Chapter 10. Questiones in duodecim libros Metaphysice

CHAPTER 10. Questiones in duodecim libros Metaphysice (1319-1320)


(Repert. p. 91; MacClintock, pp. 123-124; Schmugge, p. 129)


Inc. (ms Leipzig) : Sapiens est maxime felix. Hanc propositionem scribit Aristoteles in decimo Ethicorum […] Solet formulari prima questio: Utrum in actu sapientie vel in sapientia consistat felicitas (MacClintock : Circa istum librum primo solet queri utrum felicitas humana consistat in sapientia)

Expl. non quod illi intellectioni correspondeat diversitas realis in Deo, sed sufficit diversitas in causatis, ut prius dictum est.

Mss. Leipzig, Univ. 1363 f. 19ra-69vb; München, CLM 4377 f. 116v-126 (book XII); Padova, Bibl. Antoniana 366 scaff. XVI (82 ff.; l. I-IX and XII); cf. Firenze, Bibl. Mediceo-Laurenziana, Fiesole 161 f. 1ra-41va (l. I-VI, attributed to Marsilius of Padua).

Ed.  Venezia 1505, 1525, 1553 (anast. reprint 1966), 1560, 1586; abstracts in C.J. Ermatinger, “Some Unstudied Sources for the History of Philosophy in the XIVth Century”, in Manuscripta 14 (1970) pp. 27-33; R. Lambertini & A. Tabarroni, “Le Quaestiones super Metaphysicam attribuite a Giovanni di Jandun. Osservazioni e problemi”, in Medioevo 10 (1984) pp. 41-104.


The commentary is existent in three known manuscripts and at least five early editions. The first edition was established by Marcus Antonius Zimara, who also added an index of noticeable terms and a list of the questions. It was first printed in Venice in 1505. This edition presents a revised text, complemented with questions by other authors, perhaps under the supervision of John of Jandun himself[1].

MacClintock and Schmugge do not suggest a date of composition. Lambertini & Tabarroni give a time span between 1312 and 1323[2]. As we will see below, John was probably still in the process of writing this commentary in 1318-1319. At that time, he was already magister artistarum at the College of Navarre and canon of Senlis[3]. The commentary seems to have been less well received among the masters of the faculty of arts than the importance of the subject could suggest. It certainly was less popular than the commentary on the De anima[4].

The authorship of this commentary has been questioned, especially after the discovery of a series of questions on the Metaphysics in the ms. Fiesolano 161, attributed to Marsilius of Padua and not unsimilar to the ones of the aforementioned commentary: a number of questions are shared by both collections. Moreover, some questions present in the printed edition cannot be ascribed to John, as already noted by Ermatinger[5] for question I, 16 (the author being probably Hugh of Utrecht); and the same is true for questions XII, 12-13, which strongly depend on a collection of questions on Averroes’s De substantia orbis as found in the ms. Firenze, BN Conventi soppressi I.III.6 f. 89ra-108va, and probably written by Maino de’ Maineri[6]. On these points and for a detailed analysis of the relationship between the two, as well as between all the known manuscripts and the edition, see the very thorough study by Lambertini & Tabarroni (esp. pp. 52-54). These scholars think that Marsilius perhaps played some role in the transmission of the questions, but seem to retain the authorship of John of Jandun.


Form of the commentary and number of questions


Like the previously mentioned question commentaries, this one conforms to the general type of such commentaries in the early fourteenth century: formulation of the question, arguments for both possible answers, etc. The commentary in its most complete version has 23 questions for Book I, 12 for Book II, 16 for Book III, 23 for book IV, 38 for Book V, etc. but a large number of questions only occur in the edition (see Lambertini & Tabarroni, pp. 94-104, with a list of all the questions). Thus, the version in the Leipzig manuscript (which starts with a decorated initial and, mostly in the beginning, has annotations in the margins, pointing fingers, etc.) consists of only 65 questions (75 in ms. Padova, B. Anton. 366, and a total of 219 questions in Zimara’s edition).


Modern studies


In modern scholarship this commentary has benefited from a certain number of important studies, mainly on particular points like the possibility of knowledge for all human beings, the relation between philosophy and politics, and of course the influence of Averroes on this work. Also, some of the victims of polemical attacks have been identified (Peter Auriol and Radulphus Brito)[7] and interactions with contemporary scholars have been brought to light, for instance with Bartholomew of Bruges[8].

Among the recent studies concerning this commentary, the one by Lambertini and Tabarroni, mentioned in the beginning, continues to stand out as the basic analysis of its tradition, and in particular of the relationship between the text of the manuscripts and the printed edition[9].

In the following, I will just mention some of the studies that came to my attention, concerning specific metaphysical problems, but I will start with a quotation of Aloïs Dempf, who, in his Metaphysik des Mittelalters, published in 1930, enounces a striking judgment: “[…] aber bei keinem ausser Dante mit seinem religiös-politischen Sendungsbewusstsein ist das Selbstbewusstsein des neuen, freien Wissenschaft mit solcher Emphase ausgesprochen worden wie bei Johannes von Jandun”. Dempf then expresses his immense respect pour “the great Jean de Jandun, who greatly exceeds his more famous friend Marsilius of Padua. After reading John’s Metaphysic […] Marsilius appears only as John’s journalist”[10].

