Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Introduction to Scotus

Here is a handy introduction to Scotus for the philosophical layperson. Written by Jack Allen.

Here are his thoughts on why Scotus is not read much today.

Given all these major doctrines, one might wonder why Scotus doesn’t get much air time these days. To my mind there are three reasons. Firstly, since the Enlightenment, Medieval philosophy has been seen as backward, superstitious, or just a bit weird. This attitude is encapsulated by David Hume’s famous Enlightenment claim that “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748). Scholasticism, then, has been given a fairly hard time, often by influential philosophers who have not engaged with it in any deep manner.
Secondly, there is St Thomas Aquinas. Since Pope Leo XIII wrote Aeterni Patris in 1879, great philosophical importance has been given to Aquinas in Catholic and Anglo-Catholic thinking. The 1917 Code of Canon Law claimed that Aquinas’ methods should be used in teaching philosophy and theology. The popularity of Aquinas (which is certainly not entirely unjustified), combined with the negative view of Scotus put about by the Radical Orthodoxy movement, has led to a marginalisation of Scotus’ work.
Thirdly, Scotus’ writings are famous for being difficult to read. It is easy to disparage Scotus for the same reason it is easy to disparage any postmodernist: their writing is dense and subtle, and it can be difficult to see what they are saying, if anything. And not only is Scotus’ Latin tight and elliptical – earning him the title of ‘the Subtle Doctor’ – but little of his work is available in English, although more is becoming available year on year.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Analogia Entis as Nigromantical Principle

For various reasons I was poking about in contemporary theological writing on analogy of being and Duns Scotus. The usual wasteland of wild claims, textual misinterpretation, and historical inaccuracy abounds now as ever (the belief that Scotus taught in Cambridge is impervious to all argument), but I did come across an interesting discussion of analogy in John Betz's article (which does not mention Scotus) "The Analogia entis as a Standard of Catholic Engagement..." in Modern Theology 2018. The following paragraph caught my eye:

Nevertheless, Barth was right that Przywara did not invent the analogia entis and that it has long been part of the Catholic tradition. Not only is it found in Augustine, specifically in Book XV of De Trinitate, which appears to have been the basis for the decision of the IV Lateran Council. It is also the implicit (but obvious) teaching of Aquinas, whom Przywara calls the teacher of the analogia entis, especially on account of Thomas’s teaching on secondary causes (since this teaching underscores, more so than NeoPlatonic models of exemplarism, including Augustine’s, the difference between God and creation). It is also, for that matter, the implicit teaching of Gregory of Nyssa, as is evident from Gregory’s reading of Exodus 3:14 and his corresponding understanding of the relation between Being and non-being. But it remained for centuries more of an implicit than an explicit teaching and thus stood in need of theological explication (precisely in keeping with Newman’s understanding of the development of doctrine, but here in terms of the Church’s understanding of creation). In fact, it does not appear as a terminus technicus until Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, and only thereafter, by way of Suárez’s Disputationes Metaphysicae, made its way into the Jesuit manuals in which Przywara first encountered it

Two thoughts arise from considering this passage:

First.  As I and probably many other specialists writing on Scotus have pointed out, there are multiple senses of the "analogy being". There is a 'thick' sense, much like what is described in the passage quoted here, which involves dissimilarity-similarity, participation, causality, basically a whole cluster of metphysical notions. There is also a 'thin' sense, which is about the relations between terms and concepts. The thick sense includes the thin sense of analogy. Modern critics of Scotus generally don't distinguish these senses, and, without distinguishing where Henry's theory of analogy falls that Scotus rejects (and to be fair to modern theologians, many now seem to be aware that Scotus attacked Henry's theory of analogy and not Thomas'), assume Scotus rejects the analogia entis, simpliciter et totaliter, that is, that he throws out the thick sense of analogy.

