Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aquinas on Divine Ideas I: Scriptum super Sententias

While investigating fontes for my edition of the intelligibile being treatise I read d.35 and 36 of Aquinas' commentary on the Sentences, and offer here a summary of his position with some short reflections. In an earlier version of this post I accused him of contradiction, but I do not now think it is so simple as that. 

1. Creatures (i.e. the quiddities of creatures) are not contained in the divine essence.

2. Creatures are known by the divine intellect, which is their principle of production (presumably in esse reale; at least he does not specify intelligible being)

3. God does not know creatures by knowing their essences, but in a higher, more nobler manner by knowing the divine essence

4. The divine essence is the exemplar of created things.

5. The divine essence is the ratio or principle by which the divine intellect knows.

Interestingly, I think (3) gets Aquinas out of a Plantinga-like attack, which claims that the divine intellect "depends" on the "platonic horde" which is apparently distinct by some unspecified distinction from the divine essence. Scotus and the Scotistae probably need a little extra work to get out of it.

What I'm not clear on is how the divine essence can be an exemplar without containing creatures in some sense. Perhaps all it means is that the essence can be imitated by creatures and so is an exemplar, and the divine intellect knows that the essence can be imitated by creatures and so contains them. 

What seems to be implied, and in the light of Scotus seems to be a necessary step, is the production of the essences of creatures in intelligible being by the action of the divine intellect knowing the essence, however one wants to explain it, by logical instants, instants of nature, order, etc.

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