William of Auvergne°

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WILLIAM OF AUVERGNE ° (c. 1180–1249), French theologian and philosopher. Born in Aurillac, William was professor of theology at the University of Paris and bishop of that city from 1228 until his death. His principal work is Magisterium divinale, a collection of treatises which includes De primo principio, or De trinitate (1228), De anima (1230), and De universo (between 1231 and 1236). William's writings are contained in Opera omnia (2 vols., Paris, 1674; repr. 1963). In his writing William combined two tendencies, which during their development in the 12th century had been kept apart: the systematization of theological doctrines and the philosophic investigation of man's position in the universe. But methodologically he distinguished between philosophy and theology, holding that philosophy is an independent discipline with its own rules. A member of the first generation of Paris masters to utilize Aristotelian, Islamic, and Jewish thought, William followed Aristotle and Maimonides in his psychology and cosmogony and the Platonic-Neoplatonic tradition, which he knew to a large extent through Augustine, in metaphysics, cosmology, and epistemology.

William had high regard for the Jewish Neoplatonist Solomon ibn *Gabirol, whose Mekor Ḥayyim he read in a Latin translation. However, William considered Gabirol, whom he knew as Avicebron, an Arab by nationality and perhaps a Christian by religion. Although he admired Gabirol, William disagreed with him in holding that the world was created directly and freely through God's will without any intermediary beings.

William was also familiar with, and drew upon, Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, which became known in Latin translation in the West in the 1240s. He utilized, especially, Maimonides' description of the sublunar world and his criticism of the Greek doctrine of the eternity of the world. However, although William cites Avicebron by name, he does not mention Maimonides, probably because he knew Maimonides was a Jew. Evidence for this view is William's contention that the Jews betrayed their own religion and were worthy of condemnation. He held that at first the Hebrew people were content with the Torah and Prophets, but later they were seduced into believing incredible stories, referring to the Talmud. He felt there were only a few exceptions – men who had lived among the Arabs and became philosophers (De universo 1:3, 31). This view is paralleled in a papal legate report defending the suppression of the Talmud (1239–47) as not conflicting with the Church's consideration of Judaism as a religio licita. William had been a member of the legate's court in Paris.


S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the xiii Century (19662), index; D. Knowles, in: The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 (1967), 302–3; J. Guttmann, Die Scholastik des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts in ihren Beziehungen zum Judenthum und zur juedischen Literatur (1902), 13–32.

[Hans Liebeschutz]

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William of Auvergne°

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