Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gilson on the Essence-Existence Distinction

I don't normally like to rag on Gilson since he was unquestionably a great scholar, but I can't pass up the following comment on De ente et essentia where Gilson gives the essence-existence distinction the status of a first principle, which, conveniently enough, can't be proven but only seen. Tough luck for those less subtle and impure minds like Scotus, Henry and the myriads who foolishly wanted proof of the disitnction.

Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, 82:

The large number of Christian philosophers and theologians, even among the so-called Thomists, who have rejected the distinction of essence and existence understood in its Thomistic meaning, clearly shows that no demonstration is here at stake. Above all, the careful procedure of Thomas Aquinas himself in handling the notion invites us to consider it less as the conclusion of some dialetical argument than as a prime source of intelligibility whose existence is known by the very light it sheds upon all the problems in metaphysics. So Thomas Aquinas will not attempt to prove it, but we shall see him progressively leading us to it, stating from the very demonstrations of the existence of God, as if it were for him a question of purifying our sight until it becomes able to stand the light of the first principle.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Opera Theologica of John Duns Scotus

A new volume of studies on Scotus is out, part of the Quadruple congress that went on in 2008. It is edited by Richard Cross (yours truly set the text) and contains essays by several famous scholars and an edition of the anonymous De cognitione Dei. Price: 47 euros.

Here is the publishers blurb:

On 8 November 1308, the great Franciscan scholastic thinker, John Duns Scotus, died and was buried in the friars' convent in Cologne. Building upon the intellectual heritage of his Franciscan predecessors in Paris, Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Scotus extended this peculiarly Franciscan approach to the philosophical and theological traditions of western Christianity in new and bold directions with unique emphases and implications. These ramifications became the foundation for an important alternate current of philosophical thought known through history as Scotism. On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the death of John Duns Scotus, international scholars from around the world gathered together to celebrate in a comprehensive manner the life, work and intellectual legacy of the Subtle Doctor. This gathering took on the form of a Quadruple Congress, comprising four conferences, treating four different themes, associated with the intellectual journey and legacy of Scotus, namely Oxford, Cologne-Bonn, Strasbourg and the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University, New York. The corresponding four volumes represent the current state of international Scotus scholarship and will remain an invaluable tool for years to come.
Part 2, offering investigations into the theology of John Duns Scotus, contains contributions by Robert Andrews, Oleg Bychkov, William J. Courtenay, Richard Cross, William A. Frank, Tobias Hofmann and Ludger Honnefelder. Robert Andrews's article provides, for the first time, a complete text of the Scotistic De cognitione dei.

Friday, February 17, 2012

God and the Divine Essence

Sometimes I think the best argument for atheism is analytic philosophy of religion. Witness the following from Hoffmann and Rosenkrantz, The Divine Attributes, 90.

...Anselm's notion of a self-existent or self-explanatory being is rather obscure. For example, Anselm takes it to be an implication of divine self-existence that (i) God's existence is not explained by anything else, (ii) God's existence is explained by his essence, and hence that (iii) God is a necessary being. Unhappily, (i) and (ii) are incompatible unless God is identical with his essence. Anselm accepts the doctrine that God is identical with his essence; among traditional theologians such as Anselm this doctrine is commonly thought to be an implication of divine simplicity. But as we have argued, it is a category mistake to suppose that God, a substance, is identical with his essence, a quality. Moreover, necessarily, any quality of a concrete entity [of any sort] inheres in that concrete entity. But God's essence is a quality of God, and God is a concrete entity. So, God's essence inheres in God. Since it is impossible for a concrete entity to inhere in itself, it follows that God cannot inhere in himself. Because God's essence inheres in God, but God does not, God and his essence are diverse. For all of these reasons, God and his essence cannot be identical. Hence, (i) and (ii) are incompatible. Thus, if God's existence is explained by his essence, then strictly speaking God's existence is explained by something else. However, God's existence being explained by his essence seems compatible with God's being maximally great. There is no reason to accept without qualification Anselm's assumption that God's existence cannot depend upon something else.

