given indicate rather that human ‘self’-awareness, here, is quite inseparable from a sense of participation (‘knowledge’) in the Divine: God, says Augustine, who “in the eyes of the twelfth century . . . was the master of the art of self-knowledge,” is within the soul (anima): self-knowledge, for the Bishop of Hippo, is “the path to God.”58 I suggested before how this was indeed the case for both Augustine and Abelard, and we saw a trace of the mediatory anima in John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon. Nonetheless, it is above all Augustine who is most clear on the subject of anima as an operator of transformational patterns.
He relates, for example, in the Confessions how he gradually discovered the right path to God, noting how he came across certain Platonist writings which, however pagan, were nonetheless able to give him a true idea of the relation between the soul (anima) and God: “that the soul of man, though it bears witness to the light, yet itself is not that light; but the Word of God, being God, is that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”59 The central text in this matter, however, is the De Trinitate. There, St. Augustine teaches that memory, understanding, and will are three faculties of the soul (anima), which is itself the image of God, as is learned through Revelation. This relationship between the soul and its faculties is in every way analogous to the definition of the Divinity, widespread at the time Augustine was writing and to which he makes constant reference, as “mia ousia, treis hupostaseis.” This virtually untranslatable definition (containing the same word, ousia, whose ‘difficulty’ we have already seen), is rendered by Augustine as “a trinity of persons mutually interrelated, and a unity of an equal essence.”60
The second eight books of the De Trinitate set out to show in just what ways the soul of man is a mediation to the Divine. It is in the light of this connection that we have to understand the Augustinian ‘self,’ not in that of some imaginary Cartesianism avant la lettre. The work sets out to explain the Trinity, and to do so has to follow the path through will (passions) to reason, to faith, to the hope of eventual redemption. It is in that conjunctive sense that Father E. Hen-drikx can view the De Trinitate as “the most personal of all Augustine’s works,” even though the Bishop “introduces us at once to the mystery of God’s inner life [la vie intime],” for it is at the same time an introduction “more than elsewhere, to the inner life of his own soul”: the two are inextricably bound together.61
It is useful to linger over the De Trinitate, which was perhaps the most read of Augustine’s works throughout the Middle Ages. For my present purpose it is exemplary, as I will indicate in a moment. But it is important, too, because of its immense influence. Hendrikx remarks that more than 230 manuscripts of the Latin text are extant to this day, most of them dating from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, while we still possess twenty manuscripts of a Greek translation made at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Quite apart from this evidence of widespread popularity during the birth and heyday of Thomism, Hendrikx can assert that methodologically as well, it was in the De Trinitate that “scholasticism was born.”62 By its dialectical interrogation of the texts in its search for a true knowledge of God, by its logical and ‘psychological’ interpretation of them, and its submission of both activities to the necessity of faith, the De Trinitate simultaneously originates a tradition and typifies it to an exemplary degree.
More than any other, it is the Augustinian tradition that holds sway through the thousand years of the Middle Ages. What the De Trinitate tells us about the intimate relationship between the human soul and the Divine Trinity explicitly confirms my present argument about the dominant class of discourse throughout this period. In the second half of the text, Augustine provides us (as he had sought to do in earlier texts, from the very earliest to the City of God) with a series of triads seeking to show in what way the soul of man is such an image and mediation of God as he suggests. The first of the series is mens, notitia, amor: spirit, knowledge, will. This triad is an incomplete analogy with the Trinity, says Augustine, because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three equal “substances” (hupostaseis) of one “essence” (ousia), whereas mens is substance, notitia and amor its acts. The second of the series is more satisfactory as an analogy: memoria (sui), intelligentia, voluntas. Here, intuitive self-consciousness is at once the foundation of and equal to understanding and will, while the three are united in that together they form the soul (anima).
The third and final analogy of the presence of the Divine in the soul comes in the triad memoria (Dei), intelligentia (Dei), amor (in Deum). Here, however, we are no longer, properly speaking, in the presence of an analogy, for this is the image of the soul that has come to know God, to know itself as a manifestation of and a participation in the Divine. Self-consciousness, self-knowledge, and self-love have become consciousness of God, knowledge of God, and love of God.63 As in the Confessions, as in the De magistro, as in the City of God, Augustine practices here what he preaches: the search for truth, the search for a complete knowledge of the ‘self,’ leads to a final absorption into the Divine. Indeed, the mind given up to itself, given up to its own ‘willfulness,’ can only fall into error, falsehood, and subversion, as the De Trinitate continually insists. The ‘individual’s’ ultimate ‘self’-understanding (and the inadequacy of the terms is by now obvious) is in the unveiling of God’s image in the soul. “Know thyself” is the urging toward that particular understanding. That is just what the Confessions, too, are all about. Yet, in life, there can be no more than a constant passage toward such a goal, because the final unveiling can only be achieved with the soul’s own end in God. The final prayer of the De Trinitate still marks a distance that can only be overcome in death. But it also marks the continuation of a process toward conjunction through mediation:
And when the last day of life shall have found any one holding fast faith in the Mediator in such progress and growth as this, he will be welcomed by the holy angels, to be led to God, whom he has worshipped, and to be made perfect by Him; and so he will receive in the end of the world an incorruptible body, in order not to punishment, but to glory. For the likeness of God will then be perfected in this image, when the sight of God shall be perfected. And of this the Apostle Paul speaks: “Now we see through a glass, in an enigma, but then face to face.”64
The Divina commedia can easily be read as an “interpretation” (in the medieval sense) of this Augustinian process. We are clearly a very long way indeed from the voluntary ‘angelic’ reason whose concept and practice will be developed throughout the seventeenth century. Morris notes that the Augustinian concept was adopted by such as Bernard of Clairvaux, William of Saint Thierry, Aelred of Rievaulx, and others. He adds to the list, lest we be led into believing that it was an entirely Cistercian strain, such non-Cistercians as Guibert of Nogent.65 I do not see how a view such as this can be considered in any way ‘modern’ (as a dominant discursive class, that is to say). Yet it is one which seems to predominate among the principal thinkers of the twelfth century, those very ones whom Morris considers the forerunners of the modern concept of the self. The pattern of relations that organize the meaning of signs in discourse and the place and role of participants in society indicates a quite different class of conceptualization, a different process altogether.
In the light of all this there can be no question but that the voluntas significare of Augustine echoes a concept of ‘will’ that is essentially that of the Greeks (which can scarcely surprise us). It has to do with a concept of conjunction and ‘corporate community.’ It has no connection at all with the Cartesian concept of will as that element in man by which he is equivalent to God (see the Passions de l’âme) and which can thereby become the individual origin of discourse, of thought, of knowledge, of society, and so on. Clearly, too, the Augustinian pattern is not dissimilar to the Stoic divinity/ human mind/discourse relation as Claude Imbert discusses it. But we have seen that we are actually dealing with an all-embracing discursive network, in which the ‘individual’ can only be defined as a path toward conjunction with an overarching (“divine”) totality.
This class remains manifestly dominant certainly throughout the twelfth century. And speaking of a distinction between Augustinian-ism, “Cratylism,” and Stoicism, we may well wonder whether the glossing of accumulated metaphors (for example, to discover the true meaning of the Bible or other authoritative text) or the Stoic analysis and interpretation of a “presentation” are epistemologically very different, as has been claimed, from the etymological researches of an Isidore, undertaken to discover the true denotation of a word and to reveal the object/concept with which that word is taken to be ultimately identical. To be sure, the first place the emphasis on the signified, while the last puts it on the signifier, but one wonders, first, whether such ‘modern’ distinctions are possible with regard to writers such as Augustine and Isidore (though the distinction was clearly made by the Stoics: a fact which again suggests a different class of discourse), and second, whether the necessary reliance on a ‘right reading’ of the Divinity for the confirmation of both true meaning and true identity does not bring both kinds of argument to the same point. For there, the supposition must be that meaning and identity are one in perfection.
