Quodlibetal Questions on Free Will

By Roland J. Teske | Go to book overview
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I. The Life and Writings of Henry of Ghent

Little is known with certainty about the life of Henry of Ghent. His name indicates that he was probably born in Ghent, though the date of his birth is unknown.1 Toward the end of the nineteenth century German and French scholars stripped away a great amount of the legend that had grown up around Henry, for instance, that he was a member of the famous Goethals family of Ghent, a student of Albert the Great, a master first in Cologne, then in Ghent and finally in Paris, and a member of the Order of Servites.2 It is true that in the beginning of the sixteenth century the Order of Servites adopted Henry as their official doctor on the belief that he had been a Servite and that this led to a new edition of his two principal works and some significant studies of the writings of the Solemn Doctor.3

Henry probably studied the liberal arts at the University of Paris, where he became master of theology in 1275. Since for that rank he should have been thirty five years old, his date of birth can be placed at 1240 or earlier. From a rare autobiographical reference in Quodlibet XIII, question 14, the general editor of Henry Opera Omnia, Fr. Raymond Macken, O.F.M., concludes that Henry was present in Paris either in the summer or fall of 1264.4 Furthermore, his first quodlibetal disputation was held at Christmas in 1276, with the second and third being held at Christmas in 1277 and at Easter in 1278. In the manuscripts of the latter two he is referred to as archdeacon of Brūges, and in the manuscript of

J. Paulus places the date of Henry's birth quite early, c. 1217, in his article on Henry in The New Catholic Encyclopedia ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), vol. 6, pp. 1135-1137, where he also states that Henry was a student of William of Auvergne, who died in 1249. On the other hand, in his book, Henri de Gand. Essai sur les tendances de sa métaphysique ( Paris: J. Vrin, 1938), p. xiii, he simply states that it is impossible to determine the date of his birth.
For the most recent English-language study of Henry's life and works, see the Introduction to Steven Marrone Truth and Scientific Knowledge in the Thought of Henry of Ghent ( Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1985), pp. 1-11. Cf. J. Paulus, Henri de Gand, p. xiii, for detailed references to what is known of Henry's biography, and pp. xxi-xxii for some of the sources of the legend that developed about Henry.
Cf. Henrici de Gandavo Quodlibet I, ed. R. Macken (Leuven: University Press; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979), pp. xxvii-xxviii, for comments on the early editions of the Quodlibeta.
Cf. Henrici de Gandavo Quodlibet I, ed. R. Macken, pp. viii-ix.


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Quodlibetal Questions on Free Will


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