1902 Encyclopedia > Henry of Ghent

Henry of Ghent
Scholastic philosopher
(c. 1217 - 1293)

HENRY OF GHENT. The scholastic writer generally known by this name was born probably about 1217 in the district of Mude, near Ghent. His family name seems to have been Goethals, but he is always described as Henry of Mude or of Ghent. Little is known of the details of his life. He studied at Ghent and then at Cologne under Albertus Magnus. After obtaining the degree of doctor he returned to Ghent, and is said to have been the first to lecture publicly in that city on philosophy and theology. Like most of the great doctors of the age, he was drawn to Paris by the fame of the university there. In 1247 he is known to have taught at Paris; and he was distinguished by the title of doctor solennis. He took an active part in some of the many disputes between the orders and the secular priests, and warmly defended the latter. He died at Tournay, of which place he was archdeacon, in 1293. His most important works, Quodlibeta Theologica and Summa Theologies have been printed, the first in 1518, the second in 1520. Several other writings remain in MS. Henry of Ghent occupies a somewhat remarkable place in the his-tory of scholasticism. A contemporary of the great Aquinas, he opposed several of the dominant theories of the time, and united with the current Aristotelian doctrines a strong infusion of Platonism and mysticism. Only a few of the salient points of his doctrine can here be given ; the line of thinking by which they are reached is elaborate and com-plex. He distinguishes between knowledge of natural objects and the divine inspiration or intuition by which we cognize the being and existence of God. The first, accord-ing to Henry, throws no light upon the second. Individuals are not constituted by the material element in them, but by the fact of their independent existence, i.e., ulti-mately by the fact that they are created as separate objects. Universals must be distinguished according as they have reference to our minds or to the Divine mind. In the divine intelligence exist exemplars or types of the genera and species of natural objects. On this subject, however, Henry is far from clear; but it deserves notice that he defends Plato against the current Aristotelian criticism, and endeavours to show that the two views are in har-mony. In psychology, his view of the intimate union of soul and body is truly remarkable. The body he regards as forming part of the very substance of the soul; through this union the soul is more perfect and complete.

There is a monograph on Henry by Fr. Huet, Recherches historiques et critiques sur la vie, les ouvrages, et la doctrine de Henri de Oand, Paris, 1838. See also Werner, Heinrich von Gent als Repirásentant des Christlichen Platonismus im lStm Jahrh., Vienna, 1878; Stockl, Phil. d. Mittelatters, ii. 738-758; Jourdain, Phil, de St Thomas d'Aquin, ii. 29-46 ; Histoire littérairc de la France, xx. 144 sqq.; also Hauréau, Tennemann, and the general histories.

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