Saturday, May 24, 2008

Duns Scotus the Papalist?

I came across the following quote today, in a discussion of the Joachim of Fiore's criticism of Peter Lombard, to the effect that his views entail a quaternity in divinis. It is from Reportatio I-A, d.5 pars 1 q.1 n.10: 

"Quantum ad primum errorem, respondet Papa et tenet pro Magistro Petro; et in hoc Papa confirmat et canonizat opinionem Petri, cuius auctoritas forte maior est quam scripturae vel sanctorum-sed non curo hoc asserere- et ostendit quod non sequitur consequentia quaternitatis..."

"As far as to the first error, the Pope responds and holds to Master Peter [Lombard]; and in this the Pope confirms and canonizes the opinion of Peter, whose authority perhaps is greater than scripture or the saints-but I do not care to assert this-and he shows that the consequence of quaternity does not follow..."

Now the relative pronoun 'cuius' is ambiguous, and could refer to either the Pope or Peter Lombard. In translation my natural sense is that it refers to Lombard, though that would be a rather odd claim. A bishop of Paris, who compiled various sayings of the fathers into a textbook is possessed of greater authority than the saints or scripture themselves? It seems more likely that it is referring to the Pope; after all, as one can read in his discussions of the Eucharist, Scotus is a firm believer in the authority of the Church to determine doctrine and holds to transubstantiation purely on the authority of Lateran IV.  This passage could be meant along those lines. And it is not so terribly far from the modern teachings on infallibility, etc., though one probably not want to take this to mean that the Pope has authority over scripture. Perhaps we might want also to substitute 'magisterium' for pope here. Well, that's all folks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hilarious Quodlibetal Questions

Here's a few howlers that I've picked up while going through Glorieux for dissertation information. I'll keep updating this as time goes on.

Anonymus, Quodlibet, "Whether a soldier with the intention of going to a tournament can be absolved"

Eustache de Grandcourt, Quodlibet I q. 2: "There was a certain monster, having a dyaphragmo above 2 heads, 4 arms and 4 breasts and 2 hearts; but below one instrument of generation and 2 feet; it is asked whether such a monster can contract matrimony"

And again, one that might end up hitting close to home... Quod V q. 3: "Again, the case is such: A woman was married and had a daughter from adultery, but the husband believed that she was his own daughter. In death, the husband left to that daughter 100 books. Afterwards the mother said to her daughter hat she was not the daughter of the dead man, and if he had known he would have never given her the 100 books, and that she should not keep them. Now the question is whether that daughter can retain that legacy from the putative father."

Aegidius, Quodlibet I q.18, "Why men are bald and have a beard and women do not"

Nicolaus de Bar, Quodlibet I q.17 "Whether pygmies are men?"

Nicolaus Trivet, Quodlibet II q. 24: "With it posited that that someone has one withered hand and one useful one, and he commits something for which he merits to have one hand amputated, whether the withered or useful hand ought to be amputated?"

Gonzalve d'Espagne et Duns Scot, "Apogée de l'Ecole Franciscain?""

Nous reprenons cette expression à B. Martel. Elle pourrait être la reproduction d'un regard sur la philosophie du Moyen Age aujourd'hui dépassé. Comme saint Thomas fut le fleuron d'une pensée scolastique entrant après lui en décadence, faut-il faire de Scot le sommet de la théologie franciscaine, à jamais inégalable? Ce serait prêter à cette école une cohérence qu'ell n'eût sans doute jamais. Ce qui est incontestable c'est que le génie personnel de Scot domine largement son époque. Plus métaphysique et éthique, il est d'ailleurs fort différent de celui de son maître Gonzalve d'Espagne, davantage à son aise dans le domaine de la psychologie et de la logique.

