Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ocham on Vallicella and Scotus on Future Contingents

Our friend Ocham has a good post which includes a bit of Scotus on two different ways of referring to future contingents. He translates the following passage:

It must be understood that a proposition about the future can be understood to signify something in the future in two ways. So that the proposition about the future signifies it to be true now that something in the future will have to be true [verum esse habebit] (for example, that ‘you will be white at a’ signifies it now to be in reality so that at time a you will be white). Or it can be understood that it signifies now that you will be white then: not that it signifies that it is now such that then you are going to be white, but that it signifies now that then you will be white. For to signify it to be [the case] now that you will be white at a, signifies more than to signify that you will be white at a.

So Scotus notes two possible ways of talking about the future:

1) I say what the future is determined to be: "It is now true that tomorrow you will be white".

2) I say something determinate about the future, which at the moment is indeterminate: "I am now saying that tomorrow you will be white", even if what is true now is that tomorrow you may be white or you may be red.

Saying that I think that things will turn out so-and-so is not the same thing as saying that there is something in reality now which determines that in the future things will be so-and-so, but that I think that, when the causal determinators determine how things turn out, they will end up making things so-and-so rather than such-and-such.

And we have to distinguish between statements like:

a) "In three years grass will still be green"


b) "In three years Obama will still be President of the U.S".

(a) is in one sense a future contingent. It may turn out in three years that there is no more grass, or that there is a massive drought and all the grass is yellow or brown. But "grass is green" will still be true in the sense that greenness will still belong to the essence of grass, even if no existing grass can actualize that essential property due to accidental circumstances. (a) is really not a statement about a given moment or time period at all, but a statement about the nature of grass, which is invariant across all the times in which grass exists in its normal state. It's analogous to "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", which taken by itself is not so much about nomenclature as about horticulture.

But (b) is different. Obama's being President will be a purely contingent fact, since it is not in the nature of anything for that to be the case, but will be due only to the aggregate of choices voters will by then have made. So when I (as I would if I were a pundit) say that Obama will or will not be President after the next election, I'm saying that I think most voters will end up making a certain choice; I'm not saying that (since the truth about the future is determinate) there will be no choices, or that they have already made their choices. Rather, every such projection carries with it the implicit caveat, "If current trends continue . . ."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deep Thoughts from a Neuroscientist

I think we will get over the idea of free will and and accept we are a special kind of machine, one with a moral agency which comes from living in social groups. This perspective will make us ask new kinds of questions.

Link to Neuroscientist Gazzaniga's interview.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The New Scotist Commission

Besides Richard Rufus, another group was awarded a NEH grant to produce medieval critical editions: the new Scotist commission.  It will be based at Notre Dame and will edit the Opera Parisiensis of Duns Scotus.  Here is the press release from the Notre Dame website.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gerard of Bologna on Divine Ideas

Mostly a note for myself.

From Xiberta, De scriptoribus scholasticis saeculi XIV ex ordine Carmelitarum, p. 101-102:

Not clear what he is citing, either Quod. I q. 8 or Summa q. 26

Essentia absoluta contentiva omnium creaturarum, ratione cuius dicitur exemplar et paradigma. Divina essentia est illud absolutum quod est idea et exemplar, in quo inspiciuntur creaturae omnes et omnes conditiones et proprietates et habitudines earum ad invicem tamquam in unico perfectissimo repraesentativo omnium. Et sic accipiendo nomen ideae, non est nisi unica idea; sed accipiendo ideam pro respectu consequente, sic sunt ideae multae.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Richard Rufus of Cornwall

An article on Richard Rufus of Cornwall

Some choice quotes:

Richard Rufus of Cornwall may be the most important figure in Western philosophy you’ve never heard of. A project based at Indiana University and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities aims to change that.

“Still, if we want to learn how the Western university curriculum was shaped, we need to know the works of Richard Rufus, works that were entirely lost between 1350 and 1950 and which are just now beginning to be published,” Wood said. “The importance of the project explains why the NEH has supported the project with modest funding for more than a decade.”

