Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Philip the Chancellor: Summing up the Good

PHILIP THE CHANCELLOR, head of the University of Paris, theologian master, poet and musician, and supporter of the Dominicans, is an important figure in the history of the Christian understanding of virtue in between Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas. Philip the Chancellor's great work, Summa on the Good (Summa de Bono), proved to be an important bridge between Peter Lombard's Sentences and St. Thomas Aquinas's fully-developed doctrine of virtue in his own Summa, the Summa Theolgiae.  As Houser describes his influence:

They [Sts. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas in particular, but also the Dominicans in general] were enamored of his Summa, which moved far in the direction of realizing [Peter] Lombard's promise of a full treatment of the vast range of moral excellence and depravity, and all the stages between them. To do so, Philip had to move well beyond Lombard's brief remarks about the cardinal virtues.

Houser, 43.

Philip the Chancellor's systematic and methodological treatment of the good began with understanding the good as one of the transcendentals--that is, one of this qualities or features of reality that transcend genera, that transcend, in fact, any of Aristotle's ten categories.*  The good, is something that is found in all things, in all being inasmuch as it is being.  Like being, good is learned through a sort of attributive analogy: one never completely learns it, as one is in contact communication with individual things, each with its own expression of "good" which contribute to one's understanding of the transcendent concept of good.  One would literally have to know the entirety of the visible and invisible world fully to comprehend good.

Aristotle's transcendental of the good finds a natural entry into Christian thought through the creation story in Genesis, in particular the frequent reference that God observed that his creation was "good," even "very good."**  Applying the notion of the transcendental to the notion of creation and combing it with the notion that all creation not only came from God but that all creation's end is God (exitus, reditus), helped arrive at a "good of nature" (bonum naturae) and an analogous albeit supernatural "good of grace" (bonum gratiae).

Philip the Chancellor's treatment of the "good of grace," the bonum gratiae, was, in the words of Houser, a tour de force:

[The] questions on the "good of grace" [in Philip's Summa were] a masterful transformation of part of Book 3 of the Sentences [of Peter Lombard] into a full-blown treatise on who the seven principal virtues--three theological and four cardinal--aid humans in their reditus to God.

Houser, 43.  The development of the doctrine on the cardinal virtues in Philip the Chancellor's treatment of it in his Summa is remarkable.  It is part of his greater treatment of the good in his Summa, a text which has been described as the first comprehensive and systematic treatment of moral theology of the 13th century.

We shall spend the next few blog postings discussing Philip the Chancellor's treatment of the cardinal virtues in his Summa de Bono in the next few posts, including Philip's sources, the nature of the cardinal virtues, and the "parts" of the virtues (a development which greatly expanded the depth of virtue-based moral theology)

*The ten categories of Aristotle as found in his Organon (also known by their Latin term as predicamenta or predicates) are: (1) substance [οὐσία, ousia], i.e.,what something is something is essentially (e.g., human, dog); (2) quantity [πόσον, poson],(e.g., ten yards, three gallons); (3) quality [ποῖον, poion] (e.g., blue, visible); (4) relation [πρός τι, pros ti] (e.g., father/son, on the left of another); (5) location [ποῦ, pou] (e.g., at a movie, on a couch); (6) time [ποτέ, pote] (e.g., yesterday, during an eclipse); (7) position [κεἱσθαι, keisthai] (e.g., sitting, squatting); (8) possession [ἔχειν, echein] (e.g., wearing a robe, holding a pipe); (9) active doing [ποιεῖν, poiein] (e.g., running, smiling); and (10) passively undergoing [πάσχειν, paschein](e.g., being hit, being ridiculed).  Some of these overlap.
**ṭō·wḇ (ט֑וֹב): See Genesis Chapter 1 (καλά, Greek; bonum, Latin)

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