Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pico della Mirandola on the Sects of Philosophers

I've done gone and gotten myself interested in renaissance philosophy. I'm starting with Pico and Ficino and will move on from there. The following is from Pico's treaties On the Dignity of Man, transl. by C.J. Wallis p.22-24:

"Further, in each school there is something notable that it does not have in common with theothers. But let me now begin with ourselves, whom philosophy has at least reached. In John Scotus there is certain vigor and breadth. In Thomas, a solidity and equilibrium. In Aegidius, a terseness and precision. In Francis, a sharpness and pointedness. In old Albert, spaciousness and grandeur. In Henry, so it seems to me, there is always something sublime and venerable. Among the Arabs, there is in Averroes a firmness and steadiness. In Avempace and in Alfarabi, something grave and well meditated. In Avicenna, something divine and Platonic. Among the Greeks universally there is, especially, a certain brilliance and chasteness of philosophy. In Themistius, elegance and concision. In Alexander, steadfastness and learning. In Theophrastus, a serious working out of things. In Ammonius, a smoothness and pleasingness. And if you turn to the Platonists, to go over a few of them: in Porphyry you will be pleased by an abundance of materials and a complex religion. In Iamblichus you will feel awe at a more hiddenen philosophy and at the mysteries of the barbarians. In Plotinus there is no one thing in particular for you to wonder at, for he offers himself to our wonder in every part; and while he speaks in a divine manner about divine things, and of human things in a manner far above man, with a learned indirectness of discourse, the sweating Platonists scarcely understand. I pass over the more recent: Proclus, abounding in Asiatic fertility, and those who have flowed from him, Hermias, Damascius, Olympiodorus and many others, in all of whom there always shines that to theion, that is, divine something, the peculiar emblem of the Platonists. Further, if there is a school which attacks truer doctrine and ridicules with calumny the good causes of thought, it strengthens rather than weakens truth, and as by motion it excites the flame rather than extinguishing it. Moved by this reasoning, I have wished to bring into view the things taught not merely according to one doctrine (as some would desire), but things taught according to every sort of doctrine, that by this comparison of very many sects and by the discussion of manifold philosophy, that radiance of truth which Plato mentions in his Letters might shine more clearly upon our minds, like the sun rising from the deep.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lost Works of Scotus

Marianus de Florentia, Compendium Chronicarum Fratrum Minorum (Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 2 [1909], p. 631)

"Item eodem anno 1308, in conventu Coloniensi Agrippine, Germanie Superioris excessit frater Iohannes de Donis, theologus magnus et eximius doctor, ubi honorifice sepultus, in magna veneratione habitus est. Hic natione de Scotia fuit, qui ab Universitate Parisiensi inter ceteros doctores Doctor Subtilis appellatur. Fuit enim toti seculo stupendus, quia ita in scribendo et disputando fuit acutissimus, ut a nullo suo tempore vinci poterat. Scripsit duo egregia et diversa scripta super Magistrum Sententiarum, quorum primum Oxoniense, alterum vero Parisiense appellatur. Scripsit etiam super omnes ferme Aristotilis libros, presertim super Methaphisicam. Item, super 4or Evangelistas. Item, super Epistolas Pauli. Item, super Genesim ad literam. Item, sermones tam de tempore quam etiam de Sanctis, per totius anni circulum. Item, Quodlibeta aliqua. Item, Tractatum de Primo rerum Prinnipio. Item, Collationes Parisienses. Item, Tetragreumatha quedam"

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Blog

For those of you who want even more texts than those which we sometimes post here at The Smithy, take a look at the new blog listed below. His library is better than mine so I hope he posts often.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

St. Bonaventure on the Veneration of Images

In III Sententiarum, d. 9 a.1 q.2:

"It should be said that the introduction of images in the Church was not without rational cause. For they were introduced on account of a triple cause, namely on account of the ignorance of simple folk, on account of the slowness of affections and on account of the weakness of memory. Images were introduced because of the ignorance of simple ones because those who cannot read the scriptures are able to more clearly read the mysterious of our faith in sculptures and pictures just as in the scriptures. They were introduced on account of slowness of affection so that men, who are not excited to devotion in those things that Christ did for us when they perceive them with their ears, might at least be excited when they discern them in figures and pictures just as if present to bodily eyes. For our affection is excited more by those things which we see than those which we hear. They were introduced on account of weakness of memory, because those things which are heard alone, are more easily given to oblivion than those things which are seen. For it is frequently verified by many that which is accustomed to be said: the word enters through one ear and goes out through another. Furthermore, one is not always quick to commit to memory by means of words past benefits supplied. Therefore it was made by the dispensation of God that images might be made, especially in churches, so that the ones seeing them might be reminded about the benefits given to us and about the virtuous deeds of the saints.

Since therefore the image of Christ has been introduced for representing him who was crucified for us, neither does it offer itself to us for itself but for him, therefore all reverence which is shown to it is shown to Christ. And therefore the worship(cultus) of latria ought to be shown to it. And this is what Augustine says in Book III of On Christian Doctrine: "he who venerates such a sign divinely instituted, of which he understands the power and signification, does not venerate this thing which he sees and which passes away, but rather that to which all such are referred."

Ad obj. 1-2: To that therefore which is objected in contrary, that it was prohibited for anyone to make for himself an image, it should be said that for that time it was prohibited, in which time God had not yet assumed human nature. For then, since God was entirely spirit, he was infigurable; and therefore to make an image of him was error and impiety. <...> God on account of his inward mercy was made man and held conversation with man, he did miracles, suffered, was crucified; these things are written for the memory of men and for our teaching. But because not all know letters nor are free for reading, the fathers decreed to describe certain triumphant images for ease of memory.

