© Proceedings of the Society for Medieval Logic and Metaphysics, Volume 2, 2002 William McMahon: The Medieval Sufficientiae

: Attempts at a Definitive Division of the Categories, pp. 12-25.

William McMahon: The Medieval Sufficientiae: Attempts at a Definitive Division of the Categories
Let me begin with a brief history of the discussion of this subject. A generation ago there was something known in Thomistic circles as a “transcendental deduction” of the Aristotelian categories (see Breton 1962, Wippel 1987). I first encountered it in the readings for a comprehensive exam at Notre Dame. It was a division of the categories according to principles which appeared to yield a complete list, with each member independent of the others. The textual basis was a passage in St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Metaphysics (1950: lect.9, 891-892). A few years later I was teaching medieval philosophy, using the Shapiro text (1964: 266-293), in which there was a translation of Albert the Great’s Commentary on the Liber Sex Principiorum. The commentary contained a division of the categories similar to the one in St. Thomas. Still later, in 1981 I was doing a sabbatical in Copenhagen with Jan Pinborg and Sten Ebbesen. I asked them about this matter, and they showed me some more texts. Under their tutelage I edited Radulphus Brito’s treatment of the subject (McMahon 1981). We then noted that these “deductions” of the categories were known as sufficientiae About the mid-80’s Robert Andrews, a student of Norman Kretzmann’s at Cornell, did a thesis consisting of an edition and translation of Peter of Auvergne’s Commentary on the Categories. Andrews found further sufficientiae and discussed them in detail. So to date the definitive treatment of the subject is in Andrews’ thesis (1988: 72-103). Let me then sum up what we presently know about the sufficientia movement, raising what seem to be the interesting questions. For about 50 years, roughly 1260 to 1310, there was a strong interest in showing that there are ten and only ten categories. It appears to have begun with people like Albert and Thomas, is continued under those who are generally sympathetic to their philosophical outlook, and fades away with the ascendancy of the terminist/nominalist movement. So the first question is, who started this business, and why? We don’t really know the answers, but I originally posited some, and Andrews’ findings tend to confirm my speculations. My 1981 article takes note of sufficientiae by Albert (1890a: I, Ch.7; VI,Chs.1-2; 1890b: I,Chs. 1, 6), Thomas (1950:V, lect.9.891-892), Simon of Faversham (Ottaviano 1930: Q.XII, 274-275), and Radulphus Brito (McMahon 1981: 90-92). Subsequent research has added another one by Thomas (1954: III, lect.5.322; see also Wippel 1987), and ones by Peter of Auvergne (Andrews 1988: 381), Augustinus Triumphus (see Andrews 1988: 80), Walter Burley (1497: 18rA-B), and Peter Bradlay (Synan 1967: 290-291). There are quasi-sufficientiae in such works as the pseudo-Aquinas Summa Totius Logicae (1927: II, 19-21). And even in post-medieval thought, where Scholasticism carries on in such places as the Iberian peninsula, one finds discussions of the subject (e.g., Suarez 1960-66: V.Disp 39, Sec. 2.13-16, 717-720). Let me try to place the medieval sufficientiae in a rough chronological order: 1

Albert is the most difficult to date, as his commentaries are not ascribed to his period as an arts teacher, but rather to a a later endeavor to do an encyclopedic treatment of Aristotle. Glorieux (1933: I, 67) gives the probable date of Albert’s Categories commentary as about 1262 and also provides material concerning the careers of the others. Weisheipl (1974:


