Chapter 11. Scriptum super III librum De anima

CHAPTER 11.  Scriptum super III librum De anima (1321)


(Repert. 5, p. 96; MacClintock p. 120, 182 n. 14; Schmugge, pp. 22-23, 50)


Inc. dedic.: Ad gloriam et honorem Dei altissimi et amorem atque gratiam ingenui viri domini Stephani Gagnetani (Garetarii) qui significavit mihi se appetere hoc quod sequitur. Temptabo colligere expositionem tractatus Aristotelis de anima intellectiva […] (text.) De parte autem anime. Iste tractatus prima sui divisione potest dividi in quinque capitula principaliora […].

Expl. quodcumque necesse est phantasmata aliquod speculari.

Colophon (ms Erfurt F. 2° 318): Explicit scriptum super tertium De anima ordinatum per reverendum virum litteratum magistrum Johannem de Ganduno anno Domini m°ccc°xxi° 23 Decembris hora quasi nona. Hoc opusculum benigne suscipiat vestra sedulitas et deminuta supplere, superflua resecare et male dicta, si qua sint, corrigere laboretis.


This literal commentary on book III has been transmitted in 6 manuscripts, among which the mss Erfurt, Amplon. 2° 318 f. 17-33 and Vaticano, Vat. lat. 760 f. 84v–-96v[1].


Apart from his question commentaries, as we saw above (Chapter 4), John wrote a literal commentary or scriptum on the third book of the De anima at the demand of a certain Stefanus Gagnetanus or Garetarius, as he is called in the dedication. MacClintock suggested that this is “Cardinal Iacopo Gaetani, of the Stephaneschi family, or perhaps his nephew Annibaldo of Ceccano, to whom Bartholomew of Bruges dedicated certain commentaries”[2]. As already mentioned, Cardinal Iacopo Caetani Stefanesci was the patron of a group of young theologians, among whom his own nephew Annibaldo di Ceccano, bachelor of theology, and Annibaldo’s master Thomas Wylton; John of Jandun, master of arts but studying theology, was also part of this circle[3]. So, the addressee is very probably the Cardinal.

The formulation of the dedication (ms. Vat. lat. 760): “Ad […] amorem atque gratiam ingenui viri domini […]”, seems to indicate that John had a personal relationship with his patron, and the rest of the sentence: “qui significavit mihi se appetere hoc quod sequitur” makes it clear that John answers to an explicit request rather than offering an unasked for commentary. The formulation in the colophon (ms. Erfurt, Amplon. 318; quoted also by MacClintock[4]): “Hoc opusculum benigne suscipiat vestra sedulitas et deminuta supplere, superflua resecare et male dicta, si qua sint, corrigere laboretis” may be either a traditional expression of modesty or a genuine sign of respect, but it is clear that the possible errors and emendations must have been in the field of Christian faith rather than philosophical doctrine.

As for the time of composition, we may suppose that the date of 23 December 1321 mentioned in the colophon (“Explicit scriptum super tertium De anima ordinatum per reverendum virum litteratum magistrum Johannem de Ganduno anno Domini m°ccc°xxi° 23 Decembris hora quasi nona ») indicates the time of writing[5]; the author finished his work on this day just before Christmas.

Thus, this commentary, his only commentary on Aristotle in the form of an expositio, was not meant for John’s students, as the question commentaries were, and must have been a quite different enterprise. After teaching the science of the soul during several years and editing two question commentaries, here he had to compose a kind of detailed analysis of an important part of Aristotle’s treatise for a quite different goal. In consequence, this chapter will be short, as the text concerned does not testify to John’s teaching activity, but may rather be compared to his treatises or other writings originated by his life outside the classroom.

The contents of the commentary have not drawn the attention of many scholars since the study of André Alonso of 2004, who, in a later article pointed out some problems in the text of the prologue[6]. Recently, Tomanek used the text in comparison to the Metaphysics and the question commentary on De anima on the topic of determination and free will[7].

In the following, I will present some short quotations in order to give an idea of the character of this text[8].

After a short prologue[9], the commentary is organised, as usual in this kind of commentaries, in sections explaining the succeeding paragraphs of Aristotle’s treatise, starting at the beginning of book III and quoting the first words of each section: “De parte autem anime”, etc. In the first section, John gives a division of the text: “Iste tractatus prima sui divisione potest dividi in quatuor capitula principalia”. He shortly describes the contents of the four chapters and quotes the first words of Aristotle’s text (underlined in the manuscript), for instance: “In secundo capitulo principali tractat de intellectu agente qui est in anima humana, ibi: Quoniam sicut est in omni (III, 5)”.

Then, he goes on to the division and the discussion of the first chapter. Proceeding in this systematic way, the commentary treats the important material of the third book, very often relying on Averroes’s interpretation, as announced in the prologue. The last section corresponds to Aristotle’s chapters III, 5-11. It starts thus:


Nunc autem de anima dicta etc. In isto capitulo facit Aristoteles summam illorum que declaravit et potest breviter dividi in quatuor partes. Nam primo declarat illud quod dictum est de dependentia intellectus a sensibus, ibi : Quoniam autem nulla res ; tertio ostendit differentiam inter fantasiam et opinionem secundum interius, ibi : Est autem fantasia ; quarto movet unam questionem circa predicta, ibi : Prima autem interius […][10].


The discussion of each paragraph always starts with some words of Aristotle’s text, followed by the explanation, for instance:


Necesse est autem. Hic exponit intentionem suam magis determinate et dicit quod necesse est ipsam animam esse alia ipsa essentia, scilicet quantum ad suas naturas et suas formas et species ipsarum rerum esse sine materiis in esse corporali. Et subdit quod […][11].


