Monday, October 17, 2011

Harmonization of Thomas and Scotus on Univocity

From Petrus de Attarabia, a Franciscan who taught at the studium at Barcelona around the same time as Petrus Thomae (1320's).

I tend to rag on Thomism a bit on this blog, so I thought I would post an attempt to show how Scotus and Thomas actually agree on the issue of univocity. A modest olive branch, if you will.

This position is the sort of thing generally left out of the grand narratives of the decline of the West in general and scholasticism in particular, being as they are in a rush to jump to Ockham and link Scotus' voluntarism with Ockham's.

Petrus de Attarabia sive de Navarra, Sent. I d. 3 pt. 1 q. 1 a. 3 (ed. Sagues Azcona vol. 2, 189-92):

As far as the third [article], I say that, as it seems to me, the first [opinio Thomae] and second [opinio Scoti] do not in fact disagree (I speak of the principal doctors who posited the aforesaid opinion; but [if] some others have declared otherwise, I don't care). 

For harmonizing therefore each opinion, it should be known that an univocal concept is understood in two ways. In one way an univocal concept is taken from the unity and indifference of those things to which it is common and a mode of conceiving.  And in that way it is univocation properly said, and of such as many the philosophers speak, and in that way genus and species are called univocal and other universals and also the categories.

In the other way an univocal concept is received only from the indifference of the mode of conceiving. Example: some man is individual, vague, common, univocal to all individual men under individual differences; but to individuals as such nothing is common unless from the mode of conceiving. This univocal is not a real universal, but is common only by a community of reason and mode of conceiving, just as is posited in the divine that  'person' is something common by community of reason to the three divine persons.

To apply this to the matter at hand: by taking univocation in the first way, being is not univocal, because then it would be a genus, nor would the statement of the Philosopher be true, I Physics, where he says that "since being is said in many ways" etc.; nor his statement in IV Metaphysics "that being is said of beings just as health of animal and of medicine." And the arguments adduced for the first opinion efficaciously prove this. And I believe that it is impossible that being is univocal in this way, because God and creature are entirely distinguished; otherwise God would not be irreducibly simple.

Therefore by taking univocation in the second way, namely which is received from the indifference of the mode of conceiving, I say that being is univocal to God and creature, substance and accident, because our intellect conceives being under indifference, not that that indifference is from the part of the thing or things, but the intellect has this from its own nature. And in that way being is not a real universal or genus, but is said common by such unity that it suffices for preserving a contradiction and for avoiding equivocation in the middle term of a syllogism. And in that way common propositions and first [propositions] are one, and likewise the questions "is it?" and "what is it?" etc. II Posterior analytics. And in this way all the arguments of the second opinion conclude. All [doctors] have denied univocity in the first way, but not in the second way, at least some [have not denied it].


RP said...

I present (fragmentary, tentatively) my own view for your amusement. And why not? If the "experts" can't agree a person has to try and make some sense out of it himself be he ever so stupid and ignorant.

Analogy is that-by-which-we-know. Know what, you ask. Everything, I say. It's the way the mind works. But it's not only the way the mind knows, things are analogous, too. if they weren't, the mind could never know truth about reality.

Apprehension: the thing is to the image (phantasm) as the image is to the idea. The mind makes the idea somewhat like this: A is to B as B is to ?.

The ? is the idea; it is universal or general, abstracted or separated in some way from the image. It's a kind of movement from the many to the one even if the many is a single, particular thing. It is inductive. The imagination an "interface" between sense and intellect.

We see a tree. But from tree we can get plant because a real tree is like other real plants in some way. It is a further generalization.

Assuming something real we can speak of it in 3 ways:

1) what we say refers to the reality: tree, or this tree (apprehension)

2) what we say refers to the mind's conceptions in considering the reality: treeness (universal or more universal, further abstraction, separation; new analogies between ideas or from a different viewpoint)

3) what we say is only a name (word) we apply indifferently to many realities or conceptions: metaphor (metaphor is a kind of weak analogy (analogy of analogy) of some words or meanings to other words or meanings, but not to any reality to which the words and meanings both refer; it's the usual sense of analogy of those who think analogy refers only to words or concepts; God's right hand; agent intellect illuminates the phantasm, substantial forms are educed from the potentialities of prime matter; prime matter)

Univocity is in the 3rd way of speaking (and also tends to nominalism when the 1st and 2nd ways are ignored or denied).

Lee Faber said...

