Chatton, Walter (c. 1285–1343)

views updated

(c. 12851343)

Walter Chatton was born in the village of Chatton in Northumbria. He entered the Order of Friars Minor at a young age and pursued the normal course of theological studies. His first lectures on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, called Reportatio, were held between 1321 and 1323. At the time Chatton, with William of Ockham and Adam Wodeham, was located in one of the Franciscan studia, probably London or Oxford, where Wodeham was the scribe or reportator of Chatton's lectures. A second commentary on the Sentences (incomplete), called Lectura, dates from 1328 to 1330. Besides these two Sentence commentaries, a single set of Quodlibetal Questions (incomplete) survives. Chatton became the fifty-third regent master for the Franciscans at Oxford in 1330. He went to Avignon in 1333 and was appointed by Popes Benedict XII (d. 1342) and Clement VI (c. 12911352) as one of the examiners of the writings of Thomas Waleys (d. 1349) and Durandus of Saint-Pourcain. He was appointed as bishop designate of the diocese of St. Asaph in Wales but died before the see had become vacant.

In virtually every distinction, question, and article of his lectures, Chatton attacks the views of Ockham, who in turn was appraised of these criticisms by Ockham's most noteworthy disciple, Wodeham. Chatton's other favored opponent was Peter Aureol, who had frequently criticized Chatton's favorite philosopher-theologian, John Duns Scotus. It is practically impossible to follow Chatton's train of thought without knowledge of the views of Ockham and Aureol.

One of Chatton's frequently invoked hermeneutical principles was designated as "my proposition" and can be called the antirazor as the foil of Ockham's principle of parsimony. If a situation cannot be adequately described by two propositions, then a third must be invoked, and if this is not adequate a fourth is required and so on.

In the domain of natural philosophy, Chatton was an indivisibilist, who viewed the continua, both permanent and successive, quantitative and temporal, as composed of indivisibles or instants. The argument being that whatever God by his absolute power can do successively, he could do instantaneously, and thus there would be, according to the divisibilists' view, an infinite multitude capable of accretion ad infinitum. Chatton is conscious that he is in the minority and is counter to the views of Aristotle and most philosopher-theologians.

Concerning the ten Categories of Aristotle, Ockham held that only substance and quality enjoyed extramental existence. In contrast, Chatton claimed that all the categories in one way or another were distinct realities and he took every opportunity to attack Ockham's claim that quantity was simply extended substance and not extramentally real.

According to Ockham relations as such are not some tertia quid. A white thing A and a white thing B both regarding their fundament whiteness and their distinct termini as things enjoy extramental reality, but this does not mean that their relation of similarity requires extramental status. Naturally, Chatton posits res respectivae and counters Ockham's views whenever possible.

Initially, Ockham held that concepts were nothing more than esse obiectiva (their being known) and not accidents or qualities of the mind. Because of Chatton's critique, Ockham modified his view and admitted that concepts were qualities of the mind. However, this did not mean that universals qua universals were things outside the mind, such that Ockham is best qualified as a conceptualist (nominalist in the medieval sense), where as Chatton and Scotus are best classified as moderate realists.

Chatton's other principal adversary was Aureol. The latter had criticized Scotus's opinion that a univocal concept of being was absolutely essential in any attempt to prove the existence of God. Aureol noted that the modes "finite" and "infinite" did not come under the purview of "being" as univocal. Chatton admits the objection while claiming that there is a concept of being that includes all its modes, including the ultimate individual difference or individual property (the word haeceitas occurs rarely and perhaps only once in Scotus's writings) and is a purely logical concept and not a metaphysical one.

Scotus's view of the principle of individuation as not being a double-negation (Henry of Ghent), a determinate quantity (St. Thomas Aquinas), or a collection of accidents (Porphyry and Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius), but something positive that Scotus called the ultimate or individual difference or property, came under considerable attack from his successors. Ockham would claim that no such principle was required because God created individuals and not species, genera, or universals. Chatton, however, strove to defend Scotus's view even while cognizant of its difficulties.

Just as Chatton regularly attacked Ockham, so Wodeham frequently criticized Chatton's views, particularly if Chatton was seen as misinterpreting or misunderstanding Ockham's positions.

In the realm of theology Chatton may be read as favoring positive theology, namely, as concerned with what the scriptures and the church fathers had to say. He is less concerned about what God might do or what he might have done by his absolute power (hypothetical theology).

Chatton is thus one of the earliest Scotises and his views attest to the intellectual ferment of his age. He is an interpreter of Scotus and offers alternative approaches in philosophical-theological discourse to his fellow Franciscans, Aureol, Ockham, and Wodeham.

See also Duns Scotus, John; Peter Aureol; William of Ockham; Wodeham, Adam.


works by chatton

Quaestio utrum quantum et continuum componantur ex indivisibilibus sicut ex partibus integralibus, edited by J. E. Murdoch and E. A. Synan. Franciscan Studies 26 (1966): 212288.

Reportatio et Lectura super Sententias: Collatio ad Librum Primum et Prologus, edited by Joseph C. Wey. Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1989, viii + 430 pp.

Reportatio super Sententias. 3 vols., edited by Joseph C. Wey and Girard J. Etzkorn. Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 20022004.

Reportatio super Sententias. Liber II, dist. 120, edited by J. C. Wey and G. J. Etzkorn. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004, xii + 370 pp.

Reportatio super Sententias. Liber III, dist. 133; Liber IV, qq. 111, edited by J. C. Wey and G. J. Etzkorn. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies 2005, xiii + 399 pp.

works about chatton

Baudry, L. "Gauthier de Chatton et son Commentaire des Sentences." Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 14 (19431945): 337369.

Brown, Stephen F. "Medieval Supposition Theory in Its Theological Context." Medieval Philosophy and Theology 3 (1993): 121157.

Brown, Stephen F. "Walter Chatton's Lectura and William of Ockham's Quaestiones in libros Physicorum Aristotelis." In Essays Honoring Allan B. Wolter, edited by William A. Frank and Girard J. Etzkorn, 8193. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1985.

Fitzpatrick, Noel A. "Walter Chatton on the Univocity of Being: A Reaction to Peter Aureoli and William of Ockham." Franciscan Studies 31 (1971): 88171.

Gál, G. "Gualteri de Chatton et Guillemi de Ockham controversia de natura conceptus universalis." Franciscan Studies 27 (1967): 199212.

Maurer, A. "Ockham's Razor and Chatton's Anti-razor." Medieval Studies 46 (1984): 463475.

Tachau, Katherine H. "The Early Reaction to Aureol and Ockham: The Views of Walter Chatton." In Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham: Optics, Epistemology, and the Foundations of Semantics, 12501345, 180208. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998.

Girard J. Etzkorn (2005)