Entry 0366: Dating of the Texts in which Aquinas
Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (III)
There seems to be very little doubt that Aquinas wrote the Quaestiones disputatae De veritate in the period between 1256 and 1259.
See James E. Royce, “The De Veritate: Circumstances and Date of Its Composition,” chapter I in The Philosophical Vocabulary of St. Thomas Aquinas in De Veritate I, Doctoral Dissertation, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, 1945, 1-7.
In his doctoral dissertation, The Philosophical Vocabulary of St. Thomas Aquinas in De Veritate, James E. Royce explores in greater detail the evidence that substantiate the assigned date of composition of De veritate. Royce relies on the work of Henry Denifle (1844-1905) who collected and edited documents referring to the history of the
during the time
of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Here is the entire section “De Veritate: Circumstances
and Date of Its Composition” from Royce’s dissertation. University
“Henry Denifle, O.P., the great authority on documentary sources for the history of the history of the University of Paris during the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, makes the remark in a note in the Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis that the old lives of St. Thomas agree about one date if about nothing else: St. Thomas was made a magister in theology at the University of Paris in the year 1256” (Henrious Denifle et Aemilio Chatelain, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Delalain, Paris, 1889, I, 307, note 1).
“This is important, because it clinches beyond all doubt the dating of the Quaestiones Disputatae De Veritate. Biographers, historians, and critical scholars are in unanimous agreement that the work was the fruit of his first years of teaching at the
immediately after he was advanced to the magisterium. University
“The oldest sources for the life of
Thomas are in remarkable
agreement on the facts of these years of 's life
and work. A study of the writings of William of Tocco, Bernard Guido, and Peter Calo
reveals that St. Thomas
was made licentiate in theology in the early months of 1256, and master later
in that same year.” (See Friedrich Ueberweg, Grundriss
der Geschichte der Philosophie [rev. Bernhard Geyer], Mittler
and Son, St. Thomas 1928, II, 423. An excellent
bibliography on the life of St. Thomas Aquinas is contained in P. Mandonnet and J. Destrez, Bibliographie
Thomiste [Bibliotheque Thomiste, I],
Le Saulchoir, Kain, Belgique, 1921, 1-7. More recent is the bibliography found in P. A. Waltz, O.P.,
‘Chronotaxis Vitae et Operum s. Thomae de Aquino,’ Angelicum, 1939, XVI, 463-473. The Bollandists
list the old sources and reproduce many of them, Acta Sanctorum: Martii, I, 655-657). Berlin
“Bartholomew, or Ptolemy, or Tolomey, of
a disciple of
and a church historian who died in the year 1327. In his life of St. Thomas he
says, ‘Post hoc, ipso magistrato, fecit Questiones de Veritate. Post tres annos
magisterii sui redit in Italiam’” (Fide Pierre Mandonnet, O.P., Des Ecrits Authentiques de S. Thomas D'Aquin [2me edition], Saint-Paul, Fribourg, 1910, 59). St.
“Another early biographer, Bartholomew of Capua (Logotheta), a Sicilian who as a student followed the lectures of St. Thomas, dates the De Veritate as being written after St. Thomas was made master and during his first period of teaching· at Paris, before going to Italy in 1259” (Alexander Birkenmajer, ‘Kleinere Thomasfragen,’ Phi1osophisches Jahrbuch, 1921, XXXIV, 32).
“The English Dominican Nicholas Trevet, who died in 1328, made a catalogue of the works of St. Thomas between the years 1319 and 1323, in which he notes that St. Thomas ‘scripsit etiam primam partem de Quaestionibus disputatis de Veritate et ultra, quas Parisiis disputavit’” (Mandonnet, Des Ecrits Authentiques, 47-48).
“The older historians, following these sources, tell us that the young Thomas came to
Paris in 1252 from the school of Albert
the Great at Cologne,
and spent the years 1252-1256 as a bachelor in theology in .
Although they agree that he was made master in 1256, there seems to be good evidence
that the formal inceptio by which he was recognized as a master by the
faculty of the Paris did not take place
until October, 1257. This is the opinion of J. Echard in his life of St. Thomas. (See Echard-Quetif [Bibliothecae Scriptorum Ordinis Praedicatorum, Paris,
1719-. 1721, I, ad annum 1274], S. Thomae
Aquinatis Opera, Simon Occhi, Venetiis, 1775, I, ix-xxv.) It is also the opinion of the church historian
Fleury; of John Francis Bernard Maria de Rubeis (see Dissertationes Criticae etc. [Pasquali, Venetiis, 1750, Dissertatio
XI, caput ii], S. Thomae Aquinatis Opera [ed. Leonina], Romae, 1882, I, clxxv); and of
Ueberweg (see op. cit., 424). Since
all agree that he left for University
of Paris in 1259, Quaestio I of the De
Veritate was almost certainly written
in 1257. The editors of the Vives edition, however, say ‘1257 Parisiis… Laurea donatus,
ab anno 1258 ad annum sequentem Questiones de Veritate … scripsit’” (Opera Omnia
S. Thomae Aquinatis [ed. Stanislaus
Edward Frette et Paul Mare], Apud Ludovicum Vives, Paris, 1871, I, xii). Italy
“(The fact mentioned by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum [Martii, I, “Commentarius praevius,” 657b] that St. Thomas was made doctor of theology in the year 1253, must not be confused with his being made magister at the University of Paris, for the doctorate was always previous even to the licentiate in those days, and in this case was probably granted by the Dominican Order rather than by the University.)”