Second. The claim here, backed by an article from 1970 (though, interestingly enough, the article is not by an author who is a medievalist, but apparently by another Przywara scholar) is that the usage of Analogia entis as a technical term is first found in Cajetan. Interestingly enough, the 17th c. Scotist theologian and philosopher Mastri made a similar claim, asserting that "the ancient scholastics wrote little about analogy" and that the debate over analogy began with Cajetan's book on the topic. One sees here the so-called tyranny of print: there was much discussion of analogy by authors such as Petrus Thomae who were never printed in the early days of the press, and so works such as the Quaestiones de ente (which dwarfs Cajetan's De nominum analogia) were lost to later ages. But John Betz and Mastri are both wrong. The usage of 'analogia entis' in both the thick and thin senses is found in the aforementioned Quaestiones de ente of Petrus Thomae, first printed in its entirety last year but written at Barcelona in 1325. This work also contains the first known mention of the Scotist school (Schola scotica). So the first professedly Scotist author is also the coiner of the Analogia entis? Given the widespread belief that Scotus himself and thus all his "progeny" rejected analogy, this is quite the historical irony. Moreover, given that Peter Thomae died in prison under charges of necromancy, perhaps the Analogy of Being is tainted, some attempted spell cast by Peter Thomae from across the ages; in the end perhaps it is, to paraphrase the (Latin) trial documents, a Nigromantical Principle.

For statements on analogy in PT, see Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de ente q. 10 (thick analogy; see here). See also the same question for thin analogy, ed. me, p. 272: "Ad secundum et tertium et alias similes auctoritates dico quod explicant analogiam entis respectu substantiae et aliorum, sed haec analogia non repugnat verae univocationi."  The edition records no variants here, but one wonders whether "aliorum" shouldn't be "accidentium".

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Have you Tried Scotus?

A great discussion of Scotus in a mainline catholic journal, written by that indefatigable translator of the Ordinatio, Peter Simpson.

A taste:

Indeed if, as seems true, there was something deficient about pre–Vatican II theological training, even in Rome, the deficiency will not be made up by a return to an exclusivist Thomism, much less to the old Thomistic manuals. A return to Thomas read and studied in the original texts would doubtless help. But such a return would not have helped the young Kenny with his question. For the theologian who had a good answer, Duns Scotus, is barely studied, if studied at all. His very name raises hackles or eyebrows or both. The man is accused by some of causing the theological decline of the West. It is said that he precipitated the destruction of a magnificent and glorious edifice with his falsely subtle distinctions, his flattening metaphysics of univocity, his skeptical undermining of rational proofs for the faith, his tortuous Latin.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Franciscus de Mayronis and Petrus Thomae: The Principle of non-contradiction is univocally common to God and creatures

The claim that the principle of non contradiction (PNC) is univocally common to God and creatures is a common one in early Scotism. I give below the summary conclusions from the prologue of Mayronis' Conflatus redaction of his commentary on the Sentences. There is a link to Latin text on the sideboard of the blog.

Franciscus de Mayronis, Conflatus, prol. q. 1 a. 2.

Conclusio 1: "First is that that principle or its truth is found formally in creatures" [a proof follows; here I give only a little text in what follows]
Conclusio 2: "The second conclusion is that the truth of the principle is formally found and also holds in God, because where the conclusion, there the principle, just as before. In God is found the truth of that, namely that God is eternal or non eternal, which are conclusions of the first principle."
Conclusio 3: "The third conclusion is that it is found under the same ratio in God and in creatures" [several arguments follow]
Conclusion 4: "The fourth conclusion follows from the third, from which under the same formal ratio it is found in God and creatures it follows that one and the same is found in God and creatures."

perhaps if I have time, I will translate this whole section.


Here is the text from Petrus Thomae's Reportatio, d. 1 q. 1:

Tertiadecima ratio formatur ex tertiadecima maxima sic: omnis principii veritas se extendit ad univoca sui subiecti et nullo modo ad aequivoca; sed veritas huius principii ‘de quolibet affirmatio vel negatio’ vera se extendit ad ens creatum et increatum, finitum et infinitum etc. ergo creatum et increatum finitum et infinitum sunt univoca sui subiecti; sed subiectum eius est ens; ergo ens est univocum ad ens creatum et increatum, finitum et infinitum; ergo.

The thirteenth argument is formed from the thirteenth maxim thus: the truth of every principle extends itself to the univocals of its subject and in no way to equivocals; but the truth of this proposition 'affirmation or negation of whatever' truly extends itself to created and uncreated being, finite and infinite, etc.; therefore created and uncreated, finite and infinite are univocals of its subject; but the subject of it is being; therefore being is univocal to created being and uncreated being, finite and infinite; therefore,

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On the Horizon

Update: there is now a Website for the Archiv!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tales of Interest

Various items of interest are going on about the internet or in real life.

