Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More on Unitive Containment and the Formal Distinction

From the last volume of the Ordinatio, which has just arrived at my library. The segment here translated is from a question on the distinction between justice and mercy in God (the standard 12th c. examples, used, for example, by the Lombard). Here's a first stab at translation.

Ordinatio IV d. 46 q. 3 ad arg. princ. 4 (ed. Vat. XIV, 215-217):

To the second, it is said that mercy connotes something other than justice, although those two are unqualifiedly [simpliciter = realiter] the same as each other.
But against this: that connotation does not require some distinction of this kind from that as it is in itself, but only as it is understood [accipitur] and signified, because connotation is required for this. The argument, however, requires that there is some distinction between them [justice and mercy] as they are causes of distinct effects. Nor does the distinction of reason suffice for this, because a relation of reason is not that by which some effect is really made [efficitur], rather, generally, no real distinction in an effect depends on a relation of reason in a cause, just as was proved in d. 13 of the first book. That distinction of effects depends essentially on a distinction in the cause, therefore that is not only one of reason.
I concede, therefore, to that argument that just as in God the intellect is not formally the will, nor contrariwise, although one is the same as the other by the truest identity of simplicity, so also justice is not formally the same as mercy or contrariwise. And according to this formal non-identity, that [= mercy] can be the proximate principle of some external [= extra] effect, of which the other [= justice] is not the principle, in the way in which just as if this and that [= mercy and justice] were two things [res] because to be a formal principle befalls each as it is formally such.
Contra: the divine esse is most actual, therefore it includes every divine perfection; but it would not include, if there were a formal distinction there, because everything distinct formally is there actually, and consequently, as distinct, it is there in act, and so the essence as distinct does not include every act. 
Again, if there are there real distinct formalities, therefore there are distinct realities there, and so distinct things [res]. Proof of the first consequence: because formality is distinct by its own reality.
To the first: the divine esse contains every actuality of the divine essence unitively. [Entities] are not contained unitively which are contained without all distinction, becuase union is not wihout all distinction; nor are they contained unitively which are contained as unqualifiedly [simpliciter] really distinct, because are contained in a multiple manner or separately [dispersim]. Therefore this term 'unitive' includes some distinction of the [entities] contained, which suffices for union, and nevertheless such a union which is repugnant toall composition and aggregation of the distinct [entities]. This can not be unless there be posited formal non-identity with real identity.
To the argument, therefore, I concede that the essence contains every actuality, and consequently every formality, but not as formally the same, becaues then they would not be contained unitively.
To the second it can be said that as many formalities as are there, so many are there realities and things [res]; but each reality is only qualified [secundum quid], just as was shown there [Ord. I d. 13, according to the Vat. editors]. Otherwise, that consequence can be denied: 'many real formalities, therefore many realities', just as 'many divine persons, therefore many deities', is denied. But the first response is more real [realier]. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Scene from my Defense

This is what happens when Henry of Ghent scholars are on your committee:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Eckhart Edition

King's College London has started up a Meister Eckhart Project. See here for details.

Some selections (bold is my emphasis):

To study this towering figure of Meister Eckhart and his early 14th c. humanist environment of philosophy and theology at the University of Paris an AHRC-Major Research Grant (£571.000 for the years 2013-2016) was awarded for the project 'Meister Eckhart and the Parisian University in the early 14th century - Codex Vaticanus Latinus 1086', directed by Professor Markus Vinzent (PI) and Professor Oliver Davies (CO-I). The project includes one postdoctoral researcher (Chris Wojtulewicz), two Phd studentships (one held by Maria O'Connor, the other is advertised now) and several associated teams (Professor Denys Turner, Yale and King's College London; Professor Walter Senner, Rome with his team; Professor Loris Sturlese, Lecce with his team; Professor Dietmar Mieth, Erfurt with his team and the Max-Weber-Kolleg, Erfurt). The project teams intend to rewrite the history of this time, broadening the textual basis for Eckhart and reading his texts against the background of other, largely unexplored scholars of his time.

That's a lot of money for a medieval philosophy project. I dare say if one were to check the NEH website, one would find that this group has been funded more generously than the Richard Rufus of Cornwall project or the Scotus Parisian Reports project. Note, there is a PhD "Studentship" available. I don't know what that is, exactly. Note also the big names associated with the project. Finally, note that the part at the end about rewriting the history of early 14th c. philosophy (my own favorite sub-sub-subfield)

Here's some more from higher up on the same page, where they talk some more about rewriting history, and some re-discovered questions of Eckhart:

Although the re-discovered Questions are already worth a detailed study, the source from where the four derive will shed further light on these questions: The manuscript Vat. Lat. 1086 ranks as a document of crucial importance which will help us understand the development of philosophical, theological and juridicial teaching at Paris in the beginning XIVth century. Prosper's collection contains names and opinions of students, bachelors and masters (regents) of the university and preserves the documentation of a detailed insight into the atmosphere of learning of this European cultural centre as no other document does. For many of the named people, this will be a first scholarly study of their bio-bibliography and their thinking.

Here just a few examples of people who's questions are contained in Ms. Vat. Lat. 1086 :
Prosper, Jacques d'Ascoli, Gregoire de Lucques, John de Monte s. Elygii, Gregoire de Lucques, Henricus (de Gand?), Gilles de Rome, Aegidius Romanus, Simon de Corbeia?, Bertrand de Turre, Gerardus de s. Victore, Gregoire de Lucques, Pe de sto dyo, Henricus Amandi, Jean de Pouilly (142ra1), Jean, de l'ordre du Val des Ecoliers?, Martin d' Abbeville, François Caraccioli or de Caroccis di Napoli, Brito: Raoul Renaud, Gui Terreni or de Perpignan, Durandus, Thomas de Aquino ...

[of course, for most in the list they give, there already are bio-bibliographical studies and texts published; interestingly, they make no mention of the previous detailed studies of this ms. by Courtenay and Glorieux. But it is just a webpage blurb, after all]

Only after a few monhs into the running of the project - Eckhart's new Questions have already been published in the authoritative critical edition of his works with Kohlhammer under the research associate's pen of Professor Loris Sturlese. And in the near future, the first fascicle of the indices for the entire Deutsche and Lateinische Werke of Meister Eckhart will follow (authored by Professor Markus Vinzent).

As a next step, the project will provide a critical commentary of Eckhart's Parisian Questions together with further studies on those colleagues of him with whom he debated at Paris University and elsewhere, taking into account Vat. Lat. 1086 and other parallel manuscripts, in order to read Eckhart against the background of the network of University teachers in Paris and elsewhere.

Hmm... no mention of Gonsalvus Hispanus, Eckhart's opponent in a famous debate at Paris ca. 1300. Also, they don't mention Scotus, no doubt because Scotus and Eckhart scholarship are worlds to themselves, but they were in Paris at the same time. Surely there is some point of comparison? I see in their translation there is one on the attributes, but it doesn't seem to have anything useful, being mainly what seems to me a restatement of some of Godfrey of Fontaines' principles.

Don't forget to check out the giftshop!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Festum Ioannis Duns Scoti

Domine Deus, fons omnis sapientiae, qui Beatum Ioannem presbyterum, Immaculatae Virginis assertorem, nobis magistrum vitae et scientiae dedisti, concede, quaesumus, ut, eius exemplo illuminati, et doctrinis nutria, Christo fideliter adhaereamus. Qui tecum vivit. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scotus on the Transcendentals

From Reportatio I d. 8 [p. 2 q. 5], ed. and tr. Wolter-Bychkov I, 574.

