Articolo contenuto in
Vol. 98 Anno 2021 --> Fasc. 1
A Hidden Source of the Prologue to the I-II of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas
Rossi Margherita Maria
investigates a particular aspect of the well-known quotation
that opens the Prologue of the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae.
For scholars of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Middle Ages, the history of
the introduction and story of the translation of the quoted text from St.
John Damascene is a matter of undisputed interest. In particular,
the curious addition to the Damascene quote, not found in the translations
circulating at the time Aquinas wrote the Prologue, nor even in the work of other
contemparies, presents itself as an enigma.
Although the practice of citation in the Middle Ages included taking
some liberties from the text itself, it should be noted that this does not
mean that it was done without rules or reason. In fact, the citations were
chosen and presented in such a way as to respond to the most pressing questions
of the time. Therefore, the inaccuracy of the quotation from Damascene in the
Prologue must have some explanation, namely, it was either connected to a
different source, or Aquinas had some intentional motivation in presenting it as
he did. Recent studies have attempted to
connect the quotation to a different source, namely, a text from Nemesius
of Emesa, which would have been the source used by Damascene. However, in the
opinion of the authors, not even the Nemesian text explains the expression
«et per se potestativum», added to the quotation of Damascene.
Without dismissing the aforementioned studies and their plausibility,
this paper undertakes the quest to determine the origin of the famous
quotation and its final structure. The analysis to make such a determination,
will be conducted using an innovative technique, called the
«environmental» method, modelled by M.M. Rossi in her research in the
field of exegesis and sermon writing in the Middle Ages. The method
proves an effective tool to shed light on the pseudo-attribution to Damascene, and
also provides a verification for the validity of the innovative method itself.
 The authors are deeply indebted to Father Peter Marsalek, SOLT, for graciously
volunteering to translate the article into English. Thanks to his Thomistic expertise,
Father Marsalek has translated the nuances of a demanding centuries-old theological
debate, one which involves Greek and Latin authors to whom St. Thomas Aquinas refers.
Father Peter Marsalek’s linguistic mastery and his passionate commitment have
managed to clarify the most crucial passages of the difficult Italian text. Father Peter
Marsalek is General Superior of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
(SOLT), MSc. in Engineering; he received his STL and STD (Summa cum Laude) at the
Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, with a thesis on The Analogy of
the Father in the Summa Theologiae. A Thomistic Inquiry on Philosophical, Dogmatic
and Pastoral Implications of Fatherhood (2010); he is Professor of Dogmatic Theology.
1. An Unsolved Mystery…
The quotation that begins the famous Prologue to the Secunda Pars
of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae is taken from St. John
Damascene, according to the citation of Aquinas.
However, the quotation, which is rightly considered the gateway to the moral vision of
St. Thomas, includes a very curious addition to the original text of Damascene,
which arouses interest and begs explanation. To compound
the mystery, it is further noted that even a meticulous reconstruction
of the sources, and consideration of the various theological, anthropological
and exegetical debates of the major intellectual centers of the
time, do not seem to provide an explanation for the curious addition in
terms of either words or ideas, nor do the various translations of
Damascene in circulation at that time.
The practice of citations and references in the Middle Ages could be
described as being rather «free» with regard to the quotation from the
source, but «free» should not be understood as not rigorous. Rather,
the «free» style of citations was intended to be responsive to a specific
theoretical question of the debate of a particular time or theological
context. Therefore, the transformation of the Damascene text must
have had a very specific reason and this presents the crux of the
enigma: What is this reason? Was there a different source? Was it an
error? or, Was it an intentional intervention by Aquinas? Recent studies
attempted to find a different source for the quotation and reached the
conclusion that the text originated from Nemesius of Emesa (who was
himself a source for Damascene) rather than Damascene. However, the
Nemesian solution is not entirely satisfactory since the addition to the
text is not actually present in Nemesius’s work either. As such, the
mystery remains substantially unsolved.
Through the use of a novel interpretive tool called the «environ-men-
method, this article intends to illustrate the possibility that the
hidden source behind the mysterious addition to the Damascene quotation
found in the Prologue to the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae of St.
is Alexander of Aphrodisias. Prior to detailing the work of the current investigation,
it is useful to first provide a brief description of the «environ-mental»
method mentioned above and used in this work.
After many years of studying textual elements and the historical contexts
of the works of St. Thomas, in particular his exegetical works and
sermons, M.M. Rossi developed a method that supercedes mere textual
analysis and historical presuppositions, and moves toward an investigation
of the actual environment in which the text was composed. The
environ-mental (the hyphenation is intended to denote the idea of the
environment and mind connected together) method is strongly rooted
in both textual and historical approaches but contains some notable
differences. In a strictly textual approach, the text is read in a linear fashion
whereby ideas are communicated in sequential ordering sentence
by sentence. In the environ-mental method, rather than being read merely
in a linear fashion, the text is analyzed from the perspective of
creating a mental picture, or architectural structure, built by the master
in his development of the text. This difference can be better understood
from the following example: a page of a book is read linearly, starting
at the top left and finishing at the bottom right; on the other hand, the
beauty of a magnificent Cathedral is approached not necessarily starting
from top left, but by allowing one’s eye to be captivated and drawn
in different directions through the genius of the architect and artist
whose placement of the images and structural features leads one toward
the primary and secondary elements of the masterpiece. While
of course the pages of the book of a Medieval master are read line by
line beginning from top left, they often times were also like great architects
who were creating a magnificent mental picture with a fascinating
interplay of primary and secondary elements that were brought
to one’s mind as one reflected and pondered on the text.
The environ-mental method is also historical, but differs from a strictly
historical-critical approach. Whereas the historical-critical method
looks at history as providing the context and principle meaning of the
text, the environ-mental method searches for historical references within
the text as selected and filtered by the master himself. In other
words, it searches for the historical environment of the master and his
audience, in order to better ponder the impact of his theological interests
and intentions at that moment. An environ-mental understanding
of a text attempts to retrace the specific concerns present in the theological
line of inquiry of a Medieval master in a particular moment and
place of his ministry.
Therefore, the great advantage of the environ-mental method is that
it attempts to understand the text from within its historical context, not
merely from our objective modern day interpretation of those same historical
circumstances, but rather from the personal subjective interpretation
of those same circumstances by the master as he would have
Thus, the environ-mental method attempts to peer
into the mental setting of the master by analyzing the overall framework
(architectural structure) of the text, and by examining the contemporary
dialogue ongoing between the master and his interlocutors.
The concept of the «environment» intends to communicate not only
the various objective data such as the general historical setting and the
specific time and place of writing, but above all to attempt to enter into
the mind and intention of the author to see how the specific environment
and context shaped the work in its tone, argumentation and even
selection of literary genre. The medieval intellectual environment was
a particularly rich and fruitful setting characterized by a great variety
and multitude of authors and sources, a profound convergence of brilliant
thinkers, lively debates, theological exploration, great availability
of research opportunities at a number of distinguished universities, and
an overall esteem and priority placed upon the science of theology.
Consequently, there is much data to be analyzed that allows one to
enter into the text of a particular master, and determine how the text
was produced as a specific response within a particular debate and with
a specific pastoral purpose. None of which takes away from any of the
universal value which the texts hold in and of themselves as theological
The «environ-mental» method combines a rigorous study of textual
analysis and historical context with the specific conventual and geographical
circumstances, as well as with the general biographical and
cognitive atmosphere in which the author lived and wrote. The result
is that the existential logic of the text may be grasped and inferences
may be drawn regarding various circumstances and conditions of the
text. While these inferences are more intuitive than explicitly attested
to, or more speculative than documented, they nevertheless possess an
internal coherence and plausibility capable of guiding the interpretation
of the text. Emerging from the analysis is a kind of re-creation of
the atmosphere which stimulated the emotions and thinking of the author
in the creative moment of writing that impacted his selection of
sources and the frequency with which he turned to various sources.
The study brings to the surface and maps out the various connections
that bind together individual treatises and explain the inner logic of the
text. In this way, the «environ-mental» method aims to find the unspoken
vitality and purpose of the text in a broad sense, arriving at the various
hidden historical, theological, and emotional circumstances that
motivated the author to write, and which impacted the very shape,
structure and meaning of the text.
