Monday, June 18, 2012

Scotus the Voluntarist

As is well known, Scotus is an evil voluntarist who separated morality from God by making the divine will the foundation of morality. Since all moral truths are contingent, there is no way for us humans to know them short of divine revelation. 

In Ord. IV d. 46 q. 1, a slightly different picture emerges.  Here Scotus distinguishes, following Anselm and Aristotle (oh, wait: everything he did was to further Augustinianism. Anselm and Aristotle must just be wax noses here), two senses of justice: legal justice and particular justice.  Legal justice pertains to rules laid down by a lawgiver, while particular justice, as far as I can gather, pertains to relations between individuals (I beg the readers' indulgence if I have bundled this; I generally find ethics boring and don't claim to have mastered the terminology).  In this context, Scotus discusses whether justice is in God.

(Wad.-Viv. XX, 400-401):

Prima istarum, scilicet legalis, posset poni in Deo, si esset alia lex prior determinatione voluntatis suae, cui legi, et in hoc legislatori, quasi alteri voluntas sua recte concordaret; et est quidem ista lex: 'Deus est diligendus'. Sed si non debet dici lex, sive principium practicum legis, saltem est veritas practica, praecedens omnem determinationem voluntatis divinae.
Iustitia etiam illa particularis ad se, quasi ad alterum, est in ipso, quia voluntas sua determinatur per rectitudinem ad volendum illud quod decet suam bonitatem; et haec est quasi redditio debiti sibi ipsi, id est, suae bonitati, tanquam alteri, si tamen posset dici particularis, quia aliquo modo est universalis, sciliet virtualiter.
Et illa duo membra, scilicet iustitia legalis et particularis ad se quasi ad alterum, in Deo quasi idem sunt, quia rectitudo voluntatis divinae respectu suae bonitatis.

Translation to follow.

In the end, I think we can derive the following point: this passage may not help us determine to what degree Scotus was a voluntarist with respect to the human will, but certainly in the case of the divine will God will always will in accordance with his goodness; and how does the will acquire this goodness as a material for willing? Well, it would have to be supplied by the divine intellect.  So the passage is another example of Scotus' view of God as a most ordered willer, whether or not one thinks his account of the mechanics involved (formalitities of intellect and will acting as co-causes of volitional acts) works.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Buried Alive!

I found another piece of information about the story of Scotus being buried alive.  This is from Ioannes Bremer, one of the 15th. c. Franciscan Scotist theologians who taught at Erfurt. The following quote is from his Sentences commentary, composed ca. 1429. So that's a little over a hundred years after Scotus' death (for background on this myth see one of my earliest posts).

L. Maier, "Der Sentenzenkommentar des Johannes Bremer," Franz. Stud.  15 (1928), p. 168:

Item, Augustinus anagogiam docet, quid appetendum sit. Et concordat cum eo evangelista Johannes, qui cognoscitur ut aquila, quia de altissimis et intimissimis Dei scribit et volando perspexit, videlicet in capitulo suo primo: In principio erat verbum. Quem subtiliter invehitur doctor subtilis, frater minor Johannes Scotus de Duns, qui multa arcana speculatus, videlicet sua multa et magna opera, sive copia librorum. Qui multoties raptus est, in Spiritu theologiam perscrutando, et ita speculando subtilia Coloniae semivivus id est sic raptus sepultus est. Cuius anima indubie requiescat in pace.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More Aquinas Translations

For Pre-order here:

My question:  Why?

We already have the old Dominican friars translation, the later translation contained in a million volumes with commentary, and Freddoso is publishing a new translation with Hackett. Sure, maybe they aren't facing Latin and English, but big deal: Aquinas' Latin is super easy.

