William of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris, was one of the first theologian-philosophers of the thirteenth century to be profoundly influenced by the Greek and Arabic texts entering the Latin West during the latter part of the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth centuries.1 William's familiarity with these texts, however, should not imply that he was either especially accepting or critical of the new ideas contained within. Rather, like many in the generation following his, William, as a Christian theologian and Bishop, was quick to correct the 'Aristotelians'—as he referred to Aristotle and his followers, notably Avicenna—when they contradicted Christian doctrine. Yet, as a philosopher and commentator, William was also quick to recognize when their arguments were valid or their reasoning sound. For example, William writes in his De anima that, "Although in many matters we have to contradict Aristotle, as is truly right and proper, and this holds for all the statements in which he contradicts the truth, still he should be accepted, that is, upheld, in all those statements in which he is found to have held the correct position."2
This chapter has two major sections. First, I make clear what William has in mind when he insists that 'nature operates in the manner of a servant.' This important and often repeated maxim which clarifies for William the relationship between the creator as cause and nature as cause is taken from Avicenna's principle that "A natural [cause] does not act through choice, but in the manner of one who serves" (Avicenna, Metaphysics 448). William's careful response concerning rational creatures will be briefly discussed. Second, I illustrate how William repeatedly and ironically employs Avicenna's nature/servant principle against Avicenna, pointing out where and why Avicenna made erroneous statements. In particular, two areas William believed needed correction are examined: several of Avicenna's claims about rational souls, especially the ten intelligences, and Avicenna's support for necessary creation.
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