The relationship between metaphysics and politics in John’s commentary has been studied by Jean-Baptiste Brenet, who shows that here too John is the heir of Averroes and, more remotely, influenced by Alexander of Aphrodias’s doctrine of providence[11]. Another aspect of the same relationship, the idea of philosophical speculation in the context of politics, is the object of a study by Roberto Lambertini, who concentrates on question I, 18: “Utrum philosophi pure speculativi sint permittendi in politica”[12].

In a comparison between Dante’s Convivio and John’s commentary on the Metaphysics, written afterwards, Paolo Falzone, in his study on Dante[13], presented John as an Averroist. Luca Bianchi approves and develops this in his study on an important topic: whether the ‘bread’ of philosophy can be offered to everyone[14]. Both in his questions on De anima and in those on the Metaphysics John of Jandun defends Averroes’s thesis that Aristotle considered human knowledge of the separate substances as difficult but not impossible (a thesis which had been qualified as ‘absolutely ridiculous’ by Thomas Aquinas)[15]. In his commentary on the Metaphysics (Book II, qu. 4), John moreover explains under which circumstances (some) men can attain such knowledge and counters the argument that the knowledge of God in this life is not only impossible, but forbidden[16]. Taken together with his interpretation of the first sentence of the Metaphysics (“all men by nature desire to know”), we can say that John considered that one should not “eat in vain the bread of the philosophers”, because not all men desire to know equally; men have a common nature but different dispositions and inclinations, and some men cannot eat the bread of philosophy, because this ‘bread’ was the symbol of the rational effort to understand the arcana Dei[17].

John’s Averroist approach of a metaphysical problem has been highlighted by Maurer[18], who has studied and edited John’s question on divine causality (“Utrum eternis repugnet habere causam efficientem”), found in the famous collections of disputed questions[19] of the manuscripts Vatican, lat. 6768 and Florence, Conv. Soppr. J. III, 6. Maurer noted that John treated similar and related problems in several of his commentaries, among which, of course, the one on the Metaphysics. The matter discussed here has to be placed in the context of the ongoing dispute over the meaning of an efficient cause[20]. In his question, John denies that creation is a mode of efficient causation, but he does not further explain his position. However, in his commentary on the Metaphysics he adds that reason and faith are opposed on this point (Book II, question 5; see below). It has to be noted, of course, that this commentary probably is a rather late work, certainly later than the question mentioned above.

More recently, Lukasz Tomanek[21] also discussed the question of the necessity and metaphysical foundations of free will, and thus the thorny problem of the relation between reason and faith, in John of Jandun and his follower John Aurifaber of Halberstadt, in Erfurt. He too stresses the influence of Averroes and early fourteenth-century averroïsm in this context. Noting that the topic is treated in various works of Jandun, Tomanek uses as the basis for his study not only the commentary on the Metaphysics, but also his ‘Florence question’, already mentioned, and his commentary on De anima, discussed above[22]. Although he does not take into account either the difference in time of composition between the two commentaries, nor the fact that they result from very different contexts (one of them being classroom teaching, the other a treatise written in response to an explicit request), his study offers an interesting contribution to the discussion of the problem.

The theory of relations (to reality, ens reale as opposed to ens rationis) expressed by John in five questions of book V of his Metaphysics has been analysed by Schönberger in his study on John Buridan[23]. After treating the question of reality itself, John discusses the status of reality (are relations really separated from their object), the category of relations and the possibility of logical relations.

Other specific topics addressed in John’s commentary on the Metaphysics are for instance the relation between philosophy and human happiness, various epistemological issues, God’s omnipotence[24]. The nature of the concept of species, as treated in a question of John on book V (“utrum conceptus speciei sit compositus ex conceptu generis et differentie”), has been taken into account by Riccardo Saccenti in his study of a disputed question by Matteo da Gubbio, who was certainly influenced by John’s commentary[25].

In a quite different context, a part of John’s questions on the Metaphysics has been studied by William Duba[26]. Concentrating on the ‘final lecture’ of Landolfo Caracciolo, bachelor of theology in Paris, Duba brings to light a circle of bachelors and masters in theology (the most prominent one being Thomas Wylton), with whom John of Jandun was closely related. He also discovered, in an Erfurt manuscript, a ‘dossier’ established by John and (poorly) copied according to his instructions; it is composed of three elements: 1. an anonymous question “Supposito quod alique substantie causate essent eterne, queritur utrum dependerent ab aliquo agente”; 2. extracts from Landolfo Caracciolo’s principia and lectures on the Sentences ; 3. the question “Questio de simultate contradictoriorum” disputed in 1320 by John of Jandun[27]. The anonymous question (1) is closely related to John’s question on the Metaphysics II, 3 (in the Padova manuscript; II, 5 in Zimara): “Utrum substantie eterne alie a prima dependeant a prima tanquam ab aliquo agente et efficiente”. The passages copied from Landolfo (2) explain his position in his final lecture, where he accused Thomas Wylton of holding that philosophers understood creation in a different way than theologians. Finally, the third element, the question of John of Jandun himself constitutes his response to Landolfo[28].

The parallels between the anonymous question and John’s question on the Metaphysics are so strong that we have to conclude that one text must have influenced the other. The most probable explanation is that John incorporated the question into his Metaphysics commentary. This would imply that John’s commentary was contemporary to Landolfo’s lectures on the Sentences, that is, 1318-1319, since the text of the question seems to cite these lectures[29]. It also shows that while composing his commentary on the Metaphysics, John was actively engaged in academic life and attended to lectures in the faculty of theology when an important matter, related to the doctrines defended by Wylton’s circle, was discussed.