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.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alexander Broadie's Gifford Lecture

Here's a snippet:

Alexander Broadie, The Shadow of Scotus: Philosophy and Faith in Pre-Reformation Scotland, 22-23:

I should say, as an aside and perhaps tendentiously, that the fact that voluntarism is a progenitor of ethical relativism might well, all by itself, make us hesitate to ascribe at any rate an unqualified voluntarism to Duns Scotus. Had the relevant Vatican authorities sensed the slightest whiff of relativisim in Scotus' writings, he would assuredly not have been accorded the title beatus. The recent encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor by John Paul II contains a strongly worded denunciation of moral relativism in all its forms. For example, in its opening paragraph the encyclical describes the results of original sin in these terms: 'Giving himself over to relativism and scepticism man goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.' And later the encyclical declares: 'The primordial moral requirement of loving and respecting the person as an end and never as a mere means also implies, by its nature, respect for certain fundamental goods, without without which one would fall into relativism and arbitrariness' (para. 48).
The presence of these and similar assertions in the encyclical is not however one of my reasons for thinking that Scotus was not in any full-blooded sense a relativist in his teaching on the existence of values. Their presence is merely a reason for holding that others who would speak with authority on the question of whether Scotus was a relativist or not must have thought that he was not one. My own reasons for holding that Scotus was no relativist are not grounded in the authority of others. Instead they are all firmly grounded in Scotus's own clear statements of his position -- I am speaking about statements in which he attaches morality very firmly indeed to right reason, and makes clear his belief that we can by the exercise of reason learn how we ought to behave. Consulting the Bible is therefore not the only route to the truth about moral matters. We can of course consult the Bible, and will find the truth if we do. The point is that we can also find the truth by cvonsulting our reason. In Lecture Three I shall cite some of the relevant passages in Scotus's Ordinatio.

Just by way of contrast with MacIntyre, let's look at Broadie's authorities for this particular chapter.

John L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong
John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

That's it for the in text citations.  The chapter is on intellectualism vs. voluntarism, realism vs. nominalism.  There is talk of Henry's position on the will, and Scotus' formal distinction.  There is a page plus some change of notes at the end of the chapter, in which Broadie cites the following:

Wolter, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality
B. Bonansea, On Duns Scotus' Voluntarism
Kant, Critique of Practical Reason
Beck, A commentary on Kant's critique of Practical Reason
Duns Scotus, Opus Oxoniense, II d. 16 q. un. (latin quotation)
Aquinas, Summa theologiae, pt. 1 q. 77 (latin quotation)
Mark Henninger, Relations: Medieval Theories, 1250-1325
More latin quotes from Scotus same place as above
Aristotle, Metaphysics (English quotation).

So Broadie cites real scholars on Scotus as well as famous figures from the tradition. He also quotes the texts of Scotus to support his interpretions.  The only thing one can fault him with is his use of this particular passage of the Ordinatio, since in fact it is not part of the original draft of the Ordinatio.Instead, it is from Alnwick's additions to Book II. But this isn't Broadies fault, since the critical edition had not come out when he wrote his lectures.  And even now, it's not at all clear that the Roman Commission's method of handling this was correct; they decided the text was inauthentic because of its association with Alnwick.  But Alnwick was Scotus' secretary, and Scotus might very well directed the material from the Reportatio be inserted into the Ordinatio. The jury is still out on this question.

This may well seem circular to outsiders: only Scotus experts can be cited on Scotus and Scotus experts don't agree with the Thomist interpretation.  My answer to this is that Scotus is the victim of centuries of propaganda, from Protestants as well as Thomists, so, yes, only Scotus scholars are competent to discuss Scotus in broad strokes or to discuss his "worldview".  When it comes to the level of arguments, I can only encourage postmodernists, protestants and Thomists to quote Scotus or at least justify their interpretations from people who know what they are talking about, and then show where individual arguments go astray. Example: Scotus' theory of univocity is either true or false.  If you, as a Thomist, know a priori that it is false, then you owe us poor benighted Scotists an explanation of what fallacy Scotus committes or which premise in his argument is false.

Bottom line: Michael Sullivan is an expert since he has a Ph.D. and did his dissertation on Scotus and 13th century philosophy under the head of the new Scotistic Commission of America (which is currently editing the Parisian works of Duns Scotus). I am an expert since I am finishing up my dissertation on Duns Scotus and 13th century philosophy, have studied under two other members of the Scotist Commission, and am currently a member of said commission (though as the most junior member I make the coffee runs). This doesn't mean we are right about everything, but it does mean we know what we are talking about when it comes to medieval philosophy, and that certain historians do not.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MacIntyre on Scotus

Our recent debate with Mark Wauk reminded me of the authority that Alasdair MacIntyre enjoys in certain circles.  I recently came across a discussion on Scotus in MacIntyre's Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry. I did look in several of his other famous books but did not notice anything on Scotus (there is a chapter in his universities book).  Since Wauk emphasized authority, this first post on MacIntyre will look at his sources.  Now, a caveat:  these are the Gifford lectures, so the sources will be light (note, however, that Broadie's Gifford lectures, The Shadow of Scotus, was replete with bibliography and lengthy latin quotations).

