Godfrey of Fontaines

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Godfrey of Fontaines, the scholastic philosopher and theologian, was a native of Fontaines-les-Hozémont in the principality of Liège. He was born of a noble family about the middle of the thirteenth century, the exact date unknown. About 1270 he began studies at the University of Paris and became a magister regens in the faculty of theology there in 1285, having studied under Henry of Ghent and Gervais of Mt. St. Elias. His regency lasted until 1297, and during this period he produced fourteen of his Quodlibets, his most important works. There is evidence that he resumed teaching at Paris about 1303 or 1304, composing Quodlibet XV at this time. Canon of Liège, probably also of Paris, and provost of Cologne (12871298), Godfrey was chosen bishop of Tournai in 1300 but renounced his rights when the election was contested. He is cited among the senior members of the Sorbonne until 1306 and probably died about that time. The obituary at the Sorbonne dates his death October 29, but does not give the year.

Godfrey's doctrinal preferences generally favor the positions of St. Thomas Aquinas, but he manifests a marked independence of judgment on certain points and sometimes works out the logic of Thomas's principles to different conclusions. Some historians (M. De Wulf, E. Gilson) see Godfrey as an opponent of Thomas's distinction between essence and existence in finite being, and attribute Godfrey's stand to a hard-and-fast Aristotelianism that refused to admit an act of the form. Others see Godfrey as opposing the realism of Giles of Rome rather than Thomas. Godfrey held that in the divine mind there is no proper idea of individuals distinct from their species. On the hotly debated issue of the oneness or plurality of substantial forms in composite beings, Godfrey always remained hesitant. He would have favored the doctrine of the unicity of form were it not for the fact that it seemed to contradict theological truths.

Godfrey showed particular acumen in his treatment of psychological problems. Under the influence of Averroes, probably through Siger of Brabant, he espoused an Aristotelianism stricter than that of most of his contemporaries. Godfrey criticized and rejected the so-called Augustinian theory on the genesis of ideas, insisting on the close dependence of human concepts on sense experience. He insisted strongly on the passive nature of the human intellectthe abstractive function of the agent intellect does not consist in the production of any positive disposition in the sensible image upon which it works, but in disregarding in a merely negative way the concrete particularizations characteristic of the image. This outlook is intimately connected with an Avicennan realism of abstract essence, so that Godfrey held that the intellect does not produce intelligibility or universality either in things or in images, but that the agent intellect places the images under an illumination such that the quiddity or essence of the object can appear alone and act on the possible intellect and become known to us.

In his explanation of human free will Godfrey adhered closely to the Thomistic doctrine, but he insisted more than Thomas upon the freedom of the intellect as its foundation. Against the voluntarism of Henry of Ghent, Godfrey stressed the formal influence of the intellect upon the will to the point of making it an efficient cause, whereas Thomas, in different historical circumstances against the Averroists, minimized the formal influence of the object upon the will. In other respects Godfrey did not break cleanly with the Augustinian tradition. For example, he made an interesting equivalence of the active and passive intellects with Augustine's "memory," the passive intellect inasmuch as it conserves species and is a habitus, the active intellect inasmuch as it contributes to actual knowledge.

Godfrey was a lively controversialist, combating at length the opinions of his contemporaries, particularly Henry of Ghent, Giles of Rome, and James of Viterbo. Not only did he engage in an active dialogue with his contemporaries, but he also occupied himself with pressing problemsmoral, legal, social, and politicalarising from daily life. Among his admirers can be listed John the Wise, Peter of Auvergne, and Gerard of Bologna; among his critics, Bernard of Auvergne, Gonsalvus of Spain, and John Duns Scotus. His influence was widespread and lasted well into the fourteenth century but waned thereafter.

See also Agent Intellect; Aristotelianism; Augustine, St.; Augustinianism; Averroes; Duns Scotus, John; Essence and Existence; Giles of Rome; Henry of Ghent; Realism; Siger of Brabant; Thomas Aquinas, St.


works by godfrey

Les philosophes Belges, Vols. 24 and 14: Les quodlibets de Godefroid de Fontaines, edited by M. De Wulf, A. Pelzer, J. Hoffmans, O. Lottin. Louvain: Institut Supérieur de Philosophie de l'Université, 19041937.

