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8 - Reginald Pecock’s moral philosophie, and Robert Holcot O.P.: Faith, Probabilism, and ‘Conscience’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

Thomas […] toke not the evydence of Cristis resurrexion […] eer than Crist apperid to Thomas, and schewid his side to Thomas. And if Thomas hadde take in the bigynnyng the evydence into deep consideracioun of his resoun, to se and fele hou myche thilk evydence schulde move into feith, no doute but that Thomas, stonding in thilk receyte of evydence, muste nedis have bileeved.

(Thomas […] did not receive / accept the evidence of Christ's resurrection […] until Christ had appeared to Thomas, and showed his side to Thomas. And if, right at the start, Thomas had taken the evidence into deep consideration of his reason, to see and to feel how much this evidence should move to faith, there is no doubt that Thomas, having received this evidence, would have been compelled to believe.)

Thus muses Bishop Reginald Pecock on the famously troubling episode of doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29). The passage forms part of an extended and detailed engagement with the epistemology of religious belief in Pecock's Book of Faith. Written in the form of a dialogue between a learned and rigorously patient ‘Father’ and an intellectually demanding ‘Son’, the work is evidently intended by Pecock as a piece of pedagogic elucidation of the fundamentals of ‘faith’. However, as is characteristic of his work – and that of the Wycliffite milieu which he occasionally appears to have in his sights – elementary instruction is inseparable here from startlingly ambitious explorations in the vernacular arising out of scholastic moral philosophy of daunting complexity and sophistication from the fourteenth-century Schools, in particular Oxford. Especially to be noted is the role played by the thought of the Dominican philosopher Robert Holcot. Whilst Pecock draws diffusely on some of the major scholastic thinkers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he normally does so without providing references or precise details; the few which are provided tend to be critical. In contrast, the ‘doctour called Holcot’ is referred to approvingly as an auctor in the context of a notably subtle and challenging discussion of intention, merit, and ecclesiology. Pecock's (single) citation of Holcot by name is unspecific and does not provide chapter and verse.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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