Friday, June 12, 2009
Guilelmus de Alnwick, Quaestiones de esse intelligibili, q.6 (ed. Ledoux 161):
"Therefore it seems to me that, although the one so opining [i.e. Scotus] says in many places that creatures according to their eternal intelligible being are produced by God, and that the divine intellect by understanding a creature institutes it in intelligible being, nevertheless his arguments in many places show the opposite, and therefore I think that if he had held a special question about this he would have spoken carefully; for in this matter he was speaking according to the common opinion, which then was running in the mouth of men saying that creatures had no being from themselves, and therefore also according to intelligible being they are produced from another, and this indeed I have experienced in him, that by following the common opinion of the ones speaking he was accustomed with them to say that creatures according to their eternal intelligible being are produced by God. But now by more diligently inquiring after the truth the contrary is completely clear to me. So also the Solemn Doctor, Master Henry of Ghent, said many things in determining some questions which then did not pertain to his principal intention, and this indeed according to the common opinion of others, of which nevertheless he said the opposite afterwards when he held a special question over the matter, and so I save each doctor from contradiction. So also Aristotle said many things according to the common opinion of the philosophers, of which nevertheless he said the opposite when he determined about them specially from intention."
Comments: Not much in the way of argument here, but the passage does contain some precious historical information. Prior to reading this I had thought that Scotus' opinion was a novelty (if you recall, Scotus posits the production of the quiddities of creatures by the divine intellect in a series of four instants of nature) but Alnwick describes it as the common opinion. Probably the common opinion didn't involve instants of nature; just that the divine intellect or divine essence in some manner generates the essences of creatures. Both Alnwick and Peter Thomae argue against this opinion of Scotus/common opinion, although without attacking the use of instants of nature, while the rest of the Scotistae in the 14th century up to Maestrius et al. follow Scotus. Both Alnwick and Peter Thomae in the end remained without any influence (although they have quite convinced me). It is an interesting that Alnwick, and probably other scholastics as well, were aware of contradictions in the thought of the great masters (even Thomas changed his mind on the verbum, as Auriol pointed out), but still try to harmonize them anyway. Well, sort of. In some of the questions in this work Alnwick exploits Scotus' contradictions by using the arguments from his Parisian period in the Reportatio and Quodlibet against the Oxford positions expressed in the Ordinatio.