I respond: I say that those things are transcendentals, not in the genus of substance, nor quantity, nor quality, nor any other genus, because whatever is said of God transcends [categories]. Of this there is a proof, for whatever pertains to a being before it descends into the ten categories transcends [them]; but whatever pertains to God is such; therefore etc. The minor is proved: because being is first divided into finite and infinite before it is divided into the ten categories; because only one of them, i.e. finite is divided into the ten categories. And so it is about the other conditions of being, namely possible being, necessary being, and act, which first pertain to being, so that being is first divided through these and their opposites, before descending into the ten categories according to one of these.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

R.I.P. Barnaba Hechich

I was informed by word of mouth a few days ago that fr. Barnaba Hechich, who was the praeses for the Vatican Commission editing the works of Scotus through Ordinatio III and IV recently passed away. Requiescat in pace.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ordinatio Translations

I came across this link  of a webpage for a scholar who has translated several volumes of the Ordinatio (from the Vatican edition). There is also some other material of interest, such as Suarez, and Jerome of Montefortino, an 18th c. Scotist.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pope Francis on Thomism

The current pope recently had this to say about Thomism:

"The church has experienced times of brilliance, like that of Thomas Aquinas. But the church has lived also times of decline in its ability to think. For example, we must not confuse the genius of Thomas Aquinas with the age of decadent Thomist commentaries. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism. In thinking of the human being, therefore, the church should strive for genius and not for decadence."

Ouch! Even I, Scotist though I be, have spent many happy hours poring over Thomist manuals. I can only dream of such an education.

We might ask, why were they decadent? It is contrasted with "thinking of the human being", which perhaps means restricting ones' theologizing and philosophizing to human affairs and human nature. so no transcendental metaphysics, no seven-fold division of distinction? I'm not really sure. Of course, who would disagree that the church should strive for genius and not decadence?

Maybe this is the best response.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Final Volume of the Ordinatio Now Available!

The Vatican Commission has completed their edition of the Ordinatio. The final distinctions of book IV are now available from Quaracchi. But their website is broken. If you want to order, down load this  order form. For the first time that I have seen, we even have the option of ordering the volume in hardcopy!

Here is the publishers' information:

Ioannis Duns Scoti Opera Omnia studio et cura Commissionis Scotisticae ad fidem codicum edita, Tom. XIV (A. 114). - Ordinatio. Liber Quartus. Distinctiones 43-49, pp 441
 Città del Vaticano, 2013                  ISBN 978-88-7013-314-1

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Interview with Fabrizio Amerini

Here. An interesting interview with Fabrizio Amerini on his recently translated book, Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life. Thanks to one of our readers for sending it in.

A snippet:

Of course, medieval philosophy cannot be proposed again today exactly as it is, Amerini said.
“Even in Continental philosophy, modern philosophers tend to mock it. But in most cases this is the result of an oversimplification of it, or of the false conviction that medieval philosophy can be re-proposed today exactly as it is.”
On many occasions medieval philosophers anticipated (more or less exhaustively) modern theories in philosophy, he said. But medieval philosophers should not be regarded only as forerunners for modern philosophers.
“What is profitable for the current philosophical debates, I believe, is rather the method of medieval philosophy, the medieval thinkers’ philosophical scrupulousness, their almost obsessive attention to language and arguments. Their method may still be useful today, as a stimulus for improving our way of doing philosophy.
“As to the contents, of course, if one wanted to propose medieval philosophy again today, he or she would need to qualify it very carefully and compare it critically with the current philosophical and scientific models.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana

I'm usually the last to know about such things, but it has come to my attention that the Biblioteca Maletastiana at Cesena is being digitized. It contains mss. of works by Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus, Francis of Meyronnes, William of Ware, Alexander of Hales, etc. A list of the currently digitized ms. is here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Francis of Marchia Edition.

Here. This is the final volume of the edition of Book II of Francis of Marchia's Reportatio. I missed seeing it on the new shelf in the library, and so am late in reporting it. The date is 2012, though I don't think it came out until some point this year. This completes their edition of Book II. It clocks in with more than 300 pages of text and a 150 page introduction, with many tables (which I could not make much sense of, not because of the editors but because a toddler was yammering at me while I was trying to read).

Here is the blurb from the publisher's website:

In the questions contained in this volume, Francis of Marchia explores subjects that earned him his fame in the Middle Ages and in the history of ideas: physics and philosophical psychology. He confronts the key issues in celestial physics, concluding with his well-known proofs for terrestrial and celestial beings having the same type of matter (q. 32). Marchia's discussion of how elemental qualities persist in mixtures (qq. 33-36) leads to a spirited and unique defense of a mind-body dualism: not even the sensory faculties are coextensive with the body (q. 37). Moreover, each living being has two forms: the soul and the form of the body (q. 38). Marchia rejects the Averroistic doctrine of the unicity of the intellect (qq. 39-40), as well as acts of understanding being entirely the result of external stimuli (q. 41). Those positions in turn inform his investigation of the mechanics of thinking and willing, and his establishment of the will's priority over the intellect (qq. 42-47). Finally, Marchia balances human free willing with God's absolute power and cooperation in all matters (qq. 48-49).
Throughout these questions, Marchia shows his originality and sharp intellect. Although at times his solutions look similar to those of John Duns Scotus, they are in fact very different, reflecting Marchia's awareness of the problems and limitations involved in not only Scotus' views, but also those of Aristotle and Averroes, Thomas Aquinas and Henry of Ghent, among many others.

Friday, August 9, 2013

BnF Manuscripts

Go here for a list of the BnF manuscripts now available online. They look like scans from films to me, rather than from the mss. themselves, though I would love to be wrong.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Scotus the Spinozist

Here is an interesting historical tidbit that I don't believe I have posted on: the Kleutgen-Stockl model of medieval philosophy. They were mid-19th century Jesuits who developed the model of medieval philosophy that we all know and love today: all previous human philosophical endeavours lead up to the pinnacle of Aquinas, who was immediately followed by a catastrophic decline into filthy Scotism, Ockhamism, modernism, protestantism and so on. You can read all about it in John Inglis, Spheres of Philosophical Inquiry and the Historiography of Medieval Philosophy (Brill 1998). Here I post Inglis' summary of Kleutgen's judgement of Scotus.

Inglis, p. 97

Duns Scotus and his followers are termed "formalists" by Kleutgen because they fail to appreciate that physical things are more than mere forms. Kleutgen argues that since, for Scotus, the individualizing principle of any particular thing is yet another form, he does away with actual individual subjects, and in doing so abolishes the philosophical foundation that is necessary in order to distinguish between individuals. What we have in Scotus is, according to Kleutgen, an endless number of predicates with no subject to which they could adhere. Since the Scotists offer a view of forms without subjects, they must conclude that the entire world is a single subject. Even though Scotus and his followers do not claim to be pantheists, the logic of their view leads inevitably to the conclusion that all is one.

So one begins to understand why at the dawn of the 20th century, Scotists such as Parthenius Minges were compelled to write articles defending Scotus from the pantheist charge. Luckily he was successful in this, even if the general model of decline and fall remains.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mind, Metaphysics, and Value

I recently acquired a book edited by John Haldane called Mind, Metaphysics, and Value in the Thomistic and Analytical Traditions at the Notre Dame $5 booksale. I thought I would post controversial quotes from the volume from time to time, to generate combox controversy/discussion. Here's one to start out:

Fergus Kerr, "Aquinas after Wittgenstein," p. 1

Anthony Kenny once suggested that 'the points on which Aquinas differed from his medieval critics are precisely the points on which Wittegenstein, in his later philosophical writing, was at variance with positivist thought.' On several important issues, 'Aquinas was opposed by Scotus in a way remarkably similar to the way in which Wittgenstein was opposed to the positivists'.


...there are, on the other hand, four topics about which Aquinas and Wittgenstein may be regarded as being on the same side against Scotists and logical positivists respectively. Aquinas favoured analogy, Scotus believed in univocity. Wittgenstein deployed 'family likeness' over against verificationism. Scotus misunderstood Aristotelian hylomorphism; Wittgenstein mocked logical atomism. For Scotus the mind had direct knowledge of particulars; Wittgenstein attacked the notion of the primacy of ostensive definition. Finally, for Aquinas intellectual knowledge was an active process, whereas Scotus regarded it as receptive, like sense-perception; logical-positivist epistemology made a similar mistake, while Wittgenstein strove to elimante sense-datum theories.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scotism and Phenomenology

A snippet from an article the abstract of which I posted some time ago.

