English philosopher and theologian; b. c. 1180; d. 1248 (place unknown). Blund studied and taught the arts first at Paris, then at Oxford. He left Oxford at the dispersal of masters and scholars in 1209 and went to Paris for his theological course, becoming master c. 1220. At the great dispersion of the University of Paris in 1229, he returned to England with other English masters and resumed teaching theology at Oxford. On Aug. 26, 1232, he was elected archbishop of Canterbury; but his election was contested and finally annulled by Gregory IX because of his irregularity in holding two benefices with the cure of souls without a dispensation. However, as canon
and prebendary of Chichester, and also possessing both benefices, restored to him by papal bull in 1233, he was appointed chancellor of York in 1234.
Henry of Avranches claims that Blund was the most distinguished Aristotelian of his day and was the first to lecture on the newly discovered books of aristotle at Paris and Oxford. Indeed his Tractatus de anima shows his truly vast knowledge of Aristotle; its chief inspiration, however, was avicenna. Blund followed Avicenna closely but not blindly, arranging the matter as best suited himself, inserting new elements from other sources, and retaining his full freedom to dissent from his model whenever he had reason to do so. Against Avicenna and the generally accepted view at the time, he firmly maintained that the heavenly bodies are not animate, and so are moved by their natures, not by their souls. With Aristotle, he defined the soul as "the perfection of a body endowed with organs having in it the capacity of life" (De anim. 412a 27–28), following the Greek-Latin version but substituting perfectio for actus and omitting prima. (There was indeed a long tradition coming down from calcidius for the use of perfectio in the definition of the soul.) Blund's definition became current in the first quarter of the 13th century (cf., e.g., roland of cremona and william of auvergne). With Avicenna he stressed the substantiality of the soul; and to safeguard its immortality, which he vigorously defended, he upheld its absolute simplicity and spirituality and denied its hylomorphic composition. He taught the unity of soul in one individual. Yet there were other influences at work: Calcidius, boethius, nemesius of emesa, john damascene, adelard of bath, and william of conches, and perhaps also the De naturis rerum of his older contemporary alexander neckham. His chapter on memory is dependent mainly on St. augustine, and that on free will on St. anselm of canterbury. On the other hand, traces of Blund's influence may easily be detected in Alexander Neckham's latest work, the Speculum speculationum, and in the Summa de creaturis of St. albert the great. Blund's treatise De anima belongs to a period of transition and reflects the interests and controversies of the time. It is an attempt to join Eastern philosophy with Western thought: a good illustration of the teaching of the faculty of arts in the first decade of the 13th century and a striking example of the penetration of Aristotle and Avicenna into the Paris and Oxford schools.
The Tractatus de anima is extant in three MSS; an edition is in preparation by D. A. Callus. The theological writings have not survived.
Bibliography: The Shorter Latin Poems of Master Henry of Avranches Relating to England, ed. j. c. russell and j. p. hieronimus (Cambridge, Mass. 1935) 127–136. j. c. russell, Dictionary of Writers of 13th Century England (New York 1936) 56–58. d. a. callus, "Introduction of Aristotelian Learning to Oxford, " Proceedings of the British Academy, 29 (1943) 241–252; "The Treatise of John Blund On the Soul " in Autour d'Aristote: Recueil d'études … offert à Mgr. A. Mansion, (Louvain 1955) 471–495. o. lottin, Psychologie et morale aux XII et XIII siécles, 6 v. in 8, (Louvain 1942–60) 3:606, 610–617. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 1857–59) 1:206.
[d. a. callus]