In practice both views would have the same consequence: that the confirmation of right discourse depends on the authority of the Divinity (mediated through anima), and rather less on any societal anchoring. How otherwise can one explain, for instance, the lack of relation between actual socioeconomic practice and economic theory? Thus, though the outcries against usury, for example, no doubt refer to current practice, they refer above all to Biblical, Patristic, and Aristotelian authority rather than to the needs of a developing mercantilist economy. Again, though the domain and referent (for us) are utterly different, the same kind of gap is apparent in scientific discourse. Even in a field such as that of momentum theory, already very advanced long before the advent of Galileo, the references—with the notable exception of the Oxford ‘line’ running from Grosseteste through Roger Bacon to Bradwardine and the Mertonians—are back to Aristotle and his commentators: ‘truth’ was sought through the word, not through the thing. There was experimentation, but it was very rare.66 Here, too, truth was to be unearthed by following a path inward. Walter Ullmann has shown a similar disjunction between theory and practice in regard to political theory, where a dominant theocratic model largely ignores customary, feudal, and local corporate practices. In all this, the extreme example is usually taken to be that of Ockham, who is thought of as having reduced the entire question to one of definition, and as thereby having cut through the potential contradictions between theory and practice.
The matter is, of course, far more complicated. In his weighty reevaluation of Ockham’s role, Gordon Leff writes, “for him the central question was no longer to explain the individual by reference to the universal but rather to account for universals in a world of individuals.” The first order of explanation corresponds, of course, to the concept that universals reside in the mind and can be reached by techniques of memory. That these universals, once attained, will explain any individual instance is precisely why theoretical models seem (to us) divorced from the ‘realities’ that are their concrete embodiment. In the discursive class we have been looking at, such individual embodiments do not lead us toward universals: on the contrary, they are second in relation to those universals. Ockham emphasizes that concepts are first of all present in the mind thinking of them rather than attained by a mind gaining access to the imprint of a universal whose essence is outside the individual mind. Leff continues: “He thereby substituted a logical for a metaphysical order. In doing so he discarded the long-standing assumption of a pre-existing harmony between concepts and reality, transforming what had been taken as a hierarchy of being into a diversity of ways of signifying individual beings.”67
This is to place a world of meaning over against a world of being. The problem of late Scholasticism was to regain access to a world now ruled by disjunction. The increasing complexity of the theory of signs was evidence of a mighty conceptual struggle to which the theory of signatures sought perhaps to put an end by simply cutting the Gordian knot and placing all things at the same level of apprehension. It was an unsuccessful expedient. Terence Cave has recently argued that not only Rabelais (and others already mentioned here), not only Thomas More (as we will see in some detail in the next chapter), but such writers as Erasmus, Ronsard, and Montaigne all manifest a kind of “discursive outpouring” that could well be taken as yet another manifestation of crisis.68 But by that time it is shortly to be displaced by the elaboration of a quite new class of discourse.
Ockham’s period of greatest activity was in the thirty years between 1319 and 1349. As already indicated, the matter of the replacement of a conjunctive “harmony between concepts and reality” by an essential disjunction has been argued by F. Edward Cranz as having occurred around 1100 in the work of Anselm and Abelard. It would, he argues, have been confirmed by Petrarch (1304–74), by Cusanus (1401–64), and by Luther (1483–1546).69 These last names and dates suggest that it was rather between Ockham and the midsixteenth century than from the time of Anselm and Abelard that something potentially new was emerging. I am suggesting it is as yet no more than potential. It cannot even begin to start consolidating, and does not, until that disjunction becomes absorbed in a whole network of elements to which the hypostasis of the enunciating subject as a possessive internally sufficient self is essential—along with other elements whose development and consolidation subsequent chapters will follow. Such a self does not yet exist.
To be sure, there is ambiguity. Both the potential for the existence of a new class of discourse and the power of the still dominant model are clearly indicated by the condemnation procured on December 10, 1269, by the Parisian faculty of theology against views of which Siger of Brabant was taken as the exemplary representative. The archbishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, acted against thirteen articles asserted to be proclaiming, among other things, “the unicity of the human intellect, determinism of the will, the eternity of the world, the mortal nature of the soul, the complete detachment of God from all knowledge of the universe, and the negation of divine providence.” The dominant model could clearly not accept such views as those (whether or not they were actually expressed). But nor could such a ‘radical’ as Ockham have done so either. As Leff remarks: “it cannot be emphasized too strongly that Ockham totally accepted the regularities of nature and the constancy of moral norms. If his was a universe of individuals they were not self-contained or discrete.”70
The assumption of regularity and constancy is what affords a foundation for a theory of signatures that will last into the seventeenth century. But the increasing difficulty of founding the assumption itself leads to the necessity of a quite different axiomatic grounding. At that point the discreteness of the individual (both logical and ontological) will become fundamental. But at least in Ockham, so far as man himself is concerned, the model remains that of Augustine: “Ockham like virtually every Christian thinker accepts St. Augustine’s view of the soul as formed in the image of the uncreated Trinity.” The soul’s likeness to God is partly in its substance as image, but chiefly “through the soul’s conjunction with its acts of knowing and willing.” And Leff is then able to discuss the centrality of the Eucharist in Ockham’s thought as in a sense its conclusion. For Ockham no less than for Augustine or Abelard, the Divine is the completion of nature, attained by commemorative illumination.71 Here, too, disjunction strains toward conjunction; commemoration is by no means replaced by reference; the individual is conceivable only as part of a whole whose existence may indeed be becoming increasingly tentative but which remains intact for the moment.
Fundamentally there remains the assumption of an overarching totality within which the word and the world (whether social or physical) are situated at the same level. The dominant model is a collective one in which the sign as a ‘unit’ of meaning or the human as an ‘individual’ in society has no significance at all save as it can be referred to the corporate community or social discourse on the one hand and guaranteed by the Divine on the other. Like Erich Kahler, Walter Ullmann also underlines this aspect of the matter at a social level, speaking of “the absorption of the individual by the community or by society,” as evidenced, he writes, by such “collective punishments ... as the interdict of a locality or the amercements of towns, villages, or hundreds, and so on.” He continues: “Society was pictured as a large organism in which each member had been allotted a special function which he pursued for the common good.” The two “characteristic facts” of such a society were its division into fixed estates (what I earlier referred to as a “person’s status”) and the obligation of every member to fulfill his “vocation” (what I called the “participant’s role”). This order is, of course, a version of “the great chain of being” as explored by Lovejoy. Indeed, it may well be that we can read that great chain as an operator having a similar function to that of anima, permitting the transformation of different ‘conceptual’ levels among one another.72
Whether or not one accepts that the dominant discourse underlying this unfamiliar kind of conceptual organization is one of patterning, it is clear that such a disposition indicates a very different epistemology of sign process from that of the analytico-referential. To such thinkers as Augustine or Bernard, William of Saint Thierry or Aelred, Aquinas, Anselm, or Abelard, it could not have occurred to use the ‘arbitrariness’ of the sign so as to give a specifiable relatum in the phenomenal world, a relatum whose confirmation depends upon the will of an individual who estimates himself (insofar as will is concerned) the equal of the Divinity. The key concepts of use, arbitrariness, will, intention, individual, person, and self are all quite different. They cannot but provide an utterly dissimilar practice of discourse.
