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The Late Medieval Attack on Analogical Thought:
Undoing Substantial Connection


"Many similarities, when closely examined, prove not to be explicable in terms of imitation. I would freely admit that these are the most interesting ones to observe, for they allow us to take a real step forward in the exciting search for causes. " 1 The similarities documented in this paper are of the order described by Marc Bloch in the statement just quoted. They are not explicable in terms of imitation, nor is it possible to establish a direct causal relation between, say, late-medieval political theory and poetic practise, or between scientific method and political theory. Still there is, I believe, a relation among the phenomena here described. Simultaneity in history is itself a relation, which we sometimes designate by the term "culture." That we speak of "a culture" implies some readiness to suspend the notion of strictly causal relations among various kinds of creative thought; indeed, the etymolo-

1Marc Bloch, "A Contribution Towards a Comparative History of European Societies," in Land and Work in Medieval Europe: Selected Papers (New York, 1969), p. 54.

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gy of "culture" itself carries the image of organic growth, of parallel growths in a common field. If the inquiry after causes is pursued far enough, that common field will be discovered in the economic basis of society, in the social development and changing class structure which it is the business of historians to describe. Here I want simply to notice certain similarities among various intellectual disciplines in the fourteenth century.

Chaucer's dream-vision The House of Fame first brought to my attention the related questions of poetic allegory and analogical thought. That curious work tells of Geffrey's eagle-borne journey through the cosmos to Fame's palace, where he observes the fickle goddess herself distributing judgements that will determine the good or ill fame of various petitioners. The judgement scene is less interesting than significant, for while it only repeats a point that has already been made many times in the poem (i.e., that tradition, or fame, is unreliable as a source of absolute truth), it does represent Chaucer's only original use of fully-developed personification allegory. Why had Chaucer made so little use of a literary mode that had dominated the European mind for nearly a thousand years? It was a mode, moreover, with which Chaucer was quite familiar. He translated two of the most famous and influential of all medieval allegories, the De Consolatione Philosophiae of Boethius, and part of the Roman de la Rose of Guillaume de Lorris. From the French Chaucer also translated a personification allegory of virtue and vice which appears in The Canterbury Tales as The Tale of Meiibee. And The Clerk's Tale of patient Griselda is interpreted by its teller according to the traditional method of literal, moral and doctrinal levels of meaning. These examples show that Chaucer knew very well the traditional uses of allegory as a creative mode and as an exegetical tool. Yet, for the greater part by far of his own work, he chose other modes of expression.2 It is the purpose of this paper to explore some uses of the allegorical mode, and to propose some reasons why that mode was not suited to Chaucer's poetic vision.

I. Allegory and Analogy.

Like its close relatives simile and metaphor, allegory is a form of analogy: it establishes a proportional relation among things otherwise unlike. It establishes an analogy, or proportion, between the relation of parts in a nar-

2In some of these works Chaucer uses allegorical personifications in a decorative way, or inserts allegorical episodes. Nonetheless, I am in basic agreement with C. S. Lewis' statement that "Nowhere in Chaucer do we find what can be called a radically allegorical poem." (The Allegory of Love [New York. 1936, 1960]. P. 166). In saying this I don't wish to commit myself to defending Lewis' position on everything else. The distinction between allegory and symbol, for example, is usually less clear-cut than Lewis suggests: and, as Rosamund Tuve points out, it is "born of nineteenth-century German critical theory, not medieval usage." (Allegorical Imagery: Some Medieval Books and their Posterity [Princeton, N.J., 1966], p. 3). Tuve's caveat doesn't invalidate the distinction, though it should be applied cautiously (as I hope I have done later on).

I do want to distinguish very sharply between allegory as a creative mode and allegorical exegesis of the Bible or the classics. I am not, in this paper, concerned with the latter. D. W. Robertson and B. Huppe have practised allegorical exegesis on Chaucer's work (see their Fruvt and Chaf: Studies in Chaucer's Allegories [Princeton, N.J., 1963]). Their method, in my opinion, is as gratuitous and arbitrary as that of the Gesta Romanorum.

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rative, and the relation of parts in another system. By virtue of that analogy, the narrative structure can be said to "correspond" to the other system. Because proportional analogy is the statement of a constant relation, we can-- in mathematics, at least--derive unknown terms from known; we can extract general truths from particular. This mathematical process is supposed to hold true in literature as well; indeed the didactic function of allegory would seem to depend on our performing that inductive operation.

These principles can be illustrated with some well-known literary texts. The earliest extant Christian allegory is the fourth-century epyllion of Prudentius, the Psychomachia. Here, narrative action--the battle of virtues and vices--represents the moral struggle in each individual soul, and also the perpetual cosmic struggle of good and evil in the universe. The narrative image of battle imposes a particular structure upon our moral experience: we infer that the function of Christian virtue is constantly to struggle against vice, and that life consists of a series of confrontations. Battle is to the field what moral conflict is to life itself. The image also suggests a particular structure of mind and behavior, for the reader learns specific manifestations of vice (Libido, Superbia, Luxuria) and the qualities of mind and character required to defeat them (Pudicitia, Mens Humilis, Sobrietas). Battle is to the field what moral struggle is to man's soul. So that the Psychomachia is educational in the strictest etymological sense: its purpose is to lead the reader forth from literal narrative to a higher or more abstract level of meaning.

Guillaume de Guilleville's Pelerinage de Ia Vie Humaine, the anonymous morality play Everyman, and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress have the same purpose as the Psychomachia, though they use a different central metaphor--that of journey or pilgrimage--to represent the way to virtue. Each of these Christian allegories establishes a proportional analogy between narrative structure and a metaphysical structure: the Christian scheme of salvation. In all four, the purpose of the narrative is to transcend itself by directing the reader's attention to theological truth: "God makes base things usher in divine" (Bunyan).

Nor is this process of transcendence limited to religious allegory, for the system to which allegorical narrative "corresponds" may be any structure of ideas. In the Roman de la Rose of Guillaume de Lorris, the conceptual structures are social and psychological. The Narrator enters a garden which represents courtly society: Oiseuse lets him in, just as leisure permits a man to enter such society. Within he meets figures representing different qualities of the aristocratic life-style: Cortoisie, Leesce, Richece. He chooses a love-object from among many attractive rosebuds in the garden. The Narrator's efforts to pluck his rose bring him into contact with figures who represent aspects of a lady's mind, (Pitié, Venus), of the Narrator's own mind (Reson, Amors) and of society (Male Boche, Jalosie). The interrelation of these personifications tells the story of a young man's initiation into courtly life and courtly love. In fact Guillaume's Roman is an instructional manual in the form of an allegorical romance. "Qui amer veut, or i entende," Guillaume exhorts his readers:

Qui dou songe la fin ora,
je vos di bien que il porra

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des jeus d'Amors asses aprende . . .
(II. 2065-67)

In its own terms, the Roman is didactic, though secular. Its hero is a wealthy, ambitious young "everyman," his conduct is prescribed by the God of Love, the salvation he hopes for is strictly earthly. And the world of the Roman is as rigidly defined as that of theological allegory, its virtues and vices as sharply delineated, its episodes requiring translation into social or psychological terms.

