The Common Good in Late Medieval Political Thought

By M. S. Kempshall | Go to book overview

6
Henry of Ghent--Self-Love and Inclusion

Despite his prominence in the faculty of theology at Paris between 1276 and 1293, Henry of Ghent cuts a curious figure in the historiography of scholastic thought. What has made him so problematic is his capacity to draw on several different intellectual traditions without producing an entirely convincing synthesis. Fundamental tensions have been detected, for example, in his combination of a Neoplatonic and Augustinian metaphysics with an epistemology based on Aristotle and Averroes.1 This apparent lack of harmony stems, in part, from Henry's own attitude to using philosophical authorities--if he is prepared to quote Aristotle and Averroes in the course of theological arguments, then he insists that the content of such citation could still be both flawed and insufficient.2 Even when modern commentators have sought to identify development rather than systematization, it remains debatable whether Henry's writings reveal a departure from certain Aristotelian tenets or a desire to see them accommodated.3 Small wonder, perhaps, that Henry should be characterized as 'un penseur éclectique et personnel', a theologian whose complexity and subtlety of thought is matched only by an exhaustive, even prolix, style of writing.4

Moral and political philosophy may not have commanded as much of Henry's attention as metaphysics and epistemology but his handling of ethical and political subjects reveals a similarly complex juxtaposition of 'Augustinian' and 'Aristotelian'

____________________
1
J. Paulus, Henri de Gand: Essai sur les tendances de sa métaphysique ( Paris, 1938); A. Maurer, "'Henry of Ghent and the Unity of Man'", Mediaeval Studies, 10 ( 1948), 1-20.
2
P. de Vooght, "'La Méthode théologique d'apres Henri de Gand et Gérard de Bologne'", RTAM 23 ( 1956), 61-87.
3
A critical edition is in progress ( Henrici de Gandavo Opera Omnia, ed. R. Macken et al., Leuven- Leiden , 1979- ). References are to this edition for those quodlibets which have been published (I, II, VI, VII, IX, X, XII, XIII); otherwise the edition used is by V. Zuccolius ( 2 vols.; Venice, 1613) correlated, where necessary, with Oxford, Merton College MS 107. For Henry's relation to Aristotle, see R. Macken, Opera Omnia, vol. v, p. xiv; id., "'La Théorie de l'illumination divine dans la philosophie d'Henri de Gand'", RTAM 39 ( 1972), 82-112. Cf. S. P. Marrone, Truth and Scientific Knowledge in the Thought of Henry of Ghent ( Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 43, who dates Henry's re-evaluation of Aristotle to 1279/80, i.e to the period immediately after his involvement in Tempier's commission of inquiry into the arts faculty. For Henry's opposition to Giles of Rome's commentary on the Sentences, and for his role in Giles's censure, see Apologia, ed. R. Wielockx ( Aegidii Romani Opera Omnia III. i), ch. 6. Cf. Henry of Ghent, Quodlibet II.9, pp. 58-72.
4
M. de Wulf, Histoire de la philosophie médiévale, 6th edn. ( 3 vols.; Louvain-Paris, 1934-47), ii. 303. Cf. R. Macken, "'Les Sources d'Henri de Gand'", Revue Philosophique de Louvain, 76 ( 1978), 5-28; Opera Omnia, vol. v, p. xv; Marrone, Truth and Scientific Knowledge, 3; F. van Steenberghen, La Philosophie au XIIIe siècle, 2nd edn. (Louvain, 1991), 437-9.

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