It is in the light of such a difference that the realism/nominalism dispute should be considered, rather than by identifying it with a later opposition between rationalism and empiricism, to which it is often mistakenly assimilated. The two disputes do not pose the problem of knowledge in at all the same way. They belong in different epistemes. In this connection Nancy Struever has noticed striking similarities between Sophistic discourse and that of nominalism and fourteenth-century Italian humanism, similarities that immediately recall Claude Imbert’s discussion of Stoic logic. Referring particularly to Gorgias and Isocrates, Struever writes of the Sophists:
Quite simply, the early Sophists decided to deal with the impure: to shun the ideal sphere where pure reason and perfect justice reside for the shifting and uncertain field of action and discourse. In effect, they issue a series of Self-Denying Ordinances in their axiomatic statements. These ordinances assert that only a world of flux and impurity exists, and that a mental operation cannot be divorced from this disorderly matrix. The desire for purity of thought and communication is a delusion, and even the force of logic is a form of violence (bia) mediated through the passions. Sophistic thought denies any stability except the stability of the relationships which it creates.73
One is vividly reminded here of Frege’s remark that “if everything were in continual flux, and nothing maintained itself fixed for all time, there would no longer be any possibility of getting to know anything about the world, and everything would be plunged in confusion.” Frege, as I commented earlier concerning the metaphor of the telescope, was himself writing toward the beginning of a period of discursive passage. That passage also marks the closing of the dominance of the analytico-referential with whose rise I am concerned here, and one may well compare Frege’s fear to Charles S. Peirce’s emphasis on incessant semiosis, and that opposition in turn to the case presently under discussion (though without identifying them in any way together).74 The realism/nominalism dispute is really over the question of ‘exteriority’: whether or not there exists any nondiscursive anchor for discourse (thought).
One is tempted to place that dispute in an arena where patterning is opposed to mediation. It is in such an arena that Platonic Ideas (nothing but logic itself, we may recall, in Ramus’s transformation of them) answer the Sophists’ claims for “pure” discourse. In effect nominalism claims that human thought is nothing but ‘anchorless’ discursive mediation. Platonic realism asserts the creation of logical patterns whose anchor is the nondiscursive (and hierarchic) world of real Ideas. That is a quite different concept of external anchor from what is claimed in the rationalist/empiricist quarrel. In the latter some form of objectively knowable material reality is asserted by both parties. Their argument (among other things) concerns the question of how one can know such ‘objective reality,’ the division exterior/interior being a mutually accepted given. Far more was at stake in the realist/nominalist dispute: nothing less, perhaps, than the Renaissance and the subsequent era of technology, which required the development of analytico-referentiality.
It may be that what I have just been calling a discourse of mediation is less a ‘class’ (like patterning or analysis) than a kind of constant reminder of indecision, an indication of the fallibility of conceptual models. But whatever the case, I have myself argued elsewhere that an episteme may be considered as composed of two dominant discourses. The first is the “visible dominant discourse model.” This is the discourse that provides ‘meaningful concepts,’ the discourse that orders all theories of reality and that judges all activities. In the Middle Ages it was the ‘theocratic’ model; in the period between the sixteenth century and our own time it was one of ‘experimentalisin’ (whose emergence this book will be exploring). The second discourse is the “occulted dominant discourse practice.” In the Middle Ages it was a particular ‘feudal’ disposition of often conflic-tual relations (which in England were codified as early as Magna Carta, making common law out of a conflict between King John and the barons).75 When such practice is transformed into a meaningful model (as I suggest eventually happens), then the earlier model is itself discarded. A new episteme develops (and, as part of it, a new occulted practice).76
A process of this kind is implied in Walter Ullmann’s analyses of medieval society and political order. He suggests the existence of an opposition between a “descending thesis of government” and an “ascending” one. The first is the theocratic model. It situates God at the summit in His plenitude with, immediately beneath Him, His annointed King. The King himself is placed over a society whose members, the fideles, are “incorporated” and conjoined within a permanently fixed and hierarchically structured totality. The ascending thesis is a feudal practice that allows considerable freedom to the individual and that also includes the customary practices of everyday life (largely indifferent to the divine theory of order). The latter, Ullmann suggests, is the older of the two. However, he also argues that in some sense they reemerge in the period between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, in the form of a “humanistic thesis,” giving increasing importance to the concept of man as simply natural. The principal representatives of this later development were such figures as John of Paris, Dante, Marsilius of Padua, and Bar-tolus of Sassoferrato, as well as some others less obviously radical.77 But by the late fifteenth century we are already leaving the Middle Ages behind in any case.
F. L. Ganshof, agreeing with Ullmann as to the order in which the feudal and the theocratic orders appeared, provides us with some important indications as to how a practice can be absorbed into and occulted by a dominant model: a matter that is naturally significant for the analyses of my next chapters. According to Ganshof, the earliest forms of feudal legal arrangements implied “in the fullest sense a mutual contract.” By the Carolingian era, the second half of the eighth century, however, this aspect was becoming increasingly concealed as the feudal rite of vassalage, though still conceived as instituting a mutually binding relationship, came to be the seal of a fundamentally hierarchical one (for the “contract” had never in any case been reckoned as between equals). The act of commendation (by which the vassal placed himself in debt to his lord for service in return for protection and livelihood) was accompanied by an oath of fealty (the vassal’s fides or fidelitas), which at least in appearance is more binding on the vassal than on the lord. At the same time, it emphasizes the hierarchical relation. Ganshof quotes to this effect from “a commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict ascribed to Paul the Deacon,” which distinguishes between the slave’s service by fear and the vassal’s service by faith: “‘the vassal serves his lord in virtue of the faith (propter fidem suam) by which he has promised to serve him, so that he shall not be taken as a breaker of his word.’” The vassal assumes a position “in relation to his lord,” rather than the contrary, and he does it by the symbolic enclosing of his hands between those of his lord (the so-called commendation with immixtio manuum), by an oath of fealty and, at least in the case of an important vassal, by touching a res sacra.78
It is doubtless the case that later texts will continue to point out the lord’s obligations, even while emphasizing the vassal’s. Ganshof quotes a letter from Bishop Fulbert of Chartres to this effect, dated 1020, and is able to suggest other instances. Nonetheless, one can say that by the late eighth century, and certainly by the ninth, the contractual aspect of the relationship has definitely become subordinated to that of a model of hierarchical domination—placed under a theological sign (the touching of some res sacra). By 802, an oath sworn to Charlemagne indicates clearly the obligations of the vassal, but appears not to involve specific stated obligations on the part of Charlemagne, whose legal obligation is presumably simply implicit in his enfolding of the vassal’s hands, while the latter in addition takes his oath and swears on the sacred relics. Indeed, once the oath was taken, fealty appears to have been terminable only with the lord’s agreement, the contrary not being the case (though practice differed as vassals became stronger). Throughout this same century, feudal benefices (later called “fiefs”) became increasingly hereditary, and this, too, implies the gradual disappearance of the contractual element (at least visibly) with a corresponding hardening of hierarchical relationships. For such benefices became less and less a matter for the creation of feudal vassalages, less at the lord’s disposal, but increasingly a permanent sign of status and place within a fixed hierarchy (for the debt of service and fidelity did not thereby disappear).
