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This chapter treats the response of John of La Rochelle’s Summa de anima and the Summa Halensis to three major questions on the relationship between the body and the soul that were debated amongst early scholastic theologians who engaged with Greek and Arabic philosophical sources. These questions concern whether it is composed of matter and form; the union of the soul to the body; and whether there is a medium between the soul and the body. The chapter situates early Franciscan ideas about these issues in the context of those advocated by other major scholastic theologians at the time.
The introduction outlines the goals of the book in light of the state of research on early Franciscan thought, which tends to be described as a mere reiteration of the tradition of Augustine. The chapter explains how the book will challenge this assumption through a study of the work of John of La Rochelle and his Franciscan colleagues, who authored the so-called Summa Halensis, which drew extensively on medieval Islamic and Jewish philosophy to develop distinctly Franciscan positions on different aspects of human nature.
The conclusion summarizes the findings of every chapter with a view to bolstering the book’s main contention, namely, that early Franciscan thought on human nature is chiefly indebted to Islamic and Jewish sources originally written in Arabic rather than to Augustine. As the chapter re-iterates, the early Franciscan invocation of pseudo-Augustinian sources was part of a strategy for legitimizing the use of those newer philosophical sources. These in turn aided them in the construction of a unique tradition of philosophical thought, which accorded with the theological values of the Franciscan religious order.
This chapter briefly examines how the Summa Halensis approaches some of the main topics treated in this book – such as the soul’s relation to the body, cognition, and free will – in the case of angels which are not subject to the bodily limitations of humans but can nevertheless assume a human body in order to minister to humans on behalf of the divine.
This chapter turns from questions of cognition to those related to volition, and, in particular, to the preliminary movements of the sense appetite which lay the foundation for the work of free will. John departs from past precedent in describing these appetites as only partially due to the passive reception of sense data and as entailing an active if preliminary movement of the will towards or away from its objects. In this way, he seems to anticipate John Duns Scotus’ theory of the will and its affections.
This chapter traces the development of the psychology John of La Rochelle presents in his Tractatus and Summa de anima in the section on the rational soul in the Summa Halensis, which was not authored by John himself but clearly draws heavily on his thought. This work has often been said to offer a typically Augustinian theory of cognition, but the close examination of it in light of John’s writings suggests an at best tangential relationship with merely pseudo-Augustinian works, which were invoked as a means to legitimizing the use of Avicenna’s psychology.
This chapter intervenes in a longstanding debate about the origins of a psychological schema that is found in both of John’s works on the soul as well as in the Summa Halensis. This is the distinction between the material intellect, which is connected to the body, on the one hand, and the agent and possible intellects, which are separable from the body, on the other. Some past scholars have traced this scheme to Averroes’ distinction between a corruptible and an incorruptible intellect, while others have pointed out that there is insufficient evidence of Averroes’ influence at this time to support that attribution. The chapter gathers evidence which suggests that the scheme is a Latin scholastic invention which draws primarily on Avicenna and Aristotle rather than Averroes.
This chapter turns to consider John of La Rochelle’s earliest work on the soul, his Tractatus, which does not treat the six questions covered in the Summa de anima but focuses exclusively on the powers of the soul themselves, both cognitive and volitional, and their operations. The chapter addresses the contention of the Tractatus’ editor that this work is merely a preparatory study for the more mature Summa de anima, showing how it outlines a unique psychology, heavily influenced by the Islamic philosopher Avicenna, which John incorporates into the Christian tradition through identifying rough points of contact in the work of John of Damascus and pseudo-Augustine.
This chapter illustrates how the psychology of the Tractatus is incorporated into the Summa de anima and builds on the exposition of the Tractatus provided in Chapter 5 with a view to explaining how precisely John of La Rochelle conceived the operation of the senses and the human mind. The chapter argues that John used Avicenna to endorse an ‘active’ theory of cognition in which innate categories of the mind, later known as transcendentals, play a role in shaping human understanding of the senses, which nonetheless provide crucial material to be rendered intelligible.
This chapter focuses on the doctrine of free will itself, which is one area in which the Summa Halensis draws more on Alexander of Hales than on John of La Rochelle. The two main areas in which it does so concern the questions of whether free will consists more in the will or in reason, and whether it can only will the good. On both these topics, the Summa Halensis departs from the past tradition represented most famously by Augustine in affirming that free will consists more in will than in reason and that it is capable of willing both good and evil.
This chapter considers the early Franciscan response to three further questions about the powers of the soul which arose from the early scholastic reading of Arabic philosophical sources particularly. These inquire whether the soul consists of one or three powers (vegetative, sensitive, and rational), whether the soul is identical with its powers, and whether the vegetative and sense powers survive the death of the body. As in Chapter 3, the Franciscan response to these questions is situated in relation to those provided by other early scholastic theologians.
This chapter provides a brief account of the most significant theologians who worked at the university of Paris during the early thirteenth century, mentioning their unique contributions to the development of their discipline and the extent to which they engaged with the new philosophical materials to answer questions related to human nature.
In this book, Lydia Schumacher challenges the common assumption that early Franciscan thought simply reiterates the longstanding tradition of Augustine. She demonstrates how scholars from this tradition incorporated the work of Islamic and Jewish philosophers, whose works had recently been translated from Arabic, with a view to developing a unique approach to questions of human nature. These questions pertain to perennial philosophical concerns about the relationship between the body and the soul, the work of human cognition and sensation, and the power of free will. By highlighting the Arabic sources of early Franciscan views on these matters, Schumacher illustrates how scholars working in the early thirteenth century anticipated later developments in Franciscan thought which have often been described as novel or unprecedented. Above all, her study demonstrates that the early Franciscan philosophy of human nature was formulated with a view to bolstering the order's specific theological and religious ideals.