which was erroneously ascribed to Augustine (see Minio-Paluello 1961: lxxvii-xcv). the LSP would seem to have provided an impetus for strict adherence to a set of ten and only ten categories. Peter of Auvergne—c. Ritter and K. Peter Bradlay and Walter Burley—1300-1310.. whose status had previously been somewhat shaky. 1275. one notes. Konhardt/G.. 11b15-16) Simplicius (1971-75: II. Baumgartner/G. cols. Radulphus Brito—c. The late Greek author Simplicius defended the ten-category system and answered neo-Platonic objections to it. many of which are not yet edited. 1300. Gerhard/K. Pattin in Simplicius 1971-75: I. it is probable that Thomas got the idea from Albert. so my guess is that Albert is either the source for the “expositio antiqua” or one of its leading exponents. Augustinus Triumphus—1280’s?.g. labels are somewhat gratuitous. while James Doig (1972: 15) maintains that Book V of the Metaphysics was commented on in 1270-71. e. generated by Thomists who are inclined to believe that all good ideas originated with the Angelic Doctor 2 . “Kategorie.n.M. Suffice to say that they were unaware of Albert’s contribution to the subject.” 3 Not only does Augustine’s De Magistro (1967: 20-33) manifest understanding of the categories. and the logico-semantical issues therein have little to do. That may derive in some way from the Liber Sex Principiorum (LSP) (Minio-Paluello 1966). By J. Kategorienlehre. 4 In his commentary on Chapters 9-10 (Aristotle 1941: 9-10. “credits Thomas with being the first to attempt a systematic deduction of the Aristotelian categories. Hence I cannot agree with van Steenbergen’s (1966:13) contention that such Aristotelian conceptions as “les categories … sont tout a fait etrangeres a saint Augustin. and Albert would at least have known of him through Thomas. scores of arts masters commented on the Categories. Schonrich in Historisches Worterbuch der Philosophie (ed. “Quod autem genera sint praedicamenta. IV. 375-376) states that Thomas’ Physics commentary was done in 1269-70. His treatment and the word ‘sufficiunt’ therein 4 may well be the source for the sufficientia movement. a treatise erroneously ascribed to Gilbert de la Porree.19). with whether someone holds that there are one or many substantial forms in human nature. and since he was Thomas’ teacher.” 13 .12. Furthermore. Thomas. Categoriae Decem (or Paraphrasis Themistiana). Thomas Aquinas—1270-72. 2 According to Wippel (1987: 19-20. Regarding the question of who created the first sufficientia there is a pseudo-problem. Furthermore. disdain for both. was closely associated with Moerbeke. 1280.” 3 There may be a clue to the origins question in Radulphus Brito (McMahon 1981:86-92). It seems certain that Albert’s are the earliest known medieval sufficientiae. it is tempting to say that the movement is mainly among members of the Albert/Thomas “school”. of course.” by H. which supplements Aristotle by dealing more extensively with the last six categories. and as Roensch (1964: vii-ix) notes. the sufficientia era seems to coincide with the period in which it was fashionable to do commentaries on the LSP. However. Grunder ). In looking for common denominators among the sufficientiae (independently of content.Albert the Great—late 1250’s/early 1260’s. but also there was in the logic tradition a work entitled . (see Weisheipl 1974:148-153). Basel/Stuttgart: Schwabe and Co.g. Simon of Faversham—c. in Buridan ( 1983: 3. which will be treated later). 1976. Radulphus distinguishes between the “expositio antiqua” and the “sufficientia Simplicii”. e. 722-723. It evidently comes from the school of Themistius in the late 4th century. This suggests that the translation of Simplicius’ commentary on the Categories by William of Moerbeke in 1266 is a key event in our story (see A. Let me speculate just a bit further by suggesting that there may be sources for Albert’s divisions in early 13th century treatments of the categories. 410) says.20) the article. In attempting to legitimize these categories.. “Thomist” has a loose meaning in the late 13th century. ipse Aristoteles significavit dicens: de praemissis quidem igitur generibus dicta sufficiunt. xi-xxiii). However. Albert’s divisions probably antedate the Moerbeke translation. Vol. Later.