1. There is a conference in Bonn, Germany, from April 4-5 on Scotus' Interlocutors at Paris.  Information is here.

2. On the internet, there have been some fascinating discussions of analogy and  univocity, that may be of interest to some.

A. John Sylvest.
B. Al Kimel.

Sadly I don't have time to comment at the moment, but they are well worth reading.

I am currently working on a nice question on univocity by Mayronis that could combat much of the extreme apophaticism prevalent in theology today, if I could ever finish editing it, perhaps adding a translation and commentary...

3. There is also an upcoming conference in march on analogy in Aristotle. See here for information.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Franciscus de Mayronis on Univocity

Here is the conclusion to a question on univocity of being probably by Francis of Meyronnes that I transcribed today.

Ideo dico quod ens dicitur secundum eandem rationem formalem de Deo et creatura, licet nullo modo secundum eandem realitatem, quia licet Deus sit in perfectione excellentissimus ut eius entitas omnia transcendit, ita est benignissimus ut sua dona quibuscumque communicet, et ideo sicut illi qui negant univocationem ipsam laudant quoad eius sublimitatem, ita isti quoad eius liberalissimam largitatem, nec tamen isti minus extollunt divinam excellentiam quia ipsam ponunt perfectum, non solum quoad excellentiam et sufficientiam sed etiam quoad redundantiam, unde Paulus eius divitias extollens Ro. 10 dicit quod Deus est dives in omnes ad quas divitias nos ipse perducat. Amen.

Therefore I say that being is said according to the same formal notion of God and creatures, although in no way according to the same reality, because, although God is most excellent in perfection so that his entity transcends all things, so also he is most kind so that he communicates his gifts to everyone, and therefore, just as those who deny univocity praise him according to his sublimity, so those [who affirm univocity praise him] according to his most liberal abundance, nor nevertheless do they [who affirm univocity] less extol the divine excellence because they posit it as perfect, not only as far as excellence and sufficiency but also as far as his overflowingness, whence Paul extolling his riches  says in Romans 10 that God is rich in all to which riches he will lead us. Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

New Volume of Studies on Scotus' Reportatio Published

A volume of studies on Scotus' Parisian Reportatio and its reception in Scotism is now available, as a part of the Recherches journal.  Available here.

Here is the table of contents:

John Duns Scotus's Reportatio Parisiensis

369 - 376: Introduction

377 - 438: "John Duns Scotus's Reportatio Parisiensis Examinata A Mystery Solved" 
DUMONT, Stephen D.

439 - 469: "Scotus in Paris. On Univocity and the Portions of the Soul"
GORIS, Wouter

471-492:" Problemfall Univokation. Die Univokation von ens reale und ens rationis im Kontext der Reportatio Parisiensis I-A"

"John Duns Scotus's Reportatio Parisiensis and the Origin of the Supertranscendentals" 
SMITH, Garrett R.

539 - 560: "Die Willenslehre des Duns Scotus im Spiegel seiner Schriften und im Lichte seiner Schüler" 
MÖHLE, Hannes

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Anonymous Scotist of Vat lat 869 on Analogy of Being

Here is some undigested Latin text on the analogy of being from the anonymous Scotist of Vat. lat. 869. This author wrote a collection of texts to be found in this manuscript such as some questions on the De anima, the Quaestiones ordinariae de conceptibus transcendentibus, and some spare questions on various topics. The manuscript has been variously studied by Longpre, Stella, and most recently Dumont.

Utrum materia per quodcumque agens possit separari a forma (Vat. lat. 869, f. 74ra-b):

“Secundum quod praemitto est quod ‘esse’ multipliciter dicitur, et est alterius rationis ut dicitur de forma et de materia. Et principalius et perfectius dicitur de forma quam de [d. f. q. iter.] materia, et hoc [sequitur exp.] habetur a philosopho II De anima secundum antiquam translationem, ubi dicitur sic: cum unum et esse multipliciter dicatur, quod proprie actus est. Sed quia ex isto secundo dicto posset inferri oppositum eius quod teneo, scilicet quod materia non dicat aliquam entitatem formaliter, sic arguendo: quando aliqua analogantur in aliquo et illud primo et formaliter reperitur in uno et in aliis non nisi per quandam attributionem, sicut patet de sanitate, quae realiter et formaliter est in animali, in aliis autem, puta in potione vel urina, non est formaliter. Si ergo esse analogice dicitur de materia et forma, cum proprie et formaliter dicatur de forma, non dicetur de materia nisi in quadam attributione ad formam, et ita, circumscripta forma, materia non habebit aliquod esse.

