godfrey of fontaines.pdf

Godfrey of Fontaines and the Act-Potency Axiom* J OHN F . WI P P E L IN RECENT YEARS t here has been consi derabl e i nt erest on t he par t of st udent s of t he hi st ory of medi eval phi l osophy in t he axi om or pri nci pl e t hat what ever is moved is moved by anot her. For cert ai n medi eval t hi nkers this pri nci pl e is not to be l i mi t ed t o t he r eal m of pur el y physi cal change but appl i es to ever y
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  Godfrey of Fontaines and the Act Potency Axiom JOHN F. WIPPEL IN RECENT YEARS there has been considerable interest on the part of students of the history of medieval philosophy in the axiom or principle that whatever is moved is moved by another. For certain medieval thinkers this principle is not to be limited to the realm of purely physical change but applies to every reduction from potency to act. All such change implies dependence on some distinct source or cause. So understood this principle functions as an indispensable step in Thomas Aquinas' well known first way or first argument for God's existence (Summa theologiae I, 2, 3). It enters into the efforts of many thirteenth century writers to account for the causality involved in human intellection and volition in par- ticular and for the efficient causality of accidental being in general. At the same time, many were aware of difficulties that appear to militate against its universal application. On the physical level, for instance, how is one to account for apparent instances of self-motion such as the cooling of hot water, the motion of falling bodies, projectile motion, or the movement of animals? On a psychological and metaphysical plane, to what extent can this principle be applied to acts of human intellection? Can it be reconciled with the apparent self-motion involved in acts of human volition and, according to many, required for human freedom? Some, as will be seen below, were so impressed by certain of these diffi- culties that they would limit application of the principle to matters of purely physi- cal causality, allowing for exceptions in the case of spiritual action such as volition. A Duns Scotus would restrict it even more, denying that it applies to certain types of physical change. Others insisted, however, that this principle must apply to every reduction from potency to act, to every genuine change, all apparent diffi- culties notwithstanding. One outstanding advocate of this view was the late thirteenth century philosopher-theologian, Godfrey of Fontaines. 1 * I wish to express my gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Younger Humanist Fellowship that made this study possible. i For a study of this principle in Thomas Aquinas of. J. A. Weisheipl, The Principle Omne quod movetur ab alio movetur in Medieval Physics, Isis, 56 (1965), 26-45. On this in Duns Scotus el. R. Effler, .~ohn Duns Scotus and the Principle Omne quod rnovetur ab alio [299]  300 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Before examining Godfrey's views on this axiom as such, certain more general features of his metaphysics of act and potency should be noted. Thus in Q[uod- libet] 8, q[uestion] 3 he divides real being (esse verum et reale) into being in potency and being in act. Being in potency is being only in terms of its causes, while being in act is such according to its own nature and completed form. 2 In Q 14. q. 5 he distinguishes two ways in which potency and act may be correlated. By potency one may mean a subject that is perfected by its form and by act the form that perfects it. (We might describe this as act and potency considered statically, as intrinsic coprinciples of a composite entity,) On the other hand, by being in potency one may mean that something does not enjoy being in the nature of things according to its own proper entity but only in virtue of something else, for instance, an extrinsic cause that can bring it into bzing. By being in act he will then mean that it does enjoy such being in the nature of things in terms of its movetur (St. Bonaventure, N.Y., 1962), as well as the interesting review of the same by F. Van Steenberghen, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 9 (1971), 90-92. For general introductions to Godfrey's life and career as well as for doctrinal summaries cf. M. De Wulf, Un thdologien-philosophe du XIII e si~cle. Etude sur la vie, les wuvres et l'influence de Godefroid de Fontaines (Brussels, 1904); R. Arway, A Half Century of Research on Godfrey of Fontaines, The New Scholasticism, 36 (1962), 192-218. For Godfrey's application of act-potency to his theory of knowledge eL De Wulf, op. cit., pp. 90-91; B. Martel, La psychologie de Gonsalve d'Espagne (Montreal-Paris, 1968), pp. 120-122; Effier, op. cit., pp. 93-94, 149-153 ; B. Neumann, Der Mensch und die himmlische Seligkeit nach der l.,ehre Gottfrieds yon Fontaines (Limburg/Lahn, 1958). pp. 99-103; Arway, op. cit., pp. 207-211; O. Lacombe, La critique des th6ories de la connaissance chez Duns Scot, Revue Thomiste, 35 (1930), 150-153. For his rigid application of it to his theory of volition cf. De Wulf, op. cit., pp. 101-112; O. Lottin, Le libre arbitre chez Godefroid de Fontaines, Revue Ndoscolastique de Philosophic, 40 (1937), 213-241; 12 thomisme de Godefroid de Fontaines en mati~re de libre arbitre, ibid., pp. 554-573; Psychologie et morale aux XII 9 et XIII ~ si~cles, I (Louvain, 1942), 304-339, fundamentally the same as the two articles just cited; J. de Blic, L'intellectua- lisme moral c3.ez deux aristot61iciens de la fin du XIII 9 si~cle, ' Miscellanea moralia in honorem ex. Dom Arthur Yanssen, Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium Bibliotheea, Scr. I, vol. 2 (Louvain, 1948), 45-76, on Giles of Rome and Godfrey; Paul-Emile