Monday, November 9, 2015

O'Regan: Scotus the Nefarious

The following is a quotation from an article in the Newman-Scotus Reader:

Cyril O'Regan, "Scotus the Nefarious: Uncovering Genealogical Sophistications," p. 637-38.

This Essay has provided a sketch of what amounts to a montage of negative constructions of Scotus which do not evince serious engagement with his thought and in fact discourage it (a) by suggesting that it is fatally flawed from the ground up and (b) implicating it in lines of modern discourse which are either demonstrated or assumed to be pernicious. My aim has not been so much to defend Scotus' actual positions as to protest against the apriorism of each of these individual schemes and their cumulative ideological effect which is to make impossible a hearing of what Scotus has to say.  We are talking here about procedural fairness denied a thinker, but we are also talking about the way in which superficial engagements with a thinker's thought and superficial readings of the history of effects compromises the claims of the discourses being supported and in the process also serve to undermine the very enterprise of genealogy.


Although indirectly, the essay is a form of plea for the unaligned for opening up the plurality of the tradition This was the instinct of Gilson when he wrote his book on Scotus over sixty years ago. The fact that the instinct gets compromised in the performance is hardly unimportant, but it is not constitutive. What is needed is another Gilson in the very new situation, a new century with more derogatory discourses, a new century in which scholarship has considerably changed the textual landscape what belongs to the historical Scotus and what does not, a new century in which while there is much highly technical work done on Scotus, there is no book that takes a comprehensive look at the work of Scotus and shows its comprehensiveness, its seriousness, and its beauty.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Happy Feast of Scotus!

Enjoy the day. Here's a link to some interesting reflections, including a paper on Scotus and reductive physicalism.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Scotus Edition

A new edition of a work by Scotus has just been published: the Logica Scoti, also known from one of its colophons as the Quaestio de formalitatibus. It is Scotus' final discussion of the formal distinction.

The Logica Scoti is being published in the Bulletin de philosophie medievale 56 (2014), available here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Simpson Translations

Some more news: Peter Simpson (webpage here) has recently completed a translation of Franciscus de Mayronis' Tractatus de univocatione entis, probably an excerpt from the Conflatus. He has also started translating a commentary on the Sentences attributed to Antonius Andreas. Simpson notes in the preface to the latter translation that:

The Subtle Doctor’s theology, just as such and without the scholars' qualifications and updatings, deserves to much more widely known and so needs to be made available in easier forms. Not everyone has to be a scholar or familiar with the scholars' findings to attain a basic and salutary grasp of Scotism.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Fall of Thomism

Two recent essays by D.Q. McInerny on the fall of Thomism, here and here.

Here's one from a while back, on attacks on Thomism. Happy reading.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sullivan Review of Feser Published

My co-blogger Michael has published a review of Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics in the newest issue of Studia NeoAristotelica. Enjoy!

from the publisher:

The first 2015 issue of Studia Neoaristotelica offers two papers and two reviews. Vlastimil Vohánka (Olomouc, Czech Rep.) in "Necessary Laws? Seifert vs. Oderberg" addresses the thesis that no laws of nature are (metaphysically) necessary: i.e. true in every possible world. In particular Vohanka focuses on arguments for this thesis by Josef Seifert, a realist phenomenologian, and David Oderberg, an analytical neo-Aristotelian and argues that, as they stand, they are not convincing. He admits, however, that given God and his ability to do miracles, the idea of "meaningful" but non-necessary connection between essences is a better essentialist explanation of persistent regularities. This explanation implies that no law is necessary, be it weakly or strongly. Miroslav Hanke (Praha) in "Analysis of Self-Reference in Martin Le Maistre's Tractatus Consequentiarum" presents a formal reconstruction of an analysis of self-reference of Le Maistre, a a fifteenth century master. His approach is based upon the principle that sentential meaning is closed under entailment, which leads to a semantics compatible with the principle of bivalence and classical rules of inference. The issue is concluded with a review by Michael Sullivan of Edward Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Heusenstamm bei Frankfurt, 2014) and by Peter Forrest of James Franklin's An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics Mathematics as the Science of Quantity and Structure (New York, 2014)

Friday, July 3, 2015

New Petrus Thomae Edition

An edition of Petrus Thomae's Quaestiones de esse intelligibili has just been published, judging from the publisher's website (Leuven University Press, distributed in the USA by Cornell). It is a Scotist work on various issues associated with human and divine knowledge, causality, the ontological status of essences, and various interpretive problems in Scotus. It can be yours for only 75 euros!

