Tuesday, August 19, 2008

King Bonaventure

I came across the following quote from Stephen Brulifer, comparing Bonaventure and Scotus: "Unde merito comparatur hic doctor, S. Bon. leoni tanquam rex inter doctores, Scotus autem aquilae quae est rex avium"

In the Octave of the Assumption

This day the Ark of the living God, even the holy and living Ark, wherin once its own Maker had been held, is borne to its resting place in that Temple of the Lord which is not made with hands. Her ancestor David leapeth before it. And in company with him the Angels dance, the Archangels sing aloud, the Virtues ascribe glory, the Principalities shout for joy, the Powers make merry, the Dominions rejoice, the Thrones keep holiday, the Cherubim utter praise, and the Seraphim proclaim its glory. This day the Eden of the new Adam receiveth her who was the living garden of delight, wherein the condemnation was annulled, wherein the Tree of Life was planted, wherein our naked was covered. This day the spotless Virgin, who had been defiled by no earthly lust, but rather was enobled by heavenly desires, died only to live without returning to dust. For being herself a living heaven, she took her place today among the heavenly mansions. From her the true Life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by him to whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, who is the very Life itself, had not refused. But, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by him unto himself.

--St John Damascene, Orat. 2 de Dormitione B.V.M.

Word of the Day: Aliusitas

Today's word of the day is aliusitas. It apparently is a certian kind of alietas. I am not exactly sure what kind. As one might surmise, it comes from the 14th century theologian and Scotist philosopher Peter Thomae, from his Formalitates seu Quaestiones de modis distinctionis q.5 a.4. Here it is, in all its glorious context.

Omnis enim alietas vel facit aliud et sic potest vocari alietas aliuditatis vel alium et sic alietas aliusitatis; et ista alietas est proprie inter diversa supposita sicut prima inter diversas essentias; vel facit alterum et haec est alietas alteritatis quae est non alietas essentiae nec suppositi sed alicuius accidentalis dispositionis.

Honestly, I don't even know how to translate this. "For otherness either makes another and so can be called otherness of otherness, or other, and so otherness of [some other kind of otherness]; and that otherness is properly between diverse supposits, just as first among diverse essences. Or it makes an other, and this is otherness of otherness which is not otherness of essence or supposit but otherness of an accidental disposition.

Admittedly, it is utterly out of context.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More on Plantinga, Divine Simplicity

It would seem that Catholics, at least, cannot follow Plantinga in his claim that God is other than his nature (philosophical arguments aside, for the moment), due to the decrees of the council of Rheims against Peter of Poitiers. Of course, it was not an ecumenical council, but its decrees are included in Denzinger. In any case here it is, #745

Quod divina essentia, substantia et natura, quae dicitur divinitas, bonitas, sapientia, magnitudo Dei, et quaeque similia, non sit Deus, sed forma, qua est Deus.

that the divine essence, substance and nature which is called the divinity, goodness, wisdom, magnitude of God, and suchlike, is  not God, but a form by which God is.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eco on Beauty in Thomas Aquinas and Scotus

I randomly came across the following quote when I was procrastinating today, which I post for my beauty-loving friend. It is from The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas by Umberto Eco, p. 205 ff. Because it is at the end of the book, and I have not read the rest of it, I won't make any hasty judgments, though I object to the notion of such entities as "post Thomistic Scholasticism".

"The Dissolution of the Concept of Form
in Post-Thomistic Scholasticism

John Duns Scotus defined beauty as follows.

Pulcritudo non est aliqua qualitas absoluta in corpore pulchro sed est aggregatio omnium convenientium tali corpori, puta magnitudinis, figurae et coloris aggregatrio omnium respectuum qui sunt istorum ad corpus et per se invicem.

Beauty is not some kind of absolute quality in the beautiful object. It is rather an aggregate of all the properties of such objects-for example, magnitude, shape, and color, and the sum of all the connections among themselves and between themselves and the object. [quoted from the Wadding ed.]