The application of the «environ-mental» method to the text of the
Prologue of the Prima Secundae necessitates an investigation into the
biographical circumstances of St. Thomas at the time of writing, and a
study of the various sources used in composing the various parts of the
Summa Theologiae. Further, the sources must be analyzed not only according
to the various authors but also regarding the origin of each specific
text. Finally, the method of transmission of the text of Aquinas
must also be analyzed. Therefore, the «environ-mental» reconstruction
of the Prologue requires one to analyze the various texts, teachings and
protagonists of the moral and theological debate at the time in order to
set up a historical-theoretical framework on which to graft the personal
concerns of St. Thomas that emerge in the Prologue, and the various
conceptual pathways that emerge and are united by the same mental
2. And the Hypotheses of Solution
Saint Thomas began writing the Summa Theologiae after a fruitful stay
at the University of Paris. As part of his intellectual inheritance from
his Paris sojourn, Aquinas had a clear vision of the themes he would
eventually include in the Prologue as an introduction to his discussion
on morality. In particular, his awareness of the crucial importance of
free will and of man being made “in the image of God” to the discussion
of morality shaped his theological concern, especially as it relates to
directing the studies of students. To this end, the Prologue most likely
takes shape during St. Thomas’s time in Rome when he was involved
in teaching students.
The text of the Prologue begins with a quotation from St. John Damascene
but presents the challenge, as mentioned already, of what is
clearly an addition to the original text of Damascene. The bolded text
below is the mysterious addition in the quote:
Since, as Damascene states (De fide orthod. II, 12), man is said to be made
to God’s image, in so far as the image implies an intelligent being endowed
with free-will and self-movement:
(et per se potestativum) now that we have treated of the exemplar,
i.e., God, and of those things which came forth from the power
of God in accordance with His will; it remains
for us to treat of His image, i.e., man, inasmuch as he too is the principle
of his actions, as having free-will and control of his actions.
The most widespread translation in Paris of the Damascene quote was
drawn up by Burgundio of Pisa who emphasized two main facets of being made
«in the image of God», namely that man is endowed with
intelligence and free will. Consequent to this is that man is also made
«in likeness» to God which he realizes through the acquisition of virtue.
Comparing the Burgundian translation of the Damascene text to
the quotation used by St. Thomas in the Prologue, there are two significant
differences: the first is the already mentioned addition of the expression
«et per se potestativum», and the second is the omission of the
conclusion regarding similitude. Concerning the omission from the second
part of the Damascene quotation,
it can be explained by the custom
of truncating non-essential elements from a sentence to save
space on the parchment,
as well as the usual autonomy of Aquinas
with respect to his sources.
However, the addition remains inexplicable,
in particular in consideration of the just mentioned practice of saving
space on the parchments. There appear to be two substantial hypotheses.
The first is that Aquinas combined one or more sources
together to create the addition.
In fact, the addition is included in some
manuscripts of the translation of Burgundio of Pisa in the form “per se
and, in two manuscripts it is found in the identical
form to the Prologue of St. Thomas «et per se potestativum». The second
hypothesis is that Aquinas made an intentional addition which he deemed
necessary for introducing the entire Secunda Pars of the Summa.
2.1. The Hypothesis of a Textual Dependence
Regarding the first hypothesis, that of the textual dependence on a
source, the authoritative Leonine Edition of the Summa suggests deriving
the full citation of the Prologue from two distinct works of Damascene.
The Leonine Edition ascribes the majority of the quotation to
the De fide orthodoxa and attributes the addition — «et per se potestativum» —
to the De imaginibus.
The latter is a work written by Damascene
endorsing the use of icons against the iconoclasts during the
great iconoclast controversy which tore the Church apart at the time
of Damascene. Damascene reviews the various meanings of the concept
of «image» and investigates in what sense the human being can be called
a creature made «in the image of God». He emphasizes that the human
being is «free and with authority of command»
(similar in fact to the concept that he expressed in De fide orthodoxa).
Although plausible, the above explanation does not seem to adequately
take into account the fact that the De imaginibus is rarely referenced
in the writings of St. Thomas or in his contemporaries. Conversely,
there are an abundance of citations made to the De fide orthodoxa.
The lack of references to the De imaginibus and the abundance of references
to the De fide orthodoxa seem to make it somewhat unlikely that on this
one occasion Aquinas decided to combine the two sources together.
Moreover, the great impact of the translations and doctrine of Damascene
in the Latin world,
which had even prompted the drafting of
verbal concordances of the Damascene texts, does not seem to have involved
the De imaginibus very much at all. This is probably due to the
fact that the work had been placed on the index of banned writings during
the Council of Hieria in 754 following the condemnation of Damascene
and others who sided in favor of the use of religious icons.
In fact, if one intends to follow the path of dependence on a source
that was a combination of various works by Damascene, it seems more
plausible to hypothesize a merging of the texts of the De fide orthodoxa
with the Dialectica,
rather than with the De imaginibus. The Dialectica shares
with the De imaginibus the same definition of the human person
and, unlike the latter, is attested to in some medieval authors.
It also seems equally plausible to speculate that Aquinas intertwined multiple
passages from the De fide orthodoxa into one reference, since in the
same chapter where the majority of the quotation comes from, Damascene
links the notion of free will (αὐτεξούσιον) with the concept of
If one admits the hypothesis of the use of the Dialectica or other passages
of the De fide orthodoxa (rather than the De imaginibus), it
remains to be explored whether the fusion between the two texts of
Damascene originated from a previous citation that Aquinas adopted,
or whether St. Thomas himself combined them. A study of the
manuscripts of the De fide orthodoxa available to Aquinas indicate a variety
of versions. Numerous versions of the manuscript originated in France,
presumably of Parisian origin, from the thirteenth century. These
versions often follow the division of chapters delineated by Philip the
Chancellor. There are a significant number of annotations and glosses
presented there suggesting a lively theological debate, likely facilitated
by first-hand access to both the texts and the glossary additions, which
would have been distinguished from each other in a relatively clear
The next grouping of manuscripts presumably originated in
England and are primarily based on the translation of Robert Grosseteste
from the 13th century. These manuscripts show various interpolations
and influences from the French tradition, and assiduous comparisons
to the translation of Burgundio demonstrate that there are insertions from
other works of Damascene
which would suggest a more recent stage of the use of the De fide orthodoxa.
Finally, there are also numerous manuscripts preserved in Italy which
tend to be rather sober in their annotations and glosses, thus testifying
to a generally earlier dating
and greater preservation of the original text.
As outlined above, the study of the various manuscripts reveals that
the addition «et per se potestativum» (and its variant without the «et»)
tends to come from the French and Anglo-Saxon circles, due in large
part to the intensity of the theological debate around Damascene in
those places. Conversely, the manuscripts originating from Italy, less
exposed to the aforementioned debate, prove to be more faithful to the
original. Regardless, the study of manuscripts bearing the expression
«et per se potestativum» does not determine with any certainty that
Aquinas took the quotation from a single particular source. In fact, it
is possible to hypothesize that St. Thomas could have used a more
faithful translation to the original since he likely wrote the Prologue while
in Italy, where he could have accessed some Burgundian texts of more
directly Greek origin. St. Thomas used the text of Damascene in a
thoughtful way and was clearly aware of references to the text from other
masters, as well as their interpretations and commentary on the text.
As evidence of this, there are times when St. Thomas references
Damascene with the words, «sicut dicit Damascenus», indicating a strict
verbal fidelity, and other times where he introduces a reference with a
more generic, «secundum Damascenum», likely referring more to a
general sense or idea coming from Damascene.
Another alternative of the single source origin for the addition «et
per se potestativum», is the hypothesis that St. Thomas relied on a
version of the text from Burgundio of Pisa that contained a dual translation.
In fact, it was common for an accomplished translator to provide more
than one alternative, particularly in the case of demanding theoretical
passages. However, this hypothesis also seems unlikely for a number of
reasons. In the first place, it is notable that it is not sufficiently supported
by a study of the manuscripts of that time and the publisher of
Burgundio’s translation does not include the addition in the critical edition of
Rather, the «et per se potestativum» is typically found in
glossed copies of the Burgundian translation and is therefore an expression
of a subsequent addition.
Secondly, the addition is also notably absent
from the writings of other masters at that time. Thirdly, the Greek term
«αὐτεξούσιον» is rendered by Burgundio as «liberum arbitrio», without
any further specifications or additions, not only in the translation of
Damascene’s De fide orthodoxa, but also in his translation of the De
natura hominis by Nemesius of Emesa. For all of these reasons, it is
implausible that the addition is the work of Burgundio himself.
All of the preceding arguments lead to the conclusion that St.
