Friday, December 28, 2007

William of Alnwick on intelligible being

Now that my beautifully rebound copy of De esse intelligibili has arrived, I have begun reading the first question. When time permits, I will attempt to blog on all the questions in the work (there are six questions). The first question is "utrum esse repraesentatum obiecti repraesentati sit idem realiter cum forma repraesentante, et est idem, utrum esse cognitum obiecti cogniti sit idem realiter cum actu cognoscendi." The Parisian players he is opposing, according to Ledoux, are James of Ascoli and Henry of Harclay. Henry of Ghent is probably just off-stage. William himself answers the twofold question yes and yes; the form (=intelligibile species) representing the object outside the mind is the same as the intelligibile being the object has in the mind. He does mention esse deminutum, which can be found in Scotus as well (Owens has an article on the topic)but I think it's being used in a different sense; Idon't recall Scotus positing it as a sort of being midway between real being and being of reason, which is the position William is attacking. Ledoux refers us to Ord. I d. 36 (I don't have my books handy so I can't follow up). The language does sound a bit like that of the formal distinction, as his opponents apparently think there is some distinction between the form representing and the representative being (albeit an intentional one) that holds prior to the operation of the intellect, human or divine.

I'll post a quote here on the different sorts of being that he attributes to his opponents, and his own opinion later.

"Esse reale est illud quod convenit rei ut existit formaliter et in natura propria et tale esse non convenit nisi singulari vel ei quod habet esse in singulari, quia solum singulare existit in natura propria per se et primo; universalia autem non existunt nisi ut habent esse in singularibus de quo esse intelligitur illud Philosophi in Praedicamentis, 'destructis primis impossible est aliquod aliorum remanere.

Esse vero intentionale est illud quod convenit rei ut habet esse repraesentative sive esse repraesentatum in aliquo alio ente reali, et quia repraesentari in aliquo alio obiective indifferenter convenit tam universali quam singulari, ideo esse intentionale convenit tam universali quam singulari, ideo esse intelligibile non magis appropriat sibi esse universale quam singulare nec e converso, et tale esse intentionale est debilius esse reali et ideo semper fundatur in ipso licet obiective.

Esse vero rationis convenit rei ut habet esse conceptus in sola consideratione intellectus operantis et tale cum sit esse diminutum, semper praesupponit alterum duorum praecedentium.

Dicunt igitur quod esse intentionale non est esse reale, quia potest convenire rei non existenti in natura propria, nec etiam esset esse rationis quia enti rationis repugnat existere in re; ei autem quod habet esse repraesentatum in aliquo et esse obiectivum in anima non repugnat existere in re, ideo istud esse intentionale est medium, ut dicunt, inter esse reale et esse rationis. Consimiliter distinguunt de distinctione, quia sicut triplex est esse, ita triplex est distinctio consequens, scilicet realis, intentionalis et rationis."

Bad translation:

"Real being is that which befalls a thing as it exists formally and in its proper nature, and such being does not befall anything except a singular or that which has being in the singular, because only the singular exists in its proper nature per se and primarily. Universals, however, do not exist unless they have being in singulars, about which we should understand that statement of Aristotle that 'with the first things destroyed it is impossible for something of the others to remain.

Intentional being is that which befalls a thing as it has being representatively or to be represented in some other real being, and because to be represented in some other objectively is suited to both the universal and the singular indifferently, therefore intelligible being does not draw closer to universal being or singular being, and such intentional being is weaker than real being and therefore is always founded in it, although objectively.

Being of reason befalls a thing as it is a concept only in the consideration of an operating intellect and such being, since it is diminished, always presupposed one of the two preceding.

