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FLOURISHED IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY.
Gotofhid, a native of the city of Waterford, in Ireland, was a Dominican friar, and deeply skilled in the Latin, Greek, French, and Arabic languages. He left his own country early, and it was thought that he travelled into the East to acquire a more perfect knowledge of the Arabic. He afterwards resided in France, and translated the three following treatises from the Latin, Greek, and Arabic, into French.* He dedicated, according to Harris, "this last piece to some nobleman, whose name is not mentioned in the manuscript from whence the account is taken. For he says thus in the preface—
A noble hers prouz et sages, Sfc, .which the writers of the Dominican Bibliotheque interpret
Nobili viro, strenuo, et prudentia— "To a man noble, valiant and wise, Goffrid or Gotofrid, from Waterford, the least of the order of Friars preachers, wisheth health in Jesus Christ, and strength both of body and mind" "whereas, sometimes you provide yourself with arms, and other implements necessary for war, sometimes you entertain yourself in reading books—wherefore to other good books, which you already have, you desire to add a book called The secret of secrets, of the most wise philosopher, Aristotle, or a treatise of the government of Icings and princes; and for this end you have requested me, that I would for your sake translate the said work from Latin into French, which I have already translated from Greek into Arabic, and again from Arabic into Latin—being overcome by your entreaties, I have taken care to fulfil this task, and have used more pains in it than I am accustomed to do in my deep and profound studies. You are to observe, that the Arabians in a great circuity of words speak but few truths; whereas the Greeks are obscure in their mode of speaking: wherefore by translating from both tongues I have endeavoured to lop off the parts that are too prolix in the one language, and to illustrate what is obscure in the other, as far as the subject-matter would bear, and therein have pursued rather the sense of the words than the words themselves. You are farther to understand, that I have added many other things, which, though they are not contained in that book, yet are drawn from other authentic books, and are no less profitable than what is written in that treatise; these things that are added being pertinent to the subject in hand. Lastly, you are to know, that the Latin is not without a mixture of the Arabic; and therefore I have lopped off many things, which are neither time nor profitable, in such a manner, that I have in the shortest method taken in the marrow of the subject, and what is most consonant to truth." Thus, as Harris says, the preface shows " the country of the author, of what order of
* I. Daretis Plirygii Librum de Bcllo Trojnno. •2. Kutropii Rornamim Historiam.
3. Aristotelis ad Alexandruru librum, qui I'icitur secretum secretorum, scu de regicaine Regum.
religion he was, and his skill in the four languages." He also adds, that these three treatises in vellum are preserved at Paris in small folio, in the library of Monsieur Colbert, and are elegantly written in the characters of the thirteenth century; and that in the same volume are contained fourteen sermons turned into French, which in the catalogue are ascribed to Jacobus de Boragine: and after them follows a short exposition of the articles of faith, and of the Lord's prayer, in French; and then, other sermons on the first Sunday of advent on time, and on the gospel of all the Sundays in the year. Now as these sermons and discourses are written not only in the same handwriting with the other works before-mentioned, which are certainly Gotofrid's, but also the style and manner of orthography are the same, the authors of the said Bibliotheque are willing to ascribe them to him, and think, that they are either composed by him in French, or turned by him into French from some other language. The like judgment is to be made of two other treatises, in the same volume, translated from Latin into French, in the same style and handwriting. The first is entitled in Latin Libellus mortalitatem, and in French, le petits livres demorialitei; and the other is called Eleucidarius, being that same book concerning the author of which there are such great disputes among the learned—some ascribing it to Anselm of Canterbury, and others to Honorius of Autun."* The time and place of his death are unknown.
3lo!m Sung £cotu*.
Died A. n. 1308.
While a small number of men like John Sacrobosco were in comparative obscurity cultivating the narrow field of real knowledge open to their industry, the schools were with no less diligence, and far more worldly honour, engaged in the fabrication of an enormous pile of laborious and difficult frivolity, in which as much of life, study and genius, was spent to no end, as has since been employed upon the Newtonian philosophy.