Thomas did not depend on a single contemporary or immediately
preceding source for the addition to the Damascene text. As a result, the next
hypothesis to investigate is whether or not Aquinas intentionally
modified the original text himself by adding the «et per se potestativum».
Such an addition of Aquinas would likely be on account of a synthesis
of the many influences of the debate regarding the specific traits of the
rational creature that came from the influx of Aristotelian and Greek
patristic texts, from the Trinitarian, Christological and anthropological
discourses of the Fathers, and from the Latin and Carolingian
controversies regarding topics such as the nature of God, His perfection,
creation and free will.
2.2 The Hypothesis of an Intentional Addition
At this point, the hypothesis to be investigated is that St. Thomas
intentionally added the «et per se potestativum» to the Damascene text.
In order to investigate this theory, the authors will rely upon the
environ-mental method to provide a plausible explanation for the
addition. Of course, all of this is notwithstanding any future discoveries of
manuscripts regarding the texts and sources of the Middle Ages since
the entire matter, including the revision of the critical text of the
is largely still to be determined.
An important environ-mental circumstance to consider in the
investigation pertains to the period of St. Thomas’s first stint in Paris as a
young student, when he likely forged his own interpretation and
answers to the many questions raised from the text of the De fide
orthodoxa. Years later, upon his return to Italy, St. Thomas could have
incorporated into the translation his memory of the various theological
regarding the Damascene text with the many glosses
from authors such as Peter Lombard, William of Auxerre, John de la
Rochelle and Philip the Chancellor. Each of these authors emphasized
the notion of potestas and used the term «potestativus» as an adjective,
and «potestativum» as a substantive.
A second environ-mental circumstance to consider concerns the
likely exchanges between St. Thomas and his Dominican brother
William of Moerbeke (1215–1286), to whom St. Thomas used to turn to on
account of Moerbeke’s renowned linguistic competence. A biographical
comparison reveals that both Aquinas and William resided in central
Italy during the period when St. Thomas drafted the Prologue of the
Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae. Not enough scholarly
attention has been given to the specific texts which William was translating
at that time, on which he could have provided his friend, St. Thomas,
with advice and suggestions for a more precise translating of various
Greek terms, especially pertaining to a text so widely debated as the
one of Damascene. In fact, William of Moerbeke, revised the translation
of De fide orthodoxa by Robert Grossteste at that precise time. Further,
William was also engaged in the work of translating the prominent
Greek author Alexander of Aphrodisias (2nd to 3rd century AD), an
Aristotelian styled thinker and profound connoisseur of the doctrines of
the Peripatetics, who taught in Athens between 198–211 AD. Among
his writings, the περί εἱμαρμένης (De fato) and the περὶ μίξευς (De
mixtione) against the Stoics stand out, on account of his usage of the term
«αὐτεξούσιον» in reference to human freedom.
The aforementioned environ-mental circumstances, namely the
coincidence of time, place and scholarly interests, make William of
Moerbeke the most competent and available person for St. Thomas to speak
to about translating such an important and exacting term as αὐτεξούσιον.
At the same time that St. Thomas was exploring the moral-theological
themes of freedom and human nature, William of Moerbeke was
occupied with translating a host of authors dealing with the same
topics. Further, the expertise of William in understanding and translating
the Greek lexicon made him the ideal person for St. Thomas to dialogue
with in his own study of the writings and discoveries of ancient
thinkers from Aristotle to Alexander of Aphrodisias, and from Nemesius
of Emesa to St. John Damascene.
The original context of the term αὐτεξούσιον is seen in the writings
of the stoic Epictetus (~ 50–125 AD), one of the first philosophers to
pose the problem of human action in terms of dominion and power.
Epictetus used the term αὐτεξουσία
to demonstrate the indifference
of human actions towards good or evil. He, along with other Stoics,
postulated a substantial determinism of human actions, incompatible with
the Christian moral vision. Among the refutors of this Stoic thesis was
Alexander of Aphrodisias,
whose critique of Stoicism finds a
surprising parallel in Nemesius of Emesa’s De natura hominis. Nemesius cited
similar arguments that he attributed to the treatise on fate of
Philopator, thus corroborating the hypothesis of scholars who speculated that
these same arguments were spread by more than one Stoic source.
Alexander of Aphrodisias argued that human deliberation would be
utterly inane if one did not possess the freedom or mastery to choose
between particular actions.
In this, he echoed the thought of Aristotle
and became a link between Aristotle, whose writings became highly
influential in the Middle Ages, and the flames of the Christian moral-theological
debate with which St. Thomas had become so familiar with
during his time in Paris.
On account of his writing about human freedom and action,
Alexander of Aphrodisias became an author of great interest for St. Thomas.
Aquinas could not avoid dealing with the moral-anthropological theme
of human freedom and its link to not only being non-fatalistic or non-
determined, but to also being compatible with the Providence of God
in accordance with Christian revelation. As such, St. Thomas precisely
places these ideas in the Prologue to the Secunda Pars, to be a
theoretical bridge between the last treatise of the Prima Pars dedicated to
and his treatment of morality which occupies the discussion
of the Secunda Pars. A survey of the various translations circulating in
the thirteenth century displays the prominence of the discussion on
human freedom, and on the problem of the relationship between freedom
and fate, or freedom and necessity, or freedom and nature. These
discussions were not only of central concern to Greek thinkers, but also
became of major concern for Christian thinkers of the time, not only
in reference to freedom and fate, but also to Providence. Authors such
as Nemesius of Emesa and St. John Damascene adopted these themes
and treated them with a different slant: Nemesius was more interested
in a medical-scientific viewpoint, while Damascene approached from
a theological-exegetical angle. This plurality of interpretations and
approaches impacted in turn the various scholastic teachers, who placed
the themes in diversified frames of reference, sometimes in dialectical
opposition with one another.
Despite the sometimes conflicting
viewpoints, each was committed to contributing to the advancement of
theology and anthropology, and to the clarification of the specifically
Christian contribution to the history of ideas in this area.
3. The Text of Alexander of Aphrodisias Under the Pen of William of Moerbeke
The translation of the Greek word αὐτεξουσίον has a long history in
the ancient philosophical lexicon, and was rendered in the Latin world
by the expression «liberus arbitrio», which in turn boasts a glorious
past in the theological and philosophical lexicon of ancient and medieval
Christian authors. In the Middle Ages, the Burgundian translation
of ἐξουσία with the word «potestas», and of αὐτεξούσιον with the
phrase «liberus arbitrio», literally translated into English as «free in
(one’s) decision» (already present in St. Augustine),
is more of a semantic than a literal translation, since it implies
reference to the faculty of judgment and decision (that is, to
rationality and will). Unlike the Greek term which emphasizes
power over one’s acts, the Latin phrase
mainly expresses the moment of freedom in judgment. Therefore, it
should not be easily conceded that «liberus arbitrio»
is the best translation of αὐτεξούσιον. Rather, it is necessary to be aware that this
choice of Burgundio was made on the basis of a consolidated Christian
tradition which in fact involved a shift in meaning that had repercus-
sions on subsequent reflections.
It is important to inquire as to why a translator as precise and
competent as Burgundio of Pisa would translate the term αὐτεξουσίον with
«liberus arbitrio» considering that neither of the two terms contain a
Greek root. One possibility is that he wanted to «westernize» the term,
dispensing of the etymology of the word in favor of focusing on the
semantic evolution of the expression, which also happened to possess the
prestigious stamp of Augustinian authority. Another possibility is that
he opted for the translation «liberus arbitrio» because he wanted to
emphasize the freedom of human judgment as opposed to the necessity
observed in nature. The Latin term «arbiter», in fact, is derived from
the particle «ad», which means «towards», and from the Sanskrit root
«ba» (from which comes the Latin «biter»), which can be translated as
«come», «move», or even «attend», and takes on the meaning of «the
one who attends and judges». Consequently, the «arbitrium», signifies
the faculty to judge and freely dispose.
This clarification helps explain
the emphasis on freedom, also attested to in Damascene, which led
Burgundio of Pisa to consistently translate αὐτεξουσίον by including the
despite the fact that the notion of freedom was already
included in the concept of arbiter. Lost, or at least certainly
downplayed, in this emphasis on freedom in the translation, is the connotation
that the human being has dominion or power over his own acts. Within
this theoretical framework, it is very probable that the translation of
the various experts of the day were caught between two tensions:
fidelity to the Greek sources and its lexical nuances, and harmonization
with what had become a theological koinè. As a result, it follows that
the medieval masters felt free to interpret their sources and theoretical
developments in different directions.
