John of Paris (c. 1255–1306)
JOHN OF PARIS
John of Paris, or John Quidort, also known as Surdus or Monoculus, was a Dominican scholastic philosopher and theologian, priest, and author. A native of Paris, John studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris before entering the Dominican order at St. Jacques prior to 1279. As bachelor in theology he lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (1284–1286) and energetically defended the then suspect doctrines of Thomas Aquinas in a famous refutation, Correctorium "Circa," of the Correctorium of William de la Mare, which had been officially adopted by the Franciscans. Certain unknown adversaries managed to twist or misinterpret sixteen statements delivered in class, and in 1286 they had John denounced to the authorities. Although he ably explained the true meaning of his innocent statements, his academic career was temporarily suspended. In his defense of Thomas, John showed a clear understanding of the Thomistic distinction between essence and existence in creatures, the unicity of substantial form in material substance, the individuation of material substances by matter alone, and the pure potentiality of first matter.
From 1300 on John was again active in Paris, teaching, preaching, and writing. His sermons and treatises testify to the political and social unrest of the times. During the struggle between Pope Boniface VIII and Philip the Fair, John wrote the important treatise De Potestate Regia et Papali (On royal and papal power; 1302), in which, following Thomas Aquinas, he defended a middle position between the papalist and imperialist extremes. He clearly distinguished between two autonomous societies in Christendom—church and state—each of which has its independent, legitimate source of authority and its rightful area of concern. For him the source of royal power was not delegation from the pope but the nature of humankind acting reasonably and freely for the common good of society.
In 1304, John was given license to incept in theology, succeeding Raymond Romani as master. In 1305, John presided over a solemn disputation before the bishop of Paris and the faculty of theology, in which he maintained that since the church had not yet defined the doctrine of transsubstantiation, one could hold as equally probable the doctrine that later became known as "impanation"—that is, the continued existence of bread after consecration, now assumed in Christ. This novel view was examined by a number of bishops and theologians, who considered it heretical. John was suspended from all teaching and preaching, perpetual silence being imposed upon him under pain of excommunication. John appealed his case to the papal curia at Bordeaux, where he died on September 22, 1306, while awaiting a decision. At the very beginning of the Eucharistic controversy he had publicly expressed his willingness to retract his view should it prove contrary to the teaching of the church.
John was a gifted speculative thinker who, while accepting the basic principles of Thomas Aquinas, was eager to deal with new problems in philosophy and theology.
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James A. Weisheipl, O.P. (1967)