They say therefore, that intentional being is not real being, because it can befall a thing not existing in its proper nature, nor also is it a being of reason because it is repugnant to beings of reason to exist in reality; to that however which has representative being in something and objective being in the soul it is not repugnant to exist in reality, therefore that intentional being is medium, they say, between real being and being of reason. Likewise they distinguish about distinction, because just as there is a threefold being, so there is a threefold distinction consequent to it, namely, real, intentional, and rational.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Note on Charity

As is well known, for Scotus acts of intellection are caused by to essentially-ordered co-causes. Initially, I had thought that these co-causes are the object and the activity of the agent intellect on the species. In today's reading of Ordinatio IV, he left out the object and was discussing the intelligible species' relation to the intellect as a partial cause of intellection. I don't have my books at hand (as I am on vacation), so I can't follow this up. In any case, amid a series of interesting remarks he said that the two partial causes can co-inhere, but that this is entirely accidental. As an example, he made the following remark about charity (Ord. IV d. 12 q. 3):

Et ita breviter dico, quod charitas in patria immediate causabit intellectionem intuitivam sui in intellectu, et tamen non erit praesens intellectui inhaerendo, sed voluntati, et tamen ista praesentia sufficit ad hoc quod ipsa, ut causa partialis, concurrat cum alia causa.

Bad translation: "And so I say briefly, that charity in heaven will cause immediately the intuitive intellection of itself in the intellect, and nevertheless will not be present to the intellect by inhering, but to the will, and that presence will suffice for this that this charity, as it is a partial cause, concurs with another cause."

Perhaps it is not all that surprising; it just makes a little more explicit some of his claims elsewhere that we have intuitive cognition of our own (interior, mental) acts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Denys Turner on Univocity

I was rather encouraged by the chapter Turner devotes to univocity in his book Faith Reason and the Existence of God. The book as a whole seems to be the usual Thomist affair of showing Thomas is still relevant in the post-Modern intellectual marketplace. He questions the notion of onto-theology, and shows how Thomas isn't an onto-theologian. but he does devote an entire chapter to univocity, which I have to say is the best attempt yet by a Thomist to come to grips with the doctrine; Gilson's Jean Duns Scot, despite the discouraging introduction is also fairly good, being hampered by the fact that he devotes only three pages to Scotus's arguments.

One can find many things to quibble with in Turner, such as the near absence of footnotes, or the fact that the only scholar he seems to be familiar with is Richard Cross (probably due to the latter's criticism of the Cambridge Phantasists); not to bash Richard, but poor Turner seems to take Cross's incidental remarks about the general drift of univocity as gospel truth.

He also seems to suffer from the usual Thomist problem, that of being a Thomist without also being a medievalist. So like all Thomists, he assumes that what Thomas calls analogy in Aristotle is actually analogy, and not what Aristotle calls pros hen equivocity. There is no evidence of any knowledge of the ensuing tradition on analogy, equivocity and univocity as it is shaped by Boethius, the neo-Platonists, the arabs, or, and this is especially important for understanding both Thomas and Scotus, logical commentaries from the arts faculties.

I think this latter problem is what lies behind his claim that Scotus is involved in a vicious circle when he claims that the unity of an univocal concept is sufficient so that when it is both affirmed and denied of the same thing a contradiction results, and when he thinks that normal syllogistic reasoning assumes univocity to avoid fallacies of equivocation. Turner may think that one can have analogical syllogistic reasoning, which I think makes no sense in logic (based on what I have read in logical works); I don't think Thomas comes right out and makes the claim anyway. McInerny has written articles titled "analogy is a logical doctrine" which I have not read, but seem rather confused to me. But perhaps I am just guilty of reading too much logic. It may well be Scotus and Thomas are irreconcilable on this point. The point of all this being, I would think Scotus is only pointing out the obvious way in which logicians operate.

I was unclear if he grasped that univocity is for Scotus something that holds on the conceptual, not "real", metaphysical level, or that Scotus wasn't talking about analogy on the real level, which he simply accepts and moves on to something more interesting. I was also unclear why, and this always confuses me, the Scotistic univocal concept of being must be equated with Thomistic ESSE. All Thomists, all least since Gilson, do this and I don't know why. Turner is pretty clear later on in another chapter that Esse has no conceptual content. As he says p. 176: "Esse, therefore-not being the object of any concept-cannot be predicated univocally, for were it predicable univocally that could be in terms only of some same formal characteristic predicated of all things said to exist. That, essentially, is the mistake of Duns Scotus." Now, is it just that we have two incommensurate notions here? For I think Scotus would accept, and does accept due to his claim that being is the object of the intellect, the latter part of Turner's sentence. Perhaps our dear readers can instruct me on this one. I was also unclear if he grasped the "real community" issue correctly.