Within this rather complex context, one can appreciate the need of
the medieval scholars to translate and retranslate the texts of Aristotle,
Damascene and even of Nemesius of Emesa in some cases. One such
example of this can be found in the Franciscan Robert Grosseteste
who taught at Oxford, and applied himself to translating
both the De fide orthodoxa and the Nicomachean Ethics. Presumably,
his study of these closely related documents was motivated, at least in
part, by a desire to trace the exact conception and precise terminology
with which human freedom had been investigated in the Greek
The Dominican William of Moerbeke,
famous for his translations
of the new Greek sources,
intended to revise Robert Grosseteste’s
translation of the Nicomachean Ethics
but ultimately decided not to.
It is quite likely that Moerbeke did not want to overlap his work with
the many other translators already working on the translations of
Damascence, including the aforementioned Grosseteste. Instead, William
of Moerbeke applied himself to a different translation project and
translated the text of Alexande of Aphrodisias on fate.
A close look at the translation of Moerbeke reveals crucial elements
that help solve the enigma of the Prologue. In his De fato, and in
reference to freedom in human actions, Alexander of Aphrodisias used the
term «αὐτεξούσιον», in lexical and semantic continuity with the
Aristotelian and Stoic tradition. William of Moerbeke rendered his
translation as follows:
Propter quod neque in hiis que necessario fiunt electio, neque in hiis que
non necessario quidem non autem per nos, sed neque in omnibus hiis que
per nos, sed in hiis que fiunt per nos, quorum nos et agendi et non agendi
William is particularly sensitive and attentive to the fact that in the
Greek language — unlike the Latin one — words are composed by
combining them into a single compound term.
When faced with the
compound word αὐτεξούσιον in the text of Alexander of Aphrodisias,
William, according to the critical editor, follows three potential paths: he
either transliterates it into Latin (simply reporting «autexusion»);
or, he conducts a so-called «analytical translation», which separates the
single Greek term into two terms (turning αὐτεξούσιον into «liberum
arbitrium»); or, he uses the Latin equivalent of the Greek words
(making the term «αὐτεξούσιον» into «propria potestas»).
The first path of William’s translating the De fato by merely
transliterating the text can be seen when he is confronted with the content of
the expression, «that which is in us», both from the perspective of the
opinion of the Stoics and the refutation of Alexander of Aphrodisias.
In this context, Alexander of Aphrodisias states that τὸ αὐτεξούσιον is
the meaning of the expression «that which is in us». William of
Moerbeke translates the passage as follows:
Licet autem considerare si hec dicentes salvant comune de eo quod in nobis
omnium hominum suspiciones. Exquirentes enim se ipsos quomodo possibile
est, omnibus existentibus secundum fatum, salvare quod in nobis, non
nomen solum ejus quod in nobis ponentes hoc exquirunt, sed et significatum
illud, scilicet autexusion, hoc est liberi arbitrii [oὐκ ὄνομα μόνον τοῦ ἐφ’
ἡμῖν τιθέντες τοῦτ’ ἀπαιτοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ σημαινόμενον ἐκεῖνο τὸ αὐτεξούσιον].
It is notable that William of Moerbeke, after transliterating the term as
autexusion, immediately adds the phrase «hoc est liberi arbitrii».
The second passage of the De fato to be considered, is an example of
the second path of analytical translation. In the passage which follows,
Alexander of Aphrodisias explains the contradiction of the Stoic
positions, which on the one hand support universal necessity or
determinism, and on the other hand defend the freedom of the human being.
William of Moerbeke translates the Greek text speaking of human
freedom as follows:
Sic enim in omnibus sermonibus observant liberum arbitrium [φυλάσσουσιν
τὸ ἐλεύθερόν τε καὶ τὸ αὐτεξούσιον], tanquam non audierint
numquam ab alio tale aliquod dogma, hoc autem provocare quosdam temptantes
tanquam faciendi aut non faciendi hoc potestatem habentes ipsi [τοῦ τε
ποιεῖν ἢ μὴ ποιεῖν τοῦ το τὴν ἐξουσίαν ἔχοντες αὐτοί], et provocatis per
ipsorum sermones eligere quedam potentibus operabuntur utique contraria
silentibus, hoc autem increpantes et vituperantes aliquos velut non
Worth noting in this passage is that William takes the entire Greek
phrase, «τὸ ἐλεύθερον καὶ τὸ αὐτεξούσιον», and essentially absorbs the
term «ἐλεύθερον» by rendering the entire phrase as «liberum
arbitrium», including of course the qualification “free” with respect to the
will. In this sense, his translation is not as analytic as the critical editor
suggests, but rather — in the view of the authors — synthetic.
The third path of William’s translation techniques, that of a literal
translation, is the most relevant for our consideration of the text of the
Prologue of the Prima Secundae. In the example which follows,
Alexander of Aphrodisias accuses his opponents of being boastfully obstinate
in maintaining an indefensible and unsustainable position, namely, they
didn’t seem to recognize that within the human being, is the
prerogative of the freedom of choice between contrary outcomes.
Here is William of Moerbeke’s translation:
Cessarent autem utique ab honoris amore in sermonibus et concedentibus
esse quod in nobis liberum et proprie potestatis et dominans electioni
oppositorum et actioni [τὸ ἐφ’ἡμῖν ἐλεύθερόν τε καὶ αὐτεξούσιον καὶ κύριον
τῆς τῶν ἀντι κειμένων αἱρέσεώς τε καὶ πράξεως] in circumstantibus
hominibus justus fieri persuasus similiter ydiotis et legislatoribus.
There are a number of important notes to highlight regarding the
translation of William. First, αὐτεξούσιον is translated as «proprie
potestatis» and is used as an adjective. This aspect of the translation
constitutes a literal translation. The second element is the sequence of
adjectives describing the human being: freedom, power, and dominion
over one’s acts. The third important note is that «liberus arbitrio» is
not used to translate «αὐτεξούσιον». These elements, which no doubt
pertain to the work of translation, also highlight the highly interpretive
nature of William’s work whereby he reveals himself entirely aware of
the competence of Alexander of Aphrodisias in regard to Aristotle.
Having understood the mind and intention of Alexander with respect to
the terminology in Greek, William is then able to expertly translate into
The juxtaposition of the preceding text with the text of St. Thomas’s
Prologue highlights the similarity of sequence. Where the text of
Alexander of Aphrodisias reads: «nobis liberum et proprie potestatis et
dominans electioni oppositorum et actioni»; the text of the Prologue states:
«arbitrio liberum et per se potestativum […] quasi liberum arbitrium
habens et suorum operum potestatem»).
The great overlap in these expressions demonstrates that St. Thomas
sees in the translation of William of Moerbeke a strong reason why the
term αὐτεξούσιον should not be translated merely by the phrase
«liberus arbitrio». Further, it also suggests that Aquinas perceives a
hidden meaning in the Greek term αὐτεξούσιον that is essential for giving
a proper treatise on morality. Namely, as a consequence of having an
intelligent nature with free will and dominion over one’s actions,
Aquinas also perceives the unique power of self-determination essential
Through his free choices made with rational
knowledge, man shapes the kind of person
he becomes morally, i.e., by choosing freely to do good, he becomes
morally good. This dominion over one’s actions really becomes in the
view of the authors, the superior translation to what is generally
rendered merely as «self-movement».
The above comparison between the translated text of Alexander of
Aphrodisias and the Prologue, share in common the influence of
William of Moerbeke. While the term αὐτεξούσιον of the Damascene text
is rendered by Burgundio of Pisa simply as «liberus arbitrio», William
of Moerbeke uses both «liberus arbitrio» and the more precise «proprie
potestatis». St. Thomas, while making use of the translation expertise
of William, makes a further interpretive decision to not merely repeat
«proprie potestatis», but he gives a greater metaphysical emphasis
through the expression «per se» which underlines the aspect of the
action proceeding from nature. Thus, Aquinas combines with the
quotation from Damascene, the two translations of αὐτεξούσιον provided by
William of Moerbeke with his own personal interpretive intuition, as
the use of the conjunction «et» suggests.
