Henry of Ghent

Henry of Ghent (c. 1217 – 29 June 1293) was a scholastic philosopher, known as Doctor Solemnis (the "Solemn Doctor"), and also as Henricus de Gandavo and Henricus Gandavensis.


Henry was born in the district of Mude, near Ghent. He is supposed to have belonged to an Italian family named Bonicolli, in Dutch Goethals, but the question of his name has been much discussed (see authorities below). He studied at Ghent and then at Cologne under Albertus Magnus. After obtaining the degree of doctor he returned to Ghent, and is said to have been the first to lecture there publicly on philosophy and theology.

Attracted to Paris by the fame of the university, he took part in the many disputes between the orders and the secular priests, on the side of the latter. While Henry was a regent master at the University of Paris, the Condemnations of 1277 took place. The bishop of Paris, Stephen Tempier, promulgated a condemnation of some 219 propositions put forth by the masters of the Faculty of Theology. Henry had a hand in the creation of these propositions and because of that he was summoned to the papal legate after a fellow Augustinian, Giles of Rome. The summons was supposed to change Henry's mind concerning Thomas Aquinas and his unicity thesis (which stated that the human soul, the substantial form of the body, is the undivided principle of the individual's life, sensitivity and rationality).[1] Following the publication of the papal bull Ad fructus uberes by Pope Martin IV in 1281, Henry supported the secular clergy against the Mendicant Orders over the question of the 'reiteration of confession' (the obligation to confess to their parish priest, at least once a year, sins already confessed to a friar). Henry was engaged in this violent controversy for the rest of his life. He died at Tournai (or Paris).


Being of essence

Henry argued that not only do individual creatures have a being corresponding to their essence - the being of essence or esse essentiae, they also have a 'somethingness' (aliquitas). The being created by God is not the being of actual existence, but the being of essence, also called esse latissimum (being in the widest sense), or esse communissimum, the most general form of being. The determination of essence respecting its being made actual is a delimitation, or specification, of that being. Thus, esse essentiae comes first, then comes esse aliquid per essentiam, being a something through essence, finally the whole essence thus made up is put into actuality.

Intentional distinction

An intentional distinction is where the very same thing is expressed by different concepts in different ways (Quodl. V, q. 12). Unlike a purely logical distinction, an intentional distinction always implies a sort of composition, although it is minor with regard to that implied by a distinction in reality.

For example, rational and animal, as they are found in man, is not a distinction of reason, since one is not a definition of the other. Nor is a real distinction, otherwise the conjunction of 'animal' and 'rational' in some particular person would be purely accidental (per accidens). Therefore, there must be some intermediate distinction, which Henry defines as 'intentional'. This principle was later developed by Scotus into the formal distinction.


Henry's doctrines are infused by a strong Platonism. He distinguished between knowledge of actual objects and the divine inspiration by which we cognize the being and existence of God. The first throws no light upon the second. Individuals are constituted not by the material element but by their independent existence, i.e. ultimately by the fact that they are created as separate entities. Universals must be distinguished according as they have reference to our minds or to the divine mind. In the divine intelligence exist exemplars or types of the genera and species of natural objects.

On this subject Henry is far from clear; but he defends Plato against the current Aristotelian criticism, and endeavours to show that the two views are in harmony. In psychology, his view of the intimate union of soul and body is remarkable. The body he regards as forming part of the substance of the soul, which through this union is more perfect and complete.

Scientific knowledge

Henry's standards for truth exceeded what is now commonly accepted in science. Following closely Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, he demanded that "First, it must be certain, i.e. exclusive of deception and doubt; secondly, it must be of a necessary object; thirdly, it must be produced by a cause that is evident to the intellect; fourthly, it must be applied to the object by a syllogistic reasoning process". He thus excluded from the realm of the knowable anything about contingent objects. In this respect he was contradicted by his younger contemporary Duns Scotus.[2]


Works by Henry of Ghent include:

  • Quodlibeta Theologica (Paris, 1518; Venice, 1608 and 1613).
  • Summae quaestionum ordinarium (Paris, 1520; Ferrara, 1646).
  • Henrici de Gandavo Opera Omnia Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1979 sqq.
  • Syncategoremata Henrico de Gandavo adscripta edited by H.A.G. Braakhuis, Girard J. Etzkorn, Gordon Wilson. With an introduction by H.A.G. Braakhuis; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2010.

A work mistakenly attributed to Henry of Ghent is the Affligem Catalogus virorum illustrium, first published in De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (ed. Suffridus Petri) (Cologne, 1580).