Langevin, N6cessit6 ou libert6 chez Godefroid de Fontaines, Sciences EcclJsiastiques, 12 (1960), 175-203; Antonio San Crist6bal-ScbastiAn, Controversias acerca de la voluntad desde 1270 a 1300 (Madrid, 1958), co. 10, ll-A, 13, 14, for many references to Godfrey vis-A-vis Henry of Ghent, Juan de Murro and Giles of Romes; Arway op. cit., pp. 211-216. Les Philosophes Belges, IV, 38 (PB 4.38), [Esse rcale] subdividitur quidem secundum esse in potentia, quod est esse in suis causis, et sccundum esse in actu, quod est r in propria natura sceundum completam formam. Godfrey's principal philosophical contributions appear in his major work, fifteen Quodlibetal Questions, which have been edited in the series Les Philosophes Beiges: II, Les quatre premiers Quodlibets de Godefroid de Fontaines, M. De Wulf and A. Pelzer, eds. (Louvain, 1904); III, Les Quodlibet cinq, six et sept, De Wulf and J. Hoffmans, r (Louvain, 1914); IV, /2 huiti&me Quodlibet (Louvain, 1924), Le neuvi~me Quodlibet (Louvain, 1928), /2 dixi~me Quodlibet (Louvain, 1931), J. Hoffmans, ed.; V, Les Quodlibets onze et douze (Louvain, 1932), Les Quodlibets treize et quatorze (Louvain, 1935), J. Hoffmans, ed.; XIV, Le Quodlibet XV et trois Questions ordinaires de Godefroid de Fontaines, O. Lottin, ed. (Louvain, 1937). These Questions date from 1285 until 1303/4. On this cf. P. Glorieux, La littdrature quodlib~tique de 1260 ~ 1320 (Le Saulchoir, 1925), I, 151-166; and his Notations br~ves sur Godefroid de Fontaines, Recherches de Th~ologie Ancienne et Mddidvale 11 (1939), 171-173, on the date of Quodlibet 15. For our reasons for retaining 1303/4 as the date for Quodlibet 15 against A. San Crist6bal-Sebastian's suggestion that it be placed in 1286, cf. our Godfrey of Fontaines: the Date of Quodlibet 15, Franciscan Studies, 31 (1971, 300-369.  GODFREY OF FONTAINES 301 own entity, that is, in itself. 3 In this second way, therefore, one might say that act and potency are considered dynamically, insofar as the potential is that which has not yet come into being in the full sense whereas the actual is that which has. It is this second way of comparing act and potency that one finds incorporated into the division of being in Q 8, q. 3, referred to above. In the same context in Q 14, q. 5 Godfrey goes on to observe that when act and potency are compared in the first way (statically, according to our terminology), their relationship is quite clear. Potency is not act and act is not potency. Potency does not becomel act, nor does act become potency. Rather from the two a composite is formed in which one serves as act and the other as matter, as in the matter-form composite. 4 One of Godfrey's more controversial positions, however, had to do with his application of act and potency considered dynamically. When one has to do with any reduction from potency to act, or from the mere capacity for being to full realization in being, Godfrey insists throughout his career that appeal must be made to a distinct factor that is already in act. For him, therefore, the Aristotelian principle that whatever is moved is moved by another is not to be limited to the realm of the philosophy of nature. It is a metaphysical principle as well and one that should be presupposed by every special science. Granted that it will be formulated in different terms according to the varying contexts in which it is employed, it is this that we will always have in mind in this study when we refer to the act-potency axiom or principle. Even if one finds it difficult to resolve certain more particular issues that seem to arise from its rigid application, Godfrey insists that this principle itself can never be denied. It is both prior to the par- ticular sciences and the problems encountered therein and most certain. 5 Other leading thinkers of Godfrey's time such as Gonsalvus of Spain and John Duns Scotus were familiar with his views on this point and took exception to some of his applications of it, in particular with respect to his theories of s PB 5.402. Dicendum quod circa habitudinem potentiae ad actum, quomodo scilicet potentia est vel non est eadem cure actu sive substantiali sive accidentali, est considerandum quod cure per potentiam possit intelligi subieetum quod per formam perficitur, per acturn autem forrna quae perficit, et cum per esse aliquid in potentia possit intelligi aliquid non habere esse in rerum natura seeundum rationem suae propriae naturae, sed solum in virtute et potestate alicuius alterius, esse autem in actu intelligatur aliquid habere esse in rerum natura seeundum rationem suae propriae entitatis vel naturae ... 9 Op. cit., 403. Q 6, q. 7 (PB 3.170). In terms of context Godfrey is here replying to certain difficulties raised against rigid application of this principle to the powers of the soul, in particular to the will. After noting that Aristotle had adverted to the difficulty of such questions at the beginning of his De anima (cf. I, c. 1 and 402a 10 in particular) he then comments: Tamen ad praedictas dubitationes dissolvendas primo supponimus quod, quia aliqua principia esse certissima oportet, alioquin nihil etiam posset per ea investigari, communia ergo illa principia metaphysicae, quae quodam modo est omnis scientia, debent in qualibet scientia speeiali supponi; et ideo quia ex metaphysica hoe scire debemus quod unum et idem non potest esse in actu et potentia et quod illud quod est in potentia ad aliquid non potest se reducere ad actum secundum iUud et hoe pertinet ad metaphysicam, quia est commune omni enti, ideo hoe debemus supponere circa angelos et circa animam et, hoe supposito, alia quae ad ipsam animam specialiter pertinent investigare, nee propter ignorantiam vel dubitationem circa posteriora debemus certissima et prima negare.

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