Ideo sciendum est quod etsi secundum aliquod genus analogiae sic fit quod illud in quo aliqua analogantur non habeat esse realiter et formaliter nisi in uno et in aliis non nisi per quandam attributionem, sicut patet in exemplo adducto, tamen non est hoc verum universaliter, sicut patet, nam non obstante quod ens analogice inveniatur in Deo et in creatura, esse tamen formaliter reperitur in creatura. Simile etiam est de bonitate et sapientia et aliis perfectionibus quae licet analogice dicantur de Deo et creatura formaliter et principaliter reperiantur in Deo, nihilominus tamen formaliter dicuntur de creatura. Idem etiam apparet de substantia et accidente, de quibus etsi analogice dicatur ens et principaliter dicatur de substantia, non tamen substantia est tota entitas formaliter sed etiam accidens formaliter dicitur ens.

Ad cognoscendum autem quando illud in quo plura analogantur sic se habeat quod tantum in uno reperiatur formaliter, sive tantum de uno dicatur formaliter, et puta de illo de quo dicitur principaliter et de aliis non dicatur formaliter sed per quandam attributionem, et quando dicatur de illis pluribus formaliter quae analogantur in eo licet principalius de uno quam de alio, do talem regulam: quandocumque illud in quo plura analogatur est tale quod, non obstante tali analogia eius, tamen conceptus dictus de pluribus dicitur secundum unam rationem de eis, ita quod tali analogiae est compossibilis univocatio universaliter omne tale in quo plura analogantur. Hoc modo etsi principalius dicatur de uno quam de aliis, nihilominus tamen formaliter dicitur de utroque, et hoc modo se habet genus respectu specierum et ens respectu substantiae et accidentis et etiam respectu Dei creaturae, sicut diffuse declaratum est in prima Quaestione ordinaria. Quando autem illud in quo plura analogantur est tale quod eius conceptus non est eiusdem rationis in illis quae analogantur in eo, sic dicitur principaliter de uno quod solum de illo dicitur formaliter, de aliis autem non nisi per quandam attributionem, et ita est in exemplo quod adducebatur; sic non dicitur analogice sanitas de animali et potione quod conceptus sanitatis non est eiusdem rationis, ut dicitur de animali et potione et urina, nam sanitas ut dicitur de animali accipitur pro aequalitate humorum, ut autem dicitur sanitas de urina accipitur pro quadam significativo sanitatis ut dicitur de potione accipitur pro quodam causatio sanitatis constat autem quod isti tres conceptus sunt diversi et non sunt eiusdem rationis et ideo sanitas ut dicit aequalitatem humorum inon reperitur formaliter nisi in animali in aliis autem non nisi per attributionem ad istam sanitatem.”

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Something sent to me from the depths of the book of faces.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de ente, q. 3

Another translation, made originally for a class I taught last fall.

[Quaestio 3: Whether the concept of being is maximally first]

To the third we proceed thus:

And it seems that the concept of being is not maximally first, ecause according to Porphyry, the ten categories are the ten first genera of things; therefore the concepts of the ten categories are maximally first; therefore the concept of being is not maximally first.

Furthermore, if the concept of being is maximally first, therefore the most general is not the most general. The consequent is false, therefore also the antecedent. Proof the consquence, because the most general is called that which does not have a supervening or superior genus according to Porphyry; but if the concept of being were maximally first, something would be superior to the most general; therefore, etc.

Furthermore, in I Posterior Analytics chapter on the position[status] of the categories it was proved that the resolution of all quidditative concepts stops at the highest point at the concepts of the ten categories; but resolution does not stop unless at the maximally first; therefore the concepts of the ten categories are maximally first.

Furthermore, in VII Metaphysics chapter 1 it is said thus: “something is said to be first in many ways, but substance is first of all with respecto reason [ratio], knowledge and time; therefore the concept of substance is maximally first.

This is confirmed, first by this which is said in the same place “first being and not some being,” that is not through some being, “but being indeed will be unqualifiedly [simpliciter] substance.” Second because in I De generatione chapter 7 it is said that being “unqualifiedly singifies the first according to each category,” that is, substance.

