1 For a history of William and his works see Roland Teske's Introduction to his translation of
William of Auvergne's, The Universe of Creatures, 1998.
2 William of Auvergne 1995, De anima 2.12.82b. Divisions refer to chapter, part, and line number.
3 William of Auvergne, Universe Ia-Iae.9; 56. Divisions refer to part, chapter, and page number in translation.
4 William of Auvergne, Trinity 11; 112, Teske. Divisions refer to chapter, and page number in translation.
5 William of Auvergne, Universe II-Iae.11; 113, Teske; cf. Avicenna 1983 9.2.43-48; 462,
6 William explains that "in the strict meaning and in truth, he [God] alone is a cause, the intermediate things, and what [the philosophers] have called cause, are causes for sense knowledge. For these things which flow out of the first source do seem to operate, though its outpouring and beginning are not noticed. Thus following their sense knowledge, they call these things causes. Because, then, the creator alone is the source in himself, alone abundant in himself, and alone giving out of himself and out of what is his, it is manifest that he alone is a cause worthy of the name" (William of Auvergne, Trinity 12; 117, Teske).
7 Amato Masnovo believed that Thomas Aquinas had William in mind as his opponent when he asked, "Ultrum aliquid aliud a Deo effeciat aliquam rem?" (Masnovo 1934). James Reilly also makes an argument that Thomas of York believed that William held the position that "even in every natural activity the only efficient agent is God. The creature is but an occasion for the first cause to induce forms into matter" (Reilly 1953, 277). Gilson also believed that William held a subtle form of occasionalism, and wrote that according to William, "In the universal distribution of divine efficacy, God alone is really Cause; creatures are only the channels through which it circulates, when God so wills, and as he wills, until he is pleased to stay its course" (Gilson 1955, 255). Likewise, Fr. Maurer reports that William "considers created being so empty and deficient that it cannot exercise true causality. As God is the sole true being, so is he alone truly a cause" (Maurer 1962, 115).
8 See my "William of Auvergne on Primary and Secondary Causality" (Miller 1998).
9 Written by Solomon Ibn Gabirol (also known in the Latin West as Avicebron, Avencebrol, or
Avicembrom), William was heavily influenced by this work and it's Jewish writer, who William praised as "the most noble of all philosophers" (William of Auvergne, Trinity 12; 77-78, Teske). For more on William and Ibn Gabirol, see Caster 1996, 31-42.
10 William of Auvergne, Universe Ia-Iae.8; 155, Teske. In addition to the above argument, William provides additional evidence to illustrate this fact. First, William argues that even in free beings some necessity remains in what they choose to do. For instance, he argues that just as in natural causes which must act if they are the sufficient cause for an effect, so too beings which act voluntarily, for "it is not in their power that they begin to act once the power, knowing, and willing and other dispositions concur" (William of Auvergne, Universe IIa-Iae.9; 127, Teske). Thus, all of creation, including both natural and free causes, must act when the conditions are ready for them to act. Therefore, both natural and free causes act necessarily, that is, as servants. Second, William often repeats that no created thing, even a free being, can be responsible for creation, for all give to another only what they have received from God. For example, after William describes the remarkable powers of sting rays, sucking fish, basilisks and other such creatures, he quickly adds that none of these creatures "generate or creates a substance like itself either in itself or outside itself" (William of Auvergne, Universe Ia-IIae.32; 199, Teske). Although servants may be thought by some to be acting according to their own will and power, William believes that the wise will recognize that servants' actions are not properly their own, but rather belong to the master. Just as a servant's actions truly belong to the master, so too if one creature generates a second the first does not give any part of its own being to the second, but only passes on being (esse) which it received from God. Therefore, William makes clear that even free causes, like human beings, cannot give esse to another without acting through God's power and as God's servant.
11 William recognizes that it is possible to understand for someone else, as a teacher understands for her student, but such a motivation requires the intention and the will to teach, thereby proving his point.
12 For further uses of how William uses the metaphor of the king see Teske 1994.
13 William held that Aristotle and his followers "maintained that the first creature was of necessity single and said that it was the first most noble intelligence and that from it there came.. .the first heaven and its movement" (William of Auvergne, Universe Ia-Iae.24; Teske, 60).