Valid? Sure. Sound? 'Unsound' just doesn't do it justice. I would like to know what the point of having an essence is when it just inheres in a substance along with all the substance's other properties/qualities etc. Fond/convinced as I am of the usefulness of the formal distinction, I don't think I would posit it as obtaining between God and the divine essence.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Here is Steve Long discussing his book on analogy. I wonder what the relation of all this is to Aristotelian third-mode relations. Recall that the third mode of relations are one-way. The example is that of human knowing: one can know an object and consequently there is a relation from the knowing mind to the object but not from the object to the knowing mind.  This isn't so hard to understand. My thinking about a rock isn't going to affect the rock ex natura rei but it is going to affect my thinking. So to return to Long, could one dispense with this talk of analogical analogy and univocal analogicity simply by saying that the relation of God to creatures and e converso is an Aristotelian third-mode relation? This is course what Henry and Scotus do, though they also feel the need to discuss analogy and univocity, so perhaps not.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New From ND Press

Sorry about all the news, but here's another that really made me laugh. A dictionary of the "perennial tradition" which of course means "Thomism". But wait, there's more! Not only terms of Thomism are defined, but those movements with which Thomism has engaged.  So I suppose we will get "univocalist metaphysics" and "necrophobia at the heart of the liturgical city" as well as "Scotus".

From ND press:

New dictionary offers precise and accessible definitions of over 1,000 key philosophical terms

In his encyclical Fides et ratio (1998), John Paul II called on philosophers, "to have the courage to recover, in the flow of an enduringly valid philosophical tradition, the range of authentic wisdom and truth." In Words of Wisdom, John W. Carlson responds to the late pope's call for the development of this tradition--often called the "perennial tradition" or "perennial philosophy"--with a much-needed dictionary of terms. Available in paperback and e-book formats, this is a resource for students in colleges, universities, and seminaries, as well as for their teachers.

In addition to key philosophical terms, the dictionary includes:

-- significant terms from philosophical movements with which Thomism has engaged

-- a comprehensive bibliography of works by Aquinas in English

-- examples from the writings of the philosophers and theologians mentioned in dictionary entries and

-- discussions of perennial themes

"The introduction to this work shows how carefully its aim and method have been thought through. The rest of Words of Wisdom demonstrates how well the aim has been achieved and the method employed. An invaluable resource." --Aidan Nichols, O.P., University of Cambridge

368 pages

ISBN 978-0-268-02370-6 / Paper / $45.00

ISBN 978-0-268-07693-1 / E-book (Adobe PDF) / $29.00

More information and to order

Table of Contents

Read an excerpt

Established in 1949, the University of Notre Dame Press is a scholarly publisher of distinguished books in a number of academic disciplines; in poetry and fiction; and in areas of interest to general readers. The largest Catholic university press in the world, the Press currently publishes fifty to sixty books annually and maintains a robust backlist in print. Visit our website to see our full array of available titles.

University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall
Notre Dame

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Scotus Grant

From Medieval News. I don't think they reported the Opera Theologica Parisiensia grant, but they did hit the following:

University of Scranton Professor Andrew LaZella, Ph.D., received a development intercession grant from the University for a research project focused on medieval philosopher John Duns Scotus and his analysis of some of Aristotle’s major works, especially “The Categories.” The project is titled “Univocity, Equivocity, and Proper Concepts in Duns Scotus’s Quaestiones Super Praedicamenta Aristotelis.”

Dr. LaZella, an assistant professor in philosophy, said that he researched “in the general area” of this topic for his doctoral dissertation and is excited to delve further into the subject. He said that an interesting part of this project is the difference in Scotus’ ideas in his early works compared to his later writings.

“This is a very early work of (Duns Scotus),” Dr. LaZella said. “The question becomes did he change his mind, or are the early and late works compatible?

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Book

Note: Tobias Hoffmann has updated the Scotus bibliography.


A new book is out from Brepols, the papers from the 2008 Notre Dame SIEPM conference. It is reasonably priced (for the 700+ pages) at 70 euros.

Here is the blurb and Table of Contents.