Other parallels, between John of Jandun and his student Peter of Modena, have been discussed by Kuksewicz[30]. Peter of Modena is the author of a question on the quiddity of material substances, a problem treated by John in two questions of his commentary on the Metaphysics, qu. 11 and 12. According to Kuksewicz, John does not refer to Peter’s question, although he partly agrees with Peter’s opinion that the quiddity in the material substance is identical with the form and does not include matter. But in the determination John proceeds in a metaphysical way, while Peter was interested in the real components of the material substance. The fact that John did not mention his former student’s opinion does not seem amazing to me, as he rarely quotes contemporary authors.

In his study on John of Jandun, Ludwig Schmugge has compared Marsilius’s questions on the Metaphysics to John’s commentary[31]. On the question “Utrum felicitas humana consistat in sapientia”, he shows many similarities between the two: John considers that man can already experience perfect happiness here on earth, because his natural abilities make it possible for him to reach the cognitio Dei per essentiam, although this will be the case for only a minority, and Marsilius agrees with this[32]. The question “Utrum philosophi pure speculativi sint permittendi in philosophia politica” is also very similar in both authors: Marsilius’s text resembles John’s almost litteraly[33]. Still other parallels (on habitus, politics, slavery, law) are pointed out by Schmugge, who concludes that Marsilius, less centred on philosophy, used John’s questions when writing his commentary on the Metaphysics.

In comparing the ideas of the two philosophers on social theory, expressed in their questions on the Metaphysics and in the Defensor Pacis, Schmugge points out that John of Jandun often departed from the official doctrines of the church[34] and that natural philosophy came to be the basis of thought also for Marsilius.


Character and style of the commentary


I will first give the transcription of the short prologue found in one of the manuscripts (ms. Leipzig) and afterwards quote some of the questions in order to give an idea of the character of the commentary.




Sapiens est maxime felix. Hanc propositionem scribit Aristoteles in X° ethicorum[35] et huic concordat dictum Commentatoris XII huius[36] ubi dicit sic quod per acquisitionem huius <sapientie> ab homine invenitur homo in sua ultima perfectione <essendi>. Idem eciam Lincolniensis[37] dicit in primo Posteriorum quod modus philosophorum fuit imitari naturam. Et ideo natura non facit pluribus instrumentis quod potest facere uno. Et ideo cum in questione appareat recommendatio philosophie, ideo non oportet eam commendare.

Solet formari prima questio : Utrum in actu sapientie et in sapientia consistat felicitas[38].


This very short prologue can be compared to the much longer one introducing the questions on the De anima, where John argues that man is attracted to philosophy because of his natural imperfection; he aspires at conjunction with his ultimate goal (finis) and he can reach this by philosophy, because his ultimate goal is felicitas. The notion of felicitas was clearly important for him. This seems to be another argument for the authenticity of this commentary.


Some examples of the questions


The first question is presented as a traditional one: “Circa istum librum primo solet queri utrum felicitas humana consistat in sapientia”. The second is “again about the text”

(“Consequenter queritur adhuc circa litteram”), that is, according to the passage in the printed edition[39], the prologue of the treatise, and asks if the science of metaphysics precedes the other sciences (“utrum metaphysica sit prior aliis scientiis”). The third question is about the subject of this science (“Utrum ens secundum quod ens sit subiectum de quo est metaphysica”). Only in question 4 the commentary addresses the famous and much discussed first sentence of the treatise: “Consequenter queritur circa primam propositionem: utrum omnes homines naturaliter scire desiderent”[40].

In the treatment of this question John quotes (apart from Aristotle, Averroes and Cicero) Albertus Magnus, who formulates the argument given in the oppositum after the usual quotation of the authority:


Oppositum vult Aristoteles in ista prima propositione Omnes homines etc. Unde et Tullius dicit […] Item arguitur ratione Aristotelis: si illud quod minus utiliter appetimus, ergo illud quod magis; sed minus utiliter quod diligamus sensus (lege sensum?) quam intellectum, cum intellectus sit nobilior virtus quam sensus; sed maxime visum diligimus; dato enim quod nulla utilitas et operatio sequatur, quia diligimus visum non ut agamus, sed etiam nihil agere debentes ipsum diligimus pre aliis, ergo magis intellectum et scire secundum intellectum; et sic format Albertus rationem (f. 4rb)[41].


After a notandum saying that appetitus is double, a ‘rational’ and an ‘animal’ appetite (as Aristotle had pointed out), John logically presents a double solution:


Dicendum ergo ad questionem quod omnes homines appetunt scire naturali appetitu. Secundo dicendum quod non omnes homines appetunt animali appetitu.

Ratio prime conclusionis […].


In the arguments for the first solution, we find a passage of Aristotle’s Ethics (containing a quotation of Homer), illustrating the difficulty of reaching his goal (‘scire quid est finis hominis”) because of other occupations or retained by voluptuous corporal appetites (“a voluptatibus corporalibus”):


Quia dicit Aristoteles in septimo Ethicorum[42]: dolose cyprigene et variam corrigiam, et Homerus: deceptio que spisse furata est intellectum sapientis (ibid.).


After the argumentation John raises some doubts (“Nota quod hic sunt tres difficultates contra istam propositionem […] Aliud est dubium [… ] Aliud est dubium”) and immediately afterwards adds an elaborate answer beginning with “Ad primum dicendum quod”, and again (15 lines later) “Per hoc dicendum ad rationes”, where he resumes the answer to the first doubt (in 5 lines) before going on to the second (“Ad aliud dubium”). Then he systematically refutes the arguments for the opposite position given in the beginning.

