Chapter 9. Questiones super libro De motibus animalium

CHAPTER 9. Questiones super libro De motibus animalium (date uncertain)


Inc. De motu autem eo qui est animalium etc. Circa illum librum qui est de causa motus animalium queratur. Et primo utrum de motibus animalium sit scientia …

Cf. Repert. 5 (2003) pp. 96-97; MacClintock, pp. 125-126.


The commentary has been transmitted in five manuscripts and at least four 16th-century editions[1]. In all of them it immediately follows the questions on the Parva naturalia

and it is apparently considered as part of them[2]. However, we have no further indication that John effectively commented on this treatise as early as on the other treatises that are traditionally considered as constituting the Parva naturalia. This is a question that remains to be studied[3]. For the moment, I decided to treat this work, as well as the De bona fortuna, which follows it in the editions, separately.

The title mentioned in the manuscripts and the editions is generally De motibus animalium, and not de motu in the singular; see for instance the incipit in the ms. Vaticano, Vat. lat. 6768 f. 157va “Incipiunt questiones super libro de motibus animalium”.

The commentary is composed of 21 questions. They have been listed by Pieter de Leemans[4]. After the first five questions explicitly concerning animals, the next (qu. 6-9), concerning the next part of Aristotle’s text, are about the movement of the sky: qu. 6. “Utrum celum ad sui motum requirat aliquod corpus quiescens”;  qu. 7 “Utrum fixio ipsius celi et circunferentie causaliter sit ex fixione terre”; qu. 8 “Utrum motus celi dependeat ex illo fixo”; qu. 9 “Utrum motor celi sit maioris virtutis in movendo quam terra in quiescendo”[5].

Question 10 addresses the movement of inanimate beings and qu. 11 comes back to the movement of animals, but here a different kind of movement is treated, namely alteration, as explained shortly at the beginning of this question:


Consequenter queritur de motu animalium, alio motu a motu locali, quia in motu locali oportet esse quiescens intra et extra; ideo queritur utrum in aliis motibus requiratur aliquid quiescens intra; et viso de uno patet de aliis, ideo queratur de uno illorum, ut in alteratione, utrum requiratur aliqua pars que non alteretur (70ra).


The last part of the commentary (questions 12-21) concerns the origin (or principle) of motion, as in Aristotle’s treatise:


Consequenter queritur circa illam partem: ‘Quoniam autem inanimata’, multa restant inquirenda et quia Philosophus ibi ostendit quid est principium motus animalium et dicit quod intellectus, id est species intelligibilis, est huiusmodi principium, ideo queratur utrum hoc sit verum […] (70rb).


Four questions (qu. 12-15) are raised about the possible principles: qu. 12: “Utrum species intelligibilis sit principium motus animalium”, qu. 13: “Utrum appetitus sit principium motus”, qu. 14: “Utrum intelligibile sit principium motus”, and qu. 15: “Utrum appetitus sit motus”, which seems a kind of appendix. We will come back to them below.

The last questions (qu. 16-21), corresponding to Aristotle’s last section, are also introduced by a short summary of Aristotle, who makes here a distinction between ‘practical’ and speculative intellect:


Consequenter queritur circa illam partem: ‘quomodo autem intellectus etc.’, ubi Philosophus ponit differentiam inter intellectum practicum et speculativum, dicens quod hoc quod est in intellectu theoreuma, id est speculatio, est finis, sed ibi, id est in intellectu practico, operatio est conclusio. Ideo queratur utrum immediata conclusio syllogismi practici sit operatio (72rb).


Four questions concern directly the principle of motion or alteration (qu. 16: “Utrum immediata conclusio syllogismi sit operatio”, qu. 17: “Utrum species rei sensibilis sit principium alterationis”, qu. 18: “Utrum species rei intelligibilis sit principium alterationis”; qu. 19: “Utrum anima sit principium movendi”), and the last three questions ask in which part of the human being the origin of motion is located, in the heart (or the brain), or in the ‘vital spirits’: qu. 20: “Utrum principium motus localis sit in corde”, qu. 21: “Utrum spiritus vitales sint principium motivum organice”.

Thus, the questions are set in their context, by indicating on which part of Aristotle’s text they are bearing. This is the case all along the commentary and it shows that, although a question commentary, it closely follows the Philosopher’s treatise.


Doctrinal content and place among the sciences


About the doctrinal content of this commentary, not much has been written. The commentary has, of course, been studied by Pieter de Leemans in the context of his research on the medieval Latin commentaries on the Aristotelian treatise[6].

