Thursday, May 31, 2007

Signum originis

I came across a rather uncharacteristically clear statement from Scotus detailing the signum originis, apparently not to be confused with the signum naturae (which, although it also plays a role in Trinitarian discussions, is also key to his formulation of synchronic contingency). This is taken from Ordinatio I d. 12 q. 2 nn. 60-62 [Vat. ed. V p. 59-60]. The question is whether the Father and Son spirate in a uniform manner. Not exactly relevant to discussions on other blogs, but interesting nonetheless.

Respondeo. Actus potest considerari tripliciter: vel in se, vel in quantum est termini, vel in quantum comparatur ad supposita agentia. Primis duobus modis est omnimoda uniformitas, vel potius unitas, quia verissime unus actus et unus terminus productus. Tertio modo loquendo, sicut ipsa vis spirativa communicatur Filio a Patre, ita etiam, quod Filius spiret, hoc habet a Patre, - et ita Pater spirat a se, Filius non a se.

Contra: ergo Pater prius spirat Spiritum Sanctum quam Filius spiret Spiritum jSanctum, quia in primo signo originis in quo Pater habet esse a se, habet spirare a se, - et tunc Filius non spiraret, quia si Spiritus Sanctus praeintelligatur habere prius esse a Patre quam a Filio, tunc Filius non producet Spiritum Sanctum iam existentem.

Respondeo. De istis ordinibus sive originibus, sive de multis ordinibus prioritatis et posterioritatis, alias dicetur. Sed quantum ad propositum est, non est intelligendum quod Pater spiret antequam Filius spiret, sicut prius origine Pater generat quam spirat, quia tunc Filius non spiraret (ut argumentum deducit), quemadmodum nec Spiritus Sanctus potest generare Filium iam praeintellectum generari. Sed iste est ordo, quod in Patre est: primo, fecunditas utraque a se; secundo, in Patre est actus primae fecunditatis, et tunc in Filio est secunda fecunditas; tertio, actus secundae fecunditatis, simul a Patre et Filio habentibus tunc illam fecunditatem, - adhuc tamen cum aliquo ordine, quia ille actus est Patris a se, Filii autem non a se sed a Patre, sicut nec in secundo signo est illa fecunditas Filii a se, sed Patris a se. Non est igitur ordo originis inter spirationem Patris et Filii quasi spiraret Pater in aliquo signo originis in quo non spirat Filius, sed in eodem signo originis simul spirant; est tamen ibi ordo spirantium in spirando, quia Pater in illo signo originis spirat a se, Filius autem non a se.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Or Can He?

In the interest of fairness, I ought to point out a rather embarassing error I ran across in the Ordinatio yesterday; In d. 12, Scotus references back to d. 10, but quite clearly he means d. 11 (its so obvious its painful to read). I suppose he didn't write the two sections at the same time.

Strange Stories of Scotus's Death

Here's a few weird quotes I ran across online. Apologies to Michael, probably my only reader, as they are repeats from my myspace blog that probably more people read. But this is a more suitable venue.
"... The first evidence Of any concerns in England over the signs of death and the risk of premature burial appears in Sir Francis Bacon's Historia vitae et mortis. He knew that the famous philosopher John Duns Scotus had been liable to some obscure kind of fits, during which he became surprisingly deathlike. When he was staying in Cologne, he was declared dead and buried after a fit, but his servant came up and said that the wretched man had probably been buried alive. He, the servant, had been instructed to prevent this at all costs, but he had taken a detour and arrived too late. When Duns Scotus's coffin had been exhumed, it was seen that the corpse's hands were torn and the fingers gnawed, from which it was concluded that the servant's apprehensions had been only too valid. For many years, Duns Scotus's tomb had a plaque with a Latin inscription, which was translated as follows:

Mark this man's demise, O traveler,
For here lies John Scot, once interr'd
But twice dead; we are now wiser
And still alive, who then so err'd."

" The grammarian and metaphysician, Johannes Duns Scotus died in Cologne in 1308. When the vault his corpse resided in was opened later he was found lying outside the coffin. "

The first is from a history of the mania over being buried alive in the 19th century. I need to check and see the reference there, if there's anything more than Bacon. The second is a random internet quote. I was also once told a similar story by an ancient franciscan at the Franciscan Monastery in DC, late at night after mass or a concert. The lights were half off, it was very eerie. But a even a franciscan believed it. Where did this 'lore' come from? Well, like the modern term 'dunce' I believe we have pious order of preachers to thank, the Dominicans, ever jealous for the glory of their "Common Doctor (Christ? oh wait, no, its Aquinas)"

