Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Scotist Dogma?

I have in mind the constitution Benedictus Deus issued by Benedict XII in 1336. According to the recent book by Avery Cardinal Dulles, this decree is one of the view such from the Medieval period that theologians hold to be clearly infallible. Trottmann takes it as the end-point of his massive tome on the beatific vision, which I think may be the source of my information. I was having an argument with a Thomist about this, as I think I remember Trottmann claiming that this doctrine endorsed the Scotist position on the beatific vision, as being an example of intuitive cognition. I quote the relevant passage, from Denzinger 67:

"[the angels and "court of heaven"] viderunt et vident divinam essentiam visione intuitiva et etiam faciali, nulla mediante creatura in ratine obiecti visi se habente, sed divina essenta immediate se nude, clare et aperte eis ostendente, quodque sic videntes eadem divina essentia perfruuntur, nec non quod ex tali visione et fruitione eroum animae, qui iam decessertun, sunt vere beatae et habent vitam et requiem aeternam, et etiam illorum, qui postea decedent, eamdem divinam videbunt essentiam, ipsaque perfruentur ante iudicium generale; ac quod visio huiusmodi divinae essentiae eiusque fruitio actus fidei et spei in eis evacuant, prout fides et spes propriae theologicae sunt virtutes; quodque postquam inchoata fuerit vel erit talis intuitiva ac facialis visio et fruitio in eisdem, eadem visio et fruitio sine aliqua intercisione seu evacuatione pradicateae visionis et fruitionis continuata extitit et continuabitur usque ad finale iudicium et ex tunc usque in sempiternum"

Now the point of all this was to resolve whether the dead see God after death or not, and the document does define that the blessed dead enjoy intuitive cognition of the divine essence (sorry, seventh-day adventists, you lose). By saying this may be a "Scotist" dogma I am not saying that it is necessarily opposed to Thomism. Thomas if I recall my recent exam question correctly, thinks that the divine essence becomes a form for the intellect; so it is also direct. But Thomas does not use the term "intuitive" which, while not coined by Scotus, did historically seem to explode in the extent of its usage due to his employment of it. By this I mean that after Scotus, discussions of intuitive and abstractive cognition became standard fare in the prologues to Sentence commenaries, though he does not talk about intuitive cognition at all in the prologue to his Parisian Reportatio, instead develops a complicated and controversial usage of abstractive cognition. Essentially, Scotus thinks intuitive cognition is the direct cognition of something qua existing in the here and now. Abstractive cognition "abstracts" from the here and now, and is mediated by an intelligible species. Returning to Benedictus Deus, then, Benedict XII is using a technical term known have been developed in its "modern", 14th century sense by Scotus.

Of course, this does not exactly constitute a dogma...the dogma is that there is a vision of God after death that is intuitively immediate. The Scotistic part is the manner of the vision. The tricky part of all this is that intuitive cognition is a mode of cognition naturally had by the intellect (its manner of functioning in this life is unclear in Scotus and highly disputed by scholars). While this may be logically distinct from his notion of being as the object of the intellect, in that context he denies the existence of the lumen gloriae, which if you, gentle readers, recall from an earlier post, apparently is dogma [though as the affirmation of it was directed against the Beghards and not a scholastic, and as I read an article the other day saying certain other parts of the council of Vienne weren't considered dogma, I am entirely unsure of the status of that bit on the lumen gloriae]; but, all is not lost, for he says that God is maximally intelligible, and maximally light, and so therefore does seem to shine on the intellect (this bit is from Ord. III where he talks about the knowledge of Christ). But the whole point of the lumen gloriae is that the intellect of itself can't see God and needs to be elevated by the divine light [I am reminded of a recent entry on energetic processions in which Perry I think lamented some intellectual propterty issues he was having...in the area of Scotistic studies and 14th century philosophy, the field is so wide open that I gladly here give the status questionis of an article someone could write]. Such are my rambling thoughts of the day. Now its time for bed so I'll sign off now. enjoy


Michael said...

Hey, good post.

If the Adventists lose, so do the Greeks. Many of them at least think that all the blessed will see is the visible light of Tabor and the human nature of Christ, i.e. the energies and not the essence.

Do they mean by essence the same thing we do? Or by vision? Who can say? To ask with hope of reaching an answer would require deploying distinctions and using them in arguments, which is dialectic, which is bad.

I don't know enough about this to make a claim, but I wonder if the lumen gloriae of the counsel must be understood in the same sense in which it was used in the scholastic debates. Surely all would agree that human nature cannot attain the vision of God on its own . . .

Lee Faber said...

They would agree human nature cannot attain the vision of God on its own in this life, I'm not sure about the next; it depends on ones anthropology.
There was debate on this after the council, and I think Thomas Wylton was pretty incensed by it [Aureoli apparently said the church had erred and fallen into philosophical incoherence in saying that the intellective soul is the per se form of the body, though Scotus was perfectly fine with that], so I think the scholastics did interpret it as binding on themselves, but there are several articles yet to read (Wylton's texts have recently been edited by Nielsen and Trifogli).