As for its place in the spectre of the sciences, John explains in the first question how the discipline that concerns the movement of animated beings must be situated within the field of the natural sciences and its connexions with the other treatises on animals:


Sed est intelligendum quod motus appetitivus multipliciter potest considerari, uno modo ut motus absolute, unde motus, et sic de ipso determinare pertinet ad librum Physicorum […] Alio modo potest considerari motus appetitivus ut motus localis et sub ista ratione adhuc pertinet ad librum Physicorum […] Alio modo potest considerari ut est motus animalis non unde motus sed ut animati et hoc contingit dupliciter: uno modo ut est animalis non absolute, sed contracte; si absolute, hoc est dupliciter, vel ex parte corporis vel anime; si ex parte anime, sic de ipso determinatur in tertio De anima, capitulo de movente quia […] Si ex parte corporis, inquantum exercetur per organa corporea, sic de ipso determinatur in isto libro, qui intitulatur Liber de motibus animalium. Si consideretur magis contracte, scilicet per diversa genera animalium, sic de ipso determinatur in libro De animalibus, inquantum diversemode iste motus contingit gradientibus animalibus, natatilibus et reptilibus, et sic de aliis. Alio modo, ratione organorum corporum quibus exercetur, et sic de isto motu determinatur in libro De progressu animalium.

Cum igitur iste motus multipliciter possit considerari, patet quod ista scientia est distincta ab omnibus aliis in quibus tractatur de isto motu. Et potest tunc fieri talis ratio, quia illa scientia est distincta ab aliis cuius consideratio diversa est a consideratione aliarum, sed sic est de ista, ut visum est, ergo etc. (f. 63va).


Starting from the motus appetitivus, John distinguishes four categories, of which the third is subdivided: first, movement taken absolutely, treated in the Physics, secondly local motion, discussed in the same treatise, thirdly animal motion considered not primarily as motion but as of an animated being, subdivided into several branches, one treated in the third book of De anima, another in this book De motibus animalium, still another in De animalibus, and fourthly in respect to the organs of the bodies by which motion is exercised and this is treated in De progressu animalium.

Thus, there is indeed a separate science concerning the movement of animated beings. In his prologue to the Physics, where John details the books or disciplines composing various parts of philosophy, he mentions the discipline concerning sensitive beings in general, treated in the Liber de animalibus, but not the movement of animals in particular[7]. The more detailed division in his commentary on the Liber de motibus animalium is a logical consequence of his development of the subject and does not prove that he also commented on the other books on animals, nor that this commentary is earlier than the one on the Physics, although one could have expected a reference to a separate treatment of the subject in the general division of philosophy if he had treated it already.


The structure of the questions and the organisation of the commentary

Concerning the formal structure of the questions, they mostly follow the traditional one, as in the commentaries on the Parva naturalia. Let us take one of the longer questions, for example qu. 12: “Utrum species intelligibilis sit principium motus animalium”. The question is introduced like this, as we saw above:


Consequenter queritur circa illam partem: ‘Quoniam autem inanimata’, multa restant inquirenda … ideo queratur utrum hoc sit verum; et arguitur quod non quia […] (70rb).


Five arguments for the negative answer are followed by only a short sentence for the opposite position: “Oppositum vult Philosophus hic et in tertio De anima”. Then, the usual preliminary notanda of more complex questions are given: “Intelligendum quod […]”; for instance, in the soul we have to consider three things: substantia, potentia, and actus, and also the fact that exterior senses do not feel intentions, but interior senses do, in particular the phantasia, considered as not distinct from the estimativa, and thus as the cognitive faculty judging the species; and so, “because the phantasia (taken in the larger sense) is reduced to understand (speaking in a large way) the intellect, therefore the form apprehended by the intellect (taken in a large way) is the origin of movement in animals”. However, the intellect is double: ‘speculative’ and ‘practical’, differing not in substance but only “secundum modum”. The speculative intellect is not the principle of motion, as proved by various arguments, but the ‘practical’ intellect is:


Secundo dico quod intellectus practicus bene est principium motus, quia intellectus practicus et mobile proportionantur ad invicem […]


However, we have to understand that the ‘practical’ intellect can also be considered in two ways: in itself and absolutely, and as in potentia, or “ut actualiter informatus est specie agibilis”, and we have to take it here in the second way, because something has to be determinant and that is the appetitus:


Immo oportet quod aliquid sit determinans et est appetitus, quia cum animal agat per formam apprehensam, oportet quod determinetur per appetitum; unde apprehensa, ut ad eam consequitur, intellectus sive appetitus huiusmodi determinate (lege -tus?) est principium immediatum motus, quia per illam inclinationem determinatur mobile, et ut sic movetur.

