The Debate over Spiritual Matter in the Late Thirteenth Century: Gonsalvus Hispanus and the Franciscan Tradition from Bonaventure to Scotus
The doctrine of spiritual matter, or universal hylomorphism, which holds that there is a material as well as a formal component in spiritual creatures, was a subject of considerable debate in the late thirteenth century. It was commonly held by Franciscans and others whose thought has been described as "Augustinian," while rejected by Thomas Aquinas, his followers and others considered more "Aristotelian." Modern scholarship has almost universally accepted the assumption that the doctrine had its origins in the influence of the Fons vitae of Avicbron, accepted by some scholastics in lieu of a robust Aristotelianism, and that it met its demise in the unanswerable refutations of Thomas Aquinas, after which the position was no longer tenable. This dissertation shows that both assumptions are false. Avicebron was a negligible influence on scholastics defending spiritual matter, and only important to its detractors, while the defenders were, especially at the end of the thirteenth century, no less steeped in Aristotelianism than their opponents. Thomas Aquinas, while important to the debate, did not end it, and those defending his position later did not necessarily embrace all his reasons. Beginning with alternative accounts of the nature of matter in Plato and Aristotle, I trace the origins of the spiritual matter controversy to its sources in the thought of Plotinus and Augustine, consider the position and influence of Avicebron, and discuss the development of the controversy in the early scholastics before the classical alternative positions were given in the metaphysics of Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, who are each considered in depth. I then trace in some detail the course of the debate in the works of a number of Franciscans defending a broadly Bonaventurean account of spiritual composition, and a number of non-Franciscans rejecting it on a variety of grounds, both Thomistic and otherwise. In many ways the Bonaventurean metaphysics reaches its apogee in the thought of Gonsalvus Hispanus, who both recapitulates and advances the debate up to his time. Gonsalvus' writings on spiritual composition are studied comprehensively before I conclude by looking at responses made to him by Godfrey of Fontaines and John Duns Scotus.
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