Monday, May 30, 2011


Congratulations are in order for our occasional contributor Asello Guzman, who in the last week both received his S.T.L. and was ordained a priest of the Holy Catholic Church. He will soon go out into the wide world for a period of pastoral work before his order decides his long-term fate. We hope that he will continue to post here every so often, and more importantly, pray for us and remember us in when he celebrates mass.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Scotus Texts at 'Per caritatem'

Cynthia Nielsen has scanned some texts of Scotus and posted them on her site.  She has posted the critical texts of Ord. III d. 37 (on natural law) and QQ. in Met. IX q. 15 (on the will).

Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Understand Scholastic Thought

Here are some pointers for beginners wanting to learn about Scholastic theology and philosophy. I hope my fellow bloggers will add their own material to this post.

1. Learn latin (otherwise, you'll be stuck reading Aquinas).

2. Learn the basic elements of Aristotelian logic: quia vs. propter quid demonstrations, parts of a syllogism (middle term, major and minor premises).

3. Read as much Aristotle and Augustine as possible.

4. Know the basic Scholastic genres: Quodlibet, Sententiae, Ordinary questions, Summa, various kinds of commentaries.

5. When you've done all this and are confronted by an actual Scholastic quaestio, consider the following bit of advice I have received from several professors but never followed: start by reading the determination [=the author's own answer/solution] of the question, then read the initial objections and their responses. I have never followed this myself, but it is good advice. Some scholastic questions can be bewilderingly complex (Scotus and Alnwick come to mind) and it is easy to get lost in all the back and forth. In my less lazy moments I like to at least glance over the structure of the question.

6. Read as much as you can by as many authors as you can find. At first the latin will seem weird and opaque if you are classically trained, but the amount of vocabulary is really quite small and the grammar is easier than classical latin. There are no dictionaries of scholastic terms (save for the Aquinas lexicon), so the best way to learn the Scholastic jargon is to read.

Points of Disagreement between Scotists and Thomists

In 1320 there was a debate between two bachelors of theology at Paris, the Franciscan Francis of Meyronnes and the Cistercian Peter Roger, later Pope Clement V.  These two bachelors acted as the representatives of the nascent schools of Thomism and Scotism, and their debate was about the formal distinction and the instants/signa of origin and nature. For those interested in reading more, the dispute has been edited (mostly; at least one ms. was missed) and published by J. Vrin for a reasonable price under the title of Disputatio.  The section I translate here is from Francis of Meyronnes list of four points about the formal distinction that were commonly attacked at the time.

Francois de Meyronnes - Pierre Roger, Disputio (1320-1321), ed. J. Barbet, p. 102:

From those statements follow four conclusions in which our school is accustomed to be attacked.

The first is that one must grant some middle distinction between a real distinction and a distinction of reason fabricated by the soul, because that is a medium between some things that is related by the denial of each extreme; that distinction, however, is not posited as being real nor fabricated by the soul.

The second conclusion: that not every distinction outside the soul is real, since those distinctions are posited, with every act of the intellect circumscribed, and nevertheless they are called real. [Perhaps the "those" is a reference to the distinction between essence and relation in God].

The third conclusion: that in one reality can be found many formal rationes, because a formal ratio and a definitive [ratio] are the same and from this part, although there is only one thing [res], there are many formal or definitive rationes.

The fourth conclusion is that formal rationes are able to agree in one distinctly without any composition, because that one [Petrus Rogerius] concedes that a [combination of] likeness with whiteness causes no composition, although they have distinct quidditative rationes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gilson on History vs. History of Philosophy

An interesting comment from Gilson's preface to Owen's The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, p. vi.

It may seem idle to say that the problem at stake in this book belongs to the history of philosophy, but it is not. To rediscover the thought of Aristotle in its purity is assuredly the work of an historian, using all the resources of modern historical methods, from philology proper to the widest possible critical discussion of the works already devoted to the same subject; but the history of philosophy also requires an historian with the mind of a philosopher, because, in such a case, the very object of history is philosophy, that is, a certain set of philosophical notions to be understood  by us in the very same sense which they once had in the mind of a certain philosopher. This is no easy task, but one is sure to miss the point completely if, while availing himself of all the possible sources of historical information, he forgets that the method of methods in the history of philosophy is philosophical reflexion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Leibniz on the Soul-Body Relation

The following is a snippet from Leibniz.  Note Leibniz here discards a scholastic commonplace held by both Scotus and Aquinas, to wit, that the soul is present in every part of the body. Not a surprising claim, if one knows about hylemorphism, nor one that has any direct bearing on the celebrated controversy regarding the unicity of substantial form.