Et sic intellectus, id est forma apprehensa per intellectum, est principium motus animalium, ut determinatur per appetitum; quare sequitur quod principium immediatum motus sit ipse appetitus, cuius ratio est quia appetitu habito statim movetur anima; et hoc est verum suppositis dispositionibus in membris organicis deservientibus motui; quare manifestum est quod appetitus est immediatum principium motus (71ra).


And thus, the immediate principle of motion is the appetitus or instinct, natural desire.

After this determination, we find the usual refutation of the counter arguments, sometimes giving rise to a short discussion. The refutation of the fifth and last argument consists in two possible answers: “Cum dicitur |…] potest dici quod […] Vel potest dici quod […]”.

Apparently, this discussion did not satisfy the author, because the next question (qu. 13) comes back to the statement in the conclusion, that appetite is the principle of motion: “Queritur consequenter utrum appetitus sit principium motus”. We can consider it as a sub-question of question 12, an afterthought, at the same time presenting a short and clear discussion of John’s final answer (it occupies only two third of a column). The determination is not preceded by the usual notanda, but in the first part, after the Dicendum quod, some distinctions are given before the auth0or decides: “Tunc dico quod appetitus est principium movens quia […]”.

The next two questions are also amazingly close to the preceding one: qu. 14 “Queritur consequenter utrum intelligibile sit principium motus” and qu. 15: “Num appetibile sit movens”. They both concern the same passage of Aristotle’s treatise and we only move on with question 16, preceded by a short summary of the next passage, as we saw above. These two questions (14 and 15) serve to complete the preceding discussion: in qu. 14 the concept species intelligibilis is replaced by intelligibile and qu. 15 comes back to the concept appetitus and asks if the object of appetite is moving. In both these questions the determination precedes the notanda, in contrast to the scheme we saw before and which is more habitual in John’s questions. One may wonder if they have been added afterwards, maybe by another scholar when copying Jandun’s text.

In the next group of questions John comes back to the ordinary structure. Questions 17-18 ask if the species, of sensible or intelligible things, are the principle of alteration. They are rather short, but in the first, question 17, the answer contains an element which may indicate a relation to Peter of Auvergne’s commentary. We will come back to this below.


The origin of motion and its location in animated beings


The last group of questions (qu. 19 to 21) is also consecrated to the principle or origin of motion, but here the topic is extended to its location in the animated body. These questions are not introduced by an explanation of Aristotle’s treatise, but they of course refer to it, as well as to other ancient authorities, and they are also clearly indebted to Albertus Magnus’ treatise De motibus animalium.

The first of them, qu. 19, still simply concerns the origin of motion. It is entitled in the list of questions given in the early edition: “Utrum anima per suam naturam moveat corpus animalis”, but the text begins like this:


Queritur consequenter utrum anima sit principium movendi per se naturaliter et non per acquisitionem alicuius extrinseci (73ra).


The affirmative answer is defended in three arguments, but he opposite answer, for the negative position, is a reference to Aristotle:


In oppositum est Philosophus, quia Philosophus vult quod fiat per acquisitionem sensus et intellectus[8].


Aristotle says that the soul is the principle of motion only after acquiring sense and intellect. The discussion of the question begins by the mention of various opinions and their refutation, first the one of Democritus and Plato, but what they say is not valuable:


De ista questione fuerunt multe opniniones, una Democriti et Platonis, quod anima naturaliter movet se per seipsam […] Sed ista sunt falsa, primo quia […] Item etiam sequeretur […] Item, si […] Nec valet quod dicebat […] Item non bene dicit quod […].


Subsequently, the opinion of Avicenna[9] and Algazel is mentioned and refuted: “Sed tamen istud est contra intentionem Philosophi”, in two arguments.

Because the movement of the sky has been mentioned, a notandum is added (“Sed tamen est intelligendum”), which discusses the influence of the constellation under which one is born and the mirabilia effected by this situation:


Sed tamen est intelligendum quod propter aliquam constellationem in qua aliquis nascitur, accidit et visum est quod in tali constellatione nascitur, ut de gemellis qui aperiebant seraturas; et similiter unus potest adimplere unam causationem quam non posset alius facere propter nativitatem suam; similiter visum est quod propter nativitatem aliquis ferro non potest vulnerari, sed potest laedi[10], et hoc est propter nativitatem et constellationem eius (73rb).