Contra: being is impressed [on the intellect] by a first impression, from [the] first [book] of Avicenna’s Metaphysics chapter 5, therefore the concept of being is unqualifiedly first.

[Response to the Question]

I respond: in that question I will first declare three conclusions, second I will exclude certain objections.

[Article 1]

Concerning the first [article], I show first that the quidditative concept of being is most common, second that only the concept of being is the most common among quidditative concepts, third that only the concept of being is maximally first.

[Conclusion 1: the quidditative concept of being is most common]

I show the first conclusion thus: that concept is most common whose extent [ambitus] nothing positive can escape; but nothing positive can escape the concept of being; therefore the concept of being is most common. And briefly, all philosophers and doctors agree in this conclusion.
{Whence Richard the Englisman [argues thus]: just as the first complex concept is founded in being by comparing it to its contradictory, namely, of every being or non-being, so it is necessary that the first incomplex concept be said of all most commonly, for a concept whic is includited in every concept and none of those [is included] in it is maximally first; but the quidditative concept of being according as it is being is of this kind; therefore etc.

Alexander [de Alessandria] in I sentences proves it to be thus: “that which contains infinite being by its primary division seems to be the widest concept.[1]}

[Conclusion 2: the concept of being alone is the most common quidditative concept]

I deduce the second conclusion thus: there is no special being which is predicated of everything (this is clear); but being is predicated of everything; therefore only the concept of being is the most common.

And this is to argue thus: the highest community cannot befall a concept determined to a certain genus or to a special mode of being; but ever concept other than the concept of being is of this kind; therefore the highest community is able to befall non other concept than the concept of being.

[Conclusion 3: only the concept of being is maximally first]

I deduce the third conclusion thus: a grade of primacy in concepts is attained according to a grade of communit; but only the concept of being has the highest grade of community, from the preceding; therefore among all concepts only the concept of being has the highest grade of primacy, and consequently is maximally first. The major is clear from that common [vulgata] proposition ‘how much more common, so much prior’.

Furthermore, ‘it is impossible for the same at the same time to be and not to be’ is unqualifiedl first in complex [concepts], as all say, therefore the proper concept of being is unqualifiedly first in incomplex [concepts]. The consequence is clear, because the order of complex concepts est according to the order of incomplex concepts, whence just as complex concepts depend on incomplex [concepts] for truth and knowability, so they depend for communit and primacy.

Furthermore, a concept to which only the first negation is opposed is alone unqualifeidly maximally first; but the first negation is opposed in the first place only to the concept fo being; therefore only the concept of being is unqualifiedly maximally first. The major is clear, because the order of negations is according to the order of affirmations. The minor is clear, because the first negation is non-being [non-esse], and that is opposed in the first place only to being [esse].

Furthermore, what “is said through superabundance befalls only one alone” according to the Philosoher in the book of the Topics, therefore in incomplex concepts the highest primacy befalls one alone; but this cannot befall any other concept than the concept of bieng, to which befalls the highest community; therefore the highest primacy befalls only the concept of being.

Furthermore, a concept that is ultimate by the ultimate ultimacy and first by the first primacy is unqualifiedly first; but the concept of being is of this kind; therefore only the concpet of being is unqualifiedly first. The major is clear, for, as it was said in the second question of the prologue of the Sentences,[2] there are grades in primacies and ultimacies, so that the ultimate in resolving and the first in composing est unqualifiedly first. The minor is clear, because the concept of being is most common.

[Article 2]


Concerning the second [article,] it can be objected against the aforesaid. First, thus: that in which something agree is more commmen than them; but the concept of being and the the quidditative special concepts agree in a quidditative concept; therefore a quidditative concept is more common than the concept of being and the other special concepts. The minor is clear, because the concept of being is quidditative and the other special concepts are quidditative.

Furthermore, second thus: just as being is formally distinguished from non-being, so non-being from being; therefore a formality is common to being and to non-being, and consequently it is more common than being.

Futhermore, third thus: when something befalls many, it is necessary that something common is found in them; but to be predicated befalls being and non-being; therefore the concept of a name is more common than the concept of being. The minor is clear because a negation is non-being and a privation is non-being and nothing is non-being. The major is clear from [book] I of the Posterior Analytics.