It is volume I of a new series for the works of Petrus Thomae, the Scotist who taught at Barcelona in the 1320's.

Here is the publisher's information:


First critical edition of Petrus Thomae’s theory of non-causal dependence 
This work of Scotist metaphysics is an investigation into the ultimate constitution of things. In the course of this treatise, Petrus Thomae examines whether the essences of things ultimately depend on being thought of by God for their very intelligibility or whether they have it of themselves. Defending in detail the second option, Peter argues that creatures exist independently of the divine intellect in the divine essence. They enjoy real, eternal being in the divine essence and objective being in the divine mind. Aware that these views conflicted with his belief in the Christian doctrine of creation, Peter laboured to alleviate the conflict with a theory of non-causal dependence, according to which even if God did not cause creatures to be in the divine essence, nevertheless they are necessary correlatives of the divine essence.

Table of contents:



I. Life 

II. Works

III. Themes of the Quaestiones de esse intelligibili 

IV. The Edition
A. Description of Manuscripts
B. Prior Editions
C. Isolated Accidents
D. Common Accidents 
E. The alia littera of MS S
F. Stemma codicum 
G. Editorial Principles 
H. Authenticity and Title 
I. Dating 
J. Sources 
K. Influence 


Q. 1 Utrum intellectus creatus producat rem intellectam in esse intelligibili
Q. 2 Utrum intellectus divinus producat quidditates creabilium in esse intelligibili 
Q. 3 Utrum illud esse intelligibile quod habuit quidditas creabilis ab aeterno sit esse causatum 
Q. 4 Utrum esse intelligibile creabilium sit prius aliquo modo esse subsistentiae productae in divinis 
Q. 5 Utrum quidditas creaturae in esse intelligibili posita sit formaliter idea
Q. 6 Utrum esse quidditatis in esse intelligibili positae sit totaliter respectivum 
Q. 7 Utrum teneat ista consequentia: ‘aliquid non habet esse subiective, ergo non habet esse’ 
Q. 8 Utrum creatura ab aeterno habuit aliquod verum esse reale distinctum aliquo modo ab esse divino 
Q. 9 Utrum ponens creaturam habuisse aliquod verum esse reale ab aeterno possit salvare creationem 


IOANNI S CANONICI Quaestiones super libros Physicorum II q. 3 a. 2 

Lectura I d. 35 
Lectura I d. 46 

Primary Sources 
Secundary Sources 


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The End is Nigh!

According to, there are no forthcoming books on Scotus. Not quite the end, I suppose; I was at a conference a week ago and saw a sample copy of the massive Newman-Scotus reader, so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Principal Conclusions of Scotist Theology (1697)

I came across the pamphlet translated below somewhere in the depths of the internet. It is a set of 60 theses proposed for debate in Florence ca. 1700, published with the title of Principal Conclusions... of Scotus. Some seem to be based on Scotus, some not, but perhaps based on later interpretations.

Conclusiones principaliores ex universa theologia subtilissimi doctoris Scoti.

Fr. Antonius Franciscus de Bononia, in conventu Omnium Sanctorum Florentiae s. Theol. Studens Generalis.

Florentiae 1697.

1. Aseity is the formal constitutive [feature] of God; existence is a quidditative predicate.

2. The existence of God can be demonstrated a posteriori, although not a priori.

3. ‘God exists’ [‘Deus est’] is a per se nota proposition.

4. The attributes of God are formally distinguished from each other and from the essence.

5. Creatures according to real being [esse reale] do not coexist with eternity, although they do according to objective being.