After this digression, the author mentions the opinion of Albert the Great, as expressed in his Liber de animalibus[11], that the soul moves somehow separately and he discusses it in a full argumentation. First, four arguments provided by Albert to prove his opinion, are mentioned:


Opinio Alberti, in suo libro De animalibus est talis, et dicit quod anima movet secundum quod aliqualiter separata, et hoc probat sic, quia si anima moveret corpus, aut hoc esset ut anima, quod est falsum … ergo movet ut separata. Item … Item … Item intellectus practicus movet, ut dicit Philosophus, sed intellectus practicus nihil recipit, sed magis imprimit, ergo anima non movet nisi ut separata (73rb).


But John believes that this is against the intention of the Philosopher and gives two arguments for this opinion. Then he duly and orderly refutes Albert’s arguments in favour of his view (“Ad rationes Alberti”), for instance the fourth argument: “Ad aliam, cum dicitur intellectus practicus etc., dico quod …”.

After this discussion with Albert and without announcing explicitly that this is his final determination, John formulates his conclusion:


Tunc dico quod totaliter actu a seipso non movebitur animal, quia anima non movet nisi ut apprehendit quid ut bonum vel ut malum, sed ipsum habet ab intrinseco, quia ab appetibili (73rb).


Thus, the answer to this question is no, the soul does not move unless it perceives something as good or bad, and this comes from the intrinsic appetite. Here too, the opinion of the Philosopher prevails. The refutation of the preliminary arguments is short and ends with the customary “et sic ad questionem”.

Having demonstrated that the soul in itself and separately is not the place where motion is originated, John now asks if it is the heart or a part of the brain (qu. 20):


Consequenter queritur utrum principium motus localis sit in ipso corde, vel in ultima parte cerebri, et videtur quod sit in ultima parte cerebri, et hoc sic … (73va).


Here, we have a discussion similar to the one concerning the place of the sensus communis, as treated in the commentaries on the De anima: is the common sense situated in the heart or in a part of the brain[12]. John, although discussing the common sense in two questions of his Questiones de anima, as we have seen above, had not treated the matter of its organ at this place. However, in one of his questions on De somno et vigilia he does treat this matter (qu. 9, col. 37ra-va): “Utrum sensus communis sit in corde”. There, John clearly explains that he adheres to the opinion of Aristotle, as expressed “hic et in multis aliis locis, scilicet in De morte et vita, et in De causis motuum animalium” [13]. So, in this early commentary he quotes the treatise on the movement of animated beings among the other treatises confirming the opinion that the common sense is located primarily in the heart.

In this question on the De somno he begins his determination in a rather unusual way, by dismissing the opinions of others without discession (“Dimissis opinionibus aliorum dico breviter quod sensus communis est in corde, quia […]”). Further on in his determination he states that the common sense is “principaliter” in the heart, but that we have to understand that the common sense has a double organ: the heart is the principle one, but another “less principle organ” is the anterior part of the brain (which is a common opinion) [….]; and he closes it with the explanation of Averroes, who says that the position of those maintaining that the common sense is in the anterior part of the brain can be explained in the following way:


Et ad hanc intentionem potest intelligi dictum unum Commentatoris in De somno et vigilia, ubi dicit sic: Dicamus ergo quod manifestum est quod sensus <communis> est in corde et quod cerebrum est unum instrumentum comprehendens hanc actionem secundum temperantiam existentem in eo, hoc est pro tanto cerebrum dicitur instrumentum deserviens operationi sensus communis, quia temperat frigiditate sua caliditatem cordis ad sensibiles spiritus generandos (37rb).


Coming back to the commentary on the De motu animalium, we can see that the discussion about the place of the principle of movement proceeds in a similar way, but it is more extensive and more complex.

The preliminary arguments of this question are nine in all, the first seven for the answer that the principle of motion is in the last[14] part of the brain. Some of them are convincing, saying that it must be there where sense and intellect are strong and that is in the brain, others much weaker. In some of them the nervi and vene are mentioned:


Item, ubi omnes vene et nervi confluunt et concurrunt, ibi est principium motus, sed hoc est in ultima parte cerebri, quare etc.; maior patet quia ibi debent concurrere et terminari, ubi est virtus motiva; minor patet ex anatomia (73va).