Unlike most non-Scotist scholars, he actually quotes some of Scotus's arguments at length, and exposits them fairly accurately. Naturally, he has to argue with them. He attacks the first argument, from certain and doubtful concepts, by coming up with a weird objection from Herny, though he changes the conditions in the middle. Basically, he starts out with two people seing a speck on the horizon and thinking about what it might be, but then he switches to the speck on the horizon and the dot in his eye that represents it. His conclusion is that if univocity is true, there would have to be some general sense that would embrace both the speck in his eye and the object, which would denote some property of "thisness" possessed in common by everything you can point to. I really can't tell if he's being ironic or not, because he hints that this is Henry's problem, and Scotus does posit individual differentia in his account of individuation, later called "haeceitas."

The other main objection he brings is against the part in the same first argument for univocity in which Scotus says that one can be in doubt as to the identity of the first principle but be certain that it is a being, which he thinks is true de facto from the pre-Socratics. But Turner casts the whole thing into a debate between Thomas and Scotus on idolotry, from the last few articles in summa I q.13. Thomas holds that when paynims use the word "God" of an idol they apparently do so analogically. Turner even makes it sound as if the idol itself is divine in an analogical sense to the use of the term "God." But he distorts Scotus into talking on the same level, as if he were concerned in this passage with the difference between and idolater and the true Christian believer regarding the Christian God. Scotus himself is only talking about the first principle. This isn't the same thing, and the fact that Turner puts words in Scotus's mouth is telling. In any case, he doesn't have a clear statement about who is right or wrong, they just say different things (perhaps a common theme among those Thomists who finally get around to reading Scotus).

That's all for now. all in all, though some bits could use some work, it was the best account I've seen so far. He actually read Scotus (kudos), and had some interesting things to say. Plus he rejected the Cambridge crowd's position in a gentlemanly fashion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bonaventure Against the Eternity of the World

As I promised Jonathan Prejean recently, here I post a lengthy excerpt from a several-year-old term paper, with very minor modifications. It no longer exists in electronic form and I had to retype all this: consequently I left out most of the references and only included the portion of the paper dealing with Bonaventure's discussion of the infinite and the possibility of an infinite past. Here goes:

St Bonaventure argues against the eternity of the world in II Sent. First he claims

“that nothing can be added to the infinite. This is manifest per se, because everything that receives addition becomes greater, but nothing is greater than the infinite. But if the world is without beginning, it has lasted into infinity: therefore its duration cannot be added to.”

Since every day adds another revolution of the sun to the world’s duration, this duration cannot already be infinite.

St Thomas presents a basically identical argument in chapter 38 of his Summa Contra Gentiles, but then rejects it:

“There is nothing to prevent an addition to the infinite on the side on which it is finite. On the supposition that time is eternal, it must be infinite on the part of what went before, but finite on the part of what came after, for the present marks the end of the past.”

St Thomas’ assertion might be illustrated by imagining a number line, where 0 marks the present, the negative integers the past, and positive integers the potential future. The negative integers stretch backwards into infinity, but there is a last one, -1; then we come to the present. After this we will continue to move alone the number line into 1, 2, 3, etc. Everything after 0, the present we have picked out, is clearly finite, no matter how many times we add an integer; the infinity lies in the other direction. And our 0 can be taken anywhere along the line we like: there is always some finite number of integers afterwards that can be added to, with an infinity before.

St Bonaventure has heard this argument, but he thinks it doesn’t work. You can’t tell me, he says, that it is on the present side that the “more”, the addition is to be found. Every additional revolution, as soon as it happens, becomes the past and joins the supposed infinity of former revolutions; furthermore, the infinite number of past years would have to be multiplied by a twelve-times infinite number of past months. Therefore even on the side of the past you have an infinite, and something else more infinite, which is impossible.