6. If God were able to will something new in time, this would not detract from his physical immutability.

7. God is invisible to the corporeal eye.

8. God is not naturally able to be seen by the created intellect, although he can be seen supernaturally.

9. God, by his absolute power, can be seen without the light of glory.

10. The divine essence can be seen without the Persons being seen.

11. It is possible for an impressed species to be representative of the divine essence.

12. There is inequality in the blessed vision, not only by reason of light but also by reason of the created intellect.

13. The divine will necessarily loves the divine essence.

14. Predestination to glory is prior to the prevision of merits.

15. Reprobation or damnation for punishment is posterior to the prevision of demerits.

16. The hidden mystery of the Trinity is evidently demonstrable by no natural reason.

17. There are only two divine processions, and neither more nor fewer are possible.

18. Relations of origin, formally distinct from the essence, do not bespeak perfection or do they involve imperfection.

19. The divine Persons are constituted by relative properties.

20. The absolute subsisting essence is given beyond the three personal subsistences.

21. The divine Father is perfectly blessed before he generates the Son.

22. The divine Word is produced by “speaking” [dictionem] but not through intellection.

23. The divine Word is produced from the cognition of the divine Persons.

24. The divine Word is not produced from the cognition of possible creatures.

25. The procession of the Holy Spirit is not generation, because it is in a free mode.

26. If the Holy Spirit did not procede from the Son, still he would be really distinct from him.

27. The incarnation of the divine Word was possible, although not naturally demonstrable.

28. The humanity assumed by the Word possesses its own existence [propriam existentiam].

29. The substantial assumption of any other creature was in the power of the Word.

30. Several Persons cannot assume the same nature in number, although two natures can be assumed by only one Person.

31. Christ is impeccable, not because of the hypostatic union, but through the beatific vision.

32. The merit of Christ was not unqualifiedly and intrinsecly affected by infinity [infinitate affectum]

33. Christ, whose grace alone was in the highest degree, did not satisfy from the entire rigor of justice.

34. A pure creature, aided by the powers of grace, could satisfy sufficiiently for the sin of Adam.

35. With no one sinning, still the divine Word from the force of the present decree would be incarnate.

36. The law of the holy gospel is prudently believable and to be believed [credibilis et credenda].

37. The assent of faith is not resolved into the authority of the Church, as into the formal object of believing

38. but in these aforementioned matters God is truthfully procaliming and has revealed mysteries.

39. Revelation, nevertheless, is not part of the formal object of faith, but only the necessary condition.

40. Falsity in no way is able to undermine divine faith.

41. Explicit faith in Christ under the concept of the Son of God is necesary by a mediate necessity for the salvation of adults.

42. It is probably that the habit of faith is educed from the potency of the subject.

43. Faith necessarily is discursive, either formally or virtually.

44. Faith is more certain than knowledge/science, utraque certitudine [?]

45. God and neighbor are loved by the same infused charity, and what was in the wayfaring state remains also in the homeland [patria].

46. Many angels can be under the same atomic species.

47. An angel is not in a place through operation, but through substance.

48. The angels are able to obtain species also from material things.

49. There are not as many representative species as there are objects.

50. The angels could sin in the first instant of their creation.

51. The cognition of the secrets of hearts is given to the angels.

52. The determination of the demons in evil does not come about from the inflexibility of their wills

53. but from the rejection of divine concurrence.

54. Original sin in human beings is not sin persisting morally.

55. Original sin consists in the lack of original justice and sanctifying grace.

56. In human acts there is found a true and proper principale of the voluntary.

57. A pure omission can be given without something positive.

58. A perfect voluntary act corresponds with a free one.

59. The sacraments cause grace morally, not physically.

60. The character of three sacraments, is it an absolute or relative form? Problem.

Praise be to God.

