The Greystones Manuscript Project

DoorwayProf. Mark Henninger of the Georgetown University philosophy department and holder of the Martin Chair of Medieval Philosophy, Dr. Robert Andrews, noted member of the team that produced the critical edition of William of Ockham and Dr. Jennifer Ottman are collaborating on the "Greystones Project".

Greystones' commentary is particulary valuable, indeed unique, since it contains the views of many philosophers and theologians working at Oxford University from 1300 to 1325, and as such is an invaluable source of hitherto unknown information on this period of philosophy. It is a true 'window' onto the lively intellectual life at Oxford in the early decades of the 14th century.

Robert Greystones was a Benedictine monk from Durham, England about whom little is known even among medieval scholars. He was resident at Oxford around 1320 - 1325 and wrote extensively on the opinions of his contemporaries. He was known as the continuator of the Durham Chronicle taking it from 1214 to 1336. In 1333, he was elected the Bishop of Durham, however, his election was quashed by King Edward III and he died around 1336. He wrote a commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences that is from 1300 to 1320 which was apparently not widely circulated and survives in one manuscript today. It is thought to be a copy of Greystones autograph,and perhaps,from one manuscript from the fifteenth century. The manuscript is broad in scope and contains approximately 100 questions with extensive answers. Apparently, Greystones was a keen observer and refers to over twenty-five contemporary authors, their personalities and the overall intellectual climate of Oxford during this period.


Greystones Manuscript - London Westminster MS 13 f.82v - 83r., in I Sent. q.3,a.1, Introduction to the first article

What is wonderful about the manuscript is how Greystones gives prominence to figures that up until now have received only scant attention. They are very interesting in their own right but also shed light on the partners that Ockham had during the most formative time of his career. The 'usual suspects' are of course present: Henry of Ghent, Scotus and Alnwick. But a rich array of other figures makes their appearance such as Robert Cowton, John Reading, John Rodington, Robert Walsingham, the secular theologians Kykeley, Luke (of Ely?), Richard Campsall and Henry of Harclay.

Robert Andrews and Jennifer Ottman are working from a digitalized form of the entire manuscript, editing selected parts of the manuscript. By "edit" is meant to transcribe (not translate) the Latin abbreviated text as found in the actual manuscript in to expanded clear Latin, inserting punctuation, normalizing spelling and breaking the text in to paragraphs that correspond to the sense. The final purpose of this time-consuming, meticulous work is to make available in published form the Latin with a facing English translation, which can be read and examined by other scholars.

We are currently working on questions from Greystone's commentary dealing with the human will. We want to see how Scotus' innovative teaching on this was received at Oxford in the first two decades of the fourteenth century. For this purpose Greystone's commentary is very good since it is from c.1320 and he discusses the views of many contemporaries on this topic. We wanted to examine questions that forced medieval philosophers and theologians to think through their theories of the will.

We are now (summer 2013) nearing completion of the Latin edition and English translation of the following questions:

1. Bk l, d.1 q.2: "Whether enjoyment is an act of the will only." 19 single-spaced pages.
2. Bk l ,d.1,q. 3: "Whether once shown the final end by the intellect, the will necessarily enjoys it." 72 single-spaced pages.
3. Bk ll, d.4 q. un.: "Whether angels are able to sin in the first instance of their existence." 13 single-spaced pages.

4. Bk ll,d. 7 q. un. : "Whether the damned are able to will something well." 19 single-spaced pages.

5.Bk ll,d. 23 q. un.: "Whether God can make a rational nature, free with respect tot choice, to be impeccable by nature." 14 single-spaced pages.

6. Bk IV, d.49, q.1: "Whether a human by natural powers can attain the beatific vision." 13 single-spaced pages.

In addition, Prof. Henninger has completed an introduction with new research on Greystone's life and works, a lengthy presentation of Greystone's teaching on the will and a complete list of the questions contained in the Westminster manuscript.

We have begun a second project on Greystone's teaching on certainty and scepticism. In the teaching on the will, we have discovered that he strongly emphasizes God's absolute power and this is found in his surprisingly sceptical discussions on theĀ  possibility of human knowledge. He Examines these issues in the context of the debates around 1320 after Scotus and Ockham on intuitive and abstractive cognition, again discussing explicitly the views of this contemporaries.

These are the questions on this topic that we will be examining, editing and translating for another volume in the Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi series:

Miscellaneous Questions:

q. 1: "Utrum viator per aliquem possit esse certus de existentia alicuius rei distinctae ab eo loco et subieto".

q. 13: "Utrum idem intellectus de eodem subiecto possit simul habere fidem et scientiam".