RP, are you saying analogy is univocity? Your #3 sounds a bit like Scotus' sense of univocity, but not Aquinas' (univocity is where the name and definition are common). This is the whole problem of analogy/univocity with respect to Aquinas and Scotus. They use the terms 'univocity' and 'analogy' differently. Aquinas takes it in the sense of Aristotle's categories, Scotus in the sense of Simplicius' commentary on Aristotle's categories (unity sufficient for causing contradiction if simultaneously affimred and denied, if not present in syllogism, fallacy of equivocation results).

RP said...

Lee, I don't want to recapitulate my thinking about creation, form, time, knowing, etc, during the last eight years, but for the moment I'd say: univocity is speaking metaphorically.

But metaphor I call a "weak" analogy, not even rising to analogy of attribution. Maybe an analogy of imagination ('cause poets use this all the time). But the main point is that the mind has formed an analogy by which the metaphor gets it's meaning, or more properly is the meaning of the metaphor, while metaphor itself is most often thought of as only a way of speaking or a tenuous relationship between ideas (almost everybody thinks of analogy as nothing but the use of words and the relationship of ideas). And sometimes a metaphor can be so "weak" it is nothing but a play on words.

I very much like the notion that analogy is that-by-which-we-know because it results in not needing a whole host of "things" (which are really explanations or theoretical entities), like agent intellect for example. With this notion "the intelligible species abstracted by the agent intellect illuminating the phantasm" is more simply an analogy the mind forms intellecually that bears somewhat the relation the interior sense (can't remember what this is called) has with the thing perceived. It is not the intellect in act formally a stone with the identical form of the stone - an explanation I could never make sense of (even Aquinas very often spoke of "likeness" but at bottom accepted the formal identity).

Have you ever noticed Aquinas never said, "I don't know"? He will say something like, "it is inconceivable and indescribable" but nevertheless will talk about it for the next five pages. And often what he says is simply metaphor (because it really is inconceivable!) And metaphorical language is, as Adrian Monk says, "a gift and a curse" to philosophy and theology (because the smart guys can do no better).

RP said...

In case I haven't been clear (I never am) I don't mean all univocal words and concepts are metaphorical but only its use in the dispute on being.

Lee Faber said...

Well, I suppose you can have whatever views you wnat. You seem to realize you are leaving Aquinas behind. But it is certainly the case that for Aquinas and Scotus and the medieval dispute over being,univocity and the transcendentals that univocity is in no sense metaphor. Scotus thinks that being is said in the same way of God and creatures. There may be other qualifications such as intrinsic modes that soften this a bit, but he means it literally and as far from metaphor as can be.

RP said...

God is Light (St. John). Metaphor? Even a Thomist of the Strict Observance does not think God is some frequency of electromagnetic radiation.

God is Love (St. John again). Metaphor? Univocal? Analogical? What does Scotus say? After all, we (common, everyday folk) know more about love than being. I suspect he would say all the transcendentals are univocal concepts.

God is three Persons yet one God. Metaphor? Univocal? Analogical? St. Augustine said if we didn't say person we would have nothing to say.

God is self-subsisting being. Scotus says (correct me if I'm wrong) being is univocal not analogical because else we wouldn't be able to say anything about the being of God.

Scotus has a number of arguments for univocal predication and against the doctrine of analogy (Ordinatio 1, d. 3, pars 1, q. 1-2, nn. 26-55). One of the most compelling uses Aquinas's own view against him. Aquinas had said that all our concepts come from creatures. Scotus says, very well, where will that analogous concept come from? It can't come from anywhere. If all our concepts come from creatures (and Scotus doesn't deny this), then the concepts we apply to God will also come from creatures. They won't just be like the concepts that come from creatures, as in analogous predication; they will have to be the very same concepts that come from creatures, as in univocal predication. Those are the only concepts we can have — the only concepts we can possibly get. So if we can't use the concepts we get from creatures, we can't use any concepts at all, and so we can't talk about God — which is false. (SEP)

The article goes on to discuss Anselm's arguments which results in statements about God being either univocal or metaphorical .

Anyway, if one accepts we can't know what God is but only what he is not, what criteria is used to distinguish what is said metaphorically, univocally, or analogically?

And if in addition one thinks that prior to the use of words metaphorically, univocally, and analogically there is the notion of analogy as that-by-which-we-know which gives a formal likeness but not a formal identity and is the source for concepts which do not come directly from creatures - then whatever we say about God is either metaphorical or analogical

It doesn't make sense to say univocity is speaking analogically, so it must be speaking metaphorically.

Lee Faber said...

