Tuesday, May 6, 2008


So I"ve got a little problem. In reading this material from the Parisian Reportatio on theology, I have encountered a difficulty I can't solve. Basically, Scotus says that for theologia in se (he seems to have abandoned the distinction between God's theology, the theology of the Blessed, and our theology), the object of the science is the divine essence. Now this is problematic for us in the wayfaring state, because it would seem to entail that we have some beatific knowledge of God, rather than the certain cognition that Scotus wants to set up between faith and the beatific vision. Scotus' own way out is by having recourse to his distinction between intuitive and abstractive cognition. For those in the wayfaring state, God's essence is conceived abstractively, that is, one conceives the divine essence without it being present here and now. But my understanding (which I get from Richard Cross's recent class) is that abstractive cognition still requires intelligible species. But these intelligible species are all abstracted (in the Thomistic/arabic/"Aristotelian" sense) from phantasms derived from creatures. Scotus is quite emphatic in many other passages, however, that God is not formally or eminently contained in any concept derived from a creature (univocity, you recall, yields a confused concept; theology requires a distinct one). So where the &*@! do we get the species used in theology that represents the divine essence? It may be an unsolvable question, as in the appendix to his article on theology as a science, Dumont lists a number of questions about intuitive and abstractive cogntion, of which several of the Scotists seem to be trying to answer this very problem. Dumont himself calls attention to the fact that the Additiones magnae say that God infuses a species, but the Reportatio itself does not say this, though it does distinguish five or so grades of cognition in which this abstractive one is in the middle, next to the cognition of the prophets and ordinary lay folk. So its unclear.


I came across the following, in Rep. IA d.3 n.196, which makes things pretty clear. This sort of knowledge is not natural, but comes about by direct infusion from God.

"Sic Deus cognosci quadrupliciter: uno modo secundum suam rationem quiditativam ut secundum rationem deitatis, et isto modo non est naturaliter cognoscibilis a nobis quia licet Deus posset creare in intellectu nostro repraesentativum sui sub ratione deitatis, non tamen potest hoc aliqua creatura causare repraesentativum tale, quia sicut argutum est prius, impossibile est aliquod obiectum causare in nobis perfectius repraesentativum suo proprio repraesentativo quo repraesentat se ipsum."

I suppose the question must be then who is it who has such a species, and how is it we know we have such a species representing the divine essence. Is this something that is included in divine revelation, that is, comes along with grace, baptism or reading Scripture, etc., or is only found in among theologians (somehow I have a hard time believing the likes of Catherine Pickstock or Rosemary Radford Ruether may have abstractive cognition of the divine essence that I don't have, in virtue of their professional status of theologian).


Michael said...

Of course I'm in no better position than you are to determine the mens Scoti here, but it occurs to me that it can't be the case that all concepts, whether we call them intelligible species or not, are abstracted from sensible species. This would make a great deal of mathematics, grammar, and metaphysics impossible, wouldn't it? From what sensible species do we abstract imaginary numbers or the future subjunctive?

Lee Faber said...

They could be beings of reason, constructed purely by the mind based on some comparison ad extra or not. Quantity is outside the mind, upon which mathematics is based, even if it is in some degree of abstraction. Scotus does seem to think metaphysics is a process of analyzing our own concepts about the world, rather than the world itself, or so Richard says. in any case, he does think it is a quia science, or at least a secundum quid propter quid science.

And the point is that one actually conceives the divine essence as haec, not under the ratio of infinity as he says in the Ordinatio. That sort of concept I would think would require some sort of closer connection than just being created by the mind out of nothing. It actually does have to represent somehow.