“The most recent investigations confirm these conclusions. Dr. Martin. Grabmann in his Thomas von Aquin (F. Pustet, Munchen, 1926, 3-5) states that
St. Thomas received his licentiate in 1256 and
in 1259, and in his latest work on Die
Werke des Hl. Thomas von Aquin (Aschendorff,
Munster, 1931, 276, 280) he makes these the outside dates for the writing of the De Veritate. Pierre Mandonnet in the latest expression of his mind on the subject dates the De Veritate I as somewhere in the year 1256-1257. (See S. Thomae Aquinatis Quaestiones Disputatae,
Lethielleux, Paris , 1925, ‘Introduction,’ I, 19.
He here summarizes his ‘Chronologie des questions disputes de Paris d’Aquin,’ Revue Thomiste, 1918, XXIII, 266-287,
341-371.) A most recent summary (1939) of the investigations on the subject lays
down the following chronology: saint
1252-1256 Parisiis, Baccalaureus
1256 Obtenta licentia, fit magister in theologia
1257 a collegiis magister agnoscitur
1259 in Italiam rediit
and states that the disputed questions De Veritate date at the outside from 1256 to 1259. (See Walz, op. cit., 470.) From all this we gather that it is quite safe to assign the year 1257 as the extremely probable date for the first question, for it is certain that St. Thomas was at work on them by that time and it is highly probable that he at least did not progress very far during 1256.”
“It must be noted that the controversies which raged for some time in the various European learned periodicals between Grabmann, J. Koch, Mandonnet, P. Synave, and others regarding the chronology of the disputed questions does not touch the date of the De Veritate at all, but centers rather around the dating of De Anima, De Spiritualibus Creaturis, and De Unione Verbi Incarnati. A good idea of these discussions can be obtained from the reviews in the Bulletin Thomiste for 1924 and 1926. (See Bulletin Thomiste, 1924, I, 58-61; III, 1-21 especially.) All the authorities, as well as all of the old catalogues, especially two ‘book lists’ of the University of Paris dating from 1275-1286 and 1292-1294 respectively, assure us that the De Veritate is the first of the disputed questions of St. Thomas. (See Denifle-Chatelain, Chart. Univ. Paris, I, 646.)”
“The historical facts being established, it remains to interpret them in terms of their setting. The De Veritate represents the work of
a relatively early period in his productive career. But he was by this time no novice
in the realm of philosophy and theology. He had been commenting on Peter the St.
books of Sentences since 1252 and had committed the fruits of this
teaching to writing. He had composed some seven or eight small philosophical works,
including the De Ente et Essentia.
He was by then a veteran of the battle which grew out of the antagonism which the
secular clergy and laity of the University of Paris had shown toward the new Order
of Preachers; as his own share in the controversy he had contributed the Contra Impugnantes Dei Cultum et Religionem.
Now with William of St. Amour condemned and his own Order vindicated by the Pope,
Aquinas began to teach as master of theology in one of the Dominican colleges which
by that time had been incorporated into the .
(See J. Echard, Vita Santi Thomae, uses the expression, ‘Pacatis tandem rebus laurea donatus questiones de veritate disputavit
…’ loc. cit., x.)” University of Paris
“This meant a very active engagement in the public scholastic life of that violently intellectual atmosphere. For in the
of that day school meant more than dull classroom routine. In the twelfth
century a question arising out of the interpretation of scripture or some author,
usually Peter the Paris Lombard,
had formed the basis of the lecture of the master. This easily turned into a discussion
or dispute. The dispute finally detached itself from the lesson and became a separate
exercise in its own right, being known as the ‘ordinary disputation.’ Every master
in theology at
had to put on several of these ordinary disputations a year. According to
Mandonnet and Synave St. Thomas held them as often as twice a week. Pelster and Birkenmajer disagree with the methods
used to arrive at that conclusion, but only, it would seem, in order to dispute
about the chronology of some of the later Quaestiones
Disputatae. At any rate, he certainly held them oftener than a few times a year” (see F. Pelster, review of P. Synave, ‘Le Probleme chronologique des questions disputees de S. Thomas d'Aquin,’ Scholastik, 1926, I, 587-590; and of Birkenmajer, see op. cit., 36-45). Paris
"The subject was fixed in advance, and was usually confined to a single topic although more than one might be discussed if they were related. All the classes of the other bachelors and masters ceased for that morning, and we may imagine with what curiosity they flocked to the disputation hall of the brilliant young disciple of the Aristotelian Albert, already making a name for himself. At this session, however, the magister only presided; he might summarize and otherwise help, but the bachelors did the arguing. The next day, or the first day on which nothing prevented, there followed the magisterial ‘determination,’ the formal recapitulation and pronouncement of the master upon the subject of the previous disputation. Bachelors could not ‘determine,’ this being the sole right of the master, though the preliminary arguments which he presented were usually those proposed by the bachelors the day before. The Quaestiones Disputatae as we have them are the written form, then, not of the disputation but of the determinatio of the master. (See Hastings Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages [new ed. Rev. F. M. Powicke], Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936, I, 490-496; Mandonnet, Quaestiones Disputatae, ‘Introduction,’ I, 8-15.) Each article of the present form represents one such determination. We possess 510 of these written by St. Thomas, of which 253 are under the general title De Veritate, though only twelve are included under the first question which really forms the treatise bearing that name.
"These disputations with their magisterial determinations gave St. Thomas a chance to work out at great length and in a controversial atmosphere much of what he was later to set forth more positively and succinctly in the two Summas. They do not, it is true, represent his best period, namely that from 1268 (when he got hold of certain material in translation from the Greek) until his death in 1274. Yet they do form an important part of his writings being often his fullest treatment of a topic. The De Veritate shows a decisiveness and a firmness of touch not observed in the commentaries on the Sentences. The problems essayed are difficult, the manner of their treatment profound and skillful. Since in them historical background is more prominent than in the Summa Theologica, they reflect better the doctrinal milieu in which he was working."