Notes on some potential sources
for Aquinas's De anima commentary

[I wrote these up in 1996 or so, when I was working on my translation of Aquinas's InDA (Yale, 1999). In looking them over (June 2000), I've added a few new bits of information. No doubt mistakes and omissions remain. Thanks to Kerry McCutcheon for putting this into digital form.]


Alexander Aphrodisiensis (c.200). His commentary on the DA is lost entirely. But we do have his own De anima, and his De intellectu, both in the original Greek. We also have a Latin translation, from the Arabic, of the De intellectu, made at the end of the 12th c. by Gerard of Cremona. This Latin translation has been edited by G. Théry (Kain, 1926). A translation of the Greek De intellectu is also available (Toronto, 1990).

Aquinas once refers to the De intellectu (QDA 6 arg.11). But Gauthier (InDA 230-1*) argues that Aquinas likely had only second- hand knowledge of this work.


Namesius (c.400). His De natura hominis was attributed to Gregory of Nyssa throughout the Middle Ages. The first Latin translation was made by Alfanus in the llth c. (ed. C. Burkhard, Leipzig 1917). A 12th c. translation into Latin was made by Burgundio of Pisa (ed. Verbeke-Moncho, Leiden 1975). The Greek text is edited by M. Morani (Leipzig, 1987), and a translation from the Greek has been made by W. Telfer (Philadelphia, 1955).


Themistius (4th c.). William Moerbeke completed a translation of Th's DA paraphrase on November 22, 1267 ─ in time for Aquinas to use the work in his own DA commentary. WM's translation is edited by G. Verbeke (Louvain, 1957). We also have Th's Greek text. It's been edited by R. Heinze (CAG 5) and translated by R.B. Todd (Ithaca, 1996). Todd had earlier translated the section on intellect, DA III.4-8 (Toronto, 1990), which has more extensive notes on that section of Th's paraphrase.

Aquinas was the first in the Latin West to be able to take advantage of Th's paraphrase. He did so to a striking extent. In Book I.1-11 there is quite often "une correspondence presque littérale," as Verbeke puts it (vii); "massive et littérale," says Gauthier (274*). Gauthier's edition thoroughly notes these occasions, and often goes so far as to put Aquinas's words within quotation marks. Verbeke (pp.xv ff.) asks why Aquinas should have relied on Th. so heavily in Book I and not in the later Books. He argues that in fact there is "une connexion intime," even in the later Books. What he in fact shows is some scattered passages where Aquinas seems to be drawing an example or phrase or reference from Th. Gauthier shows much the same (274-5*), but then goes on to give a plausible rationale for why Aquinas should have handled Book I so differently from the rest. Book I, Gauthier says, is generally obscure and of relatively slight importance, and this explains why Aq is willing to rely so much on the work of others (281-2*).


John Philoponus (6th c.). Part of his commentary, on DA III.4-8 (429a10-432a13), survives only in Latin. (This is sometimes known as the De intellectu.) The translation was made by William of Moerbeke, and completed on 17 December 1268. WM says at the end of his translation that much of the Greek manuscript he was using was illegible. WM also says, oddly, that "he did not think it imperative to translate the rest of the work." WM apparently translated something more than just DA III.4-8, but all we have of that is a little bit on Book I (406b25-407a2). The Latin is edited by G. Verbeke (Louvain, 1966). A translation of this commentary on Book III has been made by W. Charlton (London, 1991). The translation also contains a great many emendations, carefully described, to Verbeke's text.

There is a complication. JP commented on the entire DA, and we do have a Greek text of such a commentary (M. Hayduck, CAG 15, Berlin 1887). But Verbeke's text on Book III doesn't match Hayduck's text. More puzzling yet, the Latin material on Book I does match Hayduck. There's little doubt that the Latin text we have on Book III should be attributed to JP. (See Charlton.) There's also no doubt that Hayduck's text on Books I-II should be attributed to JP. But it's unclear whether Hayduck's text on Book III is another version of a commentary by JP, or whether it should be attributed to someone else. (Again, see Charlton.)