In reading a rather odd book entitled "They gave me an answer: Bl. Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure and P. Pio", written, oddly enough, by a franciscan who teaches at holy apostles seminary in Conn. (my former landlords), the roots of the mystery can be found. He quotes B. Hechich who wrote an article somewhere on this saying that around 1400 a priest of worms, Herman Pil, wrote a Collectanea Spiritualia in which he repeated a conversation somehow dating back to 1384-1386 between Henry of Hesse and Conrad of Geinhausen, who were trying to use scotus as an edifying example. Henry says that Scotus was often caught up in contemplation that he would become completely insensible, and finally would pass from this life in one of these ecstasies: "ecce quam dulciter et amabiliter homo iste transivit de vita ista: de requie ad requiem de dulcedine ad dulcedinem, de consolatione spirituali ad iucunditatem aeternam. quod et nobis procurare digneutur qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum."
a Dominican maculist, Abraham Bzovius (d. 1637) mistakenly dates Scotus's death to 1294, and describes Scotus a bit scornfully, but does not give the tale. Another Dominican, (or is he, its unclear here, crucially, in fact) John Frederick Matenesius wrote a history based on Bzovius' annals and includes the following grisly tale..."1294: hoc anno, volens nolens, ex hac vita migravit Ioannes Duacius Cotus, subtilis quidem ordinis fratrum minorum doctor; sed adeo tenebrosus ut "skoteinos" passim diceretur. et cum omnia in dubium vocaret, mors quoque eius in dubium vocata est. apoplexia enim correptum, exanimen putantes, nimis festinato funere ad sepulchrum in choro sui ordinis deferunt; qui dein morbi violentia cessante, ad se reversus, pulsato frustra sepulchro et miserabili mugitu edito, elisoque tandem capite, periit coloniae" that's right, he cut off his own head.
That quote was apparently taken from Mattew Frce(1583-1669) who wrote an apologia against all these stories.
apparently, paul giovio, historian and bishop, also spread various slanderous lies as well.

still a bit needs sorting out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Filioque

Much electronic ink has been spilled of late on various blogs on this issue, so I thought I might give Scotus's opinion of the matter. Which actually turns out to be rather unsurprising. What I found to be more interesting is the views on authority and scripture that he discusses in the replies to the objections at the end. Here is a very rough translation of the relevant question from the Ordinatio [Vat. ed. 5 pp. 1-8].

Concerning the eleventh distinction I ask whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
That he does not:
Damascene ch. 7: “we say that the Holy Spirit is proceeding from the father and resting in the Son.”
Again, ch. 8: “we say that the Holy Spirit is from the Father, we do not say from the Son.”
Again, in the letter De Trisagio to archimandrite Iordanus, in the end, “The Father and the Word and the Holy Spirit;” and he adds, “from the Father indeed, but of the Son, and not from the Son, but the Spirit of the mouth of God.”
Again, through the argument of the Greeks: nothing should be held as an atricle of faith unless what is contained in the Gospel (which contains things of faith in a confused manner), or at least in the writings of the New Testament; but it is not seen expressed in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, therefore etc.
Again, love in us does not proceed from the word, because knowledge does not have causality with respect to volition; therefore likewise neither in the prototype.
[Addition in the hand of Duns Scotus]: Again, the will is posited as the third part of the image, at the end of book XV of De Trinitate; therefore it is not a principle of producing, but is a product. Response: love is called ‘will’; but will called ‘power’ pertains to the parent, although it does not constitute a parent, but advenes just as a second fecundity in the Father.
Again, passive spiration is proper to one person in the godhead, therefore also active. Proof of the consequence: for both seem equally perfect and equally incommunicable.
In the Nicene Creed: “He proceeds from the Father and the Son;” and Athanasius, in the Creed: “the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son.”

[I. to the Question]

