Friday, November 26, 2010

Except from Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem

Here is some food for thought for that inimitable species of humankind, the internet Thomist, who prowl about the ‘net seeking the ruin of... well, interesting philosophy and freedom of theological opinion.

Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem, trans. James H. Ryan in The Encyclicals of Pius XI, p. 95 : “No one, of course, may exact of professors either more or less than the Church, the mother and teacher of all, demands of them, for on those questions on which different authorities of our Catholic schools express different views and are not in agreement, certainly no teacher can be compelled to accept an opinion which does not appear to him the more logical one”.

New Prayer for Canonization of Scotus and Newman

From the recent Scotus-Newman conference:

Prayer to Obtain the Canonization of
Bl. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and
Bl. John Duns Scotus (1265-1308)

Heavenly Father, the two great Oxford scholars, Bl. John Duns Scotus and Bl. John Henry Newman, spent their lives in the service of Holy Mother Church and the salvation of souls. With courageous loyalty to the truth and exemplary obedience to the Church they sought to show how best to sanctify the intellect in the pursuit of holiness and wisdom. The insights of Bl. John Duns Scotus into the mystery of divine love and the Incarnation, his profound understanding of and devotion to the Immaculate Virgin Mother, his defense of the Holy Eucharist and the Church; the sage counsels of Bl. John Henry on living our faith in a radically secularized world and his deeply moving illustrations of our hope inspire us to ask you, the Giver of all good gifts, to grant that these two great examples of Christian virtue and learning might soon be counted among the Saints to be imitated by the faithful.

Through the intercession of Bl. Scotus we ask you for this favor….

Through the intercession of Bl. Newman we ask you for this favor….

In all this, may we learn to speak “heart to heart” with Jesus through Mary and pass from “shadows and images into the Truth”, your Son and our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Please report any favors received from either Bl. Scotus or Bl. Newman to:

The Very Reverend James McCurry, OFMConv.
12300 Folly Quarter Rd.
Ellicott City, MD 21042

IMPRIMATUR + Edwin F. O’Brien, D.D,
Archbishop, Archdiocese of Baltimore

Ave Maria!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Noone on Scotus on Intuitive and Abstractive Cognition

Here is a lecture by Dr. Timothy Noone on Scotus from the recent Scotus and Newman conference.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Divine Simplicity I

This post is devoted to arguments establishing divine simplicity. In later posts I will outline Scotus’ views on reconciling divine simplicity with univocity and the plurality of divine attributes.

Divine simplicity is a negative doctrine, which holds that God has no parts or constituents. But it has been variously construed throughout the history of philosophy. Indeed, I would say that there is a continuum of views from strong to weak. A strong view, perhaps the strongest, is that of Plotinus, who denied that even the duality of thought and thought-about can be in God; consequently, he put the intellect outside God on a lower plane of being. Christianity in general has a very weak sense of divine simplicity, at least compared to the neo-Platonists (though beware! they live again in France). Christians have historically posited an infinity of objects for the divine mind and even place a Trinity of persons in God. The Church defined divine simplicity as a dogma at Lateran IV in 1215, though obviously this was no novelty. Defined is perhaps too strong a word; it was used in the creed of the council. All that we find is that God is said to be “omnino simplex” which is translated as “completely” or “entirely simple”. Subsequent councils have confirmed this, but as far as I know, have not specified what this means. The scholastics of the 13th and 14th centuries not surprisingly all defend divine simplicity. Yet they have somewhat different conceptions of it. For some, such as Bonaventure and Henry of Ghent, simplicity seems to indicate an activity of the divine essence (don’t tell David Bradshaw). Aquinas denies a series of possible compositions of God (quantitative parts, form and matter, nature and supposit, essence and existence, genus and difference, potency and act), as well as gives arguments: if God were composite he would be posterior to his parts, composites require an existrinsic cause, etc. This reveals, I think, that divine simplicity is a corollary of arguments for the existence of God. Certainly for Aquinas, and probably for all the scholastics, the proofs that establish the existence of God establish a being that is the explanation of all other beings, that than which explanation cannot go. To posit a complex being is only get part way to the end; for there still is a further cause, whether the parts themselves or some other extrinsic cause which joins the parts, which will terminate the explanation.

Scotus’ gives a series a proofs for divine simplicity based on particular and common middle terms. In the particular middle term he argues that God is not composed of essential parts, quantitative parts, or subject and accident. His proof from common middle terms are arguments from necessary being and infinity. I give only one argument from each section, and include the latin.

Ordinatio I d. 8 pt. 1 q. 1 (ed. Vat. IV, 153-64)

A. Probatio simplicitatis Dei per media particularia.

1. God is not composed of essential parts

1. The causality of matter and form is not absolutely first, but necessarily presupposes a prior efficient causality.

2. Therefore, if the first being were composed of matter and form, it would presuppose the causality of an efficent cause.