WM's translation is apparently the only avenue through which the commentary had an influence on the scholastics. This makes it improbable that Aquinas used the commentary for his own DA commentary, given that Aquinas had finished InDA and left for Paris by the fall of 1268. Gauthier (46*) speculates that Aquinas got his hands on JP's commentary only in 1271. For discussion of JP's influence on Aquinas and other, later, scholastics, see Verbeke.

One more curious detail here. Aq's InDA was translated c.1435 into Greek. A marginal note to a manuscript of this text claims that Aquinas stole his commentary from JP. (This note is generally thought to be written by the translator himself!) Rest assured: Gauthier (45-47*) buries this bizarre plagiarism charge under six feet of scorn.


Costa Ben Luca, De differentia animae et spiritus (9th c.). This work, translated by John of Seville in the mid-12th c., circulated throughout the 13th c. as part of the Aristotelian corpus (see CHLMP 50-51) - although surely no one could have mistaken the work as genuinely Aristotelian, given that it discusses Aristotle's views in the third person. It's edited by C.G. Barach (Innsbruck, 1878; repr. Frankfurt a.M., 1968).

This quite short work presents an interesting - if perhaps not so sophisticated - theory of mind. Chapter 1 begins with a noteworthy account of spirit: "Spiritus est quoddam corpus subtile, quod in humano corpore oritur ex corde..." (121). Later it looks like CBL is a brain-state materialist of sorts:

"intellectus vero et cogitatio et providentia et cognitio fit per spiritum, qui est in ventriculo qui participatur illis duobus ventriculis qui sunt in anteriori cerebro" (126).

However, CBL is also prepared to defend a Platonic and an Aristotelian account of soul, the former claiming that "anima est substantia incorporea movens corpus." It turns out, in Ch.4, that corporeal spirits are the causa propinquior of human cognitive activities. The soul, however, plays a role as well, as the causa longior. It's far from clear where this leaves us.


Avicenna (early 11th c.). The Latin text of Av's Liber de anima seu Sextus de naturalibus has been edited in 2 volumes by van Riet (Louvain, 1968, 1972) - with two long and helpful introductions by Verbeke. The Latin text is the product of a translation by Dominicus Gundisalvi and Ibd Dawud, executed in Toledo in the second half of the 12th c. The work is not a commentary, but an original treatise on the soul (in five books). (Averroes, indeed, criticizes Avicenna for having such nerve that he "incepit quasi a se" - see Gauthier 220*.) Book One formulates a definition of soul and a classification of its powers. Books Two and Three, after a brief discussion of soul's nutritive power, takes up the senses. (Here it is clear that Av is following the structure of Ar's DA.) Book Four considers the interior senses, and Book Five intellect, among other things. The second half of the work's title refers to its place as the sixth part of a larger series of eight works on scientia naturalis (see van Riet IV-V, p.9*).

We have many manuscripts of the Arab text, and two editions, both published in the later 1950s, independently of one another.

Aquinas refers to Avicenna twice in InDA (III.2.32-50= III.8.702-703; III.7.90-96=III.13.792), each time criticizing claims that Av makes in his Liber de anima. Certainly, Aq was deeply imbued with Av's theory of soul. But it does not seem that Aq. relies directly on Av's work.


Avicebron, Fons vitae (11th c.). Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol) was a Jew, writing in Arabic; Latin medievals assumed he was a Moslem. The Fons vitae is a long dialogue that takes as its subject matter the matter-form distinction, first in universalis, then in composite substances. Baeumker edits the medieval Latin translation (BGPM 1); the Arab text has not been found. We also have a medieval Hebrew translation. Sarah Pessin has told me she's interested in publishing a translation.

Aquinas criticizes Avicebron by name at InDA II.I.258-288 (225-6) for postulating a plurality of substantial forms in one and the same object.