  • Henry of Ghent's Summa of Ordinary Questions. Article One: On the Possibility of Knowing Translation with an introduction and notes by Roland J. Teske, S.J. South Bend, St. Augustine Press, 2008. ISBN 1-58731-359-6.
  • Henry of Ghent's "Summa": The Questions on God's Existence and Essence (Articles 21-24). Translation by Jos Decorte (†) and Roland J. Teske, S.J. Latin Text, Introduction, and Notes by Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations 5). Louvain/Paris: Peeters, 2005. ISBN 978-90-429-1590-9.
  • Henry of Ghent's "Summa": The Questions on God's Unity and Simplicity (Articles 25-30). Latin Text, Introduction, Translation, and Notes by Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations 6). Louvain and Paris: Peeters, 2006. ISBN 978-90-429-1811-5.
  • Juan Carlos Flores, Henry of Ghent: Metaphysics and the Trinity; with a Critical Edition of Question Six of Article Fifty-Five of the Summa Quaestionum Ordinariarum, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2006.
  • Henry of Ghent, Quodlibetal Questions on Free Will. translated by Roland J. Teske, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1993. ISBN 9780585141206
  • Henry of Ghent, Quodlibetal Questions on Moral Problems, translated by Roland J. Teske, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2005.


  1. ^ Wilson, Gordon A. (2011). A Companion to Henry of Ghent. The Netherlands: Brill. pp. 25–32. ISBN 978-90-04-18349-0.
  2. ^ Hugh G. Gauch (2003). Scientific method in practice. Cambridge University Press. pp. 52 and 57. ISBN 978-0-521-01708-4.


Further reading

  • Flores J. C., Henry of Ghent: Metaphysics and the Trinity, Leuven: Leuven University Press 2006.
  • Gracia, J.E. & Noone, T., A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Malden: Blackwell, 2003.
  • Marrone S. Truth and Scientific Knowledge in the Thought of Henry of Ghent, Cambridge: Medieval Academy of America, 1985.
  • Wilson G. A., (ed.) A Companion to Henry of Ghent, Leiden: Brill 2011.

External links


Year 1276 (MCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

It is the only Year of Four Popes.


Year 1293 (MCCXCIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Catholic dogmatic theology

The history of Catholic dogmatic theology divides into three main periods: the patristic, the medieval, the modern.

Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".

Divine illumination

According to divine illumination, the process of human thought needs to be aided by divine grace. It is the oldest and most influential alternative to naturalism in the theory of mind and epistemology. It was an important feature of ancient Greek philosophy, Neoplatonism, medieval philosophy, and the Illuminationist school of Islamic philosophy.

Duns Scotus

John Duns, commonly called Duns Scotus (; Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈduns ˈskoː.tus]; c. 1266 – 8 November 1308), a Scotsman, is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Scotus has had considerable influence on both Catholic and secular thought. The doctrines for which he is best known are the "univocity of being", that existence is the most abstract concept we have, applicable to everything that exists; the formal distinction, a way of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing; and the idea of haecceity, the property supposed to be in each individual thing that makes it an individual. Scotus also developed a complex argument for the existence of God, and argued for the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Duns Scotus was given the scholastic accolade Doctor Subtilis (Subtle Doctor) for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier (; French: [munje]; 1 April 1905 – 22 March 1950) was a French philosopher, theologian, teacher and essayist.

Formal distinction

In scholastic metaphysics, a formal distinction is a distinction intermediate between what is merely conceptual, and what is fully real or mind-independent. It was made by some realist philosophers of the Scholastic period in the thirteenth century, and particularly by Duns Scotus.

Godfrey of Fontaines

Godfrey of Fontaines (born sometime before 1250, died October 29 in 1306 or 1309). His name in Latin was Godefridus de Fontibus, and was a scholastic philosopher and theologian, designated by the title Doctor Venerandus. He made contributions to a diverse range of subjects ranging from moral philosophy to epistemology. However, he is best known today for his work on metaphysics.

Index of medieval philosophy articles

This is a list of articles in medieval philosophy.

