Quaestio 21:347-367 (2022)

If we consider that being and its multiple meanings represent the subject of Aristotle’s Metaphysics - of which the Liber de causis was the ‘official’ complement in the teaching programmes of medieval universities -, it may seem odd that one of the points perceived as most troublesome and innovative in the Liber was precisely the concept of being. Among the most quoted and commented passages of the De causis is indeed proposition IV, which states that being is the first of created things. Yet this first created thing, which represents the level closest to the First Cause, is called at the same time esse and intelligentia. But even apart from this double identification, what is to be understood here, in the strict sense, by esse? The assonance between the lemma of prop. IV and the statement of Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite according to which ‘being’ is the first divine participation granted to creatures, helped to increase the fortune of the lemma, but also conditioned, at least in part, its interpretation by Scholastic masters. As an analysis of the Latin manuscript tradition of the De causis and its commentaries shows, Latin interpreters hesitate to attribute to the esse mentioned in the Liber an existential value or an essential meaning; however, this hesitation or oscillation may in fact be rooted in a stratification already present in the Liber itself, both because of the peculiar nature of the first created thing and because of the difficulty of translating the Arabic lexicon into Latin.
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DOI 10.1484/j.quaestio.5.128400
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