Here, the term aggregatio might seem to refer us to the theory of proportion, except that Duns Scotus denies that beauty is an "absolute quality," and denies therefore that it is a substantial form inhering in the object as a whole. The reason for this becomes clear if we remember the Scotist doctrine that there is a plurality of forms. The unity of a composite object does not require a unity of form, but only the subordination of the forms of the parts, none of which is annulled, to an ultimate form. This is just the opposite of Aquinas: one thinks of Aquinas's discussion of mixed bodies, where, in order to salvage something of the powers of the forms included in the composite, he had to engage in some tricky maneuvering. This was because his system could not allow the forms of the parts to retain any autonomy, within the shadow as it were of the composite's substantial form.

It is clear that, if one insists upon the existence of a relational structure of autonomous forms, the conception of beauty will become a more analytical one. And this analytical quality is further affected by another theory of Duns Scotus's, the theory of haecceitas, or "thisness". Haecceitas is an individuating property. Its function is not that of perfecting form--which cannot be other than universal--but rather of giving to the whole composite a concrete particularity, uniquely individual with respect to every other composite. It is quite different from Aquinas's quidditas, or "whatness," which makes substance exemplify a category, the typical rather than the individual. Haecceitas is a principale which completes a thing to the point where it is irreducibly concrete. "The ultimate specific difference," says Duns Scotus, "is simply to be different from everything else." Particulars, therefore, are superior to essences. In Aquinas, the particular was more perfect than universal form because it had existence. In Duns Scotus, it is more perfect because it is a unique thing which is defined by its uniqueness. For Duns Scotus, something is included in the nature of the individual (ratio individuui) which is lacking in shared nature (natura communis).

Illud autem inclusum est entitas positiva. Et facit unum cum natura. Eergo est per se praedeterminans illam naturalm ad singularitatem.

It includes positively being something. This makes it one with nature. Therefore, nature is predetermined to particularity.

We might wish at this point to examine whether this assertion of the absolute particularity of substance was homologous with the types of art which were contemporary with it. Aquinas's philosophy would seem more akin to the art of classical Gothic, which tended to represent the typical. Duns Scotus's would seem to be the philosophy of Flamboyant gothic, with its liking for the particular, for individuality in the person, for a detailed and analytical mode of vision, for a sense of particularity opposed to the grand and unifying works of the preceding period. However, making connections of this kind is always dangerous. It is difficult to establish a point-by-point correspondence between theoretical propositions and works of art, just because they happen to be contemporary. I shall therefore confine myself to noting that the theory of haecceitas would imply that we do not grasp a form by means of a purely intellectual act, but in an intuition; whereas the intellect, which can know particulars only in a  confused manner, has to fall back upon universal concepts. This shows that Scotist theory brings us to a new aesthetic world, even if Scotus himself did not care to follow his own principles to their ultimate conclusions.


This brief survey is the merest introduction to quite a different topic, namely the birth of modern conceptions of art. But it might be risky to stop at just this point, just when I have indicated the lines of fracture which caused a crisis in Scholasticism and opened up new perpsectives. It is risky at least in this sense, that every chapter in the history of philosophy is constantly in danger of infection by Idealism (which is at the same time an aestheticizing tendency). Thus, historians are tempted to present philosophy as an epic poem or a bourgeois novel of the nineteenth century. We are shown the rise and fall of philosophies, the triumph of a rationality which is immanent in the forms of thought; and its various stages follow one another, not by chance, but in a dialectic in which each stage supersedes the stage preceding it. Thus, for example, Eckhart's theory of the image could be said to represent the "truth" of the matter, to translate the problems of art and beauty of a "more mature" level, and to put an end to the primitive, disingenous beginnings represented by the Scholastic systems.

In contrast to this vice of Idealist historiography, there is an opposite vice3, one againsts which I have been struggling in this book. It is the neo-Scholastic vice of attempting to rescue, whole and entire, a body of thought which is valid and consistent only when applied to the problems of its own period.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to find a middle way between these two. But in order to do so, it is necessary to keep two things in mind, one historical, the ohter methodological. First of all, whenever a system of thought disintegrates, this never occurs just because an internal dialectical explosion, purely on the level of thought alone, produces contradictions within it, and causes it to be nullifed in whatever supersedes it. Any system comes about as a response to specific social, political, and cultural questions, and to solicitations which are implicit in the relations of production and are mediated through the superstructure. Therefore, when a system breaks down, it does not do so just from within. It breaks down because of something outside it.

