Monday, August 5, 2019

John Foxal on the First Complex Principle

In light of this previous post on the univocity of the principle of non-contradiction, here are some remarks on the same topic from John Foxal, the fifteenth-century English Scotus who spent his career in Italy teaching at Rome and Bologna. Foxal was also part of the circle of Bessarion and became bishop of Armagh but died before taking up his see.

A possibly necessary piece of background terminology: Scotists typically refer to the principle of non contradiction as the first complex principle. The principle of non contradiction contains being as its subject, and so being is called the first incomplex principle.

The following text is from a commentary Foxal wrote at Bologna on the first question of Scotus' Ordinatio, dated to 1465.

"Contra: certum est” etc. pro hoc argumento nota quod prima quaestio prologi Conflatus Francisci de Maronis maxime valet ad confutandum hanc opinionem Henrici, quia in illa multipliciter probatur et demonstratur primum principium tenere in theologia, et ita bene formari in Deo sicut in creaturis et ita applicari ad spiritualia et insensibilia sicut ad corporalia et sensibilia vel materialia. Non adduco autem aliqua de quaestione illa, quia ubique habetur et eandem viam tenet Scotus hic, arguendo contra Henricum. Etiam pro hoc est Aristoteles in pluribus locis qui vult primum principium ita bene applicari ad conclusiones non sensibiles sicut sensibiles, nam in libris Metaphysicae agit principaliter de substantiis non sensibilbus, ut patet in pluribus locis et maxime in 2. xi. et 12, et in 4 libro agit per totum de primo principio complexo ubi ponit illas proprietates qua ponit Franciscus ubi supra in principio quaestionis. Et utique mirum esset quod in illis praedictis libris dixisset tot et tanta de primo principio complexo si voluisset quod illud excludetur a rebus insensibilibus et separatis a materia de quibus agit ibi, et principalius de ipsis tractat librosque Metaphysicae omnes propter illas principaliter ordinavit.
Et ad litteram Doctoris revertendo et probando antecedens ipsius patet quod ita bene potest sciri ab intellectu nostro quod impossibile est quod unus angelus simul sit et non sit, vel descendendo ad specialiores terminos quod idem angelus sit materialis et non materialis aut sensibilis et non sensibilis, sicut quod idem lapis simul sit et non sit, aut simul sit durus et non durus, et sic de aliis, et ita bene poterit primum principium applicari ad insensibilia sicut ad sensibilia, ergo vana est responsio illa.


"Contra: it is certain" [this is a lemma from Scotus' Ord.] for this argument note that the first question of the prologue of the Conflatus of Francis of Meyronnes is maximally valid for refuting this opinion of Henry, because in that it is proved in many ways and demonstrated that the first principle holds in theology, and so also it can be formed in God just as in creatures and so applied to spiritual and insensible just as to corporeal and sensible or material [matters]. I do not adduce anything from that question [of Francis], because it is found everywhere and Scotus holds the same way here, arguing against Henry. Also for this is Aristotle in many places, who intended that the first principle be applied to substances and non sensibiles just as to sensibiles, for in the books of the Metaphysics he treats principally of substances and non sensibles, as is clear in many places, most of all in [books] II, XI, and XII, and in the fourth book he treats throughout about the first complex principle where he posits those properties which Francis posits above in the beginning of the question [i.e. Conflatus prol. q. 1]. And indeed it would be marvellous that in those aforesaid books he would have said to much about the first complex principle if he had intened that that be excluded from insensible things and separated from matter about which he treats there, and principally about them he treated and ordered the books of the Metaphysics principally on account of them.

And returning to the letter of the Doctor and proving his antecedent, it is clear that well indeed it can be known by our intellect that it is impossible that one angle at once is and is not, or by descending to more special terms that the same angel is material and not material or sensible and non sensible, just as the same stone at once is and is not, or at once is rough and not rough, and thus for others, and so can the first principle be applied to insensibles just as to sensibles, therefore that response [of Henry's] is vain.

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