William E. Tullius, "Haecceitas as Value and as Moral Horizon: A Scotist Contribution to the Project of a Phenomenological Ethics", ACPQ 87 (2013), p. 462.

In this paper, I will argue that a phenomenological elucidation of the Scotist notion of haecceitas can further contribute to the development of the phenomenological ethical project, particularly in the way in which the individuality of one's personal essence can become thematic for us as a unique being representing a unique moral calling to each individual...
It is my hope that, through a phenomenological investigation of haecceitas, phenomenology might obtain a more complete articulation of its ethical insights,which are based so heavily in the problems of individuality. Scotus, having paved the way in philosophy for a cogent discussion of this theme, might be able to provide certain insights into the primal data of the phenomenon of individuality by reenacting the Scotist insight into the originary basis for the individuality of the person. At the same time, it is my hope that phenomenology will provide something of an expansion of the Scotist project into new fields of investigation, particularly the field of moral vocation.To that extent, this paper is attempting to make a concrete contribution to a growing body of literature that recognizes in Scotist thought a peculiar openness to phenomenological modes of investigation that would make of phenomenology itself a method of doing philosophy within which the Scotist tradition can readily find a home for the continuation of its philosophical research within a contemporary setting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Scotists in the News

The co-director of the Scotistic Commission of America is interviewed about the Pope's twitter account here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thomism After Vatican II

So apparently there is a "Renewal of Thomism" conference going on in DC right now. Here is a link to one of the papers, 'Thomism after Vatican II", by fr. T.J. White OP. I found it a very encouraging read, if it is representative of the younger Thomists. He expresses some interest in Aquinas' contemporaries, eschews the pratice of accusing all medieval thinkers save Aquinas of  Heideggerian ontotheology, and even argues that Thomism and Catholicism are not synonyms, that one can be the latter without being the former. Somewhere in the past few days I read a report of a conference in Prague devoted to Thomism that took place a few years ago; they said over 100 professors of Thomism where present. In light of that fact, and the encouraging sings in the linked paper, I think we can safely pronounce that Thomism has been renewed.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Boehner on Logic and the Decline of Scholasticism

Philotheus Boehner, Medieval Logic, 92-93:

Medieval Logic in its stage of maturity in the 14th century has become an essentially consequential logic. A consequential logic, however, is a highly formalistic logic.

Unfortunately, this peak of the development of medieval logic was reached at the beginning of a rapid decline of scholastic philosophy in general. To interpret this chronological coincidence as a causal relation, and to blame the high standard of 14th-century logic for the ruin of scholastic metaphysics, appears to us extremely ironical. We are not convinced that scholastic metaphysics has to be afraid of an inexorable logic. On the contrary, scholastic metaphysics, in contrast with modern metaphysical systems, has called for logical rigour and has always been averse to any kind of intuitionism. We are rather convinced that scholastic logic in the 14th century finally reached a stage by which it was in a condition to justify its basic metaphysical inferences. For it is a fact that the proofs of the existence of God developed during the Middle Ages, and definitely the proofs of St. Thomas, cannot be sufficiently developed and justified with a logic content with syllogistics. This has been shown by Salamucha as regards the first of the five ways of the Common Doctor. It was likewise stated already in the Middle Ages as regards the proof of the existence of God advanced by Scotus. Petrus Thomae, an immediate disciple of the Subtle Doctor, expressly states that consequences holding in virtue of an extrinsic means, and hence not reducible to syllogisms, are used the construction of his proof.

Historically speaking, then, medieval logic had finally caught up with metaphysics, when, for well-known exterior reasons, a general decline of scientific culture began.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hackett on Scotus

Via Medievalists.net comes Hackett's article, "Duns Scotus: A Brief Introduction to his Life and Thought", Studies in Scottish Literature 26 (1991).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recent Work on Scotus

Two recent publications on Scotus have come to my attention, both written out of the continental perspective. The first is Cynthia Nielsen, Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom.

From amazon:

Through examining Douglass's and Fanon's concrete experiences of oppression, Cynthia R. Nielsen demonstrates the empirical validity of Foucault's theoretical analyses concerning power, resistance, and subject-formation. Going beyond merely confirming Foucault's insights, Douglass and Fanon expand, strengthen, and offer correctives to the emancipatory dimensions of Foucault's project. Unlike Foucault, Douglass and Fanon were not hesitant to make transhistorical judgments condemning slavery and colonization. Foucault's reticence here signals a weakness in his account of human being. This weakness sets him at cross-purposes not only with Scotus, but also with Douglass and Fanon. Scotus's anthropology provides a basis for transhistorical moral critique; thus he is a valuable dialogue partner for those concerned about social justice and human flourishing.

The second is from the summer issue of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. William E. Tullius, "Haecceitas as Value and as Moral Horizon - A Scotist Contribution to the Project of a Phenomenological Ethics."


This paper seeks to provide a phenomenological articulation of the Scotist notion of haecceitas, interpreting Scotus’s principle of individuation at once as an ontological as well as a moral principle. Growing out of certain suggestions made by James Hart in his Who One Is, this interpretation is meant to provide the phenomenological ethics of both Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler with a useful theoretical tool in the Scotist notion of haecceitas interpreted as a horizon of value in order more fully to develop the phenomenological idea of the ethical life as a task that specifically seeks to realize as its highest goal the vocation of the person to his or her ideal, true self. The main implication of Scotus’s thought, here, for phenomenology will be the ability to further delimit haecceitas as an objective moral principle that refutes the frequent charge of relativistic subjectivism in the phenomenological theory of ethics.

Also, an important recent article by Richard Cross, "Duns Scotus and Analogy: A Brief Note" in The Modern Schoolman 89 (2012).


Duns Scotus defends the view that we can speak univocally of God and creatures. When we do so, we use words in the same sense in the two cases. Scotus maintains that the concepts that these univocal words signify are themselves univocal: the same concept in the two cases. In this paper, I consider a related question: does Duns Scotus have the notion of analogous concepts—concepts whose relation to each other lies somewhere between the univocal and the equivocal? Using some neglected texts from Scotus’s attempt to refute Henry of Ghent’s rejection of univocity, I argue that he does, and that he uses his account of univocity to ground the relation of analogy between two concepts. According to Scotus, analogous concepts are compositional, and overlap at a univocal concept. 

From the same issue and journal as Richard Cross's article is Giorgio Pini,  "Scotus on Hell".


The existence of everlasting punishment has sometimes been thought to be incompatible with God’s goodness and omnipotence. John Duns Scotus focused on the key issue concerning everlasting punishment, i.e., the impossibility for the damned to repent of their evil deeds and so to obtain forgiveness. Scotus’s claim was that such an impossibility is not logical but nomological, i.e., it depends on the rules God established to govern the world, specifically on what I call ‘the rule of the permanence of the last volition.’ Scotus does not try to defend God’s decision to implement the rule of the permanence of the last volition. I suggest, however, that that decision can be taken as an indication of God’s preference for a world where this life is given unique value as the only test rational creatures have to prove themselves as moral agents.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Scotus and the Supertranscendentals

The supertranscendentals are typically discussed in conjunction with early modern or "Baroque" scholasticism. Examples of these would be the intelligible or the imaginable, and are terms that are supposed to be univocally common between real, extra mental being (esse reale) and being of reason (ens rationis, esse intentionale, esse diminutum, etc.). If one were to hold these, one might be able to overcome the mind/world dialectic that is common in modern thought, for the supertranscendentals seem to break down the barriers a bit. Anyway, the Scotists have been known for denying them. The fourteenth century scotist Nicolaus Bonetus held them in a qualified sense, apparently, but he was the only one. Scotus, in the passages I will quote below, denies that anything can be common between real being and being of reason. He was later criticized for this by Auriol, who claimed this was inconsistent with Scotus' arguments for univocity. Scotus was later defended from these charges by Peter Thomae in QQ. de ente q. 15. The basic idea that Scotus defends in the following passages is that univocal community is between various real beings or (presumably) between various rational beings, but not between a real being and a rational being. Such a concept would refer to both something real and unreal at once, which Scotus thinks is impossible.

