Goodness as transcendental: The early thirteenth-century recovery of an Aristotelian idea
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- MacDonald, S. Topoi (1992) 11: 173. doi:10.1007/BF00774422
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In this paper I investigate the philosophical developments at the heart of what appears to be the earliest systematic formulation of the doctrine of the transcendentals by comparing the first questions of Philip the Chancellor'sSumma de bono (the so-called first treatise on the transcendentals — ca. 1230) with its immediate ancestor, a small group of questions from William of Auxerre'sSumma aurea (ca. 1220). I argue that Philip's innovative position on the relation between being and goodness, the centerpiece of his doctrine of the transcendentals, is motivated by an Aristotelian conception of theoretical knowledge that grounds inquiry in metaphysical classification and definition understood in terms of Aristotle's doctrine of the categories. The concerns about taxonomy and definition that Philip introduces into the early thirteenth-century discussion of the metaphysics of goodness lead him to the theses that are the foundations of the medieval doctrine of the transcendentals, among them that being and goodness are conceptually distinct but the same in reality.