Saturday, April 25, 2009

Univocity of Being and the Knowledge of Substance

This one's for our esteemed co-blogger, who was so scandalized by Pini's paper at the St. Bonaventure Scotus congress. I don't remember if the following passage came up, so here it is again. Scotus is claiming that we don't have direct access to substance, only accidents. If we are to have any knowledge at all, the being of substance and accidents must in some sense be univocal. This is from the Quaestiones de anima, which, having read the introduction and the entire work, I think actually post-dates the Ordinatio, the editors to the contrary. This is because Scotus is clearly abbreviating people like Gonsalvus (dated to 1302-4), as well as himself. But I do think that the editors sufficiently established that the manuscript tradition derives from Oxford, and that Scotus might have taught the de anima course during his year-long exile from Paris in 1303. However, he could also have taught it in Paris in the franciscan studium. After Scotus' death, the main impetus among his students was to get a copy of the Ordinatio out and circulating. Other works were ignored and then taken back to Oxford. I suspect this was the case with the Logica Scoti/Quaestio de formalitatibus as well as the De anima questions. Owing to these considerations, I don't think it necessary to posit a Parisian period for Scotus in the 1290's to account for his knowledge of Parisian sources as I think he taught after 1302. 

Here's the argument:

Quaestiones super secundum et tertium de anima, q.21 n.25 (OPh V 218):

"I prove that the concept of being is common univocally to substance and accident: because if not, we would have no concept of substance. For either we would have of substance a concept proper and quidditative and intuitive, or abstractible; not the first, as was proved; therefore a concept abstractible from substance and accident and common to each; but no concept is common to each unless the concept of being; therefore, etc. That however we are not able to know substance in the wayfaring state by a simple and first concept, is clear from this that all our cognition arises from sense; substance however is not per se sensible; and therefore we are not able to know it intuitively or by a simple concept, but by that mode: because from accidents sensible to us we abstract the concept of being, by saying that they are of being, and by inquiring further we find that it is such being which is inhering to another; it is necessary however for that being to be subsistent, and to such a subsisting one we give the name of substance. And therefore so confusedly do we know substance, by joining its subsistence to being, by saying that it is being per se subsisting; we do not however have an intuitive concept of it in the wayfaring state, by which we know it to be this being, except in the aforesaid way, as experience teaches."

Proof that we do not have a proper, quidditative and intuitive concept of substance from n.12:

"But that substance cannot be the first object [of the intellect], I prove: for it is not first according to predication, because it is not predicated essentially of all intelligibiles, because it is not predicated of accidents. Nor [is it the first object] according to power, because it does not sufficiently move the intellect to knowledge of itself and of others. Which is proved so: because this would only be according to a simple and quidditative and intuitive concept; for this to be first is impossible, because whatever our intellect is able to know intuitively through its presence, it is able to know its absence by nature; but our intellect is not able to know by nature the absence of the substance of the bread in the sacrament of the altar, but only by faith--for equally the substance of the bread is known when it is not there, just as when it is there, therefore etc. The major premise is clear by the example and authority of the Philosopher saying that sight is perceptive of light and darkness, which is the absence of light. Minor is declared. Therefore, etc. Since therefore neither God nor the true nor substance is the first object of the intellect, it follows that being is that first object."


Lee Faber said...

Also, with respect to the dating, it is generally believed that in his early works Scotus uses the term "visio" rather than "intuitio", the term common in his later works.

Danielhenlou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielhenlou said...

Perhaps, you would be interested in reading the chapter Gnosiological position of Duns Scotus, from Mario Ferreira dos Santos's Teoria do Conhecimento(Theory of Knowledge), which I have recently translated into english. Here is the adress:

Thank you.