The Medieval Review 11.10.28

Suarez-Nani, Tiziana, William Duba, Emmanuel Babey, Girard J. Etzjorn. Francisci de Marchia: Reprtatio IIA (Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum). Ancient and Medieval Philosophy 3: Francisci de Marchia: Opera Philosophica et Theologica. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2008. Pp. lxxxix, 272. 85 EUR. ISBN 978-90-5867-700-6. . .

Reviewed by:

Luca Parisoli
Università della Calabria, Italy
l.parisoli@liberto.it

This book is the second volume of a project that aims to publish Reportatio IIA, the major version contained in 17 manuscripts, and the minor version of the same Reportatio II, contained in a Vatican manuscript, attributed to Francis of Marchia. The goal and the method of the critical edition is contained in the Introduction to the first volume, Reportatio IIA (Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum) qq. 1-12, published in 2009: this work is part of a general project of a unitary critical edition of the philosophical and theological production of Francis of Marchia, a Franciscan implicated in the Michelist dissidence against John XXII, and author of political analysis on Franciscan poverty and abuses of pontifical statutory power, also against the pontifical constitution Quia vir reprobus promulgated by John XXII in 1329. [1] The aim of the team of editors is a very strategic one, viz., to understanding the specific argumentations of this Scholastic thinker, who is usually known for his contribution to the history of the idea of inertia and that Roberto Lambertini has shown to be an important political thinker. For this volume the team provides a useful summary of the themes treated in the questions, a report of explicit and implicit sources, and a very useful analysis of implicit sources, especially for the historian of ideas, in their lexical and semantical development.

The majority of questions concerns angelology, some concern anthropological matters. There is the idea of a general anthropology of created beings and one really interesting question about demonology, i.e., the relation between the will of devils and practical philosophy: demons are fallen angels. As usual in Scholasticism, angelology is not a taxography of the individual history of one angel or one homogenous set of angels (even if in Peter Lombard angelical hierarchies are discussed, this is not the case for Francis, p. IX), but it is an anthropological discussion of the nature of angels with analysis on the nature of space and time, the nature of mind, and moral agency. So, also in Francis of Marchia you can found matters of the philosophy of physics, cognitive philosophy, moral philosophy, that can be proposed with reasonable semantical translation in contemporary debates: a century after Peter Lombard the more theological matters in angelology did not concern Francis of Marchia.

Francis analyzes extensively the nature of immaterial substances, even if their existence is purely held by faith: he opposes in q. 14 many Franciscan fellows who stresses the personal nature of angels in a strong way, as Saint Bonaventure or Duns Scotus, and he refuses to accept in q. 13 a composition of matter and form in angelical souls, thus avoiding a discussion between the difference of matter in human beings and angelical beings, but also refusing Thomas' solution founded in genus and species. Francis' interpretation of Scotus, in q. 15, tries to reduce the realistic strength of Scotian theory of less-than-numerical unity, refusing to see this notion as a real ontological object: as the team of editors remarks, often Francis doesn't accept the strong interpretation of Scotus and many other Franciscan thinkers, but he also refuses to accept Thomist approach to ontology and metaphysics. Francis' solution is often absolutely not-dichotomic, and properly nuanced. The reader cannot find, in my opinion, a very strong and original position in these pages by Francis, even if he has this attitude in other philosophical works and especially in his political pages, that are touched also by the pamphleteer character of Michelist dissidence. He discusses traditional matters by discussing angelology, but his philosophical views are not completely in the line with the Scholastic authors that he analyses with attention and strength. Nevertheless, Francis is explicitly inspired by Scotus in that he affirms that the immortality of soul is not a possible object of demonstration (q. 19). Francis is a radical voluntarist, as he shows us in his analysis of the perseverance of demons in willing evil (q. 24). To be a voluntarist, however, doesn't mean to conform to a set of fixed doctrines, but instead to conform to a general philosophical scheme in which very alternative doctrines can be placed, as Scotist argumentations or Ockhamist argumentations. As the editors state, the "demonic will is a free faculty and cannot be necessitated internally, but only externally" (p. xxix). If two arguments for this radical voluntarism concern the causal relation between an evil state of things and God, the third is more interesting, in that the despair of demons is enough to be incapable of willing good; hope is the primary virtue, despair is the condition of every evil, a voluntaristic matter also appearing in Duns Scotus.

Finally, the critical edition itself is a very useful tool for the study of philosophy in the Middle Ages, especially in that Francis of Marchia's work is not an expression of the construction of a realistic philosophical system--as that of Saint Anselm, Saint Thomas, or Duns Scotus did--but the critical movement toward a non-thomistic understanding of the role of natural philosophy in the more general set of ontology and metaphysics. In this sense, Christopher Schabel has correctly remarked that Francis of Marchia is not at all a faithful Scotist (Francis of Marchia, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francis-marchia/). I would say that Francis was a revisionary Scotist, and this characterization is enough to explain the hostility toward him advanced by Francis of Meyronnes, whose Scotist way of thinking was more Platonist and less Aristotelian.

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Notes:

1. See Nazareno Mariani's edition of Francisci de Esculo, Improbatio (Grottaferrata (Roma): Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1993) and especially the seminal work by Roberto Lambertini, "La proprietà di Adamo. Stato d'innocenza ed origine del dominium nel Commento alle Sentenze e nell'Improbacio di Francesco d'Ascoli" in Bullettino dell'Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 99/2 (1994), pp. 201-252, and more recently Questioni di Francesco dAppignano nel Vat. lat. 943: Nuove tracce di tesi politiche di Francesco dAppignano, edited by D. Priori, Atti del IV Convegno internazionale su Francesco dAppignano (Appignano del Tronto: Centro Studi Francesco dAppignano, 2008), pp. 151-167.