This indicates the conditions under which a system enters a state of crisis. But at the same time, it means refusing to countenance the complete disappearance of the mode of thought in question. If similar conditions should arise again, some of the forms of argument and systematic correlations might well recover their effectiveness. Historical reconstruction helps to restore the model of a particular way of thinking and, therefore, an image of one possible form that the world can have. In certain social and cultural circumstances, this can provide the conceptual instruments by means of which we can validly construct additional images of the world, in situations which are at least partly homologous.

This historical procedure immediately becomes the instrument of a method of theoretical analysis. Every so often we can usefully revisit our models of the thinking of the past and try out in new circumstances the conceptual instruments which at one time proved effective. Or we may discover that in fact we are already using them without knowing it. Thus, the reconstructed model can help us to avoid pathways which have already been found to lead no-where, or it can indicate how to take new paths in a critical manner.

This is the twofold manner in which I now want to give an estimate of Aquinas's aesthetics: an estimate of what it was in its time, and of the ways in which it entered upon a crisis; and an estimate of his model for aesthetics, of what it can still say to us today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Auriol on the Formal Distinction

Here's a bit from Peter Auriol's lengthy criticisms of the formal distinction, where he summarizes his disagreement just prior to going after basically every version of the formal distinction ever elaborated by Scotus. From his Scriptum d. 8 sec. 23 a.5 [ed. Buytaert 1009=1010)

"Circa quintum autem considerandum quod, licet iste modus dicende valde subtilis sit, nihilominus deficit in duobus. Primo quidem quia quae distincta sunt ex natura rei, oportet quod importent determinatas rationes. Nunc autem supra probatum est quod iustita non dicit deitatem sub aliqua determinata ratione, quoniam iustitia in communi quantum ad importatum principaliter et in recto, nihil deteminatum dicit, sed tota terminatio est in connotato quod importatur in obliquo. Iustitia vero divina coincidit in rationem detitatis, sicut et iustitia creata in rationem propriam qualitatis cuiusdam. Et quod dictum est de iustitia, intelligi oportet de sapientia et aliis attributis. Ergo imossible est quod talia distnguantur in Deo ex natura rei, vel re vel ratione, cum coincidant penitus in rem et rationem deitatis.

Secundo vero quia inevitabile est quin esset attributorum aliqua multitudo realis, et per consequens laederetur et infringeretur divina simplictas; quod est contra auctoritatem Sanctorum et philosophorum, ac generalis Concilii dicentis postquam enutiatum est de Deo quod est immensus, incommutabilis, omnipotens et aeternus, quod est 'simplex omnino'. Et quia quinque viae superius tractae sunt, quibus videtur posse salvari divina simplictas non obstante ista distinctione, restat ostendere discurrendo quod nulla earum salvat."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Intuition of Relativity?

While working through Peter Thomae's first question in his Quaestiones de esse intelligibli, I came across a rather interesting section, in which he gave eight arguments ex experientia, something I have not seen a Latin scholastic do before. I give the first below as it is the most interesting and sets up a scenario vaguely reminiscent of Einstein's bit on the trains that I read back in high school. The others are more familiar, such as a stick that looks broken in water, or staring at the sun and still seeing afterimages when looking at other things. Of course, Augustine is cited so much, he might not even have come up with this one on his own, but gotten it from one of the fathers. The word "potatur" I think needs to be translated as "swimming" though it literally means to drink, but I could not make out the abbreviation (there was an -x- involved as well) in the manuscript so even "potatur" is just a guess.

"Prima est quando aliquis potatur in aliqua aqua, tunc enim quando navis vadit velociter, arbores in ripa existentes videntur moveri. Huiusmodi autem motus qui est obiective in oculo non potest poni quod sit ipsa visio, alioquin visio est obiectum visus et ita visus est potentia reflexiva; nec potest poni quod sit realiter in arbore vel ripa quia tunc realiter moveretur; nec potest poni quod sit in aere, quia aeri non attribuitur sed arbori est, ergo solum intentionaliter non realiter in esse viso et esse iudicato."

