Nicolaus (Drukken) de Dacia

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by Niels Jørgen Green-Pedersen

Nicolaus (Drukken) de Dacia was a Danish master from the University of Paris, ca. 1340–1345. He was the author of a commentary on Aristotle’s Prior Analytics and of a treatise on supposition (the reference which the terms have in propositions). His works reflect parts of the debate about William of Ockham and nominalism in Paris in the period, and they give valuable information about the doctrine of the syllogism and of consequences.

Biography

Nicholas Drukken was licensed as a Master of Arts of the English–German Nation at the University of Paris on 15 May 1340, and hic inceptio took place in January 1341. He was elected proctor (procurator) of his nation in 1342, 1343 (twice), 1344, and 1345; on 23 January 1344 he was elected rector of the University. In September–October 1341 Nicholas was among the masters of his nation who passed an ordinatio against the supporters of William of Ockham. He disappears from the documents of the University of Paris after May 1345. In 1342 he received a canonry in Aachen, and later he received canonries in Cologne, Ribe (Denmark), and Worms. In 1355 he was made treasurer in Worms. In 1352 he was granted papal permission not to reside in the places where his ecclesiastical benefices belonged, in order that he could stay “in a place where a university is active” (studium generale vigeat). In 1355 cardinal Petrus de Croso of Auxerre called him: “... a master of arts whom I know well and a daily household-member.” Since the cardinal was provisor of the Sorbonne, this phrase may indicate that Nicholas was a member of the Sorbonne in 1355. It is therefore possible to assume that Nicholas stayed in (or returned to) Paris also after the period when documents of the university mention him. If this is true he probably studied theology. Documents to the papal court from June 1357 inform us that Nicholas was dead by then.

1. Quaestiones supra Librum Priorum

a commentary on Aristotle’s Prior Analytics)

Incipit

Circa Librum Priorum omissa recommendatione, quia lectura est cursoria, quaeritur utrum syllogismus sit possibilis.

Explicit

... quia casu posito praemissae essent verae et conclusio falsa. Et sic dicendum ad secundam rationem etc.

Size

230 pages.

Edition

GREEN-PEDERSEN, N.J. 1997: Nicolai de Dacia Opera, CPhD 12, Copenhagen, 1–232.

Date and place

One of the manuscripts is dated 1342. Since the work is said to be based upon a cursory reading of Aristotle (normally the job of a bachelor), it is possible to assume that it was composed ca. 1338–1340.

Summary of contents

The work consists of 40 rather long questions in a form typical of the middle of the fourteenth century. The connection with Aristotle’s text mainly consists in the fact that the problems are discussed in the same order. Untypically, the commentary covers only book 1 of the Prior Analytics, though it seems to be complete.

Much space is given to the discussion of the conversion of propositions (both assertoric and modal ones), which is important for the reduction of the syllogisms of the second and the third figure to the evident moods of the first. Like his contemporaries, Nicholas discusses if there are four figures of the syllogism (Aristotle had only three); he has not reached a definite solution: the fourth figure is possible and in practice often used, but it is not necessary.

The authors of the period gave much thought to the definition of valid consequence. Nicholas states that in a valid consequence the antecedent signifies the significate of the consequent, so that whatever is signified by the consequent is also signified by the antecedent, but not the other way around. This is called the form of a consequence, according to Nicholas, and any consequence which does not fulfil this requirement is non-formal and invalid.

Nicholas is a staunch nominalist who time and again stresses that general or universal concepts, including e.g. the syllogistic figures and moods, conversion, and various rules or principles, do not have any kind of real existence. They are our ways of describing e.g. the correct procedure in logical operations; only concrete singulars have real existence.

Nicholas’s nominalistic conviction leads him to agree with William of Ockham about the understanding of the concept of simple supposition (the reference which the subject-term has in propositions like: “man is a species”). He does not mention Ockham’s name, but he attacks Walter Burley, one of Ockham’s opponents, by name in this connection.

Sources and literary models

In spite of the fact that Nicholas signed an ordinatio against the supporters of Ockham, it is evident that Nicholas was well-acquainted with Ockham’s Summa Logicae and probably had it at hand when he composed his commentary. Several long and very close parallels, some of them almost summaries of Ockham’s text, occur in the commentary. Nicholas does not always agree completely with Ockham, but there is no direct criticism of Ockham anywhere, rather corrections of a kind which may be said to attempt a further development of Ockham’s thought. In contrast it seems difficult, if not impossible, to find convincing parallels with Jean Buridan, a great contemporary Parisian author, who expressed views standing close to those of Ockham.

2. Tractatus de Suppositionibus

(a treatise on suppositions)

Incipit

Suppositio logicalis non est aliud quam subiectum vel praedicatum vel aliqua illorum pars in propositione supponens ...

Explicit

Et de brevi abbreviatione suppositionum et regularum earundem cum correctione vitii meliorum haec dicta sint.

Size

8 pages

Edition

EBBESEN, S. 1997: Nicolai de Dacia Opera, CPhD 12, Copenhagen, 233–43.

Date and place

This treatise must be contemporary with the commentary.

Summary of contents

The discussions in this treatise are highly similar to those of the corresponding question (no. 33) in the commentary. There is no direct criticism of Walter Burley, however, and the treatise may be said to stand somewhat closer to Ockham than the commentary, generally speaking.

Medieval reception and transmission

The commentary is preserved in two manuscripts, both of Parisian origin. One is found in Erfurt today, but its history is unknown. The other was written by Étienne Gaudet (d. ca. 1390) who left it to the Sorbonne. This manuscript omits some of the questions and has the character of a private note book. The treatise is found on a leaf inserted in front of a manuscript now kept in Erfurt.

Bibliography

  • COURTENAY, W.J. & TACHAU, K.H. 1982: “Ockham, Ockhamists and the English–German Nation at Paris, 1339–1341,” History of the Universities 2, Oxford, 53–96 (see 65–66 & 87–88).
  • DENIFLE, H. & CHATELAIN, E. 1894: Auctarium Chartularii Universitatis Parisiensis I, Paris (see 32–82).
  • DD ser. 3, vol. 1 (nos. 216–219); vol. 2 (nos. 143–144); vol. 3 (nos. 494–495; 570–571); vol. 4 (nos. 368–369); vol. 5 (nos. 41 & 46).
  • GREEN-PEDERSEN, N.J. 1981: “Nicolaus Drukken de Dacia’s Commentary on the Prior Analytics – with Special Regard to the Theory of Consequences,” Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin 37, 42–69.
  • GREEN-PEDERSEN, N.J. 1999: “Nicholas Drukken in Paris c. 1340,”.Medieval Analyses in Language and Cognition (Historisk-filosofiske Meddelelser 77. Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab/C.A. Reitzel), 541–49.
  • PINBORG, J. 1968: “Nicolaus de Dacia – En dansk logiker fra det XIV århundrede,” Catholica 25,5, Copenhagen, 238–39.
  • SCHÜCK, H. 1896: Bibliografiska och Litteraturhistoriska Anteckninger, Uppsala (see 129–32).