And this argument, says Albertus[15], is confirmed by the medici, who affirm for instance, by experiment, that if that part of the brain is much infrigidated or warmed up, the animal does not move, nor does it move if the posterior part of the head is damaged, as we see in the apopletici.

The last two arguments for this position are of a different nature, because they maintain that the origin of motion is in the juncture:


Item arguitur quod sit in iunctura, quia in illo debet esse principium motus quod est medium inter partem moventem et partem motam; sed iunctura est huiusmodi, quare etc.; maior patet, minor etiam, quia si moveatur brachium, humerus est pars movens, brachium pars mota, iunctura vero pars media; quare videtur quod in ea sit principium motus (73vb).


And, says the next argument, it is manifest that in every animated being there is one part that moves and another that does not, so the principle of motion is in the juncture. So here, we have still another theory, different from the ones considering the heart or the brain as the principle of motion. It is amazing that this had not been mentioned previously.

For the oppositum (saying that motion is originated in the heart), John quotes the Philosopher “in principio libri de respiratione”[16], the Commentator, and Albertus; he also gives an argument based on the comparison between the maior mundus and the minor mundus.

The answer begins with the discussion of various opinions (“Ad istam questionem diversi diversa dicunt”): first Galen[17] and his followers:


Galenus enim et sui sequaces ponunt quod virtus motiva sit in posteriori parte cerebri animalis, et in anteriori parte vitalis in corde; similiter etiam spiritus animalis in / cerebro, vitalis in corde, naturalis in hepate. Et ideo dicunt quod principium motus est a cerebro, cuius ratio est quia in eadem parte est principium motus et sensus; sed sensus est a cerebro, quare etc. (73va-vb).


Three other arguments (the last being a signum or experience, in the case of damage to the posterior part of the head) are developed for the same position, after which John lets Albertus attack it: “Istam viam impugnat Albertus pluribus rationibus demonstrativis, primo sic […] Item, […] Item, […]”, and conclude that the virtue of motion is in the heart. Others, adds John, have also supposed that this virtue is in the posterior part of the brain, proving this with “the third and fourth argument mentioned above in the argumentation”. A further argument is given for this position and declared invalid for several reasons.

So far for the arguments of Galen and his followers, that the origin of motion is in the last part of the brain. But, continues John, Plato has also written “in some book which is called Dogma Platonis”[18], that the virtue of motion is in the brain and he showed this with a comparison between the maior mundus and the minor mundus, in both of which the principle of motion is located in the superior part. The refutation of this argument will be shown later, says John, and it is made clear by Albertus and the Commentator in the seventh book of the Physics; and thus we must say differently that the virtue of motion comes from the heart.

Here, we come to the determination of the question, which is more nuanced than the positions mentioned before:


Ad istam questionem dico quod virtus motiva est in ipso corde principaliter, et ratio huius potest esse quia […]

Item, ubi est principium primum sensitivum[19], ibidem est primum motivum; sed principium primum sensitivum est in corde, ideo etc. […] (73vb–74ra).


Four more arguments for the same position are followed by two notanda:


Est tamen intelligendum quod principium motus non est in illis partibus que moventur, sed in contactu illarum partium que moventur[20].

Iterum est intelligendum quod principium motus est duplex: quoddam est determinatum, et hoc est ipsum cerebrum, scilicet ultima pars, sed aliud est principium motus indeterminatum, et tale est ipsum cor, ad quod necessarium est devenire, quia sicut videmus, quod in potentiis anime determinatis existentibus necessarium est devenire ad ipsam animam, que est quid indeterminatum, sic est in partibus animalis que movent, necesse est devenire ad aliquod movens indeterminatum, et hoc est ipsum cor (74ra)[21].


Finally, the arguments for the opposite are refuted:


Et per hoc patet solutio ad rationes. Ad primam, cum dicitur in quo viget sensus etc., dico quod in cerebro non viget primo sensus, sed in corde, licet in cerebro sint plures motus et magis determinate ibi appareant.

Ad secundum dico quod a corde derivantur omnes vene et nervi radicaliter, ramificantur autem in diversis partibus. Et tu dicis […] dico quod […].

Ad aliam dico quod ibi est principium motus ubi est principium nervorum et venarum, et non ubi terminantur; sed incipiunt a corde; forte vero divisio nervorum plus patet in cerebro quam alibi, et ideo medici, qui sunt artifices sensitive, magis dicunt quod in cerebro incipient; ideo etc.

