Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Note on Some Translations of Scotus

The following post is the result of a question that came in over email about the reliability of the following translations. Note that if our readers have any requests I am willing to oblige. Otherwise, you will have more of the same fare of rants against Thomism followed by uncontextualized quotations from manuscripts.

Here is the list:

(1) A Treatise on God as First Principle, ed. Allan Wolter (Franciscan Herald Press)

(2) Philosophical Writings, ed. Allan Wolter (Hackett)

(3) Duns Scotus, Metaphysician, with four texts and commentary, ed. William A. Frank and Allan B. Wolter

(4) God and Creatures: The Quodlibetal Questions, trans. and ed. Felix Alluntis and Allan B. Wolter

Here are my comments:

(1) Wolter's edition of the De primo principio is based on Evan Roche's edition, itself based on the critical edition of Mueller, completed during the 1940's (independent of the Vatican commission).  I have seen several articles refer to the inadequacies of Mueller's edition, but I am not sure what they are. Wolter mentions that some of the theorems are out of order in the Wadding ed., but he didn't accuse Mueller of the same. In terms of punctuation I found it (Mueller's edition) a little hard to read, but that was all. It does have a stemma codicum, which not even all the modern editions of Scotus have. Wolter's edition, in addition to the Latin and English text, also contains extensive commentary that I found helpful when I read it several years ago. Bottom line: this is the standard edition of the text and is commonly cited by contemporary scholars. Of course, something like 50% of it is cribbed verbatim from the Ordinatio.

(2) Here Wolter used the Wadding ed. and updated it with the Assisi 137 (=MS A) that plays such an important role in the Vatican edition. I would say it's fine for class, but given the complexities of the Vatican edition (extra's, revisions, Ms. A crapping out in bk II, etc.) one would want to cite the Vat. ed. in any publication.

(3) The texts in this volume are taken from the Vatican edition, the Opera Philosophica, as well as the Vienna ms. of the Reportatio which claims to be examined in the presence of Scotus. I would say this volume is fine for class, but obviously one ought to cite the Vat. ed directly (scholarly snobbery I suppose, though the editions of Scotus are fairly complicated and one ought to consult them in any case before making any claims about Scotus).

(4) In this work Wolter translated the Wadding edition, itself based on earlier printings. The version of the Wadding ed. was that published by Alluntis in the BAC series. There is no critical edition of this text. Wolter checked the text against three mss. suggested to him by the Roman editors, though I am not sure how extensively. One ought to cite the latin, but for now Wadding is all there is unless one is willing to dig up mss. or earlier printings.

One ought to note the Wolter-Bychkov edition of Reportatio I as well. The edition claims to be 'hermaneutic', which seems to mean that all readings were chosen for sense. The edition also claims to be the "examined report", which means it is supposed to be based on the Vienna ms. (the only one to contain 'examinata' in the colophon, and which contains many unique readings as well as passages it shares with the Additiones). Though I have heard many rumors regarding the origins of this text and the method employed, all I will say is that I have myself spot-checked passages from Rep. I d.36 for an article I was writing (note that Noone published a critical edition of this distinction). I found that the Vienna ms. was not followed consistently (again, 'hermaneutic' absolves them from this); also, there was a homoeoeleuton introduced by the editors found in no manuscript. Note, however, that I checked only 7 or 8 passages. A full review would require rather more extensive soundings.

So if the general conclusion isn't clear, it is this: these editions and translations are fine for use in classes and private study, but one ought to be careful when basing any claims on them when publishing. One then runs the risks of a faulty text as well as misunderstanding the nature of the work one is reading. Just yesterday I was reading an article by the Radically orthodox Philip Blond, who was complaining about univocity. He quoted a line of Scotus, and said it was contained in the "De Metaphysica" of Duns Scotus. I had never heard of this work, but it turns out that this is one of Wolter's editorial insertions on the first page of (2) above. Wolter himself rather confusingly has a single paragraph from the QQ. in Met. under that heading, immediately followed by the Ordinatio; I'm not sure which Blond meant to cite.