Vital du Four

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Otherwise known as Vidal or Vitalis de Furno, Franciscan philosopher and theologian; b. Bazas, near Bordeaux, c. 1260; d. Avignon, Aug. 16, 1327. He studied theology at Paris (128591) under Jacques du Quesnoy and Raymond Rigaut, then taught at his order's studium generale at Montpellier from 1292 to 1296 and at Toulouse from 1296 to 1307. From 1307 to 1312 he served as minister provincial of Aquitaine. Created cardinal in 1312, he was consecrated bishop of Albano in 1321. He served in various capacities at the papal court of Clement V and John XXII. During the controversies arising at the universities and in the Franciscan Order concerning the doctrine of peter john olivi, he was appointed to the board of examiners studying the propositions submitted for condemnation. Pope John XXII assigned him to help in the composition of the papal bull against Bonagratia of Bergamo in his dispute concerning the poverty of Christ. He took sides with the Franciscan Spirituals on the question of apostolic poverty, thus incurring the disfavor of the Pope. Among his numerous works is a commentary on the four books of the Sentences, several quodlibets, the Speculum morale totius sacrae scripturae (Lyons 1513), sermons, and disputed questions. The De rerum principio, edited erroneously under the name of duns scotus (Quaracchi 1910), contains at least 15 of his disputed questions. F. Delorme has edited "Le Cardinal Vital du Four: Huit questions disputées sur le problème de la connaissance" [Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen-âge 2 (1927) 157337], and Vitalis de Furno SRE. Card. Quodlibeta tria (Rome 1947).

Vital belongs to the pre-Scotistic Franciscan school, holding many doctrines in common with matthew of aquasparta, john peckham, giles of rome, and roger marston. His later doctrines show the influence of henry of ghent. He taught that the essence of real beings is identical with their existence, admitting only an intentional distinction in the individual. Existence is essence itself as related to its efficient cause. Actual existence is the principle of individuation. Of particular interest is his theory of special intellectual illumination by which he interprets the operation of eternal reasons. Natural understanding, aided by the general concursus of God, is capable of direct cognition of concepts. To discover the ultimate foundation of truth (sincera veritas ), an extraordinary intervention by God in the form of an efficient special illumination is necessary. This divine illumination is conceived as an intimate union of the soul with the light of God. Though not always faithful to his school, Vital does, nevertheless, follow the main Bonaventurian doctrines, e.g., the intellectual cognition of the singular, the direct and intuitive self-knowledge of the soul as to its existence and essence, and the plurality of forms in the soul.

Bibliography: f. x. putallaz, "La Connaissance de Soi au Moyen Age: Vital du Four," in Mèlanges Bèrubè: Ètudes de Philosophie et Thèologie Mèdièvales Offertes a Camille Bèrubè, OFMCap pour son 80e anniversaire, ed., v. criscolo (Rome 1991). j. lynch, The Theory of Knowledge of Vital du Four (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1972), bibliography.

[m. j. grajewski]