Ad aliam, cum dicitur si cerebrum infrigidetur vel fiat lesio in cerebro etc., dico quod hoc non est quia sit instrumentum motus et quia sit principium motus, sed quia talis pars requiritur ad motum, quia nervi orti a corde ibi ramificantur ad singular membra; ideo etc.

Et per iam dicta possunt solvi omnes alie; et sic ad illud.


In these refutations we see again that John follows the opinion of Aristotle, that the origin of motion is in the heart, where the nervi have their roots, but he explains the opinion of the medici (‘sensitive artisans’) saying that the origin of motion is in the brain, because there the ramification of the nerves is clearer; and damage to the brain causes problems of motion because the nerves, starting from the heart, are divided in the brain and then sent to the singular members.

So, we have here a complex treatment of the question. The solution offers a parallel to the discussion about the organ of the common sense, as we saw above, with the same distinction between the immediate cause, here called indeterminate (the heart) and the secondary or determinate one (the brain).

The last question of this commentary (qu. 21), asks if the spiritus vitales are the moving principle organically[22]:


Queritur consequenter utrum ipsi spiritus vitales sint principium motivum organice.


It is very short: three arguments for the negative answer, then “In oppositum est Philosophus”, the determination (only ten lines in the edition) and the refutation of the contrary arguments. The answer is of course affirmative, but here too, the distinction is made between two principles of motion: the vital spirits are not the principal cause (principium principale), but they may well be the organic principle (principium organicum).

Thus the various possibilities have been discussed: if the soul is the principle of local motion, if it is located in the heart (or the brain), and if the vital spirits are the organic principle.

In all, we may conclude that this small commentary is not only a faithful explanation of Aristotle’s treatise, but it also contains interesting passages, for instance (in qu. 1) the discussion of its place in the field of the natural sciences and its relation to the other treatises on animals, and (in qu. 20) the treatment of the old question (also discussed in comments concerning the common sense) if the heart is the principle origin – of sensation, or of motion – or the brain.


Comparison with Peter of Alvernia


Comparing John’s commentary to that ascribed to Peter of Alvernia[23], one can say that Peter is generally more explicit in explaining which part of Aristotle’s treatise he comments on. He often gives a short description of the part concerned (for instance: “Queritur circa partem istam ‘Quoniam autem de inanimate omnia’, in qua Philosophus incipit determinare de principiis moventibus ipsum animal […]”), before developing the questions – although we have seen more or less the same practice in John’s commentary -; also, John is more succinct in the formulation of the questions.

Apart from these formal differences, the questions in both commentaries are very similar. Peter’s questions 2-5 are the same as questions 2-5 of John of Jandun; Peter’s questions 6-9 concern the movement of the heaven, as do John’s questions 6-9; questions 10-11 are also the same in the two authors. The following part, about the principle, or origin, of motion comprising Peter’s questions 12-20, is clearly introduced in his commentary:


Queritur autem circa partem istam: “Quoniam autem inanimate omnia”, in qua Philosophus incipit determinare de principiis moventibus ipsum animal. Tangit autem quatuor moventia principalia, scilicet intellectum, appetitum, intelligibile et appetibile. De istis autem quatuor queratur per ordinem et primo utrum intellectus sit movens animalia[24].


This is also the case in John’s commentary, where the subject is treated in questions 12-21, as we saw above[25]. Both introductions lead to the same question: is the intellect the principle of motion, as Aristotle says[26]. All the questions here are similar, except for John’s question 19 (“Consequenter queritur utrum anima sit principium movendi per se naturaliter et non par acquisitionem alicuius extrinseci”), which is missing in Peter’s commentary, so that his questions 19 and 20 correspond to John’s questions 20 and 21.

Thus, in fact, the order and subject of Peter’s questions are almost exactly the same as in John’s commentary. The differences are that John begins with the generic question “Utrum de motibus animalium sit scientia”, while Peter begins his commentary with a short introduction, on the science of nature and motion, after which the questions follow naturally, the first about the possibility of spontaneous movement, the second about the spontaneous movement of animated beings (corresponding to John’s question 2), etc. Also, the questions on the movement of heaven are not exactly similar (John’s questions 6, 7, 7a, 7b, 8, 9, and Peter’s questions 6-9), but the difference is mainly in the complex question 7, part of which is, as John explicitly says “dubitabilis”[27]. And John has one more question, as we saw above.

