Saturday, February 20, 2016

Umberto Eco: RIP

See Hurtado's blog for some ruminations.


Adams said...


I've been a long time silent reader of your blog and as someone interested in medieval philosophy I find it very helpful, and though I know it may be of less interest to you to hear, as a non-Thomist Catholic who dips his toes in Catholic intellectual life I have found it very encouraging. So, thank you.
You may not be surprised to hear that I've found Scotus the hardest medieval philosopher to grasp. I think I've made some headway, but I am always looking to fill in the gaps. I recently acquired Vos' book, but I remembered that you have had some reservations about it. Could you tell me what about it troubled you? Greatly appreciate it.

Lee Faber said...

Hi Adams, thanks for your comments. It is encouraging to know that the blog does some good.

As to Vos, I have not read the book all the way through, only first hundred or two pages. My co-blogger has read it all of it, but he's probably too busy to respond. My thoughts at the moment are more positive than they were before. True, the book reads like a rough draft; it needed a lot of editing for style. Plus, Vos has a very breathless writing style that can be off-putting, as if he is more of an enthusiast than a scholar. But, working with Scotus-mss. on the edition of Scotus' Reportatio, I have had occasion to revisit some of his claims in the beginning and found them quite sound and astute. Even if he massages the available evidence a bit, it turns out a lot of what he says about Scotus life and work habits, state of Scotus' surviving works, etc. are all quite good. I would still disagree that modality is the key to Scotus, indeed I disagree that there is any such key at all. Scotus is a complex thinker with a variety of positions that can be woven into a coherent whole with some effort, but I don't think any one doctrine someone makes the rest intelligible. Also, Vos spends almost no time at all on univocity, which i think is a mistake given the hysteria that masquerades as theology these days. Univocity is not a key to Scotus either, but it does render intelligible a number of other doctrines, and if you can't get that straight odds are you won't get the rest (for the truth of this, read anything by the Cambridge phantasists).

Nathanael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathanael said...

I have a suspicion that Vos's emphasis on modality and de-emphasis of univocity may result, at least in part, from his Reformed background and heritage. Vos and his students are heavily involved in the study of post-Reformation Reformed theology and philosophy. One interesting thing is that the great majority of 16th and 17th century Reformed thinkers rejected univocity, even when they were otherwise very favorable to Scotus or Suarez. I can't help but wonder if the early Reformed appropriation of Scotis and scotism has influenced Vos's reading of Scotus.

I'm not suggesting Vos himself rejects univocity, just that perhaps the Reformed appropriation of Scotus could be one reason for his marginalization of the doctrine.

lee faber said...

Nathanael, you may be right, though it depends on the doctrine. Suarez-Nani recently published an article about voluntarism in the history of philosophy, and argued that the narratives about voluntarism ruining the world come from the enlightenment German protestant universities. They saw Scotus' voluntarism as a "cesure" in the long long of reason stretching from Plato to themselves, and so Scotus was bad and Aquinas was good. The voluntarism=bad news theme that we even get from Benedict XVI is thus a German protestant theme.

So we could do a score card for Protestant reception of Scotus:


I had forgotten that section at the end of Vos' book. I am suspicious if that's actually the case, but I haven't looked up yet.

Nathanael said...

I don't think the Protestants had just one scorecard for Scotus; while the "voluntarism is the root of all evil" position may have emerged from German Protestant universities in the Enlightenment there were other Protestants, at least in the 16th and 17th centuries, who took a voluntaristic approach to theology, for example William Twisse and Gisburtus Voetius. J. Martin Bac (a student of Vos, I believe) has a very good book that deals with this topic, among others, called Perfect Will Theology. I can't speak for early Lutheran theology but I know pre-Enlightenment Reformed theology was a broad enough movement to include both broadly Scotist approaches, broadly Thomist approaches, and even Cartesians (though not without some rancor).

Lee Faber said...

Thanks for the reference, Nathanael. I'll give it a read.