Friday, April 25, 2008

Peter of Navarre on Univocity, Cognition of Substance

Here'a quote I ran across from the spanish Scotist theologian Petrus de Atarrabia, on our ability to cognize substances. If those of you who went to the St. Bonaventure should recall from Pini's paper, Scotus himself holds that substance is not directly accessible to our intellect in this life. As is common with Scotus, he goes through various developmental stages. In the end, while he does not think we can know substances immediately, we can infer their existence from the existence of accidents. Being is univocal between them. Ultimately, we probably can't know much about the natures that constitute things in the world either, if all we know is accidents. In class today, Richard suggested that one of the underlying motivations for this position is that Aristotle thinks that cognition has qualities, items in the category of quality, as its object. Note the presence of the Eucharist in the second argument; this was a standard trope in this problem in the late thirteenth-century as well, possibly introduced by Richard of Middleton and also considered by Scotus. I have another quote somewhere by Alexander Bonini of Alessandria that is similar in content which I may post later. The context of the quote is Peter's discussion of univocity. He gives several arguments largely drawn from Scotus though with modifications. This is the end of his second argument. This particular section is followed by one comparing Scotus and Thomas and seeing if they agree.

Peter of Navarre, I Sent. d. 3 pars 1 q. 1

n.14: The second consequence is proved, concerning the cognition of substance: Substance does not immediately move the possible intellect naturally in the wayfaring state; therefore accidents move it immediately, since there is nothing other which can move it. Then, as before: accidents do not include substance either virtually or essentially according to their proper concept [rationem], or according to their common concept, ex hypothesi; therefore they can not cause the knowledge of substance because they can not cause a more perfect concept than their own quidditative one, or of that which it includes, nor can an imperfect concept cause a more perfect one.

n.15. That substance cannot move the possible intellect immediately is proved so: when something immediately moves a cognitive power to cognition of itself, and the power perceives its presence when it is present and absence when it is absent; but our cognitive power cannot perceive the presence of substance when it is present; therefore substance does not immediately move our cognitive power. The minor is proved: it is certain by faith that the substance of Christ is present in the consecrated host, and nevertheless no intellect conjoined can naturally perceive the presence of it there.


Michael said...

I don't think I buy this, Scotus or no. Accidents may be all that are presented to the senses, but my intellect does not primarily encounter accidents. When I see a cat, I may have in my organs only black, soft, small, thus-shaped, etc. I don't abstract "cat" from these. I recognize a cat in these.

I also don't really buy the argument from the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a special case.

In addition, I don't see how on this account intuitive cognition is possible.

Lee Faber said...

re: cat.Yes, buy in stato isto, our intellect necessarily has recouse to phantasms, which are formed from sensory activity. Your "recognition" of a cat may only be the inference that there is an underlying substance that Scotus is talking about.

re: Eucharist: well, as a Catholic you do accept it as true, no? Then your metaphysics ought to take some account of it. I would think that if you want to claim a special case you would have to play the mystery card, or else claim that God causes, by means of a further miracle, the substance of Christ in the eucharist to be hidden from our intellects. but Ockham's razor, etc.

Intuitive cognition: Scotus' texts on this are so scattered that I don't think this of itself is problematic, at least as far as stato isto. The most that one can say in this life is that we have intuitive cognition of our own acts. But this might be the way out of this dilemma...cognition of substances might only be impossible for abstractive cognition, not intuitive.

Michael said...

I don't think it can be inference. Clare doesn't "infer" that there's a cat behind the accidents. If anything, she's aware of substances before she's aware of accidents, in the sense that she's more immediately aware of "cat" than of "black" or "soft". The individual properties of the cat--the cat's blackness--have to be abstracted for her. Again, we see through the accidents to the substance, we don't make a logical inference. In the same way, sensations are not what I sense, I sense objects by means of sensations. This seems to be my experience anyway.

re: Eucharist. My point is that since the accidents are instruments whereby we cognize substances they are indeed necessary for doing so. So when the accidents of the Eucharist are "free-floating" they don't lead directly to the substance behind them, precisely because they are not Christ's accidents. I don't think this calls for an additional special miracle. Christ doesn't look like bread in himself, so the species of bread doesn't give us knowledge of Christ. The end (?).

re: intuitive cognition. One of my own acts I'm supposed to have intuitive cognition of is the fact that I am awake and not asleep. This seems to include the immediate awareness that I am sensing real objects and not sensorial fictions.

I have an inkling that phenomenology would help this discussion.

Lee Faber said...

I'm not so sure Clare can be more aware of "cat" than of "black"; that's what would follow if one were to grant there is cognition of substances. One could just as easily say she is aware of a collection of accidents, and by convention of human language knows to call this collection a 'cat'.

I don't see how you can get of this in the case of hte eucharist. if we are moved by the accidents of bread, and in every other case when we are moved by the accidents we are knowing the substance, then in knowing the accidents of bread post-transubstantiation we should be knowing the substance of bread, ergo Transubstantiation is not in fact true. If we did have direct intellectual cognition of substances we should know Christ's substance to be there.

I dont' think the dream example gets you anywhere either, as often when I am dreaming I cannot tell that I am dreaming, though I can always tell I am awake when I am awake. we can intuitively know that we are sensing, but given Scotus's restrictions on intuivie cognition in this life, I don't see that we can take this as an example of knowing a substance.

I think this notion, crazy as it sounds, is entailed by various elements in his metaphysics that you may want to endorse (ie. univocity and related doctrines.) As for the eucharist, Scotus also thinks its possible for anything to be transubstantiated into anything else (save for the divine essence, as it is not under God's power). And note, it is much harder I suspect to claim we know substance when you deny that material substance is the primary object of the intellect. If, like Scotus does, you posit being instead, you'll run into these problems as all being gets you is a sort of indefinite ingtelligibility, not substance. But Scotus arguments against material substance are pretty persuasive, as well as the complicated gymnastics one has to do just to fit in the beatific vision etc.