This raises of course the question of the relationship between the two question commentaries. Petrus of Alvernia is also the author of a Sententia super librum De motibus animalium, preserved in three recensions[28], which was perhaps intended to complete the commentary of Thomas Aquinas (as he completed the unfinished commentaries of Thomas on the De celo et mundo and the Politica). The introduction of the question commentary ascribed to him is verbally related to this sententia, as Pieter de Leemans has noted[29]. The last also remarked that the arguments to ascribe the question commentary to Petrus are external and that a comparison between this and the Sententia is needed to confirm (or invalidate) the ascription.

Petrus of Alvernia composed his numerous commentaries when teaching at the Faculty of arts in Paris, between about 1270 and 1296. He thus preceded John of Jandun’s career at this faculty by some decades. So, John must have known Peter’s commentary on the De motu animalium and it is possible that he implicitly refers to it in at least one of his questions. Indeed, Peter introduces his question 17 like this:


Queratur circa partem istam “Alterant autem fantasiam etcetera”, ubi Philosophus determinat quod sensus et fantasia secundum aliquem motum habent virtutem alterandi corpus ad caliditatem et frigiditatem. Vult autem Philosophus ibidem quod species apprehensa per sensum vel intellectum virtutem habet alterandi corpus naturali alteratione, et hoc assignat pro principio in motu locali animalium. Queratur igitur gratia huius quod mihi difficultatem facit, utrum species sensibilis existens in sensu habeat virtutem alterandi corpus alteratione illa que est a calido et frigido[30].


Thus, Peter states that he has a certain difficulty in this matter. Let us now look at John’s determination of his question 17 (“Utrum species rei sensibilis sit principium alterationis realis”):


Ad questionem dicendum quod species rei sensibilis est principium alterationis, et hoc quilibet experitur in se et potest confirmari ratione quia […] Et de ista questione non est dubium, sed de modo difficultas est, scilicet quomodo species rei sensibilis sit principium alterationis. Et solent dari ad hoc due vie, quia quidam dicunt […] Alii ponunt aliam viam et dicunt quod …

Et has duas vias tangit, ut videtur, Philosophus[31] in litera (col. 72va).


As we see, both authors mention a difficulty in this context. A further comparison of the two questions might show that John here refers to the statement in Peter’s question. For the moment we must conclude that John’s commentary seems to be less explicit about Aristotle’s text, but perhaps more systematic and with fuller argumentation.



[1] Cf. P. de Leemans, « Medieval Latin Commentaries on Aristotle’s De motu animalium », in Recherches de théologie et philosophie médiévale 67 (2000) pp. 316-322.

[2] About the fact that this treatise, as well as De bona fortuna, usually followed the Parva naturalia in manuscript collections, see Ch. 1 n. 59.

[3] As Pieter de Leemans remarks (ibid. p. 316), if the date given in the Vatican manuscript for the De somno et vigilia is reliable, at least some of John’s commentaries on the Parva naturalia must be among his earliest works, but this does not imply that this applies to the whole collection.

[4] Id., pp. 318-322. He used the edition Venezia 1589.

[5] These questions do not occur in John’s commentary on De celo, at least not in the printed edition I have consulted (see ch. 3).

[6] See above n. 1.

[7] See Chapter 2, the Questiones on the Physics: « Sexta autem pars principalis est de corporibus animatis. Et ista habet quattuor partes principales. Una est de anima et eius per se accidentibus in communi prout se tenent ex parte anime. Et hec traditur in libro De anima. Alia est de passionibus communibus corporis et anime in habitudine ad corpus sive dispositiones corporales quas requirunt in corpore animato. Et hec traditur in parvis libris naturalibus. Tertia de animatis anima sensitiva et habetur in libro De animalibus ; in qua consideratur de generibus et speciebus et accidentibus animalium et partibus. Quarta est de animatis anima vegetativa et hoc habetur in libro de vegetabilibus et plantis, ubi consideratur de generibus et speciebus et passionibus et principiis plantarum ».

[8] Arist., De motu animalium 7 (Becker 701a).

[9] Avicenna, De anima, IV, 4.

[10] Apparently, the verb laedi is taken in the sense of causing a less serious injury than vulnerari.

[11] Cf. Albertus Magnus, De motibus animalium I, 1, 1.

[12] For this topic, see Chapter 1, n. 52.

[13] See above. Let us note that although mentioning here the De motu animalium, he does not speak about his intention to comment on that treatise.