First, Scotus does not accept that we only know what God is not. He thinks we do in fact know the 'quid est' of God. The criteria we use to distinguish univocal and analogical statements are those the medievals used: Aristotle and Simplicius. A predication is univocal if the name and the definition are the same, equivocal if they are different (analogy is a subset of equivocity). This isn't to say that there is no metaphor, but metaphors weren't part of the debate about univocity/analogy. The paradigmatic examples are statments like Christ is the cornerstone, or God is the rock of our salvation. The problem with reading aquinas and Scotus is that the term "univocal" turns out to be equivocal: they use it in slightly different senses, and Scotus makes distinctions that Aquinas doesn't, such as: conceptual univocity/analogy vs. real, metaphysical univocity/analogy.

Perhaps this might help: a metaphor is a statement expressing an image, while analogy/univocity refers to a property of an individual term.

I also dont' see a reason to claim that analogy of knowledge is prior to analogy of language. Analogy is a species of equivocity. That means that our knowledge of the real world will be equivocal, and leaves the door open to lots of skeptical possibities. I think I have knowledge of say my father, but all I may actually be knowing or speaking to or whatever may just be a picture of my father, or something that is sort of like my father but sort of not like my father.

Now as far as I know Scotus never explicitly adopts the identity thesis, but he certainly doesn't think our knowledge is analogical in your sense. The form that actualizes the intellect and actualizes matter in real being are still the same form, it just has a different mode of existence in each case; the unity or "identity" of the form is guaranteed by the common nature.

Finally, I"m not sure what it means to say analogy is the source of concepts that don't come from creatures. All our concepts come from creatures, unless you hold to a form of divine illumination. But then, once again you have left Thomas begind. And in any case, divine illumination was generally used to guarantee certainty, not account for concepts themselves.

RP said...

Now as far as I know Scotus never explicitly adopts the identity thesis, but he certainly doesn't think our knowledge is analogical in your sense. The form that actualizes the intellect and actualizes matter in real being are still the same form, it just has a different mode of existence in each case; the unity or "identity" of the form is guaranteed by the common nature.

Finally, I"m not sure what it means to say analogy is the source of concepts that don't come from creatures. All our concepts come from creatures

These are the two notions that are important in the development of my thinking over the years. Starting with the second I would say it is absurd to think all our ideas come from creatures; what makes sense is to say they start with creatures (senses) but the mind produces unlimited concepts by "composing and dividing".

The first is more important: the explanation has it that we abstract the form from the thing. But with artifacts there is no form to abstract. Yet, it seems to me we know them in the same way as we know everything else. So, if we aren't abstracting forms it can't be the "same" form the thing has (whether "same" means identical or not). So I call it analogical - it is like the formality of the senses which is like the formality of the thing. And it is a formality the mind produces. It is this analogy which is the first instance of that-by-which-we-know. It is called the intelligible species, or more commonly today, an idea. From this it's an easy step to see all our concepts are analogical.

RP said...

Lee, I could die happy (well maybe not happy exactly, but a bit less miserable, which would seem like happiness to me) if you would answer these questions relating to artifacts:

How can we abstract the form when there is no form?

How do we "attain to the essence" when there is no essence (only "order and composition")?

How can we know the universal?

I have given my own answer with analogy as that-by-which-we-know but have never seen an answer in anything I've read. Without exception these (more or less Thomist) philosophers talk as if an artifact has a form in the same way as natural things while at the same time denying this is the case!

Lee Faber said...

To respond to your first comment:

I don't think there is much difference in saying that concepts come 'from' creatures or simply 'start' with them. Scotus after all thinks that the object of the intellect is being, even if it is restricted to material being because of the fall; so in principle, we should be able to know anything that exists, and that would include God (the only uncreated being). Certainly, Scotus would agree that the mind also produces concepts, though it depends on what you mean by this. On the one hand, the mind can produce concepts of concepts (second intentions), while on the other it can produce concepts of things in the world (ie by abstraction, even if the details in Scotus are different than in Aquinas).

Also, on your account substances won't require analogical concepts, only artifacts.

Regarding your second comment on artifacts, I have also noticed this problem in Thomism. But note that Aquinas himself discusses this in the context of the Eucharist. In response to an objection Aquinas claims that it doesn't matter that the bread and the wine are artifacts because they still have the substances out of which they are made (grapes, wheat). I think this works: all Aquinas is saying about artifcats is that they are substances which have undergone accidental changes. So there is still an underlying substance to abstract. and in any case, there is no reason that I can see why we couldn't abstract the notion of an accident as well as of a substance. After all, everyone talks about the universals 'whiteness' and 'redness' in examples when they discuss the problem of universals. So why not in the case of the eucharist (just an example: all i'm assuming is bread and wine, not for the moment transubstantiation) could we not just abstract the notion of wheat under the accidnetal determination of bread?

Lee Faber said...