“Indiana University proudly partners with the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of basic research in the humanities,” said Sarita Soni, IU Bloomington vice provost for research. “Without critical editions such as those that the NEH supports, higher-level interpretative scholarship and teaching would lack a solid foundation. We take special pride in the research accomplishments of our entire faculty, so we are particularly pleased when exceptional achievements such as Dr. Wood’s are recognized nationally.”

Rufus is the earliest Western philosopher whose commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics and natural sciences are known to have survived. He played a key role in the transformation of philosophy and theology as a university lecturer in Paris and Oxford between 1231 and 1255. When Rufus began lecturing, the university curriculum focused only on the liberal arts, and the teaching of Aristotle’s Metaphysics or his natural philosophy was forbidden. Within two decades, the libri naturales were required reading, and all students were examined on them.

These works established the foundations of philosophy and were fundamental to Western science — without the translations and commentaries in the 13th century, “not only would medieval science have failed to materialize, but the scientific revolution of the 17th century could hardly have occurred,” wrote IU Distinguished Professor Emeritus Edward Grant.

Rufus not only restated Aristotle’s arguments for his contemporaries, but he also frequently challenged them, Wood said. In so doing he influenced the great Scholastic philosophers who followed him. His influence can be seen in Roger Bacon and Bonaventure on cosmology, in Albert the Great’s theory of universals, and in John Duns Scotus’ account of individuation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I have the character defect (not too rare, perhaps) of, whatever I am or ought to be doing, wishing I were doing something else - even when what I am or ought to be doing is something I very much want to do. Throughout school I had this problem: whatever I was studying, I wanted to study something else. When I was supposed to be learning calculus I was reading Thomists. When I was supposed to be studying Greek and French I was teaching myself Latin on the side.

Now that I'm in school not as a student but as a teacher this fault hasn't gone away. Last week I was teaching Hume's Enquiry, but Hume got me thinking of other British Empiricists I'd loved and lost, and I ended up rereading Berkeley's Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous instead of focussing on class preparation. This week it's Kant's Prolegomena, and I find myself feeling the pull, which I haven't felt in a very long time, of the Critique of Pure Reason.

{Autobiographical Interlude}

Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant were the first serious philosophy books I ever read, back as a fifteen-year-old novice. I might have glanced at a little Plato first, but I don't recall. Until then the extent of my philosophy had been largely C.S. Lewis and various things along the lines of Francis Schaeffer. At fifteen I hoarded my pennies until I could afford to buy a set of the 1952 edition of the Britannica Great Books. I read here and there as inclination and ability led me, but I knew I wanted to get to the philosophy. As I say, I don't recall how much Plato I looked at, but it couldn't have been much. A short acquaintance showed that Aristotle and Aquinas were too hard to start with, and I thought I'd look at the English thinkers. The Locke-Berekely-Hume volume was just right.

On the whole these guys weren't a bad place to start philosophy. Their great advantage is that they are very good and clear writers, a fact I've come to appreciate more and more after spending so much of my subsequent years with either Germans or scholastics. I read the empiricists avidly but never felt taken in by them. I couldn't at the time put my finger on where they were going wrong but I felt sure they must be; nevertheless my appetite was whetted. They incited my curiosity without settling my opinions or even my inclinations. When in the Introduction to his Principles of Human Knowledge Berkeley said

It were an endless as well as an useless thing to trace the Schoolmen, those great masters of abstraction, through all the manifold inextricable labyrinths of error and dispute which their doctrine of abstract natures and notions seems to have led them into

he didn't dissuade me from doing so myself. It turns out that following the schoolmen through their labyrinths - of error sometimes, of dispute always, of wisdom, I hope, occasionally - is indeed an endless thing, but not, I have found, a useless one. When at the end of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Hume said

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact or existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion

I didn't take his advice. My volumes of divinity and school metaphysics have multiplied a hundredfold since then. But it was a start.