In this question the Greeks are said to disagree with the Latins, as is seen in the authorities of the Damascene. But about that discord Robert Grosseteste says (in a certan little note on the end of the letter De Trisagio) that “the opinion of the Greeks is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son, but not proceeding from the Son but only from the Father, nevertheless through the Son. And this opinion seems contrary to ours, in which we say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. But perhaps, if two wise ones – one Greek and the other Latin – each a true lover of truth and not of his own manner of speaking [propriae dictionis], insofar as it is his own, should investigate about this seeming contradiction, it would appear to each at last that that contradiction is not truely real, just as it is in speech; otherwise either those Greeks or we Latins truly are heretics. But will anyone dare to claim that these authors, namely, blessed Basil, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril, and all other Greek fathers are heretics? Likewise, who indeed would dare to call Jerome, Augustine, Hilary, and the other Latin doctors heretics? In a similar manner the opinion of contrary saints its not subject to words with contrary meanings [non subest dictis verbis contrariis contrariorum sanctorum sententia]: for it is said in many ways (just as this “of this one”, so also this “from this” or “by this”, or “from this” [sicut hic ‘huius’, ita hic ‘ex hoc’ vel ‘illo’, vel ‘ab illo’], by which multiplicity perhaps more subtilely understood and distinct, the opinion of contrary meanings would not appear to disagree.”
Whatever may be about those those things, from which the Catholic Church declared this to be held just as being of the substance of the faith (as appears Extra ‘De summa Trinitate et fide catholica’: “Firmiter credimus”), it must be firmly held that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from both.”
For this the argument is such: something having a perfect productive principle prior than it is understood to have a product, is able to produce by that principle, namely when the principle is so perfect that it does not depend on anything passive, nor is able to be impeded by something; the Son has will, which is a productive principle of adequate love, and he has it as it is understood prior [praeintelligitur] to a ‘product of an act of will;’ therefore he is able to produce by it, therefore also he does produce by it.
I prove the minor: generation and spiration have some order, so that in some way generation is prior to spiration; in that prior all divine perfection is communicated to the generated which is not repugnant to him, and so will; therefore then he has will as prior to a ‘product of an act of will’, because still some production is not understood to be made through the mode or by an act of will.
The assumption also about the order of those productions although it seems to be clear from the order of powers, nevertheless is proved by this; that when the act of the first [powers, principles?] have order in something-if each is perfectly active-they will have also a similar order in elicited their own acts. I added, however, “perfectly active” in order to exclude substantial form and quality, in corruptibles, where although substantial form may be active, and quality likewise, and substantial form may be prior to quality, nvertheless quality has its own act first: but this is from the imperfection of the activity of substantial form. In the Father, however, intellect and will are perfectly active principles, and they have a certain order, because fecundity of intellect constitutes the Father, but not fecundity of will. Therefore that fecundity of intellect in some way first will have its own act than fecundity of will its act.
Others prove that order of production to production through this that just as understanding is to willing, so speaking to spirating.
But that proof seems to fail: for willing presupposes understanding, because by that ‘to understand’ an object around which there ought to be love, is sufficiently present, and without that intellection it would not be sufficiently present to the will in order that it might will; but through an act of speaking the object is not present to the will precisely, of which love is being spirated, because even if the Father spirates by means of the will as in it, not nevertheless does it have the object present formally through generated knowledge (because generated knowledge knows nothing , as Augustine says VII De Trinitate), but he has an object present to himself by ungenerated intellection, and that is knowledge which is presupposed to the act of spirating; therefore it is not a similar necessity that generation is presupposed to spiration just as that intellection is presupposed to volition.
I grant that that counterargument proves well that the necessity is not entirely similar, but between intellection and volition there is an order on account of two things: one is on account of the aforesaid presence, the other is on account of the order of those powers in operating, because those powers are such that one is naturally ordered to be posterior to the operation of the other [una est naturaliter ordinate posterius operari quam alia]. The first argument is not the argument/meaning [ratio] of priority of generation to spiration, but the second: for just as insofar as they are operative powers there is some order between their operations, so insofar as they are productive powers there is some order of their productions, although there is not an order of necessity on account of having such presence of the object..
An example of this is: if in fire heat and dryness are active causes, naturally ordered to elicit their acts so that dryness is not able to dry unless first heat heats, that necessity of order is not because through heating a dryable object is made present to the dry, that it might be dried, but on account of the nature of those active powers; et if in that prior in which heat will heat by means of heat, it might communicate to the heated or produce in the heated not only heat but also dryness which it had, it will dry the heated by the same dryness with the heating, because in that instant of nature in which there is dessication, there is one dryness in the heating agent and in the heated.
So it should be understood here, that in that moment [signo] of origin in which the Father produces by an act of will, the productive principle is the same in the Father and the Son, and therefore the Son produces the Holy Spirit by the same production with the Father.

