Sunday, January 22, 2012

Divine Simplicity III: Univocity

[NB: this is a first draft; I will make every effort in the future to revise by adding commentary and fixing typos, etc.]

As promised, here is the post on the topic that inspired this series of "fundamenta" posts: how can Scotus reconcile his theory of univocity with divine simplicity?

We all know what Thomas says. The terms that we predicate of God from creatures (being, wise, good, just, etc.) exist in a divided way in creatures, as distinct from their essence. But God is simple, admitting no plurality. Consequently, the terms must be predicated analogically, not univocally.

Scotus' discussion of the issue is found in Ordinatio I d. 8 q. 3, entitled "Whether to say that God, or something formally said of God, is in a genus is consonant with divine simplicity.

He is trying to avoid a model of reality in which Being is a genus and God and creatures are species of being. If this were the case, divine simplicity would be violated. This is because there would be a common reality of the genus by which God and creatures would agree, and a reality that was proper to each.  God would then have composition of genus and specific difference.

For the negative position, Scotus examines the opinion of Henry of Ghent (not Aquinas), citing a number of arguments, offering arguments against the position (these are the arguments for univocity I have already posted) and replying to Henry's arguments. He also cites an opinion for the positive position, though it is probably more of a set-up than an opinion anyone actually held (i.e. that God is in a genus).

Scotus, then, holds a middle position:

Ordinatio I d. 8 p. 1 q. 3 (ed. Vat. IV, 198):


I hold the middle position, that it stands with divine simplicity that some concept is common to God and to a creature, not nevertheless some concept common as of a genus, because neither a concept said in 'quid' of God, //nor by whatever kind of formal predication said of him// is per se in some genus.



The first part was proved by arguing against the first opinion [i.e. Henry]


So Scotus then argues that the concept is not going to be common like a genus is in common. He has two arguments for this, one from the notion of infinity, the other from the notion of necessary being.

1. Infinity (ed. Vat. IV 199-203):

A concept having indifference to some things to which a concept of a genus cannot be indifferent can not be a concept of a genus; but whatever is said commonly of God and creatures is indifferent to finite and infinite, speaking of essential [things], or at least to the finite and not finite, speaking of certain others, because a divine relation is not finite; no genus can be indifferent to infinite and the finite, therefore etc.

The first part of the minor is clear, because whatever essential perfection is in God, is formally infinite, in creatures finite.

I prove the second part of the minor, because a genus is taken from some reality which according to itself is potential to the reality from which the difference is taken; no infinite is potential to something...

This argument, by treating it further, I understand in this way: that in some creaures the genus and difference are taken from another and another reality (just as by positing many forms in man, animal is taken from the sensitive and rational from the intellective), and then that thing, from which the genus is taken, truly is potential and perfectible by that thing from which the difference is taken. Sometimes, when there are not there thing and thing (just as in accidents), at least in one thing there is some proper reality from which the genus is taken and another reality from which the difference is taken; let the first be called a and the second b: a according to itself is potential to b, so that by precisely understanding a and precisely understanding b, a as it is understood in the first instant of nature, in which it is precisely itself, it is perfectible by b (just as if it were another thing), but that it is not perfected really by b, this is because of the identity of a and b to some total [totum] thing, to which really they are primarily the same, which indeed totum first is produced and in that totum both those realities are produced: if nevetheless one of those would be produced without the other, truly it would be potential to it and truly it would be imperfect without it.

That composition of realities - potential and actual - is the smallest which suffices for the notion of genus and difference, and that does not stand with this that whatsoever reality in something is infinite: for reality, if it would be infinite of itself, however precisely taken, would not be in potency to some reality; therefore since in God whatsoever  essential reality is formally infinite, there is nothing from which the notion of a genus can be formally taken.

2. From necessary being (ed. Vat. IV, 204 ff.)

I argue third from the second middle [term], namely from the notion of necessary being, and this is the argument of Avicenna, VIII Met. ch. 4. If necessary being has a genus, therefore the intention of the genus will be of itself necessary being or not. If the first, 'then [the inquiry] will not cease until there is a difference'. I understand this thus: the genus would then include a difference, because without it it is not in ultimate act and the 'necessary in itself' is in ultimate act; if however the genus includes a difference, then it is not a genus. If the second option is followed, it follows that 'necessary being will be constituted from what is not necessary being.

[there follows an addition by Scotus here] but this argument proves that necessary being has nothing in common with another, because that common intention is 'not necessary being'; hence I answer: an understood intention neither includes necessity nor possibility, but is indifferent; that however in reality which corresponds to an intention, in 'this' is necessary being, in 'that' possible (this is disproved if a proper reality corresponds to the intention of a genus, and not if it corresponds to another common intention). [end of addition]

With respect to that which is added in the question 'of whatever formally said of God' [see the opening paragraph], I say that no such is in a genus, because of the same, because nothing is said formally of God  which is limited; whatever is of some genus, whatever genus that might be, is necessarily limited.

But then there is a doubt about what sort are those predicates which are said of God, such as wise, good, etc.