Historical time offers another possibility for allegorical meaning. The past may be thought of as an abstract system with a particular structure. In George Orwell's fable Animal Farm, the animals' rebellion parodies the Russian Revolution of 1917, the relation between the pigs Napoleon and Snowball resembles Stalin's persecution of Trotsky, and Napoleon's policies for managing the farm remind us of Stalin's increasingly revisionist rapprochement with the capitalist world. As with other kinds of allegory, we have to recognize in the narrative the structure of an analogous system. Or epistemology may provide the system, as it does in Plato's allegory of the Cave (Republic, VII, 51 4A), in which a man's progress from darkness to full sunlight represents the movement of the mind from ignorance to enlightenment. In body-allegory such as Spenser's House of Alma (Faerie Queene, II, ix) or Phineas Fletcher's The Purple Island, the system is the structure of the human body. So that the allegorical narrative may refer to a concrete or an abstract structure, its meaning tnay be social, historical, psychological, philosophical or theological. Only the method is constant: it requires the reader to bear in mind a structure different from that of the narrative but proportional to it, and to interpret the narrative in terms of that other system.3

In a general way, all literature must be read inductively, insofar as it represents any larger truth beyond itself. In this sense, all literature might be considered �állos a�goria: other-speaking. But there is a crucial difference between allegory and other literary modes, and that is the nature of the "other" it implies. Non-allegorical literature usually refers the reader back to the world he inhabits, so that the proportion it establishes is between two known systems. The world beyond the narrative can be verified. Most allegories, however (excepting, of course, biological and historical), refer us to a realm of abstract moral or religious ideas which are not only unknown but unknowable. Its "truth" (if it refers us to an abstract system) is unverifiable. Non-allegorical literature shows us proud persons who are very like other proud persons whom we can actually meet, or it chronicles a love affair such as we can experience if we wish; it describes the society in which we live, or one which we know others to have inhabited. But allegory shows

3Many "allegories" are less consistently or continuously allegorical than those I have mentioned, e.g., Piers Plowman and Tine Faerie Queene. Other works (such as Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae, Pearl, and Thomas Usk's Testament of Love) establish an allegorical situation which frames a straightforward instructional dialogue. Such mixture of modes does not invalidate a discussion of allegory in its purer forms--or, more accurately, of allegory in those works wherein the mode is more rigorously sustained.

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us Pride herself, whom we will never meet, or a psyche whose parts walk before us, or a heavenly city which we will never physically see.

In fact, the allegory of abstraction can produce no new knowledge. Its method is circular, for the general truth to which allegory claims to lead must first be accepted if the narrative is to have any didactic effect. Prudentius' battle is the image of what Christian doctrine teaches about virtue, and Prudentius' reader must already believe that doctrine if he is to benefit morally from the poem. Plato's allegory of the cave is used only when the epistemological system it represents has been carefully laid out in discursive argument: "Every feature in this parable," says Socrates, "is meant to fit our earlier analysis.." A materialist will find the parable no more convincing than the earlier analysis. The instructive value of Guillaume's garden depends on the reader accepting the aristocratic life-style it enshrines. When this is questioned--as it was by Jean de Meun, the continuator of Guillaume's unfinished work--then the action, symbols and iconography appropriate to Guillaume can no longer convince; that is why Jean substituted his own. In Animal Farm, Orwell's use of animal fable already reveals the author's political judgement, and the reader must have a grossly distorted notion of communism if he can accept the symbol of pigs for revolutionaries.

Allegory speaks, then, to the already convinced. It speaks to Christians that they may be saved, to wealthy men that they may succeed in love, to intellectuals that they may be philosopher kings. Far from persuading his audience to accept a particular conceptual structure, the allegorist must expect that that structure has already been accepted. Epistemologically, meaning precedes narrative in allegory. Meaning generates symbols and provides in advance the correct interpretation of those symbols. The rose of Guillaume's Roman is for this reason far easier to understand than the rose of Blake's lyric "The Sick Rose," which refers to no single correct system.

As a form of analogy, poetic allegory shares the fortunes of analogical thought. I want to suggest that analogy and allegory do express a way of perceiving reality, hut that they are not adequate to express all perceptions of reality. During the fourteenth century, scholars in fields as varied as physics and cosmology, political theory and logic, began to question received theories based on analogy. Such simultaneity, rooted in history and therefore far from coincidental, testifies to the emergence of new social needs which generated new ways of looking at man, the universe, and society. It is a cultural phenomenon which may help us to understand Chaucer's curious neglect of the allegorical mode.

II. Analogy and Science.

The theoretical basis for analogical science is what Mircea Eliade has called "archaic ontology." For archaic man,

neither the objects of the external world nor human acts. . . have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate ... in a reality that transcends them.4

4Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History (New York, 1954, 1959), p. 3.

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This transcendent reality provides models which the phenomenal world imitates: "for archaic man, reality is a function of the imitation of the celestial archetype." The world itself thus participates in a cosmic analogy with supraterrestrial reality. It is misleading to label such a world-view "primitive," for societies and individuals at an advanced stage of intellectual sophistication have held it.

Plato's theory of Forms provided the metaphysical basis for much medieval scientific speculation. Indeed, Plato's Timaeus was the only work of classical science (if such it can be called)5 that was known throughout the Middle Ages, for most of Aristotle's work was translated from Greek and Arabic only in the twelfth century. The premise of Timaeus is that "Our world must necessarily be a likeness of something" (29B)6 The world is framed in the likeness of a living creature (30C), which is "the unchanging Form, on-generated and indestructible" (5lE-52).

With the adaptation of Platonic theory to Christian doctrine, the Forms became Ideas in the divine mind (John Scotus Erigena, St. Anselm, Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon) or pre-existent effects in an infinite Intelligence (Aquinas' formulation). This provides several possible bases for analogy, among them cause and effect. The effect (the created world) both represents its cause (God) and strives to resemble or rejoin it; indeed the creature "is called a being only insofar as it imitates the First Being."7 The analogy between supraterrestrial "reality" and our own world becomes an analogy between God and the world. In the words of Aquinas' contemporary, St. Bonaventura:

All creatures of this sensible world . . . are shadows, echoes, and pictures, the traces, simulacra, and reflection of that First Principle. ... They are signs divinely bestowed which, I say, are exemplars or rather exemplifications set before our yet untrained minds, limited to sensible things, so that through the sensibles which they see they may be carried forward to the intelligibles which they do not see, as if by signs to the signified.8

Thus, the world itself is an allegory, and we the exegetes.