Moreover, the study and interpretation of Aristotle and, therefore
also his major interpreters, including Alexander of Aphrodisias, was
an integral part of the project entrusted to theologians by Pope Gregory
IX to verify the compatibility between Aristotelian doctrines and the
truths of the Christian faith. From this perspective, it is not surprising
that St. Thomas studied and knew Aristotelian thought in depth even
through the lens of various commentators. Along these lines, it should
also be noted how the influence of the text of Alexander of Aphrodisias
indirectly contributes to solving the enigma of the second misalignment
of the Damascenian quotation, i.e. the absence of the second part
related to likeness or similitude. The Prologue takes a different direction,
and the illustration of the essence of likeness or similitude will be
present later, throughout the development of the Prima Secundae,
especially in the treatise on virtues.
Another interpretive insight into the Thomistic addition of the «et
per se potestativum» which harmoniously integrates with the outlined
hypothesis above regarding the particle «et», is that the «et» not only
operates as a conjunction linking the third anthropological principle
of dominion over one’s actions to the two qualities mentioned by
Damascene (rationality and free will), but that it also functions as a kind
of adverb which introduces a special insight into the translation. This
possibility would not alter the semantic value of the Prologue, but
would highlight the attention of St. Thomas to language and lexicon,
especially that of languages foreign to his own mother tongue.
St. Thomas may have intentionally added the phrase «et per se
potestativum» in order to combine the current Burgundian translation of
the Greek term «αὐτεξούσιον», rendered as «arbitrio liberum», with
the more exact literal rendering of the Greek «per se potestativum», that
had been given to him by his brother William of Moerbeke. Interpreted
this way, the text would read in English, «free in the will, and/or with
dominion over one’s actions».
The particle «et», in fact, is also
synonymous with «etiam», which also includes the meaning of «also», and
is also a synonym for «vel», which means simply «or». Proof of the
plausibility of this theory is found just a few lines later in the Prologue
when St. Thomas uses the particle «et» with an adverbial function. In
this case, while speaking of the human being as the image of God, St.
Thomas states, «et ipse est suorum operum principium, quasi liberum
arbitrium habens et suorum operum potestatem»,
translated as «he too
is the principle of his acts, as having free will and power over his
actions». In this sentence, what follows the «et» functions as an adverb.
Thus, a hidden, unreferenced source emerges, namely, Alexander of
Aphrodisias, which supports the “anomalous” citation of Damascene
provided by St. Thomas in the Prologue, and which contributes to
reinterpreting the conceptual links between the Prima and Secunda Pars
of the Summa. On the trail of this source, St. Thomas was very likely
led by the translation project of William of Moerbeke as opposed to the
Parisian network (Burgundio of Pisa, Peter Lombard, Philip the
Chancellor), whose interpretations of Damascene began with a debate on
human faculties before broadening their perspective to consider the
transition of values from the vision of the ancient world to that of the
Christian world. The unprecedented opportunity that St. Thomas
seized upon was his access to the expertise and precision of the great
translator William of Moerbeke. With William’s assistance, the thought and
expressions of Alexander of Aphrodisias were able to be fully
integrated with the assumptions of faith, allowing St. Thomas to reaffirm at
the same time the freedom of the will in the face of the judgment of
reason, i.e., of free will as opposed to necessity, and the essence of being
«in the image of God». This is further recognized as a kind of power
or capacity belonging to the human being, and allows St. Thomas to
introduce the notion of «principium» from Aristotelian thought. St.
Thomas places this power/capacity and principle at the qualitative and
quantitative center of the Prologue in the unprecedented analogical
comparison between the Exemplar, God, and His image, man. The
notion of «principium», so relevant and central to the Prologue, comes
from Aristotle and is taken up by Nemesius of Emesa and Damascene
in the theological debate on the theme of being «in the image of God».
However, the term is not found either in the quotation from
Damascene, nor in the (implicit) one of Alexander of Aphrodisias. The
explanation for this is found not only in the perspective of causality with
respect to one’s own acts, which was certainly an integral part of being
«in the image of God», but above all in the theological principle that
sees in the revelation of creation the origin of knowledge of creatures
and the doctrine on being «in the image of God».
Read in this light,
the center of the Prologue is constituted by the comparison between
the Exemplar and His image,
from which radiates in a speculative yet
the two unique powers of the human being.
Relying on the fruits of the environ-mental method discussed above,
and admittedly with some interpretive audacity, the authors would like
to propose in conclusion the following hypothetical, unzipped, and
expanded paraphrase of the Prologue:
Let’s start from the beginning. The human being is made in the image of
God. Damascene says that the term “image” must be understood as
referring to the human intellect and free will, and, as the ancients said [or,
“or also translatable as…”], having the dominion over one’s actions. Now,
we have already spoken of the Exemplar, that is, of God, and of all that
proceeded from the divine power according to His will. In fact, please
recall that in God, power and will are one and the same. Therefore, having
spoken of the Exemplar, let us now speak of his master example, that is,
the creature made in His image, the human being, to the extent that he
too - like the Exemplar - is the principle of his own actions, almost as if
he had a totally free will and power over his own works. I say “almost”
because although the human being is truly free and not determined, he
is neither free nor a principle of his own acts in the exact same way God
is. I do not repeat that the human being is intellectual, as stated in the
definition of Damascene, because I have already dealt with this topic in
the First Part, and because I would like to direct your attention to the
human powers that originate from being a “principle,” which is a better
suited starting point to a discussion on morality.
As a corollary and in line with a search for the implicit conceptual links
of the parts of the Summa Theologiae, the reconstruction carried out in
this investigation corroborates well with the hypothesis that Aquinas
composed the Summa while in Italy, living not too far from the
residence of William of Moerbeke in those same years. In particular, the
strong connection existing between the Prima Pars and the Prima
Secundae regarding the fundamental similarities and differences in the
analogy between God and the human being, and between the human
being and other creatures. Human causality, arising from being made
«in the image of God», is already present in Prima Pars, both in the
treatment of the essence in which it is substantiated, and in the conceptual
chapter concerning the «production of other human beings».
However, it is incomplete, since it does not yet treat of the place where the
image of God is found most notably and universally — in the dominion
over one’s actions, which constitute the primary form of a discussion
on morality which is treated in the Secunda Pars.
The conceptual framework of Damascene, which remains the
privileged inspiration of the Thomistic text, goes well beyond the quotation
of the Prologue. It extends to the treatise De voluntario,
and identifies precise heuristic and theoretical moments that invisibly, but
tenaciously, link the questions 80–83 of the Prima Pars on the appetitive faculty
in creatures (especially in the human being), with article 1 of question
1 of the Prima Secundae and with article 1 of question 6 of the Prima
Secundae on the voluntary nature of human actions.
It is a sequence that functions as both a suture and break between the different topics
of consideration and which the authors of this article do not hesitate
to define as «necessary» to provide the complete vision of human causality
in the context of theological consideration, and at the same time,
to exalt the preciousness of ancient reflection in the light of the highest
intelligibility of divine Wisdom.
The present article intended to display the schematic stages of research
that led to unveiling the implicit use, by St. Thomas, of a hidden,
unreferenced source in his Prologue to the Prima Secundae: Alexander of
Aphrodisias. The investigation began with a curious and fascinating
circumstance — the presence of some variations in St. Thomas’s
quotation of Damascene in the Prologue, namely an omission and an addition
not found in the Damascene text. Having excluded the hypotheses that
Aquinas combined several of Damascene’s texts (the De fide orthodoxa
or the Dialectica) into one, and of a possible dependence on the
translation of Burgundio of Pisa, the authors proceeded to formulate the
hypothesis of a personal and intentional addition of the expression «et per
se potestativum» by St. Thomas. This latter hypothesis allowed us to
trace, through the environ-mental method, a link to an unreferenced
work of Alexander of Aphrodisias, translated by St. Thomas’s
Dominican confrere, William of Moerbeke.
The use of this source, understood in the context of the various
protagonists and theological debates of the time, supported by the specific
interests of the Christian tradition, provided St. Thomas with an avenue
to pass from the treatment of the divine prerogative of providence to
the voluntary nature of human actions, the object of St. Thomas’s
treatment of morality in the Summa Theologiae.
In light of these findings on the subtrack of the Prologue, the general
intentionality of the Thomistic moral vision also takes on a new tenor
and perspective from which to look at the entire Secunda Pars of the
Summa Theologiae, namely, the solution to the Gordian knot of the
relationship between fate and human freedom. It was a decisive question
to which ancient philosophy devoted much energy, and is perceived by
Aquinas in the vision of a providence to which human actions are
related by virtue of similitude, and expressed in an innovative
combination of sources with an extraordinary impact.
 Cfr. THOMAS AQUNAS, Summa Theologiae = ST I-II, prol.