From Leibniz, Philosophical Essays, 326 (the letters to Clarke):

12. God is not present to things by situation but by essence; his presence is manifest by his immediate operation. The presence of the soul is quite of another nature. To say that it is diffused all over the body is to make it extended and divisible. To say it is, the whole of it, in every part of the body is to make it divisible of itself. To fix it to a point, to diffuse it all over many points, are only abusive expressions, idols of the tribe.
Leibniz's complaint is clear enough. He thinks that the scholastic claim that the soul is in every part of the body amounts to saying that the soul is extended and divisible in itself.  What is the A-T or A-S philosopher to say in response? First recall the basic hylemorphic theory: a human being is a composite of matter, generally interpreted as a potential principle, and substantial form, generally interpreted as a principle of actuality. Apart from giving actuality and being to the composite, substantial forms also support accidents. A scholastic philosopher would think of extension and divisibility as accidents, probably falling under the category of quantity. Leibniz wants to argue that since the body is divisible the soul must also, by its very nature, be divisible.  But a scholastic would deny this inference, and hold instead that for the soul to be in every part of the body means that, as the subject to the accident of quantity, it is accidentally extended and divisible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Franciscan and Dominican Inquisitions

Lest we think all that Dominicans and Franciscans did in the medium aevum was synthesize the true synthesis of faith and reason and destroy it (respectively), here are some hair-raising tales from their activities in the inquisition.  From Holly Grieco, "Pastoral Care, Inquisition, and Mendicancy in the Medieval Franciscan Order," in The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendacancies, Brill 2011.

p. 140: Though the historical documentation of Franciscan inquisitions is considerably less plentiful for southeastern France, evidence from one particular inquisitorial trial in Marseille in 1266 suggests that Franciscans successfully established their inquisition there as well.  The two Franciscan inqisitors in that city worked tireless in pursuit of heretics evan as they struggled against the conspiratorial plotting of their local Dominican confreres. A number of Dominican friars in the city sought to reclaim the office of heresy inquisition for their own order by accusing one Franciscan inquisitor of treason against the count of Provence. Over a period of several years, the Dominicans developed an elaborate conspiracy against the Franciscan Inquisitor, going so far as to coerce two local priests into bearing false testimony against him. This dramatic tale resulted in the prosecution of the two priests by the second inquisitor involved, and the transfer of three Dominicans to convents in different provinces. Additionally, to limit future tensions and rivalry between the two orders, Pope Clement IV decreed that Franciscan and Dominican inquisitors were forbidden from proceeding against members of the other order.

p. 144: ... in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII found that he could not ignore complaints agasint the Franciscan inquisitors in the Veneto, and he suspended them from the inquisitorial office in that region. As a result, an investigation was launched into the practices of two Franciscan inqisitors, Boninsegna da Trento and Pietrobono Borsemini, who served in the cities and dioceses of Padua and Vicenza. The inquisitors and their confreres faced a number of charges, detailed in the Liber contractuum: extortion, concealment of documents, and acting without the involvement of local bishops. Boniface replaced the Franciscans with Dominicans, who behaved in a similar manner: in 1307-1308, Pope Clement V opened a second investigation into charges made against the Dominican inquisitors.

p. 145: Still, these abuses point to general challenges faced by any individuals who serveda s inquisitors or who had access to the property seized by them, and say little or nothing about the suitability of Franciscans (or Dominicans, for that matter) for the task. It is important to stress that amidst accusations of corruption andp lentiful documentation attesting to abuses, Franciscans did not question the propriety of their involvement in the office. Even at the beginning of the fourteenth century, at a moment of extreme crisis and groing schism, in which competing factionss truggled to define the true nature adn future course of the order, Franciscans continued to serve as inqisitors, and to do so with intengrity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jews and Philosophy

Quotes the Maverick Philosopher:

Leo Strauss sketches an answer in his "How to Begin to Study Medieval Philosophy" in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. T. L. Pangle, University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 221-222, bolding added:

For the Jew and the Moslem, religion is primarily not, as it is for the Christian, a faith formulated in dogmas, but a law, a code of divine origin. Accordingly, the religious science, the sacra doctrina, is not dogmatic theology, theologia revelata, but the science of the law, halaka or fiqh. The science of the law, thus understood has much less in common with philosophy than has dogmatic theology. Hence the status of philosophy is, as a matter of principle, much more precarious in the Islamic-Jewish world than it is in the Christian world. No one could become a competent Christian theologian without having studied at least a substantial part of philosophy; philosophy was an integral part of the officially authorized and even required training. On the other hand, one could become an absolutely competent halakist or faqih without having the slightest knowledge of philosophy. This fundamental difference doubtless explains the possibility of the later complete collapse of philosophical studies in the Islamic world, a collapse which has no parallel in the West in spite of Luther.
Sed Contra, says Roger Bacon:

God has revealed philosophy to His saints to whom also he gave the Law. He did so because philosophy was indispensable for the understanding, the promulgation, the adoption, and the defense of the Law. It was for this reason that it was delivered in all its details in the Hebrew Language ... to the patriarchs and the prophets. They possessed wisdom in its entirety before the infidel sages obtained it. ... All their information about heavenly bodies, about the secrets of nature and the superior sciences, about religions, God, Christianity, the beauties of virtue ... were derived from God's saints. ... Adam, Solomon, and the others testified to the truth of the faith not only in Sacred Scripture, but also in books of philosophy long before there were any philosophers so-called. (Opus Tertium, x and xxiv, trans. S. Hirsch in A. G. Little, Roger Bacon Commemorative Essays [Oxford, 1914], 137).

Scotus on Intensive and Extensive Infinity

Embedded in a lengthy question on the "action" of the created and uncreated agents with respect to the Eucharist, Scotus examines an interesting objection based on the divine attributes.  Basically, the claim is that if the divine will is formally infinite, then it must include very other perfection intrinsic to God, because there can be no addition to infinity, and thus the will, rather than the divine essence, is the infinite sea of substance that John Damascene spoke of and the scholastics so love to cite.  Scotus' answer is to distinguish between two kinds of infinity, intensive and extensive.  The passage is long enough and probably well enough generally known that I give only a translation.

Duns Scotus, Ordinatio IV d. 13 q. 1 nn. 122-24 (Vat. XII 472-3):

Therefore briefly, it is clear, because God is unqualifiedly blessed in the operations of his intellect and will; for he is not unqualifiedly blessed in his essence as it is infinite, unless he comprehends it; and just as the intellect comprehends by seeing, so the will ... comprehends by loving, for this that it is perfectly blessed. And consequently, each power and each act of each power around the divine essence -- as it perfectly makes itself blessed -- will be infinite.

As proof of that minor [premise] I say that there can be understood in the divine a quasi extensive infinite, as if there would be understood a quasi infinite number of perfections; in another way, an intensive infinite of some unqualified perfection, so that that perfection, according to its own definition [ratio], is without limit and term. And in this second way something can have not only formal infinity, but also fundamental, -- something, however, can have formal intensive [infinity], although not fundamental [infinity].

I say therefore that nothing of one formal definition [ratio] is infinite in the first way, indeed neither perhaps is there such an infinity absolutely in God: for perhaps just as the persons are finite, speaking about that finitude, so also the unqualified perfections are finite in number or in their multitude, and the relations and notions, and this and that are joined together; but formal intensive infinity and fundamental [infinity] are together there in the divine essence as it is essence, and for this reason it is called by the Damascene a 'sea'. Formal [infinity] only, however, not fundamental, is in every other perfection [than the will] unqualifiedly; for each one has its own formal perfection from the infinity of the essence just as from a root and foundation. Neither formal nor fundamental infinity, however, is in the relations, as was shown in Book I distinction 13, because it is better for the Father not to have filiation; 'an unqualified perfection is that which it is better for something to have than not to have'. [cf. Anselm, Mon. c. 15]

The response is then clear, that although the will is formally infinite, nevertheless it does not formally include in itself all intrinsic perfections, because neither the essence nor something other includes them in that way; but neither does it fundamentally include all perfections, but so only the essence [does include them], which is a 'sea'; it includes by identity both whatever unqualified perfection and whatever relation.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Critical Edition of John of Reading

John of Reading was an English Scotist, who defended the master against Ockham and Auriol. He lectured on the Sentences at Oxford around 1320, and was lector at the Franciscan studium at Avignon until he died in 1346.  Francesco Fiorentino has begun a critical edition of his massive commentary, which despite its length doesn't even make it as far as d.8 of book I.

