Elizabeth Lowe

title.none: Lowe, Response: Friedman's Review of Lowe (Elizabeth Lowe)

identifier.other: baj9928.0403.016 04.03.16

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Elizabeth Lowe,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Lowe, Elizabeth. RESPONSE: Elizabeth Lowe on Russell L. Friedman's review of Lowe's The contested theological authority of Thomas Aquinas: the controversies between Hervaeus Natalis and Durandus of St. Pourcain. (New York, 2003), TMR 04.02.28. Pp.. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.03.16

Lowe, Elizabeth. RESPONSE: Elizabeth Lowe on Russell L. Friedman's review of Lowe's The contested theological authority of Thomas Aquinas: the controversies between Hervaeus Natalis and Durandus of St. Pourcain. (New York, 2003), TMR 04.02.28. Pp.. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Elizabeth Lowe

I would like to respond to a review of my book by Russell Lance Friedman which TMR published last month. In particular, I wish to address Friedman's circumvention of my thesis; the specifics of his critique and the manner in which the review was executed.

Regrettably, Friedman seems to have missed my thesis, methodology and argument. Considered as a whole, the review reads as if I had written a straightforward historical narrative of an episode in the history of scholastic thought. In fact, Friedman seems to not have bothered to ascertain what he, himself, thought the book's thesis might be. Although he begins with the barely adequate description of my book as "an attempt to look at the debate between Hervaeus and Durand not only from the perspective of intellectual history...but also from institutional history, especially the history of the Dominican Order and its educational system," he switches to asserting that my "overall story" is that of the "Dominican Neo-Augustinian resistance to Thomas' moderate Aristotelianism culminating in the debate between Durand and Hervaeus" and ends by decrying its failure as a study of the "history of early fourteenth century Thomism, and the role Hervaeus and Durand played in it." But Friedman's descriptions do not fit what I was doing at all. My thesis illuminates "the relationship between the controversies between Hervaeus Natalis and Durandus of St. Pourcain, on the one hand; and the growth of the auctoritas of Thomas Aquinas in the Order of Preachers, on the other" (p. 7). [Nowhere does Friedman address either the thesis or the arguments which support it. And, I'm sorry, but I really think that the book's title, if not its contents, should have given him a hint].

Implicit throughout the review is a misconstruction of my work as an approach into the broader subject of the history of scholasticism. For instance, Friedman finds fault with the lack of any "real attempt to flesh" out "the many Thomisms which hinged on various interpretations" of Aquinas' texts. But I can see no reason why I would have done that as such a task far exceeds the scope of my thesis. My primary concern was the interplay between the medieval Dominican identity and the development of their intellectual tradition. Underlying my investigation is a conviction that the way in which a religious order conceptualizes itself and its charism influences its choices of theological viae and vice versa. I believe this is especially true of the Dominicans who, at a particularly critical juncture in their history and in contrast to the rest of the Church, did choose to "adopt some form of Thomism during the fifty years following Aquinas' death" (p. 58). Thus my methodology was to look not just at the Natalis' and Durandus' polemics, but at how their arguments were perceived by the community of Dominican theologians of which they were a part. The dialectic between the controversies and how this elite group of friar preachers reacted to them--whether that was by joining into the polemical fray, disseminating the ideas debated by Natalis and Durandus through their lectures, or voting through the legislation whereby bits and pieces of Thomas' writings were incorporated into their curricula--offer a view of early fourteenth century Dominicans confronting theological challenges and choosing among the various scholastic options available to solve those problems. These decisions, in turn, tell us a great deal about how and why the Dominicans set down the via Thomae. As I discussed these overarching concerns in my introduction and referred back to them in my conclusion, I am perplexed at how Friedman could have missed them.

I could write volumes in response to Friedman's critique but since this is neither the time nor the place, I will limit myself to two specific points. First, Friedman objected to my use of labels such as Augustinian or Thomist. I did use these categories to situate the thinkers and groups which I discussed within the early fourteenth century intellectual landscape. I share Friedman's frustration with the fact that these labels are not definitive and I agree that almost every fourteenth century scholastic we know of could be placed into different categories, depending upon the definitions used and the topic under discussion. But I went to great lengths to indicate that such classifications were not cut and dried. For instance, I noted that "these ideological affiliations are, to some extent, generalizations artificially constructed by scholars. In reality Durandus' thought did contain many Thomistic elements. Reciprocally, Natalis was influenced, in different areas, by Henry of Ghent and Duns Scotus" (p. 186). However, I think that, at present, early fourteenth century scholastic thought is so murky and there is so much that we don't know--that it is nigh-impossible to analyze thinkers or debates during this period without reference to such terms.