The almost entirely oral procedures of Carolingian feudalism had always marked an attempt to increase and maintain the power of the King, though it soon started to have an opposite effect in practice (leading to the downfall of the Carolingians). From the very earliest times there had been a clear tension between the vassal’s urge to independence and the lord’s attempts to increase his own authority. In ninth-century France it was leading toward the downfall of the Carolingians. Elsewhere it was to lead to such concessions as Magna Carta. But at the same time, as I have been suggesting, a visible model of hierarchy (terminating in the Divinity itself) was gradually becoming dominant, whatever actual practice may have been. This model is gradually coming to cover an originally more clearly contractual arrangement, and the vocabulary of serfdom is increasingly applied to the relationship, not as a form of deprecation but as indicative of a certain order. Ganshof refers to the virtual “sovereignty” exercised by the king over his vassal (even though the latter remained free in law) and to “the religious character of the oath of fealty.” In this regard, too, it is important to notice that feudal relations and rights of justice were not the same, though they were linked. The holding of a fief, that is to say, did not give the vassal jurisdiction over that area (though in practice some seized it): a fief implied property rights, not judicial ones. So far as civil law was concerned, such judicial rights remained in the lord’s hands, whatever may have been the variety and ambiguity in fact. By the late twelfth century, at least in England and France, the Crown had succeeded in its claim to overall legal jurisdiction.79
Such a claim was not simply a legal one. It also emphasized certain elements of the entire hierarchical order by now firmly established—and firmly established in accordance with a theocratic model. To be sure, even in Western Europe there were many varieties of what we tend today to subsume under the single term “feudalism,” but by and large this model ruled from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. Certainly the tensions remained. For the time being, however, the occultation of a practice that would fundamentally question the dominant model enabled a great outburst of new activities. In terms of a particular order of conceptualization, Arthur Lovejoy speaks of a similar kind of opposition inherent within the idea of a Great Chain of Being. Throughout this period the image contained a contradiction it was unable to resolve, a contradiction whose eventual resolution would lead, I suggest, to the destruction of the episteme of patterning (together, of course, with such elements as the reappearance, in ‘usable’ form, of the conflictual and contractual nature of feudal relations). Lovejoy indicates that the concept of the Great Chain contained on the one hand an assumption of necessary and inevitable descent from God himself through the multiplicity of creation to the lowest nonsentient piece of matter, and on the other a supposition of a full Creation achieved by God’s will. Such an opposition between necessity and freedom, writes Lovejoy, produced a whole series of contradictions,80 of which that between a static hierarchical order and a moving conflictual practice is obviously but one example.
It is such practices as these last that compose what I have called the occulted dominant discourse practice. They are not conceived as a means of theorizing reality. Indeed, as Ullmann shows, they are ignored by the dominant model—even though, as my references to Ganshof suggest, they may be instrumental in enabling such dominance.81 Eventually, however, elements from such practices do give rise to a modeling theory. More precisely they are transformed into such a theory (feudalism was not a theory of the social order but the form taken by specific kinds of social relations and the legal order prescribed for particular kinds of property rights). The consequence of Machiavelli’s conflictual analysis was to render obsolete the dominant theocratic model. It necessitated the development and invention of new analytical elements, some of which were quite new indeed, some of which were already emergent in the earlier dominant model. This transformation of practice into a meaningful analysis eventually produced the experimentalist model, at the same time as it left space for a ‘new’ occulted practice (‘new’ in the sense that it becomes epistemically essential—as feudal practices had been before): those relations Karl Marx was to analyze as socioeconomic relations of production. That analysis in turn will give rise to a new dominance and a new occultation (as I suggest in Chapter 12).
In a number of recent writings, Peter Haidu has shown how a kind of unease in the poetic writings of the twelfth century, especially certain of Chrétien de Troyes’s writings, is indicative of a latent contradiction such as I have been suggesting—though it falls very far short of what will be seen in a text such as Utopia. We have already had occasion to observe some of Eugene Vance’s similar observations on texts running from the Chanson de Roland to Gace Brulé, from Dante to Chaucer. Both Haidu and Vance interpret such a contradiction, following Georges Duby, as the sign of a new emergent discourse that later interpretation will be able to view as being in opposition to feudalism: that is, as elements of a “capitalist” discourse. In certain areas like Champagne, the argument runs, the growth of the use of money started changing the way people functioned in relation to one another and the way they conceptualized such relations. This increasing process of exchange came into collision with habitual structures of thought and practice: a collision visible, for example, in the previously mentioned poetic productions. It will culminate much later in the sixteenth century. The argument is no doubt based on unimpeachable data, but I think the interpretation is inexact, because it tends to conflate feudal practice and theo-logico-theocratic theory, dominant model and dominant practice.82 Feudal practice and new processes of monetary exchange are not at first in conflict with one another. Feudal practice contains many elements of exchange and contract, potentially available to praxes other than feudal ones.
Whether such practice eventually becomes a “capitalist” analytic (as I suggest happens in Machiavelli) or is crushed by it (as Duby, Haidu, Vance, and others suggest) is less important for my purpose than the perception of the presence of such contradictions. Haidu, after Duby once again, has argued rather strongly that elements of a later dominant “textuality” (as he terms it, following others who speak of “social text”) are already present in medieval practice.83 I would suggest that feudal practice provides those elements rather than denying them. The difference is that they are not yet tools for analysis. It is in just this sense that J. G. A. Pocock has been able to show how Continental and English lawyers and antiquarians gradually “discovered” feudalism. Their theory of what feudalism was grew with the new analysis of what society and the state were. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century, Cujas and Hotman in particular came to view what we (but not they) would call the feudal system as a legal, social, and political practice produced out of a tradition quite separate from the Roman. In 1603, the Scottish historian Sir Thomas Craig produced a work in which the feudal law was treated not as a whole complex of practical relations but “as a system of royal and hierarchical authority binding all men to personal dependence on the king.” Shortly thereafter, the English antiquarian Sir Henry Spelman produced a series of works tending to imply, though with far more complexity, the same state of affairs. Feudalism, that is to say, is being used to provide historical justification for a theory of the King’s absolute authority (that done, all manner of arguments may then be developed as to how subjects are in fact bound to such authority—including the Hobbesian covenant). Pocock can then conclude of James Harrington’s Oceana (1656) that the concept of
feudalism, as was happening everywhere in English historical thought, helped him to see how the pattern of custom, law and government had changed in modern history, and helped him to see also that law might be largely a matter of land, and social relationships a matter of tenure. It is the marriage between this and the essentially classical and Italian concepts of the one, the few and the many, of the degenerative cycle, of the legislator, of the citizenry as a voting militia and the militia as an armed citizenry, that produces the thought of the “Preliminaries” [before Oceana], which posterity has agreed to consider the important part of Harrington’s legacy. Viewed in this light, Oceana is a Machiavellian meditation upon feudalism.84
All this argues that feudalism as a theoretical analysis of society developed in parallel with and as a consequence of the “Machiavellian” analysis. It was at once an effort at differentiation and at historical justification. In any case, what is above all important here is to be able to avoid confusing emergence with dominance. I wish to show in the following chapters how emergent elements, facing insuperable contradiction, develop into a dominant process (remembering always, of course, that to speak of “emergence” can only be retrospective: neither the twelfth nor the sixteenth century, nor any other, could see the elements of its discourse in such terms). The crisis of discourse I have suggested as gradually growing is not simply manifested in language and thought, in logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. It is revealed in every kind of human practice, as it is in events which it does not seem possible to ascribe directly to human causation.