Abd al-Karīm ibn Hawāzin al-Qushayri


Abner of Burgos

Abraham bar Hiyya

Abraham ibn Daud

Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī

Abu Rayhan Biruni

Abu Yaqub Sijistani

Acharya Hemachandra

Active intellect

Actus et potentia

Actus primus

Actus purus

Adalbertus Ranconis de Ericinio

Adam de Buckfield

Adam de Wodeham

Adam of Łowicz

Adam Parvipontanus

Adam Pulchrae Mulieris

Adelard of Bath

Adi Shankara

Ahmad Sirhindi






Al Amiri

Alain de Lille

Albert of Saxony (philosopher)

Albertus Magnus


Alessandro Achillini

Alexander Bonini

Alexander Neckam

Alexander of Hales

Alfred of Sareshel



Amalric of Bena

André of Neufchâteau

Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Laon

Antonio Beccadelli

Arab transmission of the Classics to the West

Athīr al-Dīn al-Abharī

Auctoritates Aristotelis

Augustine Eriugena

Augustine of Hippo




Ayn al-Quzat Hamadani

Barlaam of Seminara

Bartholomew of Bologna (philosopher)

Bartolommeo Spina

Basilios Bessarion

Bernard of Chartres

Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Trilia

Bernard Silvestris

Berthold of Moosburg


Boetius of Dacia


Brethren of Purity

Brunetto Latini

Byzantine philosophy

Byzantine rhetoric

Cahal Daly


Cardinal virtues

Carolus Sigonius

Catherine of Siena

Celestial spheres

Cesare Cremonini (philosopher)

Choe Chung

Christine de Pizan

Condemnations of 1210–1277

Consolation of Philosophy

Constantine of Kostenets

Contra principia negantem disputari non potest


Cosmographia (Bernard Silvestris)

Credo ut intelligam

Cristoforo Landino

Daniel of Morley

Dante Alighieri

David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas

De divisione naturae

Demetrius Chalcondyles

Denis the Carthusian

Divine apathy

Doctrine of the Mean


Dominicus Gundissalinus

Duns Scotus

Dynamics of the celestial spheres

Early Islamic philosophy

Elia del Medigo

Ethica thomistica

Étienne Tempier

Eustratius of Nicaea

Euthymius of Athos

Everard of Ypres

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi

Federico Cesi

Five wits

Francesco Filelfo

Francis of Marchia

Francis of Mayrone

Francis Robortello

Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco Suárez

Franciscus Bonae Spei

Fujiwara Seika

Gabriel Biel

Galileo Galilei

Garlandus Compotista

Gasparinus de Bergamo

Gaunilo of Marmoutiers

Gemistus Pletho

George of Trebizond

Gerard of Abbeville

Gerard of Bologna

Gerard of Brussels

Gerard of Cremona

Gerardus Odonis


Gilbert de la Porrée

Giles of Lessines

Giles of Rome

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Godfrey of Fontaines

Gonsalvus of Spain

Great chain of being

Gregor Reisch

Gregory of Rimini

Grzegorz of Stawiszyn

Guarino da Verona

Guido Terrena

Guillaume Pierre Godin

Guru Nanak Dev



Hayy ibn Yaqdhan

Henry Aristippus

Henry Harclay

Henry of Ghent

Herman of Carinthia

Hermannus Alemannus

Hervaeus Natalis

Heymeric de Campo

Hibat Allah Abu'l-Barakat al-Baghdaadi



How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Hugh of Saint Victor

Hugh of St Cher


Ibn al-Nafis

Ibn al-Rawandi

Ibn Arabi

Ibn Bajjah

Ibn Hazm

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Masarrah

Ibn Taymiyyah

Ibn Tufail

Immanuel the Roman



Intelligible form

Ioane Petritsi


Isaac Abrabanel

Isaac Israeli ben Solomon


Isotta Nogarola

Jacob ben Nissim

Jacopo Zabarella

Jakub of Gostynin

Jan Szylling


Jean Buridan

Jean Capréolus

Jedaiah ben Abraham Bedersi



Jiva Goswami

Jocelin of Soissons

Johannes Scotus Eriugena

John Argyropoulos

John Blund

John de Sècheville

John Dumbleton

John Halgren of Abbeville

John Hennon

John Italus

John Major (philosopher)

