Bartholomaeus Arnoldi (b. c. 1465, d. September 9, 1532) (also called Usingen after his birthplace), began as a philosopher in the via moderna school and later became a member and a theologian of the Order of Augustinian Hermits. Together with Jodocus Trutfetter he was the most prominent philosopher in Erfurt in the early sixteenth century. Usingen’s main authorities were Buridan, Ockham, Gregory of Rimini, Peter of Ailly and Gabriel Biel. The focus of his teaching was on a “common view of the via moderna,” which was strongly involved in semantic–metaphysical questions. Usingen stressed the importance of logic as a necessary tool for gaining scientific knowledge, but his works on natural philosophy in particular were respected by his contemporaries. In natural philosophy, he generally followed the Buridanian tradition. His discussion on the theory of supposition follows Ockham. On the relationship between theology and philosophy, he strongly posited the unity of truth by allowing certain theological truths a sufficient degree of plausibility as truths in natural philosophy. This view was partly based on Lawrence of Lindores.
Bartholomaeus Arnoldi began his studies at the University of Erfurt in 1484. He became a bachelor of arts in 1486 and master of arts in 1491. Together with his colleague Jodocus Trutfetter he was active in an influential quodlibet disputation in 1497. In 1498, he became a member of the council of the faculty of arts and afterward was active in several official positions. During 1504, he was the dean of the faculty. Usingen joined the Augustinian hermits in 1512 and was promoted to doctor of theology in 1514. He became actively involved in the German Counter Reformation and in particular opposed the Wittenberg reformers. In 1522, he became an archdeacon. He was forced to leave Erfurt during the Peasants’ War in 1525 and ended up in Würzburg where he stayed at the local Augustinian monastery. During his last years, Usingen followed the local bishop in visitations to the monasteries and even participated in the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, where he was appointed as a member of the commission to examine the Augsburg Confession and where he contributed to the writing of the Catholic Response. He died in Würzburg in 1532.
Along with his teaching activities, Usingen frequently published textbooks on the liberal arts that were reprinted several times. His compendium on natural philosophy was reprinted in Erfurt as late as 1543. Johann Eck made use of Usingen’s writings in his philosophical works written in Ingolstadt in the 1510s. As a philosopher, Usingen belonged to the via moderna school as did all his colleagues at the faculty of arts in Erfurt. After becoming an Augustinian friar, he distanced himself from scholastic philosophy and from 1517 onward he did not publish any books on philosophy. Instead, he wrote several theological treatises, most of them directed against the Wittenberg reformers. Already during his time as a master of arts, he had shown a strong affiliation with the humanists and as a theologian, his ideal was that of a humanist-oriented theology, which based its argumentation exclusively on the Scriptures and the Church Fathers.
As a follower of the via moderna, Usingen was committed to respecting certain authoritative writers and to adopting some key doctrines. These authorities included, above all, John Buridan and William of Ockham, but also such authors as Gregory of Rimini, Peter of Ailly, and Gabriel Biel. None of the authorities were uncontested in the via moderna school at the time; on some points of doctrine their views were disagreed with. As for the contents of the doctrine, the more or less commonly held views of the via moderna are also found in Usingen’s writings. These include the use of the principle of parsimony, a moderate nominalist view of universals, and the denial of a real distinction between the powers of the soul as well as between the entities denoted by the Aristotelian categories other than substance and quality. He seems to have elaborated the views of the school to some degree, particularly the theory of signs. In his discussion of individual topics, Usingen frequently refers to the “common opinion of the via moderna.”
For Usingen, logic is a science that provides scientific knowledge with a methodological basis. There is also a certain inner order to the logic itself, which places the logic of terms (“old logic”) ahead of propositional logic (“new logic”). Usingen seems to reformulate some of his definitions of key logical concepts, such as that of universals, in a manner that points to certain underlying changes in his conception of metaphysics and semantics. In his logic, he devotes special attention to the properties of terms, and bases his account on supposition on Ockham’s views.
In natural philosophy, Usingen also focuses on presenting the “common view of the via moderna.” In some cases, he chooses to present or even defend conflicting views on a particular question (see, e.g., the probable arguments for and against the view that there is a real distinction between quantity and substance in the Exercitium physicorum). The authority of Peter of Ailly and Buridan over Ockham is evident for example in the discussion of species in psychology and his adherence to Buridan’s theory of sense perception. On the relationship between natural philosophy and theology, Usingen offered a solution that strongly suggested a consonance of truths among diverse sciences. Disagreement between the views of some philosophers and the revealed truths of theology are not to be attributed to distinct sources of truth, but to these philosophers’ deviance from the true natural light of reason. Usingen’s view of the matter was also based here on the tradition of the via moderna and in particular the views of Lawrence of Lindores. Usingen also wrote a commentary on Donat’s grammar, which gives a semantic reading of basic grammatical concepts such as terms and the modes of signification.