On March 7, 1277, the thirteen articles condemned eight years earlier were increased somewhat in number. Etienne Tempier condemned 219 propositions. It was during Ockham’s early teaching years, in the period between 1315 and 1319, that “the greatest famine of the Middle Ages struck.” In the Low Countries at least 10 per cent of the population died. Between 1347 and 1350 the outbreak of bubonic plague, the Black Death, decreased the population of Europe by an estimated 33 to 40 per cent. Not for 250 years—not until 1600—would this population be made up once again. That this partly corresponded to a change in climate seems unquestioned, the period between the mid-fourteenth and the mid-seventeenth centuries in Europe being very cold and damp (the same climactic conditions were accompanied by an earlier outbreak of bubonic plague between the sixth and eighth centuries of our era). At the same time, falling agricultural productivity as a result of the over-use of land was becoming a serious problem by the third decade of the fourteenth century: cultivation could no longer provide for a population whose increase over the previous two centuries had been dramatic. Four centuries later agricultural technology and population growth in Europe would be able to keep pace with one another, but this was not the case in the fourteenth century. Where agricultural technology was lacking military technology provided a less pleasant “solution.” To famine and plague was added war. The same third decade of the fourteenth century saw cannons in general use, and this led directly to the early English victories of the Hundred Years’ War.85
Between 1337 and 1453, the fortunes of that war ebbed and flowed across the battlefields of France. It was fought partly because the Plantagenet English rulers of the vast French fief of Aquitaine anomalously refused vassalage services to the French kings, partly because English and French merchants were battling over the wool trade in Flanders, and partly because a new national consciousness was beginning to develop in France as it already had in England. Feudal concerns, mercantile dominance, national awareness were therefore all mixed up together in this symptomatic war. Ockham’s defense of the Holy Roman Emperor’s power in his writings after 1328, matched more radically by the Defensor pads of Marsilius of Padua and John of Jandun (1324), fits in theoretically with the growing ‘individuation’ of ‘national’ consciousness. The Hundred Years’ War is the practical manifestation of a growing crisis: philosophical, economic, political, and social.
By the mid-fifteenth century matters have quieted to a degree where certain nation states can begin to consolidate themselves. But this is only partially the case, for they still have to confront a feudal order which, having at first made use of the rising mercantilism, now finds itself threatened by its political consequences. The elements of contract and conflict inherent in the feudal relationship could easily pass into the emerging structures of economic exchange. Like Ganshof, Marc Bloch also commented on the essential bilaterality of the feudal contract, and remarked that it would eventually have a profound influence on social and economic relations in the West—noting at the same time the importance of the “warrior ethic.”86 But other elements, most notably that of a fixed and static hierarchy, could not fit into a new class of discourse. Indeed, they were insuperably threatened by an order founded upon a whole set of dynamisms. The death throes of feudalism and the birth pangs of a new nationalism were nowhere more savagely experienced than in Italy, ravaged all these years by the internecine squabbles of diverse city-states and the errant brutality of the condottiere armies.
In the second two decades of the sixteenth century Machiavelli, in the context of these developments, provides the possibility of a new theoretical departure. At the same time he poses a problem for political theory (and practice) that will not be resolved until Hobbes: how could one live in a nation-state whose very being depended on a constant play of personal power? And how could nation-states live together in peace if the definition of their “health” is constant expansion at the expense of one another? Simultaneously, Luther takes up where Marsilius and Ockham had left off, putting into question not only the temporal power of the “universal church” but also the universality of its theological dominion. The same struggles for power were everywhere visible. If the Concordat of Bologna (1515) gave François I some power over the church in France (to match imperfectly the power Henry VIII had simply seized in England), the Affair of the Placards (1534) indicated only too clearly that an alternative theology threatened not only the Catholic Church but also the unity of the nation-state. As such it led straight into the overwhelming bitterness of the religious wars.
The theologico-political Concordat of 1515 was closely followed in 1517 by the Treaty of Cambrai. This put an end to the wars between Italy and France which had so complicated the struggles of the Italian city-states. But that treaty was immediately followed by the beginning of the struggles between the Hapsburgs and the Valois (and later the Bourbons) over the control of Spain, when François failed to obtain nomination as Holy Roman Emperor in 1519. This war of succession was destined to continue in a desultory and intermittent fashion for almost two hundred years, until the beginning of the eighteenth century. By that time, of course, our new discourse will also have been consolidated. Relative peace will reign in Europe, for disputes between European states will tend to be fought out over the oceans of the world and over others’ lands (not without such major exceptions as the Seven Years’, the Napoleonic, and the Franco-Prussian wars).
The Hundred Years’ War may have ended, then, in 1453, but it very soon gave way to the religious wars of a century later, and to a diversity of ongoing broils between Italy, Savoy and France, Spain and France, and so forth. The mid-sixteenth century was racked by spiraling inflation, while a little later the massive influx of South American gold began to make its impact felt. All these events, characterizing the two centuries between Ockham and Machiavelli, are at once the symptoms and effects, the causes and reflections of a total theoretical and practical dilemma, whose solution was to be found finally by the end of the seventeenth century, with the complete consolidation of a class of discourse that still remains by and large our own.
My argument is that no new discourse of this kind consolidates between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, that the dominant discourse (certainly through Ockham, and I would suggest until the beginning of the sixteenth century) remains the totalizing one of patterning, and that the crisis grows as contradictions become ever more visible. It seems to be in something of this sense that Steven Ozment speaks when he comments on that age’s “continuity and discontinuity with the Middle Ages.” As a corrective movement, he argues with many others, the Reformation was a “failure.” It did not succeed in installing any kind of new discourse. But it was a failure only to the extent that it strove in vain both to maintain and to surpass a dominant discourse whose internal contradictions and problems were becoming thus increasingly visible. The attempt “to ennoble people beyond their capacities,” as Ozment puts it, may well be interpreted, for example, as a (somewhat) secularized version of the soul’s passage to God.87
The sixteenth century is a time of “plural narratives,” to use Terence Cave’s phrase once again. The seventeenth century will displace and recast a set of problems that this plurality was incapable of resolving. The new discursive dominance, then, is made both possible and necessary, first by the internal contradictions of the previously dominant discourse (in this case, the totalizing theologico-theocratic one of the Middle Ages: a patterning discourse) and second by the gradual cohesion of emergent elements that together will become more powerful conceptual tools than the discourse within which they were produced (more powerful in their correspondence with the needs of a particular conjuncture, not in any absolute sense). Of the first condition, I am taking More’s Utopia as an exemplary demonstration. The remainder of the book will demonstrate the emergence to dominance of the new (analytico-referen-tial) discourse, starting with the case of Kepler’s Somnium.88
1. The locus classicus of the tradition remains, of course, Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, tr. S. G. C. Middlemore, 2 vols. (New York, 1958; 1st German edition, 1860). This had been preceded by Jules Michelet’s La Renaissance (Paris, 1855), and was to be followed by cultural criticism from Walter Pater (1873) on. It is the case that Michelet views Abelard, Dante, and a few others as precursors, mysteriously three hundred years ahead of their time, while Pater considers Abelard and certain aspects of the Middle Ages in a similar way, and a writer as late as Winckelmann (1717–68) as still belonging to the Renaissance—but by and large the dates were clear and limited. The concept was first contested in depth, perhaps, by C. H. Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1927), and the controversy has not settled since. Like Haskins, Etienne Gilson tended to place the origins of modern thought in the Middle Ages, the succession being more or less continuous despite subtleties of argumentation. Others have gone further: the view of Western thought and culture as presenting a single continuous phenomenon, the manifestation of an essentially permanent and basically unchanging human spirit, is advanced, for example, by Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard R. Trask (1953; rpt. New York and Evanston, 1963). Fundamentally, this is also the judgment proposed by Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, tr. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, 1953). Other recent scholars, such as Paul Oskar Kristeller, in his Renaissance Thought: The Classic, Scholastic, and Humanist Strains (New York, 1961), esp. pp. 3–11, and Erwin Panofsky, in his Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (1960; rpt. New York and Evanston, 1969), esp. pp. 1–41, have returned to Burckhardt’s view—in the main, at least. Panofsky, in particular, argues for a combination of a quite new “physiognomy” and the continuity of certain disparate elements as fundamental to what may be called the “Renaissance” (pp. 4, 37). Though my terms will be very different, the basic historical view is similar.
2. A considerable bibliography could be constituted on this subject, but for brevity I refer to two previously mentioned articles: Reiss, “Espaces de la pensée discursive: Le cas Galilée et la science classique,” Revue de synthèse, no. 85–86 (Jan.-July 1977), pp. 5–47, and “Cartesian Discourse and Classical Ideology,” Diacritics, 6, no. 4 (Winter 1976), 19–27.