Furthermore, fourth thus: to be signified by a name is common to being and non-being; but the concept of being is not common to non-being; therefore the concept of a name is more common than the concept of being.

Furthermore, fifth thus: what are of equal extent [ambitus] are of equal community; but the one, the true and the good are of equal extent with being, for they are convertible with it; theerefore they are of equal community, and consequently non solum conceptus entis est communissimus.

[Response to the Objections]

As evidence of the foregoing I say first that community in concepts can be understood in four ways: first in the order of the categories, secund in the order of the concepts of real beings, third in the order of howsoever[qualitercumque] beings, fourth in the order of the transcendentals. In teh first order the concepts of the most general are the most common and unqualifiedly first, in the second the transcendental concepts common to God and creatures, and substance and accident, in teh third the concept of being common to real being and being of reason, or to being in the soul and to being outside the soul, which is the same, and this community is treated in VI Metaphysics, in the fourth [order] the proper concept of being which indeed is common to the one the true and the good and the other proper passions [of being], not by a community of formal predication, but of denominative predication and virtual containment, as has to be explained below. From the forgoing it is clear that simply speaking only the proper concept of being is most common and maximally first.

To the first [objection]: against this should be said that perhaps [the term] ‘concept’, as some say, is not a name of first intention. It is not, however, unsuitable for many second intentions to agree in something of this kind, just as noting of first intention is common to the categories according to some and nevertheless they [i.e. the categories] agree in this intention which is ‘category’, and the ten most general [categories] in the intention which is ‘most general’ and the same, it seems, can be said about [the term] ‘quidditative’.

To the second [objection]: it is clear through the same, for ‘formality’ as some say, seems to be a second intention.

Against this: a second intention is founded in a first [intention] and consequently presupposes it; but non-being is not a first intention; therefore a second intention cannot be founded in non-being, and consequently neither ‘formality’.

It is confirmed, because what is founded in nothing is nothing; but the formality of non-being, if it is posted, is founded in nothing; therefore the formality of non-being is nothing. The major is evident. The minor is clear, because either something positive is subject to it or nothing. If nothing, I have what is proposed. If something positive, therefore it is not non-being which is posited non-being.
Therefore I say otherwise that just as no intelligibility per se befalls non-being or nothing, so no formality befalls it per se.

To the form [of the objection]: I deny the consequence, because it fails by a fallacy of the consequent. For ‘this is distinguished form that’ can be understood in two ways: in one way that ‘this’ means one formality and ‘that’ another formality, of which neither is the other; in another way because ‘this’ means a formality and the other means a mere negation of a formality. Therefore to infer determinately commits the fallacy of the consequent. To the antecedent I concede that being is formally distinguished from non-being and non-being from being, but not in a similar way, because being is distinguished from non-being through its own formal character[rationem], but non-being is not formally distinguished from from being through its formal character[rationem], because it does not have one, but because it is a formal negation of the character [ratio] of being.

To the third [objection]: I say that that to which is nothing, neither in reality nor in the intellect, it does not befall to be predicated, and therefore I deny the minor, if non-being is taken thus. To the proof I say that just as the intellect grasps within itself the predication ‘nothing is nothing’, so it grasps each extreme, and so each extreme is something in the fiction of the intellect.
To the contrary: with every act of the intellect circumscribed, this predication ‘nothing is nothing’ is true, therefore from its own terms it has truth and not from the intellect.

I respond: predication is an act of reason [ratio], therefore with every act of reason circumscribed there is no predication, and so that predication, with the act of the intellect circumscribed, is neither true nor false, because under such a hypothesis it can in no way be made.

You might say, therefore whence does it have truth?

I respond: from this that the intellectus conceives those negations in the mode of positives and imposes names to them, from which [names] it composes an enunciation.

To the contrary: a negation cannot be a cause of truth, for “from this that a thing is or is not, speech is called true or false,” from the book of the Categories.

I respond: a negation is not per se the cause of some truth unless negatively. Therefore propositions of this kind have truth from the terms being conceived, but nevertheless this ‘conceived’ or ‘understood’ being is granted them only through the act of the intellect.

To the fourth [objection] I concede that the concept of a name is more common than the concept of being as it is taken in the second of the aforenamed orders, nevertheless it is below the community of being as it is taken in the tird order. Through this mode the aforegoing objections can be solved.