I have to confess that I didn't read Kant next because he was the logical step after Hume, but for a much stupider reason. Nickelodeon used to show a cartoon called "Rocko's Modern Life", and in one episode Rocko discovers that his friend, who he had always considered a dim bulb, is actually a prodigy. He visits his friend's house to find him reading the Critique of Pure Reason, decides that he can't be bested by his friend, and goes home to read it himself, resulting in an amusing montage of mental anguish and existential horror (this is how I remember the episode; it's been more than fifteen years). I took this as a challenge and started to read the Critique myself. Kant daunted me as it daunted Rocko - I had to take notes to follow the argument, the first time I had done that with a book, and I didn't finish it - but I took it as a challenge to come back to.

Of course, speaking of challenges to come back to, thinking of the possibility of picking up the Critique reminds me that I never did finish Hegel's Phenomenology. We spent many weeks reading sections of it my senior year in college, and at the time it didn't leave me wanting more. Some years after that it was the only book on my comprehensive reading lists in graduate school that I didn't finish. Last year I bought a commentary on it by my favorite undergraduate teacher, thinking that he if anyone would teach me to love Hegel as he deserves, but the commentary has so far gone as unfinished as its commentatum.

* * *

So, reading the opening sections of the Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics is filling me with an irrational desire to read Hegel side by side with a 500-page commentary. I think I'll manage to hold out for now. But I do the same thing with literature. Earlier this summer I was rereading The Canterbury Tales. I took a break to read The Faerie Queene for the third time, and when I was done, instead of going back to Chaucer, I've instead gone back to a series of Icelandic sagas. Right now I'm in the middle of a translation of Njalssaga which is more literally faithful than the last one I read, so I'm enjoying it. But I confess that I'm taking a break from it in order to read The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a little book that I find improves with age. I've decided just now that the third poem, "Errantry", is an allegory of the philosophical life, and it includes an episode on the hero's attempt to win love and reward from that harsh mistress Academia:

He sat and sang a melody,
his errantry a tarrying,
he begged a pretty butterfly,
that fluttered by to marry him.
She scorned him and she scoffed at him,
she laughed at him unpitying,
so long he studied wizardry,
and sigaldry and smithying.

It turns out that the pursuit, like so many pursuits, is just a distraction. The butterfly squanders his gifts and falls to bitter quarreling; the hero abandons her and looks elsewhere, but in his journeying and tourneying forgets his message and his errand. I need to beware of distractions. The real thing is the study - the wizardry and sigaldry and smithying.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thomas Aquinas on Kinds of Sleep

hora est iam nos de somno surgere. Rom 13:11
Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.
Quod quidem intelligendum est non de somno naturae, qui quandoque dicitur mors, secundum illud I Thess. IV, 12: nolumus vos ignorare de dormientibus, quandoque autem est quies animalium virtutum, secundum illud Io. XI, v. 12: si dormit, salvus erit. Nec enim intelligendum est de somno gratiae, qui quandoque dicitur quies aeternae gloriae, secundum illud Ps. IV, 9: in pace in idipsum, etc., quandoque autem est quies contemplationis etiam in hac vita. Cant. V, 2: ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat. Sed intelligitur de somno culpae, secundum illud Eph. V, 14: exurge, qui dormis, et exurge a mortuis, etc., vel etiam negligentiae, secundum illud Prov. c. VI, 9: usquequo, piger, dormies? Tempus ergo est surgendi a somno culpae per poenitentiam Ps. CXXVI, 2: surgite, postquam sederitis, etc., a somno vero negligentiae per sollicitudinem bene operandi Is. XXI, 5: surgite, principes, accipite clypeum. Eccli. XXXII, 15: hora surgendi non te tristet. Deinde, cum dicit nunc enim, etc., assignat rationem eius quod dixerat, dicens nunc enim propior est salus nostra, quam cum credidimus. Quod quidem secundum intentionem apostoli intelligitur de salute vitae aeternae, de qua dicitur Is. LI, 8: salus autem mea in sempiternum erit.
 This certainly is not [said of] the sleep of nature, which in some places is called death, as in 1 Thess 4:12: "we do not wish you to be ignorant of those who have fallen asleep," but which in other places is the sleep of animal powers, as in John 11:12, "if he sleeps, he will be well." Nor is it to be understood [to speak] about the sleep of grace, which in some places is the of eternal glory, as in Ps 4:9: "in peace, in the selfsame I will sleep," but which is sometimes the rest of contemplation even in this life, as in Song of Songs 5:2: "I sleep, but my heart keeps vigil."
 But it is to be understood [to speak] about the sleep of sin, as in Eph 5:14: "arise, sleepers, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you," or also [the sleep] of negligence, as in Prov. 6:9, "How long will you sleep, O sluggard?" Therefore the time for rising from the sleep of sin is through penitence: Ps 126:2, "Rise after you have sat down," but from the sleep of negligence, through solicitude to good works: Is 21:5, "Rise princes, and take up the shield"; Ecclus 32:15, "at the hour of rising be not sad." Afterwards, when he says, "for now is the day of your salvation," he assigns his reason that he said it, saying, "for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed." Here indeed according to the intention of the apostle to be understood to speak of the salvation of eternal life, of which it is said in Is 51:8: "for my salvation will be unto eternity."
Here Thomas delineates six types of sleep:
  (1) The sleep of nature, or death
  (2) The sleep of vital powers
  (3) The sleep of eternal glory
  (4) The sleep of contemplation in this life
  (5) The sleep of sin
  (6) The sleep of negligence.