The second argument Bonaventure proposes relies on the principle that the infinite cannot be ordered. “For every order flows from a principle to a mean; if therefore there is no first, there is no order,” and this applies both to the succession of heavenly revolutions and to the successive generation of animals in a species. St Thomas would reply by insisting that there is no real order to be found in per accidens efficient causes, but only in essentially ordered causes. For Thomas this is enough to invalidate the argument; to show why it is not so for Bonaventure would be to go further into the Seraphic Doctor’s metaphysics than time permits. Suffice it to say, along with Gilson, that for St Bonaventure

“every celestial revolution, instead of following indifferently an infinity of identical revolutions, coincides with the appearance of unique events . . . Every day, every hour even forms part of a series which is ruled by a certain order and of which Divine Providence knows the whole reason.”
(Gilson, The Philosophy of St Bonaventure, 174)

To insist on such a worldview at this point when arguing with Averroists or pure Aristotelians would probably seem philosophically indefensible to St Thomas, however much he might agree with it as a Christian; therefore in philosophy he is prepared to do without what to St Bonaventure is an essential but also wholly evident fact about the world. Nevertheless given the assumption that successive events in the universe are really ordered to each other, and not merely accidentally, St Thomas would also accept the argument (see Summa Theologiae Pars 1 art. 46 q. 2 ad 7.)

Bonaventure’s third argument is probably his most interesting and compelling. Like the first one, it examines the notion of an infinite succession of days or years for coherence, but is much more ingeniously constructed. I will give it in full and examine it at greater length than the others.

“It is impossible for the infinite to be passed through; but if the world has not begun, there have been infinite revolutions: therefore it was impossible to pass through them: therefore it was impossible to come up to this one. If you say that they have not all been passed through because there was no first, or even that they can be passed through in an infinite time, you will not escape this way. For I will ask you if some revolution infinitely preceeded today or not. If not: therefore all are finitely distant from this one, therefore they have a beginning. If some one is infinitely far away, I ask about the revolution immediately following that one, whether it is infinitely distant. If not: therefore neither is the first one, because there is a finite distance between the two. If [the second one] is infinitely distant, similarly I ask about the third and the fourth to infinity: therefore no one of them is more distant from today than another one: therefore one is not before the other: therefore they are all simultaneous.”

Let me bring back my illustrative number line of years. 2007 years have passed since the 0 moment, the now of the incarnation. The year before that we will call -1, and before that -2, and so forth. It is perfectly conceivable to extend the line to posit a year -1,285,397; this simply means that 1,285,397 years passed before the angel Gabriel came to Mary. But Bonaventure insists that if the world never began one has to posit a year –(infinity), requiring that an infinity of years passed before that moment. This he denies as impossible.

Thomas would insist that this argument is poorly framed. In Summe Theologiae Pars 1 art. 46 q. 2 ad 6, he says:

“A passing through (transitus) is always understood from term to term. But whatever past day is assigned, from that day to this one there was a finite number of days, which were able to be passed through. But the objection proceeds as though, having posited these extremes, there was an infinity in between.”

In other words, it doesn’t make sense to posit a year –(infinity) because the infinite doesn’t work that way. Pick any number you like and you can say that so many years passed before 0; but any such numer will be finite. Infinity is not a number at all. It simply means that there is always more beyond any point you assign.

Plainly St Bonaventure just doesn’t accept St Thomas’ principle that “even though the infinite does not exist at all if it is actual, it can exist successively” (from On the Eternity of the World Against the Averroists), or at least not in the same way. For him this is nothing more than an evasion. Perhaps what he has in mind can be clarified by adding a future arm to our number line. Until now I have only contemplated the past leading up to the present; I either assigned the past a negative number and labeled the present 0, or I assigned 0 to some point in the past and counted the finite number of years following it up to now. But I can project into the future and postulate that if today is 2007, there will be a 2008, and a 1,285,397. In fact I can postulate that there will be no final year but that the world will continue forever, that whatever number I choose there will be a corresponding future year, and more after that. In this sense we can say that the future is infinite, even though the world will never reach a single particular year that itself is infinitely distant from this one.