[14] The « last part of the brain » is a notable change with respect to other commentaries, as his own early commentary on De somno, where one finds the anterior part of the brain. His vision of the constitution of the brain had probably changed under the influence of Albertus, who always localizes the motive powers of the sensitive soul in the posterior part of the brain.

[15] Albertus Magnus, De motibus animalium, lib. I, tract. 2, cap. 1, p. 270a-b: «Cum igitur motiva et sensitiva sint diversae virtutes, et non subalternatim positae, habebunt organa diversa: et cum sint eaedem moventes et apprehendentes subjecto, oportet quod sint vicariae: et ideo apprehendentibus anterius capitis, moventibus autem posterius attribuerunt. […] Tertiam autem ponunt ex rationibus anatomiae : quia cum rescinditur corpus, nervi motivi omnes continuari videntur, aut ad nucham quae est vicarius posterioris partis cerebri, ex qua descendit, aut ad posterius capitis. Cum igitur nervi motivi et chordae per quas fit motus, non continuentur ad principium motus ejusdem, certum esse inquiunt in posteriori parte capitis esse organum, quod primum est principium hujus motus. Quarta vero sumitur ab expertis, ut dicunt : quoniam mollificantia nervos et infrigidantia quae stupefaciunt et immobilitant nervos motivos, et resolvunt, descendunt a posteriori parte capitis, et cum ibi tangunt nervos, tollitur motus a membris, et fiunt contracta. […] cum etiam nos experti simus, quod cadentes vel percussi in posteriori capitis statim obrigescunt et incurrunt membrorum immobilitatem». While there is no mention of the term apopletici, the general framing seems  consistent with John’s arguments.

[16] The treatise De respiratione is part of  De iuventute et senectute, De morte et vita, De respiratione in the translation of Jacobus Venetus ; see the Aristoteles Latinus Database.

[17] One part of this sentence comes indirectly via Albertus Magnus, De motibus animalium (ed. Borgnet, 1890), lib I, tract. 2, cap. 1, p. 26911a-269b: «Galenus enim et omnes sequaces ipsius, posterius capitis ubi nucha descendit a cerebro, id quod movet ex parte corporis primum esse dixerunt, et ad hoc multas dederunt rationes, quarum tamen quinque alii videntur esse fortiores». Note that there is no hint at the role of the vital faculty in the front brain ventricle in that passage.

[18] Albertus Magnus, De motibus animalium, lib. I, tract. 1, cap. 1, pp. 257b-258a : « Plato enim dicit animam semper per se moveri, et hoc accepit a Socrate: nec fieri alicujus animalis animam, nec corrumpi cum corpore, sed potius omnem animam ex fonte omnium animarum qui est anima orbis et mundi, ad corpus devehi, et ex corporibus omnes animas in eumdem fontem refundi. Propter quod etiam anima devecta ad corpora corruptibilia per se movetur, sicut anima orbis et mundi cujus quaedam pars et similitudo consistit : et quia per se movetur, ideo immortalem esse asserit eam. Et ideo post corporis corruptionem iterum ad fontem totius vitae et motus dicit devehi ad sedes supernas. Et hujus sententia etiam invenitur in libro Apuleii Madonensis, quem fecit de Platone et dogmate Platonis, dicens in eadem opinione fuisse Socratem et Speusippum et alios Academiae sapientiores. Ex his autem accipitur, quod anima movet motum localem corporis, quia per se movetur: movetur autem per se, quia est pars animae mundi et orbis quae per se movetur, vel saltem aliqua illius animae similitudo». So the work is from Apuleius but John misattributes it to Plato, perhaps having this passage by Albert in mind (Michele Meroni).

[19] This expression is equivalent to sensus communis.

[20] This first notandum concerns the theory that the origin of motion is in the junction between two parts (see above).

[21] The term devenire is to be taken here as « revenir à », « arriver à ».

[22] The edition has organicę (so organicae), but obviously we have to read organice.

[23] Cf. P. de Leemans, op. cit., pp. 323-330.

[24] Cf. ibid., p. 328.

[25] See above.

[26] Arist., De motu animalium, c. 6.

[27] Question 7a : « Ad questionem qua queritur utrum celum in motu suo indigeat aliquo fixo corpore et immobili dicendum est quod questio est dubitabilis ». Cf. P. de Leemans, op. cit., p. 319.

[28] Cf. Repert. 7 pp. 117-119.

[29] Cf. P. de Leemans, op. cit., p. 324.

[30] Ibid., p. 328.

[31] Aristoteles ?, locum non inveni.


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