First is when someone swimming in some water, then when a ship quickly goes by, the trees on the shore seem to be moved. Motion of this kind which is objectively in the eye cannot be posited to be vision itself, otherwise vision is the object of the sight, and so sight is a reflexive power; nor can it be said that it is really in the tree or shore, because then it[ie, they] would really be moved; nor can it be said to be in the air, because it is not attributed to the air but to the tree, therefore it is in "being seen" or "being judged" only intentionally, not really."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mr. Bush's impending conversion

This post is mainly for Michael, as I am sure he will find it as humerous as did I; it is some excerpts from Dr. Samuele Bacchiochi's latest "Endtime Issues" newsletter. Note the usual dammed if you do, dammed if you don't attitude.

"Perhaps the most impressive example of President Bush sheer reverence for Pope Benedict XVI, is the affirmation he made on Friday, April 11, 2008, when he answered the last question posed him by Raymond Arroyo, anchor of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Arroyo asked the President, "You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul." The President replied, "Yes." Arroyo followed with this final question: "When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?" The President replied "God" (ZENIT.org News Agency, April 13, 2008). This is a shocking affirmation that speaks volumes about Bush's misconception of God. For the President to see "God" in the eyes of Benedicts XVI, means to ignore the historical role that the papacy has played in promoting false worship and persecuting sincere Christians. The "god" represented by the Pope, is not the biblical God, but a Catholic-made god, who claims divine titles, like "God on Earth, Vicar of Christ, Holy Father," The Pope is a god fabricated by the Catholic Church to lead sincere people away from the true worship of God into the false worship of a church-made god. For a Methodist President to see "God" in the pope's eyes, means to have lost sight of the biblical commandment not to identify God with "anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath" (Ex 20:4). It means that he has been brainwashed by those Catholic theologians whom he has invited at his Texas residence and at the White House to teach him the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith.


It is evident that President Bush does not realize that the majesty and splendor of the Catholic liturgy is based on a host of heresies such as immortality of the soul, survival of the soul in Purgatory, Hell, or Paradise, and the veneration of Mary and the Saints. All these heresies are traced historically and examined biblically in my latest book Popular Beliefs: Are They Biblical? Most likely Bush's Methodist religious education never helped him to understand the pagan origin of Catholic beliefs and rituals.


Benedict XVI must be commended for his frank analysis of the socio-religious-political situation of Western Europe. What he fails to realize, however, is that the Catholic Church is largely responsible for the pervasive secularism and moral relativism in Europe today. After all the Catholic Church has influenced and controlled for centuries the social, religious, and political life of Western Europe and Latin America. The fruits of Catholic religious indoctrination are evident in all the dominant Catholic countries where political corruption is rampant and indifference toward religion is the order of the day. By teaching people that salvation is a dispensation of the church, administered through the sacraments, the Catholic Church has fostered the moral relativism pervasive in Catholic countries. The reason is that Catholics are taught that no matter how sinful their life will be, at the end the sacramental powers of the Church can hasten their transition from Purgatory to Paradise. By contrast, Protestantism teaches that salvation is a disposition of the believer. Christians are expected to live morally responsible toward God and fellow-beings. This is known as "Protestant ethics." The fruits of Protestant religious indoctrination can be seen in the influence of religion in the social-political life of countries like the United States.


By promoting successfully the cause of social justice, Benedict XVI is predispose people around the world to more readily accept those teachings that have divided Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. The gulf of separation between Catholicism and Protestantism is truly being bridged, but the bridge is being built at Protestant expenses. To Protestants, it means that, on the one hand, we must admire John Paul's courageous and unpopular stand for the Biblical view of the sacredness of marriage and human life as well as his uncompromising denunciation of homosexuality and of sex outside marriage as sinful acts. On the other hand, we must never forget that the same Pope is equally uncompromising on the fundamental Catholic teachings that have divided Protestantism from Catholicism because they rest on venerable ecclesiastical traditions."