Ad obj. 5: To that which was objected, that that seems to be idolatry, it should be said that that is true, if the images are adored with respect to themselves, so that something divine is believed to be there. Now however it is not so, indeed the minds of the faithful venerate in an entirely different manner, and therefore they are not guilty of idolatry. And if you object that they are the occasion of error, it should be said that even the sacred letters were and are even today and also to other creatures sometimes the occasion of error; nevertheless, not on account of this should the letters be destroyed and the creatures that erred be destroyed, because this is a matter of divine judgement so that the good into more goods and evil into more evils are converted. So also it is to be understood about the images.

Ad obj. 6: To that which was objected that that does not have authority from scriptures, it should be said that the Apostles handed down many things which were not written. Hence the Apostle (Paul: I Cor. 2,2, II Thess. 2,14) praised those who held the traditions and the Church has preserved faithfully what she received from the Apostles. And so it is clear that images of this sort are not novelties, but are divine traditions and of apostolic sanction."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Visions of Gonsalvus

Alvaro Pelagio (d. 1349) De statu et planctu ecclesiae lib. 2 c. 67 fol. 169v-170r:

"Et quamquam sanctae memoriae frater Gonsalvus hispanus de provincia Galiciae, nobilis genere, sed nobilior vita et moribus et evangelica paupertate, vere frater minor et zelator ardentissimus Regulae et dominus paupertatis... et dominicae humilitatis, cum quo in loco fratrum de Luca scutellas lavi in eadem pelvi lapidea, magister in theologia realissimus verbo et opere, de maioribus mundi litteratis in trivio et quadrivio, qui parum post mortem suam Parisiis, in visione quibusdam fratribus nostris apparuit gloriosus in throno residens cum corona aurea et sceptro, qui dixit tunc quod sedes throni sibi assignata erat in caelo, quia purissime in Ordine iustitiam observaverat... generalis, magister noster, totum Ordinem expropriaverit in vita sua et sententiam excommunicationis tulerit contra omnes fratres subditos et praelatos, nisi intra certum terminum illis a quibus habebant reditus vel eorum haeredibus resignarent, quod et factum est... Et ipse cum patribus sanctis requiscit in pace beati Francisci verus vicarius et successor"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opera Omnia XI

I noticed yesterday that a new volume of the Ordinatio is now available from , covering Book IV d.1-7, at the hefty price of 160 euros. Support the cause, buy one today; you shelled out money for the Obama campaign, America, now its time for Scotus.

Oh yes. There is also a new Futurama movie out, "Bender's Game". buy it!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

700 Years!

Happy optional memorial, everyone! Today is the 700th anniversary of his death in Cologne. Here's to another 700 years. May he soon be canonized and take his rightful place as Doctor Ecclesiae. Here is a prayer to that effect:

O Doctor Subtilissime, Ioannes, qui Deiparae Custos fidus fuisti; quamque Adam non foedaverat, Immaculatam clarius tu primus perpexisti; nostri tuam da mentibus doctrinam datam coelitus ad Matris laudem Christi.

v. Protege nos, Virgo praeservata ab omni macula.
R. Ut liberati a peccatis omnibus, per te perveniamus ad Praeservatorem tuum.


Deus, qui per Immaculatam Virginis conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti: et qui per hoc lucis mysterium Seraphicam S. Francisci Religionem illustrare, atque in ea gloriosum Doctorem Subtilem Ioannem Scotum mirificare dignatus es: praesta quaesumus; ut qui ex morte Filii Mariae praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos eius intercessione ad te pervenire concedas. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

And the collect for today from the Liturgia Horarum, proprium Coloniense:

Domine Deus, fons omnis sapientiae, qui Beatum Ioannem
presbyterum, Immaculatae Virginis assertorem,
nobis magistrum vitae et scientiae dedisti, concede, quaesumus,
ut, eius exemplo illuminati, et doctrinis nutria,
Christo fideliter adhaereamus. Qui tecum vivit.

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."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aristotle's Tomb

I am about to post a series on Henry of Harclay's first ordinary question (recently edited by M. Henninger), which concerns theories of end-time chronologies based on Daniel and Revelation. Here is a foretaste, a story related by Alexander Neckham in De naturis rerum. Harclay does not give a refutation of this view.

p. 63 of Henninger's ed. and transl.: "We should also look at the remarkable story Alexander Neckham tells in the second book of On the Nature of Things, in the chapter called 'On the Jealous'. It concerns the evidence for Antichrist's coming. He writes that Aristotle, the Philosopher, when about to go the way of all flesh, gave instructions that all of his subtlest writings were to be placed with him in his tomb, so that they could be of no use ot those who came after him. When he was alive, he fortified a place for his tomb with his own hands so that to this day no one has been able to enter it. This place, Neckham writes, will be given over to Antichrist when he comes. Antichrist, then, will work wonders by means of the cunning inventions to be found in Aristotle's writings, so much so that the folish will take him for God. At that time, if anyone were to know where Aristotle's tomb was and were to see it lying open, that person could (if this story is true) argue that Antichrist had come.

Alexander's exact words are these: 'I would be unwilling to write that Aristotle was afflicted with so deadly a plague as jealousy, if I did not mean to insult so wicked a monster. When he was going the way of all flesh, this philosopher ordered his most subtle writings to be walled up with him in his tomb, so that they could be of no use to those who came after him. He prepared the place of his tomb and the surrounding area so that no one, even to this day, is able to enter it; I do not know wheteher he did this by natural means or by some skill he had (I shall hardly suggest he used the unnatural means of magical arts.). Some people say that this place will yield to the wiles of Antichrist, and they think that he will examine the writings contained therein. So Antichrist's messengers, as they say, will bring Aristotle's secrets to the eyes of him who will be the idol of abomination and desolation."

I guess we know where his fabled dialogues are.