Thursday, July 26, 2007

Condemnations of 1277

I had always been under the impression that though the condemnations of 1277 were in someways a "watershed" event in medieval philosophy, they were quickly dismissed by the thinkers affected by them or working in the aftermath. Apparently this is not true. Though Ockham reports some Thomists in Britain claiming that they don't pass over the sea, and Godfrey of Fontaines claims that they are only in effect on the Ile de France, they were considered serious enough that the condemnations pertaining to Thomistic doctrine had to be formally lifted in 1323 prior to Aquinas's canonization. Yesterday I was reading a question on the place of the angels (one of those scholastic disputes highly relevant to contemporary analytic philosophy) and came across Aquinas's position that an angel is in place via its operation around a place. Scotus criticizes this, with a series of arguments and authorities, but, interestingly, begins his critique of the position with an appeal to the Parisian Condemnations; here it is in latlish:

"Against this is that that was condemned just as a certain article, condemned and excommunicated by the bishop of Paris. But if should be said that 'excommunication does not pass over the ocean or diocese,' - if, nevertheless, the article was condemned as an heretical article, it seems to be condemned just as heretical not only by the diocesan authority but also by the authority of the lord Pope [there follows a reference to the Decretales of Gregory IX]. Or at least the opinion is suspect, because in some university it was solemnly condemned."

This may explain some of the character of Scotus's theology, what with the rare comment that he only asserts something without prejudice to another opinion (cf. the formal distinction in the trinity, the "absolute" consitution of the Persons, etc.), and the high view of Church authority (making explicit appeals to determinations of the Church as arbiters of acceptable opinion, which may be in the background of other thinkers like Aquinas or Bonaventure, but Scotus makes it quite clear what he is up to). The Condemnations of 1277, then, were taken pretty seriously by some, it would seem. Of course, Godfrey of Fontaines and the Thomists naturally would want to minimize its influence, while Scotus and Ockham, sometime opponents of Thomistic doctrine, would naturally want to rely on its censure of Thomism. Stay tuned for more FACTS OF INTeREST!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The subject of the Eucharistic accidents

This is a quote a propos of a conversation I had with a certain someone a year or so ago, regarding the question of whether the accidents of the bread and wine can inhere in the substance of Christ. For what it's worth, this is what St. Thomas has to say.

ST IIIa q. 70 a. 1:

Respondeo dicendum quod accidentia panis et vini, quae sensu deprehenduntur in hoc sacramento remanere post consecrationem, non sunt sicut in subiecto in substantia panis et vini, quae non remanet, ut supra habitum est. Neque etiam in forma substantiali, quae non manet; et, si remaneret, subiectum esse non posset, ut patet per Boetium, in libro de Trin. Manifestum est etiam quod huiusmodi accidentia non sunt in substantia corporis et sanguinis Christi sicut in subiecto: quia substantia humani corporis nullo modo potest his accidentibus affici; neque etiam est possible quod corpus Christi, gloriosum et impassibile existens, alteretur ad suscipiendas huiusmodi qualitaties.

So, basically, two reasons the accidents of the bread and wine can't inhere in the substance of Christ: 1) the human body is unable to be modified by such accidents, 2) Christ's glorified body is impassible.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Holding hands with Aristotle

Here we have a highly inaccurate photo of Scotus, Aquinas, and Aristotle embracing and agreeing to disagree. Scotus is saying, "real being is univocal to God and creatures, substance and accidents". Aquinas is saying, "Real being is analogical to God and creatures, substance and accidents". Aristotle, ever the gentleman, is saying, "Univocity stands with analogy".

Aristotle: Didn't he say that being is said in many ways? In any case, he was on the analogy side of things, though what became known as "analogy" in the west was really pros hen equivocity, while Aristotelian analogy is rather a proportional relation between four terms discussed in the Nicomachean ethics.

Aquinas: I don't think he makes the distinction between real and cognitive being. And besides, it is pretty clear from the summa and de pot. dei that he is thinking of analogy on both the real and conceptual level (all that talk of there being two different ratio's kind of rules out a harmony with Scotus).

Scotus: While he does in fact hold to a distinction between esse reale and esse cognitum (I may blog on this later-see for now Ord II d.1 q.2), he definitely does not think univocity holds on a real level (though this is debated and sometimes rejected by some early Scotists. And then there's Henry of Harclay, who thinks there are only grades of univocity and leaves no place for analogy). Rather, univocity is predicated of concepts and the trick Scotus pulls off is to deny the isomorphism between things and concepts (at least in this instance) and have a common concept without a corresponding common reality. Well, that's a bit muddled, but I'll probably go into it more a bit later.