 […] quod quidem “secundum imaginem”, intellectuale significat et
arbitrio liberum: JOHN DAMASCENE, De fide orthodoxa, ch. 26, par. 2,
in E.M. BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa. Versions
of Burgundio and Cerbanus, The Franciscan Institute,
St. Bonaventure, NY 1955, p. 113.
 The addition is the expression, «et per se potestativum».
 In the cited work, the «environ-mental» method is illustrated and its potential
as an interpretive tool is demonstrated. See also: M.M. ROSSI, Appunti sulla Quaestio
disputata De Magistro. Rifrazioni sapienziali, in AA.VV., Studi in onore del Prof. J.M.
Riestra, Edizioni Università Santa Croce, Roma 2015, pp. 427–457; E ADEM, Mind-Space.
Towards an “Environ-mental Method”. An Exegesis of the Middle Ages, in P. ROSZAK –
J. VIJGEN (eds.), Reading Sacred Scripture with Thomas Aquinas. Hermeneutical Tools,
Theological Questions and New Perspectives, Textes et Études du Moyen Âge 80, Brepols,
Turnhout 2015, pp. 171–198; E ADEM, Called into a story. An environ-mental approach
to Saint Thomas Aquinas as exegete and preacher, Angelicum UP, Roma 2018.
 The research is extensively presented in the work: M.M. ROSSI – T. ROSSI, Saggio
sull’etica normativa nella Summa Theologiae di San Tommaso d’Aquino, vol. 2: Il Prologo
alla Secunda Pars alla luce del “metodo ambi(m)entale”, Angelicum UP, Roma 2019, 480
pp., from which the substantial conclusions of this article are drawn. In the referenced
work, the authors compare the thought of St. Thomas with 38 contemporary masters
regarding the text of the Prologue, the various sources involved, and arrive at an
innovative thesis about the source of the Prologue. The authors further emphasize that this
new found source sheds light on a new thematic orientation to the entire Secunda Pars.
The book review can be found in B. Degórski published in the Angelicum 97/1 (2020).
 In order to understand better the difference between our modern «objective» understanding of the historical context with the «subjective» perspective of the Medieval
master, consider the following example: the polemical debate regarding religious life
in the 13th century is a common historical framework for many articles. However, the
«objective» datum of the debates, when put in dialogue with the understanding of the
mindset in which the Medieval master «subjectively» operates, not only portrays a
general historical context, but it manifests the attempt of the master to shape history,
to elicit a particular response from his audience to behave justly and virtuously within
the historical context. As such, the Medieval master was trying to shape history within
the wider context of the history of salvation, but producing a virtuous response from
 This means that each element, e.g., a quotation, statement, or example, etc., despite
its immediate value to the text, is chosen by the master according to the overall goal of
the work. With this added dimension of considering the overall structure of the work,
along with the immediate impact, the author requires a flexible approach to the material
used. This flexible approach results in a creative and interpretive use of references.
 Please note that «self-movement» is the typical English translation. However, as
will become clear in this article, the authors do not believe it sufficiently captures what
was intended by «et per se potestativum».
 Quia, sicut Damascenus dicit, homo factus ad imaginem Dei dicitur, secundum
quod per imaginem significatur intellectuale et arbitrio liberum et per se potestativum;
postquam praedictum est de exemplari, scilicet de Deo, et de his quae processerunt ex
divina potestate secundum eius voluntatem; restat ut consideremus de eius imagine, idest de
homine, secundum quod et ipse est suorum operum principium, quasi liberum arbitrium
habens et suorum operum potestatem: THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I-II, prol.
 Quia vero haec ita se habebant, ex visibili et invisibili natura condit hominem,
propriis manibus, secundum suam imaginem et similitudinem: ex terra quidem corpus
plasmans, animam autem rationalem et intelligibilem per familiarem insufflationem, dans
ei quod utique divinam imaginem dicimus. Nam quod quidem “secundum imaginem”,
intellectuale significat et arbitrio liberum; quod autem “secundum similitudinem”, virtutis
secundum quod homini possibile est similitudinem: JOHN DAMASCENE, De fide orthodoxa,
26, 2 (ed. E.M. Buytaert), p. 113. Most of the editions carry the addition «per se
potestativum», which does not appear in the translation of Burgundio of Pisa, but does
appear of course in the text of the prologue.
 The truncation of the Damascene quotation underlines the centrality of the first
part of the quotation, that is, being «in the image of God», since the entire Prima
Secundae is an illustration of the realization of the image which in the doctrine of
Damascene is substantiated through the operation of virtue: see T. ROSSI, Saggio sull’etica
normativa nella Summa Theologiae di San Tommaso d’Aquino, vol. 1: Il Prologo alla
Secunda Pars come scenografia dello spazio morale, Angelicum UP, Rome 2017, pp. 19–
35. Further, the authors would like to add the hypothesis that the term «virtus» — to
which the text of Damascene refers — also has the meaning of «potestas», which may
have been absorbed. This theory is part of the subject of this investigation.
 The so-called «eye / ear» method was utilized based on the mnemonic ability
to reproduce quotations taken from known sources. As such, it was enough just to
report the beginning of the quotation and let the reader conclude. In this case, the
master’s reproduction of the quote was substantial, but not necessarily explicit.
 The second part of the quotation is attested to in all manuscripts and only
partially in manuscript N: cfr. E.M. BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Ortho-
doxa, cit., p. 113.
 Moreover, the merging of different sources, by author and context, into a single
text could have come from an explicit choice of the master, or from the circulation and
confluence of materials in intellectual contexts and circles — medical, theological,
 See the following manuscripts A, B, D, E, F, G, M, N, P, R:
cfr. E.M. BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, cit., p. 113.
 See manuscripts B e G: cfr. ibidem; in the text of the ST I, q. 93 a. 9, St. Thomas
omits the «et».
 Cfr. THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I-II, prol., in Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Opera Omnia
iussu impensaque Leonis XIII, vol. 6, Ex Typographia Polyglotta De Propaganda Fide,
Romae 1891, p. 6.
 Cfr. JOHN DAMASCENE, De imaginibus, or. 3, ch. 3, 20, in PG 94, 1339D.
 «κατὰ τὸ αὐτεξούσιον καὶ ἀρχικόν λέγει γὰρ ὁ θεός»: Ibidem.
 For example, Philip the Chancellor, John de La Rochelle, and Hugh of Saint-Cher.
 A study on the influence of Damascene as a homilist in the Byzantine era in gen-
eral is found in A. LOUTH, St John Damascene: Preacher and Poet, in M.B. CUNNINGHAM –
P. ALLEN (eds.), Preacher and Audience, Brill, Leiden-Boston-Koln 1998, pp. 247–265. For
the thought and influence of Damascene in general: L. BOSCH, Huellas del Damasceno
en el Angelico. Una aproximación hermenéutica a la utilización de la teología de San Juan
Damasceno en la Summa Theologiae de Santo Tomás de Aquino, Pontificia Università San
Tommaso, Romae, 2011; S. MARKOV, Die Metaphysische Synthese des Johannes von
Damaskus: Historische Zusammenhange und Strukturtransformationen, Studien und
Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 118, Brill, Boston 2015; J. MEANY, The image
of God in man according to the doctrine of Saint John Damascene, [s.n.], Manila 1954.
 On the iconoclastic controversy, the Council of Nicaea II and the condemnations,
see: R. AUBERT, ad v. «Hieria», in IDEM, Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie
Ecclésiastiques, vol. 24, Letouzey et Ané, Paris 1993, pp. 397–398; L. BRÉHIER –
R. AIGRAIN, Storia della Chiesa dalle origini ai nostri giorni, vol. 1: San Gregorio
Magno, gli stati barbarici e la conquista araba (590-757), Editrice S.A.I.E., Torino 1971,
pp. 615–621; A. CALISI, 2009. Iconoclastia e Concilio di Nicea II (787), in Icone
cristiane, 31 Maggio 2009, www.iconecristiane.it/, p. 5. [accessed 31 May 2009].
 The Dialectica was, in fact, the first part of the
work of which De fide orthodoxa was the third.
 For example, Alexander of Hales, albeit quite sporadically or implicitly; it should
also be noted that the Dialectica had been translated by Robert Grosseteste himself:
E.M. BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, cit., p. ix.
 Fecit autem eum natura impeccabilem et arbitrio liberum. […] sed non in natura
peccare habentem, in electione vero magis; scilicet, potestatem habentem manere et
proficere in bono: JOHN DAMASCENE, De fide orthodoxa, 26, 5 (ed. M.E. Buytaert), p. 114.
