Wyclif and the Oxford Schools: The Relation of the "Summa de Ente" to Scholastic Debates at Oxford in the Later Fourteenth Century

Wyclif and the Oxford Schools: The Relation of the "Summa de Ente" to Scholastic Debates at Oxford in the Later Fourteenth Century

Wyclif and the Oxford Schools: The Relation of the "Summa de Ente" to Scholastic Debates at Oxford in the Later Fourteenth Century

Wyclif and the Oxford Schools: The Relation of the "Summa de Ente" to Scholastic Debates at Oxford in the Later Fourteenth Century

Excerpt

When in 1909 the Wyclif Society published Michael Dziewicki's edition of six tracts of the Summa de Ente, the Society's life was already drawing to a close. One further volume was published before the outbreak of the first world war; two more (one not of Wyclif's own writings) were issued in 1922. Two boxes of longhand transcriptions in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, show that work had begun on an edition of the remaining tracts of the Summa. In 1930 Professor S. H. Thomson, of the University of Colorado, planning to finish what the Wyclif Society had left incomplete, edited Book 1, tracts 1-2; and between 1928 and 1937 he published a series of valuable papers, which greatly enlarged our knowledge of the manuscripts of Wyclif's philosophical treatises, especially those now in Central European libraries. As will be seen, I have drawn extensively on these studies. It is greatly to be hoped that Professor Thomson's other interests will permit him to complete the edition of the Summa de Ente, for which his own researches have paved the way. Such an edition will certainly resolve many uncertainties and correct many errors in this study. We shall then have the fundamental texts without which our judgements and assertions remain provisional.

Meanwhile there is room, I believe, for the present work, which is perhaps rather wider in scope, though far less profound in scholarship. It attempts to relate the broad lines of Wyclif's metaphysics and theology, as set out in the Summa de Ente, to their Oxford setting, by comparing the Summa with the writings of masters who were prominent in the university in Wyclif's early days, or by whom we know he was influenced. This approach is, of course, open to criticism. There is bound to be a temptation to seek like rather than unlike, to emphasise what Wyclif shared with other scholastics and not what is distinctive in his work. Such a bias (if it exists) has at least the merit of being the opposite of the usual; and in fact one of the values of studying the Summa de Ente . . .

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