Some scientific implications of archaic ontology can be observed in Plato's cosmology, and in that of later theorists as well. Plato considered the universe

5The purpose of the Timaeus, like that of Plato's other dialogues, is to disengage our attention from the physical world in order to focus it upon the "true reality" of abstract Forms. Plato's anti-scientific bias has been discussed by G. F. M. de Ste-Croix, in Scientific Change, ed. A. C. Crombie (New York, 1963), pp. 83-84; by J. G. Crowther, The Social Relations of Science (London, 1941, 1967), p. 48; by Benjamin Farrington, Science and Politics in the Ancient World (London, 1939; New York, 1966), pp. 103-106, 134-35; and by Alban D. Winspear, The Genesis of Plato's Thought (New York, 1940, 1956), pp. 156-60. Timaeus was known to medieval scholars through the fourth-century translation and commentary of Chalcidius.

6All references are to Plato's Cosmology, trans. F. M. Cornford (London, 1937 and New York, nd.).

7 I Sent. 4, 2. Although Aquinas wrote no separate treatise on analogy, it is a recurrent topic in his writing. The loci are collected and analyzed in George P. Klubertanz, St. Thomas Aquinas on Analogy (Chicago, 1960).

8Saint Bonaventura, The Mind's Road to God, trans. George Boas (New York, 1953), Chapter II, section 11.

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a living creature composed of matter and form, body and soul, capable of "ceaseless and intelligent life for all time" (Timaeus, 36D-E). Each planet, Plato asserts, is also a creature endowed with a special kind of life; each has a material body and a soul which guides its motion and enables it to learn its appointed task (38E).

While Aristotle denied the theory of Forms--the mythic embodiment of archaic ontology--he did not exorcise every vestige of analogical cosmology from his own scientific speculation.9 The Platonic planetary souls appear in Aristotle, hardly altered, as a set of celestial intelligences. They are posited, of course, from premises different from Plato's, namely from Aristotle's concept of motion as the effect of a continually imparted cause. Since all that moves must be moved by some internal or external force, and since an effect must cease when its cause ceases to operate, then the natural and eternal movement of the celestial spheres must be caused by certain eternal and innate principles of motion, which are analogous in function to the human soul. So Aristotle urges us to think of the stars not as inanimate bodies, but rather "as enjoying life and action . . . similar to that of animals and plants" (De Caelo, 292A-B). He writes of the heaven that it must have, like any other living creature, an absolute directional orientation--above, below, right, left (De Caelo, 285A). And since each of the spheres will have its own "soul," the total number of such celestial intelligences will be fifty-five (Metaphysica, l07A).

Although the theory of celestial intelligences became a central doctrine in Hellenic, Arabic and scholastic cosmology, it was attacked during the fourteenth century by several scholars, and most incisively in the work of Jean Buridan (died c. 1358) and his pupil Nicole Oresme (1320-1382).

Buridan, logician and rector of the University of Paris, was perhaps the most influential of fourteenth-century scientists. His ideas were brought by his pupils to the new universities of central Europe; in western Europe they were known to Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo. Buridan refused to consider the planets as animate creatures. He saw them as objects merely and accounted for their motion by the same principle with which he explained projectile motion. In contrast to Aristotle, Buridan developed a theory of impetus:10 motion need not be continually imparted to the moved object by way of the medium (air or water), but once imparted will simply continue until it is overcome by resistance. Thus, the planets, like any moving thing, need not be moved by God or by any celestial intelligence:

Since the creation of the world, God has moved the heavens with movements identical to those with which they move at present; he imprinted in them forces by which they continue to be uniformly moved.

9Aristotle's debt to Plato is acknowledged by most scholars, though its exact extent is debated. See, for example, A. F. Taylor, Aristotle (London, 1943), pp. 44-45: G. E. L. Owen. "The Platonism of Aristotle," in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. LI (1965): Werner Jaeger, Aristotle (Oxford, 1923).

10 The "impetus" theory was not original with Buridan, but had been proposed as early as the sixth century by John Philoponus. a Greek commentator of Aristotle. Philoponus' theory was transmitted to European scholars through the work of Arabic Aristotelians.

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These forces, meeting no contrary resistance, are never destroyed or weakened.. . . It is not necessary to assume the existence of intelligences which move the celestial bodies. . . . Moreover it is not necessary that God move them continually, except through that general influence by which we say that he operates in all that is.11

Following Buridan's theory, Oresme notes in his own vernacular commentary on Aristotle's De Caelo that

excepting violent interference, it is similar to what happens when a man has made a watch and allows it to work and be moved by itself. In this way God allows the heavens to be moved continually according to the relation of motive force to resistance, and according to the established order.12

The image is startling, anticipating as it does the mechanistic world-view of later centuries; with it we have moved from analogy to simile. Oresme also anticipated Renaissance astronomers in arguing that the earth moves about the sun, rather than the reverse.13 In addition, he denied Aristotle's proposition that the universe is a being with an innate principle of movement, or soul. As corollary, he adds that the absolute universal left, right, up and down posited by Aristotle are only relational concepts existing "par similitude" (sec. 86D)--clearly, for Oresme, an unsatisfactory basis for scientific hypothesis.

Another consequence of analogical speculation was the scholastic concept of natural place which, as Chaucer's Eagle remarks,

ys knowen kouth
Of every philosophres mouth,
As Aristotle and daun Platon,
And other clerkys many oon.
(House of Fame, Il. 757-760)

Plato's theory of natural place derives from the analogy between this and the supraterrestrial order: physical processes imitate the prototypical movement of like to like by which the four elements--earth, air, fire, water--divided themselves into four main masses (Timaeus, 53 A-B). Vision (45 B-C), digestion (81D) and the weight of all natural objects (62C-63E) are also explained by "the travelling of each kind towards its kindred" (63E).

Aristotle's theory of weight does not, of course, rely on the existence of a world of archetypal Forms. It does retain some aspects of analogy in assuming, first, the existence of elemental spheres which surround the earth and, second, the analogical principle of like to like. To its proper sphere each

11The excerpt, from Buridan's Questiones on Aristotle's Physics, is translated from the French version given in Pierre Duhem, Etudes sur Leonardo de Vinci (Paris, 1906), vol. III, p. 52. See also Marshall Clagett, ed., The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison, 1959), pp. 536. 561.

12Le Livre du Ciel et du Monde, ed. Albert D. Menut and Alexander J. Denomy (Toronto, 1943), 7lE.

13Oresme refused to commit himself to this position, though, concluding his demonstration with an assertion of faith in the doctrinal teaching that "Deus enim firmavit orbem terrae, qui non commovetur," ibid., 144B.

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thing will naturally, by virtue of its innate principle of motion, attempt to go: "For a single clod moves to the same place as the whole mass of earth, and a spark to the same place as the whole mass of fire" (De Caelo, 276A). Weight and lightness, then, were intrinsic qualities or, rather, intrinsic relations between physical objects and their primal mass. This notion was attacked by Buridan, among others, on the grounds of observation.14 He argued that if place is the cause of upward or downward motion, then the attractive force must be greater when the object is nearer its natural place; this, however, is contradicted by experience, for if two stones are dropped from different heights, the one that was higher has a greater velocity than the other when both are a foot from the ground. Moreover, one can lift a stone near the earth as easily as a stone in a tower, which disproves the theory that heaviness Increases with closeness to "natural place." Buridan's pupil Albert of Saxony (13 16-1390), rector of the University of Vienna and Bishop of Halberstadt, rejected the Aristotelian hypothesis for similar reasons.