The first volume is available from J. Vrin:

Jean de Reading

Scriptum in primum librum Sententiarum

Vrin, « Textes philosophiques du Moyen-Age ». 384 p., 16 × 24 cm. ISBN : 978-2-7116-2310-5
Ce livre donne un point de vue nouveau sur l’histoire de la pensée au XIVe siècle, grâce aux questions 1 à 5 – jusqu’alors inédites – du Prologue du commentaire de Jean de Reading aux Sentences de Pierre Lombard. L’édition est précédée d’une introduction, qui retrace la vie et les œuvres de Reading, précise la datation, la nature et la structure du commentaire, la liste des questions, les critères d’édition, ainsi que les sources. Elle résume aussi le contenu des questions éditées.
Jean de Reading, théologien franciscain actif à Oxford et à Avignon autour du 1320, est bachelier sous Guillaume d’Alnwick et socius de Guillaume d’Ockham. Il dialogue avec Jean Duns Scot, Guillaume de Nottingham, Robert de Cowton, Richard de Conington, Pierre d’Auriol, Hervé de Nedellec et Durand de Saint-Pourçain.
Dans les questions qui sont ici éditées, Jean de Reading expose sa conception de la méthode en théologie, du sujet et de l’unité d’une science, de la distinction entre sciences. Il participe pleinement, à la hauteur d’Ockham, à l’histoire générale des théories de la méthode scientifique.
Édition, introduction et notes par Francesco Fiorentino

Monday, May 9, 2011

Petrus Thomae on Intrinsic Modes

This is a follow-up to the post on the pseudo-Francis.  Here I will give (in translation) a series of 12 propositions and six corollaries that Peter Thomae gives in his Quaestiones de modis distinctionum.  This work was written in the late 1320's at Barcelona, and is devoted to teasing out the meaning of the various kinds of distinctions in use among the scholastics, as well as defending Scotus from the first generation of critics (such as Hervaeus Natalis, Gerardus Boloniensis, and Peter Auriol). Note that I give only the statement of the proposition, not the defense of it. In the last corollary Peter attacks Francis of Mayronis' definition of an intrinsic mode, which was accurately reported by the pseudo-Francis, to wit, an intrinsic mode is that which supervenes on a quiddity without changing its formal definition.

Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de modis distinctionum, q. 11 a. 1 (cf. Naples, BN, Ms. VIII.F.17, f. 83vb-84ra):


1. An intrinsic mode is in itself in the thing from the nature of the thing (mous intrinsecus est in se in re ex natura rei).

2. An intrinsic mode is not formally a second intention.

3. An intrinsic mode is not formally  a quiddity of a thing or part of a quiddity, for if so, therefore every quiddity would be a mode or composed from modes, which is not fitting.

4. An intrinsic mode is not formally a reality, for there is some reality which is not an intrinsic mode, therefore etc.

5. An intrinsic mode is properly in respect to a formality, for a thing is that which it is by means of a formality.

6. An intrinsic mode is not formally a negation, since no negation is intrinsic to something positive; but an intrinsic mode is intrinsic to the thing of which it is the mode; therefore etc.

7. An intrinsic mode is not formally something relative nor something absolute.

8. An intrinsic mode is formally not a grade of intention or remission, because if it were, only that which admits of intension would have an intrinsic mode, which is false.

9. An intrinsic mode is not formally a quantity or magnitude of power as some say.

10. An intrinsic mode does not formally limit something to a certain genus.

11. An intrinsic mode is transcendent [i.e. super-categorical]

12. An intrinsic mode of a thing is a certain positive and transcendent ratio which neither is a quiddity nor part of a quiddity (all these conditions can be elicited from the previous propositions).


1. An intrinsic mode of a thing has a proper concept.

2. A proper concept of an intrinsic mode is not quidditative but modificative.

3. The ratio of a difference cannot be taken from an intrinsic mode.

4. An intrinsic mode is inseparable in actual existence from the thing of which it is, for it exists things intrinsically, and according to its intimacy [intimitatem], on account of which is impossible that the intrinsic mode be separated from the thing of which it is in actual existence.