So all in all, the Scotus scroll-comment is wrong. Source: its a detail from a "estampe" from the cover of the Melanges Berube.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Descartes and the Formal Distinction

Now that class is over for a while, I may post a bit more. The collatio is still coming along, it is probably too long to expect anyone, even the loyal Sullivan, to read online. But I'll post it anyway. In the meantime, here are some quotes from Descartes and his critics pertaining to the Formal distinction. The issue here is the soul, and Descartes' claim that it is really distinct from the body. We should keep in mind Scotus's separability criterion, that is, that two things are really distinct iff one can exist without the other (for an analytic-style analysis of these matters see Adams "Ockham on Identity and Distinction"). Caterus, Descartes objector, argues that soul and body are only formally distinct, though with the separability criterion in mind I think this is a misapplication of the formal distinction. According to Descartes and Scotus the soul can exist without the body when separated (though the latter would qualify a great deal on the ability of natural reason to demonstrate such a state of affairs), hence it fulfills the requirements of a real distinction. I don't know that I''ve seen Scotus ever talk about this particular question (there is some discussion translated at the end of Wolter's "Duns Scotus Philosophical Writings" volume); certainly not in book I of the Ordinatio. Scotus holds to a plurality of substantial forms, basically the intellective soul and a forma corporeitatis (which according to Bettoni serves to prepare the body for the reception of the soul), but due to their ordering to each other in the potency-act relations I don't know if Scotus would go for a real distinction between them. They're not two separate substances. In any case, the precise details of his theory are disputed in the literature.

Surprisingly, Caterus gives an accurate description or defintion of the formal distinction, though I am not sure what "objective" is doing there. Perhaps reinforcing the "real" aspect of the distinction holding between formalities that are one in re. As for Descartes, while I think he may be right to reject a formal distinction here, he has no idea what it actually is. I don't know what he means by "modal", for the modal distinction is not the same as a formal distinction or at least they are not synonymous; the modal distinction may be a weak grade of the formal distinction, but as usual this is highly disputed in the scholarship. I doesn't come up much in Soctus's actual writings. The place I've seen it is between the concept of being and its intrinsic modes, but there the intrinsic modes (if they're somehow related to a modal distinction) serve to differentiate finite from infinite being, that is, from two things that would be really distinct. But the formal distinction always holds between formalities that are one in re. Anyway, here are the texts, enjoy. I've copied them out of the Great Books edition.

End of the first objection, by Caterus.
I shall add but a few words about the essence of the soul and the distinction between soul and body; for I confess that the speculations of this wonderful genius have so exhausted me that I can add but little more. It appear that the distinction between soul and body, if real, is proved by the fact that they can be conceived as distinct and as isolated from each other. Here I leave my opponent to contend with Scotus, who says that-Insofar as one thing can be conceived as distinct and separate from another, the adequate distinction to draw between them is what he calls a formal and objective one, which is intermediate between a real distinction and a distinction of reason. It is thus that he distinguishes between the Divine justice and the Divine pity. They have, he says, concepts formally diverse prior to any operation of the understanding, so that, even then, the one is not the other: yet it does not follow that, because God's justice can be conceived apart from his pity, they can also exist apart.

Descartes' Reply:

In the matter of the formal distinction which the learned Theologian claims to draw from Scotus, my reply is briefly to the effect that this distinction in no way differs from a modal one, and applies only to incomplete entities, which I have accurately demarcated from complete beings. This is sufficient to cause one thing to be conceived separately and as distinct from another by the abstracting action of a mind when it conceives the thing inadequately, without sufficing to cause two things to be thought of so distinctly and separately that we understand each to be an entity in itself and diverse from every other; in order that we may do this a real distinction is absolutely necessary. Thus, for example, there is a formal distinction between the motion and the figure of the same body, and I can quite well think of the motion without the figure and of the figure apart from the motion and of either apart from the body; but nevertheless I cannot think of the motion in a complete manner apart from the thing in which the motion exists nor of the figure in isolation from the object which has the figure; nor finally can I feign that anything incapable of having figure can possess motion, or that what is incapable of movement has figure. So it is also that neither can I understand justice apart from a just being, or compassion apart from the compassionate; nor may I imagine that the same being as it is just cannot be compassionate. But yet I understand in a complete manner what body is [that is to say I conceive of body as a complete thing], merely by thinking that it is extended, has figure, can move, etc., and by denying of it everything which belongs to the nature of mind. Conversely, also, I understand that mind is something complete which doubts, knows, wishes, et.c, although I deny that anything belongs to it which is contained in the idea of body. But this could not be unless there were a real distinction between mind and body.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Instants of Nature

The instants of nature (signum naturae, instans naturae) are an analytic tool employed by Scotus. I am unclear as to its origin, however. Vos, in his recent book, mentioned a name or two and then ran on to something else without giving much explanation. I have seen it in Henry of Ghent, though I don't recall ever seeing it in Thomas or Bonaventure. Basically, it seems to amount to analyzing the divine nature through logical or conceptural divisions in divine processes. By processes I mean cognition and volition, not Trinitarian relations or processions. If one is unfamiliar with this, it sounds as if it amounts to saying God can change. But Scotus would clearly deny this; for as we have hopefully shown already on previous blogs, he is very sensitive (far more so than any other scholastic I have read to date) to explicit doctrinal positions that must be held on authority of Church or Scripture. Furthermore, back around d.8 of book I of the Ordinatio he had a question in which he denied that God can change. So at least in his own mind, he's absolved of the charge. He also uses this mode of analysis without calling attention to it, which is also telling. This is to say, he doesn't ever (that I have seen) make an argument for its appropriateness or try to show that it doesn't involved heresy. In his mind, its part of the scholastic package he's inherited from Henry et al. This is confirmed by various places where he does go against the tradition, such as in d. 2 where he introduces the formal distinction/formal non-identity, or d.26 where he advances the idea that the Trinitarian persons are consituted by something absolute, not relative. In the former case, he advances his postion without "prejudicio" and submits it to the judgment of the Church. In the latter, though in the Ord. it is ambiguous, he seems to be saying that it is more probable than the common opinion but gives different sets of answers to the initial objections from both perspectives. In the Lectura he is more explicit and also says that he holds his opinion without prejudice to the common one (or so say the vatican editors; i skimmed through the section but didn't see it). I should probably admit, however, that in d.2 in the Lectura he is a little more brazen about his opinion and says something like "he has understanding, let him undestand. There is no doubt in my mind". Anyway, here's a quote that seems typical of his use of instants of nature. I give this particular quote because it is the first time I've seen "instantibus naturae" paired with "signum naturae" which may or may not be significant.

Here is the objection [almost unintelligible] that he responds to, Ord. I d. 39 q. un. n.8:

"Et praeterea, si primo offeratur intellectui divino aliqua lex universalis (puta esse glorificandum, esse gratificandum), et istam acceptat voluntas divina (et ex hoc statuitur lex sapientiae), et secundo offerat intellectus voluntati Petrum esse beatificandum, - si voluntas illum acceptet, videtur ex hoc intellectum cognoscere Petrum esse glorificandum, et hoc cognitione dictativa, non accepta in se formaliter a voluntate, licet voluntas verificaverit praemissas ex quibus intellectus istam habet."

And furthermore, if some universal law is first offered to the divine intellect (for example, that something should be glorified or gratified/graced [i'm lazy], and the divine will accepts that (and from this the law of wisdom is established), and second the intellect offers to the will that Peter should be beatified - if the will accepts that, it seems from this that the intellect knows that Peter should be glorified, and this by dictative [?] cognition, not received in itself formally from the will, although the will will have verified the premises from which the intellect has it.

Ord. I d. 38 q. un n.10:

"Ad secundum dico quod intellectus divinus non sic cognoscit aliqua, discurrendo, sicut procedit argumentum; sed distinguendo de instantibus naturae, in primo apprehendit quodcumque operabile (ita illa quae sunt principia operabilium, sicut operabilia particularia), et in secundo offert omnia ista voluntati (quorum omnium aliqua acceptat, tam principiorum practicorum quam particularium operabilium), et tunc in tertio signo intellectus scit aeque immediate illa particularia sicut illa universalia, et ita non acquirit cognitionem illorum particularium ex principiis praedeterminatis per voluntatem. Hoc magis patebit in quaestione De scientia Dei respectu futuorum contingentium."

To the second, I say that the divine intellect does not so understand somethings, discursively, as the argument alleges; but by distinguishing out of instants of nature, in the first he apprehends whatever operable (those which are the principles of operables, just as particular operables), and in the second he offers all those to the will (some of all those he accepts, both of practical principles as of particular operables), and then in the third instant the intellect knows equally immediately those particulars just as those universals, and so he does not acquire the cognition of those particulars from principles predetermined by the will. This will be clearer in the question about God's knowledge of future congingents.