” So the question here is whether sufficientiae have more than aesthetic/cosmetic value. i. In the place where one usually finds a sufficientia. One such is that of scientia divisiva. et illa habet cognosci per definitionem. The immediate source for this is the Liber Sex Principiorum (LSP).464. There were other. less rigorous. with some of the ideas in the sufficientiae being expanded on later. but they don’t really amount to “throwaway comments. As suggested above.’ Furthermore. Essential properties can be regarded as necessary for the concept of an individual. Intrinsic accidents are not considered necessary in this sense but rather necessary for having an image or mental picture of a particular. the idea of “knowledge” among the medievals is ambiguous. 5 It is rather maddening that an author’s sufficientiae don’t always accord with his other statements about the categories. 6 E. Tamen eius potest esse scientia definitiva vel divisiva. although more remotely. as we shall see. First.. after the primary distinction of substance and accident the division of the accidents turns upon two main distinctions. the response to the question.g. they sometimes present conflicting sufficientiae in their works. illius non est scientia collativa. which is productive of knowledge by dividing a subject into its conceptual components. That is. but there is usually a rough correlation. That this is true is given indirect support by the fact that opponents of the categories either ignore or debunk the sufficientiae. such as those regarding the lack of overall coherence in some of the commentaries. “Utrum Sint Tantum Decem Genera Generalissima” (1999: 11. would have had to concede that many theoretical statements did not even fall within a scientia quia . et illa habet cognosci per demonstrationem. people who posit sufficientiae believe in the sufficiency of the ten-category system. and not as a source for theories of the categories. authors aren’t always consistent. as they were fuzzy regarding the epistemic status of their views. which argues probabilistically from facts to their explanations. and must have qualitative characteristics such as color.e. “… triplex est scientia: Quaedam est collativa. one encounters some curious facts. et in species dividitur.. Tertia est divisiva. But the contingent properties appear to be further divided into “necessarily contingent” and “contingently contingent” items. Turning now to the content of the sufficientiae. of what it is. They clearly saw that not all mainstream beliefs could be justified within a deductive science. f. ergo etc 14 .343-354). and if pressed. ipsa enim describuntur.111vA35-40) says. 6 That may be what some were thinking of here. To explain the intrinsic-extrinsic distinction I shall invoke a formulation which was suggested to me many years ago by the late Jan Pinborg: The substance of a particular is an essential property. Scotus gives none. Radulphus Brito’s Commentary on the LSP (Q. a full blown particular as depicted via an image must be extended and hence have some size and shape. cited above. et illa habet cognosci per divisionem… cuius non est demonstratio. it can be said to be in Boethius (1918: 22-24). there is a sense of “science” (as meaning “knowledge” in a broad sense) here that fits the dividing of the categories. but there still remain a number of unanswered questions. Et sic est de sex principiis. So in that sense sufficientiae have a status akin to that of “one liners”. But the extrinsic properties would be even 5 In addition to Buridan.In attempting to reconstruct the motives for doing sufficientiae. whereas the accidents are contingent properties. The first is that between “intrinsic” and “ extrinsic” accidents. Obviously. Ad. Duns Scotus was skeptical about the categories (see 1997: 5. or distinctions in the divisions which are not employed in the substantive discussion of the categories.6. which I regard as significant. notions of science floating about. Alia est definitiva. I think they do and would like to comment on this matter without getting too entangled in discussing the epistemic status of medieval theories. These considerations lead Robert Andrews ( 1988: 85) to surmise that “sufficientiae are to be considered as exercises in systematization and improvisation. also comments of editors in 1997: xxviii-xxix and 1999: xxxix).3.1.