To the fifth [objection] I say that her he speaks about quidditative concepts, not about qualitative [concepts]. But the concepts of unity and truth and goodness are qualitative concepts, as will be shown later.[3] And therefore only the concept of being is the most common and maximmaly first among quidditative concepts. To the form [of the objection] therefore it should be said that concepts of this kind are of equal extent as far as their supposits are concerned, not nevertheless are they of the same formal character [ratio], because that one is quidditative, those are qualitative.[4]

[To the principal arguments]

To the first principal [argument] I concede that the concepts of the most general are first only in the first order, and therefore the consequence does not proceed.

To the second: I deny the consequence. To the proof it should be said that although the do not have a supervening genus, as that one says, nevertheless they have some superior concept, as has been proven.

To the third I say that he does not speak unless about quidditative categorical predicates, and in their order there is a state [status], as he proves for the ten highest [categories].
To the fourth it should be said that he speaks about substance in comparison to accidents, not in comparison to whatever concept, whence only the proper concept of being is unqualifiedly first, al least by primacy of adequation.

To each confirmation it is clear through the same [argument].

[1] The text in curly brackets is present in only two manuscripts and seems to have been added in the margin of the De ente by Petrus Thomae after manuscripts of the work had begun to circulate.
[2] That is, in the second question of the prologue of Petrus Thomae’s Quaestiones super libros Sententiarum. I have not identified the passage.
[3] In Quaestiones de ente q. 12.
[4] That is, the concept of being is quidditative, the concepts of the coextensive attributes [passiones] of being are qualitative.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Yeats: The Scholars

A poem by W. B. Yeats I don't believe I have posted before. From The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats.

The Scholars

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
all think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Transcendental Mnemonics

My office mate pointed me to a text by one Pelbartus Ladislaus de Themeswar (ca. 1430-1504). He wrote a work called Aureum sacrae theologiae rosarium iuxta quattuor Senteniarum libros quadripartitum ex doctrina doctoris Subtilis, divi Thomae, divi Bonaventurae, aliorumque sacrorum doctorum.

There is an interesting discussion in vol 1, on the topic of "De ente" starting on f. 51rb. Here we get the mnemonic "Reubau" for the transcendentals. It stands for res, ens, unum, bonum, aliquid, verum. According to Jan Aertsen, the same mnemonic occurs in Dominic Soto (1494-1560). A fun little text by Pelbartus, quoted below:

Ens primo, scilicet in communi, secundum Scotorel. di. 3 primi, habet conceptum latissimum ad omnes conceptus positivos: sicut suum oppositum, scilicet, Nihil, habet conceptum latissimum ad omnes conceptus negativos. Unde Commentator .4. propositione de causis dicit Nil est latius ente. Nam et secundum Aristotelem .4. Metaphysicae ens est transcendens, ergo etc.

Pro quo nota quo ut ibidem habetur scilicet .4. metaphysicae, sex sunt transcendentia, quae sunt communia omnibus generibus entium, scilicet Res, Ens, vunum, bonum, aliquid, uerum: quae significantur per literas huius dictionis Reubau. Unde ver. transcendunt omnes quae signat dictio Reubau.

Utrum ens in communi univoce dicatur de Deo et creatura...

"Scotorel." appears to be Peter of Aquila, for Pelbartus adopts the former's theory of univocity as a mode of conception, an attempt to reconcile Scotistic univocity with thomistic analogy.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Petrus Thomae's De ente: Prologue

Here is a translation of the prologue from the Quaestiones de ente, the critical edition of which was recently published here.

[Quaestiones de ente]


Just as the Philosopher says in I Physics chapter 7, “first according to nature we say common things and thence speculate about proper things.” For with common things unknown, so also are proper things unknown, according to him elsewhere, and therefore “it is necessary to proceed from universals into singulars,” from I Physics chapter 1. Since therefore the transcendentals are the most common, it is opportune to treat something of them for the acquisition of scientific knowledge; among the transcendentals being itself holds the first and chief place, as will be seen below. And therefore, in order to acquire knowledge of the transcendentals, we will procede in this order: first we will inquire about the concept of being, second about what follows [consequentibus] it, third about the first parts of being.