I guess it turns on what the vision of God is [or what is is]. Sootus has a very robust view of the ability of the soul to know in the afterlife (as compared to Thomas). Because being is the object of the intellect, in the separated state the soul can naturally know God and the separated substances. Indeed, the soul knows them intuitively (see Ord. IV); but one would have to do more research than I have yet to see in what sense God is known in this "natural" separated state, as it doesn't distinguish between the blessed and the damned. I don't remember off the top of my head if he even makes the natural/supernatural modes of knowing in the separated state distinctin that Thomas and Henry do, or if its all "natural".

Lee Faber said...

and then once again, there's vienne: Quod quaelibet intellectualis natura in se ipsa naturaliter est beata, quodque anima non indiget lumine gloriae, ipsam elevante ad Deum videndum et eo beate fruendum"

note that this possibly dogmatic proposition has two parts: that the intellectual nature is naturally blessed, AND [quodque] that the soul does not need the lumen gloriae elevating it for seeing God. Does this mean that the heretics denied this in toto, or are these two separate propositions stuck together, and to be orthodox one has to affirm both? For Scotus clearly, explicitly denies the second of these in Ord. I d.3

Lee Faber said...

I should add for the benefit of those who don't know the dates, Scotus died in 1307, the Council of Vienne was in 1311-1312. So the question is not if Scotus is a heretic but whether one can be a good Catholic and hold to these Scotistic theses. Scotus himself would have submitted to the authority of the church, there is no question.

Anonymous said...

"To ask with hope of reaching an answer would require deploying distinctions and using them in arguments, which is dialectic, which is bad."

The answer is had through experiencing God and not through dialectic. Dialectic grasps being and the divine essence is wholly beyond any rational concept of Being. Furthermore, dialectic not only grasps being but grasps only a certain mode of it, namely fallen being. The Fall for St. Maximus is a fall *into* dialectic. What kind of rational or more properly suprarational mode is used to grasp union and distinction before the Fall (or the Eschaton) we can't say for sure, but the Incarnation gives us a hint: something called a composite hypostasis which can manifest both kinds of opposite properties and inhere in one single subject. For dialectic to be used properly for Theology, it has to be recontextualized with the Chalcedonian and Biblical understanding as your anchor and starting point. This does not constitute a wholesale rejection of the rational principle, but rather a recognition that the many logoi are the One Logos: it grounds reason instead and constitutes its starting paradigm, Christ. There is no room for an "unaided reason" to grasp conceptions of God and is nonsensical from the stand-point of the Greek Fathers (Sts. Maximus, Dionysios, Gregory of Nyssa, Irenaeus et al.). Any other method to these Fathers is just speculation which is fine if that’s merely the aim.

Try looking at Professor John D. Jones’ (Marquette) essays on St. Dionysios the Areopagite.


Michael said...

Yes, thank you Mr Jones, I'm well aware of your views. Your latest comment reminds us all once again why it's useless to attempt a discussion with you. The sentence of mine you quoted was taken *completely out of context* and given a response that made *no sense whatsoever* considering the context.

The question was: what you people mean by essence, or vision, or (even) being? No debate with you is possible unless you clarify your terms, which involves making careful distinctions.

You said: "The answer is had through experiencing God and not through dialectic." Excuse me, but are you saying that the only way for me to understand your own meaning is through the experience of God? That I cannot grasp the sense of your words and distinguish a correct interpretation of them from an incorrect one without a personal and direct experience of the divine energies? Either you're speaking in outrageous absurdities, or you're not paying attention, or (I expect) both. Then again, perhaps if I just followed up on all your reading recommendations . . .

T. Chan said...

Hello Lee Faber--my sister let me know that this is 'your' blog. Small world, isn't it?

Another interesting post about Scotus!

Michael said...


They would agree human nature cannot attain the vision of God on its own in this life, I'm not sure about the next; it depends on ones anthropology.

It would seem hard to sustain the position that any intellect could attain the vision of God by its own nature or powers; otherwise how to account for the angels' initial failure to do so, since if they had none of them could sin?

Lee Faber said...

Mr. Chan,
Good to hear from you; it is indeed a small world. Let me know the next time your out in my part of the world.

well, if you think the object of the intellect is being, and that God is a being, I would be tempted to say, ergo etc. Sure, what is actually known may not all be that significant as God would still be known under his intrinsic mode of infinity (though in the afterlife according to scotus we have intuitive cognition of the divine essence which is a bit different than knowing him merely under the intrinsic mode of infinity, which after all is the best concpet we can have in this life).

also, remember that Scotus thinks the blessed can sin in the beatific vision, but that God puts an obex in the way (freedom must be protected).

Michael said...

if you think the object of the intellect is being, and that God is a being, I would be tempted to say, ergo etc.

Surely it can't be that simple. Deus abscondita and all that. The beatific vision can't be the natural state.

Lee Faber said...

it may well be. We don't have knowledge of the divine essence in this life, Scotus is pretty clear on that, and the intellect is restricted to the phantasm in this life. But Scotus doesn't really say why; it isn't original sin, as that only entailed the loss of original rectitude in the will and he doesn't seem to think that it did much to the intellect. so I don't know about the "natural" state if you;re equating that with pro statu isto. The beatific vision isn't natural, though it seems to be in the separated state and I haven't read enough of Book IV to tell how Scotus explains all of this. I know that later, people like Thomas Wylton will argue against the lumen gloriae, but still say that the divine essence itself is only seen due to an act of the divine will. so one could be natural fitted for something, which still requires a divine act to come about.