For each type of sleep, he provides a corresponding Scriptural reference, showing that there is Biblical precedent for the extended use of the term. It seems that sleep in itself signifies a lack or a rest from something. Some thoughts:

 1. The sleep of nature is cessation of the natural operation of living as a thing composed of form and matter. Scientists now debate the precise time of death. Part of the difficulty is that many do not acknowledge a spiritual soul, so they do not identify death with the separation of the soul and body. But this definition only points to the difficulty of determining when that separation takes place. If one holds to a plurality of forms, the question would then be multifold: what indicates that the rational soul has separated from the body? Is that separation the definition of "human" death if a lower form remains?

 2. The sleep of vital powers is rest from the waking operations of the animal soul, such as sensing. This is ordinarily what we would call "sleep."

 3. The sleep of eternal glory is rest from the operation of living in this life, which is not properly an operation but a combination of them; or we could say it is a rest from life in the fallen world. This is more properly said to be a waking state, because in eternal glory the person and his faculties is most fully actualized.

 4. The sleep of contemplation in this life is rest from all activities that are contrary to contemplation. Some of the mystics who experienced extraordinary graces in prayer including St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, speak about how there are some moments of contemplation in which the faculties are suspended. In this life, the body, affected by original sin, is a hindrance to the quies contemplationis. Indirectly, of course, the body helps a person begin a life of contemplation because one learns through the senses. In the next life, however, the resurrected body enjoys, in its own mode, the contemplation of the soul which is the beatific vision.

 5. The sleep of sin is the cessation of living in a state of grace. From this sleep some can wake by their own power, or ordinary grace: the remedy of venial sin found in prayers, sacrifices, and so on. But others cannot wake from this sleep without an extraordinary grace: to go from the state of mortal sin to that of grace is greater than the creation of the universe out of nothing.

 6. The sleep of negligence is rest from doing the good one ought to do. We can identify this with sloth.

Sleep: deaths ally, oblivion of tears
     Silence of passions, balm of angry sore
Suspense of loves, security of fears,
     Wrath's lenitive, heart's ease, storm's calmest shore
Sense's and soul's reprieval from all cumbers,
     Benumbing sense of ill with quiet slumbers.

  ---St. Robert Southwell, St. Peter's Complaynt

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've been following the debate between Maverick Philosopher and our friend Ocham on whether there are "truthmakers" with great interest. The most recent entries are here and here, respectively. The most interesting thing for me is largely the fact that Ocham, who by all indications is a filthy nominalist and so ought to be anathema to us Scotists, seems to make more sense than Vallicella, with whom as a realist-leaning semi-Platonist I ought to agree more. Not because Vallicella comes across as wrong, exactly, so much as that his approach seems to highlight everything I dislike about contemporary anglophone analytic philosophy. I just can't figure out for the life of me what is the use of all the talk about facts and truthmakers. (By "use" I mean "helpfulness in making sense of the world".) It seems riddled with ambiguity and equivocation and a preoccupation with the way we talk about things at the expense of an inattention to the way things are. I've been wondering whether and how to put in my two cents for a while now, but luckily Vallicella's latest post provides a very helpful summary of the status quaestionis, and I will use it as a platform for my own comments.