3. I refer here to a number of unpublished papers by Professor Cranz (see the Bibliography), and in particular to “New Dimensions of Thought in Anselm and Abelard as against Augustine and Boethius” (1971). I am grateful to their author for allowing me to make reference to his papers, and to my colleague Gene Vance for having made them available to me. I would like to express again my deep appreciation to Gene Vance, who freely availed me especially of his knowledge of St. Augustine and referred me to a number of the Bishop’s writings to which I would otherwise have remained inattentive.
4. Steven E. Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (New Haven and London, 1980), p. 2.
5. St. Augustine, De magistro, in The Greatness of the Soul; The Teacher, tr. and ed. Joseph M. Colleran (1950; rpt. Westminster, Md., 1964), pp. 177, 179, 185.
6. Aristotle, Analytica posteriom, 71a-b, in The Basic Works, ed. Richard McKeon (New York, 1941), pp. 111–12.
7. Aristotle, De anima, III.5.430a, Basic Works, p. 592. This is a profoundly disputed passage, but it is worth noting here precisely because it is so indicative of a quite unfamiliar manner of thinking.
8. De anima, III.4.429a-430a, Basic Works, pp. 589–91. On the soul (and passive mind) 3s embodiment, see De anima, II. 1.412a: “the soul must be 3 substance in the sense of the form of 3 natural body having life potentially within it” (Basic Works, p. 555). Cranz has recently sought to explore in its own terms the mental configuration in question: “Two Debates about the Intellect: 1, Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Greeks; 2, Nifo and the Renaissance Philosophers” (lecture, December 1979).
9. Jesn-Pierre Vernant, “Ebauches de la volonté dans la tragédie grecque,” in Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Nacquet, Mythe et tragédie en Grèce ancienne (Paris, 1972), pp. 48–54 (Vernant notes th3t he is here following the commentary of Gauthier and Jolif on the Nichomachean Ethics); Gerald F. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument (Cam-bridge, Mass., 1963), p. 380. Else refers especially to the Nichomachean Ethics (bk. III), to Rhetoric (I.13.134764–10), and to Ethics (V.20.1135a15–1136a9). The question has received extensive treatment at the hands of Anthony Kenny: first, and rather briefly so far as Aristotle is concerned, in his Will, Freedom, and Power (Oxford, 1975), esp. pp. 15–19; second, in his more recent Aristotle’s Theory of the Will (New Haven, 1979). In his Pour une logique du sujet tragique: Sophocle (Montreal, 1980), Pierre Gravel has argued that what is essentially revealed in Sophocles’ tragedies is the inability to constitute anything like a ‘subject.’ I have myself sought to show 3mong other things how Renaissance tragedy, on the contrary, achieves just exactly the constitution of such 3 subject: Tragedy and Truth: Studies in the Development of a Renaissance and Neoclassical Discourse (New Haven and London, 1980).
10. Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, pp. vii, 27, 69 n. 1, 111.
11. Vernant, “Ebauches de la volonté,” p. 53 n. 20.
12. Kristeller, Renaissance Thought, p. 26.
13. Vernant, “Ebauches de la volonté,” pp. 54, 56.
14. Jean-Pierre Vernant, “Catégories de l’agent et de l’action en Grèce ancienne,” in his Religions, histoires, raisons (Paris, 1979), pp. 88–89, 91–92. Cranz has a useful commentary on techne within this configuration in “Technology and Western Reason” (lecture, April 1980).
15. Kenny, Will, Freedom, and Power, p. 15.
16. Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, p. 49 n. 1.
17. Sophocles, Oedipus the King, tr. David Grene, ll.1329–33, in The Complete Greek Tragedies, ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, Sophocles I (Chicago and London, 1954), pp. 68–69. E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (1951; rpt. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1961), ch. 1. This entire volume is eloquent on the lack of any clear notion of the self and of person among the Greeks. In this regard, I should also mention Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought, tr. T. G. Rosenmeyer (1953; rpt. New York and Evanston, 1960).
18. Kenny, Will, Freedom, and Power, p. 16. The reference is to Anscombe’s affirmation that Aristotle fails to see deliberation as “a key concept in the theory of action” (G. E. M. Anscombe, “Thought and Action in Aristotle: What Is Practical Truth?” in New Essays on Plato and Aristotle, ed. Renford Bambrough [London, 1965], p. 147).
19. Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, p. 31.
20. Kenny, Will, Freedom, and Power, pp. 19–21. In other ways Aquinas’s view is similar, says Kenny, to Aristotle’s (e.g., pp. 24–25).
21. Ibid., pp. 71–73, 94–95, 97–98.
22. Ibid., pp. 93–94. Such an evaluation has now been undertaken, of course, in Kenny’s Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, where the study of the Eudemian Ethics reveals that the “mature Aristotle” achieved a view closer to that of the analytical philosopher.
23. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité, in Du contrat social ou principes du droit politique [and other political works] (Paris, 1962), p. 91. The preceding quotation is from Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, pp. vii-viii.
24. For a slightly different but parallel and more complete discussion of this matter, see Michel Foucault, The Discourse on Language, in The Archaeology of Knowledge, tr. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York, 1976), Appendix, pp. 218–19. In his “Two Debates about the Intellect,” Cranz has in fact attempted a description of the late classical configuration ‘in its own terms,’ not to mention that of the Renaissance. See, too, his “The Renaissance Reading of the De anima,” in XVIe Colloque International de Tours: Platon et Aristote à la Renaissance (Paris, 1976), pp. 359–76.
25. Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual, 1050–1200 (New York, 1972), pp. 2, 64.
26. Robert Elbaz, “From Confessions to Antimemoirs: A Study of Autobiography” (Ph.D. diss., McGill University, Montreal, 1980), p. 115; Jean Jolivet, Arts du langage et théologie chez Abelard (Paris, 1969), passim.
27. Peter Abelard, The Story of My Misfortunes: The Autobiography of Peter Abelard, tr. Henry Adams Bellows (1922; rpt. New York, 1972), pp. 76–78; this quotation, p. 77.
28. Eugene Vance, “Roland and the Poetics of Memory,” in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structural Criticism, ed. J. Harari (Ithaca, 1979), pp. 374–75.
29. Etienne Gilson, Etudes sur le rôle de la pensée médiévale dans la formation du système cartésien, 3d ed. (Paris, 1967).
30. These arguments are made in Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York, 1938), pp. 65, 86–88, 92, 85.
31. Morris, Discovery of the Individual, pp. 64–75 and passim; unpublished papers of F. Edward Cranz, esp. “Nicolaus Cusanus as a Paradigm of Renaissance and Reformation” (1979); Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of an Idea (1936; rpt. New York, 1960), pp. 71–72; Walter Ullmann, Medieval Political Thought, 3d ed. (Harmondsworth, 1975) and his briefer examination of the same thesis in The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages (Baltimore, 1966).
32. “Roland and the Poetics of Memory,” p. 389. Vance has elaborated on this analysis in “Roland, Charlemagne, and the Poetics of Illumination,” Oliphant, 6 (1979), 213–25. See, too, his earlier introductory book, Reading the Song of Roland (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1970).
33. Eugene Vance, “Love’s Concordance: The Poetics of Desire and the Joy of the Text,” Diacritics, 5, no. 1 (Spring 1975), 41.
34. “Roland and the Poetics of Memory,” pp. 391–99; John of Salisbury, The Metalogicon: A Twelfth-Century Defense of the Verbal and Logical Arts of the Trivium, tr. and ed. Daniel McGarry (1955; rpt. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1962), p. 81 (bk. II, ch. 4).
35. “Love’s Concordance,” pp. 42, 50.