Buridan's critique of analogical cosmology extended to the rhetorical consequences of that cosmology, and he objected strongly to Aristotle's use of anthropomorphic metaphor. In writing, for example, of celestial movement, Aristotle had used such terms as "fatigue" and "labor." Buridan writes:

It must be remarked briefly that these words fatigue, perturbation, labor and difficulty are only synonyms. It is necessary to see whether they are appropriately given, and why they are given. It seems to me that fatigue and labor are not appropriately attributed to purely passive virtues. ... Moreover it seems to me that these words cannot adequately describe inanimate things. It would be inaccurate to call a stone tired or perturbed because you had dragged it along for some time. And likewise if we say that the earth is disturbed when it is not as fertile as usual, this is Inaccurate; it is only a figurative locution, that is, it assumes a similarity to us, who do become perturbed when we cannot function as well as usual."

For the most advanced late-medieval scientists, then, analogy was no longer an accurate reflection of reality. It could no longer serve as the basis for logical argument, or as a stylistic feature of scientific discourse.

III. Analogy and Political Theory.

Like all myth, the analogical world-view is profoundly a social phenomenon. Its social application--or, more accurately, its social genesis--makes the myth of another world useful to societies as different as the pre-literate tribes described by Mircea Eliade, imperialist Athens of the fifth century B.C., and urbanized late-medieval Europe. It is a perennially useful myth, for its primary function is social cohesion.

In a classless society such as the tribe, myth is political theory, for "political" life is not separated from the general life of the group: every activity is

14Buridan's arguments are stated in his Questions. . . on the Heavens and the World, book II, 9. 12. The relevant excerpt appears in Clagett, pp. 557-62.

15From Johannis Buridani Quaestiones super libris quattuor de Caelo et Mundo, ed. Ernest A. Moody (Cambridge, Mass., 1942), lib. II, q. 1.

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"political" in conducing to the survival and well-being of the tribe. To plant, cultivate and harvest, to hunt, to raise children, make tools and wage war are necessary to the tribe as a whole (even though these activities are performed by one or another segment of the tribe). But these activities are not, after all, instinctive, as they are with animals; were individuals left to their instincts the social group could disintegrate. Even in a classless and so-called "primitive" society, then, some form of social control is required. It appears as a body of myth which provides the rationale for all socially necessary activities, so that such activities become rituals modelled on a divine archetype.

In a class-structured society, myth also serves as a means of social control. But since the interests of a ruling class nearly always oppose those of the ruled, myth can no longer represent the needs of society as a whole. It can represent only the needs of a particular class.

An especially versatile myth, hence an especially durable one, is that of the "body politic": the image of society as an organic creature with a precise and necessary formal structure. The treatment of this analogy in late-medieval political theory constitutes an important aspect of the general critique of analogical thought.

The versatility of the organic analogy is demonstrated in its use by Plato to prove the necessary dominance of an aristocracy, by Aristotle to support the claims of the upper middle class, and by St. Paul to impose unity upon the scattered communities of the early Christian Church.16 The image, along with several other analogies, came into its own again with the revival of political theory that attended the papal controversies of the late-eleventh through thirteenth centuries. It made effective propaganda for the proponents of papal power in their struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor and other kings.17 By far the most detailed statement of the organic analogy is found in the Policraticus (1155) of John of Salisbury. Supporting the superiority of ecclesiastical power (sacerdotium) over state power (regnum), John compares each member of the body politic to a physical counterpart. The prince is head, the senate heart, judges and provincial governors eyes, ears and tongue, financial officers digestive organs, soldiers hands, and peasants feet "which always cleave to the soil." As for the Church:

Those things which establish and implant in us the practise of religion, and transmit to us the worship of God ... fill the place of the soul in the body of the commonwealth. And therefore those who preside over the practise of religion should be looked up to and venerated as the soul of the body.18

16Plato, Republic, 427C-445B; Aristotle, Politics, 1, 5 and elsewhere; Roman, 12:5, I Cor. 12:12 and elsewhere. In all three cases the function of the image remains constant--to promote a particular social order--although its content changes. See also J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, "The Via Regia of the Carolingian Age," in Trends in Medieval Political Thought, ed. Beryl Smalley (Oxford, 1965).

17A discussion of the theoretical basis of papalist analogies, and an exhaustive list of references, are found in the text and notes of Otto Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Ages, trans. F. W. Maitland (Cambridge, 1900, 1958).

18The Statesman's Book of John of Salisbury . . ., trans. John Dickinson (New York, 1927, 1963), book V, chapter 2.

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Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) makes constant use of organic analogy whether discussing the structure of the Church itself, or its relation to the state: "In the Church the Pope holds the place of the head and the major prelates hold the place of the principal limbs"; "Mankind is considered like one body, which is called the mystic body, whose head is Christ both as to soul and as to body." In relation to the state, however, the Pope becomes not head but soul, so that

Secular power is subject to the spiritual power as the body is subject to the soul, and therefore it is not a usurpation of authority if the spiritual prelate interferes in temporal things. . . .19

Elsewhere Aquinas constructs multiple analogies between macrocosm and microcosm, between cosmic, social, physical and psychological orders: as God is to the universe, so the ruler is to society, the soul is to the body, and reason is to the soul.20

Indeed, analogy was the conceptual stock-in-trade of the supporters of papal power, and their repertoire, though limited, was varied. Besides the organic analogy, they used the allegory of the sun and moon, according to which papal and royal power correspond to the greater and lesser luminaries, the former conferring power upon the latter. There were the Biblical examples of Samuel and Saul. Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, all of them hierarchal pairs demonstrating the superiority of priestly to royal power. The allegory of the two swords, a particular favorite, was taken from Luke 22:38, where Jesus declares the two swords to be "enough, not too much," in the hands of his disciples. In 1302 it appeared in the famous bull "Unam Sanctam" of Boniface VIII, which proclaimed the necessity to salvation for every creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff. The bull is a high point, as it were, in the history of papal ambition, and is virtually a compendium in brief of analogical arguments for papal power. Expounding the two swords, it concludes:

Both swords, spiritual and material, therefore, are in the power of the Church; the one, indeed, to be wielded for the church, the other by the church: the one by the hand of the priest, the other by the hand of kings and knights, hut at the will and sufferance of the priest. One sword, moreover, ought to be under the other, and the temporal authority to be subjected to the spiritual.21

The medieval conflict between church and state was one between two ruling classes; a conflict, as Ernest Barker called it, between "two governments of a single society."22 Each aristocracy, the lay and the ecclesiastical, had its

19The three quotations are from Aquinas' commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Roman, (12:2) and the Summa Theologica (Ill, 8, 1 and II, 60, 6). All are cited in The Political ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas, ed. Dino Bigongiari (New York, 1953, 1965), pp. xxxiv-xxxv.

