7 - WILLIAM ALNWICK Intelligible Being  pp. 152-177

WILLIAM ALNWICK Intelligible Being

By Robert Pasnau

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter


William of Alnwick was a master of theology at both Oxford and Paris during the first quarter of the fourteenth century. He died in 1333. Hailing from the north of England, William became a member of the Franciscan order, and studied closely with John Duns Scotus. William played an important role in transcribing his master's lectures and, after Scotus's untimely death, in editing his work. But despite this close relationship, William in his own writings was by no means a slavish disciple. The discussion translated here illustrates his independence.

William's Disputed Questions on Intelligible Being considers what it means to say that an object exists in the mind of a person thinking about that object. Following the usage of Scotus (Ordinatio bk. I q.36) and Henry of Harclay (Maurer 1961), William refers to this sort of existence as intelligible being (esse intelligibile), represented being (esse repraesentatum), and cognized being (esse cognitum, esse intellectum). William's particular interest, in these questions, is the intelligible being of creatures in the mind of God. This gives dramatic force to the philosophical problem, since such being would have existed from eternity. But many of the same considerations apply to the fleeting sort of intelligible being that objects have within human minds, and William is also interested in those cases.

The first, foundational question (translated here) asks whether intelligible being is something over and above the being of whatever in the mind gives rise to the representation.