Dominicus Gundissalinus, De anima (c.1150). DG was also Avicenna's translator. Kuksewicz identifies this treatise as the first Western treatment of the Aristotelian theory of intellect (CHLMP 597). The work has been edited by J.T. Muckle (Mediaeval Studies 2 (1940)). A. Rucquoi reports in the Bullletin de Philosophie Medievale vol.41 that this "Gundissalinus," more properly Gundisalvus, is in fact a different man than the translator Dominicus Gundisalvi.


Averroes, Commentarium Magnum De anima (c.1190). Averroes wrote three commentaries on the DA, a short compendium, a middle commentary (a paraphrase), and this great commentary (a literal commentary). We have medieval Latin translations of his middle commentary (in one ms) and his great commentary (in over 50 mss). The Commentarium Magnum was translated c.1220 by Michael Scot; it has been edited by F.S. Crawford (Cambridge, MA, 1953), who supplies only a terse and unhelpful introduction. No Arabic texts of CM have been discovered. Richard Taylor is at work on a translation.

Gauthier argues that the CM was well known in the Paris Arts Faculty by 1225 (see Anon. c.1225 below). Beginning around 1250 Aver. begins to attract the sorts of critical attacks with which we associate his name - from people like Albert, Kilwardby, and Bonaventure (see Gauthier, InDA, 221-22*). G. shows that Aq's attitude toward Aver. becomes increasingly hostile as he moves from Sent. to SCG to DUI. There is only one direct mention of Averroes in InDA, at II.23.67 (534). Gauthier lists four or five implicit references. In every case Aver's view is being rejected.

But G. also documents many places in InDA where Aver is being tacitly relied upon (225-26*). G. supposes that Aq. doesn't cite Aver. in these contexts because Aq. was not aware that the doctrines in question were originally formulated by Aver. G. writes that "L'Averroès que cite saint Thomas n'est donc pas l'Averroès directement lu dans son texte authentique: c'est l'Averroès scolaire" (224*). By the time of the Physics commentary, however, written in Paris (1268-1269), Aq. has Aver. much more in mind. Here, Gauthier says, Aq. is following Aver. step by step, sometimes accepting his exegesis, but more often rejecting it.


Johannes Blund, Tractatus de anima (c.1200). Edited by Callus-Hunt (London, 1970). Although James of Venice translated DA into Latin in the second quarter of the 12th c., significant scholarly interest in the work does not appear until the beginning of the 13th c. (The same is true of Aristotle's other non-logical works; see CHLMP 69-70.) JB's treatise (probably composed at Oxford) is the earliest record we have of this new interest in Paris and Oxford.

The treatise begins in a manner worthy of its historical significance:

"Ut habetur ab Aristotele, omnis scientia est ab anima et in anima principaliter fundata. Et ideo cum verecundum sit ignorare illud a quo est scientia, dicendum est de anima et de dispositionibus eius."

The treatise is based roughly on the DA's structure. It begins with a discussion of what soul is, and then moves through the nutritive, sensory, and intellective powers. (It ends, interestingly, on the non-Aristotelian topic of liberum arbitrium.)

No other works by JB are known.


Alfredus de Sareshel, De motu cordis (c.1210). This treatise focuses, as the title suggests, on a biological account of life. It's been edited by C. Baeumker (BGPM v.23).


Anon., De anima et de potentiis eius (c.1225). Edited by Gauthier in RSPT 66 (1982) 3-55. This treatise, by a Paris master of the arts, gives a brief summary of Aristotle's position on these subjects, as interpreted by Avicenna and Averroes. The work is quite compressed, but highly interesting. It gives a clear picture of what parts of later medieval theory were in place from earlier on, and what needed to be developed by Aquinas et al. My translation of the treatise appears in volume 3 of the Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts (2002).

Gauthier (21-22) claims that InDSS contains a reference to one of the work's idiosyncratic doctrines. One might wonder whether this shows Aq to have had first-hand knowledge of the work. But it's quite clear that the work was extremely influential, despite its present anonymity.


