Reality and Truth in Thomas of York: Study and Text

Reality and Truth in Thomas of York: Study and Text

John Patrick Edgar Scully

Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Toronto, October 25th (1960)


Thomas of York was a member of the English province of the Franciscan Order who wrote around the middle of the thirteenth century. He became a master at Oxford in 1253, and lectured there possibly until 1256, when he was appointed the sixth regent of the Franciscan Stadium at Cambridge. The approximate date of his death is generally set at 1260. His principal work is the Sapientiale, most of whose seven books, with the exception of Book VI, have been edited in doctoral theses submitted at the University of Toronto since 1951. The present thesis consists of an edition and study of Book VI, which has hitherto remained only in Gothic script dating from the first half of the fourteenth century. The earliest of the three extant manuscripts used for the edition, Florence, Conv. Sopp. A. 6. 437, was chosen as basic.

If we view the history of Western philosophy as a perennial dialogue between platonism and aristotelianism, Thomas of York can be said to have written the Sapientiale at a unique moment in that history. For Christian thinkers, it marks the first time that a wholesale confrontation with aristotelianism was even possible. Previous to the spread of the Latin translations from the Arabic during the first half of the thirteenth century, the philosophical works of Aristotle were, for the most part, unavailable to the Latin West. One of the most distinctive features of Thomas of York is the extent to which he, a Franciscan schooled in the Christian platonism of Augustine and Anselm, endeavours to assimilate the thought of ‘ the Philosopher’ . Thomas of York was aided in this task by the neoplatonic character of the Jewish and Arabian writings that entered the West in translation along with Aristotle, notably those of Ibn Gabirol, Avicenna and Averroes.

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