Let us confine ourselves to true affirmative contingent nonrelational predications. If you deny that there is any extralinguistic fact or state of affairs that makes it true that Tom is smoking [another oft-used example is Vallicella's is "Al is fat"], then what is your positive theory? Here are some possible views, 'possible' in the sense that they are possibly such as to be held by someone whether fool or sage or someone in between.

So Vallicella will lay out what he sees as the possible alternatives.

1. A contingently true sentence like 'Tom is smoking' is just true; there is nothing external to the sentence, nothing at all, that plays any role in making it true. There is no more to a true sentence than the sentence. Thus no part of the sentence has a worldly correlate, not even the subject term. On this view there is no extralinguistic reality -- or at least no extralinguistic reality that bears upon the truth or falsity of our sentences -- and thus no ontological ground of any kind for the truth of true contingent representations, whether declarative sentences, propositions, judgments, beliefs, whatever the truth-bearers are taken to be.

This alternative is plainly unacceptable. On my view a linguistic expression, such as an sentence, is a (complex) sign. A sign is defined as something that brings to mind something else. A sentence can either be true or false if it asserts something, truth being understood as a sign-relation such that the sign accurately signifies the signified, and falsity as a sign-relation such that the sign does not accurately signify the signified. On this account, then, a sign "all by itself" is neither true nor false. A sign signifies something; if it signifies truly it signifies its significate as it is.

2. A rather less crazy view is that our sample sentence does have something corresponding to it in reality, and that that item is Tom, but nothing else. On this view 'Tom is smoking' has a truth-maker, but the truth-maker is just Tom. On this view the truth-maker role is a legitimate one, and something plays it, but there are no facts, and so no fact is a truth-maker. Note carefully that the question whether there are facts is not the same as the question whether there are truth-makers. It could be that the truth-making riole is played by non-facts, and it itr could be that there are facts but they have no role to play in truth-making.

This must be wrong. "Tom", supposing that "Tom" signifies such-and-such an existing man, does not signify "Tom is smoking", but just "Tom", i.e. "this man". It seems to me that before we can figure out the relationship between the complex sign "Tom is smoking" and the truth it signifies (assuming Tom is in fact smoking) we should understand the relationship between the simple sign "Tom" (the name, vocal expression, written characters, thought) and the existing man Tom. But no one in the debate has tried to do that, as far as I've seen.

Note that in my view Tom cannot be the "truthmaker" for "Tom is smoking" or for any other assertion, because Tom is not signified by "Tom is smoking" in my thought or speech or other true expression, but by the name "Tom", and the name is neither true nor false, being non-assertoric. "Hamlet" (the name of a non-existing fictional character) signifies just as well as "Tom", and is also neither true nor false.

3. On a variant of (2) it is admitted that besides Tom there is also an entity corresponding to the predicate, and the truth-maker of 'Tom is smoking' is the set or the mereological sum, or the ordered pair consting of Tom and the entity corresponding to the predicate.

This is where Vallicella starts to lose me. But the reasons are hard to explain given the way he sets out the alternatives, which is partially why he loses me. Let me present the fourth alternative as well before saying what my problem is.

4. A more radical view is that the truth-maker role is not a legitimate role, hence does not need filling by the members of any category of entity. On this view there are no truth-makers becsuae the very notion of a truth-maker is incoherent. One who takes this line could even admit that there are facts, but he would deny that they play a truth-making role.