Most scholars know that the great universities were the institutional setting of Scholastic philosophical and theological activity in the later Middle Ages. Fewer realize, however, that perhaps far more Scholastic learning in the liberal arts and theology took place in the studia or study-houses of the religious orders, which out-numbered the universities and were more widely distributed across Europe. Indeed, most members of the mendicant orders received most or all of their learning in the liberal arts and theology in the studia of their order, and the most famous members of the orders (e.g., Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus) spent more time teaching in the studia than they did serving as Regent Masters in the university proper. As a consequence, the greater part of later medieval Scholastic literature was produced in the institutional context of the studia of the religious orders. Moreover, there were other significant institutional locifor Scholastic learning and discourse in the later Middle Ages besides the universities and the study-houses, namely the Papal Court—notably the Sacred Palace at Avignon—and several royal courts, for example, the courts of Robert the Wise in Naples and of the Emperor Lewis IV in Munich. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the greatest Scholastic masters at different times taught in, or were associated with, all of these venues. This volume, which originated at the XVth annual Colloquium of the Société Internationale pour l’Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale held at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in October 2008, contains essays concerning the study and teaching of philosophy and theology in the studia of the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinian Hermits, Carmelites, Benedictines and Cistercians, as well as the intellectual activity at the Papal Court in Rome and Avignon and at various royal courts (London, Naples, Munich).

Kent Emery, Jr., Introduction

I. The Dominicans
Alfonso Maierù, Dominican studia in Spain
Joseph Goering, What the Friars Really Learned at Oxford and Cambridge
Adriano Oliva, OP, L’enseignement des Sentences dans les studia dominicains italiens au XIIIe siècle : l’Alia lectura de Thomas d’Aquin et le Scriptum de Bombolognus de Bologne
Alessandro Palazzo, Philosophy and Theology in the German Dominican scholae in the Late Middle Ages: The Cases of Ulrich of Strasbourg and Berthold of Wimpfen
Guy Guldentops, Struggling with Authority: Durand of Saint-Pourçain on the Origin of Power and on Obedience to the Pope
Fabrizio Amerini, The Reception of Thomas Aquinas’ Philosophy in the Dominican studia of the Roman Province in the Fourteenth Century
Hester Goodenough Gelber, Blackfriars London: the Late Medieval studiumMaarten J.F.M. Hoenen, How the Thomists in Cologne Saved Aristotle: The Debate over the Eternity of the World in the Late-Medieval Period

II. The FranciscansNeslihan Şenocak, The Franciscan studium generale: A New Interpretation
Luca Bianchi, Aristotle Among Thirteenth-Century Franciscans: Some Preliminary Remarks
Alain Boureau, Enseignement et débat dans les ordres mendiants du XIIIe siècle : Le cas des Quodlibeta de Richard de Mediavilla
William O. Duba, The Legacy of the Bologna studium in Peter Auriol’s Hylomorphism
Sylvain Piron, Les studia franciscains de Provence et d’Aquitaine (1275-1335)
Christopher Schabel and Garrett R. Smith, The Franciscan studium in Barcelona in the Early Fourteenth Century
François-Xavier Putallaz, La peine de mort est-elle légitime ? Le studium franciscain de Cologne s’interroge au XIVe siècle

III. The Augustinians and the CarmelitesGiorgio Pini, Building the Augustinian Identity: Giles of Rome as Master of the Order
Russell L. Friedman, How ‘Aegidian’ Were Later Augustinian Hermits Regarding Intellectual Cognition? Gerard of Siena, Michael of Massa and the Object of the Intellect
Stephen F. Brown, The Early Carmelite Parisian Masters
Wouter Goris, The Critique of the Doctrine of God as First Known in the Early Carmelite School

IV. The Benedictines and the CisterciansThomas Sullivan, OSB, Ut nostra religione refloreat studium: The studia of the Monastic Orders
Amos Corbini, Pierre de Ceffons et l’instruction dans l’Ordre cistercien : quelques remarques

V. The Friars, Philosophy and Theology at Papal and Royal CourtsM. Michèle Mulchahey, The Dominican Studium Romanae Curiae: The Papacy, the Magisterium and the Friars
Jacqueline Hamesse, Les instruments de travail philosophiques et théologiques, témoins de l’enseignement et de l’influence des ordres mendiants à  l’époque de la papauté d’Avignon
Patrick Nold, How Influential Was Giovanni di Napoli, OP, at the Papal Court in Avignon?
Christian Trottmann, La vision béatifique, question disputée à la cour pontificale d’Avignon ?
Roberto Lambertini, Political Theory in the Making: Theology, Philosophy and Politics at the Court of Lewis the Bavarian
William J. Courtenay, Concluding Remarks