The treatment of this important subject (treated, of course, by many earlier philosophers and also by Dante in his Convivio) is thorough and extensive. Sometimes we find an amusing expression: “et ponit grossum exemplum” (f. 4vb) or an amazing example (based on Aristotle): “ut cum a principio aliqui querebant scientiam, ut sacerdotes in Egypto, et putabant se totaliter adipisci scientias” (f. 5ra), but there are no signs of polemical discussion with colleagues.

Subsequently, we find a separate question in Zimara’s edition: if all men desire the same science (qu. I, 5 “Utrum omnes homines appetant unam scientiam”), treated in a much shorter way. However, this question does not appear in the manuscripts and it is clearly different from John’s question. Here, Albert the Great is quoted in one of the arguments for the negative answer (“Item, et est ratio Alberti: unusquisque appetit scientiam ad quam aptus natus est, sed ad unam scientiam omnes homines non sunt apti nati, ergo etc.”), but also in the oppositum, where it is the only argument: “Oppositum vult Albertus in suo commento”[43]. So, this entire question seems to have been inspired by Albert. Then the author adds that this question is not commonly disputed, but that he has introduced it for a better understanding of the first proposition (as Albertus had added his Digressio)[44].

After these first questions about Aristotle’s introduction, the commentary follows the various subjects treated in a systematic order, often indicating to which part. of Aristotle’s treatise the questions are related. For each book, the questions are more or less numerous; for instance, for Book II there are only twelve questions, but for Book V no less than thirty-eight. This is not unexpected, for in this book Aristotle gives the definition of philosophical terms (the “distinctio nominum”, as John calls it in the first question on this book) and thus provides the basis for all philosophical discussion. Thus, this book is of course an important part to be commented on, if one wants to explain the discipline of metaphysics.

The questions are often rather short and follow the traditional organisation (Queritur […] Oppositum […] Dicendum […]), but sometimes they are somewhat longer and the discussion is a little more complex.

Let us take the third question of Book II (qu. II, 5 in Zimara’s edition), already mentioned above[45]. It addresses an important and famous problem: if eternal substances other than the first depend on the first as on some agent and efficient cause/substance:


Queritur circa istam partem utrum substantie eterne alie a prima dependeant a prima tamquam ab aliquo agente et efficiente (26vb).


That this is indeed the case is argued in three points, then the opposite answer is that Aristotle seems to say so in the text and one can also argue this with reasoning. As often, the discussion begins with notanda “for the understanding of the question”; the first is that the term “agent” has a double sense according to the intention of Aristotle and more explicitly so to that of Averroes:


Unum est agens simpliciter et proprium, aliud agens dictum secundum similitudinem; et ista distinctio habetur partim per Commentatorem super 12m huius […].


In the second notandum John formulates three “propositions and suppositions”; the first is that “substantia eterna non est in potentia ad non esse”, the second is that “omne agens simpliciter est principium motus et mutationis”, the third is that “ad omnem motum et mutationem requiritur unum subiectum, quod est in potentia ad oppositum illius quod introducitur per motum”. After this, John formulates his solution:


Tunc dicendum ad questionem secundum intentionem Aristotelis et Commentatoris quod nulla substantia eterna causata est ab agente simpliciter. Secundo dicendum quod alique substantie eterne sunt ab agente dicto secundum similitudinem (26vb-27ra).


So, one must answer in accordance with the intention of Aristole and his Commentator that no eternal substance is simply caused by an agent, but some eternal substances are caused by an agent said by similitude. These two conclusiones are then discussed:


Ratio prime conclusionis: si aliqua substantia eterna causata esset ab agente simpliciter et vere, tunc aliqua substantia eterna posset non esse, quod est impossibile ex prima suppositio, quia […] Item […] Et tu dicis forte quod […] Et tu dicis […] Adhuc forte diceres […] Istud non valet, quia […] et sic est contradictio.

Ratio secunde conclusionis: illud quod conservatur ab aliquo extrinseco quod est nobilius et perfectius eo dependet ab agente secundum similitudinem, quia hoc intelligitur per agens secundum similitudinem, ut vult Commentator quarto celi commento primo […] (27ra).


However, says John, there are many difficulties which are more or less considered as proofs for the other position: “Notandum quod multe sunt difficultates que quasi habentur pro demonstrationibus pro alia parte”.

Follow a series of arguments and auctoritates: “Et iste auctoritates probant principaliter de celo. Et hoc sufficit ad propositum, cum sit eternum”. These are in turn discussed, first with a series of auctoritates: “Dicendum ad ista secundum intentionem Aristotelis et Commentatoris, primo ponendo quasdam auctoritates Commentatoris que sunt in contrarium”, then systematically with arguments: “Ad primam difficultatem, cum dicitur”, etc.

The arguments are nuanced, for instance:


Unde ista propositio quod esse ab alio et propter ipsum sunt eadem non est universalis, sed tamen habet veritatem in illis in quibus repugnat dependere ab alio, sicut etiam illa propositio non est universalis quod intelligens et intellectum in omnibus sunt idem, sed tamen habet veritatem in immaterialibus (f. 27va).