So, this commentary is a literal exposition in a traditional form. The text will have to be studied more closely in order to say if the doctrine expressed here is also traditional, or at least conform to the one found in the question commentaries[12]. Here, I will just add the transcription of the short prologue (half a column in the manuscript).




Ad gloriam et honorem Dei altissimi et amorem atque gratiam ingenui viri domini Stefani Gagnetani qui significavit mihi se appetere hoc quod sequitur, temptabo colligere expositionem tractatus Aristotelis de anima intellectiva secundum intentionem subtilissimi commentatoris Averrois cum aliquali elucidatione et distinctione verborum eiusdem commentatoris. Quamvis enim dictus Commentator completissime (gloriosissime V) et perfectissime tradidit intentionem Aristotelis in hac materia, tamen propter aliqualem extraneitatem (contrarietatem V) modi loquendi lingue arabice, a qua translatum fuit illud commentum, sermones eius aliquid difficultatis videntur habere, principue apud illos qui de novo incipiunt studere in illis et apud istos qui solum consueti sunt inspicere expositores latinos. Licet enim prenominati philosophi aliter[13] intellexerint de ipsa substantia et duratione et pluralitate anime intellective quam fides christiana et veritas determinat, quia tamen nullus potest efficaciter et sufficienter reprobare aliquam opinionem nisi perfecte eam cognoscat et potissima principia eius, idcirco non est reprehensibile laborare ad habendum perfecte sententias eorumdem. Protestor insuper quecumque eorum dicta sint contra fidem christianam non approbare sed potius negare tamquam falsa et erronea.

Quicumque tamen viderit hoc opusculum non obmittat propter ipsum inspicere Commentatorem, sed diligentius perstudeat ut videat clare an hic sit posita eius sententia et addat aut diminuat usque ad debitum complementum (Alonso, pp. 242-247 ; Vat. lat. 760 f. 84ra).


Although short, this prologue contains some interesting features: John says he will explain Aristotle’s doctrine following the commentary of Averroes and that he will ‘elucidate’ the commentator’s sayings, because, being translated from Arabic, “they seem to present some difficulty, especially for those who begin to study the subject and for those who are used to read only the Latin commentators”. For although “the foresaid philosophers” (i.e. Aristotle and Averroes) have an opinion on the substance and duration and plurality of the intellectual soul different from what Christian faith and the truth determine, “because none can efficiently and sufficiently reprove a certain opinion without knowing perfectly this opinion and its important principles”, therefore it is not reprehensible to try to establish their opinions perfectly. Moreover, John declares, he does not approve any difference with Christian faith, but he rather denies this as false and erroneous. Finally, he adds that whoever reads his opusculum, he should not omit, because of this, to read the Commentator’s text, but he should study it diligently in order to see clearly if his opinion is expressed here (i.e. in John’s treatise), and he should add or eliminate until the debitum complementum.

Thus, John underlines the fact that Averroes’s writings are not easy to understand for Latin philosophers and that the last may criticise some doctrines without really knowing them. And, after the usual ‘disclaimer’ of any intention to go against Christian faith, he recommends the reading of Averroes’s commentary itself, in order to complement or correct his own treatise. There seems no better way to express the importance the Commentator has in his eyes.



[1] Cf. A.M. Mora-Marquez, in CIMAGL 83 (2014) p. 241 : MSS Erfurt, UB CA 2° 318 (14th) ff. 17r–33r; 2° 336 (1327) ff. 100r– 114r; Kassel, LB Theol. 2. 91; Szczecin, II Liceum Ogólnokształcące. Cam. 11 (14th) ff. 32r–74r; Utrecht, UB 231 (14th) ff. 59r–74r; Vaticano, Vat. lat. 760 (15th) ff. 84r–96v.

[2] MacClintock, p. 182 n. 14. The much later Stephanus Gaietanus Thienensis, born in 1387 (died 1465), was also the author of a commentary on the De anima, edition Padova 1475.

[3] On the relations and discussions of this circle, see 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).

[4] MacClintock, p. 120.

[5] The colophon cannot be of the scribe who copied this manuscript, because the copy dates of the fifteenth century (cf. Pelzer, Codices Vaticani Latini, II, Rome 1931, pp. 70-71).

[6] A.D. dos Santos Alonso, L’Expositio in Tertium De Anima : intellect et vérité chez Jean de Jandun (Université Catholique de Louvain, ISP, 2004 ; A. Alonso, « Problemas criticos de um trecho da Expositio in Tertium De anima de João de Janduno », in J.A. de Souza (ed.), Idade Média tempo do mundo, Porto Alegre 2006, pp. 240-248.

[7] L. Tomanek, « Necessity, Contingency, and Free Will in John of Jandun and John Aurifaber of Halberstadt », in M. Michalowska and R. Fedriga (eds.), Willing and Understanding. Late Medieval Debates on the Will, the Intellect, and Practical Knowledge, Leiden/Boston 2023, pp. 290-325 (esp.305-307). See Chapter 10.

[8] This description is based on the ms. Vat. lat. 760 ff. 84ra-105va.

[9] See below and Appendix I.

[10] Vat. lat. 760 f. 104va-104vb.

[11] Ibid. f. 104vb.

[12] Alonso, op. cit. n. 5, p. 240 n. 2, remarks that the question commentary is quoted a certain number of times in this literal commentary, but that the last is a totally independent text.

[13] Some manuscripts, according to Alonso, read plura instead of aliter, which makes less sense (Alonso, pp. 243-244).


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