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Gregory of Rimini (c. 1300–1358)

(c. 13001358)

Gregory of Rimini, a member of the Augustinian friars and one of the foremost thinkers of the fourteenth century, was born in Italy and died in Vienna, where he spent the last eighteen months of his life as general of the Augustinian order. A large part of his active career was spent at Paris, where he studied from 1323 to 1329. After teaching in Italy, he returned to Paris in 1341 and remained there for ten years. During this second sojourn in Paris he wrote his main work, a Commentary on the Sentences. None of the other writings ascribed to him, ranging from biblical commentaries to a treatise on the remission and intensification of forms, has survived.

Gregory's system was a reassertion of St. Augustine's teachings in fourteenth-century terms. He shared the contemporary awareness of the radical contingency of the created order and the unbridgeable gulf between God and his creatures that it entailed. He thereby followed William of Ockham and his confreres in rigorously confining natural knowledge to what could be verified and in excluding theological truths and evidence for God's existence from ratiocination. On the one hand, God was sovereignly free and man had no means of knowing what He might do; on the other, the knowledge accessible to man dealt only with contingencies and was ever liable to be superseded if God so willed. In consequence, there was no guarantee that the world was not infinite or eternal or that there was only one world; and even if its finiteness was accepted, God could still transform it. Gregory parted from the Ockhamists, however, in his refusal to allow this distinction between natural experience and God's will to undermine the traditional certainties. Even if natural knowledge was confined to practical experience, there still remained an inner realm of knowledge that was the source of all necessary truths and nonsensory principles. Similarly, although God was unconstrained and his ways inscrutable, he still acted in accordance with his perfections.

Thus Gregory rebutted the Ockhamist assertions that God could cause a man to sin, or mislead him, or command a man to hate him: God's freedom could not violate his own nature as revealed in the Scriptures. Although Gregory subscribed to the current distinction between God's ordained power (potentia ordinata ) and his absolute power (potentia absoluta ), by which he could do anything without qualification, he neverunlike the Ockhamistsemployed the latter to override dogma. Gregory accordingly adhered to the accepted dogmatic tenets whether they concerned God's foreknowledge, man's fallen state, or the theological virtues. Only in the case of the physical world did he acknowledge the possibility, both on epistemological and theological grounds, that the world could be other than it was: that it might be infinite or eternal. Gregory joined in the current reversion to the earlier view that theology was sapientia (wisdom) rather than scientia (scientific knowledge). It was distinguished by its inaccessibility to the nonbeliever, and faith, far from being communicable, was the barrier that divided the Christian from the infidel. In this, as in other ways, Gregory shared in the changed outlook of the time, while remaining true to the tradition of St. Augustine.

See also Augustine, St.; Augustinianism; Ockhamism; William of Ockham.


works by gregory

Gregorius Ariminensis. Lectura super primum et secundum Sententiarum. Vols. IVI, edited by A. D. Trapp et al. Berlin and New York, 19791984.

works on gregory

Brown, S. "Walter Burleigh, Peter Aureoli, and Gregory of Rimini." In Routledge History of Philosophy, Vol. III: Medieval Philosophy, edited by J. Marenbon, 368385. London and New York, 1998.

Courtenay, W. J. "John of Mirecourt and Gregory of Rimini on Whether God Can Undo the Past." Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 39 (1972): 224256 and 40 (1973): 147174.

Courtenay, W. J. Schools and Scholars in Fourteenth-Century England. Princeton, NJ, 1987.

Cross, R. "Infinity, Continuity, and Composition: The Contribution of Gregory of Rimini." Medieval Philosophy and Theology 7 (1998): 89110.

Smith, K. "Ockham's Influence on Gregory of Rimini's Natural Philosophy." Dialexeis 19961997, 107144. Leukosia, Cyprus, 1999.

Zupko, J. "How It Played in the Rue de Fouarre : The Reception of Adam Wodeham's Theory of the 'compexe significabile ' in the Arts Faculty at Paris in the Mid-fourteenth Century." Franciscan Studies 54 (1994): 211225.

Zupko, J. "Nominalism Meets Indivisibilism." Medieval Philosophy and Theology 3 (1993): 158185.

Gordon Leff (1967)

Bibliography updated by Stephen F. Brown (2005)

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