Thursday, April 16, 2009

Four Ways of Knowing

From Duns Scotus, Quaestiones de anima, q. 19 (OPh V, 193-94):

"It should be said that something can be known in four ways: 
In one way by the comparison to another, as man is known to be the most perfect of the animals; another absolute necessarily precedes such cognition.

In the second way something can be known through its accidents, as man by 'risibile'; and this cannot be first, because it is of necessity that if I know a disposition, that I know the subject acting as a substratum to it, although confusedly.

In the third way something can be known through a concept common to itself and others, as I know man through animal. And so to know God is to know imperfectly, namely through a concept common to himself and others; for this is more imperfect than to know a stone distinctly, because through that common concept God is not more known than another, and therefore such a cognition is not allotted nobility from God.

In the fourth mode something is known by a quidditative concept, but this is double:

One is primarily first, which namely is not resolvable into other concepts, by which a thing is known intuitively in itself as it is of such a nature, and such a concept we cannot have of God in the wayfaring state, indeed neither of our soul nor of some spiritual substance. The reason is because we have no cognition of God naturally except through creatures. No creature, however, nor all taken together, are able to sufficiently represent the divine essence quidditatively, that is as this nature or essence.

The other quidditative concept of a thing neither is entirely simple nor first, but is resolvable into others, as is the defintion of a thing composed from diverse concepts. We are able to have naturally  such a concept of our soul, namely by considering that there are certain beings in potency, certain ones in act; and that being in act has two integral parts of which one is act; and so we apprehend what act is. We proceed further, by dividing, that certain acts are first, certain ones second, and so we apprehend afterwards what is first act. Afterwards we divide those which are actualized, and so, by comparing them to each other, finally we arrive to this which is an organic physical body which is acualized by the soul. And so, by comparing to each other, we have a quidditative concept of our soul. This concept of the soul, however, is proper so that it does not befall another spiritual substance, but by this concept I do not know my soul either in itself intuitively and specially as it is this soul, just as not that which I never saw (sicut nec illud quod numquam vidi).


Likewise from many beings we are able to abstract this which is being absolutely; and from many goods, the good itself. And because beings and goods are ordered, finally we are able to arrive at this which I understand to be the highest good, because there is no process into infinity. So therefore I can compare them to each other by the intellect and say some being is the highest good, which composed concept befalls God alone. And therefore we are able to have naturally a quidditative concept of God, nevertheless one that is composed. But by such a concept we do not know him in himself, as he is of a determinate nature, but so to know him is simply more perfect than to know something other than God.  So therefore it is clear that the adequate object of our intellect is not the material quiddity, because we are able to know in some manner both God and the spiritual substances."

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