Scotus, Rep. IA d. 29 a. 2 (ed Wolter-Bychkov II, p. 238-9, translation by WB, modified):

For this reason, if one says that a relation of reason does not belong to the genus of relation, it is possible to say, consequently, that no one concept of first intention is univocally common to a conceptual relation(=relation of reason) and a real relation. Perhaps, the only exception would be a common concept of the most general kind: although even this concept is not common to a conceptual and a real relation, because that which is a certain way in a qualified sense, does not share the same notion with that which is such in an unqualified sense-precisely because that is such in a qualified sense, and not simply. I add this to account for the notion of health, which is predicated both of urine and of the animal: of the former in a qualified sense, and of the latter in an unqualified sense. Certainly, under a totally different aspect it is possible to predicate something of the same sort of these [two things]: this is clear because both are qualities, for although color in urine is health [only] in a qualified sense (because it is only representative [of health]), it is a quality in an unqualified sense, just as health is a quality. However, insofar as color in urine is health in a qualified sense, there is nothing of the same sort [that is] predicated of this [sort of health] and of health in an animal, because the latter is such in an unqualifed sense. Likewise, because a conceptual relation is a relation in a qualified sense (for [it exists] through a relational act of the intellect, which is a diminution of being), it seems that there is no concept that is common to, on the one hand essential principles, and on the other hand personal or notional principles.

ad arg. princ. 2 (WB 243-4):

Indeed, no one concept of the same sort corresponds to a real relation and a conceptual relation, because, although it is possible to abstract one univocal concept from God and the creature, yet it is not [possible to abstract one] from a conceptual thing and a real thing. Indeed, the concept abstracted from God and the creature would [refer to something] real on the part of both [God and the creature] and thus would be of the same sort. However, it is not so regarding [abstracting something] from conceptual being and real being, because on the part of one of the sides [the concept] would [refer to something] real, and on the part of the other side not, but only [to something] conceptual. For the division of being into real being and conceptual being is more general and fundamental than its division into created being and uncreated being, because real being, as one of the members of the former division, is common to both members of the latter division, i.e. to both created and uncreated being, for either [of these] is  real being, and thus there is more convergence between them under the aspect of one concept.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Burley on the Supertranscendentals

I posted this on facebook but it generated nary a reply, not even a 'like'. So here it is for my loyal readers. It is often stated that the earliest thinkers to endorse (even if in a qualified way) the supertranscendentals was Nicolaus Bonetus. But, in a moment of distraction I was flipping through one of Burley's early works, the De puritate artis logicae, from the early 1320's. I suppose I should keep to this myself and hunt through his other works to see if he develops it and then write it up as an article, but here it is anyway.

Burley, De puritate, p. 59:

Ad secundum dico, quod ens potest accipi tripliciter. Uno modo ut est maxime transcendens et commune omni intelligibili. Et sic est adaequatum obiectum intellectus.
To the second [objection] I say that being can be understood in three ways. In one way as it is maximally transcendental et common to every intelligible.

To be sure, this is just a hint. But one of the supertranscendentals is the intelligible, which is common to being of reason and real being.

I intend to post on Scotus and the supertranscendentals in a few days.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is"

In the most recent post by Faber, a number of interesting suggestions were made for possible discussion. One of them was by "Johannes":

It would be interesting to see a post on how Scotism can accomodate the message of a well-known private revelation which was even quoted by JP_II in his catechesis of August 7, 1985.

In his Life of Catherine of Siena, Bl Raymond of Capua records what St Catherine (1347-1380) had often told him Christ taught her when He first began appearing to her:

"Do you know, daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you have beatitude in your grasp. You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is. Let your soul but become penetrated with this truth, and the Enemy can never lead you astray; you will never be caught in any snare of his, nor ever transgress any commandment of mine; you will have set your feet on the royal road which leads to the fulness of grace, and truth, and light." (Life, no. 92. Original: "Tu sei colei che non è; Io sono Colui che è.")

In my view, "You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is." fits much better with the thomist philosophical framework than with the scotist. Because it shows unequivocally that "being" in us and in God must be understood analogically, not univocally.

From another angle, the key difference between us and God is that we are something of which "to be" is not part, i.e. "to be" is not part of our essence. But clearly we have an essence, therefore existence and essence are really distinct. In contrast, God's essence is "to be", therefore God's essence is his own (unreceived, unlimited and eternal) act of being.

I responded in the comments with what I meant to be a quick note, but which turned long enough for a post of its own, so I reproduce it here:

First, of course, Scotism doesn't really need to accommodate a private revelation as such, even an approved one, but the data of faith. That being said, the notion Johannes brings up ("You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is.") is a very common one and isn't at all in conflict with Scotus' thought.

It's important not to look at a theological or philosophical difference with Thomism and conclude that, since the Thomistic distinctions are not deployed, there's no way to accomplish what they accomplish. You have to look at Scotus' thought itself and see whether it conflicts with the datum explanandum.

Much of the "work" that Thomas accomplishes with the real distinction between being and essence is accomplished by Scotus through the deployment of the concept of intrinsic modes. God is being, and has being under the aspects of all the coextensive transcendentals; after that his most salient property is radical infinity. Everything but God is finite; in his infinity God is utterly, radically, supereminently other than every other being. Moreover there is no commensurability between the finite and the intensively actual infinite; by comparison with infinite being every finite being is, so to speak, equally infinitely deficient. We could say that the incommensurability is so great that next to infinite being every finite being is nil - I think Scotus would say, however, that this is true only metaphorically.

So we can see that the same "work" is performed; the radical otherness and distance between Creator and creature is preserved; but not using the same distinctions, because for Scotus the Thomist ones are ultimately incoherent. Whether he's right about that or not, however, has little bearing on whether his own system of thought achieves the same result.

From another angle, the key difference between us and God is that we are something of which "to be" is not part, i.e. "to be" is not part of our essence. But clearly we have an essence, therefore existence and essence are really distinct.

Again, Scotus accomplishes the same end but by using a different set of conceptual tools. For him as for the Franciscan tradition commonly, the real distinction between essence and existence contains an incoherence, because a real distinction implies that one or both of the distincta can exist without the other; but the essence can't exist without having existence, and the existence of an essence can't exist without existing under that essence. So neither essence nor existence has real being without the other; so they are not really distinct.

However, the difference between Creator and creature is preserved in another (hopefully more coherent) form, by adverting to the radical contingency of the creature on the one hand and the radical necessity of the Creator on the other. Contingent being by definition is utterly dependent on another and is open to both being and non-being, receiving being only thanks to the intellect and will of some being which is utterly non-contingent. It's just that the act of creation isn't conceived of as taking some vessel of essence and filling it up or infusing it with an act of existence. The becoming of the essence into real being is just its becoming existent.

Another way to say this is to agree with the Thomist that ""to be" is not part of our essence", but on the other hand to deny that "to be" is part of the divine essence, because a) the divine essence has no parts, and b) "to be" is not the sort of thing that can be the content of a quidditative ratio. What we would say instead is that the divine essence is such that it can only exist under the modes of infinity and necessity, while every finite essence is such that it can only exist under the modes of finitude and contingency.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


If there is anything anyone would like to see here, post it in the combox below. I am perfectly content to keep posting mysterious quotes that generate no comments, but I am willing to make concessions to our readers once in a while (the Gonsalvus post was at the behest of "credo"). I received an email from "awatkins69" some time ago about doing a post on Scotus and Molinism, which I will start thinking about. But let me know if there is something else you would like to see.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gonsalvus Hispanus on the Principle 'Everything that is Moved is Moved by Another'

Gonsalvus Hispanus was the Franciscan regent master while Scotus was lecturing on the Sentences at Paris ca. 1302-4 and who recommended him for promotion. Scotus apparently even shows up in some of Gonsalvus' disputes, which I am currently reading.  Here is the description from the 'Franciscan Authors' website:

Gonsalvus Hispanus de Balboa (ca. 1255, Galicia - 13. 04, 1313, Paris)
Theologian and minister general. Studied theology in Paris and became baccalaureus sententiarum in 1288. Provincial minister of Santiago. Master of theology in Paris, ca. 1297. Regent master in the general studium of Paris (1302-1303). Became minister general in 1304. Active as a reformer of the order: promotion of studies, and suppression of the spirituals. Active in the council of Vienna.