 Cfr. for example the manuscript Urbin. lat. 62 found in the Vatican Library: cfr.
Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, ed. E.M. Buytaert, p. xxxvii.
 It is worth noting that the oldest codex C carries interlinear glosses from its ear-
liest glosses: cfr. ivi, p. xxxvi.
 See for example manuscript 134 of the Bodleian Library of Oxford: cfr. ivi, p.
xxvii. On the other hand, it would seem that the transfer of the debate is reciprocal, in
fact even in Paris the translation was followed and, therefore, presumably also the
debate that took place in the English environment, in fact even in the French manuscripts
there are references to the translation of Robert Grosseteste, for example in manuscript
N: cfr. ivi, p. xxxiv; cfr. the manuscript lat. 2375 of the National Library of Paris, cfr. ivi,
 Cfr. ivi, pp. xxi; xxv; xxxiv; xxxvi–xxxvii.
 Even the later ones, for example the codex listed as D: cfr. ivi, pp. xxxiv–xxxv,
or the manuscripts of the Laurentian Library in Florence: cfr. ivi, p. xxv. Regarding the
manuscripts currently preserved in German libraries, assuming they are of German
origin, it can be said that they have been slightly adulterated since the 13th century, so
they could be affected by the debate; for example the manuscript F.179 of the
Amplonian Library of Erfurt: cfr. ivi, p. xxiv.
 Such as, for example, the divisio textus. Illuminating in this regard is the text of
the ST III, q. 18, a. 3, in which St. Thomas admirably summarizes the debate, with
theoretical and lexical acumen. The use of the division into the books of
the De fide orthodoxa is also strongly circumstantial, which was likely
introduced — probably in the same way as Lombard’s work — by Philip the Chancellor
before 1224: see E.M. BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide
Orthodoxa, cit., p. xlii. Aquinas often uses the division into books when he
mentions Damascene; see, by way of example:
THOMAS AQUINAS, Scriptum super libros Sententiarum, l. 2, d.17, q.1, a.1, q.la 3, arg. 1;
IDEM, ST I, q. 83, a. 4 ob. 1; I-II, q. 6, a. 1, s.c.
 In the opinion of the critical publisher, Burgundio’s original text is identified in
manuscript C which is the oldest and most reliable codex, of Roman origin, dating
perhaps even to the twelfth century or at most to the thirteenth century: see E.M. BUYTAERT
(ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, cit., pp. xxxv–xxxvi; on the
basis of it, the addition «et per se potestativum» from the initial version of Burgundio
must be excluded, while the immediately subsequent manuscripts (such as B, M, N and
P) already have this addition: cfr. Ivi, p. 113. The codicological study by L. CALLARI,
Contributo allo studio della versione di Burgundio Pisano del “De orthodoxa fide” di Gio-
vanni Damasceno, in Atti del R. Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Letteratura e Arti 100 (1941),
pp. 197–246 it is not used directly in Buytaert’s critical edition which is based on other
 The addition is amply attested to in highly glossed manuscripts, with the
exception of manuscript G — from the Italian area — which, although not a highly glossed
copy, nevertheless carries the addition «et per se potestativum»: see E.M. BUYTAERT
(ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, cit., p. xxi.
 This is a largely hidden debate, see: E. DOBLER, Zwei syrische Quellen der
theologischen Summa des Thomas von Aquin: Nemesiuss von Emesa und Johannes von
Damaskus: ihr Einfluss auf die anthropologischen Grundlagen der Moraltheologie (S.Th. I-II,
qq.6-17; 22-48), Dokimion, 25, Universitӓtsverlag, Freiburg 2000; J. DEGHELLINCK, Les
oeuvres de Jean de Damas en Occident au XIIe siècle, «Revue des Questions Historiques»
45 (1910), pp. 157–160; R. SACCENTI, Un nuovo lessico morale medievale. Il contributo di
Burgundio da Pisa, Aracne, Roma 2016.
 The Leonine Edition of the Summa Theologiae was not conducted on the
basis of rigorous paleographic criteria, introduced by L.J. Bataillon, O.P., but rather —
according to his own words — on the basis of multiple certification. On the process of
editing the Summa Theologiae, see: AA.VV., La filosofia cristiana tra ottocento e nove-
cento e il Magistero di Leone XIII, Atti del Convegno Internazionale svolto a Perugia il
29 maggio–1 giugno 2003, Edizioni dell’Arcidiocesi di Perugia-Città della Pieve, Cor-
tona 2004; E. CORETH – W.M. NEIDL – G. PFLIGERSDORFFER, La filosofia cristiana nei
secoli XIX e XX. Ritorno all’eredità scolastica, Città Nuova Editrice, Roma 1994.
 This sort of autonomy from the text can be seen in: N.J. GREEN-PEDERSEN, The
Tradition of the Topics in the Middle Ages. The Commentaries on Aristotle’s and Boethius’
“Topics”, op. cit.
 According to the critical editor, the manuscripts B, M, N, tended to integrate
glosses, repetitions and even summaries, produced subsequently, into the text: see E.M.
BUYTAERT (ed.), Saint John Damascene. De Fide Orthodoxa, cit., pp. xxxiii–xxxiv; other
manuscripts, on the other hand, also from the French area, kept the text pure and the
glosses in the margin: cfr. ivi, pp. xxxi–xxxii.
 Illuminating in this regard is the text in which St. Thomas admirably summarizes
the debate, with theoretical and lexical acumen: Et ideo alterius rationis est actus
voluntatis secundum quod fertur in aliquid secundum se volitum, ut sanitas quod a
Damasceno vocatur thelisis, idest simplex voluntas, et a magisteri vocatur voluntas ut natura,
et alterius rationis est actus voluntatis secundum quod fertur in aliquid quod est volitum
solum ex ordine ad alterum, sicut est sumptio medicinae, quem quidem voluntatis actum
Damascenus vocat bulesim, idest conciliativum voluntatem, a magistris autem vocatur
voluntas ut ratio: THOMAS AQUINAS, ST III, q. 18, a. 3.
 «τὰ γὰρ ἐπὶ σοὶ αὐτεξούσια καὶ φύσει ἐλεύθερα θέλων τηρῆσαι καὶ τούτοις
ἀρκούμενος τίνος ἔτι ἐπιστρέφῃ; τίς γὰρ αὐτῶν κύριος, τίς αὐτὰ δύναται ἀφελέσθαι»:
EPICTETUS, Discourses b. 2, ch. 2, 3.
 Alexander was a peripatetic philosopher, considered the most erudite
commentator of Aristotle, of whom he translated many works and deepened his thought.
Alexander had an influence on many later thinkers and commentators: cfr. S. LILLA,
ad. v. «Alessandro di Afrodisia», in A. DI BERARDINO (ed.), Nuovo Dizionario
Patristico e di Antichità Cristiane, vol. 1, Marietti, Genova-Milano 20062, coll. 199–202.
 Cfr. ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, On Fate, in A. MAGRIS (ed.), Sul destino,
Ponte alle Grazie, Firenze 1995, pp. 62–63.
 Cfr. IDEM, On Fate, nn. 11–12, 178B–181B (ed. A. Magris), pp. 94–100.
 Cfr. THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I, q. 116. Cfr. M.M. ROSSI – T. ROSSI, Saggio
sull’etica normativa, vol. 2, op. cit., pp. 427–436.
 The new sources in translation, while being available to the university
environment, were used and further enriched by the various masters with a validating or
 Of course, the historical investigation of the origin of the Latin translation would
require a separate study.
 According to the authors, a profitable path of research would be an investigation
of the Stoic sources (for example, Epictetus) of the texts of St. Augustine, in which we
find not only the expression «free will», but also the doctrine on human freedom compared to other creatures.
 Cfr. the lemmas «Arbitro», in Dizionario Etimologico, www.etimo.it/?term=arbit
ro&find=Cerca [accessed 21 January 2021] and «Arbitrio», in Dizionario Etimologico,
www.etimo.it/?cmd=id&id=1208&md=ed0dbb2bf431d7220db9c8827a07833c [accessed 21
 […] ideo neque thelisis […] dicitur irrationalium appetitus, neque
bulisis […]. Voluntas enim est rationalis et libera arbitrio naturalis appetitus.
In hominibus autem, rationabilibus entibus, dicitur magis rationalis appetitus quam ducit.
