Grosseteste, Pseudo-

views updated


A designation for the author(s) of the many spurious writings (more than 65) attributed to robert grosseteste. Of these works only two, both included in L. Baur's Die philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste [Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters 9 (1912)], are discussed in this article, viz, the Tractatus de anima (242274) and the Summa philosophiae (275643).

Tractatus de anima. This is not a complete treatise, but a series of questions on the nature and powers of the soul. In the only known MS (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Digby 104) it is ascribed in a later hand to "Blessed Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln," but this ascription cannot be maintained. Internal and external evidence led its editor to regard it as "of very doubtful authenticity" (Prolegomena, 113120). Later research has conclusively shown that this treatise is a mere borrowing from the Summa de Bono (123036) of philip the chancellor, sometimes literal, sometimes free, with many abbreviations, omissions, and transpositions. Hence neither the assertion that it is "one of Grosseteste's earliest works, written at Paris c. 120810," nor the conjecture that it is a reportatio (a student's notes) of Philip's lectures made by Grosseteste while studying at Paris is tenable. Its date is after 1230. Doctrinal considerations also militate against Grosseteste's authorship.

Summa philosophiae. The question of authorship of this work is still unsolved. Bartholomew of Bologna, roger bacon, and robert kilwardby have unsuccessfully been proposed. Since many features of the Summa seem to indicate an Oxford setting about 1260 to 1270, Bartholomew, suggested by M. Grabmann, is ruled out. Again, although many affinities with some of Bacon's theories are traceable in the Summa, they are insufficient to establish his authorship. Further, the praise of alexander of hales and the unmistakable admiration for albert the great, whom the author quotes with deference even when disagreeing with his views, contrast strikingly with Bacon's genuine works. The conjecture that St. thomas aquinas wrote the De ente et essentia against Kilwardby's De ortu scientiarum and that the Summa is Kilwardby's riposte to confute De ente et essentia and to defend his De Ortu [M. Chossat, Archives de philosophie 9 (1932) 480] is most unlikely. Two things are certain; that it is not Grosseteste's and that its author is unknown. But whoever the author, the Summa "expresses with remarkable clarity the reaction of a representative of the early Oxonian tradition against the novelties introduced into theology by St. Thomas Aquinas" (É. H. Gilson, Les Arts du Beau, 274). The Summa is a systematic and impressive restatement of the main theses of the old school: there is the binarium famosissimum (universal hylomorphism and plurality of forms), the soul united to the body by natural inclination rather than by its essence, Intelligences differing individually and not specifically, Platonic Ideas, knowledge by remembrance of innate ideas, denial of distinction of essence and existence, and the rest. The author's estimate of Plato and Aristotle is well balanced: whereas Plato is in many respects superior to Aristotle, Aristotle exceedingly surpasses him in scholarship and is more reliable in philosophy.

Bibliography: Tractatus de Anima. s. h. thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste (Cambridge, Eng. 1940); "The De Anima of R. G.," The New Scholasticism 7 (1933) 201202. l. w. keeler, "The Dependence of R. G.'s De Anima on the Summa of Philip the Chancellor," ibid. 11 (1937) 197219. d. a. callus, "Philip the Chancellor and the De Anima ascribed to R. G.," Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 1 (1941) 105127; Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 13 (1946) 225229. e. bettoni, "Intorno all'autenticità del De Anima attribuito a R. G.," Pier Lombardo 5 (1961) 327. Summa philosophiae. É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York 1955) 265274, very good. c. k. mckeon, A Study of the Summa Philosophiae of the Pseudo-Grosseteste (New York 1948). e. bettoni, "La Dottrina platonica delle idee nella interpretazione dell'autore della S.P.," Mélanges Olgiati (Milan n.d.) 124.

[d. a. callus]

About this article

Grosseteste, Pseudo-

Updated About content Print Article