John of Damascus

John of Głogów

John of Jandun

John of Mirecourt

John of Paris

John of Salisbury

John of St. Thomas

John Pagus

John Peckham

Joseph Albo

Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta

Judah ben Moses Romano

Judah Halevi

Julius Caesar Scaliger

Kitabatake Chikafusa

Kwon Geun

Lambert of Auxerre

Lambertus de Monte

Leo the Mathematician

Leon Battista Alberti

Leonardo da Vinci

List of scholastic philosophers

Madhusūdana Sarasvatī



Manuel Chrysoloras

Marcus Musurus

Marsilio Ficino

Marsilius of Inghen

Marsilius of Padua

Matheolus Perusinus

Matthew of Aquasparta

Medieval philosophy

Meister Eckhart

Michael of Ephesus

Michael of Massa

Michael Psellos

Michał Falkener


Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Haq Ibn Sab’in

Moralium dogma philosophorum

Mu'ayyad fi'l-Din al-Shirazi

Muhammad ibn Muhammad Tabrizi

Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi



Nasir al-Din al-Tusi

Nasir Khusraw


Niccolò Machiavelli


Nicholas of Autrecourt

Nicholas of Kues

Nicole Oresme

Nikephoros Choumnos

Odo of Châteauroux

Omar Khayyám

Oxford Calculators

Oxford Franciscan school

Palla Strozzi

Paolo da Pergola

Passive intellect

Patriarch Gennadios II of Constantinople

Paul of Venice

Peripatetic axiom

Peter Abelard

Peter Aureol

Peter Ceffons

Peter Crockaert

Peter de Rivo

Peter Helias

Peter Lombard

Peter of Auvergne

Peter of Capua

Peter of Corbeil

Peter of Poitiers

Peter of Spain (author)

Peter Olivi


Petrus Aureolus

Petrus Ramus

Photios I of Constantinople

Pierre d'Ailly

Pierre de Bar

Pietro Alcionio

Pietro d'Abano


Porphyrian tree


Primum movens

Problem of universals


Qotb al-Din Shirazi


Quinque viae

R. De Staningtona

Rabia al-Adawiyya

Radulfus Ardens

Radulphus Brito

Ralph of Longchamp

Ralph Strode



Ramon Llull

Remigius of Auxerre


Renaissance humanism

Renaissance philosophy

Richard Brinkley

Richard Kilvington

Richard of Campsall

Richard of Middleton

Richard of Saint Victor

Richard Rufus of Cornwall

Richard Swineshead

Richard Wilton

Robert Alyngton

Robert Cowton

Robert Grosseteste

Robert Holcot

Robert Kilwardby

Robert of Melun

Robert Pullus

Rodolphus Agricola

Roger Bacon

Roland of Cremona

Roscelin of Compiègne


Rota Fortunae


School of Saint Victor


Sensus communis



Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi


Siger of Brabant

Simon of Faversham

Simon of Tournai

Solomon ibn Gabirol


Sperone Speroni

Stephen of Alexandria

Substantial form

Sum of Logic


Summa contra Gentiles

Summa Theologica

Summum bonum

Supposition theory


Temporal finitism

Term logic

Theodore Metochites

Thierry of Chartres

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Bradwardine

Thomas Gallus

Thomas of Sutton

Thomas of Villanova

Thomas of York (Franciscan)

Thomas Wilton


Thought of Thomas Aquinas

Timeline of Niccolò Machiavelli

Ulrich of Strasburg

University of Constantinople


Urso of Calabria

Vācaspati Miśra


Vincent Ferrer

Vital du Four

Voluntarism (metaphysics)

Voluntarism (theology)

Walter Burley

Walter Chatton

Walter of Bruges

Walter of Mortagne

Walter of St Victor

Walter of Winterburn

Wang Yangming

William Crathorn

William de la Mare

William of Alnwick

William of Auvergne (bishop)

William of Auxerre

William of Champeaux

William of Conches

William of Falgar

William of Heytesbury

William of Lucca

William of Moerbeke

William of Ockham

William of Saint-Amour

William of Sherwood

William of Ware

Works by Thomas Aquinas

Yi Hwang

Yohanan Alemanno

Zhang Zai

Zhu Xi

James of Metz

Very little is known about the life and times of James Metz. It is a mystery when he was born and when he died, but what is known is that he was philosophically active in the first decade of the fourteenth century. Of his works that survive presently, much of it remains unedited, and only a dozen manuscript copies still exist. James was known as a Dominican Theologian, which meant following the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. However, James earned the reputation for being a "critical-Thomist," as he openly disagreed some of Aquinas's positions. One account of James describes him as an “eclectic thinker,” and that his works were partially influenced by Peter of Auvergne as well as Henry of Ghent.

Johann Baptist Metz

Johann Baptist Metz (born 5 August 1928) is a German Catholic theologian. He is Ordinary Professor of Fundamental Theology, Emeritus, at Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster, Germany.

List of Catholic philosophers and theologians

This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works. The names are ordered by date of birth in order to give a rough sense of influence between thinkers.

Luigi Taparelli

Luigi Taparelli (born Prospero Taparelli d'Azeglio; 1793–1862) was an Italian Catholic scholar of the Society of Jesus who coined the term social justice.