20"De Regimine Principium, i, i and i, ii, trans. J.G. Dawson, in Aquinas: Selected Political Writings, ed. A. P. D'Entr�ves (Oxford, 1959).

21"The Bull Unam Sanctam,' " in Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, trans. and ed. Ernest J. Henderson (London, 1910), pp. 435-37.

22Ernest Barker, in Social and Political Ideas of the Middle Ages, ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw (London, 1923, 1967), p. 15.

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king, owned land, levied taxes, raised armies and waged war, made and executed laws and held trials in its own courts of law. We should not expect, therefore, to find among the opponents of papal power a thorough rejection of the epistemological bases of analogical thought, for the propagandists of royal authority could scarcely afford to dispense with every abstract justification of power. Their aim was not to destroy the metaphysical basis of authority, but simply to transfer it from pope to king. Moreover, the imperialists were not as homogeneous a group as their opponents: their positions ranged from the simple limitation of papal power, or the exclusion of ecclesiastics from temporal power, to the complete subjection of church to state. Rather than systematic destruction of the basic principles, then, what we find is an eclectic process of rejection and readjustment. Many of the papalists' key arguments are demolished on logical grounds; some are set aside as inconsistent with experience or observation; still others are only re-interpreted. For their own arguments, the secular theorists usually avoided analogy as a logical premise, though they might refer to it for purposes of illustrative comparison. Analogy would survive, of course, in political theory, and the myth of the body politic would maintain some relevance to the problem of social control: the tradition continues in the work of the fifteenth-century jurist Sir John Fortescue, in Tudor homilies, in Hobbes's Leviathan, and even in some political writing of our own time.23 But analogy would survive in a very diminished way, unable in the long run to withstand the impact of bourgeois pragmatism whose first efforts can be discerned in the work of the political theorists cited below.

Master of Theology at the University of Paris and a prominent controversialist on behalf of Philippe le Bel, Jean Quidort (also known as Jean de Paris, 1241-1306) presents a very thorough case against papalist analogical theories. The bulk of his tract De Potestate Regia et Papali24 demonstrates the different and mutually exclusive natures of regnum and sacerdotium. This amounts to a long series of very careful distinctions between the two with respect to origin, purpose and actual function. The concept of unity, on which the papalists depended so heavily, is thus attacked, as it would be again and again during this period by the partisans of royal power. Toward the end of his work, Jean adduces and refutes forty-two specific papalist positions, including the old allegorical favorites drawn from Scripture. Among them is the allegory of sun and moon, and Jean begins by stating his own principles of allegorical exegesis of Scripture:

The [papal] position is mystical ("mystica"). But mystical theology, according to Dionysius, cannot be argued unless it can be proved from another part of Scripture, because mystical theology is no valid argument.
(Cap. XIV)

23"History, after all, is the memory of a nation. Just as memory enables the individual to learn, ... so history is the means by which a nation establishes its sense of identity and purpose." John Kennedy, "On History," foreword to The American Heritage... History of the United States (New York, 1963).

24Edited by Jean Leclerq, Jean de Paris et l'Eccl�siologie du XIIIe Siecle (Paris, 1942).

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Jean then proceeds to demonstrate the arbitrariness of allegorical exegesis by mentioning several other interpretations, from the patristic tradition, of the same parable. He points out further that the moon has its powers ultimately from God, and concludes that what the prince receives from the Pope is information about faith, while his power he receives immediately from God. Jean refutes with Aristotle's help the papalist analogical position that corporalia are ruled by spiritualia. If, as Aristotle claims, the function of the state is to help its members live a virtuous and happy life, then the state has a moral and spiritual function as well as a physical one; it cannot be relegated to mere corporalia (Cap. XVII). The analogy of head and body is adjusted but not rejected out of hand: Christ is true head of the mystical body of the Church, the Roman church is head of all other instituted churches, and the king is head of his kingdom. As for the two swords, Jean repeats his strictures on allegorical exegesis. The papal argument is merely an allegorical interpretation ("quaedam adaptatio allegorica"), and even Augustine does not accept allegory ("allegoria") without some other manifest authority (Cap. XVIII).

Dante Alighieri argues in his short treatise De Monarchia25 (c. 1310) for a single universal and temporal government--a world-empire. It is not for Dante to reject analogical argument out of hand; his thesis that mankind should be ruled by a single authority resorts to analogy with the household and the cosmos (I, 5 and 9). Nonetheless, Dante does not hesitate systematic;tllv to refute the analogical arguments with which the papacy had supported its claims to temporal power. This is done in Book III of the treatise, which examines the question whether the temporal ruler holds power directly from God, or indirectly through the Pope's mediation.

The analogy of sun and moon is rejected on both logical and theological grounds, for it contaitis both logical fallacies and mistaken appeals to "mystic interpretation." First, if the two luminaries represent types of government, God could not have created government--an accidental property of human existence and the remedy to sin--before he had created human life itself. Further, "this falsehood can also be destroyed by using the gentler method of exposing a material fallacy, and instead of calling the opponent an out-and-out liar, we can make a distinction which he overlooked." That distinction is between the being of the moon, and its power, and its functioning; for the moon in its being in no way depends on the sun. The final and most trenchant criticism is this:

Lastly, there is a formal fallacy in their argument, for the predicate of the conclusion is not identical with that of the major premise, as it should be. . . . In the major premise it is light that the moon receives, and in the conclusion it is authority, which are two quite different things, both as to their substance and their meaning, as I have explained.

(III, 4)

It is, of course, precisely the purpose of allegory to bring together "two quite different things," and we may note that for his own great work, Dante

25All quotations are from On World-Government, trans. Herbert W. Schneider (New York. 2nd ed. rev. 1957).

[p. 50]

found a poetic mode which operates quite differently from ordinary allegory.26

Dante proceeds to treat, in similar terms, several other analogies, most of them drawn from the Bible: Levi and Judah, Samuel and Saul, the gold and incense offered to Christ, the power of binding and loosing. "I could simply," notes Dante, "deny their symbolism, and with equal reason" (III, 5). He does not, however, confine himself to simple denial but rejects these allegories on various grounds, pointing out formal fallacies and theological errors. The theory of two swords is treated as a mistaken reading which can only be corrected by close analysis of the literary context, which Dante provides at some length (III, 9); as with Jean, the principle of allegorical exegesis of Scripture is given rational limits but its validity is not finally denied.