[II. To the Principal Arguments]

To the authorities of Damascene it can be answered by that little note of the master of Lincoln, about which it was said. Nevertheless, the first authority can be expounded, if he speaks about the will and not about the Holy Spirit: because then it could be said that the will, which is the principle of spiration, itself is ‘from the Father in the Son; because the Father communicates it to the Son; and it “rests in the Son”, this is , it is not communicated further under the aspect of fecund principal, although the same will is communicated to the Ho0ly Spirit, in itself. But the letter of Damascene again seems to speak about the person of the Holy Spirit, and not about the will by which He is spirated.
To the argument from the Gospel, I say that “Christ descended into hell” is not taught in the gospel, and nevertheless must be held as an article of faith, because it is posited in the Apostle’s Creed. So many other things about the sacraments of the Church are not expressed in the Gospels and nevetheless the Church holds them to be handed down by the apostles certainly, it would be dangerous to err around that which not only comes down from the apostles by writings but also which is to be held by the custom of the universal Church. Nor did Christ in the Gospel teach all things pertaining to the dispensation of the sacraments; for he said to his disciples (in John): “I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able now to bear them; when however the Spirit of truth will have come, he will teach you all truth.” Therefore the Holy Spirit taught them many things, which are not written in the Gospel; and they handed down those many things, some through scriptures, some through the custom of the Church.
Likewise, diverse Creeds are published at diverse times against new and diverse heresies arising, because when new heresies arise it is necessary to declare the truth against that heresy: which truth even if first it was of the faith, nevertheless it was not first only declared then, against the error of those who denied it.
To the other, about our word [verbo], I say that that is of imperfection in the created image, because to the word is not communicated the same nature with the mind, and therefore neither liberty formally and unqualifiably. The nature of the Father and the same will with the Father is communicated to the divine Word, and therefore he has it as fecund with respect to the production of the Holy Spirit, because he is understood in the order of origin to have that before the Holy Spirit is spirated.
To the last I say that it does not follow, because the divine nature cannot have many productions in one person, just as will appear in the following question, because each production would have the nature and neither would have it; nevertheless one person can communicate the nature by many productions, and many persons can produce a person by one production: and therefore if passive [sc. Production] is only in one, it does not follow that active also is only in one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

At least Scotus can count!

The Lord Denethor is found of pointing out Scotus' inconsistent use of the subjunctive and his poor education and limited reading in the Christian tradition. The implication is that Henry of Ghent is the preferred theologian and philosopher, as he uses near-Ciceronian periods that are always grammatically correct and quotes the fathers ad nauseum to make the most basic of points. The other day I was reading Scotus's discussion of the immutability of God (Ordinatio I d. 8 pars 2 q. unica) and came across a curious fact, to wit, that even the great and learned Henry of Ghent is prone to the most basic errors. In Henry's Quodlibet VIII q. 9 in corp. the master from Ghent enumerates eleven modos essendi; but in his exposition of them, Scotus refers to them as ten ways (though there is a variant in one ms. that gives decem like Henry), and the Vatican editors have inserted a footnote in there, which reads, "Henricus sane de 'undecim' modis loquitur, at revera decem tantummodo habet, eo quod unum eorum bis computat."

'nuff said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

On the transmission of Nature

I came across an interesting quote over the weekend, that highlights the varied uses of the doctrine of univocity. The context is the problem of how the holy spirit can be said to proceed from the will and have the divine nature communicated to him. For since there is a univocal concept of the will between God and creatures, if God's will can transmit or generate a nature, why then cannot the human will? If the human will cannot, then, by univocity we should also say that neither can the divine. But Scotus says...

Ordinatio I d. 10 q. unica n. 30: "Aliter dico quod voluntas potest esse principium communicandi naturam, - et non voluntas ut communiter sumpta ad voluntatem creatam et increatam, sed voluntas unde infinita est; est enim infinitas proprius modus voluntatis divinae, sicut et cuiuslibet alterius essentialis perfectionis."

Nice. I don't have much to say on this, other than the general observation that Scotus' own sense of consistency causes him in several places to bring in his theory of univocity as objections to the theory he is trying to propound.

Norman F Cantor on Duns Scotus

After two years of laboring in the minds, I am appy to report that I now hold a MMS (master of medieval studies) degree. various relatives and friends came up for the ceremony, which was held in latin. ly mater brought me my copy of Norman Cantor's book Civilization of the Middle Ages, which did contain some brief remarks regarding the figure to whom this site is dedicated. He seems to have no axe to grind, but does make some rather remarkable errors. And being a Big Deal in history (though I have heard he's not all that hot from history grad students) he does not feel the need to give footnotes or references to anything he says. The closest he comes is his lists in the back of necessary reading for medieval studies where he has Gilson's History of Philosophy and a book by Knowles or Luscombe, neither of whom have I read (though I hear from the "Lord Denethor" that they are not too hot either). I will type in a few of the pertinent points and give brief comments.

p. 532: "The Oxford philosopher Duns Scotus (1266-1308) stressed the unknowability of God and the inaccessibility of His nature. Man's knowledge of the natural world might come from sensory perception, but not his knowledge of the divine will or his own will to do good. Scotus thus tried to reconcile the Aristotelian view of knowledge derived from sensory perception with the orthodox Christian conception of a free and unlimited deity."