Wippel, J. F., ed. "Godfrey of Fontaines: Disputed Questions 9, 10, 12." Franciscan Studies 33 (1973): 351372. (See below: Wippel, 1982).

works on godfrey

Arway, R. "A Half Century of Research on Godfrey of Fontaines." New Scholasticism 36 (2) (April 1962): 192218.

Brown, S. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines and Henry of Ghent: Individuation and the Condemnation of 1277." In Société et Église. Rencontres de philosophie médiévale, Vol. 4, edited by S. Wlodek, 193207. Turnhout, Belgium, 1995.

Duin, J. J. "La bibliothèque philosophique de Godefroid de Fontaines." Estudios Lulianos 3 (1959): 2136, 137160.

Hoffmans, J. "La table des divergences et innovations doctrinales de Godefroid de Fontaines." Revue Néoscolastique 36 (1934): 412436.

Langevin, E. "Nécessité ou liberté chez Godefroid de Fontaines." Sciences ecclésiastiques 12 (1960): 175203.

Tihon, P. Foi et théologie selon Godefroid de Fontaines. Paris and Brugge, 1966.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines and Henry of Ghent's Theory of Intentional Distinction between Essence and Existence." Sapientiae procerum amore. Mélanges Médiévistes offerts à Dom Jean-Pierre Müller, O.S.B. Studia Anselmiana 43 (1974): 289321.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines and the Act-Potency Axiom." Journal of the History of Philosophy 11 (1973): 299317.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines and the Real Distinction between Essence and Existence." Traditio 20 (1964): 385410.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines at the University of Paris in the Last Quarter of the Thirteenth Century." Nach der Verurteilung von 1277. Philosophie und Theologie an der Universität von Paris im letzten Viertel des 13. Jahrhunderts. Studien und Texte. Miscellanea Mediaevalia 28 (2001): 81101.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines' Disputed Questions 9 and 10 (Bruges 491): by Godfrey or by Giles of Rome?" Franciscan Studies 42 (1982): 216247.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines: Divine Power and the Principle of Noncontradiction." Les philosophies morales et politiques au Moyen Age. Actes du Ixe Congrès de Philosophie médiévale, edited by B. C. Bazán et al. Ottawa, 1995, 13881398.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines on Intension and Remission of Accidental Forms." Franciscan Studies 39 (1979): 316355.

Wippel, J. F. "Godfrey of Fontaines, Peter of Auvergne, John Baconthorpe, and the Principle of Individuation." Essays Honoring Allan B. Wolter, edited by William Frank and Girard Etzkorn, 309349. St. Bonaventure, NY, 1985.

Wippel, J. F. The Metaphysical Thought of Godfrey of Fontaines. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1981.

Wippel, J. F. "Possibile Sources for Godfrey of Fontaines' Views on the Act-Potency 'Composition' of Simple Creatures." Mediaeval Studies 46 (1984): 222244.

Wippel, J. F. "The Relationship between Essence and Existence in Late-Thirteenth Century Thought: Giles of Rome, Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines, and James of Viterbo." Philosophies of Existence Ancient and Medieval, edited by P. Morewedge, 131164. New York, 1982.

Wippel, J. F. "The Role of the Phantasm in Godfrey of Fontaines' Theory of Intellection." L'homme et son univers au moyen age. Actes du septième congrés international de philosophie médiévale, Vol. 2, 573582. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1986.

Wippel, J. F. "Some Issues concerning Divine Power and Created Natures according to Godfrey of Fontaines." Diakonia. Studies in Honor of Robert T. Meyer, edited by T. Halton and J. P. Williman, 158181. Washington, DC, 1986.

Robert J. Arway, C.M. (1967)

Bibliography updated by Stephen F. Brown (2005)