Richard of Mediavilla (d. c. 1300)

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(d. c. 1300)

Richard of Mediavilla, or Richard of Middleton, doctor solidus, was a Franciscan philosopher, theologian, and canon lawyer. Although his date of birth and country of origin are unknown, scholars are generally agreed that he was either French or English. We are certain that in 1283 he was appointed as one of the judges of the works of Peter John Olivi, and we possess three of his sermons, preached in Paris in 1281 and 1283. He was a master of theology in Paris during 12841285. In 1288, Richard was one of the tutors of the exiled Prince Louis, son of King Charles II of Sicily and later bishop of Toulouse. Richard's last writings seem to date around 1295, when he completed his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. After 1295 we lose all trace of Richard of Mediavilla.

Richard was a scholar in the tradition of Bonaventure and John Peckham. He seems to have had a flair for clear and orderly presentation and to have enjoyed wide popularity among his Franciscan confreres. Like many of his fellow Franciscans, he regarded Bishop Tempier's condemnation of 219 propositions in 1277 as definitive. As a result, he set himself to defend, clarify, and organize a philosophy and theology that would vindicate and establish the doctrines contrary to the condemned propositions. He differs from most of his fellow Franciscans, however, in that he is more sympathetic to the Thomistic theory of knowledge.

Richard was one of the first Franciscans to reject the Augustinian theory of divine illumination. For Richard our ideas are solely the result of abstraction from sensible things, though as universals they are strictly intramental. In metaphysics he held that being is predicated analogically, not univocally, of God and creatures. Because every effect somehow bears the trademark of the first cause, God's existence can be proved from the world of nature. Richard found the so-called a priori argument of Anselm unacceptable; he adopted Henry of Ghent's position that essence and existence are only intentionally, not really, distinct. His doctrine of universal hylomorphismthat is, that all creatures are composed of matter and formcoincides with that of Bonaventure. Richard's theory of one substantial form's consisting of multiple grades constitutes the most complete and well-ordered doctrine of the plurality of forms in the Middle Ages. Richard argues to the soul's spirituality from the immateriality of universal concepts. The faculties of intellect and will are not accidents of the soul, nor do they add to its essence; they merely constitute a new relation between the essence of the soul and its acts and objects. Liberty is formally in the will. In common with his Franciscan confreres, Richard asserted that the will is a more noble faculty than the intellect.

Conservative by nature, Richard of Mediavilla was not one to shrink from speaking out. In one remarkable statement we catch a glimpse of his spirit in the search for truth and goodness: "We must start a good war. It is better to fight against falsehood and malice with a certain amount of discord, than, by dissimulating, to give way to malice and falsehood for the sake of harmony" (Quodlibeta III, 22).

See also Anselm, St.; Augustinianism; Bonaventure, St.; Henry of Ghent; Illumination; Medieval Philosophy; Olivi, Peter John; Peckham, John.


works by richard

Commentarius in Sententias, 4 vols. Brescia, 1591.

Quaestiones Disputatae. Vaticani Latini No. 868. Folios 105116.

Quodlibeta. Brescia, 1591.

works on richard

Hocedez, Edgar. Richard de Middleton. Sa vie, ses oeuvres, sa doctrine. Louvain: "Spicilegium sacrum lovaniense" Bureaux, 1925.

Zavalloni, Roberto. Richard de Mediavilla et la controverse sur la pluralité des formes. Louvain, 1951. Has excellent bibliography.

Girard J. Etzkorn (1967)