This is quite interesting and a bit garbelled. Cantor seems never to have heard of Scotus's doctrine of the univocity of being and transcendental concepts. In the section previous to this, Cantor had been detailing Thomas's view. But univocity would seem to stress the knowability of God, and indeed all of the first several questions of I d. 3 are all about the knowability of God. Scotus in fact does just the opposite, trying to detail a natural knowledge of God in the wayfaring state that turns out to be far more optismistic than Thomistic analogy (insofar as such terms as "optimistic" are useful in these contexts; blame Cantor not me). Scotus actually holds there is an univocal concept between God and creature, and one of the arguments he gives is based Aristotelian ideas of sense knowlege. All we have access to, barring supernatural revelation are the contents of phantasms. No analogical concept can be derived from this, for on the analogical view being is said per prius of God and per posterius of creatures. But we don't have cognitive access to God's being, just our own. So all we know is this secondary derived being that is of another ratio from the ratio of the being of God. due to this fact Scotus says we need a univocal concept to undergird our analogical ones.

Cantor is also conflating two ideas, that of the knowability of God with respect to his nature or being, and that of knowlege of his acts of willing. This latter seems to be the usual Thomistic argument against voluntarism, that if God's will is considered primary or superior to the intellect, then His will isn't bound by any canons of rationality and therefore is capricious and utterly inscrutable. Which is plain silly given Scotus's distinction between will and nature, and teh fact that in any case, the will and intellect act as co-(though not equal) causes of volitional acts (ignoring for the moment the question of whether Scotus eventually adopted Henry of Ghent's sine qua non causality when he went to Paris).

And in any case, no one in the middle ages would have thought that knowledge of one's own or the divine ability to will the good could be had from sensory perception. that's just dumb.

Here's some more: "Duns Scotus was the greatest medieval logician...He began with an extremely searching inquiry into the power of the human intellect to abstract from sensory data and arrived at a conclusion contradicting Thomist optimism, which believed it possible to build up a rational knowledge of God on an epistemological foundation of sensory experience. Scotus concluded that the human mind cannot penetrate God's being through ratiocination. God is infinite, but human reason is finite. God is absolutely omnipotent and free to follow His own will; the human mind cannot work out a train of causation to be able to know rationally the inner being of God. Scotus was not trying to undermine faith but to enhance its exclusive importance; he was trying to make revelation the only source of the knowledge of divine being. He thought that he had protected the majesty of God and the freedom of the will from the limiting effect of Thomistic determinism."

Again, a curious mixture of fact and fiction. Much here depends on what Cantor means by "inner being of God;" God as trinity? Cantor doesn't seem to know the difference between natural theology/metaphysics, and the sort of knowledge it is likely to produce and theology, which comes by revelation. The picture painted here has more in common with RO depictions of Scotus, or even with the whole postmodern project of denegrating metaphysics and natural theology and claiming that teh only knowledge of God possible is that derived from revelation.

There are some truths here; Scotus does I think hold that the attribute of omnipotence cannot be demonstrated by natural reason. And Scotus does try to protect the will from Thomsitic determinism.

But Scotus also wrote the longest proof for the existence of God in the middle ages; surely that (and univocity) ought to qualify him as an optimistic theologian, who thinks some things about God can be known and derived from sensory phantams.

Such are my thoughts for the moment.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Preces variae

Here are two prayers that I must have gotten from the librarian of the Franciscan Monastery in DC. I have no other reference for them.

O Most Holy Trinity,
Who excalts the humble and confuses the proud,
You Who grant gifts of wisdom and charisms of holiness
To the simple ones of heart,
Graciously sanctified you servant,
Blessed John Duns Scotus,
By His Holiness John Paul II on March 20, 1993.
"Doctor Subtilis" of the Order of Friars MInor.

For through him you first realized
the Immaculate Mother of God;
Openly defending her exemption from Original Sin.

He modeled his life on that of Jesus Christ,
Intensely loving HIm and bravely serving Him
Through the apostolate of science;
Illuminating, with himility and simplicity,
To all people the mysteries of the Faith,
And showing heroic fidelity
To the Church and the Pope.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Prayer for the canonization of Blessed John Duns Scotus:)

Glory be to the Father, etc. (3 times)

Most Blessed Trinity, glorify Your Servant Blessed John Duns Scotus,
The defender of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We beg you, hear us!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Incipit blogus novus. Here you will find the occasional comment inspired by my study of medieval thought, especially that of St. Bonaventure and the Bl. John Duns Scotus. There won't be much commentary on current events, the enigmatic universal indult, or even contemporary philosophy.