5. The statement of the ones saying that an intrinsic mode is that which does not have a precise concept from that of which it is is not true, since indeed it has a proper concept according to which it can be conceived without the thing of which it is a mode being conceived.

6. The statement of those saying that an intrinsic mode is that which supervening on something does not change its formal ratio is not true. For an intrinsic mode is not of the thing of which it is supervening, rather it is prevening, at least by the mode of conceiving, since it has a contracted ratio.  Second, because if it did, then that mode would not be intrinsic but accidental, and so there would be an intrinsic mode of that, which is false, etc.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What are Intrinsic Modes?

Instrinsic modes are another of Duns Scotus' controversial contributions to philosophy, and are perhaps as obscure a feature as one can find in his system.  For Scotus these modes operate sort of like differences, in the Porphyrian sense of the term (Porphyry's differences contract a genus into species, Scotus' modes separate different degrees of intensity). I will save further discussion of Scotus' idea of intrinsic modes for a later post.  In this post I am giving a handy summary from the pseudo-Franciscus de Mayronis' Tractatus Formalitatum.  This treatise has long been known to be by pseudo-Francis; generally, medieval thinkers don't mention themselves by name in their own works, as does this tractate.  It is also described as being 'ad mentem Francisci', another clue.  This treatise is distinct from the genuine Formalitates of Francis, which appears to be an extract from his Conflatus. Not to give away too much from a certain forthcoming article, but the theory of distinction found in this treatise is not even Francis', who holds to a four-fold division of identity and distinction, but that of Petrus Thomae (seven kinds of identity and corresponding distinction).  I have some fantasies ('theories' would imply there was some facts at work) about how this fusion took place, but I'll keep them to myself. Pseudo-Francis' description of an intrinsic mode is that which advenes on a quiddity or forme without altering the definition. He thinks that there are nine kinds of modes, and given what these are, it is clear that multiple modes can befall the same quiddity.

pseudo-Franciscus de Mayronis, Tractatus formalitatum, a.2 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 263vb):

Quantum ad primum punctum, videlicet quid sit modus intrinsecus, dico talem conclusionem affirmativam: 'modus intrinsecus est ille que adveniens alicui forme seu quidditati non variat eius formalem rationem'. Verbi gratia: signetur albedo, tunc certum est quod aliqius modus competit secundum magis et aliquis secundum minus. Dato quod Sorti competat albedo ut trium graduum, Plato ut quatuor, ibi esset diversa participatio albedinis; non tamen esset variatio in ista ratione formali, quoniam Sortes est vere albus et Plato est vere albus, licet Plato albior sit Sorte.

Hanc etiam conclusionem probo sic: nullum posterius potest variare esse sui prioris; sed modus intrinsecus est posterior eo cuius est modus, scilicet quidditate; igitur modus intrinsecus non potest variare esse sui prioris. Consequentia tenet. Maior nota et minor patet, quia modus est adiecens rei determinatio.


Quantum ad secundum punctum sciendum quod novem sunt genera modorum intrinsecorum, videlicet finitum et infinitum, actus et potentia, necessarium et contingens, existentia, realitas et hecceitas...


As far as the first point is concerned, namely what is an intrinsic mode, I give an affirmative proposition: 'an intrinsic mode is that which supervening on some form or quiddity does not alter the formal definition of that form or quiddity'. For example, let whiteness be designated/signified[?]. Then it is certain that some mode befalls it according to more and some mode which befalls it less. For with it given that whiteness befalls Socrates in the third grade, Plato in the fourth, there would be there diverse participations of whiteness; nevertheless there would not be any variation in its formal definition, since Socrates is truly white, although Plato is whiter than Socrates.

I also prove this conclusion thus: nothing posterior can alter the the being of its prior; but an intrinsic mode is posterior to that of which it is a mode, namely a quiddity; therefore an intrinsic mode is not able to alter the being of its prior.  The consequence holds. The major [premise] is known, the minor is clear because a mode is an adjacent determination of a thing.


According to the second point it should be known that there are nine genera of intrinsic modes, namely finite and infinite, act and potency, necessary and contingent, existence, reality and haecceity.