Although De Monarchia was ordered burnt in 1329 and was placed on the Index in 1554, Dante's dream of a world-empire was still-born, a historical anomaly in its own time and destined to be without significant influence. Quite different was the role of the Defensor Pacis (1324) of Marsilius of Padua (Marsiglio dei Mainardini), the impact of which "reverberated during the following centuries both from hearsay descriptions of its conclusions and from actual reading of it."27 It seems at first that Marsilius can turn analogy to his own purpose when, imitating Aristotle, he compares the state to a living creature, (1, ii, 3 and I, xvii, 8). Yet such comparisons evidently make Marsilius uncomfortable, opportunistic as they are: "But let us omit these points," he remarks, "since they pertain rather to natural science" (I, xvii, 8).28 And shortly we find him refuting the very analogy of body politic which he has just used: for while the king may be compared to the human heart with respect to importance, he differs from it in other obvious ways which invalidate the analogy as a logical premise (I, xviii, 2-3).

Like Dante, Marsilius employs several kinds of argument against the traditional papalist analogies. He refutes, with remarkable amplitude, analogies (what he calls "quasi-political arguments") drawn from Scripture and from philosophy. With regard to the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, Marsilius clearly sets out his own critical assumptions and states the limits of the method:

Those authorities of the sacred Canon or Scripture which do not need a mystical exposition, we shall follow entirely in their manifest literal sense; but with regard to those which do need mystical exposition, we

26That mode is figural representation. Its development and its use in The Divine Comedy are studied by Erich Auerbach in "Figura," pp. 11-76, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (New York. 1959). Figura is of course allegorical in the very widest sense, but Auerbach distinguishes it from allegory "by the historicity both of the sign and what it signifies." The characters in the Comedy are not personified abstractions, they do not simply represent "an attribute, virtue, capacity, power or historical institution"; they are actual historical figures who have "become the truth"--figures whose historical reality is itself representative.

27Alan Gewirth in his "Introduction" to Marsilius of Padua, The Defender of Peace (New York, 1956, 1967), vol. II, p. xix. A more detailed discussion of Marsilius' influence is found in vol. 1, chapter VIII. All quotations are from Gewirth's translation.

28Gewirth draws a very sharp distinction between the papalist organic analogy, and Marsilius' use of biological simile: vol. I, pp. 51-52, 89-90, 96-97.

[p. 51]

shall adhere to the more probable views of the saints. Those views which the saints have uttered by their own authority, apart from Scripture, and which are in harmony with the Scripture or canon, I shall accept; those which are not in harmony I shall respectfully reject, but only by the authority of Scripture, on which I shall always rely.

(II, xxviii, 1)

Thus the papal interpretation of the two swords is rejected as inconsistent with Christ's other teachings (II, xxviii, 24). But Marsilius can in this case only combat allegory with allegory. For the papal analogy he substitutes another, more congenial, reading--St. Ambrose's--that the two swords are really the Old and New Testaments (ibid.).

More scrupulous in method is Marsilius' treatment of claims to power based on philosophical arguments, and these he combats with the weapons of experience, dialectics, and logic. The principle of unity of rule was often used by the papalists to support their claim that, just as there is one ruler of the cosmos, so must there be only one supreme ruler (the Pope) of the Church or of any social group. Marsilius shoots this down with the concise observation that

Even if we grant the analogy with regard to the similarity or proportion which it initially assumes, yet to the added assertion, that the primary ruler or government is one, we can reply that this is true by human establishment, and not by any ordainment or decree made immediately by God or divine law.

(II, xxviii, 14)

Thus, the formal similarity is granted but the causal nexus is denied, and with it the whole coercive intention of the analogy.

Finally. Marsilius treats the central papal argument that "as the body is to the soul, so is the ruler of the body to the ruler of the soul." Again it will be futile to look for an examination of the epistemological basis of such an argument, but Marsilius does provide a very careful analysis of the argument itself. As Jean had done, he first replaces Augustinian dualism with the Aristotelian notion of soul as the body's principle of motion, change and appetite. In this way, soul and body are not subject to two separate types of government, but temporal government itself may properly be said to concern itself with the soul. The argument is rejected next on the evidence of simple experience and observation:

For between the soul and the body, and again between the rational and the irrational faculties, there are many differences which do not exist between those persons who are teachers or caretakers of the one and those who are teachers or caretakers of the other. For the rational faculty, in the image of the Trinity, composes syllogisms, while the irrational does not; but there is no such difference between the teachers or caretakers of these respective faculties; and so on with the rest.

(II, xxx, I)

If experts in more perfect disciplines were to exercise temporal power over experts in less perfect disciplines, then mathematicians would rule over phy-

[p. 52]

sicians, "and very many would be the manifest evils which would follow from this" (ibid.). The argument is extended into dialectic, for the judge of spiritual things judges differently than does the judge of temporal matters, and the papal claim to universal judgement "is fallacious because of the equivocal use of the word �judge'."

On logical grounds too the soul / body analogy is refuted:

And when it is assumed in the minor premise that the body is subordinate to the soul ... then, even if we unqualifiedly grant that the body is subordinate with respect to perfection, it does not follow that the body is subordinate with respect to jurisdiction: for to argue in this way would he to draw an invalid inference.


Marsilius provides many more arguments to the same effect, for this and other papalist analogies; but they do not, I think, add a great deal more to our understanding of his method than those already cited.

Unlike Marsilius, William of Ockham treats analogy with terse impatience. True to the principle of "Ockham's razor," he provides the minimum sufficient refutation, usually the tellingly simple refutation from experience. The papal arguments are taken up in Ockham's tract Octo Quaestiones de Potestate Papae (c. 1340)29 Biblical exegesis is discussed in terms similar to those of Jean Quidort: "sensus mysticus"--in this case of the two swords--is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, and is acceptable only when supported by other Scriptural authority (Q. II, cap. xiii). Typical "comparationes" of papal to imperial power (e.g., father / son, teacher / pupil, gold / lead, sun / moon) are summarily dismissed on the ground that the emperor bears no such relation to any man on the basis of physical power, but only of spiritual power, in which he is admittedly subject to the Pope (II, xiv). The important analogy to soul and body is also treated with disappointing brevity: Ockham simply asserts that in actual fact the rational or spiritual power does not always control the physical: there are several physical operations not under rational control (I, xiv). It is not, therefore, in his political works that Ockham investigates the fundamental assumptions of analogical thought. That task is accomplished in his logic, to which we must now turn.

IV. Analogy and Experience.

During the early fourteenth century, advances in scientific theory had furnished the means of criticizing traditional cosmology, and political necessity had been the motive for the revision of traditional political theory. Neither among the scientists nor among the political theorists have we found any systematic critique of the general epistemological basis of analogy. The work of the English Franciscan William of Ockham (1290-1349) provides that critique. Ockham's importance in the history of philosophy has never been disputed, though the nature of his contribution has been variously estimated. Though in his own day Ockham was known by the titles "Invincible Doctor" and "Venerable Inceptor," his reputation had degenerated by

29Ed. 3. G. Sikes, in Guillelmi de Ockham Opera Politico (Manchester, 1940), vol. 1.

[p. 53]

the seventeenth century to that of a sophistical malcontent. In Fuller's Worthies, the life of Ockham ends with these words:

For his soul of opposition it will serve to close his epitaph, what was made on a great paradox-monger, possessed with a like contradicting spirit:

Sed iam est mortuus, ut apparet,
Quod si viveret, id negaret.

