Tuesday, December 21, 2010

John the Canon on Objective and Subjective Being

[Update: The following text is a verbatim quote from Petrus Thomae. So the title of the post should be John the Canon secundum Petrum Thomae on Objective and Subjective being.]

John the Canon was a secular priest (not a Franciscan as is commonly assumed) who taught at Toulouse in the 1330's. He was a Catalan, as can be seen by the various examples of Catalonia he cites. His only extant work is a commentary on the Physics. In this work he quotes a great deal of material from Peter Auriol, Francis of Meyronnes, Francis of Marchia, and Petrus Thomae, and probably others as well. The following is a text in which he defines objective and subjective being, which I post out of my interest in the divine ideas and fourteenth-century debates concerning them. In a later post I will post the text that follows this definition, in which he argues in favor of a series of conclusions based on it.

Ioannes Canonicus, Quaestiones super libros Physicorum II q. 3 (ed. 1520, f. 29rb): “Quantum ad secundum punctum de nobilitate esse subiectivi et obiectivi est primo sciendum quod est esse subiectivum et obiectivum, et unde dicantur ista vocabula non bene inest memorie nostre; ubi sciendum quod secundum Hylarium ‘sermo rei non est rei subiciendus et ideo non est curandum de vocabulis’, tamen secundum Philosophum necessarium est scire quod per nomen significatur ideo dico primo de subiectivo esse quod esse subiectivum venit a subiecto. Subiectum autem dicitur aliquod ut materia vel sicut in quo vel sicut de quo vel circa quod vel ipsum quod. Primo modo dicitur ‘subiectivum’ illud de quo fit aliquod ut de ipsa materia. Secundo modo in quo existit aliquod. Tertio modo circa quod versatur actio. Quarto illud quod in se subsistit vel substat, et tamen advertendum est quod licet istis quatuor modis dicatur subiectum, tamen esse subiectivum, de quo hic queritur, dicitur a subiecto quarto modo sumpto. Ad cuius evidentiam est advertendum quod omne substans vel substat a se et per se, ut ipse deus, vel per se et non a se, et sic est substantia, vel non a se nec per se sed in alio, tamen absolute ut accidens absolutum; aliud est quod non substat neque a se neque per se neque in alio absolute sed in alio ad aliud, ut omnis forma relativa. Secundum hoc potest distingui quadruplex esse subiectivum, scilicet essentie divine, esse subiectivum substantie et accidentis absoluti et accidentis respectivi.

Viso ergo quod est esse subiectivum videndum est quod est esse obiectivum, ubi dico quod esse obiectivum secundum proprietatem vocabuli nihil aliud est quam esse obiectum alicui, unde esse obiectivum potest distingui sic: quoddam enim est quod habet tantum esse in fictione, puta cum secundum communiter loquentes aliqua potentia fingit sibi aliquod quod ex se nullum habet esse nisi esse obiectivum, aliud quod vere habet esse representativum in aliquo ipsum continente modo representativo et ad hunc modum sequitur esse intelligibile et intellectivum. Secundum ergo hoc potest dici quod duplex est esse obiectivum: unum quod est simpliciter fictum et hoc habent figmenta, aliud quod est esse representativum, et hoc habent solum illa que ex natura rei in aliquo representantur non ex aliqua fictione potentie ficitive et ad istud esse sequitur intelligibile et intellectivum.

“As far as the second point, concerning the nobility of subjective and objective being, it should first be known what subjective and objective being are, and why this terminology is used, which is hard to remember. It should be known that according to Hilary, ‘speech about a thing is not subjected to the thing, and therefore we should not worry about terms’ nevertheless, according to the Philosopher it is necessary to know that is signified by a name and therefore first I say about subjective being that it comes from ‘subject’. Something is called a subject, however, as matter, or as ‘in which’ or as ‘from which’ or ‘around which’ or just the thing itself. In the first way something is called ‘subjective’ from which something is made, as from its matter. In the second way, in which something exists. In the third way concerning which an action is directed. Fourth, that which subsits or stands under itself. And it must be noted that although ‘subject’ is said in those four modes, subjective being, about which it is asked here, is said from subject in the fourth way. As evidence of this, it should b entoed that every thing standing under does so either from itself and through itself, as God, or not from itself but through itself, as substance, or not from itself nor through itself but in another, absolutely as an absolute accident, another which does not stand under neither from itself nor through itself neither in another absolutely, but in another and to another, as every relative form. According to this we must distinguish four kinds of subjective being, namely of the divine essence, of substance, and of absolute and relative accidents.

Now that we have seen what subjective being is, we must see what objective being is. I say that objective being according to the meaning of its term is nothing other than to be an object of something, whence objective being can be distinuished thus: for there is a certain kind which has being only as a fiction, for example, according to the common way of expressing it, when a power is able to attain something which of itself has no being other than objective being, another [kind of objective being] which truly has representative being in the manner in which it is contained in a representative way, and this is intelligible and intellective being. According to this it can be said that there are two kinds of objective being: one which is simply a fiction and this is the kind of being that figments have, and another, which is representative being, which only those things have which from their own nature are represented, and not falsely as a result of being a fiction of a power, and this is intelligible and intellective being.”

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