Anon., De potentiis animae et obiectis (C.1230). Edited by D.A. Callus, RTAM 19 (1952) 131-70. Gauthier, in the above RSPT article, claims that this work is dependent on the De an. et de pot., and not as sophisticated in most respects. Whereas the above work is philosophically centered, G. says that this one is written from a theological perspective.


Johannes de Rupella [John of la Rochelle], Tractatus de divisione multiplici potentiarum animae (1230s). This work, edited by Michaud-Quantin (Paris, 1964), is more of a catalogue than anything else. The author collects the opinions of others, as (even) his editor puts it, "sans se préoccuper apparemment d'exposer une pensée originale ou ses positions personnelles..." (p.9). Part One describes 12 definitions of soul. Part Two looks at five different ways of classifying soul's parts. Part Three looks at the perfections of soul (e.g., grace and virtue). The various opinions are taken from Church fathers, as well as non-Christian philosophers and medical authorities.


Guillelmus Alvernus [William of Auvergne], De anima (1230?/ 1240?). There is no modern edition, but we have a reprint (Frankfurt a.M., 1963) of a 1674 edition. Roland Teske will be publishing a translation. This long, original treatise is decidedly not in the form of Aristotle's DA. Indeed, there are signs, from the very beginning, that GA is writing in the shadow of the prohibitions, first imposed in 1210 at Paris, against teaching Aristotle's natural philosophy (see CHLMP 71-73). The work begins with a prologue establishing that the study of soul transcends natural science. A few lines later GA goes out of his way to note that he will be criticizing Aristotle later on. Still, the work's first chapter, on the definition of soul, begins by quoting Aristotle's definition of soul. But GA feels compelled to add:

"Non intret autem in animum tuum, quod ego velim uti sermonibus Aristotelis, tanquam authenticis ad probationem eorum quae dicturus sum" (65).

In this work as in all his others, GA says, he will be offering demonstrative proofs, not mere appeals to authority. (All this maneuvering, and we're still on the work's first page!)


Johannes de Rupella [John of la Rochelle], Summa de anima (c.1240). A new edition of this work is available (Paris, 1995). Kuksewicz (CHLMP, 598) says that it is here that the effort of early theologians to assimilate Aristotle's DA "came to its full development."


Petrus Hispanus, Quaestiones in de anima (Toulouse, c.1240 ?). Around 1240 we begin to find commentaries on the DA. Evidently the above-mentioned proscriptions were no longer in force. This work, edited by Manuel A. Alonso (Madrid, 1944) is composed of chapters, each of which first makes a division of the text, then offers a sententia (a short statement of the text's content), and then raises and solves questions.


Pseudo-Petrus Hispanus, Expositio libri de anima (c.1240). This work is edited by M.A. Alonso (Madrid, 1952), who took it to be (a) the work of Peter of Spain, and (b) the first scholastic commentary on DA. Gauthier (InDA, 236-8*) shows there is no evidence for either supposition. But the work certainly is an early instance of a Latin commentary on the DA. Rega Wood believes this to be the work of Richard Rufus of Cornwall, and is working on an edition. See Wood, "Richard Rufus's De anima Commentary" MPAT 10 (2001) 119-56.


Adam of Buckfield, Sententia super librum de anima (Oxford c.1243). We have many mss. of this commentary, but no edition. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. Gauthier (InDA, 248*) describes it as "une oeuvre de vulgarisation," based an a tedious reading of DA which follows Averroes at every step.


Anon. Arts Master, Lectura in librum de anima (Paris?, c.1246-7). Edited by Gauthier (Rome, 1985), based on a single ms. As the title suggests, this is the record of a reportatio. The work is a commentary. Like InDA, it gives a division of the text. Unlike InDA, however, it goes on first to give a brief sententia of the text, and then to give a more detailed expositio 1itterae. The work seems meant for beginning students: much of the explanation is pitched at a very low level (see p.14*).