OF course, Scotus, and the Franciscans generally, were somewhat infamous because they thought that humans don't have any direct cognitive grasp on the substance of something. So in the case of a dog, we might grasp the various accidents, but not the underlying essence. This was another reason why Scotus advanced univocity, because it allowed him to infer that there actually was a substance underlying the accidents.

RP said...


First: thanks.

Second: Also, on your account substances won't require analogical concepts, only artifacts.

Exactly reversed. Because artifacts require analogical concepts, substances do, too.

Third: for me, abstraction is also analogical, as I mentioned with the intelligible species.

Fourth: bread is a different substance than wheat; it is produced, according to Aquinas, from "natural energies" whatever that means.

Fifth: abstraction from accidents. "whiteness", is clearly analogical or metaphorical. Accidents for the most part are sensible.

Sixth: my entire notion of analogical knowing would probably collapse (and I tried to pursue this on Chastek's blog but he wasn't interested) if artifacts do have a substantial form and can be produced (as with bread) by simply pouring water from one glass to another, or sawing and hammering wood to produce a table. The point being efficient causes are sufficient for this, at least at times. But of course, this, too, is denied by Thomists. They are happy to live with their contradictions.

Seventh: my whole approach lately is not to talk in terms of "being" because everything talked about becomes a "thing". I want to speak in terms of truth and intelligibility. So I don't accept that the object of the intellect is being, rather truth.

Eighth: I'm just trying to resolve what I see as some contradictions and weaknesses in the usual explanations, solely for my own peace of mind. Don't think I am trying to persuade you to agree with me or want you to think anything I say is true. It's enough for me that you are kind enough to read what I wrote and even more appreciated that you replied to it.

Lee Faber said...

I'm always happy to dig into Scholastic thought to see whether it really works or not. That's the whole reason why I started reading 14th century thought, since the Scholastics of those times generally are more interesting than modern scholars and have better arguments, which they turned on both Aquinas and Scotus.

So, what do you make of universals? Aristotle at least thought accidents could be universals, and your claim that they are sensible sounds a bit like nominalism.

On your fourth point, if bread is a different substance than wheat, it's still a substance so perhaps we agree. I've never seen Aquinas' comment on 'natural energies' and would like to know where he says this.

On your seventh point, what do you make of the transcendentals? Generally all the scholastics agree that being is prior to the true/truth. If we define the first object of the intellect as that feature of all things by which they are intelligible, how can this be other than being, and what is the relation between intelligiblity and being? you are in good company of course, as both Aquinas in some places and Henry of Ghent and numerous others all agreed that truth was the object of the intellect, but this seems inconsistent with their doctrines of the transcendentals.

anyway, thanks for posting. This is the kind of discussion I was hopoing to have more often when I started this blog.

RP said...

Since you've asked a few questions I will try and answer.

So, what do you make of universals? Aristotle at least thought accidents could be universals, and your claim that they are sensible sounds a bit like nominalism.

Some accidents (accidental forms) are surely sensible: blue, soft, round, etc. Some are not: quantity, for example, unless it has other accidental forms included (inhering). Aristotle never completely escaped Plato's influence. Who has? Is it even possible? Only if we don't reify everything we talk about - which means taking truth/intelligibility as primary: as Pieper quotes Aquinas, "the reality of a thing is itself its light." All of this makes sense only under the aspect of exemplar forms (ideas) in God's mind. I hesitate somewhat to agree God has "ideas" but find it hard to talk about a thing's intelligibility without it. I conceive creation as God's showing us his eternal "foreknowledge", including our free thinking and doing which are secondary causes of what he eternally knew that we would think and do.

On your fourth point, if bread is a different substance than wheat, it's still a substance so perhaps we agree. I've never seen Aquinas' comment on 'natural energies' and would like to know where he says this.

ST III, 75, 6. "Reply to Objection 1: There is nothing to prevent art from making a thing whose form is not an accident, but a substantial form; as frogs and serpents can be produced by art: for art produces such forms not by its own power, but by the power of natural energies. And in this way it produces the substantial forms of bread, by the power of fire baking the matter made up of flour and water."

In his day frogs and serpents could probably not be made by art; today it may be a different story, or soon may be. The obvious question is: when and where are "natural energies" sufficient to produce substantial forms?

The question of universals depends on whether we know universals or know universally, by which I mean perhaps the intellect's mode of knowing is naturally universal (or common or general). Maybe I would conjecture analogy by incomplete induction (one from the many even when the many is only one instance).

If we are to talk about being I'm okay with transcendentals. And how we could talk about them in terms of truth/intelligibility I don't see; haven't thought about it. Probably have to refer them back to God's ideas.

Lee Faber said...

Thanks, RP. I'll have to give it some thought.