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Monday, September 8, 2014

0369: Dating of the Texts in which Aquinas
Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (VI)

Entry 0369: Dating of the Texts in which Aquinas
Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (VI)

Aquinas uses the expression “actus essendi” in the quodlibetal questions only once, in Quodlibet 9, question 4, article 1, corpus.

There seems to be very little doubt that Quodlibet 9 was written between 1256 and 1259 when Aquinas was regent master in theology at the University of Paris.

Wippel, for example, writes that “From 1256 until 1259 Thomas carried out the functions of a Master (Professor) of Theology at the University of Paris. These duties included conducting formal disputed questions (resulting in his Quaestiones disputatae De veritate) and quodlibetal disputations (where any appropriate question could be raised by any member in the audience, and would ultimately have to be answered by the presiding Master). His Quodlibets 7-11 and his Commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius resulted from this period” (John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000], xiv).

Torrell writes towards the end of his book that “Thomas’s Quodlibets can be divided into two groups, according to the two periods of teaching in Paris. Quodlibets I-VI and XII (the reportatio of the latter was not revised by Thomas) come from the second period (1268-72)” (Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work - Volume 1, trans. Robert Royal [Washington. D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005], 337). In other words, by process of elimination, Quodlibet 9 belongs to the group written during the first Paris regency.

Earlier Torrell was more specific about the dating of the quodlibetal questions: “As to dates, after the first tentative steps, the researchers have reached agreement on dividing the Quodlibets into two groups according to the two Parisian sojourns: Quodlibets VII-XI belong to the first period [1256-1259], while Quodlibets I-VI and XII (the reportatio of this latter was not revised by Thomas) belong to the second [1268-72]” (Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas, 208-209).

Torrell explains that at the time of Aquinas at the University of Paris there were two types of disputed questions, private and public. “The first, private dispute (disputatio privata), was held within the school—the master with his students and bachelor only. The second type was public (disputatio publica or ordinaria), and the master had to hold it at regular intervals, though many willingly dispensed themselves from it, for the exercise could be perilous. 

The difference between the first and the second form was therefore the public,” Torrell adds, since the students from other schools could attend, and sometimes masters as well. On occasion, they did not refrain from raising difficulties for the colleague engaged in the exercise. In one of its forms,” Torrell continues, this second genre of disputed questions could even be a solemn public occasion (the famous Quodlibets), which were held twice a year, during Lent and Advent. They interrupted the regular courses at the university. As a result of P. Mandonnet’s labors, we can agree today in dating from this first period of teaching in Paris [1256-1259] Thomas’s Quodlibets VII though XI” (Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas, 60-61).