Maurus, Sylvester

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Philosopher and theologian; b. Spoleto, Dec. 31, 1619; d. Rome, Jan. 13, 1687. Maurus came of a noble and respected family and was given a solid education in grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy at the Roman College. In 1636 he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome. Maurus became notably well versed in Greek and philosophy. After his ascetical and intellectual training, he taught philosophy at Macerata (1649), and, at the Roman College, philosophy (1652), theology (1658), and Scripture (1684). Maurus ranks among the leading teachers of scholasticism. Besides being a man of extraordinary intellectual talents and teaching ability, Maurus was very holy. Not only his pupils but the most illustrious personages of Rome went to discuss their problems with him. His great reputation and prudence merited for him the appointment as rector of the Roman College (168487).

Maurus's writings consist of two works in philosophy and two in theology, each of which takes up several volumes. The theological works are mostly compendiums written with great orderliness and clarity, but without any special originality. More famous are his philosophical works. His Quaestionum philosophicarum libri quinque (5 v. Rome 1658) discusses classical problems of philosophy, especially those pertaining to the philosophy of nature. These latter include some now-antiquated arguments in which Maurus attempts to refute the Copernican system. Maurus's greatest contribution, however, is his volumes of paraphrases and commentaries on all the works of Aristotle, Aristotelis opera quae extant omnia brevi paraphrasi ac litterae perpetuo inhaerente explanatione illustrata (6 v. Rome 1668). Whereas most of the earlier commentators had given detailed commentaries on one or other of the works of Aristotle, Maurus gave brief but pertinent commentaries on all of them. He had a gift for ferreting out the meaning of difficult passages and furnishing lucid comments on them. These commentaries are still of great help for an understanding of Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy. It has been claimed that Maurus makes Aristotle say much that he never did say, but perhaps ought to have said. Maurus's commentaries were considered valuable enough to be reprinted (1885) by Franz ehrle as part of the series projected as an aid to the Leonine Revival of Thomism: the Bibliotheca Theologiae et Philosophiae Scholasticae.

Bibliography: É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 10.1:447448. l. morati, Enciclopedia filosofica 3:437438. c. sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus 5: 765769.

[a. j. benedetto]