[These theses] will be publically exposed for contest at Florence in the church of All Saints, with the same one mentioned above responding. With the assistance of R. P. Seraphin of San Casciani, lector general of the same place and Custos of the Tuscan province. 1697. Month. Day. Hour.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blessed Newman Discovers the Formal Distinction

And here, let it be observed, that we have a sort of figure or intimation of the sacred Mystery of the Trinity in Unity even in what has been now said concerning the Divine Attributes. For as the Attributes of God are many in one mode of speaking, yet all One in God; so, too, there are Three Divine Persons, yet these Three are One. Let it not be for an instant supposed that I am paralleling the two cases, which is the Sabellian heresy; but I use the one in illustration of the other; and, in way of illustration, I observe as follows: When we speak of God as Wisdom, or as Love, we mean to say that He is Wisdom, and that He is Love; that He is each separately and wholly, yet not that Wisdom is the same as Love, though He is both at once. Wisdom and Love stand for ideas quite distinct from each other, and not to be confused, though they are united in Him. In all He is and all He does, He is Wisdom and He is Love; yet it is both true that He is but One, and without qualities, and withal true again that Love is not Wisdom. Again, as God is Wisdom or Love, so is Wisdom or Love in and with God, and whatever God is. Is God eternal? so is His wisdom. Is He unchangeable? so is His wisdom. Is He uncreate, infinite, almighty, all-holy? His wisdom has these characteristics also. Since God has no parts or passions, whatever is really of or from God, is all that He is. If there is confusion of language here, and an apparent play upon words, this arises from our incapacity in comprehension and expression. We see that all these separate statements must be true, and if they result in an apparent contrariety with each other, this we cannot avoid; nor need we be perplexed about them, nor shrink from declaring any one of them.

- Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons VI.24, "The Mystery of the Holy Trinity"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review of Postmodernity and Univocity

Here are my thoughts on a recent book.

Postmodernity and Univocity: A Critical Account of Radical Orthodoxy and John Duns Scotus

For sale here.

The author is Daniel Horan, OFM. His website is here. He is a graduate student in systematic theology at Boston College. The author is not a specialist in Scotus, but a member of the same order trying to exonerate Scotus' name.

Previously reviewed by Peter J. Leihart here.

The book is not a general discussion of Radical Orthdoxy, but, as is obvious from the title, focuses on RO's appropriation of Scotus, or what Horan calls the "Scotus story". The book is roughly divided in three parts. 1. Summarizing what RO claims about Scotus, 2. summarizing the critique of Radical orthodoxy by Richard Cross and Thomas Williams, 3. and a historical-critical discussion of univocity.

It was somewhat of a drag to read the first part, though not owing to the fault of the author, since I have read the originals, and the RO claims are so outrageous. But the author, whose own blood seemed to be up at times, did not fall into polemic. He noted RO's reliance on non-existence passages, strange methods of citation, and so on. Although the main storytellers for RO's Scotus are Milbank and Pickstock, Horan covered all the minor characters in the tapestry as well, even though they are largely derivative. The end of this section of Horan's book was quite valuable. For not only did he treat RO proper, but he also went through some of the more recent popularizers of the Scotus story, some of whom we have encountered on this blog: Brad Gregory and Robert Baron, and a bishop or two, for example. Horan shows that these derivative writers add nothing at all to the conversation, but simply cite RO as their source.

One defect of the first section is that Horan did not wish to delve into narrative. Now to some extent this is perfectly reasonable. It is a work on RO's appropriation of Scotus, not one on the use of narrative in theology. But by making this move, Horan misses, I think the ultimately twofold origin of the Scotus story. The first is that RO subscribes to the rise-fall thesis deriving from early 19th century Jesuits involved in the German kulturkampf, according to which all human thought prior to Thomas Aquinas is but a preparation for Aquinas, and everything that follows is a symptom of decline and departure from the truth. This thesis underlies RO, though even Thomists have criticized it as distorting Aquinas. I am thinking of John Inglis' work in particular. Horan thinks that the RO narrative goes back only as far as Gilson. But in fact it is part of a much older Thomist historiographical claim, which may explain why Thomists have been generally sympathetic to RO, save for reservations about their use of Aquinas. A second point about narrative that I think Horan misses is the importance of Deleuze. RO despises Deleuze, but their Scotus story is best explained as a response to Deleuze's scattered remarks on Scotus, who D. makes central to his own genealogy of modernity; univocity is great and leads straight to Spinoza. RO basically takes everything Deleuze says about Scotus at face value; their attack on Scotus is really an attack on Deleuze's Scotus with a few back-filled references to the Wolter translations to give the appearance of having read Scotus (though it should noted that, as an Australian Thomist did in his dissertation that was making the rounds a year so ago, RO views itself as prophetic and creative and so not bound by the canons of academic scholarship. To this I say, shouldn't they then be employed by think-tanks instead of a university?).