Libere arbitrio enim et cum ratione movetur, quia coniugatae sunt et cognoscitivae et
vitales virtutes in eodem. Libere arbitrio igitur appetit, et libere arbitrio vult, et
libere arbitrio inquirit et scrutatur, et libere arbitrio iudicat, et libere arbitrio
disponit, et libere arbitrio eligit, et libere arbitrio
impetum facit, et libere arbitrio agit semper in hiis quae secundum naturam sunt: JOHN
DAMASCENE, De fide orthodoxa, 36, 12 (ed. E.M. Buytaert), p. 138.
 Cfr. ad. v. «Roberto Grossatesta», in Enciclopedia Treccani,
www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/roberto-grossatesta/ [accessed 21 January 2021].
He was very active in translating the new Greek, Aristotelian and Patristic
sources, of which he owned one of the most well-stocked libraries of his time; in
addition to De fide orthodoxa, in fact, he had translated another work of Damascene,
the Dialectica: cfr. P.B. ROSSI, “Magna magni Augustini auctoritas”: Roberto
Grossatesta e i Padri, «Quaderni di Noctua» 3 (2013), pp. 443–444. In the
opinion of the authors of the present essay the Dialectica was a better known
Damascenian work than the De imaginibus.
 One of the most heated battlefields of the Greek theory is precisely that which
contrasts the vision of fate, which was very precise and articulated, to the vision of
virtue, which instead represented the space of freedom and human causality: cfr. C.M.
BOWRA, L’esperienza greca, in Il Portolano, vol. 15, Il Saggiatore,
Milano 1961, pp. 103–123. On the debate about providence and chance, Magris
very clearly notes: «… il conflitto nel mondo greco fra un’ontologia “chiusa”
(dove l’essere è un tutto già da sempre compiuto) e un’ontologia “aperta” (con molteplici e indipendenti fattori del divenire)
si gioca all’interno del dibattito filosofico ellenistico fondamentalmente sul ruolo da
attribuire al principio di causalità, ed è questa la sua specificità rispetto al modo in cui
l’idea del “destino” si presentava non solo in Omero e nei Tragici ma anche nei
pensatori più antichi come Pitagora, Eraclito o Parmenide, dove la nozione di causa è del
tutto assente. […] il problema diventava poi quello del conflitto tra destino universale
e libertà particolare, fra l’esteriore e l’interiore, fra Dio e l’uomo o fra la natura e lo
spirito, e in particolare finiva per incentrarsi sulla legittimità o meno di ritagliare
all’interno di un mondo condizionato da rapporti causali necessari uno spazio vuoto tale
da poter essere gestito da soggetti autonomi»: ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, On Fate
(ed. A. Magris), pp. 39–40.
 Cfr. ad. v. «Guglielmo di Moerbeke», in Enciclopedia Treccani,
www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/guglielmo-di-moerbeke/ [accessed 2 June 2018].
 The translations attributed to William of Moerbeke, according to the critical ed-
itor, concern the following authors: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ammonius, Archimedes,
Aristotle, Eustochius, Hero of Alexandria, John Philoponus, Galen, Hippocrates, Pro-
clus, Simplicius, Themistius e Ptolemy: cfr. P. THILLET (ed.), Alexandre d’Aphrodise, De
fato ad Imperatores, version de Guillaume de Moerbeke, Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin,
Paris 1963, pp. 28–36.
 Cfr. ivi, p. 31.
 ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, De fato, n. 11 (ed. P. Thillet), p. 78, lines 84–89.
 Cfr. P. THILLET (ed.), Alexandre d’Aphrodise, op. cit., pp. 51–52.
 Please note that transliteration is the transcription of a text in an alphabetic sys-
tem other than the original one.
 Cfr. P. THILLET (ed.), Alexandre d’Aphrodise, cit., pp. 52–53.
 Cfr. ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, On Fate, n.14, 182B (ed. A. Magris), p. 103.
On the subject of the determinism of Alexander of Aphrodisias see also: C. NATALI,
Alessandro d’Afrodisia. Il destino, Introd., vol. 1, Rusconi, Milano 1996.
 ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, De fato, n.14 (ed. P. Thillet), p. 80, lines 62–67.
 Cfr. P. THILLET (ed.), Alexandre d’Aphrodise, cit., p. 52.
 Cfr. ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, On Fate, n.18, 188B (ed. A. Magris), p. 116.
 IDEM, De fato, n.18 (ed. P. Thillet), p. 86, lines 65–71.
 Cfr. IDEM, On Fate, n.19, 189B (ed. A. Magris), p. 117.
 IDEM, De fato, n.19 (ed. P. Thillet), p. 86, lines 75–79. The Greek text added in parentheses to allow for comparison is taken from I. B RUNS (ed.), Alexandri Aphro-
disiensis praeter commentaria scripta minora, Typis et impensis Georgii Reimeri, Berolini
1892, p. 189.
 Quia, sicut Damascenus dicit, homo factus ad imaginem Dei dicitur, secundum
quod per imagine significatur intellectuale et arbitrio liberum et per se potestativum;
postquam praedictum est de exemplari, scilicet de Deo, et de his quae processerunt ex div-
ina potestate secundum eius voluntatem; restat ut consideremus de eius imagine, idest de
homine, secundum quod et ipse est suorum operum principium, quasi liberum arbitrium
habens et suorum operum potestatem: THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I-II, prol.
 The very concept of «dominion over one’s actions» in its deepest sense has been
taught by Karol Wojtyła in his book, The Acting Person, chs. 3–4, when he speaks of
«vertical transcendence». This concept widens to include the notion of self-determi-
nation as the capability of freely choosing one’s own ends.
 The sense of «per se» and the expressive power it contains in reference to the
«inseitas», so to speak, of the prerogative of free will as a faculty is echoed in a text by
Alexander of Hales: Item, liberum arbitrium in homine est potestas servandi rectitudinem
et etiam deserendi. Cum igitur oppositorum sit illa potentia et determinatur per alterum
tantum, quare insufficienter […] Item, dicit ‘propter se’, id est rectitudinem; quod non vide-
tur, nam ipsa rectitudo non est finis sibi, immo ad aliud est; ergo nec ipsa rectitudo ser-
vanda est propter se: sic enim fieret finis quod non est finis […] Ad illud quod dicunt, quod
non plene definit, quotiam illa potestas oppositorum est, dicimus quod potestas opposito-
rum est multipliciter: quandoque est ad utrumque per se; quandoque ad alterum per se,
sed etiam alterius est, etsi non ad ipsum; quandoque ad alterum tantum, et nullo modo,
nec ad alterum nec alterius. Liberum ergo arbitrium sic ad alterum est, quod tantum est
alterius, ut praedictum; est unde, quando definitur ad id ad quod est, debet definiri tantum
quantum ad hoc quod est servare etc. Illa ergo consideratio intelligenda est: quando est
potestas oppositorum et aequaliter: ALEXANDER OF HALES, Quaestio De libero arbitrio,
q. 13, obb. 2–3 et ad 3, in Magistri Alexandri de Hales Quaestiones Disputatae ‘antequam
esset frater’, vol. 21, ed. V. Doucet, Quaracchi, Roma 1960, pp. 1433; 1434–1435.
 THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I-II, prol.
 In Latin, in fact, the conjunction «et» can have multiple meanings, including
that of a synonym for «etiam», to be translated with «too», «also» or, perhaps even
more fittingly, with the meaning of «or», a synonym of «vel»: cfr. lemma «Et», in
Dizionario Latino Olivetti, www.dizionario-latino.com/dizionario-latino-
italiano.php?parola=et [accessed 21 January 2021].
 See in this regard, T. ROSSI, Saggio sulla metaetica nella Summa Theologiae di
San Tommaso d’Aquino, Angelicum UP, Roma 2011.
 It should be noted, among other things, that precisely in the Prima Pars of the
Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas quotes the same text from Damascene with the
specification of «per se potestativum» (once with the «et» and once without), about the
treatment of being «in the image of God»: cfr. THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I, q. 93, a. 5, ob.
2 et a. 9.
 See the metaethical principles found in Prima Pars della Summa Theologiae,
according to the interpretation of T. ROSSI, Saggio sulla metaetica, op. cit.
 Cfr. THOMAS AQUINAS, ST I-II, q. 6.
 See, in this regard, T. ROSSI, Saggio sull’etica normativa nella
Summa Theologiae di San Tommaso d’Aquino, vol. 3: Il Prologo alla
Secunda Pars e il “motus rationalis creaturae in Deum”,
Angelicum UP, Roma 2018, pp. 89–123.
 See, in this regard, ibidem.