36. Eugene Vance, “Mervelous Signals: Poetics, Sign Theory, and Politics in Chaucer’s Troilus,” New Literary History, 10 (1979), 335.
37. Philippe Wolff, Western Languages, A.D. 100–1500, tr. Frances Partridge (London, 1971), pp. 111–12.
38. Ibid., pp. 110–11.
39. Erich Kahler, The Inward Turn of Narrative, tr. Richard and Clara Winston (Princeton, 1973), p. 14. Needless to say, Kahler’s view is a radical version of the traditional one: for him, the sixteenth century marks the beginning of an era of essential change in consciousness and reality (pp. 9–66). In this respect his view (and occasionally its expression) is similar to Michel Foucault’s.
40. Claude Imbert, “Théorie de la représentation et doctrine logique dans le stoi-cisme ancien,” in Les Stoïciens et leur logique (Paris, 1978), p. 226.
41. John of Salisbury, Metalogicon, pp. 255, 259 (bk. IV, chs. 34, 35).
42. Imbert, “Théorie de la représentation,” p. 241.
43. Claude Imbert, “Stoic Logic and Alexandrian Poetics,” in Doubt and Dogmatism: Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology, ed. Malcolm Schofield, Myles Burnyeat, and Jonathan Barnes (Oxford, 1980), pp. 183, 200–201, 204–5. For the Augustinian acies, see F. Edward Cranz’s unpublished “The Eyes of the Mind: Antiquity and the Renaissance” (1975) and Eugene Vance’s “Roland, Charlemagne, and the Poetics of Illumination,” pp. 214–16.
44. Dante Alighieri, “The Letter to Can Grande,” in Literary Criticism of Dante Alighieri, tr. and ed. Robert S. Haller (Lincoln, Neb., 1973), p. 99. A more celebrated, but much longer, exposition is to be found in the Convivio (ibid., pp. 112–14). The Boccaccio material is most readily available in English in Boccaccio on Poetry: Being the Preface and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Books of Boccaccio’s “Genealogia Deorum Gentilium,” tr. and ed. Charles G. Osgood (Indianapolis and New York, 1930). The Varro quotation is from Marcus Terrentius Varro, On the Latin Language, tr. and ed. Roland G. Kent, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1938), I.9.
45. St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, tr. and ed. D. W. Robertson, Jr. (Indianapolis and New York, 1958), p. 4.
46. Marcia Colish, The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge (New Haven and London, 1968), p. 84.
47. This passage is usefully discussed by Claude Panaccio, “La métaphysique et les noms,” in Culture et langage, ed. J. P. Brodeur (Montreal, 1973), p. 269.
48. Desmond Paul Henry, ed. and commentary, The “De Grammatico” of St. Anselm: The Theory of Paronymy (Notre Dame, Ind., 1964). The quotation is from Marcia Colish, “The Stoic Theory of Verbal Signification and the Problem of Lies and False Statements from Antiquity to St. Anselm,” in L’archéologie du signe, ed. Lucie Brind’ amour and Eugene Vance (Toronto, 1983).
49. Panaccio, “La métaphysique et les noms,” p. 271. The preceding phrase quoted is from Colish, “Stoic Theory.”
50. Colish, “Stoic Theory.”
51. Aristotle, On Interpretation: Commentary by St. Thomas and Cajetan (Peri hermeneias), tr. Jean T. Oesterle (Milwaukee, 1962), p. 24. This passage is also quoted by Eugene Vance, “Désir, rhétorique et texte—Semences de la différence: Brunet Latin chez Dante,” Poétique, no. 42 (April 1980), p. 139.
52. Vance, “Mervelous Signals,” pp. 294, 299.
53. John of Salisbury, Metalogicon, pp. 39, 11 (bk. I, chs. 14, 1).
54. Vance, Reading the Song of Roland, p. 33; see, too, “Désir, rhétorique et texte.”
55. St. Augustine, On Lying [De mendacio], tr. Rev. H. Browne, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 3: St. Augustin, On the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1956), p. 471.
56. Ullmann, Individual and Society, pp. 7–10; for the last assertion see pp. 46–50. The term “fideles” was used in an 828 decree of the Emperor Louis the Pious, for example, of merchants “described as the ruler’s ‘vassals’ (fideles)” and considered as belonging to the Prince’s household: Georges Duby, The Early Growth of the European Economy: Warriors and Peasants from the Seventh to the Twelfth Century, tr. Howard B. Clarke (London, 1974), p. 100.
57. I have in mind here Lévi-Strauss’s concept of a totemic or mythic operator, explored in The Savage Mind (Chicago, 1966). A useful rapid analysis of the concept is to be found in Roger Poole’s excellent introduction to Lévi-Strauss’s Totemism, tr. Rodney Needham (Harmondsworth, 1969), pp. 50–63.
58. Morris, Discovery of the Individual, pp. 65–66.
59. St. Augustine, Confessions, tr. Edward B. Pusey, intro. Fulton J. Sheen (New York, 1949), p. 130 (bk. VII).
60. De Trinitate, in St. Augustine, On the Holy Trinity, p. 125 (bk. IX, ch. 1).
61. La Trinité, vols. 15 and 16 of Oeuvres de Saint-Augustin, text of the Benedictine edition, tr. and ed. M. Mellet, O.P., and Th. Camelot, O.P. [vol. 16 by P. Agaësse, S.J., with J. Moingt, S.J.], intro. E. Hendrikx, O.E.S.A. (Paris, 1955), vol. 15, pp. 10, 12.
62. Ibid., pp. 14, 16–17.
63. This analysis refers basically to bks. IX, X, and XIV of the De Trinitate, but I am also deeply indebted to Hendrikx’s analysis in his introduction, vol. 15, pp. 70–74, of which these lines are more or less a résumé.
64. On the Holy Trinity, p. 196 (bk. XIV, ch. 17).
65. Morris, Discovery of the Individual, pp. 66–67.
66. The dates of these scientists may be useful: Robert Grosseteste, 1168–1235; Roger Bacon, 1214(?)-1292; Thomas Bradwardine, 1295–1349. This line and Ock-hamism led directly to the series of great French scientists that produced Buridan’s theory of impetus and culminated in Oresme’s law for the acceleration of falling bodies: Jean Buridan (c. 1300-c. 1370); Albert of Saxony (c. 1325–1390); Nicole Oresme (c. 1330–1382).
67. Gordon Leff, William of Ockham: The Metamorphosis of Scholastic Discourse (Manchester, 1975), p. xxi.
68. Terence Cave, The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance (Oxford, 1979).
69. Cranz explores this view especially in “Nicolaus Cusanus as a Paradigm of Renaissance and Reformation.” He argues that Petrarch, Cusanus, and Luther in turn sought to respond to Anselm and Abelard by a return to Antiquity, a return which can only be defined as based upon an essential and inevitable misinterpretation. See also Cranz’s “Petrarch’s Transformation of St. Augustine” (1971).
70. Leff, William of Ockham, p. xxiii. The preceding quotation is from David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought (1962; rpt. New York, n.d.), pp. 272–73.
71. Left, William of Ockham, pp. 529–30, 596–613.
72. Ullmann, Individual and Society, pp. 32, 40, 41–43; Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being, pp. 67–98 (for this period). Ullmann, notes, as a further indication of the growth of the individual, the fact that a growing number of writers are naming themselves (pp. 33–35), but Curtius tends to imply the contrary: the very fact that one can count such named authors so easily suggesting that anonymity remains normal (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, pp. 515–18). Paul Zumthor makes much of such anonymity as a fundamental characteristic of the collective or communal nature of medieval poetic modes (Essai de poétique médiévale [Paris, 1972], passim). As Peter Haidu has remarked, what counts above all is that the names of medieval authors are by and large “empty”: for we usually know nothing but the name and the text with which it is joined.