It seems that in St Thomas’ view the past and the future are the same in this respect, while in St Bonaventure’s view they are fundamentally different. Neither the past nor the future exists in the way that the present now does, since now they are not, but since time moves in a definite direction their nonexistence is not of the same kind, and from the vantage point of the present we cannot look indiscriminately either way. The future is in potency as not yet having happened, and this potency is infinite, because more can always happen. But the past is not in potency but in the state of already having happened. There is no potential for more past once the present has passed away, except by adding on to it from the future end of the line, converting potential future revolutions into actual present ones and the completed past ones. We speak of it in the perfect tense because, while not having simultaneous being with the present, nevertheless it has a kind of unalterable completion. It has the status of having been the present, and so every past now must have been passed through to come to the present now. In the imagination we can always extend the future arm of the number line further and say that there can always be more years. But this is a different operation from extending the past arm backwards and saying that there can always have been more years. If future years are like promissary notes, past years are like debts which have already been paid to reach the free and clear state of the present. Thus Bonaventure insists that it makes no sense to wave one’s hand at an infinitely and indefinitely distant past without relating it to the present. Either some given past year has an infinite distance from the present, or it doesn’t. If not, then the past is finite. But if it does, then since that infinite distance cannot have been traversed, it must really be a kind of simultaneous eternity with no real relation to the present at all, a year which was never passed through to reach the present, a year that the world now cannot count as having once experienced as part of its journey to reach the present now. We have then the finite number of years that the world has passed through, and the unreachable infinity of time somehow lying behind them which we can never reach by counting back, and which were never passed through on the way forward. In other words, we have a finite past which is really past, and an infinite one which is not past. Bonaventure will agree with Thomas that a passing through requires going from term to term; but he rejects as contradictory the notion of apst which, not having been passed through, was never a present, and thus cannot serve as a term marking the distance between then and now.

If Bonaventure rejects Thomas’ principle that, while there cannot be a simultaneous infinite in act, there can be a successive one, it is because he thinks that this still implies the admission that there can be an actual infinite of some sort or other. Stretching it out in time does not eradicate its actual character; but the infinite can only exist potentially. Bonaventure draws out this implication in his fourth and fifth objections. . . .

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What Can Men Do Against Such Reckless Hate?

"And this aspect of modern realism (its ability to discard God when describing the real) owes its origin to developments in theology at the end of the thirteenth century, when those who attempted to argue for knowledge of God did so by attempting to discern the nature of God from the nature of the ontic world. This 'natural theology' was, in effect, first constituted by Duns Scotus who, when wishing to give to human cognition the possiblility of knowing God, elevated a neutral account of being above the distinction between the Creator and his creatures, allowing both God and finite beings to share in this being in due proportion, since for Scotus rationality required that the same substance be shared by both God and his creatures if each were to know the other."

-Philip Blond, Radical Orthodoxy, 232-33.

"...whereas voluntarist or secular justice is based upon the private appropriation of property, theological justice is grounded in assimilation to that body of Christ which one imbibes..."

-Milbank, Pickstock, Ward, "Introduction" in Radical Orthodoxy, 15.

“Two theses will be argued in this section. The first is that for Scotus there is no real distinction in a creature, nor in God. That much is incontrovertible, but this is extended to suggest that there is in effect, for Scotus, no real distinction between God and creatures. So the second thesis is that there is, then, effectively for Scotus, only a formal distinction between God and creatures. We can think a difference, so there is one, but this difference is but a formality.”

-Conor Cunningham, Geneology of Nihilism, 27.

