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.

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