Page images

deavoured to effect, was becoming increasingly apparent, CHAP. II. and the path pursued by Occam seemed at least to relieve him from the arduous task of reconciling what both Bacon and the Church had declared could not really be at variance. To some he may indeed appear only to have evaded the difficulty, but in the restrictions he thus imposed on logic it is easy to see that he narrowed the field of controversy with the happiest results. The dogma had hitherto been the rallying point for the fiercest controversies. The Real Presence, the Incarnation, the doctrine of the Trinity, the existence of angelic natures, the Immaculate Conception, such had been the questions which drew round each great doctor the excited audiences of those centuries. The earnestness with which men then sought to approve to the reason that wbich it was not given to the reason to explain, is among the most remarkable, perhaps the most painful, features of these times. With William of Occam we see these feverish efforts sinking for a time into comparative repose. Universals thenceforth, at least in the English universities, ceased to invite the ingenuity of the logical disputant; and each new comer, relieved from the necessity of shewing how his doctrines might be reconciled with dogma, cast his metaphysical theories into the arena of the schools to be tossed from one disputant to another, in comparative freedom from apprehension concerning their bearing upon theological controversy. An immense accession had been gained to the cause of freedom in thought, and few will be disposed to call in question the justice of the comment of Hallam, that this metaphysical contention typifies the great religious convulsion' of a later time.

We have already alluded to those writings of Occam The Pope at wherein he appeared as the confronter of the papal assump- opposed by tions; and the whole controversy between the pope at Franciscans. Avignon and the English Franciscans is so pertinent to the history of English thought at this period, that we shall need no excuse for pausing for a while to note the main features of this remarkable episode.

We have adverted in the preceding chapter to the rapid degeneracy of the Mendicants,


of the court
at Avignon
to French

CHAP. II. and it is undoubtedly somewhat difficult, at first sight, to re

concile those general characteristics which drew from Wyclif, the master of Balliol, such stern rebuke, and from Gower, Chaucer, and Langlande such trenchant sarcasm, with the merits of that order which could trace from Adam de Marisco so illustrious a succession as is presented, in England alone, by the names of Richard of Coventry, John Wallis, Thomas Dockyng, Thomas Bungay, Peccham, Richard Middleton, Duns Scotus, Occam, and Burley. It is not less singular to find the order which sacrificed the sympathy of Grosseteste by its subserviency to papal aggression, now foremost in the resistance to the papal power.

Of the latter phenomenon a sufficient explanation is afforded in the policy of Boniface viII, and the subsequent removal of the pontifical court to Avignon.

The rapacity of Boniface had effectually alienated the sympathies of the English Franciscans“; the subserviency of the court of Avignon to French interests roused the indignation of all true Englishmen. For seventy years, after the conclusion of the struggle between the crafty and able pontiff and the equally crafty and able Philip the Fair, the pope was the humble vassal of France; and when at length he again resumed his residence under the shelter of the Vatican, it was soon discovered that, in that long humiliation, much of the awe and reverence that once waited on his authority had passed away, and that his mandates, his menaces, and his anathemas were but feeble echoes of the thunder that Hildebrand and Innocent III had wielded. The effects of that long exile were indeed such as we may well suppose none of the French monarchs had foreseen. The

of France, at the opening of the century and up to the days of Crécy and Poitiers, was a menace to all Europe, and


1 For an account of the extraordinary fraud, a transaction resembling that of the veriest modern sharper, practised by Boniface on the Franciscans of England, see Milman's Latin Christianity, Book xi c. 9. • It was,' remarks that author, '& bold and desperate measure, even in a Pope,

a Pope with the power and authority of Boniface, to estrange the loyalty of the Minorites, dispersed, but in strict union, throughout the world, and now in command not merely of the popular mind, but of the profoundest theology of the age.'

tion in Italy.

it was with unfeigned dismay that the surrounding nations CHAP. II. beheld the unscrupulous spirit and immoderate pretensions of Philip enlisting in their support the servile cooperation of the Papacy. In Italy the prevailing sentiment was that Dissatisfacof angry dissatisfaction. Petrarch, himself a spectator of the shameless profligacy that gathered round the court at Avignon, sarcastically compared the exile of the pontiff to the Babylonish captivity. Rienzi, during his brief tenure of the tribuneship, summoned Clement v to return to Rome. But it may be doubted whether the indignation of Italy was not surpassed by that of England. In onr own country the Indignation

. national feeling was called forth as it had never been before. The resentment felt in the preceding century at the monopoly of the richest benefices by Italian priests, was trifling compared with that evoked by the same monopoly when claimed by the nominees of a foreign foe. The national character was now fully formed; the two nations had blended into one; and the strong purpose of the Saxon and the high spirit of the Norman alike found expression in the Statute of Provisors sanctioned by the most courageous of English monarchs, and the denial of the papal pretensions to temporal power asserted by the boldest of the English schoolmen.