Of this curious state of mankind, there are ample remains; and many names illustrious rather on account of the fame they once acquired, than for any real title to the praise or gratitude of posterity. Among these John Duns Scotus, claims a brief notice for the place he once held; and because his name affords the most appropriate occasion for a sketch of the school of which he was one of the ornaments. To preserve the utmost perspicuity, we shall according to the method already pursued, first give an outline of his life.
The birth-place of Duns is disputed by different authorities: the English and Scotch lay claim to him; but Wadding, his biographer, adjudges him to Ireland. This conclusion is supported by the adjunct of Scotus, then unquestionably assumed as distinctive of Irish origin: and it may be observed, that it never has been (and could not have been)
* Harris's Ware.
thus applied to any Scotchman, as it is evident that, so applied, it would have had no distinctive signification. The schools of Ireland, were at the time celebrated for a science, which was eminently adapted to the Irish genius—rather quick and ingenious than solid or profound. A remark which, to apply to the modern Irish, must, we confess, undergo some allowances and deductions, for the modifications derived perhaps from an intermixture of blood. Scotus was born about the year 1266, in the province of Ulster, according to Cavellus, Luke, and Wadding:* he was educated in the university of Oxford, and became a Franciscan friar. From Oxford he went to the university of Paris, where his logical ability quickly made him eminent, and he became a follower of Thomas Aquinas, the famous angelical doctor. During his residence in Paris, he acquired universal applause by an exploit incidental to his age.
The itinerant sophist, has long disappeared with the knight errant and the travelling bard: the increase of knowledge has lessened the value of disputative skill, as the advance of civilization has somewhat cheapened the estimation of physical prowess: and the teeming profusion and facility of the press has obviated the necessity of the viva voce encounters of the controversialist. Some remains of this custom, may perhaps, be said to have yet a glimmering existence in Ireland; which in some respects is entitled to be called the limbus Patrum of antiquity: we allude to the known practice of the Irish hedge schools, of which the most distinguished scholars travel about from school to school, on a tour of disputation, in which they both add to their learning and endeavour to maintain superiority of knowledge.f This literary knight-errantry may perhaps be regarded as a monument of the time when the wandering doctors of Paris, Bologna, and Padua, and the still more subtle disciples of St Comgall's ancient university, used to travel from college to college, with the spear and shield of Aristotle—peripatetic in every sense—and win honours by proving black was white, in opposition to all antagonists. Duns, whose chivalry was in this at least not deficient, had early in life made a vow to support the honour of the Virgin. It was for this purpose that he presented himself to the university of Paris, and offered to maintain against all opponents, her freedom from original sin. A day was set, and the university assembled its powers and intelligence to witness this trial of dialectic skill. Many students and doctors of acknowledged reputation impugned the proposition of the Irish logician. Duns having fully stated the question, allowed his adversaries to discuss it in full detail; and for three interminable days the torrent of their logic flowed, and involved their hearers in the tangled web of scholastic distinctions. Meanwhile, Duns, nothing dismayed, sat listening with a patient and unmoved steadiness of aspect and demeanour, which puzzled all the spectators, and made every one think him a miracle of patience. They were however to be still more astonished, when—after three days of ceaseless verbosity had spun the question into two hun
* Cited by Ware, Scriptoribus Hib. Ed. 1639
\ An ample and curious account of these worthies may be found in Carleton's Traits and Stories of the Irish peasantry.
dred elaborate arguments, and the Parisian disputants confessed there was no more to be said—Duns calmly arose and recited all their several arguments, which one after the other he unanswerably refuted. And then while the whole body were yet digesting his superiority in silent dismay, he recommenced and annihilated his already prostrate antagonists with some hundred more unanswerable arguments for the question. The university was convinced, and not only gave Duns his doctor's degree, with the well-merited title of the "subtle doctor," but also decreed that the doctrine thus affirmed should be held by the university in future. We may presume that the university kept its own law: but Duns was not to be tied by the webs of his own subtlety, and proved his claim at least to the title they conferred, by afterwards maintaining a different view of the question. The reputation of Duns grew, and his popularity increased, until it became unfit that he should any longer continue to be reputed the follower of another. To one like Duns, to whom every side of every question must have been equally conclusive, it was easy to find room to differ: and he soon found a fair field of controversy with his great Neapolitan master, Aquinas.
