Jodocus Trutfetter (also Trutvetter) was a philosopher and theologian of the via moderna, at the University of Erfurt, in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. His main works include a textbook on logic, the Summule totius logice, and another on natural philosophy, the Summa in totam physicen. As a proponent of the via moderna, Trutfetter stressed the importance of taking both ancient and modern authorities into account. In questions concerning universals, categories, and psychology, his views were close to those of John Buridan. On the relationship between theology and philosophy, he shared, for the most part, William of Ockham’s position.
Jodocus Trutfetter, known as Doctor Isennachensis after his hometown Eisenach, matriculated at the University of Erfurt in the winter semester of 1476. In the spring of 1478, he became a Bachelor of Arts and then in 1484 a Master. He taught as a Master in the faculty of arts and was promoted Licentiate of Theology in 1493, after which he was elected for the first time as the dean of the faculty. Trutfetter held many in the academic life. In 1501, he became a member of the college of jurists and dean of the faculty of law and in the same year was elected as rector of the university. In 1504, he received a Doctorate in Theology. Between 1506 and 1510, he taught at the recently founded University of Wittenberg but returned to Erfurt where he taught theology and philosophy until his death in 1519.
Trutfetter’s logical treatises are among the most important works of the late via moderna in Germany. He published his major work, the Summule totius logice, in 1501 and supplemented it with commentaries on Peter of Spain’s Summulae and other texts used in the teaching of logic. In 1514, Trutfetter also published an extensive textbook on natural philosophy entitled Summa in totam physicen.
As did all the secular masters and doctors at the University of Erfurt at that time, Trutfetter identified himself with the via moderna school. For him, this led to supporting some distinctive doctrinal notions as well as to a certain attitude toward authoritative writers. Among these doctrinal standpoints, the most prominent were (1) the denial of universality in the entities of the extramental world, that is, the view that universals are only universal concepts in the mind; (2) the view that all entities in the extramental world are included in the categories of substance and accident – other Aristotelian categories being based on the properties of the concepts – and (3) the view that the human soul is one intellectual form with no real distinction existing between the faculties of the soul or between the faculties and the essence of the soul. Trutfetter did, however, accept some positions of other schools. For example, he was ready to tolerate different views on universals, insofar as they did not imply a real communicability of universal natures, which according to him implied doctrinal heresy.
As a proponent of the via moderna Trutfetter argued for equal use of both old and more recent authorities. At the beginning of his major work on logic, he expressed his opposition to philosophers who relied only on older and saintly authors, by which he probably meant contemporary Thomist and Scotist philosophers. Although he himself based his works on writers like William of Ockham, John Buridan, Gregory of Rimini, Peter of Ailly, Marsilius of Inghen, and Gabriel Biel, he also referred to a number of authors from all periods down to his own times, without excluding some of the most important Thomists and Scotists of the fifteenth century.
In his major works, Trutfetter discusses individual topics by introducing the views of a variety of medieval authors on the question at hand and then providing his own solution, which most of the time conforms to the common view of the via moderna, as he understood it. He was well informed about the decrees issued by the Fifth Lateran Council in 1513 and provided an application of the council’s recommendations concerning the teaching of theological truths in natural philosophy in his compendium of natural philosophy. In order to explain the phenomenon of the rainbow, Trutfetter used Theodoric of Freiberg’s advanced theory, which was not well known at that time.
Trutfetter’s philosophy has not been thoroughly studied, and therefore it is possible to present only some aspects of his thought. Logic for Trutfetter is, in a very strong sense, a science of signs. At the beginning of his Epitome seu breviarium logicae, he quotes Augustine’s dictum that all knowledge considers either things or signs. Logic is about the signs used in propositions. It does not convey knowledge of the extramental world but is still a necessary prerequisite for such knowledge in the natural sciences. Consequently, none of the Aristotelian categories denote diverse kinds of beings in the extramental world. The terms belonging to various categories all signify substances and qualities, but the categorial diversity is based on different connotations of the terms. A wide range of terms is therefore included among the connotative terms. Some connotative terms also have the peculiar property of appellatio formae.
Following John Gerson, Trutfetter argues against philosophers who in his nominalist view neglect a semantic analysis of terms and rush into positing many classes of entities in the extramental world, which could be sufficiently explained by distinctions in the mental concepts about these beings. If one looks at Trutfetter’s discussions on movement or the soul, one notices that he, in fact, carries out a careful semantic analysis before presenting definitions of these key concepts of natural philosophy. Despite these metaphysical and methodological views, his discussion of the actual issues in natural philosophy does not always sharply contrast with the views of Thomist and Scotist writers.
The question of the relationship between philosophy and theology arises in Trutfetter’s remarks on the immortality of the soul. He notes that the Christian view of immortality is expressed even in some of the writings of the ancient pagan philosophers, but he is clearly suspicious of Aristotle’s view of the matter. In this context he mentions the problem of harmonizing the view of the immortality of individual souls with Aristotelian doctrines of the eternity of the world and the denial of actual infinity. For Trutfetter, immortality is in the first place a truth of faith, and he did not consider purely philosophical arguments either for or against it very convincing. He even mentions Scotus’ and Ockham’s criticism of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs. When applying the decree of the Fifth Lateran Council on immortality, Trutfetter did not so much defend the doctrine with proofs as refute the contrary views.
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