The presumption seems to be that "truthmaker" will be a sort of being, a categorial entity, and determining what a truthmaker is means determining what category it falls under. But this presumption is indeed incoherent. A truthmaker could only be a category of entity if every entity about which there were truths fell under the same category; but they don't. I would make the exact same objection to the notion of "facts" as a kind of entity. I admit that there "are" facts and truths, in the sense that many thoughts and sentences are true, and that they are true insofar as they correspond to the facts; but I deny that facts and truthmakers are a kind of category of being.

Let's look at the examples. What makes "Tom is smoking" true? The "fact" that Tom is smoking. But what is this fact? Is it a being? I'm not at all sure that this question is going to get us anywhere. Instead I would ask, what is Tom? and, what is smoking? Now Tom is a man, which means he is a kind of substance. And smoking is an action. So to say that Tom is smoking is to say that a certain substance is performing a certain action. Which is to say that a certain accident belongs to a certain substance. So what are the entities involved in the truth that Tom is smoking? Only, Tom's substance and one of his accidents. The "fact" that Tom is smoking is not something other than these. But note that the "truthmaker" is not the substance Tom nor the accident the action of smoking, but the inherence of the accident in the substance, the "ens per accidens" that is Tom as smoking.

So I'm saying that a "truthmaker" is an accident? No, because here what makes "Tom is smoking" or "Al is fat" true is not the accident "smoking" or "fat" but the inherence of the accidents in their subjects. So I'm saying that a "truthmaker" is a mereological sum? No! First, I deny that a substance and its accidents can be understood as parts of a whole. What makes "Tom is smoking" true is not {Tom}+{smoking}, but the fact that Tom is smoking, the statement of fact being not an assertion of summation but an assertion of inherence. Since Tom is a substance and smoking is an accident, they belong to different categories, and I deny that entities of different categories can be added together as parts of a whole, except on an equivocal understanding of "whole".

So a "truthmaker" is a fact constituted by the inherence of an accident in its subject, like fatness in Al or smoking in Tom? No! Because a truthmaker is defined as the entity that makes its truthbearer true. Now simply stated like this there must be truthmakers, if their denial means that true statements are just true for no reason. That would be crazy, as Vallicella rightly notes. But we're asking what kind of entity a truthmaker is, and it seems clear to me that it can be no kind of being. Because if what makes "Tom is smoking" true is the inherence of an accident in its subject, then it seems that truthmakers are accidental inherences or facts about accidental inherences. But this can't be right, because there are many kinds of truths other than truths about accidental inherences, for instance, the truth that Tom is a man. What is the "truthmaker" for "Tom is a man"? It can't be the inherence of any accident in Tom, because humanity is essential, not accidental, to Tom. "Humanity" is not something that inheres accidentally in Tom but is part of what it is to be Tom. And the statement of fact that Tom is a man is not an assertion of inherence but an assertion that Tom has a certain nature. But essences and accidents are not the same kinds of being, i.e. an action and an essence belong to different categories. So if when I call Tom a man and when I say that Tom is smoking I say that these are two facts about Tom, I cannot be saying that there is one kind of entity, facthood, to which "Tom's-being-a-man" and "Tom's-smoking" belong. Rather there are (here) two kinds of entity, essences and accidents, and Tom has a certain essence and Tom has a certain accident.

In other contexts, however, we might want to state truths about entities that are non-categorial entirely, e.g. God. God exists in no genus, and when I say "God exists" or "God is wise" I'm not predicating a species of a genus or an accident of a subject. Nevertheless I want to say that my assertions are (at least possibly) true. The truthmaker then for such an assertion can't be a substance or an accident or an inherence or anything of the sort.

So let's say that facts are the ways things are, and that truthmakers are what make propositions etc true. If so, then facts and truthmakers cannot belong to a certain category. Because among the things that are, are things belonging to many different categories; and not everything that is belongs to any category. So, to ask "what kind of an entity is a truthmaker?" is in a certain sense a category mistake. A truth maker is not a kind of entity, but an entity of whatever kind. Is this what Vallicella's fifth alternative suggests?:

5. On a still more radical view, there is an extralinguistic reality, but we cannot say what categories of entity it contains.