Interestingly, this arts master is somewhat harder on Aristotle than Aquinas is. Anon. draws attention to a point of conflict between Aristotle and (pseudo) -Augustine (II 10, 236-40); elsewhere he stresses that Aristotle would have come to a different conclusion on one particular point if he were Catholic (II 3, 158- 161). In InDA Aquinas is never even this critical. Generally, however, Anon. takes the positive approach to Aristotle that one would expect.

Several interesting passages suggest the kind of give and take that existed between master and students:

"Aliam obiectionem non soluit magister, non propter hoc quod tradidisset obliuioni, quia bene fuit dictum ei quod eam solueret, set noluit" (II 8, 351-2).

In another place the Lectura reports that a question was asked about "per quam naturam" a projectile is moved after it is no longer being touched by the mover. The answer given is this:

"Et dicebatur quod erat uirtus moventis quae adhuc erat in motu; set utrum illa natura esset substancia uel accidens, uel quid esset, non dictum fuit" (I 8, 239-41).

Maybe these students were sharper than the master thought.


Anon. (Arts Master), Sententia super II et III De anima (Paris?, c.1246-47). We have one manuscript containing the full text of this commentary (Oxford, Bodleian ms. lat. misc. c.70), and another partial text in a Rome ms. The commentary is unedited. This is the record of an oral lecture, with much the same structure as the above commentary. Gauthier speculates that Aq. might have listened to this lecture while in Paris at this period. This is, of course, just speculation, but G. can point to a number of places in InDA that suggest some influence. See 242-4*, 271-2*.


Petrus Hispanus (1250s). PH's Scientia libri de anima has been edited by M.A. Alonso (Barcelona, 1961). This is a lengthy treatise on soul, taking up more or less the full range of topics that are contained in DA.


Albertus Magnus, Summa de homine (a.1242). Edited by Borgnet (Paris, 1896), v.35. There is as yet no critical edition of this work. This is a series of questions on problems raised by the DA. It is not, then, a commentary in form, but in places it does amount to a sort of commentary on problematic texts.


Albertus Magnus, De anima (1254-1257). The Cologne edition of this work has been completed (Münster, 1968), but Gauthier (InDA, 257*) charges that the volume doesn't merit the title of a critical edition. The work is a paraphrase of DA, which in this case means that Albert's method is "ita tamen quod textus eius nulla fiat mentio" (see Gauthier, 258*). Naturally, there are words and phrases from DA that appear in the paraphrase. But the paraphrase contains no explicit references to the text.

Aquinas heavily uses AM's De anima at I.12-13; in these chapters, rather oddly, Aq. ends his reliance on Themistius only to rely to an equal extent on AM. Gauthier's view on this sudden switch is strangely casual:

"ce n'est peut-être qu'un accident: ayant eu l'occasion d'ouvrir Albert, saint Thomas a laissé Thémistius; un livre ouvert sur sa table, c'était assez pour lui" (274*).

One would like to think that Aq's work was governed by weightier motives. After I.13 Albert is never used so explicitly, and seems to play no more influential a role than do the other commentaries listed here (see G., 271*).


Anon. Arts Master, Quaestiones in tres libros de anima (c.1260). Edited by J. Vennebusch (Paderborn, 1963). This question- commentary was written in Paris or Oxford. The author uses AM's De anima, but does not have Moerbeke's new translation of the DA, which came into usage c.1261 (Gauthier, 263*).



Gauthier (InDA, 251-67*) describes several more DA commentaries made by arts masters from 1240-1260, none of which have been edited. Speaking in general about the influence on Aquinas of these commentaries in the Arts Faculty, G. says that Aquinas is indebted to them for the technique and formulas used in his commentaries. (And, indeed, this can be readily seen by comparing InDA with, for instance, Gauthier (1985).) More importantly, G. says, is the role earlier commentaries played in giving Aquinas a picture of the various lines of interpretation available for any given passage. Aquinas's grasp of the interpretive history of the DA, from Alexander through Averroes and beyond, comes largely from these Arts Faculty commentaries, or so G. contends (270-71*).


Robert Pasnau