I answer. Being is first divided into infinite and finite than into the ten categories, because one of those, namely the finite, is common to the ten genera; therefore whatever befalls being as indifferent to finite and infinite, or as it is proper to infinite being, befalls it not as determined to a genus but as prior, and consequently as it is a transcendental and is outside every genus. Whatever is common to God and creature, are such which befall being as it is indifferent to finite and infinite: for as they befall God, they are infinite, and as they befall a creature they are finite; therefore first they befall being than being is divided into the ten genera, and consequently whatever is such is transcendent [transcendens].

But then there is another doubt, how wisdom can be called a transcendental since it is not common to all beings.

I answer.  Just as it is of the definition of 'most general' that it does not have under itself many species but not to have another genus above it (just as this category 'where', because it does not have a supervening genus it is most general, although it has few or no species), so a transcendental has no genus under which it is contained. Whence it is of the notion(ratio) of a transcendental that it does not have a predicate that supervenes, except being, but that it is common to many inferiors, this befalls it.

This is clear in another way, because being does not have passions/attributes that are simply convertible, just as one, true, and good, but has some passions where opposites are distinguished against each other, just as necessary being or possible being, act or potency, and suchlike. Just as convertible passions/attributes are transcendent because they follow upon being in so far as it is not determined to some genus, so disjunctive passions/attributes are transcendental, and each member of the disjunct is transcendental because neither determines its determinable to a certain genus: and nevertheless one member of the disjunct formally is special, not befalling unless one being, just as necessary being in that division between necessary being or possible being, and the infinite in that division of finite or infinite, and the same is true of the rest. So also wisdom can be a transcendental, and whatever other, which is common to God and creature, although some such is said of God alone, something however is also said of God and some creature. It is not necessary that a transcendental, qua transcendental, be said of every being unless it is convertible with the first transcendental, namely being.

[to the first principal argument, (ed. Vat. IV 221ff):

To the first principal argument I concede that that concept said of God and a creature in 'quid' [i.e. essentially] is contracted by some contracting concepts saying 'quale' , but neither is that concept said in 'quid' a concept of a genus, nor those concepts said in 'quale' are concepts of differences, because that 'quidditative' concept is common to finite and infinite, which community cannot be in the concept of a genus -- those concepts contracting mean the intrinsic mode of the contracted, and not some reality perfecting it: differences however do not mean the intrinsic mode of the reality of some genus, because in whatever grade animality is understood, not on account of this is rationality or irrationality understood to be the intrinsic mode of animality, but still animality is understood in such a grade as perfectible by rationality or irrationality.

But here there is a doubt: how can a concept common to God and creature be understood as 'real', unless by some reality of the same genus, and then it seems that it is potential to that reality from which the distinguishing concept is taken, just as was argued before about the concept of a genus and a difference, and then the argument made for the first position still stands, that if there would be some reality distinguishing in re, and another distinct, it seems that a thing is composed, because it has something by which it agrees and something by which it differs.

I answer that when some reality with its intrinsic mode is understood, that concept is not so irreducibly simple (simpliciter simplex) that that reality cannot be conceived without that mode, but then it is an imperfect concept of that thing; it is able also to be conceived under that mode, and then it is a perfect concept of that thing. Example: if there would be whiteness in the tenth grade of intensity, howsoever simple it might be in the thing, it can still be conceived under the aspect of such whiteness, and then perfectly it will be conceived by an adequate concept of that thing, or it can be conceived precisely under the aspect of whiteness, and then it would be conceived by an imperfect concept which falls from the perfection of the thing; an imperfect concept however can be common to this and that whiteness, and a perfect concept would be proper.

Therefore a distinction is required between that from which a common concept is taken and between that from which a proper concept is taken not as distinction of reality and reality but as distinction of reality and proper and intrinsic mode of the same, which distinction suffices for having a perfect concept or imperfect of the same, of which the imperfect is common and the perfect is proper. But the concept of genus and difference requires the distinction of realities, not only of the same reality perfectly and imperfectly conceived.



To summarize:

Scotus takes two doctrines as given, because they were proven elsewhere.

1. Divine simplicity
2. univocal predication of creaturely properties of God, with qualification.

In this question, Scotus expands this picture

3. the properties predicated of God are not in a genus, because this would require a distinction of realities: the reality of the genus is other than the reality of the difference [keep in mind, the model Scotus is trying to avoid is that Being is a genus, and creatures and God are two species of being. There would be one reality, being, by which God and creatures agree, and one reality by which they are distinct]

4. The properties are transcendentals, arranged in four grades: being, attributes of being (one, true, good, maybe thing), disjunctive attributes of being (necessary being vs. possible being, etc.), pure perfections (wisdom, justice, etc.).

5. univocal predication gives us a common concept, say of wisdom; it is common to God and creatures. As such, the common concept is imperfect. The univocal notion can be contracted to God and creatures by means of intrinsic modes. The concept of God or a creature taken with its respective intrinsic mode is imperfect, but this is not a distinction between two realities, but of one reality. Hence the problem mentioned in 3 is avoided.

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