3. This could not be the causality of the First being, because it does not effect itself by joining matter and form.

4. Therefore it must be the causality of another, prior, efficient cause, the opposite of which was proven in d.2 q.1 [the proof for the existence of God].

Proof of 1: the causality of matter and form includes imperfection, because it includes the notion (ratio) of part; causality of the efficient and end includes no imperfection, but only perfection; every imperfect is reduced to the perfect just as to something essentially prior to itself, ergo etc.

[Primum sic: causalitas materiae et formae non est simpliciter prima, sed necessario praesupponit causalitatem efficientem priorem, - ergo si Primum esseet compositum ex materia et forma, praesupponeret causalitatem efficentis; non autem huius, quia istud non efficit se, coniugendo materiam suam cum forma, - ergo alterius efficientis, prioris; ergo Deus non esset primum efficiens, cuius oppositum probatum est distinctione 2 quaestione 1. – Probatio primae propositionis: causalitas materiae et formae includit imperfectionem, quia rationem partis, causalitas autem efficientis et finis nullam imperfectionem includit, sed perfectionem; omne imperfectum reducitur ad perfectum sicut ad prius se essentialiter; ergo etc.]

2. God is not composed of quantitative parts

[omitted, mainly a discussion of Aristotle’s arguments in Metaphysics 12 and Physics 8]

3. God is not composed of subject and accident

1. Because God is not material nor quantified (quantus), therefore he is not compatible with a material accident, of the kind which befalls material things such as a quality of a material thing.

2. Therefore he is compatible with spiritual accidents, for example, intellection and volition, and their corresponding habits.

3. But such cannot be accidents of that [divine] nature, just as was proved in distinction 2, because his understanding and willing are his substance, and habit and power, etc.

[Tertia probatur conclusio specialiter ex istis: quia enim Deus non est materialis nec quantus, ideo non est capax accidentis alicuius materialis, conventientis rei materiali sicut qualitas rei materialis; ergo tantum est capax illorum quae conveniunt spiritibus – puta intellectionis et volitionis, et habituum correspondentium – sed talia non possunt esse accidentia illi naturae, sicut probatum est distinctione 2 quia intelligere eius et velle eius sunt substantia eius, et habitus et potentia, etc.]

B. Probatio simplicitatis Dei ex mediis communibus

1. From necessary being

if the First being is composed, let the components be called A and B. Let’s take A; is A of itself formally necessary being, or not, but is possible being. if it is of itself possible being, therefore the necessary being (the First) will be composed from the possible being, and so it will not be necessary being. If A is of itself necessary being, then it is of itself in the highest degree of actuality (ultima actualitate), and so it will not make a per se being with any other being. Likewise, if of itself it is a composed necessary being, it will be a necessary being through A, and for the same reason it will be a necessary being through B, and so it will be twice necessary being; necessary being will also be composed through something, which when it is removed, it will still be necessary being, which is impossible.

[Primo ex ratione necesse-esse, quia si Primum sit compositum, sint componentia a et b; quaero de a, si sit ex se formaliter necesse-esse, aut non, sed possibile-esse (alterum istorum oportet dare in quacumque re, sive in omni natura ex qua aliquid componitur). Si est ex se possibile-esse, ergo necesse-esse ex se componitur ex possibili, et ita non erit necesse-esse; si a est ex se necesse-esse, ergo est ex se ultima actualitate, et ita cum nullo facit per se unum. Similiter, si ex se est necesse-esse compositum, erit necesse-esse per a, et pari ratione erit necesse-esse per b, et ita erit bis necesse-esse; erit etiam compositum necesse-esse per aliquid, quo sublato nihil minus erit necesse-esse, quod est impossibile.]

2. From infinity

1. every component can be part of some total composite which is from it and another component.

2. Every part can be exceeded

3. it is against the notion of the infinite that it is able to be exceeded

4. ergo, etc.

[ primo quod Deus non sit componibilis: per hoc, quod omne componibile potest esse pars alicuius totius compositi quod est ex ipso et alio componibili; omnis autem pars potest excedi; contra rationem vero infiniti est posse excedi, ergo etc.]

Confirmation of the argument:

1. every component lacks the perfection of that with which it is composed, so that that component does not have in itself every kind of identity with that [other component], because then it would not be able to enter into composition with it.

2. No infinite lacks that with which it can be in some way the same, indeed it has every such in itself according to perfect identity, because otherwise it could be understood to be more perfect, (for example, it would have that in itself as ‘composed’ and would not have the ‘infinite’).

3. It is against the notion of the infinite that it can be understood to be more perfect or that there is something more perfect than it.