Chapter 4 is on Augustinianism, though not Scotus specifically.  But since MacIntyre reads Scotus as completely motivated by Augustinian concerns it is fair to count up his authorities for this chapter as well as the Scotus chapter. Here I mention only secondary literature, not the primary literature/names he alludes to in abundance. Also, I'm a bit cramped spacewise, so I'm not going to type out the Latin, French, and German titles.

Berkeley (an Augustine scholar)
Chenu, Theology of the Twelfth century.
Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages
Stephen C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University
Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language
Nietzsche, Der antichrist
T.J. Clarke, The Background and Implications of Duns Scotus' Theory of knowing in the Beatific vision (phd. diss.)
A. Landgraf, Introduction to the theological literature of the early scholastics
De Lubac, Medieval Exegesis
A Collection of essays on the seven liberal arts in the Middle Ages
Baldwin, The Scholastic Culture of the Middle Ages 1000-1300
Leclerc, Love of learning and desire for God
A collection of essays on reform and renewal in the twelfth century
de Ghellinck, The theological movement of the twelfth century.

These are all general studies. There is nothing here that would allow one to distinguish between Bonaventure's "Augustinianism" vs. his "Aristotelianism" or how it differs from those attitudes to isms found in Olivi or Peckham.

Ch. V: Aristotle and/or/against Augustine: Rival Traditions of Enquiry

van Steenberghen, Aristotle in the West
Mandonnet, Siger de Brabant (no scholar now follows Mandonnet...)
van Steenberghen, Thomas Aquinas and the radical Aristotelianism
Donald Davidson, Truth and Interpretation
Feyerabend, Against Method

Some talk of the Averroists, mention of Bonaventure.  The actual medieval scholarship cited here is quite old. I would say that though some scholars do still work on the averroists, no one is painting with broad brush-strokes anymore.

Ch. VII: In the Aftermath of Defeated Tradition

This is the Scotus chapter. I will report any references to Scotus' own works.

Opus Oxoniense IV,43,ii (on the resurrection)
John Boler, on 'abstractive and intuitive cognition' in the Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (quotes a passage about Aquinas)
Aquinas, Com. on Boethius' De trinitate
(there is also a mini review of the Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy)
Ockham, Expositio on Aristotle's Physics.
Boyle, the Setting of the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas
Roensch, Early Thomistic School
Ockham, commentary on II Sent.
John D. Caputo, The Mystical Element in Heidegger's thought (quote is about Meister Eckhart)
Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages

So there you have it. A chapter that trashes Scotus on a variety of topics cites him only on one topic. No actual scholars of Scotus are cited. Boler might count; he has written on the topic of the will in Scotus and it seemed decent enough. But here he is cited regarding Aquinas. In this chapter, then, Scotus is just lumped in with Ockham and late medieval decline.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


In the heart of Oxford there is a small plot of ground, hemmed in by public thoroughfares, which has been the possession and the home of one Society for above five hundred years. In the old time of Boniface the Eighth and John the Twenty-second, in the age of Scotus and Occam and Dante, before Wiclif or Huss had kindled those miserable fires which are still raging to the ruin of the highest interests of man, an unfortunate king of England, Edward the Second, flying from the field of Bannockburn, is said to have made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to found a religious house in her honour, if he got back in safety. Prompted and aided by his Almoner, he decided on placing this house in the city of Alfred; and the Image of our Lady, which is opposite its entrance-gate, is to this day the token of the vow and its fulfilment. King and Almoner have long been in the dust, and strangers have entered into their inheritance, and their creed has been forgotten, and their holy rites disowned; but day by day a memento is still made in the holy Sacrifice by at least one Catholic Priest, once a member of that College, for the souls of those Catholic benefactors who fed him there for so many years.

- Newman, Idea of a University, Discourse VII

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.