Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Proclus, Scotus and the Trinity
The following is a highly interesting bit from Proclus, the platonic theologian. At the outset, I do not think that this is directly applicable to the Trinity. Obviously, Trinitarian processions are not from higher orders of being to lower ones. But if we drop this element from the passage, it bears striking resemblance to Duns Scotus' theory of Trinitarian processions (see the various posts in which Michael was disputing with the energetic easterners). Basically, what I have in mind is the idea that the Father, in generating the Son, transmits everything to him save for his own personal property. This includes the power of spiration, and guarantees that the productive principal of the Holy Spirit is the same for both Father and Son.
Now Scotus does mention Proclus once or twice by name, albeit not in this context. The proposition of Proclus quoted below is quite similar to the first proposition from the Liber de causis (omnis causa primaria plus est influens super causatum suum quam causa universalis secunda), which Scotus probably did read.
Propositio 56 (ed. Dodds 55) "All that is produced by secondary beings is in a greater measure produced from those prior and more determinative principles from which the secondary were themselves derived.
For if the secondary has is whole existence from its prior, thence also it receives its power of further production, since productive powers reside in producers in virtue of their existence and form part of their being. But if it owes to the superior cause its power of production, to that superior it owes its character as a cause in so far as it is a cause, a character meted out to it from thence in proportion to its constitutive capacity. If so, the things which proceed from it are caused in virtue of its prior; for the same principle which makes the one a cause makes the other an effect. If so, the effect owes to the superior cause its character as an effect.
Again, it is evident that the effect is determined by the superior principle in a greater measure. For if the latter has conferred on the secondary being the causality which enabled it to produce, it must itself have possessed this causality primitively (prop. 18), and it is in virtue of this that the secondary being generates, having derived from its prior the capacity of secondary generation. But if the secondary is productive by participation, the primal primitively and by communication, the latter is causative in a greater measure, inasmuch as it has communicated to another the power of generating consequents."