Thus, John esteems that “that proposition […] is not universally true, but it still has truth in immaterial things”. And the authorities are commented like this:


Ad auctoritates omnes breviter dicendum quod non arguunt agens verum quod extrahat aliquid de potentia ad actum, sed arguunt causam finalem que dat esse et conservat, unde bene verum est quod eternorum est causa sicut finis et forma, ut vult Commentator quarto Celi, quia eterna de quatuor causis non habent nisi formam et finem. Et si habent agens, hoc non est nisi secundum similitudinem. Similiter quod dicitur “deus et natura nihil faciunt frustra”, non intelligit quod faciat eterna per motum, sed dat eis esse et ea conservat. Similiter de aliis auctoritatibus Commentatoris, “celum non solum indiget virtutem etc.” intelligit per virtutem largientem per(27vb)manentiam eternam causam finalem que dat esse et conservat. Similiter quod dicit […] Similiter quod dicit […] et sic intelligatur de aliis auctoritatibus (27va-rb).


The authoritative passages quoted, says John, do not argue for the true agent, which brings something from potency to act, but they argue for the final cause, which gives and preserves being, and the proposition “God and nature do nothing in vain” does not mean that he gives eternal things by motion, but he gives them being and preserves them. Similarly about the other passages of the Commentator.

The discussion of these difficulties and their answers takes more than two columns in the printed edition (on a total of a little more than five columns). The question ends, as usual, with the refutation of the principal arguments for the opposite position, also extensively, with comments like “Alii aliter dicunt et minus bene”, “Aliqui dicunt quod”, “Aliter potest dici et melius”, “Tu dicis … dicendum quod”. A last question is raised and answered: “Sed forte queres unde est hoc quod motus celi non est a motore et est eternus, et substantia mobilis non est a motore ut ab agente. Causa huius est quia […]”.

Finally, after this very thorough treatment of the various aspects and difficulties of the question, John adds his conclusion:


Hoc modo dicendum est ad questionem secundum intentionem Aristotelis et Commentatoris ponentium citra primum aliquas substantias eternas. Et si hoc esset verum, non dependeret a vero agente per motum. Sed tamen dicendum secundum fidem et veritatem quod nihil citra primum est eternum, sed omnia inceperunt de novo esse et per consequens producta fuerunt a primo principio tamquam ab agente per creationem ex nihilo, saltem substantie abstracte. Et illa creatio non est motus nec generatio univoce dictus cum motu inferiorum, sed alia productio supernaturalis que non potest convinci ex sensatis et naturalibus ex quibus procedunt philosophi naturaliter loquentes. Sed tamen   firmiter hoc credo et scio, non de ratione orta ex sensatis, et hoc firmiter facit scripture doctoribus reverenter assentire; unde ex hoc quod nescio demonstrare ex sensatis nec potest, quia est super sensibilia et naturam, tunc simpliciter credendo et fideliter habeo meritum; et in hoc etiam probatur creationis et salvationis excellentia vigoris super agens quodlibet naturale (28ra).


Here we have one of the passages called ‘disclaimers’ by MacClintock[46]. John agrees rationally with the theory of Aristotle and Averroes, but he also acknowledges that Christian doctrine does not allow to suppose ‘eternal substances’ or a first mover, and thus to deny the creation of all things from nothing. Natural philosophers reason according to what they perceive with the senses, but he proclaims that he firmly “believes and knows” that everything proceeds from creation and this cannot be demonstrated, because it is beyond sensible things and nature. We will come back to the issue of the ‘disclaimers’, but this specimen seems longer and more explicit than usual for John, who also adds in the last sentence that this proves the “excellence of the force of the creation and the saviour exerted on whatever natural agent”. Could this be explained by his already difficult relation with the ecclesiastical authorities?

Let us next take the fourth question of Book V: “Utrum finis sit causa” (f. 58rb-59rb), related to Aristotle’s treatise Book V, chapter 2, where he treats the concept of cause. The saying “cause is also said to be the aim, that is the final cause” gives rise to this question: is the aim a cause? After three arguments for the negative answer and the oppositum quoting Aristotle, we find a first notandum pointing out that the concept of finis is double, but this is followed by a series of other notanda mentioning various opinions. The only real difficulty, says John, concerns cognition or artificial generation (in opposition to exterior causes), and this is double according to Averroes, because the goal (finis) can be in the mind which knows or desires, like the form of a bath or of a house is in the knowing or desiring mind, because the architect knows the house and desires to construct it. Likewise, it can be in exterior things and this in two ways: actually or potentially, as a house in the exterior world can be actually in matter, or also potentially. “Unde difficultas est de isto. Et est triplex opinio”.

These three opinions are formulated, the first of aliqui, the second of a solemnis theologus, the third not attributed to someone. Then they are discussed, with arguments and quotations of Averroes. For instance, in the discussion of the first opinion we find “Sed hoc dictum non valet, quia […]” and “Item, isti contradicunt Commentatori in secundo huius, ubi dicit […]”. The discussion of the second opinion also ends with the remark that this is in contradiction with Averroes. As for the third opinion, John esteems that it seems to be more probable than the others and gives four arguments followed by a passage of Aristotle and one of Averroes, this time confirming the opinion. Next, John develops a number of dubia, followed by the solutions. Here too, there is some discussion with anonymous opponents (“Aliqui dicunt […] et isti dicunt […] Sed alli negant hoc […]”) and the impersonal “tu” (“Tu dicis […], “you will say”). Finally, John refutes the main arguments for the opposite position, as usual. The formula “Et sic de hoc” (and thus about this), concludes an interesting question, which, however, does not learn us much about the circumstances in which it was developed.

