Bartholomew of Bruges
Aristotelian philosopher, medical scholar, and physician active in Paris and Montpellier in the first half of the fourteenth century and author of philosophical sophismata and Aristotle commentaries, including commentaries on marginal and previously uncommented texts of the contemporary Aristotelian corpus (De inundatione Nili, ps.-Aristotelian Economics, Averroes’ paraphrase of Aristotle’s Poetics).
The philosopher, medical scholar, and physician Bartholomew of Bruges may be considered to be one of the most important representatives of the early fourteenth-century Parisian Aristotelianism. He began his career at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris where it is recorded that he was magister artium between 1306 and 1309.
B.’s six extant Aristotle commentaries date from around that period. They include a commentary with questions on Aristotle’s De anima (1306 or before), an extensive quaestio commentary on Aristotle’s Physics (1307), as well as undated quaestiones on De generatione et corruptione.
His main contribution to the medieval reception of Aristotle is his commentaries on three marginal texts of the medieval Latin corpus aristotelicum. His 1307 commentary on Averroes’ paraphrase of Aristotle’s Poetics (translated into Latin in 1256) is the only medieval commentary on this work and one of the rare specimens of the reception of Aristotle’s Poetics before the fifteenth century. Following the tradition of Al-Farabi and Gundissalinus, Bartholomew defines Poetics as a part of logic and an aid to moral philosophy.
Equally unique among medieval and renaissance Aristotle commentaries is his uncompleted commentary, surviving in a shorter and longer version, on De inundatione Nili, a (pseudo?-) Aristotelian treatise on the causes of the annual Nile flood. Bartholomew argues, on stylistic and doctrinal grounds, for the authenticity of the text which he considers an appendix to Aristotle’s Meteorology.
The most influential of his works on Aristotle is an extensive commentary with quaestiones on the pseudo-Aristotelian Economics (1309), an ancient philosophical treatise on the household and marriage attributed to Aristotle that was translated twice into Latin in the thirteenth century. The commentary served as model for the Economics commentary of Albert of Saxony (1359), and it was partially translated into French by Nicole Oresme (ca. 1372). Bartholomew defines the Economics as Aristotle’s textbook of the “science of the household community” (scientia de communitate domestica) which he considers to be a fully fledged Aristotelian scientia and a branch of practical/moral philosophy. The commentary contains an extensive philosophical discussion of the structure of the household and its relationship to the political community, of the natural and monogamous character of marriage, as well as of the relationship between husband and wife and their respective roles and duties within and outside the household.
B. also wrote ca. fifteen shorter philosophical treatises on logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. At least four of these sophismata are the outcome of philosophical disputes with colleagues from the Arts Faculty. This is also the case of his best-known sophisma, the Sophisma de sensu agente, going back to a controversy with the Averroist John of Jandun (d. 1328) and addressing the question about the sensation of material objects by the sensitive faculty of the soul.
After 1309, evidence of Bartholomew’s activity at the Arts Faculty disappears. The next period of his life is marked by a radical career shift to medicine. In 1329, he resurfaces in the sources as a private doctor of Guy I of Châtillon, the Count of Blois, in whose services he shall remain until the count’s death in 1342. In 1333, he is at the University of Montpellier as a regent Master of Medicine. His medical writings probably date from that period. Less numerous than his works of philosophy, they include commentaries on Avicenna’s Canon and on Galen’s Tegni as well as a tract on the pest. As Cornelius O’Boyle has shown, some medical writings formerly attributed to him (such as a commentary on the Isagoge of Johannitius, or a commentary on the Hippocratic Prognostics) belong to his older namesake, the twelfth-century Italian medical scholar Bartholomew of Salerno.
- Blažek, P. 2007. Die Rezeption der aristotelischen Philosophie der Ehe. Von Robert Grosseteste bis Bartholomäus von Brügge. Boston: Leiden.Google Scholar
- O’Boyle, C. 1996. Un Updated Survey of the Life and Works of Bartholomew of Bruges (†1356). Manuscripta 40: 67–95.Google Scholar
- Pattin, A. 1988. Pour l’histoire du sens agent. La controverse entre Barthelemy de Bruges et Jean de Jandun. Ses antécédents et son évolution. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar