Monday, June 25, 2007


Today's post isn't terribly exciting; I'm in the middle of a two week intensive course on Augustine, so probably will not have much time to read any scholastic works. I was in the middle of translating Scotus's Collatio 24, which is on univocity. It won't solve any of the disputes on the subject as it is so short, but it does contain most of the typical features of his thought on this issue. Unfortunately, there is no modern critical edition of the collationes, and the one on univocity is not in wadding; it was edited by both Balic and Harris in the 1920's, but the text is almost unintelligible. Harris makes a lot of transcription errors, Balic omits a lot. So that will have to wait. In the meantime, here's Scotus on the requirements for a real relation. Take it with the caveat that this probably represents his revised oxford teaching, not necessarily his final views on the matter, etc. It is vaguely relevant to his views on the formal distinction.

Ord. I d. 31 q. un n. 6:
videtur dicendum quod ad relationem realem tria sufficiunt. primo, quod fundamentum sit reale et terminus realis; et secundo, quod extremorum sit distinctio realis; et tertio, quod ex natura extremorum sequatur ipsa talis relatio absque opere alterius potentiae, comparantis unum extremum alteri.

"It seems that it should be said that three things suffice for a real relation. First, that the foundation and the term of the relation is real. Second, that there is a real distinction of extremes. Third, that such a relation follows from the nature of the extremes without any operation of another power, comparing one extreme to another."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

De constitutivo divinarum personarum

Today's snippet is from Scotus's discussion of whether the divine persons are consituted by something relative or absolute. In the Ordinatio he doesn't explicitly side with one opinion or the other, but gives thorough replies to objections for both positions. The vat. editors say that he holds the absolute side as being more probable than the common opinion. As far as I could tell, it comes from considering the intellect and will as principles of the processions and in same way as quasi effective causes. The part I'm posting is actually part of his defense of the absolute position, where he talks about Scriptural and Ecclesiastical authority with respect to theological opinion. It's too long to type out the latin too.
Ord. I d. 26 q. un. nn.70-72 [vat. ed. 6 p. 29]:

It seems therefore that it can be said that if the New Scriptures expressly preferred that those persons are relative, and this is of the substance of the faith, nevertheless it is not found expressly that relations are the primary forms [primae formae], primarily constituting and distinguishing the persons, -the church has not declared this. It was not declared in the Apostle’s Creed, nor in the Nicene Creed, nor in the general council under Innocent III, nor in the general council under Gregory X in Lyon, nor in any other council, because still some authentic things are clearly handed down in the Scriptures [I’m not sure how to take this last bit; it almost seems contradictory: “quod adhuc manifeste videatur traditum in Scriptura aliqua authentica].
If therefore Christ did not teach this nor the Church declare it, namely, that the persons are distinguished primarily by relatins, it does not seem then that this should be asserted as being of the faith, because if that is not true, it does not seem to be reverently said about the divine persons that they are "subsistent relations"; nevertheless if it is true, but not handed down as if it were a certain truth, it does not seem safe to assert this just as if it must be held as a certain truth. And although it may be true that the persons are distinguished by relations (et by standing in this generally, the saints labored how distinction of persons could stand with unity of essence), nevertheless it is not fitting to deny that some distinction quasi prior can be posited, which also grants that distinction [ie, that the persons are constituted by relations] -so that every way holds that affirmative true, that namely the divine persons are distinguished by relations, although some way might say that some real distinction quasi preceeds that distinction. Nor is it fitting to bind an article of faith handed down in general, to one special meaning, as if that general meaning cannot be true unless in that special: and just as that article, that the "Word of God is made man", is not fitting to be limited to one determinate mode (which is not expressed in the canon nor by the Church), so that it cannot be true unless that mode whould be true; for this is to reduce an article of faith to uncertainty, if something might be uncertain which is not handed down just as an article of faith (for it seems uncertain that it cannot be held without another uncertain one).
If that position be held, it should be said that that absolute reality, - constituting the persons and distinguishing them - would not be a reality to itself [ad se] just as essentials are to themselves, but a personal reality and to itself in the second mode [1st mode=quid, 2nd =aliquem], according to the distinction of that master [Bonaventure-this has incensed various Bonaventurian editors] posited in the beginning of the opinion.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


That’s not a typo but a reference to an inside joke with M. Sullivan going back to our Newman bookstore days. Oldest friend, bitterest foe, here’s to you, buddy.

I happened to pick up Lonergan’s Verbum articles the other day, which caused me to think back to my early undergraduate days. I was a brash young Seventh-Day-Adventist soon to be entangled in the coils of popery, and was just getting into philosophy. And yes, I was a die-hard Thomist. The first book of philosophy I read was that James F. Anderson anthology of Thomistic metaphysics (of which I now possess an autographed copy). This was followed by Aristotle’s Categories, then Thomas’s commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, followed by a simultaneous read of Maritain’s Degrees of Knowledge and Lonergan’s Insight.

As I’ve been reading Scotus on matters Trinitarian of late, I decided to flip through Lonergan’s Verbum articles, and see if he had any opinions on say, the formal distinction. In the process I came across a rather startling phrase. Now, those that know me know that I have a knack for picking out shocking phrases at random (indeed, even my girlfriend now knows this feature of mine, after I skimmed through a lengthy bio of Cranmer over the weekend); but this was not one of those times. Scotus had a rather large entry in the index. So here is the quote:

“Kant, whose critique was not of the pure reason but of the human mind as conceived by Scotus, repeatedly affirmed that our intellects are purely discursive, that all intuition is sensible (p. 39-40 CW 2).”

Obviously its the first part of the sentence that’s the shocker, but seemed fairer to include the second. Lonergan goes on in a lengthy footnote to show Scotus’s mechanical view of cognition, rejection of “insight” into the phantasm, a “nexus” of concepts (or may just a concept; I can’t tell what the subject of Lonergan’s sentence is here) not being accidents in the intellect, and so on. Most of this doesn’t really matter, as Lonergan references a long series of passages from the spurious De modis significandi (known to be by Thomas of Erfurt but maybe word never got around; it fooled Heidegger as well), and after all, Scotist scholarship was in its infancy at the time and Scotus wasn’t the primary object of his book. It is an interesting area for research; Boulnois has a book with a promising title, but he seemed more concerned at the end (the part I read) to show how the 13th century shifted into onto-theology which runs through Leibniz and into Kant. But he didn't seem to make the further claims of say Marion or "RO" that onto-thelogy=modernity=bad. Also, Kant probably never read Scotus; Boulnois suggests that it was Suarez's metaphysical disputations that mediated scholastic thought to the early moderns.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Guilelmus de Alvernia

Today's snippet from the middle ages comes from William of Alvernia, bishop of Paris (d. 1249). The editors of the Vatican edition believe Scotus has him in mind when he refers to some ancient doctors in support of his position on whether or not the Trinitarian persons are consituted by something absolute or relative. But I'm not posting on that topic yet. Rather, this is with respect to comments by certain energetic easterners who like to attack metaphysics and philosophy generally, and the west specifically for somehow holding that one can move beyond the persons to the essence. This is from his tractatus De Trinitate, notionibus et praedicamentis in divinis [cf. vat. ed. 6.12*]:

Cap. 39. Hoc autem non dubitetur, in summa illa Trinitate nihil omnino prioritatis aut posterioritatis posse esse, comparatione ipsius essentiae altissimae, ut videlict prior sit ipsa Trinitas, ipsa communis tribus personis essentia, aut e converso; neque, similiter, inter quamcumque ex personis et ipsam essentiam altissimam possibile est esse ordinem huiusmodi. Impossibile est quippe inter duo, quorum utrumque est spoliatissimum, esse ordinem prioritatis aut posterioritatis: quod enim spoliatissimum atque nudissimum est, nihil potest habere prius se, nisi per modum causae fortasse; personis autem illis tribus nullo modo causa essentia altissima, neque illa ab illis vel ex illis est. Hoc igitur certum habeatur. Quare non per modum causeae praecedere potest eas essentia illa, nec per modum simplicioris aut spoliatioris, quoniam et haec et illae simplices et spoliatissimae sunt in ultimo, et alius modus processionis reperiri non potest.

Here's a rough translation: Let this however not be doubted, that in that highest Trinity there can be entirely nothing of priority or posteriority, in comparision to that most high essence, as namely the Trinity is prior, itself the common essence for three persons, or the other way around. Nor, likewise, can there be an order of any kind between any one of the persons and the most high essence. For it is impossible that between two things, of which each is entirely simple [lit. "most stripped down" or "deprived"], there is an order of priority or posteriority. For what is most simple and most bare can have nothing prior to itself, unless perhaps through the mode of cause. but the most high essence is in no way able to be a cause to those three persons, nor is it by them or from them. This therefore should be held certain. Wherefore not through the mode of cause is the essence able to precede them, nor through the mode of more simple or bare, since both this essence and those persons are both simple in the highest degree, and no other mode of procession can be found.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Colophon

In the midst of doing a ms. inventory of the works of Petrus Thomae, 14th. cen. spanish scotist, who served as papal penetentiary and was then jailed on a sorcery charge (d. prior to 1340), I came across the following odd little colophon. The citation is Napoli, Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II, Cod. 493 (VIII.F.17), f. 109ra. It is from his work entitled De esse intelligibili

Expliciunt tractatus Petri Thome.
Hos qui tractatus
studuit bene mente levatus,
hiis erit armatus
scotista non viciatus.

Here's a rough translation: "Here ends the treatise of Petrus Thomae. Those who studied well the treatise having been lifted in thought will have been armored by these things not conquered." I'm not sure where "Scotista" goes; one would think those "those scotists" who have studied etc., but the cases don't match. Or perhaps one is armed by "scotistic matters". Not that it matters; just a scotistic doggerel from the medium aevum.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

On the distinction between processions

As mentioned before, Scotus holds that generation and spiration are distinct from each other insofar as each one is not the formal ratio of the other. Basically, they're formally distinct. However, he still has a problem as he had previously criticized some of his contemporaries who held that the divine attributes are only distinct by reason, or else that there is only one divine attribute, albeit an indisdinct one. According to Scotus, they are explaining a greater distinction by a lesser (indistinct divine attribute as foundation for generation and spiration, resulting in really distinct persons). But Scotus himself thinks that the persons are really distinct, and that the processions are formally distinct, seemingly falling prey to his own critique. The following text is his reply, though this summary is slightly oversimplified. He's not responding to this criticism directly (indeed it never comes up), but to a different one.

Ord. I d.13 q. unica (Vat. ed. 5 113-14):
Et si obicis, saltem primi termini, videlicet termini formales, erunt non univoci, ex quo productiones non sunt univocae, et ita personae-quae sunt primi termini- erunt non univocae inter se, et ita nec erunt univocae in tertio, - respondeo:

Productio non includit formaliter essentiam divinam, persona autem includit eam formaliter, quia persona non tantum est proprietas sive relatio, sed est hypostatis subsistens in natura divina, - sicut Socrates non tantum includit proprietatem individualem, sed etiam naturam humanam. Licet ergo primi termini sint eiusdem rationis cum productionibus quantum ad hoc quod primi termini includunt relationes (quia productiones sunt relationes), non tamen sunt eiusdem rationis quasi-adaequate, quia primi termini non tantum includunt relationes, sed etiam absolutum; et tunc non oportet eas tantum distingui sicut productiones distinguuntur, quia quae includunt aliqua distinctiva, non oportet tantum distingui sicut illa (sicut dictum est supra distinctione 8 quaestione illa 'Utrum Deus sit in genere'), quia differentiae sunt primo diversae, non tamen primo includentia eas sunt primo diversa.