In the second section of the book, Horan discusses Cross and William's, the only two authors who have written against RO's interpretation of Scotus. William's piece is something of a rant, and so perhaps easily ignored, while Cross's main piece of criticism was published in Antonianum, which elsewhere Horan says no one in the states apparently reads. So their criticism has been generally ignored, and the "Scotus story" has been adopted all across the humanities. Indeed, one of the more depressing parts of the book is the few times Horan mentions how remarkable it is that even though academics generally pride themselves on being critical and distrustful of narrative and testing of truth claims, there has been no criticism of RO's appropriation of Scotus save for the two specialists mentioned above. Also in this section Horan tries to locate RO within 20th c. Thomism, and opts for a new label: "Cambridge Thomist".

In the third section the author gives a historical-critical analysis of univocity. Here we find that Thomas was not Scotus' target when developing univocity, but rather Henry of Ghent. We also find that univocity is not a metaphysical claim, but a semantic/conceptual one. Horan basically just reads the text of Scotus and explains what univocity is about, with reference to the relevant secondary literature (a feature lacking in the RO story). There are some strange errors, here, such as attributing Marrone's article on univocity in Scotus' early works to Dumont, a few latin typos, but nothing serious. Pini's work is strangely absent, which made sense of Scotus' commentary on met. IV, and also explained the notion of different sciences viewing being in different ways (analogical for metaphysics, univocal for logic), and which was not fully articulated by the older studies of Cyrcil and Wolter that Horan cites. But that is a minor criticism. The only substantial criticism I had of this section was a desire to make Scotus one harmonious whole in which everything is connected. The author segued rather unclearly from the application of the formal distinction in the treatment in univocity to its use in individuation (without much explanation of the formal distinction, which is probably as complicated as univocity), and he also seemed to think that haecceity was a direct consequence of univocity, which I found strange. I think univocity (that is, as applied to the problem of natural knowledge of God) and individuation are simply separate issues. But all in all, Horan gave an accurate presentation of what Scotus actually thought.

The question that remains is whether pointing out the historical-critical truth affect the dominant view of Scotus in the humanities today that is based on narrative? Perhaps publishing a book from an ecumenical press rather than an academic press will make more of a difference than the previous publications in specialist journals. It is also not written by a specialist, but by a concerned theologian, which may also make it more palatable.

Recommendation: specialists will not get much out of this book, I am afraid, especially if they have already read this material. But happily it is not directed at them. So I heartily recommend it to theologians, Thomists, philosophers with an interest in medieval thought, and also to the interested lay reader. The book manages to be both brief and to get the required work done, and it is written by and large quite clearly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I've added Peter Simpson's page of translations to the "Bibliotheca Scotistica" sidebar. Dr Simpson has generously made available his translation of most of Scotus' Ordinatio from the Vatican edition, as well as various other translations of interest to readers of this blog. I haven't read any of them yet, so I can't attest to their reliability, but I hope to take a look at them soon. In any case, if he completes a translation of the Ordinatio, most of Scotus' most important major works will then be available in some form or other in English, removing one important obstacle to the study of our doctor. Plenty of others, such as his difficulty, remain!

Lately I've been posting very infrequently, leaving my colleague to take up the slack. I hope to resume more frequent philosophizing here soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Gerard of Bologna Edition

A selection of questions from Gerard of Bologna's Quodlibeta has come out, for sale here.

The editor is David Piche.