Here I have translated some comments on the principle 'omne quod movetur ab alio movetur' which figures in Aquinas' first proof for the existence of God.

Gonsalvus, QQ disputatae, q. 2-3, ad arg. princ. 5 (BFS IX, 28, 47):

[arg. princ. 5] Again, it also seems unfitting on account of some particular; if we do not know to avoid it, we ought not to deny a principle known per se, of the sort whichs that nothing at once is in  act and in potency with respect to the same.


To the fifth, that it is not a principle that everything that is moved is moved by another, because that is not a principle of which there is a doubt concerning a particular, nor is it manifest to sense. So it is here, because it is certain that heavy things are moved; by what, however, they are moved, whether by themselves or by another, is doubtful, nor is it manifest to sense.
Again, Thomas, in IaIIae denies that principle, saying that the will in act moves itself through the end (per finem) to those things which are for the end.
Again, it is a principle among the philosophers that an accident is not without a subject. If therefore by Scripture it is implied that an accident is without a subject, as in the sacrament of hte altar, will we deny that principle? But will we deny scripture?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mastrius Volumes for Sale

On Amazon. They are print-on-demand, so most likely have been scanned from microfilm. You can't tell how well unless you buy one. I ILL'd a reprint of an 18th c. dispute on the formal distinction that showed up on amazon, and found that while most of it was readable, there were some completely unreadable pages. So be warned.

The reprint company is Nabu Press, regarding which see here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Metaphysics as the First and Easiest Science

More from Nicolaus Bonetus. I was alerted to this passage by Wouter Goris' article, "After Scotus: Dispersions of Metaphysics, of the Scope of Intelligibility, and of the Transcendental in the Early 14th Century," in Quaestio 8 (2008), 139-157.

Nicolaus Bonetus, Metaphysica II c. 6 (ed. Venezia 1505, f. 18rb-va [for convenience I quote from Goris, p.2):

Prima etiam est nostra metaphysica omni alia scientia primitate originis in ordine docendi [...]. Et si dicas: Aristoteles et alii philosophi multi ordinaverunt et nobis tradiderunt metaphysicam et eam ultimo docuerunt, respondeo tibi quod in metaphysica Aristotelis non sunt pure metaphysicalia tradita, sed sunt ibi multa theologica de substantiis separatis et de intelligentiis quod sunt multum alta et difficilllima; et ideo ultima est ratione illorum et in ordine inveniendi et in ordine docendi. Sed si non essent ibi nisi pure metaphysicalia, sicut in nostra metaphysica in qua non probabuntur nisi pure metaphysicalia praedicata cum ente in quantum ens convertibilia, ipsa esset prima in ordine inveniendi et in ordine docendi, sicut est nostra quam primo inveni quia eius subiectum primo ante alia subiecta scibilia distincte cognovi. Et ideo primo ante omnes alias scientias istam metaphysicam trado tibi, ut eam primo audias et eam primo studeas, quia inter alias ista est facillima ad addiscendum, cum subiectum eius, quod est ens in quantum ens, prima impressione imprimatur in intellectu.

My translation:

Our metaphysics is prior to every other science in the primacy of origin in the order of teaching. [...] And if you say: Aristotle and many other philosophers set in order and handed metaphysics down to us and taught it last, I respond to you that in the metaphysics of Aristotle not only purely metaphysical matters are handed down but there are there many theological matters about the separate substances and of the intelligences, which are most high and difficult; and therefore by reason of them [metaphysics] is last both in the order of discovery and in the order of teaching. But if there were only purely metaphysical issues treated there, just as in our metaphysics in which only pure metaphysical predicates [which are] convertible with being qua being are proved, it would be first in the order of discovery and in the order of teaching, just as is ours which I discovered first because I distinctly understood its subject before all other knowable subjects. And therefore I pass on that metaphysics to you first before all other sciences, so that you might hear it first and study it first, because among all others that [science] is the easiest to learn since its subject, which is being qua being, is impressed in the intellect by a first impression.

Lecture: 'Aquinas between East and West'

I came across a lecture, here, by Dr. Marcus Plested entitled "Aquinas between East and West" that should interest our readers. Note that according to some Orthodox thinkers, Aquinas is the cause of general cultural and societal decline, as well as of the Reformation.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Fight" Philosophy

While trolling the internet looking for Thomists, I came across the following bit of Youtube awesomeness:  Fight Philosophy: James Chastek (Aquinas) vs. Lee Faber (Scotus)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Scotus on Whether God can be named by a Wayfarer

Rep. I d. 22 q. un. (trans. Wolter/Bychkov II, p. 11 ff., slightly modified)

I reply to the question, then, that it is possible for the pilgrim to assign some name in order to signify distinctly the essence of God in itself, even though he may not know that [essence]. Now whether this is actually the case or not, I do not doubt that he [at least] can use a name given by himself or someone else for the purpose of expressing such an essence distinctly. For we do use many names given by God or the angels, as well as by us, in order to express or signify distinctly something in itself, e.g., God or other things.


But if the question is understood in the senes of referring to the person to whom I address a name, I say that just as I intend to express distinctly that essence of God in itself through that name, so he intends to conceive it through that name, although neither I who use it, nor he to whom I address it, could understand distinctly that essence that I intend to express distinctly in this manner, with him [subsequently intending] to use the name thus expressed in this way. Nor is this to be wondered at. For we talk the whole day trying to distinguish the essence as it is in itself from the relations and attribute perfections, [saying] that it is an abyss and a sea of infinite substance. Now whatever, considered in itself, can be distinguished from everything else in this way can, for example, be called a, and afterwards we use this [appellation.]

But is it possible, in the case if God is expressed distinctly through some name, for a pilgrim to have or express some distinct concept about him as he is in himself, by means of which [the pilgrim] could understand or comprehend [God]?

Response: I say that it is not, because nothing moves the intellect of the pilgrim naturally in his present state to [produce] a distinct notion or concept of something, except if the latter's sense image [in the imagination], together with the agent intellect, can become the sufficient causes that move the possible intellect to [produce] such concepts, because such a concept only depends upon these [images] as its causes. But those things of which there cannot be a sense image cannot, in conjunction with the agent intellect, move the possible intellect to a distinct and perfect knowledge of them, but only to common and general concepts that apply indifferently to them and other things. Now God has no [corresponding] sense image, because he is not a body nor is informed by accidents, and therefore he cannot move the intellect of the pilgrim to have some distinct concept of him, but only to [produce] common and general concepts that apply indifferently to him and other things. Therefore, as we know him, we can have no concept distinct from [concepts of] other things to express [God ] as he is in himself.

Also, in our experience, we do not form some irreducibly simple concept of God thorugh which we could distinguish God from 'not God,' because in this way we would know him in his entirety [already] in this life. [...] if God were known bu us in his entirety, he would not be known [to us] in compound common concepts [put together by joining simple concepts] with one another, e.g. under the notion of an infinite being [or] a purest infinite act. Such concepts, which we can have about God in this life, are more specific and more proper, and nevertheless any such concept is resolvable into prior notions that are simple, common, and not proper to God. This is evident in the case of 'infinite being' [or] 'first principle', because the first is resolvable into entity and infinity, the second into primacy and origination, which are prior to the compound ones.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Book

Daniel D. Novotny, Ens rationis from Suarez to Caramuel: A Study in Scholasticim of the Baroque Era. See here for the amazon page. Looks like a good read. No mention of Petrus Thomae (who did show up in the Mastri volume that came out of Prague), but after all it is a book on Suarez and his contemporaries.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Scotus as Underrated Philosopher


An excerpt:

Which brings me to his greatest philosophical achievement: the only proof of God’s existence I’ve ever seen worth the name. Sure, there are others like Pascal and Kierkegaard who write great arguments for believing in God, but to make a good argument that the Big Honkin’ Omnieverything that’s not respectable for someone who reads Simone de Beauvoir to think exists really does exist, and it does all the things a BHOe should do…well, that’s impressive.** Sure, it takes him 70 pages to do it, which is 69 more than most intro philosophy courses think Scholastic Godproofs should get, but what you get out of them…
It’s one thing to write a Godproof that logically works, getting you from premises to some conclusion. It’s another thing entirely to write one that’s so compelling, such a brilliant work of the intellect, that it forces you to agree with it, even if you’re suspicious of Godproofs on general principle.
And so the proof puts along in its rather disorganized and cosmological fashion, showing the triple primacy, that Aquinas’s five ways are really three ways, and then can be shown to be, in the end, synonymous (and thus referring to the same being, rather than five different beings), that this triple primacy does God things, and that Anselm’s ontological argument can be saved.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Francis of Marchia's Metaphysics

According to the Quarrachi website, Francis of Marchia's Commentary on the Metaphysics is now available for 90 euros. Marchia is one of the many cogs in the wheel of ontotheology, for he was the first to distinguish between special and general metaphysics, which, as we all know, is eeeeeeeeviiiiiiiil. The editor is N. Mariani, who has come under criticism in the past (for among other things, publishing two questions from Scotus' Reportatio as Francis of Marchia's Quodlibet). I saw an announcement by the team publishing through Leuven a while back and it appears that they are also doing an edition of this, so we may have duelling editions one day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Medievalists get some Props!

Some words of praise and appreciation for editors of medieval philosophical texts, here.

Scotus on Baptism of Jews and Muslims

Our BFF blog "laodicea" has recalled to everyone's memory Scotus' comments on forcible baptism of Jewish and Muslim children and points out it has been criticized by a pope. Here. I too have posted on this issue. Here (sorry, can't find it; it was years ago). It also came up in our discussion with Mark Wauk, here. And also David Lantigua discusses it here. There is currently a scholar from Brazil researching early modern scholasticism in latin America at Notre Dame who told me randomly the other day that the passage in question was widely misinterpreted. For what that's worth.

I quote Laodicea's post and comment below.

“Scotus in book 4 [of his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard], dist. 4, q. 9, no.2, and in questions related to no. 2, thought that a prince could laudably command that small children of Hebrews and unbelievers be baptised, even against the will of the parents, provided one could prudently see to it that these same children were not killed by the parents…. Nevertheless, the opinion of St Thomas prevailed… it is unlawful to baptise Hebrew children against the will of their parents” – Postremo mense Benedict XIV

Comment: Great. Thank's for sharing. I was unaware of this text and I am glad to learn of it. I don't think anyone today would follow Scotus on this point. It's hard to blame Scotus, however, for as the Thomists of the Strict Observance inform us, it is impossible to understand the meaning of the terms used in theology unless one uses them as St. Thomas did (which is why all Thomists everywhere agree on what every text of St. Thomas means and certainly never write articles about how the entire Thomist tradition up to them has misinterpreted a fundamental point of St. Thomas).

One question: what is the deal with the ellipses? They are also present in the latin text on the Vatican website.

Benedict XIV goes on to say this does not apply if the child is abandoned or in danger of death. It is interesting that Scotus should have held this objectionable opinion given the connection Benedict XVI drew in his Regensburg Lecture between Scotism and religious violence.

“In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.”
Comment: Not to beat a retired horse, but come on! First an exegetical point: Laodicea says that there is a connection between "Scotism" and religious violence. But all Benedict XVI says is that "there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments...". He doesn't say Scotists.

So what is a Scotist? The normal "narrative" here (and why is it that all Thomists become relativists when it comes to history and historical "narratives"?) is that Scotus leads to Ockham who makes the potentia absoluta/ordinata distinction a central feature of his thought, which then leads to protestantism, modernism, war, abortion, murder, nuclear war, and certainly nothing good like increased quality of life via advanced medical care or pepparoni pizza. But is Ockham really a Scotist? This would mean everyone who disagrees with someone is really a follower of that person. So I would be a Lutheran and a Kantian (as well as being a Thomist and a Laodiceist!). Ockham disagrees with Scotus on almost every point. But he was influenced unconsciously by him you say. Fine. But then Scotus was influenced by Henry, making him really a Henrician and not a Scotist, and Henry was influenced by Thomas, which makes him a Thomist, which places the blame for Ockham at St. Thomas' door (narratives are problematic for a variety of reasons, not just their relativism).

Laodicea is also shifting emphasis here from a particular censure of a Scotist opinion to a general false association with "Scotism" and violence. But it's a blog post, so we can let our present comments suffice.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


As is well known, the two main doctrines in which the contemporary postmodern theological homogeneous hegemony faults Scotus are analogy and participation. I have responded to these charges in the "fundamental positions" series. Scotus is not interested in Thomistic analogy at all, but rather Henrician. His discussion is on the order of concepts, not reality. The Thomists, nouvelle theologists, Cambridge phantasists, Balthasarians and other hegemonists assume Scotus affirms univocity in the same sense that Aquinas rejects it. As for participation, it just never comes up. Scotus seems to just assume it's true on the "real", that is extramental, level.

Now the above-mentioned crowd (which includes Brad Gregory, who teaches at the premier American Catholic university and who - the rumor has it - has been promoted to a position of even higher prestige) generally takes Ockham as the logical development of Scotus' ideas. Which is a little strange doctrinally, as Ockham argues against Scotus all the time. Now maybe you might say, well, but he just takes things farther than Scotus was willing to go with 'potentia ordinata, absoluta' etc. Perhaps, perhaps, but then Scotus just goes farther than Aquinas is willing to go with the same distinction (this crowd never gives an explanation of how Scotus' use of potentia ordinata/absoluta is bad but Aquinas' use is good). But a far more likely guide to the "inheritance" if you will of Scotus is the (ahem) Scotist school (yes yes, debate over medieval schools is intractable, but there was a self-conscious Scotist school by 1320, the year of Pierre Roget' and Francis of Meyronnes' debate). I've started some preliminary research on F. of M.'s views on analogy and participation, and will report more on him later. (in the meantime, see this earlier post).

But another character springs to mind, the inestimable Petrus Thomae. I have been laboriously editing his QQ. de ente for the past three years (there are hundreds of isolated accidents per ms. per question). This work is probably the first independent treatise on the transcendentals ever written (depending on how one balances the relative chronologies of Peter thomae and Francis of Meyronnes, who also wrote a Tractatus de transcendentibus). Whether or not it was the first, it certainly is the longest. Francis of Meyronnes and John de Prato both weigh in at under 100 pages, while Petrus thomae's work is ca. 600. And what are the contents? Lengthy discussion of early 14th century critics of Scotus, massive quotations and discussion of the entire previous tradition concerning univocity and analogy, from Aristotle, Boethius and their commentators up through arabic philosophy to early 13th century authors such as Grosseteste, and yes, Aquinas.  Significantly for my present musings, Peter is all for the analogy of being (he has ten or twelve grades of analogy) as well as participation.

So perhaps Scotus' legacy consists in more rigorous versions of analogy and participation?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More on Postmodernism

A great example of the "narrative" of Scotus' ruination of the world:

Joseph M. de Torre,  "Thomism and Postmodernism", in Postmodernism and Christian Philosophy, 248.

From the nominalism and voluntarism of William of Ockham (1300-1350), already adumbrated by the formalism of Duns Scotus (1266-1308), to the skepticism of Montaigne (1533-1592) and Francisco Sanchez (1522-1623), there was a logical development, aided by the so-called religious wars occasioned by Protestantism and, in the previous century, by the Hussite revolt in Bohemia as well as the lingering conflict with the Moslem Turks. The attention of philosophers was diverted to politics, economics and experimental sciences with the consequent weakening in metaphysical insights.