The second objection to which I would like to respond is Friedman's assertion that I should have provided support for two statements: first, that before the controversies the majority of Dominicans were in the Augustinian tradition and second, that Durandus' popularity in the lower studia grew that as the controversies progressed. [Evidently, Friedman would have us believe that most Dominicans were Thomists before Aquinas' texts were disseminated throughout the Order and that the Dominican hierarchy broke with tradition to censure texts extracted from Durandus' Commentary not once, but twice, simply because the amalgamation of novelty and scandal gave them a thrill]. Prior to the commencement of the controversies, the majority of the fratres communes would not have been exposed to those teachings by which we generally define Thomism--their education was geared towards the pastorate and, for the most part, their acquaintance with Aquinas' texts would have been limited to selections from the Secunda secundae. They may not have been consciously holding onto the Augustinian tradition, but as I defined the term, they were certainly in it. Furthermore, before 1307, most Dominican lectors were not Thomists. By this I mean that they did not regard themselves as such and did not "consciously adhere to Aquinas' teachings or think" that "they did" (p. 59). Nor do they meet the prerequisites of the term as it is commonly used today. The question of Dominican specificity during this period is both complex and fascinating. There are discernable theological positions which differentiated the Dominicans from the non-Dominicans. But these were not necessarily Thomist. Most, if not all, Dominican scholastics (including Durandus) had either appropriated (or misapplied) at least some of Thomas teachings' to their own theology, but the precise combination of teachings adopted and the extent to which they were adhered runs the spectrum (p. 59-67). The majority of Dominican lectors had not yet embraced Aquinas' theses on those issues which defined the controversies between Natalis and Durandus. Indeed, they had not yet formulated their position as they had not yet determined the theological ramifications posed Durandus' writings.

As to the second statement, that Durandus' popularity grew (and, I believe, grew quickly) in the schools, I cited Mulcahey's First the Bow, as Friedman, himself, acknowledges. Mulcahey is a well-established scholar: I respect her work and am surprised at Friedman's swipe. Actually, there is a great deal of indirect evidence in extant ecclesiastical records (e.g., the acta of both general and provincial chapters, conventual records detailing the holdings of convent libraries--not to mention the records of other mendicant orders) which supports the statement. Durandus' teachings were spreading--and the rate at which they were disseminated was certainly far more rapid than were those of his contemporaries. From scholastic manuscripts and records detailing the holdings of convent libraries (both Dominican and non-Dominican), we know that Durandus' texts were not only being copied as texts in their own right but that his positions were cited or noted in the texts of other scholastic thinkers [and I don't think it was because the friars wanted to practice their calligraphy skills]. It is true that we don't have an exact number for Durandus' followers for any given day. But we do know from the acta of both the general and provincial chapters that he had followers within the Order; that their number was increasing; and that their existence and their activities (e.g., possessing or reading Durandus in a manner incompatible with the capitular admonitiones) provoked the provincial and general chapters to take action.

What I most take issue with, however, is the method of Friedman's critique. First, by definition, a review should address the work which serves as its subject. Although it is evident that I did not write the book that Friedman was so intent on reviewing, I feel that he should have reviewed the book I did write. For the most part, however, his review is comprised of typographical counts, off-topic rants and a prequel to his upcoming publications. In those rare junctures where my book is addressed, some quotes are taken out of context and derogatory allusions are made without substantiation. For instance, I strongly object to his statement that my fourth chapter "comes across, at least to this reader, as a loosely tied together set of facts (and sometimes falsehoods) and interpretations." At best, his choice of language is irresponsible. The chapter is an exegesis of Natalis and Durandus' positions on three issues. Citations for each of the quotes taken from their texts are given and each of the passages is located in the cited manuscripts and/or volumes. If Friedman is unable to locate them, he should ask the archivist or librarian at the holding institution for help. (In fact, I would even be willing to help him with that).

My idea of scholarly communication is that of intelligent people, intent on truth and respectful of others, sharing in the discovery of things worth knowing. The religious and intellectual history of the early fourteenth century is not a crowded field: had Friedman approached the review in such a spirit, I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed the ensuing discussion and that we both would have benefited. Instead, as Friedman failed to engage in any of the substantive issues raised in my book, his review is unfounded and, perhaps, predetermined. I challenge his statement that my book does not make "a genuine contribution to the field." In my book, I asked new questions about a relatively unknown but significant topic in medieval intellectual history. To answer these questions, I set myself the assessable task of delineating the interrelationship between the controversies and Aquinas' auctoritas within the Order of Preachers. I did not answer all of our questions regarding the period but I accomplished my goal, my thesis is sound and I have no qualms about defending it. If Dr. Friedman disagrees with my interpretation, he is welcome to switch to a peer-reviewed venue--for then we could have ourselves a jolly little historiographical fracas. In fact, I invite him to do so.