--Christian Trottman, "La vision beatifique dans le seconde école franciscaine; de Mattie d'Acquasparta à Duns Scot," Collectanea franciscana, 1994, p. 152.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Bibliography of Scotistic Studies

For those of you doing serious research on Scotus, be sure to check out the bibliography that Tobias Hoffmann has just completed and posted online; it runs from 1950 to the present and covers some of the early Scotistae in addition to Duns himself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Conditions for Distinction

Here's an interesting bit from Reportatio IA (well, probably the Additiones magnae) d.33, the distinction on the formal distinction. I'm still digesting the rest (he doesn't bring up the question of whether one can say that things formally non-identical are also formally distinct, the subject of the <Quaestio de formalitatibus> which I am currently editing, but casts the formal distinction as a type of secundum quid distinction, and relates it to Bonaventure's middle distinction). This part is specifically from the second question, where Scotus discusses whether there is a real distinction between the Trinitarian persons:

"Ad hoc quod aliqua simpliciter distinguantur, requiruntur quatuor conditiones. Prima est, quod sit aliquorum in actu, et non in potentia tantum, quia non distinguuntur ea, quae sunt in potentia in materia, et non simpliciter, quia non sunt in actu. Secunda est, quod sit eorum, quae habent esse formale, non tantum virtuale, ut effectus sunt in causa virtualiter, et non formaliter. Tertia est, quod sit eorum, quae non habent esse confusum, ut extrema in medio et miscibilia in mixto, sed eorum quae habent esse distinctum propriis actualitatibus. Quarta, quae sola est completiva distinctionis perfectae, est non identitas, ut patet per Philosophum...ubi dicit diversum et distinctum esse idem."

To this that somethings are distinguished absolutely [simpliciter. one could also say "without qualification"], four conditions are required. The first is that it is of some things in act, and not only in potency, because those things are not distinguished which are in potency in matter, and not absolutely, because they are not in act. The second is, that it is of those which have formal being, and not only virtual, as the effect is in the cause virtually and not formally. The third is that it is of those which do not have confused being, as the extreme in the medium and the mixable in the mixed, but is of those which have distinct being with their proper actualities. The fourth, which is only completive of perfect distinction, is non-identity, as is clear through the Philosopher, where he says that the diverse and the distinct are the same.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hobbes on Knowing Substance

Well, maybe its Hobbes. I've been reading more of Descartes objections and replies lately, and the third set of objections are from a "celebrated English Philosopher". He makes a few incidental remarks that lead me to think that the problem of knowing substance is not just some crazy thing Duns Scotus dreamed up, but possibily a recurring problem in the Aristotelian tradition. In any case, it would be interesting to compare Scotus' arguments against knowing substance with those of various early modern philosophers who also reject the very concept of substance itself and look for a connnection. Here is Hobbes:

Obj. iv: "The ancient peripatetics also have taught clearly enough that substance is not perceived by the senses, but is known as a result of reasoning."

obj. ix: "I have frequently remarked above that there is no idea either of God or of the soul; I now add that there is no idea of substance. For substance (the substance that is a material, subject of accidents and changes) is perceived and demonstrated by the reason alone, without yet being conceived by us, or furnishing us with any idea. If that is true, how can it be maintained that the ideas which reveal substance to me are anything greater or possess more objective reality than those revealing accidents to us ?"


Hobbes isn't the only one...Descartes as well holds this view, as can be seen in the beginning of his reply to the fourth set of objections (in my Great Books ed., p. 153b):

"For we do not have immediate cognition of substances, as has been elsewhere noted; rather from the mere fact that we perceive certain forms or attributes which must inhere in something in order to have existence, we name the thing in which they exist a substance.

But if, afterwards, we desired to strip that substance of those attributes by which we apprehend it, we should utterly destroy our knowledge of it; and thus, while we might indeed apply words to it, they would not be words of the meaning of which wehad a clear and distinct perception."

