Monday, June 4, 2012

Pet Peeve

Michael pointed me to this discussion over at First Things.  Someone kindly mentioned this blog.  One pet peeve I have with all "these people" (the narrativists) is the use of the term "univocal metaphysics". There really is no such thing.  If one bothered to find out what the word "univocal" means, one would learn it is a property of terms, or concepts.  So when I hear this stupid phrase, I automatically think 'univocal to what?' Oh well. As the eminent Notre Dame historian (that's right, the same department as the eminent Brad Gregory) John van Engen once said in class, "historians aren't conceptually gifted".

PS: Rachel Fulton. Seriously? She is the go-to medievalist for Scotus and univocity? Just look at her CV. She's an expert at intellectual history, prayer, liturgy, and JRR Tolkien. She's not going to be worrying about Scotus' argument from certain and doubtful concepts and whether the response that Scotus tips in is from Henry, or maybe Richard of Conington.

There is a real crisis of authority going on.

12 comments:

Marty said...

Thanks for the llink Lee. All I can says is "Jeepers Creepers". Heiko Oberman's "Harvest of Medieval Theology" is a refutation of Louis Bouyer's thesis. How they can be put together in the same sentence is beyond me.

When will people realize how complex history is!

Edward Ockham said...

Why do you have separate categories for "retins, idiots, Morons, post-modernism, Stupid people?

Credo In Unum Deum said...

Your comment over there was great. My kinda sarcasm.

Lee Faber said...

Ockham, originally it probably was an allusion to Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum'.

Michael Sullivan said...

Tetrapyloctomy is our specialty!

Credo In Unum Deum said...

BTW, did you see our buddy Mark Wouck has made a post himself on the same article from First Things. Seriously, Thomists need to find someone else to blame for the problems in the world. I wouldn't be surprises to find out that Manmade Global Warming will become the Scotus Effect. And despite Scotistic thinking being so aking to Islamic thinking, we were still able to get Osama... etc.

Lee Faber said...

now I'm tempted to go look...

Anonymous said...

Not all Thomists blame Scotus for all the problems of the world, though I realize that it may seem that way. I was the first person to respond to Milliner's post, and defended Scotus. And there are others. But I'm grateful to you for weighing in on the conversation, since I'm not enough of an expert on Scotus to make the strong argument that you did.
By the way, if you want someone to blame for ontologizing semantics, a better target would be Cajetan. Ralph McInerny wrote several books that argued that Cajetan made the mistake of taking Aquinas's doctrine of analogy as an ontological claim rather than a semantic one, and that has confused Thomists ever since on analogy (and by extension, univocity).
The bigger problem is that the claims against Scotus are in many ways a Protestant narrative -- if the Catholics had only done better theology, the Reformation wouldn't have happened. So the sin and schism wasn't Luther's fault, it was the Catholic Church's. Unfortunately, too many Catholics have accepted the narrative.

Michael Sullivan said...

Anonymous, these are excellent points. It does seem crucial to recognize that heresy and schism are moral and spiritual lapses, not natural and necessary outgrowths of intellectual ideas. The history of philosophy and theology can never adequately explain by themselves the tragedy of the Reformation. Ideas can suggest or occasion sin but not cause it.

I forget if I mentioned this at the time, but some months ago when I was reading and posting on Maurer's book on Ockham I was struck by the fact that, at least Maurer insists, Ockham's theology is orthodox. He doesn't deny any de fide teaching of the Church, or reason in such a way that the Church's teaching has to be held in defiance of reason. That doesn't make his theology sound - if it's involved in a (to my mind deeply) problematic philosophy it won't be intellectually tenable - but it makes the question of blame much less straightforward.

In general the problem with "narrative", as Lee and I have been pointing out frequently lately, is that it really just seems like the genetic fallacy writ large. Ockham used some of Scotus' ideas in a way Scotus did not intend and would not subscribe to - does this make Scotus "responsible" for Ockham? It's certainly caused them to be lumped together despite the chasm between them. Protestants used some of Ockham's ideas in a way Ockham did not intend and would not subscribe to - does this make Ockham "responsible" for Protestantism? Are Plato and Aristotle responsible for the theurgy of the Neoplatonists or for Julian the Apostate's apostasy?

In The Unity of Philosophical Experience Gilson makes the point that often in the history of philosophy thinkers are not willing to take their own principles or arguments to their logical conclusions; but they can't prevent their disciples from doing so. Kant for instance was not a pure skeptic and relativist; but this is where people who subscribe to his principles end up, not at his benign fideistic Lutheranism, and this is no accident. So it's not crazy to ask of a philosophy, "where is all this going?", even if its author doesn't go all the way there. On the other hand, as Faber points out, it's not hard to find out: just look at the history of Scotism and see where it went, as opposed to the opponents of Scotus who may have borrowed some of his distinctions or definitions in the course of attacking him. But no one does this, just as no one reads Scotus himself.

Michael Sullivan said...

The early English Protestants, for instance, saw Scotus as a paradigm of popery and did their best to destroy him. They certainly didn't seem him as an inspiration or forerunner, not e.g. like Wycliff.

Matt said...

As for Cajetan, Anonymous might appreciate the work of Joshua Hochschild:

http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01362

Lee Faber said...

Thanks, anonymous. Thanks also to Matt. Hoschschild tries to rehabilitate Cajeten by arguing that Cajetan was not trying to give an interpretation of the texts of Aquinas but to respond to contemporary Scotists.