No footnotes or proof of any kind is offered. It is a rather hysterical tirade about how all Thomists before the 20th century were infected with Scotus' "formalism" and "essentialism" and how we must all return to the actus essendi to redeem the world. Oh well, what do you expect from a conference paper delivered at the top-secret invitation-only Maritain conferences at Notre Dame? I only post this as the best summary of the narrative of the decline of philosophy that began the instant someone first criticized Thomas Aquinas.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What is a Formality IV: Franciscus de Mayronis

For the previous posts in the series, see Petrus Thomae, Antonius Andreas, Nicolaus Bonetus. Today I am translating a question from Francis of Meyronnes, the French Scotist known as the Princeps Scotistarum in later ages. I haven't looked much into his commentaries on the Sentences, but apparently there are some three versions. He initially lectured at Paris in 1320, [a bunch of stuff then happened, before, voila] a final version known as the Conflatus appeared and was later printed several times. He died ca. 1328. For more information see the "Franciscan authors" website. What follows is only a translation, as the question is too long to type out in Latin in full.

Conflatus I d. 8 q. 5 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 48vb-49ra):

...Therefore I say that some distinction between the formal rationes or formalities and realities must be posited necessarily, and not as between formality and formality but as between formality and intrinsic mode.

For the evidence of which it must be known first what a formality is, second what an intrinsic mode is.

As far as the first, 'what a formality is', some [people] say that 'formality' is said from 'form', just as materiality is said from matter. And therefore some [people] say that there cannot be many formalities without many forms, just as neither many materialities without many matters.

Against this: that is a very coarse[grossa] and asinine imagination, which is clear from two reasons. First thus: because just as formality is said from form, so 'essential' from 'essence'. We, however, posit in the divine being many essential features, and nevertheless there are not there many essences, as is clear expressly through Blessed Dionysius cap. 3 De unica et discreta theologia. Therefore neither does a multitude of forms follow upon the position of many formal rationes as you say.

Second, because in the person of the Father in the divine being are posited many personal features, namely ungenerated, paternity, active spiration, all of which are personal features and nevertheless the person of the Father is single(unica); therefore, etc.

Furthermore, many material things, according to the ones speaking commonly, are posited in one composite, namely many material accidents; and nevertheless many matters are not posited there; so in man many human features, not nevertheless unless one man.

Therefore others say that formalities are real rationes which are posited in the same simple thing.

Against this: first because formalities are not only posited in simple things but also in composites, according to the ones positing the formalities. Therefore that is not a good description. Second because not all formalities are real, for man in potency has a formality and nevertheless not a reality. Likewise beings of reason have formalities but not realities.

Therefore others say that those formalities are certain modalities.

Against this: for the ones positing them divide them against modes. Second because modes are not able to be first in beings, because a mode is always posterior to that of which it is a mode; but formalities are posited simply first in beings, for the ratio of entity is a certain formality and the ratio of deity, which  are absolutely prior to all others.

Therefore others say that formalities are definitive rationes, for the definitive ratio of each one is called formal and it is clear that it is a formality.

Against this doubly: first because the categories are not definable, becasue they are absolutely simple  and nevertheless they have formalities by which they are formally distinguished [from each other]. Second because the ratio of being and ratio of deity are posited as formalities and nevertheless they cannot be defined because every definition is given through prior [features, such as genus and difference]; but than these [categories] nothing is prior.

I say therefore that a formality is a quiddity of each thing haveing a quiddity whether it is definable or not, because the formal ratio of each thing is that which is present in [inest] it in the first mode of predicating per se; such however are all quidditative [features, aspects].

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Resurrection of the Body

The favorite objection used to be that if a man was eaten by cannibals, there would be certain particles of matter which would belong both to the cannibal and to the victim of the experiment. And it has often been pointed out that, even in civilized countries, we may find ourselves eating mutton that comes from a sheep which has been browsing in the churchyard, and so the same difficulty arises in a rather more circuitous way. And, while arguments like these have suggested to irreverent minds the possibility that there will not be enough bodies to go round, so to speak, on the day of judgement, it is equally easy to suggest that there will be too many bodies going about; because after all you and I change, even in the course of a single year, nearly all the material particles which go to make up our bodies, so that it would be very hard to know which of a series of material bodies we are going to rise with. Sceptical difficulties like these have led some Catholic thinkers to suggest - and I understand that it is an allowable position - that the identity between the earthly and the heavenly body is formal, rather than material; depends upon the persistence, not of actual material particles, but of the form which organized them. The trouble about that is that if you are a good Thomist - if you are a Scotist, I fancy you get out of it, somehow - you hold that the from which organizes our material bodies is nothing other than the soul . . . and it is difficult to see how or why the re-embodies soul in heaven differs from the disembodied soul in purgatory.

For this reason, the more cautious among Catholic authors are content to point out that we needn't insist on the necessity of reassembling every individual particle of the terrestrial body in heaven. Part will do: and, precisely in view of the large number of transformations which our body has been through, it ought to be possible to make good any losses through cannibalism. I confess that I find it a little difficult to frame my mind with confidence into this particular type of orthodoxy. I should prefer to think that, without meddling with any controversies between Thomists and Scotists, we can take refuge here in our ignorance. [...]

- Ronald Knox, "The Resurrection of the Body", in The Hidden Stream

Monday, March 4, 2013

Books Received: Promptuarium Scoticum

I recently received some beautiful volumes in the mail.  At one point they were for sale here, though I don't see them there now. Anyway, photos below. They are part of a series of reprints, for a series called Scripta Scotsitica Antiqua. (What a great idea!) They claim that they will eventually add several other volumes to the series, such as some of the works of Mastrius and other early modern Scotists. I for for one look forward to that day, as there is nothing more irritating than reading Mastri in the grainy scans one finds on the web. 

The volume I was sent is a reprint of an index by Carolus Franciscus de Varesio and is found in two volumes, reprinted by the Seminarium Theologicum Immaculata Mediatrix.

There is an English introduction by fr. Peter maria Fehlner, F.I.,  from which I will reproduce some snippets.

The goal of this series is to make accessible once again to the general public, particularly that public interested in the study of Bl. John Duns Scotus, the now virtually inaccessible published works of those disciples of Scotus in times past, before the suppression of the many and influential university centres dedicated to the study and promotion of Scotus in the Church and in the world. These works, in fact, constitute a kind of on-going witness to the mind of the historic Scotus and not a Scotus recycled according to the exigencies of current intellectual fashions. Hence, these ancient works are in fact the only adequate objective standard for discerning in modern reconstructions of Scotus' thought what is historically valid, and what is merely reinterpretation to adapt the subtte Doctor to current intellectual fashions and so make him once again "acceptable" in the halls of academe.

These works are for the most part fruit of the systematic, intense, continuous and in large part interacting scholastic activities of those many centres of scotistic study throughout all parts of Europe up to the Protestant reformation, and thereafter to the French Revolution and its aftermath in the 19th century throughout  most of Catholic Europe. The first components of these studia scotistica were present even before the premature death of Bl. John in Cologne, Nov. 8, 1308. Through the efforts of the first disciples formed by the Master himself by the middle of the 14th century Franciscan friaries linked to the Universities of Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, and of Cologne, where Scotus himself either studied and/or taught, and shortly thereafter to that of Naples, and later still to those of Salamanca, Erfurt, Padua, and Bologna, [and Barcelona!!!] to mention only a few of the better known, had become major scotistic centers. There the study and promotion of the via Scoti in theology, philosophy and science, and in the practical order: spirituality, moral theology, jurisprudence and what is today called aesthetics, made Scotus one of the major influences in European thought even to the present days, outside the Church as well as within. Often enough the scotistic provenance of key aspects of this thought are no longer expressly recognized or their original meaning and implications correctly understood and appreciated.

There is a lot more discussion of the history of the decline of Scotism. Fr. Fehlner thinks it is largely because of the immaculate conception. This made the Dominicans bitter enemies of Scotus probably during his lifetime, and the protestants shared this disdain. Apparently the protestants published in 1540 a "Alcoranus Franciscanus" which attacked Scotus, especially the "Franciscan thesis" of the motive for the incarnation.

See also:

Reading and interpreting these stupendous contributions to the theological-philosophical tradition of the Church, however, involves something more than availability of a good text (and perhaps a good dictionary). Without a living tradition made up of masters whose ability to provide the hermaneutic key to these writings derives in unbroken fashion from Scotus himself, there exists in practice no sure and reasonably easy to apply neutral criterion for discerning in current reconstructions of his thought what is the sense of Scotus himself and what is merely an accommodation to current intellectual fashion."

