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Giles of Rome


Augustinian theologian, general, archbishop of Bourges; b. Rome, c. 1243; d. Avignon, France, 1316. He joined the Hermits of St. augustine at the age of 14 and was sent to the order's house in Paris in 1260 for basic studies. He obtained the equivalent of a master in arts degree in 1266 and studied theology in the university, probably attending the lectures of thomas aquinas. As a bachelor he commented on the Sentences (1276), but his commentary was not published until many years later (bk. 1 after 1285; bks. 2, 3, c. 1300). He, like Aquinas, maintained that there could not be many individual angels in a single species in his Theoremata de ente et essentia (ed. E. Hocedez, Louvain 1930). This view, attacked by henry of ghent in 1276, was one of the propositions condemned by Étienne tempier in 1277. Forced to leave Paris, Giles resided in Bayeux (127880). On returning to Italy, he was definitor of the Roman province in 1281, provincial in 1283, and vicar-general of the order in 1285. At the intervention of honorius iv on July 1, 1285, he was reinstated at the University of Paris, where he became the first Augustinian master in theology. He taught as regent master from 1285 until 1291; two years later he was succeeded by his disciple, james of viterbo. Giles was a prodigious writer, and he conducted numerous disputations rejecting the views of Henry of Ghent and of godfrey of fontaines and reflecting the concerns of his day. In 1287 the general chapter of Florence imposed his doctrines on all teachers in his order. As tutor to the young philip iv of france he wrote De regimine principum (ed. Venice 1585). His important commentary on liber de causis (ed. Venice 1550) reveals a strong predilection for Proclus's theory of participation.

He left Paris in 1291 and was elected general of his order on Jan. 6, 1292. A frequent visitor to France, he was highly esteemed by the King of France, by celestine v, and by boniface viii, who frequently employed his services. On April 25, 1295, he was appointed archbishop of Bourges by Boniface. When the abdication of Celestine V and the election of Boniface VIII were contested in 1257, Giles wrote a long treatise in defense of their validity, De renuntiatione papae (ed. Rome 1554). In the quarrel between Boniface and Philip he sided with the Pope, writing in 1301 his De ecclesiastica potestate (ed. R. Scholz, Weimar 1929), which inspired the bull unam sanctam of 1302. Relying on the analogy of the soul's supremacy over the body, he saw in papal theocracy fulfillment of the Augustinian ideal of the city of God. Although he championed the theory of the "two swords," his own fanaticism and pedantry helped to eliminate an outdated papal theocracy.

The legend that Giles was an authentic disciple of Thomas Aquinas originated in the 15th century, when Coriolano attributed to him authorship of Correctorium "Quare" (ed. Venice 1486; see correctoria). It is true that Giles was almost alone in upholding publicly the Thomistic doctrine of the unicity of substantial form in material creatures (see forms, unicity and plurality of). But as E. Hocedez has shown, Giles was not condemned for this doctrinal position. Even in his defense of the doctrine of unicity, he criticized Aquinas on many points with a sharpness that later shocked denis the carthusian.

His distinction between essence and existence in finite creatures was recognized as novel even among his contemporaries. Giles admitted that it was close to the doctrine of hylomorphism. His description of essence and esse as "two things" (duae res ) has been interpreted as (1) an ultrarealist caricature of Aquinas's view (Hocedez); (2) a forceful reaction to the intentional distinction proposed by Henry of Ghent and hence compatible with the Thomistic explanation (G. Suárez, A. Pattin); (3) a fundamentally essentialist position derived from boethius, proclus, and avicenna, in which esse is metaphysically posterior and complementary to essence as a second act (P. W. Nash).

Giles's doctrine of creation seems to confirm the metaphysical priority of essence. Following St. Augustine and fearing Greek necessitarianism, he insisted on the absolute contingency of all creatures. Since creatures can be annihilated, they must of themselves tend to nothingness. Nowhere does Giles admit, as did Aquinas, any inner necessity either to the material universe as a whole or to spiritual beings. For Giles, this contingency demonstrates the rear distinction between essence and esse, since in annihilation the "two things" are actually separated. The real distinction exists only between essence or forma totius (e.g., humanity) and its corresponding esse, whereas only a modal distinction is to be found between substantial form or forma partis (e.g., soul) and the esse it gives to matter. Thus Giles kept the universal validity of the formula forma dat esse by interpreting it to mean that a really distinct esse corresponds only to essence, whereas all forms, substantial and accidental, possess a modality of being.

In theology Giles was conscious of being a professional defender of the doctrines of St. Augustine. The real distinction served to differentiate creatures from God as the mutable from the immutable, the composite from the simple. For him the ultimate goal of theology is affective and the formal constituent of beatitude is an act primarily of the will.

Giles is an important witness to the unique position of Thomas Aquinas in the last quarter of the 13th century. Not only had he studied under him, but he also read his works extensively and used almost identical expressions with regard to unity of form and the metaphysical composition of creatures. Nevertheless, his use of sacred Scripture and St. Augustine distinguish his thought and that of the Augustinian school.

To his contemporaries he was known variously as Doctor beatus, Doctor fundatissimus, and Doctor verbosus.

Bibliography: p. glorieux, Répertoire des maîtres en théologie de Paris au XIII e siècle 2:293308. É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, passim. p. w. nash, "G. of R: Auditor and Critic of St. Thomas," The Modern School-man 28 (1950) 120. "G. of R. on Boethius' Diversum est esse et id quod est," Medaevil Studies 12 (1950) 5791. "The Accidentality of Esse according to G. of R.," Gregorianum 38 (1957) 103115. e. hocedez, "La condemnation de G. de R.," Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 4 (1932) 3458. z. k. semiatkowska, "Avant l'exil de G. de R. au sujet d'une dispute sur les Theoremata de esse et essentia de G. de R.," Medievalia Philosophica Polonorum, 7 (1960). a. zumkeller, Theology and History of the Augustinian School in the Middle Ages (Villanova 1996). "Aegidius von Rom," Marienlexicon I (1988) 42. "Aegidius Romanus," Lexicon des Mittelalters I (1978) 178. d. gutierrez, "Gilles de Rome, ermite de Saint-Augustin, theologien et Eveque, 12431316," Dictionnaire de Spiritualite VI (1967) 385390.

[p. w. nash]

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