William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste

William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste: New Ideas of Truth in Early Thirteenth Century

Steven P. Marrone
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the seminal works of two early thirteenth-century philosophers, Steven P. Marrone shows how the idea of science" and the desire to be "scientific" first penetrated the scholarly discourse of the medieval West.

    Originally published in 1983.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5605-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Philosophers have always puzzled over the nature of truth; indeed, the matter has generally fascinated intellectuals of any sort. Yet there have been times when the need to define truth carefully has loomed more important, or perhaps seemed more problematic, than usual. One such time came among intellectuals in Europe during the later Middle Ages. The search to determine the nature of truth in human knowledge assumed an exceptional urgency for scholastics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and animated the best minds the new universities could produce. Despite what is often held to be the overwhelming religious bias of...

    • [PART ONE. Introduction]
      (pp. 25-32)

      William of Auvergne was born in Aurillac, France, sometime in the late twelfth century, perhaps around 1180.¹ Although little is known about his early life, it is clear that as a young man he went to study at Paris, first in the school of arts and then, after a period as master of arts, in the school of theology. There he eventually received his licentiate and assumed a chair as regent master. In 1228, Pope Gregory IX appointed him bishop of Paris, and he held that post until his death in 1249.

      William’s literary activity spanned the time of his...

    • I The State of Human Knowledge
      (pp. 33-38)

      The problem of truth was, in the thirteenth century, only part of a larger question concerning the value of human knowledge and the criteria for discerning within it various levels of certitude. What is striking about the thought of William of Auvergne is that he was capable of making substantial progress toward a critical notion of truth while at the same time holding to a more conservative view that disparaged the powers of the human mind as exercised by the wayfarer in the world of sin. This in itself marks him as coming at the very beginning of the thirteenth-century...

    • II Truth in Simple Knowledge
      (pp. 39-73)

      According to Aristotle, the notion of truth depended on being able to make a judgment, on distinguishing between a sort of cognitive right and wrong. Since simple concepts or simple words merely pointed to an object and gave no further information, even as to whether it actually existed or not, they did not ask for a judgment from the mind, nor could a judgment be made about them. They were, quite simply, intelligible or logical markers standing for an object, either real or mentally contrived, and so they could not be considered to be either true or false.¹ For example,...

    • III The Truth of Complex Knowledge
      (pp. 74-125)

      William accepted Aristotle’s view that one should not think of simple cognition as either true or false because he believed that simple knowledge did not call for a judgment. The idea of cognitive truth depended on being able to judge the value of what was known, but simple concepts and words were cognitively neutral. There was no question of accepting or rejecting them. They served the function of pointing out an objective content and made no demands on the mind to assent to anything about that content, even on the important question of whether or not it actually corresponded with...

  7. IV Conclusion
    (pp. 126-134)

    William’s efforts to come to grips with the problem of truth in human knowledge constituted a remarkable achievement. They marked him as one of the foremost thinkers of his time, whose ideas, paralleled among his contemporaries only by those of Robert Grosseteste, foreshadowed the intellectual development of the rest of the century. His theory of truth was imperfect, to be sure. There were areas where he did not have the analytical tools to work out his views to perfection, and it seems that in some cases the weight of traditional language prevented him from realizing all the implications of his...

    • [PART TWO. Introduction]
      (pp. 135-143)

      William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste were almost exact contemporaries, and the period of their greatest literary activity in the areas of philosophy and speculative theology neatly coincided.¹ Together, they laid the foundations for the invasion of theology by the methods of demonstrative science from the middle of the thirteenth century on. Yet to pass from William to Robert is to move from a man who, though profoundly influenced by the ideal of knowledge he had found in Aristotle, was content to suggest the importance of the new ideal in writings that were otherwise traditional in their style and orientation,...

    • V Truth in Simple Knowledge According to Grosseteste’s Early Works
      (pp. 144-156)

      The theological treaties of Grosseteste’s early years represented a less elaborate and complete investigation of the problem of truth than was to be found in his commentaries on Aristotle, but more important than this, they struck a philosophical tone quite different from that of his later works. It should hardly be surprising that this was the case, since as much as fifteen years may have intervened between the composition of the two sets of works, and they were years of great intellectual ferment both at Oxford and at the University of Paris. Nevertheless, the shift in Grosseteste’s views has been...

    • VI Truth in Simple Knowledge According to Grosseteste’s Commentaries on Aristotle
      (pp. 157-214)

      When Grosseteste came to write hisCommentary on the Posterior Analytics, at the peak of his academic career, he had changed his mind about the nature of simple truth. Although he continued to hold, as he had before, that the truth pertaining to simple cognition was a truth that had to do with the object of understanding and was not a quality applying directly to knowledge itself, there was no longer any trace of the old definition fromDe veritateby which truth consisted in the conformity of a created essence to the divine reason. Furthermore, in speaking of simple...

    • VII The Truth of Complex Knowledge
      (pp. 215-286)

      If Grosseteste’s examination of truth as it pertained to simple cognition constituted a signal achievement for his time, his theory of the truth of complex knowledge made an even more substantial contribution to the thirteenth-century discussion of human understanding. Here again his innovative ideas appeared toward the end of his activity in the natural sciences. Yet this time it appears that his mature views on the subject did not so much replace or modify earlier ones, as had been the case with simple truth, as fill what had been until then a lacuna in his thought. It is not hard...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 287-292)

    It is now time to step back and consider once more the broader issues of intellectual change with which this study has been concerned. As was noted in the Introduction, the thirteenth-century discussion about the nature of truth was not at bottom a dispute over specific doctrines—at least this is not what it was for the first few generations of thinkers involved—but rather an effort to come to terms with a philosophical issue that had not been considered in the medieval West before. It was an attempt to arrive at a notion of truth that could serve as...

  10. Appendixes
    (pp. 293-294)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 295-310)
  12. Index
    (pp. 311-318)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-319)