This is not what I'm saying, since I'm saying that there is an extralinguistic reality, and it contains many categories of things, and there is also some being which is in no category.

On this view one abandons the notion that language mirrors reality, that there is any correspondence or matching between parts of speech and categories of entity. Thus one would abandon the notion that truth is correspondence, that the 'Al is fat' is true just in case the referent of 'Al' exemplifies the property denoted by 'fat.' One would be abandoning the notion that language is any guide at all to ontology.

I do deny that language mirrors reality, in the sense that reality has to have (as Vallicella calls it in several places) a "proposition-like structure" in order for propositions about reality to be true. "God is wise", "Tom is a man", "Tom is smoking", "Al is fat", all have the same linguistic structure, but the "facts" to which they refer, that is, the beings about which they are true, have very different entitative structures.

It occurs to me to ask why we should think that, just because our speech can express what is, language ought to be "any guide at all to ontology". I suppose this is me doubting the usefulness of the whole "linguistic turn". Why should an examination of how we say things tell us anything special about the way things are? Shouldn't we examine the way things are and then ask if the way we talk about them is true or false? However, I certainly agree that Al's being fat is the reason it is true to say "Al if fat", and that Al's and Tom's being human is the reason it is true to say "Al and Tom are men".

So perhaps it seems that I'm suggesting that there's an alternative Vallicella left out. Between the notion that a truthmaker must be some category of entity and the notion that no category of entity can be a truthmaker, perhaps we should say that any categorial or supracategorial being can serve as a truthmaker? In this case, however, why should I ever talk about "truthmakers" or "facts"? Why shouldn't I just talk about being? It's totally clear and obvious that there are beings, and it also seems obvious to me that metaphysics ought to study what being is like: what are the categories, what falls under them, what belongs to no category, etc. But if "truthmakers" and "facts" are just beings, or rather, ways of talking about being in relation to our assertions, and in such a way as to render it enormously confusing whether they are supposed to be some special sort of being or not, what is the "value added" of dragging these terms into metaphysics?

Ocham seems to agree that if it is true to say "Tom is smoking" or "Al is fat", this is because in reality Tom is smoking, or Al is fat. That is to say, our speech is true because of the way being is. But the beings in question are Tom and his activities and Al and his qualities and quantities. Do we need to drag in beings other than this? Or are the "truthmakers" of our sentences and the "facts" supporting them just these beings, but considered under a certain aspect, as related to our speech? If this is Ocham's confusion, then I share it, along with his dubious attitude towards the need to talk about truthmakers and facts as distinct from the beings our assertions are about at all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is a Formality II: Antonius Andreas

For Part 1, see here.

Today we are going to look at what Antonius Andreas has to say about the matter. Antonius was from Aragon-Catalonia, might have studied a Paris (though there is no evidence of this), and taught at Monzon and Lerida in Catalonia.  He wrote numerous  commentaries on Aristotle from a  scotistic point of view and was dead by the 1330's.

Oddly, the same text of the definition in Assisi 668 has "subiectalis" rather than "obiectalis".

Antonius Andreas, QQ. in Met. IV q. 2 a. 1 (ed.  ?, unfoliated)

Utrum negatio habeat distinctam formalitatem ab affirmatione cui opponitur.

Quantum ad primum, primo premittam rationem ‘formalitatis’ quam describo sic: formalitas est ratio obiectalis in re apprehensa ab intellectu ex natura rei quam non oportet semper movere intellectum dummodo actum intellectus possit terminare.

Quod dico pro tanto quia licet aliquid posset terminare actum intellectus, non tamen semper potest intellectum ad sui intellectionem movere, sicut communiter dicitur quod relationes non movent intellectum ratione dependentie et quia non sunt aliquod absolutum, et tamen terminant actum intellectus. Similiter proprietates individuales ex eo quod non habent rationem quid, ideo non movent intellectum et tamen terminant actum eius. Similiter(?) negationes terminant licet non moveant intellectum quatenus non sunt entia, ita(?) per(?) tria(?) requiruntur ad hoc quod aliquod moveat intellectum: primum quod sit ens, secundum quod sit absolutum, tertium quod habeat rationem quid vel essentie. Propter primum removentur negationes, propter secundum relationes, propter tertium omnis proprietas ypostatica vel proprietas personalis in divinis et | proprietates individuales, que omnia licet actum intellectus terminent, non tamen movent intellectum.