Ad aliud, de potentiis, dico quod ut sunt potentiae operativae, non requirunt distinctum obiectum formale. Immo illud idem quod est primum obiectum intellectus divini, est etiam obiectum primum et formale voluntatis divinae, ita quod utraque potentia beatificatur in eodem obiecto primo, secundum eandem rationem formalem primi obiecti. Nulla enim perfectio quasi-radicata in ipsa essentia divina, est primo beatificativa intellectus vel voluntatis divinae, sed essentia, sub omnimoda prima ratione (ut scilicet est fundamentum omnis perfectionis in divinis), ita quod argumentum est ad oppositum, quia sicut non requiritur etiam distinctio formalis in oiectis ut sunt potentiae operativae, ita nec in productis ut sunt productivae.
At least I think it answers the objection.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Michael over at Monadology has a recent post on holiness from Isaac the Syrian. Here's one on a similar theme I came across in Godfrey of Fontaines [Quodlibet 11 q. 4, PhB. 5.24]

Et ex hoc contingit quod illi qui plura de Deo noverunt, non sunt qui plus Deum diligunt; quia non sunt sic dispositi secundum voluntatem, quia talia quae apprehendunt de Deo, apprehendunt sub ratione entis simpliciter et veri quasi speculative, et non apprehendunt ista sub ratione convenientis et veri quasi practice. Sicut etiam contingit quod illi qui plus sciunt de moralibus non sunt meliores eadem ratione. Quia, sicut in theologicis notita in universali et quasi speculativa non est principium dilectionis caritativae, sed practica; et ista coexigit dispositionem quae est caritas in voluntate; ita etiam in moralibus, notitia in universali et quasi speculativa de virtutibus non est principium operationis virtuosae, sed notitia practica quae est principium talis operationis coexigit dispositionem quae est habitus quidam virtuosus in appetitu.

From this it comes about that those who know more about God are not the ones who love God more; because they are not so disposed according to the will, because such things that they apprehend about God, they apprehend under the aspect of being and true unqualifiedly in a speculative manner, and they do not apprehend those things under the aspect of the fitting and true in a practical manner. Becuase, as knowledge in theological matters is held in a universal and the speculative way is not a principle of charitable love, but the practical is; that requires the disposition in the will which is charity. So also in moral matters, knowledge in a universal and speculative manner about the virtues is not a principle of virtuous operation, but practical knowledge which is a principle of such operation requires the disposition which is a certain virtuous habit in the appetite.

If only it were otherwise.

Friday, June 1, 2007

At last

I finally figured out something yesterday that has been bugging me for several months, to wit, why Scotus says there is a real distinction between trinitarian persons (especially given his separability criterion for real distinctions). Surprisingly, I found that it is not all that controversial, as Thomas of Sutton, Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines, and I think Thomas as well, all say the same thing. The trick is how to explain it with respect to the intellect and will, which are the principles of processions. For some scholastics (definitely Ockham, but I think he's close to Godfrey and Thomas of Sutton) the divine attributes (here we're interested in the will and intellect) are only distinct by a distinction of reason. Or, there's only one divine attribute that itself is indistinct. But they all want to say that the persons are really distinct, because they all think that real relations are present in the Trinity, and these real relations are opposed (this serves to differentiate the persons from each other). But they also all want to explain the real distinction between relations by means of their initial indistinct or distinct by reason divine attributes of will and intellect. And here they fall under Scotus's criticism, that all this amounts to explaining some more distinct by something less distinct, which he thinks is fallacious (I'm still trying to figure out why).
There are naturally other factors playing in as well, for they all tend to place priority in either the principles of procession or the persons as terms, but neither both together, and so, according to Scotus, they run into problems such as being required to admit an infinity of divine persons. More later. I still haven't gotten to Scotus's own solution.


Following a link from Liccione's blog, I came across another revert to Catholicism. He made some comments in the post about Scotus, Ockham, Biel, being guilty of pelagianism, which were seconded in the comments. Someone else tried to give references distancing these scholastics from pelagianism, but others wouldn't buy it, etc. The funny thing is, that most of it was about Biel. Scotus's name was mentioned, as one of the "they" who are guilty of things that both protestants and catholics don't like, but no definite statement or position was explicty attributed to the subtle doctor. As far as I know, Scotus's teachings on justification have received almost no scholarly attention (there may be something from 1920's era scholarship that I have yet to run across). The only article I can think of is on Trent and Scouts (in the John K Ryan volume) that claims that certain Tridentine decrees were framed in such a way to make room for Scotistic positions. I suppose what with the neo-thomists progaganda combined with contemporary RO nonsense, Scotus basically counts as a nominalist. Perhaps its time for scholars to devote more time to his theology as well.