So there you have it. The series will publish the works of the great masters of the Scotist tradition to aid in the study of Scotus. This is what I have learned to do myself, though I largely confine myself to those who would have known Scotus personally or would have known those that did (so up to basically the 1340's, I suppose). Hopefully some of them will go into the series as well. So many thanks to my benefactors, and keep up the good work!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What is a Formality III: Nicolaus Bonetus

Bonetus was a French thinker who was active during the 1330s. He became a master of theology in 1333, and later organized and might have participated in an embassy to the great khan. He wrote numerous philosophical treatises, such as on natural theology and metaphysics. His Metaphysics, a selection of which is translated below, was the first systematic treatise on metaphysics ever written (unless of course you count Aristotle's as being systematic, disorganized as it is). That is, it is not a commentary on Aristotle, but an independent treatise starting with the foundations of metaphysics (for example, he starts in bk I with the discussion of what a science is and the definition of the terms 'univocity,' 'equivocity' and 'analogy'.  He is sometimes credited with being the first to articulate a distinction between general and special metaphysics (but in fact he is here following Francis of Marchia). From the following text we can conclude that he was a Scotist, even if he deviates from the verba ipsissima of the master, because he is using the basic vocabulary and distinctions devolped by Scotus.

Note: A scholar who works on Bonetus sent me an email correcting my punctuation, translation, and bio. So thanks are in order. It's always nice to know that when I post these translations of obscure Scotist texts that someone actually reads them!

Metaphysica III c. 3 (ed. Venezia 1505, f. 19vb-20ra):

Circa hunc terminum 'formalitas' vel 'quiditas' quod sit et quod non. Et quotiens dicuntur est insistendum. Omne illud est 'formalitas' vel 'quiditas' (quod idem est) quod additum alteri variat rationem formalem ipsius, scilicet constituti ex illo et altero cum additur, vel per se est inclusum in ratione formali alicuius. 
Ex primo sequitur quod omnes differentiae superiores et mediae et specificae spectant ad quiditatem, quia additae quidditati contrahibili variant rationem formalem constitutorum per illam, ut hominis et bruti. Ex hoc sequitur quod differentiae individuales non sunt quiditates nec formalitates, cum non varient rationem formalem per illas constitutorum, immo constituta per illas sunt eiusdem rationis et speciei.
Ex secundo sequitur quod omne contrahibile per se per differentiam aliquam cum qua facit per se unum est quiditas vel formalitas, ut prima quidditas et primum contrahibile et prima omnino formalitas sit ens in quantum ens, deinde praedicamenta et sic descendendo usque ad speciem specialissimam, que est ultima quiditas per se includens omnes superiores in linea predicamentali.

...everything is a 'formality' (or a 'quiddity', which means the same) that either: 1)  when it (a) is added to another (b), it (a) changes the formal description [ratio] of it, that is, of what is constituted from that thing (a) and that other thing (b) when (a) is added to (b); or 2) is per se included in the formal description of something.

From 1) it follows that all superior, middle and specific differences pertain to the quiddity, because when they are added to a contractible quiddity they alter the formal description of what it constitutes, such as of 'human being' or 'beast'. From this it follows that individual differences are neither quiddities nor formalities, since they do not alter the formal description of the things  they constitute, rather the things  they constitute have the same description and species.

From 2) it follows that everything that is per se contractible by some difference with which it makes a per se unity is a quiddity or formality, as the first quiddity and the first contractible and the absolutely first formality is being qua being, and then the categories, and so descending until the most specific species, which is the final quiddity including per se all the quiddities above it in the predicamental line (or sequence).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Vatican Digitized Manuscripts

Available here. I didn't look hard enough for anything scholastic, but there was one of Boethius' Consolatio.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Definition of Medieval Logic

From a forthcoming book advertised on amazon.com, entitled Later Medieval Metaphysics: Ontology, Language, and Logic. Chapter 8 is called "The Power of Medieval Logic" and is written by Terence Parsons.  Here is his definition of medieval logic:

The first task is to decide what to count as medieval logic. Medieval logic consists of centuries of work by some very smart people working in a difficult area. I will be libertine about what is included in medieval logic. If any medieval logician ever said it, and if it is worthwhile, it is part of medieval logic.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Is the Absolute Primacy of Christ A-Historical?

Fr. Maximiliam Mary has a post up here defending the primacy of Christ against a Jesuit critic on the issue of whether contrafactuals are ahistorical. There is also a link in the article to an article written by Dietrich von Hildebrand about Teillard de Chardin, who may not be the most relevant theologian today, but one does here his name mentioned from time to time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cardinal Burke on Scotus

Cardinal Burke was in Wisconsin blessing a statue of Scotus.  Here is his homily on the occasion, here is the video.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thomism and the Magisterium

From time to time I receive emails about Thomism and whether one is required to hold, in the Church of Today, Thomistic theses instead of Scotistic ones.  So here I summarize my views/posts on the matter.

There are numerous Thomist links one could post about how one must in some way be Thomist.

There have been posts to the contrary on this blog about these issues before,
Here. Here. And the Church Authority category on the sidebar.

The reason for this is that the popes have authoritatively proclaimed that the 'perennial philosophy' is a necessary foundation for Catholic dogma and Aquinas is the primary exponent of this philosophy.

My thoughts on the matter are thus (and my co-blogger should feel free to add/revise this post):

1. The magisterial prescriptions generally recommend Aquinas as a model, but do not prescribe particular doctrines as to be held. But everyone admits Aquinas is great and a model for theologizing or philosophizing in accordence with the Church.  But this isn't very helpful in determining whether the real distinction between essence and existence is a point of dogma. When particular doctrines are mentioned, they are ones that all or most of the scholastics agree about, such as the existence of God, or divine conservation.

2. Current canon law mentions Aquinas only once, in canon 252.3; but this only states that seminarians should be educated in Thomism. Again, it does not prescribe any particular thesis. Fr. Z claims that Aquinas is mentioned implicitly in canon 151; this canon mandates that seminarians be educated in philosophy by recourse to the perennial philosophy.  

3. There is also this shocking statement from JP II's Veritatis splendor: "Certainly the Church's Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one."

For the sake of argument, let's assume the opposite: Thomism is universally binding on every catholic, down to its particular theses.  What might follow?

1. Philosophy is destroyed and we are left with fideism.

2. Theology becomes mere commentary on Aquinas through the adjudication of the Thomistic commentary tradition.

3. Papal interventions will be required to dogmatically establish the interpretations of Thomistic texts (if the real distinction between essence and existence is a Thomistic thesis it is dogmatic; but some thomists have denied that Aquinas holds that essence and existence are really distinct; ergo we need authoritative interpretations of Aquinas' texts.

4. The Immaculate conception will have to be abandoned.

So it seems that the individual catholic philosopher can think what he/she/ likes (given that it does not contradict revealed truth).  This shouldn't surprise the non-Thomist overmuch. When one looks at the context and objects of the early modern statements on Thomism, they are generally directed at modern novelties, not novelties within the Scholastic tradition.

There you have it; the combox awaits.


Commentator Jared has posted some printed sources that bear on the question, which I repost here.

Willibrord Lampen, Bl. Ioannes Duns Scotus et Sancta Sedes (Rome, 1929).

Franz Pelster, “The Authority of St. Thomas in Catholic Schools and Sacred Sciences," Franciscan Studies 13 (1953): 1-26.

Charles Balić, “Duns Scotus in the Present Moment of the Church” in Scotus Speaks Today: 1266-1966: Seventh Centenary Symposium (Southfield, MI: Duns Scotus College, 1966), 21-62

Also, Fr. Finigan has a post from several years ago about this, which involved one of the commentators who has posted here. Fr. Finigan posts the quote from Denzinger about the letter of the Jesuits to the pope about the 24 Thomistic theses.

Another update:

An essay on "traditionalism" that contains relevant material.