73. Nancy Struever, The Language of History in the Renaissance: Rhetoric and Historical Consciousness in Florentine Humanism (Princeton, 1970), p. 10; see also pp. 46ff.
74. Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic: A Logico-Mathematical Enquiry into the Concept of Number, tr. J. L. Austin, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1953), p. vi. I have discussed the implications of this difference between Peirce and Frege in my article “Peirce and Frege: In the Matter of Truth,” Canadian Journal of Research in Semiotics, 4, no. 2 (Winter 1976–77), 5–39.
75. This was, of course, a later interpretation, notably the result of various parliamentary statutes passed throughout the fourteenth century, and of the interpretation put on the Charter by Coke at the beginning of the seventeenth century and by later English and American radicals, the latter especially calling on the Charter in the period leading up to 1776. But in 1215 and 1225 (the dates of the original version and of that ratified by Henry III), it was a concession of feudal privileges granted by the Crown to the barons. J. C. Holt observes that, as such, it was by no means exceptional in the period: similar grants had been made by Frederick Barbarossa in 1183 to the towns of the Lombard League, by Alphonso VIII of Leon in 1188 to his vassals, by the Emperor Frederick II in 1220 to the ecclesiastical princes of the Empire, by Andrew II of Hungary in 1222 to his vassals, and so forth (J. C. Holt, Magna Carta [Cambridge, 1965], pp. 20–21). As in the English case, all these concessions were necessitated by war, and the King’s need for the support of the other parties involved. Holt adds that such grants were so far from being unusual that only the Capetian monarchy of France escaped having to make any (a condition that lasted, however, only until the early fourteenth century). Magna Carta was to become exceptional because of its history. To any “dispassionate observer” at the time, Holt comments, “grants of liberties would have seemed to embody the natural reaction of feudal societies to monarchical importunity” (p. 22). In large part, he adds, the Charter was “a statement of principles about the organization of a feudal state” (p. 63). Nonetheless, he concludes, even at the time—and increasingly thereafter—Magna Carta was interpreted as representing the claim “that authority should be subject to law which the community itself defined” (p. 292). Differences of interpretation then depend, of course, on differing interpretations of community and who is taken as representing it.
76. These matters have been advanced in more detail in my “The Environment of Literature and the Imperatives of Criticism,” Europa, 4 (1981), to appear, and are being explored at length in a book in preparation.
77. These arguments are made principally in Ullmann’s Medieval Political Thought, pp. 189–219, and in his Individual and Society, pp. 130–44.
78. F. L. Ganshof, Feudalism, tr. Philip Grierson, 3d English ed. (New York, 1964), pp. 8, 27–30.
79. Ibid., pp. 83–84, 30–33, 46–49, 56–57, 156–67.
80. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being, pp. 76–98.
81. Lynn White, Jr., has suggested that a “practice” even less conducive to theorization underlay the development of feudalism itself: the arrival in the West of the iron stirrup in the time of Charles Martel. This immediately provoked a change in the style of warfare by making possible mounted shock combat. The instantly increased effectiveness of such troops necessitated their training and maintenance as well as that of their horses. This meant also that they had to be provided with sufficient land and financial means. At the same time the ruler had to be able to rely on their presence in time of war: thence the whole system of service in return for land benefice, of fealty in return for protection and livelihood, and so on (Lynn T. White, Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change [Oxford, 1962], pp. 1–2, 28–38).
82. The Vance paper mentioned here is “Love’s Concordance,” esp. p. 44. The Haidu text I am above all referring to is his unpublished and important paper “Semiotics and History” (1980). For both his other and Duby’s writings, see the Bibliography. Duby’s briefest text on contradictory discourses (discussed under the name of “idéologies”) is “Histoire sociale et idéologies des sociétés,” in Faire de l’histoire, ed. Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Nora, 3 vols. (Paris, 1974), I.147–78; but see, too, Les trois ordres, ou l’imaginaire du féodalisme (Paris, 1978), esp. pp. 387–402. For Duby, the notion of the “three orders” remains for a long time at once potentially antagonistic to the dominant order and yet preservative of the social equilibrium made precarious by the aforementioned contradictions. In this sense it confirms what I have been saying about feudal practice and theocratic model. Until the thirteenth century, writes Duby, the notion operates at the level of society’s “imaginaire.” The turning point is marked by Philippe Auguste’s victory at the battle of Bouvines on July 27, 1214, where the King was placed symbolically outside the tripartite social order he will now maintain as such (Les trois ordres, pp. 414–25).
83. The distinction between the use of the term “text” and my use of discourse is essential. For Peter Haidu, Fredric Jameson, Julia Kristeva, Juri Lotman, and others, text is something whose existence and production one interprets (even if one plays with words to assert that such interpretation is itself a new production of such text). Discourse is something one inhabits and is inhabited by, one uses and is used by. One is in discourse, against text.
84. J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (1957; rpt. New York, 1967), pp. 146–47. The earlier quotation is from p. 87. Similar implications as to the relation between a new historiography, a growing science, and political liberalism, with particular reference to Ralegh, Bacon, and Coke, have been explored by Christopher Hill, Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (Oxford, 1965), esp. pp. 173–203, 250–61.
85. Ozment, Age of Reform, p. 8; Jean Gimpel, The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages (1976; rpt. Harmondsworth, 1980), pp. 182–83, 205–13. For the relation between climate and disease, Gimpel, pp. 56, 205–6; for falling productivity, p. 213; for use of cannons, pp. 233–35. Many of these matters are also discussed in Robert S. Lopez, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950–1350 (1971; rpt. Cambridge, 1976).
86. Marc Bloch, La société féodale (1939; rpt. Paris, 1970), p. 617.
87. Ozment, Age of Reform, pp. 435, 438. The relations of thought and society are dealt with magisterially by Ozment, pp. 182–222, 245–89.
88. An omission needs perhaps a brief comment here. Aquinas of course discussed at length and in depth such matters as will, intention, free choice, voluntary versus involuntary, and so on. Space and competence both forbid treatment in detail here. I have, however, been concerned only to provide indications of a dominant discursive class distinct from the analytico-referential, not with any attempt to exhaust the question for the Middle Ages, though St. Thomas has not been set altogether aside. For his discussion, see esp. Summa theologica, pt. I, Qq. 82–83; pt. II, Qq. 6ff. It should also be mentioned here, perhaps, that the argument about “will” in ancient Greece presented between pp. 60 and 69 above, and the view of Stoic thought suggested between pp. 77 and 81, have been explicitly denied by André-Jean Voelke, L’idée de la volonté dans le stoicisme (Paris, 1973). He asserts that the Stoics had in fact elaborated such concepts as will, individual, deliberation, self, and so on, in a manner prefiguring what was to be elaborated fifteen centuries later. To do so, however, he is forced to treat the Old, Middle, and New Stoas as though they were simultaneous. Even if Cicero’s views may be used to determine those of Panaetius, one may be skeptical as to the value of arguing back from Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus to discover those of Chrysippus, and even more from Sextus Empiricus, Clement of Alexandria, Diogenes Laertius, and Simplicius, to illuminate those of Cleanthes (though Voelke claims that this can be done “without deforming” their thought, p. 7). Such an ahistorical approach seems at best methodologically dubious. Voelke himself is obliged to conclude that the concept of will undergoes a pronounced change during the first century b.c. Vernant’s remark about Diodorus Siculus then comes into its own again (as do various critics’ remarks about Seneca and the “Roman spirit” or concerning the possible Christian influence on Epictetus). Where the texts are unavailable for study, it seems best to renounce all hope of “understanding” rather than invent a conceptual history in the image of our own desire.