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John Baconthorp


Known as Doctor resolutus; b. Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, England, c. 1290; d. London, c. 1348. After joining the order, he studied at the Oxford Whitefriars under Robert Walsingham (d. 1310) and at Paris under Guy Terrena (d. 1342). He lectured on the Sentences (ed. Lyons 1484) and became a master in theology at Paris before Whitsun 1323. As regent master he delivered Quodlibeta 12 at the University of Paris and Quodlibeta 3 at the Carmelite school in 1330. He was lecturer in Cambridge by 1330. Between 1327 and 1333 he was provincial of the order in England.

Agostino nifo called Baconthorp princeps Averroistarum. But in fact he accepted none of the heterodox teachings of averroËs, such as the eternity of the world or the unicity of the intellect. To him Averroës was "the worst of heretics." However, Baconthorp was an outstanding commentator on Aristotle and Averroës; his interpretations of Averroës, which were more benign than those of Thomas Aquinas, were highly valued by the Averroists of the Renaissance.

Baconthorp denied the real distinction between the soul and its powers, as well as that between active and passive intellects, insisting that these are but two aspects of the same power. In explaining knowledge he eliminated intelligible species as useless and absurd. For him, the essence of a material substance is intelligible in itself; it does not need an agent intellect to render it actually intelligible. Rejecting many doctrines of St. Thomas, he adopted positions widely held in his day. For him, essence and existence are really distinct, not as different things, but as different modes of being; essence corresponds to potential being, and existence to actual being. In theology Baconthorp was an ardent advocate of the im maculate conception promulgated by duns scotus and the Franciscans. He defended the attempt of thomas bradwardine to reconcile human freedom with divine sovereignty and the primacy of divine causality. An outstanding theologian and philosopher, he exercised great influence on the Carmelite school up to the 17th century.

His commentaries on Aristotle's Metaphysics, De anima, and Ethics are no longer extant. He also wrote commentaries on Matthew and Paul; on Augustine's De Trinitate and De civitate Dei; on Anselm's De incarnatione Verbi and Cur Deus homo; and various Opuscula. His three Quodlibeta were printed in Venice, 1527.

Bibliography: b. m. xiberta y roqueta, De scriptoribus scholasticis saeculi XIV ex ordine Carmelitarum (Louvain 1931) 167240. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 195759) 1:8889. a. di s. paolo, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 6:8790. É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York 1955).

[a. maurer]

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