Socrates is human. But any specific accident within these categories. in current parlance. which to some philosophers seemed insurmountable. being 5’6” tall. one can say that essential properties (kinds) are necessary in the strictest sense. and extension in three dimensions. He also necessarily has. Peter of Auvergne’s commentary on the Categories (Andrews 1988: 381). That is. and medieval Aristotelianism provides three ways of treating them: (a) as intrinsic properties. 15 . and neither doing anything or being acted upon.g. or where would be “contingently contingent”. a particular such as Socrates necessarily has an essence. (a) This seems to be the mainstream. Hence it would not only be contingent whether he is walking. Peter Bradlay (Synan 1967: 290-291). Furthermore. In this format. such as having a color. shape. from Thomas’ Commentary on the Metaphysics (1950: V. The intrinsic properties constitute the layer just beyond. and the LSP separates out the last six properties as extrinsic. as it is said that simple modes “praedicat res absolutas. Ch. he could be both conceived of and imagined as not being spatiotemporally located.” and it is suggested that relational predication is of that sort. He necessarily (in all possible perceptual worlds) has some accidents belonging to the categories of quantity and quality. 7 Because relations are taken as monadic properties this approach incurs conceptual difficulties. but with the added qualification.” One thus wonders whether the author is confused or the text is corrupt. the status of the category of relation is as yet undetermined. any properties within such categories as action. and then the simple into absolute and relative ones. is the substance.9. and (c) as neither. would only belong to Socrates contingently. For some unknown reason. some (e. “ut modus aliorum comparatus. That is. but it would also be contingent as to whether he is acting or acted upon per se. while the extrinsic properties belong to the outer layers. Albert (1890a: IV. using the appealing metaphor that “relation is the middle term of a kind of syllogism in action. however. passion. This seems to be the position alluded to by Radulphus Brito (McMahon 1981: 91-92) as the expositio antiqua. and therein lies their externality.1) tries to finesse the point by saying relations have “some being”. or whether he be located in space-time at all. and is one of two presented by Walter Burley (1497: 18rA-B).259rD) were led to deny the reality of relations. 2. or in the agora at a certain time. as an observable physical object. or being stout. However. since it is difficult to say how relations are “in” a subject. but not as much as the absolute accidents. e. substance “supervenes” upon the accidents. For sufficientiae may be differentiated primarily in terms of how they treat relations.” The best discussion of the Thomistic position that I know 7 In his Categories commentary (1890a: VI. jostled by Alcibiades. lect.. or “standard” approach.XII. quantitative and qualitative determinations. Putting this in terms of modal logic and the semantics of possible worlds.g.891-892). Putting this yet another way. and quantity and quality supervene upon the six principles. Given that Aristotle considers relation along with the intrinsic properties. It also occurs in Simon of Faversham (Ottaviano 1930: Q. (b) as extrinsic properties. Breton (1962: 16) takes it as the median point between interiority and exteriority. necessarily.contingent to the imagination.. when. although some remarks of his suggest this interpretation. certain accidents. whiteness. there is an apparent contradiction in the text. 274-275). the core. the inference is that items in the category of relation must be intrinsic in some way. In other words. Another way of looking at this is by means of the “onion metaphor”(see Adams 1985: 175). Albert’s formulations aren’t quite as simple as this. This is the scheme presented in Diagram 1.1) Albert divides the modes of predication into simple and non-simple ones.” This introduces the second main distinction governing the sufficientiae—between relational and non-relational properties. The innermost layers of a physical object.Ch. Henry of Ghent 1961: VII.

“being rooted in a completely absolute foundation” (Paulus 1938: 175). as we are told that members of the category “frequenter per intrinseca nascitur”. 1991: 88-91.Ch. in that it allows for treating relations differently from monadic predicates. either relation is a major category. passio) or result from it (quando. like Albert. however. as can be seen. where it is labelled the “Scotist sufficientia”. see also Paulus 1938: 172-177). or that they are often based on other genera or the things belonging to other genera. relation is clearly among the extrinsic categories. ubi. 720). and are either aspects of it (actio. wants to retain relation as an independent (conceptual..habitus) (Henry 1991: 96-99 ). and so the esse-in of a relation (being larger than) is identical with the accidental being of its foundation (a given quantitative property). in which relations are neither intrinsic nor extrinsic.e. This approach is of course what one finds in category-collapsers like Henry of Ghent (1961: VII. This viewpoint has the virtue of being most appealing to modern logicians. along with action and passion it is a “simple mode” of relatedness..7) (Diagram 2).of is in Henninger (1989: 17-25). whose approach seems to be closest to this one.1. whether it is real or merely conceptual. Let us then look at the third possible kind of sufficientia. Henry (1991: 94-106). This somehow makes it quasi-intrinsic. But his intentions may perhaps be clarified by looking at a couple of subsequent sufficientiae (Diagrams 4 and 5). a sufficientia to that effect can be found in Albert’s commentary on the Categories (1890a:I. Ch. But then we must account for the status of the relation’s esse-ad. The second is from Radulphus Brito. Some accompanying remarks suggest that Albert takes it as the mode of relatedness simpliciter. This would not. That is.94. who puts it this way: We can consider relations both in regard to their esse-in and their esse-ad.e. and extrinsic relations.6)Albert gives a sufficientia (Diagram 3) which separates relations from the other categories. intrinsic accidents. situs.259rD. not real) category. (b) I myself doubt whether that is really satisfactory and hence find some of the alternative formulations more interesting. If we don’t do that. His accompanying commentary is again rather vague. Disp. their texts refute theories positing more or fewer categories than ten. e. are founded on motion.16. esse-in quantitatis and esse-in relationis is only conceptual.. although it is not in Scotus per se. and its origin is as yet unknown. whether it is identical with or distinct from the esse-in. i.2. Relations are founded on the absolute accidents. This formulation raises the question of the relationship of the category of ad aliquid to the six principles. But the distinction between.arising from the whole substance rather than just the matter or form alone. Albert sees (in a way in which Thomas evidently did not) that those six categories express modes of relatedness (dicuntur secundum aliquam modum ad aliud se habere). Sec. Let me consider a couple of examples of sufficientiae which lend themselves to this interpretation. The first occurs in Suarez (1960-66:V. however. Ch. One of these would be that relations are extrinsic propeties. but in a class by themselves.39. i. but he still wants to regard relation as a separate category. closing with some comments about Simplicius. The six principles.2.g. where. Henninger notes that for Aquinas the esse-ad of many relations is something real. His reasoning is that relation per se is founded on the absolute accidents of quantity and quality. but rather a system of four or nine categories. 16 . with the other six subsumed under it as subcategories (species). 8 (c) But the constructors of sufficientiae are against collapsing categories into one another. yield a ten-category sufficientia. hence the need for a distinctive category. as polyadic. In addition to allocating a separate 8 Nevertheless. In his LSP commentary (1890b: I. or ‘relation’ is a catch-all term for the six genuine predicaments. then the suggested division of the categories is : substance.

