AQUARIUS Matthias— a scholastic, theologican and metaphysician, b. in Aquara (near Salerno), d. 1591 in Naples.
The path of Aquarius’ intellectual formation led him through Dominican studies in Bologna (1558) and to Milan, Venice and Turin, where he engaged in a public dispute with the Averroist Francis da Vimercate on the question: “num intellectus viatoris possit cognoscere substantias separatas quidditative” and in 1569 he obtained the title of master of sacred theology. Later as regens studium in in Milan he again defended one hundred theses before the General Capital in Rome (1571) and gained his next scholarly title—ordinary professor of metaphysics.
From 1571 to 1574 he lectured in Naples on metaphysics in his studium within the order. He published his lectures in Rome (1584) under the title Dilucidationes in XII libros primae philosophiae Aristotelis. In the Neapolitan convent of St. Dominic he met his fellow Dominican, Giordano Bruno of Noli and stayed with him for three years. Their paths crossed again, but for the last time, at the hospice of the Mother of God in Rome (1575), where Nolanus was briefly incarcerated during his flight from Naples. While Aquarius was at the hospice he had the title publico e ordinario professore di teologia e di metafisica in florentissimo Studio Neapolitano, and he published Francisco de Silvestris’ Quaestiones on the three books of Aristotle’s De Anima and the eight books of his Physics which he provided in his Additiones. He added to these six of his own correction, ie.: The most beautiful treatise on the ideas, in which it happens that Aristotle is not contrary to the divine Plato; On the immortality of the soul; On the connection of elements; On the potency and nature of prime matter; On essence; On the primacy of form before the composite (R. R. F. Francisci Sylvestri Ferrariensis […], Quaestiones luculentissimae in tres libros de Anima Aristotelis cum additionibus ad easdem et aliis quaestionibus philosophicis; R. P. F. Mattihiae Aquarii, Disputatio pulcherimma: De ideis; R. P. F. Francisci Sylvestri Ferrariensis, Quaestiones luculentissimae in octo libros Physicorum Aristotleis cum additionibus ad eosdem […]; both short works were published four times, first in Rome in 1576 and 1577, then in Venice in 1593 and 1601). For five years he also lectured in theology at the Roman Sapienza and prepared a new edition of the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard with his own Annotationes. He included in the same edition his own Most beautiful treatise on the controversies between St. Thomas and the other theologians and philosophers (Annotationes super quatuor libros Sententiarum Ioannis Capreoli […] adiecto quoque pulcherimmo tractatu de controversiis inter D. Thomam et caeteros theologos ac philosophos, Ve 1588–1589).We know from his dedication to Pope Sixtus V printed in the book that the title “princeps thomistarum” was bestowed upon Capreolus by Bernardino Tomitano (1517–1576) and by Arcangelo Mercennario, a student of Aquarius (meus condiscipulus). Aquarius’ last writings were published posthumously under the title: Formalitates iuxta doctrinam […] D. Thomae Aquinatis ab adm. Rever. Patre Magistro Aquario; in almo Gymnasio Neapolitano Metaphysices publico professore compilatae. Nunc demum opera adm. R. P. Alphonsi de Marco Apersani, in Regio Convento Sancti Dominici de Neapoli Baccallaureo ordinario, finitae et in lucem editae (Na 1605).
The period of Aquarius’ scholarly works was the second half of the sixteenth century. It was a time of heated polemics on the immortality of the soul among Thomists, Scotists, Averroists and Alexandrists. Aquarius most wanted to show that there is really only one true philosophy (vera philosophia), and he saw this philosophy in the worthy philosophical tradition of the thought of Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas. The true philosophy had to be a full agreement of reason and faith (concordia rationis et fidei), especially in the question of the personal immortality of the human soul, which was a crucial point then for philosophy and faith. The further a philosopher was from this tradition in his views, the further he stood from the “true philosophy” of Aquarius, and it mattered not whether he was a pagan thinker or a Christian theologian. Consequently, Aquarius made a dichotomy in dividing all thinkers into those who supported the immortality of the soul, and those who were opposed. The supports of the immortality of the soul included Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Simplicius, Philoponus, and among the Latins especially St. Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Hervacus Natalis, Francis Toletus, Agostino Nifo, Chrysostome Javello, and Averroes “who was not able to convince himself that the soul was mortal.” Aquarius counted among the most important opponents of the immortality of the soul Alexander of Aphrodesia, Peter Pomponazzi, Cardinal Cajetan (Thomas de Vio), and the Alexandrist Simone Porta.
Aquarius formulated ten ways (not proofs, although he seems to treat the last two ways as proofs) to lead thinkers to accept the immortality of the soul. They were: (1) the via motus—the way of motion, which Plato and Cicero used; (2) the via beatitudinis—the way of happiness, which the soul attains in abstract knowledge (Archelaus); (3) the via virtutis—the way of virtue, which would give meaning to man’s positive toil and effort (Orpheus); (4) the via remunerationis—the way of recompensation for good or evil (Apuleius); (6) the via legum—the way of laws conceived as the lex gentium of the Egyptians and Romans, but not that Moses or the Christian peoples (Solon); (7) the via apparentiae—the appearance of the souls of dead people in places where they never were in their life time and where their dust does not repose; (8) the via libertatis—the way of freedom, which is the result of man’s feeling that his deeds are not determined but free (Porphyry, Chalcidius); (9) the via simplicitatis—the way of what is simple (not composite), as the soul is a simple substance and is not composed of matter and form—the soul exists “per se ,” and so cannot be destroyed (Iamblichus, Aristotle, Aquinas); (10) the via operationis—the way of intellectual operations (intellectionis, which indicate that the mind with its faculties is immaterial and is not joined (immistus) with matter—according to Aquarius “this is the safest, truest and simplest way (via rectissima among all those that Aristotle and St. Thomas used in many places in their doctrine.”
Aquarius also formulated a ”decalogue“ that was unique in the history of modern Christian Aristotelianism. He collected all the solutions of five authors (Thomas Aquinas, Hervaeus Natalis, Francis Toletus, Agostino Nifo, and Chrysostome Javello in the form of ten concise theses which he thought represent the full agreement of Aristotle’s philosophy with the Catholic faith in the particularly difficult question of the individual immortality of the human soul. In this way he tried to close the many centuries of controversy in philosophy and Christian theology by proposing a compromise in this most crucial point. However, this was a partial concord and could not be accepted in the light of new investigations and the critical historical-philological method that was then already being developed.
B. Nardi, DBI II 654–655; P. R. Blum, Giordano Bruno, Matthias Aquarius und die eklektische Scholastik, AGPh 72 (1990) 3, 275–300; M. Ciszewski, Franciszka de Sylvestris koncepcja nieśmiertelności duszy ludzkiej [Francis de Sylvestris’ conception of the immortality of the human soul], Lb 1995, 75–84, 100–106; idem; Vera philosophia a nieśmiertelnośc duszy ludzkiej w ujęciu niektórych szesnastowiecznuch autorów, AM 12 (1999), 257–288.