Despite Dr. Fuller's sniping, the nominalist30 attack on traditional thought is more than an exercise in logic. It offers, and comes from, a radically new approach to reality, an approach which has its parallel in the other disciplines already discussed, and in literature as well.

We have already documented the analogical basis of neo-Platonic Christian thought. As Eliade points out, the tribal society sees its planting, harvesting and love-making as versions of the archetypal creation. In a more sophisticated form of the same impulse, the person who experiences limitations on his freedom may construct a universal scheme of predestination in order to account for the human condition as he perceives it. For Ockham, such an effort to organize experience in abstract patterns would be logically impermissible (however necessary it might be emotionally). From the nominalist point of view, the condition of being free or unfree, for example, corresponds to no actual entity: "freedom" or "slavery." "Freedom," like "whiteness," "beauty," "justice" or "mankind" is a "universal." It is not a real thing in any sense; it has no objective existence outside the mind and no psychological existence in the mind. It is not the same thing as an idea, for an idea is the image of something, while the universal is not the image of any thing. The universal

has only a logical being in the soul and is a sort of fiction existing in the logical realm.... In the same way, propositions, syllogisms, and such other things as philosophy treats, have no psychological being, but have a logical being only: so their being is their being understood.31

Another form of universal is the relation-concept: similarity, difference, paternity, causality, etc. These relation-concepts also have no being, but are only an act of the intellect. Like other universals, the relation-concept is a kind of shorthand, a convenient way of expressing several separate perceptions at once. We may say that an egg is white, and we may say that paper is

30It is not agreed by Ockham scholars whether the philosopher ought to be called nominalist, conceptualist or terminist; see. e.g., M. C. Menges, The Concept of Univocity ... (St. Bonaventure, N.Y., 1952), and P. Boehner, "The Realistic Conceptualism of William Ockham," Traditio, IV (1946) and reprinted in Collected Articles on Ockham (St. Bonaventure, 1958). However, Tornay's defense of the term nominalist seems valid to me: Stephen Chak Tornay, Ockham: Studies and Selections (LaSalle, Pa., 1938), pp. 1-28.

31Sent. I, dist. 2, q. 8f, in Tornay, p. 132. Ockham's notion of the universal evolved over a period of several years, though this development does not seem to have entailed any major alteration in his thought. The development of Ockham's universals theory is discussed in P. Boehner, Ockham, Philosophical Writings (London, 1957), p. xxix and in Armand A. Maurer, Medieval Philosophy (New York, 1969), p. 281.

[p. 54]

white; or we may say, using a relational concept, that the egg is similar in color to paper:

Just so, the concept "every" is relational in the soul. And although without this concept every man is capable of laughter, still we can only express this through a relational concept.32

So, then, many abstract concepts which we use for the sake of convenience are neither provable nor logically necessary to account for the facts. Such concepts are, strictly speaking, dispensable ("Ockham's razor").33

Especially in a Christian society, such a theory of universals and relations has enormous implications. One might ask how, if the abstract class "mankind" has no real existence, mankind can be said to have sinned in Adam or to be redeemed in Christ. If there are no real abstract essences, in what sense can bread and wine be said to "be" the body and blood of Christ? How can Christ be considered both man and god at once, or god to have three distinct essences in one?34

What relevance to poetry has the attack on analogical thought--especially to the poetry of a man like Chaucer, who knew little, if anything, of the work of the scholars I have mentioned in this paper? Despite the lack of direct influence, the questions that scholars were asking during the fourteenth century were not unlike the questions that laymen were asking at the same time. What impelled laymen was not logic or science or the struggle for political power, but simply experience and observation; and the historical experience of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was such as to undercut the authority of certain institutions and values that had once been regarded as unimpeachable. The historical events which had most effect on the experience of the ordinary man were the failure of the crusade movement and its degeneration into a purely political tool; internal dissension in the Church, which culminated in the Great Schism of 1378 and generated the

32Sent. I, dist. xxx, q. I; in Arthur Hyman and James J. Walsh, eds., Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1967), p. 641.

33This is perhaps a too-simple way of stating the principle of "Ockham's razor," which was not in any case original with Ockham. For a more detailed discussion of the formulation, meaning and application of the principle, see Bochner, p. xx and Maurer, p. 284.

34Such questions as these were anticipated by Ockham, and against them he could make no other defense than pure faith. In Sent. I, xxx, 1 (Whether a relation is a thing distinct from absolutes), Ockham says of the mystery of the trinity: "One who wishes to be supported only by the reason possible to him and who did not wish to accept any authority whatsoever would say that it is impossible for three persons distinct in reality to he one supremely simple thing. Likewise such a one would say that God is not man. . . ." (Walsh, p. 635; and see p. 637). For Ockham, of course, the truth of Christian doctrine was necessary and inevitable, while that of natural reason was contingent, hence of an inferior order. Even Ockham's own fideism does not, however, suffice to resolve the problems raised by his logic. Despite its sincerity, it served as a means of avoiding the direct confrontation of faith and reason, as it had similarly served such thirteenth-century philosophers as Siger de Brahant and Boetius of Dacia.

The problem of "humanity" is treated in the Summa Totius Logicae; see especially Ockham's demonstration that the proposition "Humanity is in Socrates" is false (Boehner, pp. 76-79). On shared essence, Summa I, xv (Boehner, pp. 35-37).

[p. 55]

heresies of Wyclif and Hus; the plague that �periodically swept Europe after 1348; and numerous rebellions such as those of the Jacquerie in France (1357) and of English peasants and artisans in 1381.

What would these events mean to a moderately well-educated middle-class person of the fourteenth century? The evidence, drawn from sermons, anecdotes, university disputations and vernacular poetry, suggests that such a person could not avoid noticing that the feudal social order was being called into question by those who formed its very base. Nor could he help observing that the sacred notion of retributive justice did not operate with the Black Death: many good men died, many evil men survived, and neither virtue nor prayer was efficacious. The military failure of the Crusades had done much to undermine the earlier medieval conviction--so confidently expressed in the Chanson de Roland--that "God is on our side." And with the perversion of crusade rhetoric and ideals to political ends, it became painfully obvious that the interests served were no longer spiritual, if they ever had been. The same conclusion must have been obvious when all Europe was treated during several decades to the spectacle of two opposing popes, each claiming ultimate authority.

For these reasons the fourteenth century was a period of unusual complexity: unusual in that so many institutions and assumptions were challenged simultaneously. It is precisely this sense of the ambiguity or complexity of life that allegory is not suited to convey. I want now to return to the question of allegory and to consider it in the light of the nominalist critique of analogical thought.