"Genealogy of Nihilism rereads Wesern history in the light of nihilistic logic, which pervades two millennia of Western thought and is coming to fruition in our present age in a virulently dangerous manner. From Parmenides to Alain Badiou, via Plotinus, Avicenna, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, nothingness can be witnessed in development, with devastating consequences for the way we live. As a dualistic logic, nihilism has come to ground existence not in life but in the absences beyond it. We who are, are no longer the living, but rather the living dead; in the death-wielding modern approach to knowledge, we are all reduced to cadavers.”

-Conor Cunningam, ibid., flyleaf.

“The outcome of the univocal thesis of Scotus was a twofold abandonment and scission of the inter-relation of God and creation. The univocal thesis allowed the world to abandon God, as one could now wholly dispense with God by explaining the world in terms of this higher ground whatever it might be.”

-Phillip Blond, Radical Orthodoxy, 221.

“This elevation of worldly univocal being above the distinction between God and his creatures marks the time when theology itself became idolatrous. For Scotus disregarded what Aquinas had already warned him against – that nothing can be predicated univocally of God and other things. [...] For theology, therefore, the very possibility of any secular realism derives from the Scotist belief that the ground of both God and created objects is the same.”

-ibid. 233.

“For Scotus...the possibility of divine intervention, compatible with his notion that actuality can always and unpredictably be superseded by any imaginable possibility, forces him to distrust the traditional more ontological account of truth.”

-Catherine Pickstock, After Writing, 130.

-“In the case the case of God, univocity of Being and the formal distinction apply also to His attributes, in such a way that God can possess formally distinct – rather than really identical (and distinguished only from our perspective) – attributes without losing anything of His simplicity, which is grounded in the indeterminacy of Being and the supremacy of divine will which unites the attributes as its own virtual powers.”

- Catherine Pickstock, After Writing, 125.
"In the wake of the axis fashioned, however unconsciously, by Henry of Ghent, Scotus and Ockham, that which exists was taken outside the divine essence. Consequently, that which was expelled became nothing, a nothing that allowed the invention of a priori realms, and tales of things called logical possibilities (a Scotist fantasy). It also generated a virulent synchronic contingency that led to a de-existentialised existence, as it became first essentialised, and then factualised. This in turn facilitated a methodological lateralisation, as non-existence settled alongside existence. What we find is that this expulsion of that which exists outside the divine essence permitted the emptying of existence of any inherent or, in a sense, 'natural' theology.
-Conor Cunningham, Genealogy of Nihilism, 171
"In the end, it becomes illogical, both in philosophy and theology, to uphold the 'postmodern' against the 'modern' Scotus. In other words, if one cannot countenance Scotist ontotheology, one must also question a 'pure' philosophy concerned with a non-divine being, since this is ultimately grounded in univocity and the refusal of analogy."
-Catherine Pickstock, "Postmodern Scholasticism: Critique of Postmodern Univocity," 8.
"French historians waver between a reading of Scotus as surrendering Catholicism's mystical heart and as inaugurating a Pascalian charity."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gilson on William of Alnwick

Here's a quote from Gilsons History of Christian Philosophy on William of Alnwick, Duns Scotus's secretary and socius. Gilson labels him an "independent Scotist" due to his diagreements with Scotus (He sides with Henry of Ghent on individuation, among other things). His De esse intelligibili is my next reading project, my leisure reading during exams (such as there can be any). Once I get it back from the bindery, that is.

"Among the original minds standing out in that group [I.e. early Scotists], was the Franciscan William of Alnwick (d. 1332), whose remarkable Questions on Intelligible Being have been published. It would be difficult to quote a more perfect specimen of dialectical discussion. At the end of the work, the question is literally exhausted. It is true that the reader is also. But at least he knows what to adhere to, and if he remians insensible to the technical perfection of such an intellectual style, one can only feel sorry for him. The problem discussed by Alnwick is that of the degree of reality one should attribute to the being of the object known, precisely insofar as it is only an object known in the mind. His conclusion is that, although Duns Scotus attributed a sort of relative being to the object of cognition (esse cognitum), no precise meaning can be found for that thesis. The fact of 'being known' does not imply, in the being that is known, any reality more distinct from it than the fact of representing Caesar implies in the stature of Caesar. On the side of the intellect, the being of a stone, considered as known by it, is none other than the being of the intellect that knows it. Applied ot the problem of divine Ideas, this conclusion leads William of Alnwick to deny that they have, in the divine understanding, a relative intelligibile being (esse secundum quid) which would be, if not created, at least produced."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

