Monday, December 15, 2008

Alnwick contra Scotus

For all of you just dying to know what went on in the 14th century after Scotus came up with his controversial views on the production of the quiddities of creatures by the divine intellect (see the previous post, the only one listed under the "intelligible being" rubric), here's some relief. Apparently, according to the 17th century Scotist Mastrius (and even this info is second hand, though T. Hoffmann has written a book on this), the 15th and 16th century Scotists accept Scotus's view of the production of creatures in intelligible being and the instants of nature theory that this requires. But the 14th century boys I've looked at are pretty incensed by it. Here is Alnwick, from his Quaestiones de esse intelligibili (ed.Ledoux, p. 136). This is from q.5, which is devoted to analyzing the basic position that Scotus adopts, though Alnwick says it is common to many "moderni". In the first excerpt he is responding to Scotus and refuting him on his own terms.

"Again, second, I prove the same by means of another principle of one holding the opposite, namely that the divine essence, compared to no other, represents all other things, and not by a relation of reason. Then so: whatever befalls the divine essence according to itself and not by the comparison of the intellect, befalls itself prior according to reason than other things are understood. But the divine essence, according to its absolute and infinite perfection, represents all other secondary objects, and not by a relation of reason; therefore other things are first represented by the essence than they are understood by the divine intellect, therefore other things are not instituted by God in intelligibile being by an act of divine understanding. Hence John Dons [sic], who says that creatures are instituted in intelligible being by an act of divine understanding, and nevertheless that the essence according to its absolute perfection represents all other things, says expressly the opposite, because if the divine essence according to its absolute perfection represents all other things, then first they are repsresented to the intellect than they are understood by the divine intellect, and so first they are intelligible before they are understood by the divine intellect."

Here is another argument, one from the beginning where he is also directly criticizing Scotus's position (Ledoux 125):

"Again, third thus: a creature is first intelligible before it is understood by God, therefore it is not constituted by an act of divine understanding. The consequence is clear, because nothing is constituted by an act posterior to it. I prove the antecedent, becase every other intelligible in act that is understood by God is represented by the divine essence, because the essence is the means of understanding all other things. But the essence first represents all intelligibiles before the intellect understands them, because it has the capacity to represent from it itself and not from the intellect. For the intellect does not grant the power of representing other intelligibiles to the essence, because to represent all intelligibiles is a pure perfection (perfectionem simpliciter), because in anything it is better to be something than not to be. But the intellect does not grant a pure perfection to the essence. Therefore a creature first is an intelligible represented by the divine essence than the intellect understands, thefore, etc.

The argument is confirmed: to represent many in act is of greater perfection than to represent fewer; therefore to represent infinite intelligibiles in act is of infinite perfection, but the divine essence, since it is an infinite sea, does not have infinite perfection from the divine intellect, therefore neither does it have from the intellect that it can represent infinite intelligibiles in act. Since therefore the essence distinctly represents infinite intelligibiles, it follows that the essence, as preceding the act of understanding, represents in act infinite intelligibiles, and as a consequence creatures have intelligibile being before God understands them."

According to Tim Noone's article where he edits Scotus's Reportatio account of the divine ideas, Scotus is reviving the opinion of Bonaventure. One question one might ask as well in this context (I think Alnwick dismissed it as not directly germain to the question but said he'd discuss it elsewhere) is how all this relates to the procession of the other two Trinitarian persons. Are persons and creatures understood by the divine intellect in the same instant of nature as creatures? That seems inconveniens somehow.

Perhaps I should mention, the person in question here is William of Alnwick, Scotus' socius at Paris, who is responsible for the Additiones magnae, a sentence commentary, the questions I've translated here, a Quodlibet and some sermons (including one on the beatific vision). He was made a bishop in Italy, and died around 1333.


Edward Ockham said...

Question - I read this

with interest, which is by Alnwick, and is labelled "Question 1". Is that from the same set of questions as you are referring to here?

Lee Faber said...

No, though both are in the same volume edited by Ledoux. My quote is from the Quaestiones de esse intelligibili, the other is from his Quodlibet. Both were disputed prior to 1316 but are in fact separate disputes/works. There is some overlap, however, in that several of the quodlibetal questions are devoted to examining unitive containment, which is a fact in the de esse intelligibili.

Edward Ockham said...

A very happy Christmas to everyone at the Smithy. From everyone at the Logic Museum.