The writing of allegory requires that qualities be abstracted from the entities which display them in real life, and that these qualities be granted an independent literary existence. Our own perceptions and experiences are not, of course, fragmented in this way, and if we assent to the literary portrayal of Lust or Humility it is because we know people who are lustful or humble. The advantage of such fragmentation is that it allows us at our leisure to examine and analyze certain phenomena, to isolate certain elements of experience, to judge. A modern philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, notes this phenomenon when he writes:

The dividing lines which the symbolism of language and the abstract concept introduce into reality may seem necessary and inevitable: however they arc necessary not from the standpoint of pure knowledge hut from the standpoint of action. Man can act upon the world only by breaking it into pieces--by dissecting it into separate spheres of action and objects of action.35

Allegory, like Ockham's relation-concept, helps us to communicate and in turn to act: allegory is well-suited, therefore, to didactic purposes. In fact, the allegorical persona is usually a personified universal, and the nominalist might argue (much as I have argued in the first part of this paper) that the allegorical persona corresponds to nothing knowable; he might inquire, as Ockham did,36 how we can recognize any similitude unless first we know the reality it resembles.

35The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (New Haven, 1953-57), vol. III, p. 36.

36Sent. II, 15, T. In Maurer, p. 284.

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Naturally, a writer will not approach this problem as the professional philosopher does. Instead, he will think of its esthetic manifestations: does a particular mode render his experience and his meaning as fully as he would like? The limitation of allegory becomes apparent, I suggest, when the experiences and attitudes to be portrayed pass a certain degree of complexity. I do not mean complexity of plot, which may certainly exist in allegory, but rather the complexity or simultaneity of motive and implication which exists at any given point in the story: a vertical, not a horizontal, complexity. Allegory simplifies experience by systematizing it. If one wishes to know why a lady is receptive, then it is merely tautological to say, as the Roman de la Rose says, "Because she is under the influence of Belacueil." if one wants to be sober, it is pointless to reply, as the Psychomachia does, "Sobriety always conquers Luxury." Our sense of choice and possibility is more complex than that, and so, I think, was Chaucer's. The ambivalence of human will is his constant theme.

The nominalist theory of will expresses the same consciousness. Ockham considered will to dominate other mental powers, including intellect: we do not learn to will, but will to learn; we understand only when we wish to do so. Because will is not subordinate to other mental operations, the human soul does not necessarily desire what is good for it, as Aquinas and others had taught. It is ambivalent, and Ockham denies that everything has a natural inclination toward its own perfection.

The will may like happiness and not like it; may desire happiness and may not. This is evident from the fact that many believers, with faith in future life, just as well as unbelievers without faith in any future life, have killed themselves with the full use of their reason; have thrown thensselves into the arms of death; even these have not wanted to exist.... Some of the faithful are convinced that they cannot attain happiness without a good life, and still they do not cultivate a good and saintly life. Therefore they do not desire happiness efficiently, and, consequently, with the same reason, they may not want it.37

As for being influenced by God's intention, "There is no proof that whatever God intends is done by God, or is done by somebody else."38 The will, then, is entirely free from internal and external compulsion.

If the writer should interest himself in the infinite and infinitely subtle behavorial possibilities that free will implies, then he will not, I think, be drawn to allegory. Allegory cannot do justice to the capricious aspect of personality, for the composite allegorical personality is circumscribed from the beginning by the self-evident functions of its parts. In The Allegory of Love, Lewis notes a similarity between the so-called heroine of the Roman de la Rose, and Chaucer's Criseyde. "We see," Lewis goes on,

how little the allegorical form hampers the novelist in Guillaume by the fact that when we have finished his poem we have an intimate knowledge of his heroine, though his heroine as such has never appeared.29

37Sent. 1, 2, IX.

38Sent 1, 46. 2; in Tornay, p. 179.

39Lewis, p. 135.

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With this I disagree: surely Guillaum's heroine and Chaucer's Criseyde are more profitably contrasted. We know no one in the fragmented manner that we know Guillaume's heroine. Criseyde's hesitations and impulses are not separated and named, nor do we know her precise will--"entente" and "entencioun" are the words Chaucer constantly uses in the poem, not only about Criseyde but about Troilus arid Pandarus also. That obscurity makes Criseyde more "real" than the composite non-entity of the Roman, for the mystery of will, which allegory dispels by fragmentation, is what we know in reality.

For the nominalist, not only human will but God's will too is perfectly free. God's actions cannot be constrained by what he has already done, or by what he has promised to do. Since God is not bound by any principle or precedent, he could theoretically will other worlds like ours, or the reversal of present moral values, or the opposite of present physical laws.40 This vision of a pervasively contingent universe is one of the most important contributions of nominalist theory, for it points to a radical revision of traditional relations between man and the world, man and God.

Ockham was fully aware of these implications. Summarizing arguments against himself. Ockham notes that his opponents will say that those who deny the reality of relations "undo the substantial connection of the universe."41 Ockham's opponents would have been correct in saying so, for although much more was to happen before that process was complete, it was precisely the undoing of substantial connection that was at issue in nominalist theory. It was the undoing of connections metaphysical, scientific and literary that John Donne was to regret in the "First Anniversary," where, mourning the death of a young woman, he wrote:

What Artist now dares boast that he can bring
Heaven hither, or constellate any thing,
So as the influence of those starres may bee
Imprison'd in a Herbe, or Charme or Tree,
And doe by touch, all which those stars could do?
The art is lost, and correspondence too.
For heaven gives little, and the earthe takes lesse,
And man least knows their trade and purposes.
If this commerce twixt heaven and earth were not
Embarr'd, and all this traffique quite forgot,

40In Sent. II, 12, for example, speaking of sins of commission, Ockham writes that "the created will is not alone the efficient cause of that act, but God himself, who causes immediately every act.... And so He is the positive cause of deformity in such an act, just as of the substance itself of the act.... And if you say that God would then sin in causing such a deformed act . . . I reply that God is under obligation to no one; and hence He is neither bound to cause that act, nor the opposite act, nor not to cause it" (Walsh, p. 651). Likewise Jean Buridan, Questions on Aristotle's Physics, II, i (Walsh, p. 704); and Nicholas Autrecourt (d. after 1350), letters to Bernard of Arezzo, trans. Ernest Moody and printed in Herman Shapiro, Medieval Philosophy (New York, 1964). Both Buridan and Nicholas argue against total skepticism, claiming that even in a contingent universe we can know some truths, even if those truths are limited to "the common course of nature." I don't think that this argument diminishes the impact of their vision of ultimate contingency.

41Sent. I, 30, i (Walsh, p. 636).

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She, for whose losse we have lamented thus,
Would work more fully, and pow'rfully on us....

(II. 391-402)

In sketching some attitudes typical of fourteenth-century learned discourse, I have suggested that the importance of the logic, science and political theory of the period was its variegated attack on analogical thought. In this tendency I believe Chaucer participated, turning intuitively from allegory to other modes in order to express his vision of a complex and contingent world.

SOURCE: Delaney, Sheila. “The Late Medieval Attack on Analogical Thought: Undoing Substantial Connection,” in Chaos and Form: History and Literature; Ideas and Relationships; essays selected and edited with an introduction by Kenneth McRobbie (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972); pp. 37-58.

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