” 17 . Note that Simplicius does not employ the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction. not just for a thing-ontology viewed within the perspective of an Indo-European language. which flow or change from one thing into another 9 . and those which have a respect or relation to something other than an entity.status to ad aliquid. Both divide relations in terms of cause/effect and measure/measured. Those involving habitudines are divided into what might be called relations simpliciter. As Andrews (1988:73-74. 86) points out. but the two divisions differ slightly. The belief that the categories were essentially frivolous became amplified more and more so that by the time of Kant (1924: 67) they were commonly regarded as completely arbitrary. it is arguable that the advocates of the categories were really on the right track. but one uses the part/whole relationship and the other containment. Today.) that basic semantical fields include action and causation. and possession. while some were constructing sufficientiae. however. their monadic properties. spatial location and motion.. Existentiae are then divided into substances and accidents. it is contended (see Jackendoff 1990: 23-24. Some even claim that they are valid. which result in putting the categories into different pigeon holes.. and relations. 9 According to Simplicius (1971-75: I. So Simplicius does not take relations as intrinsic properties. And although one should be cautious about saying that there is a simple list of semantical primitives. In those senses his outlook is similar to the third way of looking at the categories. Now Radulphus (McMahon 1981: 91) claims that his sufficientia “concordat cum sufficientia Simplicii”. such as a place or time or situation or surrounding. That is. our conceptual framework is inevitably bound to distinguish physical objects. what he does invoke is one between relational (according to a respect or habitudo) and non-relational properties. Hence it is not clear whether authors of the later sufficientiae were actually influenced by Simplicius’ thoughts or whether they merely invoked him as an authority to justify what they wanted to say anyway. Frawley 1992) has resurrected the categorial distinctions and restored their honorific status. 1b25-2a4). 125ff. The latter are of course quantity and quality. which is curious because it does not. as recent work in lexical semantics (e. As noted. Regarding the latter.g. using the latter distinction to generate the categories of passion and action. others were debunking them. which are further divided into properties secundum habitudinem or sine habitudinem. Simplicius first differentiates existing things from potency and act. and he does regard them differently from the other six categories. actions. Simplicius (1971-75: I. 90-91) does provide a sufficientia (albeit a bit skimpy) where he comments on Aristotle’s initial listing of the ten categories in Chapter 4 (1941: 4. quas omnes continet ipsius ad aliquid praedicamentum. but even from the standpoint of any human language. scheduling of activities (or temporal location). while lacking the later refinements.91): “ Eorum vero quae secundum habitudinem hae quidem dicuntur ‘prosantisrefunda’ (quasi ad aliquid contraversa). it does seem reasonable to maintain that Aristotelians had unearthed most of the major ones... these generate the six extrinsic relations by means of a threefold division.


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