Here too, we have the later redaction of a discussion, which had taken place during John’s lectures. The only element indicating the influence (or even the presence during the discussion?) of an interlocutor is the expression “solemnis theologus”, a person to whom the second opinion is attributed. This must be a contemporary theologian, because Albertus Magnus is currently cited by name as an authority in other questions. It would be interesting to know if this theologian was one of members of cardinal Stephanesci’s circle, or even Thomas Wylton himself[47].

Finally, we can add some questions transcribed by Lambertini & Tabarroni in the forementioned study[48]:

Question 8 of Book VI, bearing on the terminus generationis: “Utrum entia rationis sint in predicamento” starts, rather unusually, with only one argument for the negative position and one oppositum (an argument, not a reference to Aristotle). Follows a notandum saying that there are different opinions on what entia rationis are. The two opinions are discussed, with special analysis of an argument concerning the second one: “Nota, quidquid sit de conclusione, ista ratio non videtur valere nec est demonstrativa”. After this, John gives his own solution: “Dicendum ergo ad questionem quod entia rationis non ficta, sicut sunt conceptus obiectales etc., sunt in predicamento”, and justifies it. Then he lists two dubia and discusses them; here is a part of the discussion:


Ad secundum dubium dicendum quod, sive intentiones diverse differant per hoc quod […] vel differant per hoc quod capiuntur a diversis quidditatibus et formis ordinatis secundum magis et minus commune et perfectius et minus perfectum, ut vult Linconiensis in primo Posteriorum[49], nihil ad presens nisi quod quelibet intellectio, sive prima sive secunda, potest comparari vel considerari tripliciter. Uno modo quoad sui receptionem in intellectu et sic sunt in predicamento passionis, nam sicut potentia receptiva est potentia passiva et econverso, sic omnis receptio est passio et econverso, tamen non est passio corruptiva, ymmo magis perfectiva. Secundo modo quoad sui productionem ab intellectu agente et ab obiecto, et sic sunt in predicamento actionis. Quoad primum dicit Aristoteles in tertio De anima[50] quod intelligere est quoddam pati vel aliquid consequens ; quoad secundum dicit modicum post quod intellectus agens est potens omnia facere. Tertio modo possunt capi pro forma recepta in intellectu. Et sic dicunt omnes communiter quod sunt in prima specie qualitatis, sed non sicut habitus, quoniam habitus de difficili removetur. Sed utrum species intelligibilis sit ipsa cognitio vel aliquid differens pertinet ad tertium De anima. Utrum species intelligibilis sit in eodem genere cum re cuius est, ut species lapidis cum lapide, pulchra speculatio est, non tamen hic habet locum, sed magis in nono[51].


Thus, after announcing that for the second dubium he will say nothing about the two possible ways in which the various intentions differ – the last one supported by Robert Grosseteste (“Lincolniensis”) -, John still finds it necessary to explain that every intellection, primary or secondary, can be considered in three different ways, but he adds that intelligible species are treated in the third book of De anima, and the question whether the intelligible species belongs to the same genus as the thing itself of which it is a species is ‘a beautiful speculation’, but it rather has its place in the ninth book (of the Metaphysics).

In the following note about accidents having their definition not in a primary but in a secondary way, John concludes: “sic entia rationis sunt in predicamento non primo et simpliciter sed secundario et per posterius”; he then answers the opposite argument given in the beginning and adds a last note explaining in which way to take the conclusion:


Nota tamen quod licet concedatur quod entia rationis sint in predicamento sicut alia entia, differenter tamen, quia alia sic sunt in predicamento quod […] Non sic possunt esse in predicamento intentiones vel entia rationis, quoniam […].


So, we have a thorough discussion of the problem, fully explained and argued, by a conscientious commentator who apparently had the intention to comment on the whole treatise and also refers to other Aristotelian treatises, either to be explained or already commented on.

Another question (qu. 6 of Book VII; the chapter mentioned is Metaphysics 7, 7) is explicitly introduced by its situation in Aristotle’s work:


Consequenter queritur circa illud capitulum « eorum autem que fiunt » : utrum forma vel compositum sit per se et primo terminus generationis.


Here, the preliminary arguments consist in four arguments for the negative and two for the opposite answer, with several references to the Physics. They are followed by a notandum, explaining that the words “aliquid terminare per se et primo generationem” can be understood in three different ways. After this introduction, John gives his solution:


Modo dicendum est ad questionem, et licet aliter dixerim alias quam nunc, quoad secundum membrum, quia alias fuit dictum magis distincte – sicut alii etiam qui tenent partem oppositam dixerunt indistincte ‘de primo et per se termino generationis non est unica generatio’ – sed per modum additionis et per modum maioris determinationis et declarationis eorum que dicta sunt de hoc alias ; unde primo dicendum quod compositum non est per se et primo terminus generationis primo modo primitatis et perseitatis. Secundum dicendum quod compositum est bene terminus primo et per se generationis secundo modo primitatis et perseitatis ; et licet non explicaverim alias istud membrum, tamen ex dictis meis habebatur nec ipsum negavi. Tertio dicendum quod forma est per se et primo terminus generationis tertio modo primitatis et perseitatis[52].


