Buridan Wycliffised? The Nature of the Intellect in Late Medieval Prague University Disputations

In Marek Gensler, Monika Michalowska & Monika Mansfeld (eds.), The Embodied Soul: Aristotelian Psychology and Physiology in Medieval Europe between 1200 and 1420. Springer. pp. 277–310 (2022)
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Abstract

The paper delves into manuscript sources connected with various disputations held at Prague University from around 1390 to 1420 and singles out a set of hitherto unknown quaestiones dealing with the nature of the human intellect and its relation to the body. Prague disputations from around 1400 arguably offer a unique vantage point on late medieval anthropological issues, since they encompass an entanglement of numerous doctrinal influences from Buridanian De anima commentaries to John Wyclif’s theories. The paper delineates several conceptual tensions regarding the nature of the intellect, e.g., between materialism (entailed by the emphasis on the intellect’s inherence in the body) and personal immortality. It presents several strategies Prague masters employed to overcome these tensions. For example, an anonymous participant of the 1409 quodlibet develops the Buridanian distinction between the rationally demonstrable materialist tendency and the indemonstrable “catholic truth” about the intellect both inhering in and separable from the body. On the other hand, Wyclif’s adherents (Jacob of Mies and another anonymous master) postulate an immortal spirit hypostatically united to each human being beside the human soul educed from the potency of the matter. Yet, the boundaries between the doctrinal standpoints in question seem permeable, whereby a rigid definition of antagonistic groups in late medieval Prague intellectual milieu (e.g., Buridanians vs Wycliffites) is rendered ineffective.

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Lukas Licka
Czech Academy of Sciences

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