[Et confirmatur ratio, et quasi idem est, - quia omne componibile caret perfectione illius cum quo componitur, ita quod illud componibile non habet in se omnem et omnimodam identitatem cum illo, quia tunc non posset cum illo componi; nullum infinitum caret eo cum quo potest esse aliquo modo idem, immo omne tale habet in se secundum perfectam identitatem, quia alias posset intelligi perfectius, puta si haberet illud in se sicut ‘compositum’ habet et illud ‘infinitum’ non habet; contra rationem autem infiniti simipliciter est quod ipsum posset intelligi perfectius vel aliquid perfectius eo.]

Furthermore: because if [the First being] is composed, therefore either from finite or infinite [parts]. If from infinite, no such being is composable, from the previous arguments from infinity. If from finite, it will not be infinite, because finite parts cannot render something infinite in perfection.

[ex hoc sequitur ulterius quod sit omnino incompositus, - quia si sit compositus, aut ergo ex finitis, aut ex infinitis: si ex infinitis, nullum tale est componibile, ex probatis; si ex finitis, ipsum non erit infinitum, quia finita non reddunt aliquid infinitum in perfectione sicut modo loquimur.]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Words to Live By: Thomas Aquinas

Item debemus audire non solum ab uno, sed a multis; quia dicit Apostolus I Cor. XII, quod divisiones gratiarum sunt. Unus non est profectus in omnibus. Beatus Gregorius optime scivit moralitates, beatus Augustinus quaestiones solvere, et beatus Ambrosius optime allegorizavit. Quod non addiscis ab uno, addiscis ab alio. Unde in Eccl. VI: in medio presbyterorum prudentium sta, et in sapientia cordium illorum conversare, ut possis audire narrationem Dei. Quod non narrat unus, narrat alius. Non dico quod credam utile esse quod qui incipiunt primo audire scientiam aliquam, quod diversos audiant; sed debent audire unum quousque sint fundati; et cum sint fundati, audiant diversos, ut possint carpere flores ex diversis, idest quae sunt utilia.

Further, we should not only listen to one person but to many people, because as the Apostle says: there are a variety of graces. One man is not accomplished in all things. Blessed Gregory knew morals the best, blessed Augustine solved questions [the best], and blessed Ambrose allegorized the best. What you do not learn from one, you learn from another; thus in Ecclesiasticus: Stand in the midst of the wise elders, and join yourself from your heart to their wisdom, that you may listen to the discourse of God. What one does not tell you, another does. I am not saying that I believe that it is useful for those who are beginning to first listen to any sort of knowledge for the sake of listening to different people, but they ought to listen to one person until they become well versed, and when they have become well versed, then they should listen to different people so that they might be able to pick flowers from different opinions, in other words, those things which are helpful.

--Sermon, "Puer Iesus", 3.6

Friday, November 12, 2010

Words to Live By from Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Moral Epistle 2 (ed. Motto, p.5): "Distringit librorum multitudo; itaque cum legere non possis quantum habueris, satis est habere quantum legas. 'Sed modo' inquis 'hunc librum evolvere volo, modo illum.' Fastidientis stomachi est multa degustare; quae ubi varia sunt et diversa, inquinant non alunt."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thomism leads to ... nominalism (?)

The theory of plural substantial forms is not a problem for the Platonist mind-set [i.e., for Bonaventure]. However, the view of the rational soul as the form of the human body [i.e., Thomas's view] is a problem, for this view seems to cast considerable doubt on the possibility of the soul's immortality. Furthermore, the unicity doctrine implies that form is not being, since such a union could only take place if essence and existence are really distinct and enter into composition. Conversely, if form is being, and essence and existence are not really distinct, a plurality of substantial forms, when hypostasized or instantiated in an individual, remain distinct though hierarchically ordered. The unicity doctrine seems a first step on the slippery slope to nominalism.

--Christopher Cullen, Bonaventure (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 50

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Scotus Day

Today is the 702nd anniversary of his death. I'll be raising a glass tonight and I hope you do as well.

The collect:

Domine Deus, fons omnis sapientiae, qui Beatum Ioannempresbyterum, Immaculatae Virginis assertorem,nobis magistrum vitae et scientiae dedisti, concede, quaesumus,ut, eius exemplo illuminati, et doctrinis nutria,Christo fideliter adhaereamus. Qui tecum vivit.

And a poem, De morte Duns Scoti [From Ioannis Duns Scoti Opera Omni I, 50*]

Scotia plange, quia periit tua gloria rara,
Funde precem, confunde necem, tibi cum sit amara.
Quam fera, quam nequam sit mors, tribuens tibi legem
Cum reliquis aequam, rapiens ex ordine retgem.
Caelum, terra, mare nequeunt similem reparare.
Si quaeras, quare, - probat haec editio clare.
Troia luit florem de viribus Hectora fisum,
Sic luo Doctorem iuvenili flore recisum.
Ergo, legens, plora, quia non uic subfuit hora,
Sed ruit absque mora: pro quo, lector, precor, ora.