This solution is interesting, because John explicitly declares, speaking in the first person, that ‘elsewhere’ he gave a different answer to the question (“licet aliter dixerim alias quam nunc”) as for the second part, at the same time mentioning a discussion with ‘others’, who support the opposite position (“alii qui tenent partem oppositam”)[53]. But here, he says, he will proceed “as an addition and as a fuller determination and explication of the things that have been said about this elsewhere”. He also points out that, although part of the explanation had not been given “elsewhere”, still it could be inferred from his words and he did not deny it. The fuller explication that follows consists in three points, which are then developed (“Ratio primi […] Ratio secundi […] Ratio tertii […]”). Clearly, John of Jandun was implicated in a debate about this argument.

In their study, Lambertini and Tabarroni present a possible scenario: Bartholomew of Bruges exposed his opinion in his Questiones super Metaphysicam, John expressed his criticism in the determinatio of his sophism Utrum forma substantialis perficiens materiam sit corruptibilis, and Bartholomew replies, at the same time attacking John’s position (giving primary importance to the form) in his sophism Actus et generationes sunt circa singularia. They also point to a contemporary testimony to this debate in a commentary on the Metaphysics attributed to Herman of Winterswijk[54].

To come back to John’s question, after the passage quoted above John discusses some doubts. The answer begins with the repetition of the position expressed before: “Dicendum est sicut prius, quod forma primo et per se est terminus generationis tertio modo primitatis et perseitatis”, and then develops the several points: “Per hoc ad dubia. Ad primum […]”. During this detailed discussion, he says for instance: “Sed contra arguere non est solvere, etiam si ad mille inconvenientia quid deducat; dico ergo quod […]”. In the refutation of the third point he explicitly argues again against his adversaries: “quod est falsum et contra eos”; “et tamen concedunt”; “quod dicunt et attribuunt Commentatori”;  “ad probationem cum dicunt quod […], non est verum nec invenitur ab Aristotele nec a Commentatore”. Finally he comes to the refutation of the contrary arguments: “Ad rationes in oppositum”.

Without entering the complex matter under discussion one can say that John treats the subject very seriously – a subject which he had already treated ‘elsewhere’ (that is, in an indirect debate with a colleague, probably Bartholomew of Bruges). He takes pains to explain the foundation of his position, the possible doubts that may be raised and the weaknesses of the opposite arguments. He often recurs to the dialectical tool of the syllogism.


On the whole, this is a commentary which must not only have satisfied the most demanding students, but must also have attracted the attention of his colleagues. The fact that the style is less personal than for instance in the questions on the De anima probably indicates a later redaction, rather than a commentary directly originating from lectures. Also, the sometimes harsh remarks about opinions of colleagues seem to be absent here (as far as I have seen). Although this could be interpreted as pointing to an early commentary by a still not too confident master, it is more probably a sign of a late redaction far from the classroom. The fact that in the last quoted question John refers to an earlier discussion of the subject confirms this hypothesis[55].



[1] R. Lambertini, « Jandun’s Question-Commentary on the Aristotle’s Metaphysics », in F. Amerini, G. Galluzo (eds.), A Companion to the Latin Medieval Commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Leiden (Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition 43) 2013, pp. 385-411.

[2] Lambertini & Tabarroni, op. cit. Also Lambertini in his chapter in the Companion (mentioned n. 1), p. 390.

[3] See the Introduction.

[4] Cf. Lambertini, op. cit., pp. 385-386.

[5] Ch.J. Ermatinger, John of Jandun in his Relations with Arts Masters and Theologians, in Arts libéraux et Philosophie au Moyen Age, éd. Ch. Wenin, Montréal/Paris 1969 pp. 1173-1184 (1177).

[6] Also, Book X and half of Book XII show a certain similarity to the edition of Scotus’s questions as edited by Wadding and probably to be ascribed to John Tytynsale. See Lambertini & Tabarroni, op.cit., p. 53.

[7] Cf. Lambertini & Tabarroni, op. cit. supra, p. 41.

[8] Cf. Lambertini, op. cit. (n. 1), p. 396.

[9] Op. cit., pp. 52 sqq. In the edition, most questions are more fully developed, but not substantially different from the version in the manuscripts.

[10] A. Dempf, Metaphysik im Mittelalter, München/Berlin 1930, p. 141 sq. Quoted by Schönberger (see n. 23).

[11] J.-B. Brenet, « Métaphysique et poltique ‘en intention seconde’. Jean de Jandun héritier d’Averroès et d’Alexandre d’Aphrodise », in AHDLMA 85 (2018) pp. 109-127.

[12] R. Lambertini, « Felicitas politica und speculatio. Die Idee der Philosophie in ihrem Verhältnis zur Politik nach Johannes von Jandun », in J. Aertsen, A. Speer (eds.), Was ist Philosophie im Mittelalter, Berlin/New York 1998, pp. 984-990. See also Lambertini, op. cit. (n. 1) pp. 401-407.

[13] P. Falzone, Desiderio della scienza e desiderio di Dio nel Convivio di Dante, Napoli 2010.

[14] L. Bianchi, « Noli comedere panem philosophorum inutiliter. Dante Alighieri and John of Jandun on philosophical ‘bread’ », in Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 75 (2013) pp. 335-355.

[15] Bianchi, op. cit., p. 336.

[16] Bianchi, loc. cit.

[17] Bianchi, op. cit., pp. 349-354.

[18] A. Maurer, « John of Jandun and the Divine Causality », in Mediaeval Studies 17 (1955) pp. 185-207.

[19] For these collections, see for instance O. Weijers, Le ‘disputatio’ dans les Facultés des arts au moyen âge, Turnhout 2002, passim, esp. p. 215 and n. 83.