Richard Alan Cross

Richard Alan Cross is Rev. John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy and former Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at Solihull School, Cross was formerly Professor of Medieval Theology at the University of Oxford and Tutor in Theology at Oriel College, Oxford, and holds a Master of Arts degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree. His research interests lie in medieval theology and philosophy, especially Duns Scotus; Christology and the philosophy of religion.

Cross is married to Essaka Joshua, a graduate of the universities of Oxford and Birmingham and a specialist in English literature of the Romantic period.

Robert Cowton

Robert Cowton (fl. 1300) was a Franciscan theologian active at the University of Oxford early in the fourteenth century. He was a follower of Henry of Ghent, and in the Augustinian tradition. He was familiar with the doctrines of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, and attempted a synthesis of them.He entered the Franciscan Order before age 13. He presented a commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard around 1310. Later, in an abbreviated form, this became a standard textbook of theology. The work was criticised by Thomas Sutton.

William of Alnwick

William of Alnwick (lat. Guillelmus Alaunovicanus, c. 1275 – March 1333) was a Franciscan friar and theologian, and bishop of Giovinazzo, who took his name from Alnwick in Northumberland.

Little is known of his early life. By 1303 he was a licensed doctor of theology at Paris, being then listed among the few foreign masters who sided with Philip IV, king of France, in his dispute with Pope Boniface VIII. Alnwick also lectured at other European centres of learning, including Montpellier, Bologna and Naples. He must have returned to England sometime in the second decade of the 14th century, as he is recorded as the forty-second Franciscan regent master at Oxford University, when Henry Harclay was chancellor of the university.

Alnwick's manuscript marginalia show that he was part of the contemporary debate which spread all over Europe, and which included the ideas of men such as Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Henry of Ghent, Peter Auriol, James of Ascoli, Godfrey of Fontaines, Henry Harclay and Thomas Wilton. His main collaborator, however, was Duns Scotus, and it is this that has saved him from obscurity.

He worked with Scotus in the production of his Commentary on the Sentences (Ordinatio), took down one of his Collationes, and compiled the long additions (Additiones magnae) which were meant to fill the gaps in the Ordinatio. But although Alnwick based his philosophy and theology on the fundamental starting points of Scotus's teaching, he diverged from his colleague when he disagreed.

Alnwick participated in the general chapter of the Franciscan order held at Perugia in 1322, where he joined the theologians who drew up and signed the decree De paupertate Christi attacking the position on the poverty of the church as promulgated by Pope John XXII. In the last section of his Determinationes he argued that Christ and his apostles possessed nothing either personally or in common. This opposition to the papal position caused John to initiate proceedings against Alnwick, who fled to Naples, where King Robert protected him. In 1330, Robert had him appointed bishop of Giovinazzo.

He died in Avignon in March 1333.

William of Ware

William of Ware (called the Doctor Fundatus; flourished 1290–1305) was a Franciscan friar and theologian, born at Ware in Hertfordshire. He almost certainly studied at Oxford University and lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard there, but he is not listed among the Oxford masters. There is some evidence, but no certainty, that he also taught at the University of Paris, perhaps lecturing there too on the Sentences. He was known as the Doctor Fundatus (established doctor) and less commonly the Doctor Praeclarus (very clear doctor).

Only one work can reliably be attributed to him, a commentary on the Sentences which survives in many manuscripts: only small parts have been edited, by the Franciscans of Quaracchi (1904), and by A. Daniels (1909, 1913), P. Muscat (1927), J.-M. Bissen (1927), and L. Hödl (1990). William does not try to discuss every distinction, but concentrates on the topics he finds most important, devoting over 100 questions to book 1 and just 129 to the remaining three books. Among the theologians whose views William discusses are Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines, Giles of Rome, and Richard of Middleton.

Traditionally William has been assumed to be the master of Duns Scotus. In a work on the immaculate conception (c. 1373) Thomas Rossy refers to William as the Magister Scoti, as does Bartolomeo da Pisa in his De conformitate vitae beati Francisci ad vitam domini Jesu of the late 1380s.

Étienne Tempier

Étienne (Stephen) Tempier (French: [tɑ̃pje]; also known as Stephanus of Orleans; died 3 September 1279) was a French bishop of Paris during the 13th century. He was Chancellor of the Sorbonne from 1263 and bishop of Paris from 1268.He is best remembered for promulgating a Condemnation of 219 philosophical and theological propositions (or articles) that addressed concepts that were being disputed in the faculty of arts at the University of Paris.


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