Price: 87 Euro (expensive, but I'll probably buy it eventually)

Here is the publisher's summary:

Le présent ouvrage entend faire connaître un acteur et témoin privilégié des débats universitaires en philosophie de la connaissance au début du XIVe siècle : Gérard de Bologne (ca. 1240/50 – 1317), premier grand intellectuel de l’ordre des Carmes. Afin de rendre manifeste l’importance historique de ce maître en théologie de l’Université de Paris, nous offrons l’édition critique, accompagnée d’une étude doctrinale, de quatorze questions quodlibétiques qui relèvent du champ de la gnoséologie. En examinant ce corpus, on rencontre un penseur qui prend position de façon résolue au sujet de problèmes majeurs en théorie de la connaissance : il soutient, notamment, l’élimination de l’espèce intelligible et l’identification du concept à l’acte d’intellection. En outre, on y découvre un savant universitaire qui, par le vaste registre des philosophes de son temps dont il connaît et rapporte les théories, dresse une « cartographie » exemplaire des positions en présence sur le terrain de la gnoséologie à une époque charnière de l’histoire de la scolastique latine.

This edition will prove most useful for those working in 14th c. philosophy. Gerard was a contemporaneous critic of Scotus, and later Scotists kept responding to Gerard for about a hundred years.

I checked out the volume from the library. Here are a few brief comments.

1. The edition is based on the four complete mss., with some reference to the various incomplete witneses.

2. Visually, the edition is very hard to read. Variants are linked to the text by footnotes, and the sources are done by reference to paragraph numbers. Consequently, to read a single line is to be constantly interrupted by the footnote numbers. Maybe I'm too picky. Fine. It's just my experience. The editor has also quite liberally broken up the text with headers, to the point of separating individual arguments from each other. The whole thing is very "busy". This is probably due to the requirements of the series, rather than the fault of the editor. Initial arguments, objections, etc. are also broken off by editorial insertions telling the reader what is happening.

3. Note that this is a selection of questions having to do with cognition, not the complete Quodlibeta. But the editor was very generous in how he defined cognition, for we get questions on divine ideas and the formation of the divine act of knowing, so it's very useful to me in my work on early scotist theories of divine ideas (in this case, they all ignored Gerard).

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Destroyers of Philosophy

Are those who deny the univocity of being. So says the Doctor.

Lectura I d. 3 p. 1 q. 1-2 (Vat XVI) ...

n. 105:

But to the contrary it seems that to posit the univocity of being to all destroys philosophy, although it is not predicated essentially of all, as of differences.

n. 110:

I say that I do not destroy philosophy, but the ones positing the contrary necessarily destroy philosophy, because if there is not a common concept of being, then it would be impossible that we would have a concept of substance, because substance does not have its own species in the possible intellect, but only the concept of being abstracted from the species of accidents. If therefore being did not have one concept, we would have no concept of substance, neither in common nor in particular.

n. 112:

Whence I say that our intellect first has a cognition of accidents, from which it abstracts the intention of being, which predicates the essence of substance just as accidents; and we only intuitively know substance, and not in any other way. This, as I said, each one experiences for himself, that he does not know more of the nature of substance save that it is being. The total other which we know about substance are properties and accidents proper to substance, through which we intuit those aspects which are essential to substance.

n. 113:

Again, unless being had one univocal intention, theology would be completely destroyed. For theologians prove that the Word in the divine proceeds and is generated by the intellect, and the Holy Spirit proceeds through the mode of the will. But if 'intellect' and 'will' would be only equivocally found in us and in God, there would be no evidence that just because the word is generated in us, so also it is in God, and likewise concerning love in us, because then 'intellect and 'will' would be of another kind here and there. Now it does not follow 'just as it is in our intellect and will, therefore it also is in an intellect of another kind and a will of another kind'. Therefore there would not be any evidence.

So. If you deny the univocity of being, you have no way to know substance. Now, this has some consequences. For much of the pre-modern tradition, metaphysics consisted in reasoning into the knowledge of God and the separated substances. For Scotus, then, in order keep doing metaphysics as traditionally conceived we need univocal concepts. So to conclude:

If no univocity of being,

1. No metaphysics

2. No theology