Quaderni di Noctua, Vol 5 (2019)

Dimenzione del font:  Piccolo  Medio  Grande

Désir de persévérer dans l’être et mort volontaire chez Nicole Oresme

Aurélien Robert


In his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, Nicole Oresme raises a question that he is apparently the first to ask in these terms, in such a context: do all beings have the desire to persevere into being? Before him, this question is not found in any of the medieval commentaries on Aristotle’s Physics. But after him it became canonical until at least the 16th century, since it can be found in Pietro Pomponazzi’s works for example. The novelty here consists in questioning the validity of Averroes’ thesis, in his own commentary on the Physics, according to which all beings have the desire to persist into being, using the Augustinian analysis of voluntary death and suicide. How can we explain that one can freely put an end to his days if he is naturally inclined by a desire for life and even for eternity? Oresme’s solution consists in justifying not only the possibility, but also the moral obligation to accept death under certain conditions. In most cases, we do not really want to die. The desperate man wishes to cancel his misfortune and the heroic man who sacrifices himself for his country wishes to immortalize himself in the memory of other men. From a moral point of view, Nicole Oresme justifies only one case of voluntary death: that of individual sacrifice for the common good. The aim of this paper is to analyze precisely this important turning point in the long history of the notion of conatus in the West by comparing this quaestio from the commentary on the Physics with the glosses that accompany the French translation of the Nicomachean Ethics realised by Oresme at the court of Charles V.


Keywords: Nicole Oresme; Physics; Pietro Pomponazzi; death; suicide; being.


English titleDesire to persevere in being and voluntary death according to Nicole Oresme


DOI: 10.14640/QuadernidiNoctua5-7

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ISSN 2723-9225