Concerning the first [part] we proceed thus:

First we ask whether the concept of being is known per se or is knowable from others

Second whether the concept of being is quidditative

Third whether the concept of being is maximally first

Fourth whether being has a proper concept distinct from the concept of every special being

Fifth whether the argument from a certain and doubtful concept concludes necessarily

Sixth whether among quidditative concepts only the concept of being is irreducibly simple

Seventh whether true analogy and true univocity are compatible in the same concept

Eighth whether the concept of being is one only by a unity of equivocation

Ninth whether the concept of being is one only by a unity of confusion

Tenth wehther the concept of being is one by a unity of univocity

Eleventh whether the univocity of the concept of being is real

Twelfth whether being is predicated ‘in quid’ of its proper attributes

Thirteenth whether being is predicated ‘in quid’ of ultimate differences

Fourteenth whether the concept of being is immediately contractible by some differences

Fifteenth whether there can be something univocal to real being and being of reason.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My MicroNarrative

The common Thomist narrative of the rise of theology and philosophy to its zenith in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, the common doctor of all and the angelic doctor, a rise which soon turned into a flaming nosedive needs no introduction here. It is so widespread that Milbank can refer to it as "scarcely then controversial". The text-base defense of Scotus seem to have all failed, at least rhetorically. The "semantic" defense of Scotus has been effectively undermined by Milbank (in the linked piece) on the grounds of a-historicity (think about that for a minute, then try not to spill your beer). The narrative normally focuses on the "twin scissors" (to use Hans Boersma's turn of phrase) of univocity and voluntarism that snipped the "sacramental tapestry" that Scotus had inherited from Christ and the Apostles via Thomas Aquinas.

Here I want to propose a counter-narrative, though it is more fact-based than interpretative, so it probably does not count as a narrative. And it does not explain the present, but is the sequence of what went on in the 12th-14th centuries. The narrative is ultimately more driven by the waves of Aristotelian translations than anything else.

Step 1: In the twelfth century, the common opinion among the theologians was that perfections or attributes are said univocally of God and creatures. The basic sense of univocity was that of Aristotle's Categories.

Step 2: Aristotle's Metaphysics and Posterior analytics were translated. Aristotle's view in the former is that being is said in many ways. This sense is what became the "analogy of being". Following the Arab commentators one could posit it as "midway" between equivocity and univocity, or following Boethius, one could take the division of the Categories as immediate; there is no medium between univocity and equivocity, analogy becomes  equivocity, in particular, 'equivocal by design', as opposed to pure equivocity. Aquinas himself seems a bit ambiguous here. He often says analogy is a middle way between the extremes, but he clearly knew the Boethian definition, for in Summa contra gentiles when he rejects equivocity he rejects "pure" equivocity. But he does not identify analogy as an equivocal by design. At this step, there is no attempt to unite the metaphysics with the notion of a science in the Posterior analytics

Step 3: The posterior analytics' criteria for science are applied to the science of being, requiring univocity. An early defense of univocity was launched in the 1280's, though I have not found who it was. Their attempt posited a real agreement between God and creatures. Scotus himself attacks this person, as did William of Ware and Peter Sutton. Scotus also posits univocity, at some stage, the univocal concept of being may well be common to God of creatures, the object of the intellect, and the subject of metaphysics. Scotus retains the analogy of being.

Step 4: Criticism of Scotus. Scotus is the locus of the discussion. Early critics reject his position and return to equivocity of being, linked to some 12th c. discussions as well as Porphyry and Boethius. Ockham jettisons analogy.

With the emerge of Ockham, the basic positions of the scholastic discussion are set until the dissolution of scholasaticism itself: equivocity of being, univocity of being with analogy, univocity alone, analogy of being alone. There was much discussion of the issue during the 14th century. I have found little discussion in Franciscans of the fifteenth century on the topic. Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough. Most mention it, but say nothing interesting and don't devote questions to it. Thus there is some justice in Mastri's comment that there was little discussion of analogy before Cajetan. Cajetan revived the debate (note I deny the existence of a distinction between first or second scholasticism and the fanciful claims made today about Cajetan restarting scholasticism). By Mastri's day (17th c.) there were extensive debates among the schools about analogy and univocity, long after the RO narrative has jumped to Luther and Kant. In truth, analogy was never abandoned by anyone save Ockham and the nominalists, certainly not by Scotus and the Scotists.

Get to work in the comments and tear this apart!