Of Aquinas, our reader may wish to know some particulars. He was the son of the illustrious family of Aquino, in the Terra di Lavoro, in Italy. Contrary to the wish of his parents he became a Dominican friar; and the monks were compelled for some time to remove him from place to place, to maintain their possession of a youth of such high promise. He was at one time seized during a journey by his brothers, and kept for two years in confinement; he was however found out by the Dominicans, and with their aid contrived to let himself down from a window, and escaped. At last having completed the course of study then pursued, he went to Paris and took a doctor's degree: from Paris he returned to Italy, and set up his school at Naples. He soon began to be regarded as the great light of the age, and more than any other writer contributed to the triumph of the scholastic over the ideal or mystic schools. He was among the first and greatest of those who introduced the theological method of collecting and digesting into a theory, the doctrines of scripture. His system, immediately on its publication, received the most distinguished honour and acceptance—and he was ranked after death by Pius V. as the fifth doctor of the church: he was also called the angel of the church, and the angelical doctor. His death took place in 1274, and he was canonized by pope John XXII.*
Such was the mighty antagonist which Duns assailed. The nature of the co-operation between divine grace and human will, and the measure of imparted grace necessary to salvation, were among the most prominent poiuts of difference. The Dominicans sided with their own great light: the Franciscans were no less arduous in support of their subtle doctor; and a violent division renewed the animosity of these two famous orders. Such was the origin of the two sects who are known by the names of Scotists and Thomists.f
Scotus returned from Paris to Oxford, where he for some time con
* Enfield's Philosophy. t Mpsheini.
tinned to preach and write, with increasing celebrity. But again, visiting Paris, he was tempted to make an effort to settle in a place which was the stage of his greatest celebrity. He continued to teach there for about one year, when he wa,s summoned away by the general of the Franciscans to Cologne. On his approach to Cologne, he was received with all the honour due to his reputation. Here he continued his course of teaching to the numerous scholars whom his renown attracted, until his death. He was one day engaged in delivering a lecture to a crowded audience, when a sudden stroke of paralysis arrested his discourse; it proved fatal in a few hours. His works filled twelve massive folios—which remain a monument of his formidable fertility; and, considering that he died in his 42d year, present no slight illustration of the copious facility of a science which began and ended in words and verbal distinctions—a science which rejected the restraint of facts and the limits of the understanding—and with a compass beyond the grasp of Archimedes, pretended to wield infinity and omniscience without asking for a ground on which to rest the lever of the schools.
Such a state of knowledge may well awaken the interest of many readers, not conversant in the history of the period. For the benefit of such we must now attempt the performance of the promise with which we commenced this memoir; and as in the life of Sacrobosco we gave a cursory sketch of the science of the age, so we shall now offer some brief notice of the philosophy of the schools.
The earlier writers of the church had derived their system of theology from the scriptures. In the course of time, by a natural and very intelligible transition, these earlier divines themselves became the text-book of authority, and gradually began to occupy the place of the scriptures; thus in the decline of literature and philosophy, leading gradually to their disuse. Theology, thus removed from its foundations, was thrown open to the bewildering ingenuity of speculation. The corrupted Platonism of the Alexandrian school, early adopted into the theological school, and largely infused into many of the ancient writers, became in some measure the substance of opinion and controversy; and it is chiefly to the Irish schools of the middle ages that the honour is attributed of an idea which, though sadly misapplied, was yet in its principle not devoid of justness. It was proposed as a new discovery, that it was unworthy to take truths of such importance upon the opinions of fallible authorities, when they might themselves, by the exercise of reason, ascertain what was true from the original documents. But unfortunately, they were utterly devoid of any just knowledge of the use or the limits of reason. From the scripture—by the application of the most absurd system of metaphysics that ever was wiredrawn from sophistry and superstition, in the absence of common sense—they spun the sacred text into allegories and idealisms, that seem more like the ravings of delirium, than the sober interpretation of Divine truths revealed to human apprehension. Such briefly was the form taken by the ancient sect known by the name of Mystics, whose earlier history it does not suit our limits to enter upon. It is perhaps best understood to have arisen anew from the study of Augustine, whose writings it strongly tinctures, and who was a favourite in the cloisters of the middle ages.