[20] Cf. Maurer, op. cit., pp. 189-190.

[21] L. Tomanek, « Necessity, Contingency, and Free Will in John of Jandun and John Aurifaber of Halberstadt. The Transmission of Ideas from Paris to Erfurt in the 14th Century », in M. Michalowska and R. Fedriga (ed.), Willing and Understanding. Late Medieval Debates on the Will, the Intellect, and Practical Knowledge, Leiden/ Boston 2023, pp. 290-325.

[22] See Chapter 4.

[23] R. Schönberger, Relation als Vergleich. Die Relationstheorie des Johannes Buridan im Kontext seines Denkens und der Scholastik, Leiden/NewYork/Köln 1994, pp. 174-182.

[24] For these topics see Lambertini, op. cit., pp. 391-401.

[25] R. Saccenti, « Sul concetteo di specie. Un dibattito bolognese del XIV secolo attraverso una quaestio di Matteo da Gubbio », in DSTFM 33 (2022) pp. 249-270 (here pp. 250-251).

[26] W.O. Duba, « Masters and Bachelors at Paris in 1319 : The lectio finalis of Landolfo Caracciolo, O.F.M. », in Th. Jeschke & A. Speer (eds.), Schüler Und Meister, De Gruyter, 2016, pp. 315-365 (here 349-355).

[27] Duba, op. cit., p. 349. I intend to come back to the Questio de simultate contradictoriorum in a later phase of my research.

[28] Ibid., p. 352.

[29] Ibid., p. 355.

[30] Z. Kuksewicz, « Peter of Modena, Philosopher, Astronomer, Physician – A Student of the Famous Fourteenth-Century Averroist John of Jandun », in Medioevo 15 (1989) pp. 111-142 (here 130sqq.); cf. id.,  «La “Quaestio de quidditate substantiarum sensibilium” d’un élève de Jean de Jandun, Pierre de Modène», Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Âge 58, 1991, pp. 215-251.

[31] L. Schmugge, « Johannes von Jandun und der Defensor Pacis », in id, Johannes von Jandun, 1285/89-1328. Untersuchungen zur Biographie und Sozialtheorie eines lateinischen Averroisten, Stuttgart 1966. p. 98sqq.

[32] Schmugge, op. cit., pp. 98-100.

[33] Ibid., pp. 100-102.

[34] Ibid., pp. 107 : « Für Johannes von Jandun lassen sich […] die philosophischen Erkenntnisse mit den Glaubenswahrheiten häufig nicht in Einklang bringen ».

[35] Arist., Ethic. Nicom. 10, cap. 9, 1179a.

[36] Averroes, In Metaph. 12.

[37] Robertus Grosseteste, In Anal. Posteriora ? (locum non inveni).

[38] Leipzig, Univ. ms. 1363 f. 19ra. Cf. Lambertini & Tabarroni, op. cit., p. 47.

[39] Ed. 1525 f. 2ra, preceding qu. I, 2 : “Maxime vero principalis scientiarum et magis principalis subserviente que cognoscit cuius causa sunt agenda singula, in prohemio capitulo primo”. The printed edition sometimes gives the beginning of the text concerned by the question, for instance “Omnes homines natura scire desiderant” preceding qu. I, 4, “Signum autem est sensuum dilectio”, preceding qu. I, 6.

[40] See above, the discussion by Bianchi. This question is also taken into account by Jean-Baptiste Brenet in his article « Perfection de la philosophie ou philosophe parfait ? », in Recherches de théologie et philosophie médiévales 68/2 (2001) pp. 310-348. See also Brenet, Adunque, in L. Atucha, D. Calma, et al. (eds.) Mots Médiévaux offerts à Ruedi Imbach, Porto 2011, pp. 33-35.

[41] Albertus Magnus, Metaphysica I, 4, ed. B. Geyer, (Opera omnia XVI, 1), München 1960, p. 6b.

[42] Arist., Ethica Nicom. VII, 7 (Bekker 1149b).

[43] Albertus Magnus, Metaphysica I, 5, p. 7 : « Et est digressio declarans quid sit naturale sciendi desiderium et ad quid scire et unde provenit tota diversitas studiorum ».

[44] For the rest of this passage, see below.

[45] See above.

[46] Cf. MacClintock, pp. 69-70 ; and see an example ibid. p. 65.

[47] Thomas Wylton also composed a commentary on the Metaphysics, of which we have only fragmentary evidence. Cf. A. Tabarroni, « Thomas Wylton on the Metaphysics : Some New Evidence », in DSTFM 16 (2005) pp. 119-178.

[48] Lambertini & Tabarroni, op. cit., pp. 65-93.

[49] Robertus Grosseteste, In Anal. Post. I, locum non inveni.

[50] Arist., De anima III, 4, 429b.

[51] Lambertini & Tabarroni, pp. 83-84.

[52] Lambertini & Tabarroni, p. 87.

[53] Lambertini & Tabarroni, p. 61. The discussion is with Bartolomew of Bruges and the reference to a previous phase (“aliter dixerim alias”) is to his sophisma “Utrum forma substantialis perficiens materiam sit corruptibilis”. Cf. Lambertini, op. cit. n. 1, p. 396.

[54] Lambertini & Tabarroni, p. 61.

[55] If the scenario proposed by Lambertini and Tabarroni is correct, we should find this earlier discussion in the sophism Utrum forma substantialis perficiens materiam sit corruptibilis, This remains a point to be explored.


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