St Bonaventure, Univocity, and Analogy

L’être désigne dans les créatures une perfection que n’est pas analogique, mais qui est celle d’un genre; il faut donc dire que la matière se retrouve, au sens propre du mot, dans tous les êtres concrets. C’est là, nous a-t-il semblé, un des points importants de l’argumentation de saint Bonaventure et qui nous servira à l’opposer tout à l’heure à celle de saint Thomas. Dans la philosophie bonaventurienne, l’être est sans doute une notion analogique, mais c’est seulement lorsqu’on considère la communauté qu’elle désigne de Dieu à la créature. A l’intérieur du domaine des créatures, elle redevient une notion univoque.

"Being designates [for St Bonaventure] a perfection in creatures which is not analogical, but which belongs to a genus; one must then say that matter in the proper sense of the word is found in all concrete beings. This is, it seems to us, one of the most important points in St Bonaventure's argument by which we may compare it to that of St Thomas. In Bonaventurian philosophy, being is without doubt an analogical concept, but this is only when one considers the community between God and creature which it designates. Within the domain of creatures, it becomes a univocal concept."

--Aimé Forest, La Structure métaphysique du concret selon Saint Thomas d'Aquin, 118.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ss. Thomas and Bonaventure Compared

“St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas use in large part a common vocabulary and handle several philosophical themes common to the thirteenth century. But the meanings of many common terms and the understanding of particular themes are so different in the Bonaventurean and Thomistic syntheses that, as original compositions of philosophical doctrines, they really cannot be reduced fundamentally to a common frame of metaphysical principles. This fact is very evident in the different meanings of act and potency in the two syntheses . . .” For Thomas the former is being and the latter essence; for Bonaventure the former is the act of being given by form where the latter is the foundational existence given by matter. “These different uses of act and potency by the two theologians make their syntheses irreducible not only to a common frame of metaphysics, but also to a common ground in the metaphysical principles of Aristotle. Although the metaphysical insights of St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas are expressed in Aristotelean terms, nevertheless, their personal insights are no more Aristotelean than the metaphysical insights of Aristotle himself are Platonic, and Aristotle expresses his personal insights in many Platonic terms. In our view, therefore, St. Thomas has not corrected a Neoplatonizing Aristoteleanism by deepening the epistemological and metaphysical bases of St. Bonaventure's theology. Though the Thomist reformation of philosophy was not a stage in the discovery of Aristotle by Latin theologians, the transformation acheived by St. Thomas was accomplished on the metaphysical level before it had its effect on the theological level of his thought. St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure approach the truth of the created universe, and of its dependence on God, from the two different bases on which they have built their philosophical edifices. Both theologians, in their philosophical reflexions, have transformed in their own way the Aristotelean principles of act and potency . . ."

--J.F. Quinn, The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure's Philosophy, 882-883.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Heidegger and Scholasticism

I've been leafing through a book for my historiography paper, and came across the following quotes. It's from McGrath, The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy. The author is basically a thomist with Heideggarian sympathies. His section on Scotus is horribly inaccurate, but then, in post-modernism, accuracy isn't valued. I'll post on that another time. This is fairly self-explanatory.

"Heidegger's twenty-year polemic with Scholasticism can be summed up in the following three theses: (1) Scholasticism makes certainty (apodictic judgment/scientia) the proper mode of access to beings. This epistemological relation is theologically established in the Scholastic interpretation of divine creation as an act of judgment; (2) Scholasticism sets up world as product and delivers to modernity the conceptual paradigm it needs to get technology off the ground. That each of these accusations applies to most forms of philosophical theism should not be overlooked. Heidgger's polemic with Scholasticism is rooted in a more basic opposition to the notion of divine creation."