14 For a complete study of William's argument see Teske 1990.
15 William actually works hard to strengthen Avicenna's argument. Before addressing voluntary agents, William provides the argument in terms of natural causes. He argues:
A pure and true intellect, he [Avicenna] says, bears witness that, if the one essence shall be in all its respects as it was previously when there was not anything from it, that is, when it was not doing anything and making anything and then it does something or makes something, then it of necessity was producing and making it before. Otherwise, he says, how would it now be producing rather than before? Hence, if it was not producing anything before, he is not producing anything now (William of Auvergne, Universe IIa-Iae.8; 119, Teske).
After providing several examples of how natural causes change when they act, William then goes on to prove that the same principle must also relate to any voluntary agent. He writes:
For if an artisan who builds a house is exactly as he was before in every respect as when he was not building the house, if he was first not building the house, he is not building it now either, or if he is now building it, he was building it before too. But it is necessary that he receives a new disposition in himself such as the power of acting or the will, knowledge, and art of building, or that he is externally different in some respect than he was. That is to say, he has acquired new resources which he previously did not have, or workers or material without which the house could not be built, or some other impediment was removed, or new help was offered (William of Auvergne, Universe IIa-Iae.8; 119, Teske).
16 William of Auvergne, Universe IIa-Iae.8; 120-1, Teske. The relevant passage reads: "Because the blessed creator was in every respect the same before he created the world or before the world came from him as he was in the moment of time in which he created it, since he did not create it before, he did not create it then, or if he created it then, he necessarily created it before. It is evident that the creator was from eternity in every respect just as when he created the world, since he is in the ultimate degree of immutability in every respect, and he has no external help or impediment in any way, since there was nothing before the creation of the universe that could either help or impede him. And in general, since there was nothing at all apart from it, it is impossible that the universe itself or the world be understood as either helping or impeding its own creation. Hence, it is necessary that the creator created the world as soon as he existed, that is to say, from eternity."
17 William of Auvergne, Universe IIa-Iae.9; 127, Teske. William continues to argue: "For the creator knows that something will be, though it is possible that it will not be. But if it turned out that it will not be, then the creator in truth now would not know that it will be. Hence, the creator knows something, though it is possible that he not know it now, and this happens without any change which is produced in him or in his knowledge, and this is what they did not notice in the blessed creator."
18 Special thanks to Fr. Roland Teske, S.J., Marquette University, for his assistance and comments on an early draft of this chapter, as well as participants at the Baker Colloquium on Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Medieval Philosophy, hosted at the University of Dayton
(April, 1999), and the Thirty-Fourth International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI (May, 1999), where parts of this chapter were initially read.
Avicenna. 1983. Metaphysics 9, in Avicenna Latinus: Liber de Philosophia Prima sive Scientia Divina II. Edited by S.van Reit. Louvain-La-Neuve: Leiden.
Caster, Kevin. 1996. "William of Auvergne's Adaptation of Ibn Gabirol's Doctrine of the Divine Will." In Modern Schoolman, 74(1), 31-42.
Gilson, Etienne. 1955. History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. New York: Random House.
Masnovo, Amato. 1934. Da Guglieluo D'Anvergne a San Tommaso D'Aquino. Milan: Societa Editrice "Vita e Pensiero."
Maurer, Armand. 1962. Medieval Philosophy. New York: Random House.
Miller, Michael. 1998. "William of Auvergne on Primary and Secondary Causality." In Modern Schoolman, 75(4), 265-277.
Reilly, James. 1953. "Thomas of York on the Efficacy of Secondary Causes." In Mediaeval Studies 15, 225-232.
Teske, Roland, S.J. 1990. "William of Auvergne on the Eternity of the World," The Modern Schoolman 67, 187-205.
--. 1994. "The Will as King over the Powers of the Soul: Uses and Sources of an Image in the
Thirteenth Century," Vivarium 32(1), 62-71.
William of Auvergne. 1989. The Trinity, or The First Principle (De trinitate). Translated by Roland Teske, S.J. and Francis Wade, S.J.Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.
--. 1995. De anima. Translated by Roland Teske, S.J. (Unpublished manuscript on file with translator.) Milwaukee.
--. 1998. The Universe of Creatures (De universo). Translated by Roland Teske, S.J.Milwaukee:
Marquette University Press.
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