It can consequently excite but little surprise that, when the writings the opponent of the Papacy appeared as the author of a the paper new philosophy, his doctrines fell, at Paris, under the ecclesiastical censure, The wrath of pope John XXII was fierce against the whole Franciscan crder; against the Spiritual Franciscans who inveighed against the corruptions of Avignon, and against the partisans of Occam who denied his claims to temporal power. The writings of the English Franciscan were committed to the flames, and masters of arts were forbidden to teach his doctrines. Occam himself Sympathy was a prisoner at Avignon, and only escaped death by secret with his flight and taking refuge at Munich with Louis of Bavaria, England. who supported the cause of the rival claimant to the pontificate. From Munich he waged a further controversy with his antagonists upon the question of the papal power, his



doctrines in

Contrast between

CHAP. II. manifest superiority over his antagonists extorting the ad

miration even of the hostile pontiff, who styled him the Doc-
tor Invincibilis. In England, where the Franciscan order was
most powerful and the feeling excited by the usurpations of
the Papacy most intense, the sympathy evoked on his be-

half was proportionably strong. From the time of GrossePxford and teste there appears to have been growing up a distinctive

school of English thought, separated by strong points of
contrast from that developed under the influence of the
Dominicans at Paris ; and not a few of our countrymen
regarded with exultation the vigour and freshness of specu-
lation at home when compared with the conservatism that
prevailed at the great continental university? Traces of
this contrast of feeling are to be discerned long after the

time of Occam. Even so late as the latter part of the at tie latter fifteenth century we find that at Paris, when the ban under university.

which Louis xi had placed the nominalistic doctrines was
removed, and the chains which bound the forbidden volumes
were loosened, the German nation, originally known as the
English nation, alone received with any manifestations of
joy the withdrawal of the prohibition®.

AntiNominalistic tendencies

[ocr errors]

1. The school of philosophers in the year 1430. The historian of which then (in the thirteenth cen. the university of Basle, Dr Vischer, tury) arose in this country was dis- observes that at its first foundation tinguished, in the judgement of con- in the year 1460 the still raging con: temporaries, by a luminous acute- troversy introduced an element of ness, by a subtle rashness of specu- discord. Of the different phases of lation, from the more grave and solid nominalism in that century, he oblearning of the continent.' -- Prof. serves :- Der Nominalismus verei. Shirley, Introd. to Fasciculi Ziza- nigt jetzt um sich die ganze gegen niorum, p. xlviii.

die kirchlichen Missbräuche ankämp2..On voit, en 1473, les livres des fende, neuernde Partei, welche in nominaux, par les ordres de Louis den Concilien einen Weg zur VerbesXI, enfermés sous des chaînes ou mis serung der Kirche sucht, und, so au fers, comme dit Robert Gaguin, auffallend es auch auf den ersten pour n'être “décloués et défermés,” Blick ist, erscheint er in bedeutenden qui huit ans après, au nom du même Vertretern sogar mit dem Mysticis. roi, par le prévôt de Paris, qui dé- mus verbunden. Er fand trotz dem clare qu'à l'avenir, “chacun y étu. Widerstande des mit der römischen diera qui voudra.” Seule dans l'uni- Kirche verbundenen Realismus im. versité la nation d'Allemagne reçut mer mehr Verbreitung auf den Uniavec une grande joie cette autorisa. versitäten, und wurde am Ende des tion de les lire.' Histcire Littéraire de vierzehnten und im Anfang des fünfla France au Quatorzième Siècle, par zehnten Jahrhunderts vorherrschend, Victor Le Clerc, 1 359. The English selbst auf der Pariser Universität.' nation at the university of Paris be- Geschichte der Universität Basel, came known as the German nation

p. 139.

[ocr errors]

his doctrines

At Oxford however the doctrines of Occam obtained CHAP. II. a decided, though by no means an undisputed, superiority'. Popularity of Occasionally, indeed, supporters of the older philosophy at Oxford. avowed their dissent from his teaching; of whom the most eminent was perhaps Walter Burleigh, a pupil of Duns Scotus, whose Expositio super artem Veterem long continued a text-book in the university, and whose Liber de Vita ac Moribus Philosophorum is interesting as perhaps the earliest attempt at a connected view of the history of ancient thought. But by far the greater number followed in the new track. Among them were John Bacanthorpe, Adam Goddam, and Armand de Beauvois; while some even sought to press the arguments of their teacher to yet more extreme conclusions. Such was Richard Holcot, who did not hesitate to insist upon that distinction between scientific and theological truth which, as we have seen, both the Church and Bacon declared to be impossible, and at which Occam himself appears to have stopped short. If we accept the views of certain writers we shall be disposed to look upon the distinguishing feature of scholasticism as well nigh obliterated with the progress and diffusion of nominalistic doctrines. 'The triumph of Nominalism,' says Dean Mansel, there 'involved the downfall of the principal applications of the Nomina scholastic method.' But, on the other hand, the facts shew the method of us that method as not less rigorously pursued by Bradwardine and Wyclif than by Albertus and Aquinas. Professor Shirley, whose views on such a subject must carry considerable weight, inclined to the opinion that a modified

Influence of

Nominalistic doctrines on

the schools.

1 Wood says, sub anno 1343, 'the divisions between the Northern and the Southern clerks were now as great, if not more, as those before. Those of the north held, as 'tis said with Scotus, and those of the south with Ockham, and in all their disputations were so violent that the peace of the university was thereby not a little disturbed.' Wood-Gutch, 1 439.

2 Neque dicas, cum Roberto Holcoet in Prim. Sentent. philosophorum rationes veras esse posse secundum

rationem naturalem, articulos vero
theologicos veritatem sibi vindicare
secundum rationem supernaturalem.
Nam (ut ait S. Thomas) nullo pacto
verum alteri vero repugnare potest
Quapropter Thomas, in Com-
ment. ad Lib. Trinit. Boethii, scribit
quod si quid inveniatur in dictis
philosophorum fidei repugnans, illud
non esse philosophia desumptum,
sed ex ejus abusu procedere propter
rationis defectum.' Mazonius in
Univ. Platonis et Arist. Philosoph.
p. 201. Quoted by Hauréau, 11. 479.

« PreviousContinue »