I also randomly picked up Peter Geach's Mental Acts today, and came across the same problem in his chapter on abstractionism, where he said it was characteristic of "decadent scholasticism", and though the terms and maxims (all from Aristotle) he quotes can all be found in Aquinas (and he likes Aquinas), he probably means Scotus or late medieval philosophy which has unfortunately been tarnished by the notion of "decline" both by Thomists as well as by early modern historiography, which sees it as the time of plague, schism and unrest; and of course, bad times for women. Though Gerson, the nominalist chancellor of of the university of Paris also wanted to get back to the 13th century style of thinking, at least for theology. Anyway, Geach also pointed to Locke, so it seems this problem is found in early modern philosophy as well, though it may only be part of their rejection of scholastic notions. I hope to blog on this more in the future.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gonsalvus Hispanus

From Patar, B. Dictionnaire abrégé des philosophes médiévaux. Les Presses Philosophiques, 2000. 94-95:

“Gonzalve d’Espagne (Gonsalvus Hispanus)
Ce philosophe et théologien franciscain est très peu connu, non pas pace qu’il serait sans importance, mais parce que, d’une part, son prestige fut éclipsé par son célèbre disciple, Jean Duns Scot, au point même qu’on attribua son traité de métaphysique à ce dernier, et que, d’autre part,, ses oeuvres disparurent de la circulation.
Gonzalve est né probablement ver 1255, en Galice (nord-ouest de l’Espagne). Il vient faire ses études à Paris et a pour maître Pierre Jean Olivi, don’t il reprendra certaines idées. Il obtient sa maîtrise et enseigne à la Faculté de théologie vers 1290. C’est à cette époque fort probablement qu’il fait la connaissance du Docteur Subtil, collaboration que se continuera jusqu’en 1303 (dans une lettre il parle de son confrère comme d’un ami de longue date). . . .
La pensée de Gonzalve d’Espagne est à mi-chemin entre l’aristotélisme et l’augustinisme bonaventurien. Il prend position pour la pluralité des formes dans le composé humain, à l’encontre de saint Thomas et à l’instar du courant de pensée franciscain. Il soutient le caractère hylémorphique de l’âme, et pose en même temps une distinction réelle entre l’âme et ses puissance opératoires. Par ailleurs, pour lui, la capacité de liberté de l’âme ne tient pas à sa fonction essentielle, mais au principe d’agir qu’elle possède. Toutefois, la volonté prime sur la raison: en cela il s’oppose à Maître Eckhart, aux yeux de qui l’intelligence, en Dieu comme en l’homme, est première, et s’aligne sur une opinion largement répandue dans les milieux franciscains.”


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).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Scotus on Knowing Principles and Subalternation

I'm still busy at my other, realtime, life and haven't had time to post much lately, but here's a first stab at fulfilling "e"'s request of some time ago that I post on Scotus' criticism of Thomas' views on the nature of theology and subalternation. This quote comes from the end of this section where he attacks Thomas. One should bear in mind that Scotus in the prologue to the Reportatio maintains a notion of theology which he labels "theologia in se", which denies traditional distinctions between divine science, the knowledge of the blessed, and our theology. On Scotus' view ther is only one theology, which is the quidditative knowledge of the divine essence. Other things, such as the divine attributes, ideas, notions, etc. are virtually contained in the knowledge of the essence, and are "quasi-derivative" from it. Scotus comes up with the idea that one can consider things that are distinct in reason as if they were really distinct, an idea which he gets from an "ancient" argument about the Anselmian pure perfections, that for something in which something is distinct in reason there corresponds something really distinct in something else. This is a bit scattered, but you get the idea. If you really care, I could email you my Kalamazoo paper on the subject after I get done writing it. The following quote is about they way we know principles, and ends with the nifty claim that by knowing metaphysics we are better prepared for knowing other sciences.

Reportatio IA, prologus, q. 2 n. 157: "To the authority of the Philosopher I say that principles can be known in two ways. In one way by a confused knowledge, as if the terms are apprehended confusedly by sense and experience, and this suffices for scientific knowledge of terms in any special science, as that a line is length while being ignorant of whether the quiddity of it is substance, quantity or quality, etc. In another mode distinct knowledge can be known, by knowing to which genus their quiddity pertains, when the definitions of terms are known distinctly from the evidence of the terms, and this happens in metaphysical science by dividing and composing. And so all sciences can be said to be subalternated to it, namely metaphysics. And therefore with the science of metaphysics possessed, the principles of any other science are known in it by their own proper principles. Consequently, another science is known more perfectly if metaphysics is known.