Ex ista descriptione concludo correlarie quod quecumque possunt distincte concipi per intellectum habent distinctas formalitates ex natura rei.


Whether a negation has a formality distinct from that to which it is opposed

As far as the first article is concerned, first I premise the definition of "formality", which I describe thus: A formality is an objective ratio in a thing apprehended by the intellect from the nature of the thing, which it is not necessary to always move the intellect, provided that it can terminate the act of the intellect.
I say this for the reason that although something could terminate the act of the intellect, nevertheless it is not always able to move the intellect to the intellection of it, just as commonly is said that relations don't move the intellect by a notion of dependence, and because they are not something absolute, and nevertheless they terminate the act of the intellect. Likewise individual properties from this that they do not have the notion of a 'what', therefore they do not move the intellect and nevertheless they terminate its act.  Likewise negations terminate [the act of the intellect], although they do not move the intellect, because they are not beings.  To clarify this, it should be known that three things are required for something to move the intellect: first that it is a being, second that it is absolute, third that it has the notion of a 'what' or an essence.  On account of the first negations are removed, relations on account of the second, on account of the third every hypostatic property or personal property in the divine and individual properties, all of which, although they terminate the act of the intellect, nevertheless do not move the intellect.
From that description I conclude as a corollary that whatever can be conceived distinctly by the intellect has distinct formalities from its nature.

[recall that for Scotus, "ex natura rei" means "prior to the operation of the intellect", so "real"].

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy Feast of Scotus!

Er, or is it an optional memorial in the Archdiocese of Cologne and the Francsican order?

Here's a link to the festivities at the Antonianum.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Elementary Metaphysics

Define a substance as the actuality of an essence which in its act of being (essendo) does not depend on another essence subjectively sustaining it in the same supposit. By an essence I mean an intelligible ratio. By "subjectively sustaining" x I mean acting as a subject for x. By a supposit I mean a singular concrete existent.

All right, then: a substance so defined exists. I take it for granted that something exists. Call it x. If x is not essentially dependent on anything in its supposit, x is a substance. If what you admit exists is dependent on something subjectively sustaining it in its supposit - if x is dependent on y - I ask whether y is independent or whether it depends on another. On pain of infinite regress we have to come to something which is not essentially dependent in the sense defined, and this will be the substance sustaining x.

Granted that substances exist, accidents can be shown to exist from the fact of change. In change a substate x remains itself while becoming different in some respect: Socrates sitting becomes Socrates standing, xa-->xb. That x remains the same is presupposed by the notion of change; otherwise we would have mere annihilation of a and subsequent creation of b. But if x is identical across xa and xb, then x does not essentially depend on a or b, while either a or b may belong to x; therefore in both xa and xb a and b are accidental to x.

Cf. Scotus, Quaest. in Metaph. VII. Q.2 n.24.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Argument for the Distinction of Intellect and Will

An old one, perhaps.  This is one of the principal arguments from an anonymous question traditionally (since Ledoux's edition in the 1930's) attributed to William of Alnwick: utrum simplicitas divina compatiatur secum aliquam distinctionem ex natura rei previam distinctioni persone.

f. 87rb: Quandocumque sunt aliqua idem ex parte rei totaliter, quidquid convenit uni et alii; si ergo intellectus et voluntas sunt idem totaliter et ut precedunt distinctionem personarum, ergo intellectus vellet et voluntas intelligeret et cum intellectus intelligeret malum culpe voluntas vellet.


Whenever there are things that are totally the same from the nature of a thing, whatever befalls one will also befall the other; if therefore the intellect and the will are totally the same and as they precede the distinction of [the Trinitarian] persons, therefore the intellect will will and the will will understand and when the intellect understands the evil of fault, the will will will it.