Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scotus, Trent and Penance

In a recent post, "e" raised objections to Scotus's orthodoxy based on the following passages in Cross's book on Duns Scotus. The view that Cross attributes to Scotus, that the sacrament of penance causes no real change in the sinner, "e" maintains to have been censured by the council of Trent. So in this entry I shall try to examine Cross's interpretation, Scotus's own position, and the possibility that it has been censured. I confess my prior claims as to no thesis of Scotus's thought ever being censured to be based on the authority of 19th and early 20th century scholarship. But if it does turn out that Trent went after a Scotistic position, then what? So he got something wrong. It may be due to an erroneous principle or erroneous conclusion, but either way, no one (hopefully) would claim that he got everything right or should be followed in all things. As Scotus himself once wrote, glossing Gregory the Great, "In the process of human generation, knowledge of the truth grows." Thomas Aquinas erred most embarassingly on the Immaculate conception, and he is today a saint and doctor of the Church.

Richard Cross, Duns Scotus, pp. 108-9:

"The gain and loss of this spiritual quality [grace] are real changes in a person."

"Scotus argues, first, that a change from injustice to justification can only occur if God brings about a real change in the sinner."

"...Scotus's understanding of sinfulness is wholly forensic; we are sinners just if God decides to hold us liable to punishment. Scotus's understanding of the remission of sins is likewise forensic. The remission of sins does not involve the removal of any quality or real relation in the sinner. It consists merely of a divine decision not to punish the sinner" [footnot referencing Ord. 4.16.2, nn. 6,9-12]. Thus, God's one will-act involves willing punishment for a person at t1 and non-punishment at t2, without any corresponding real change in the person at all. [footnote to ibid. 10-12]. This does not mean that God does not usually require that we perform acts of penance in the process of the remission of post-baptismal sin...This penance does not, however, cause a real change in the sinner; it is merely a requirement contingently made by God for the remission of post-baptismal sin."

To summarize Cross,

1. The gain and loss of grace are real changes.

2. Justification requires a real change in the sinner.

3. The remission of sins does not involve the loss of any real quality (and therefore does not entail a real change?)

4. Acts of penance undertaken in reparation for sin do not involve real changes.

As for Trent, the fear is that Scotus falls afoul of the following, Canon 9 of Trent’s 14th Session: “If anyone says that sacramental absolution by a priest is not a judicial act, but a mere ministry of pronouncing and declaring to the penitent that his sins are forgiven. . . let him be anathema.”

From #1 above we can see that this does not apply to Scotus. Grace, by means of a real change (though Trent does not use this scholastic terminology), are infused into the penitent who partakes of this sacrament.

From what I've been able to find on Scotus and Trent, it seems that there were some disagreements between various council fathers who espoused Scotistic doctrine; but these disputes were on the proper interpretation of Scotus. In particular was mentioned a dispute on what he had to say about the assurance of salvation, about which he made only a few remarks in passing. This did involve the sacrament of Penance, but only contrition vs. attrition.

What, then, does Scotus have to say?

Cross refers us to book IV of the Ordinatio, to d.16 q.2, "Whether the remission or expulsion of fault, and the infusion of grace, are simpliciter one change."

I haven't had much time lately to work on this, and will have less in the future so i'll post it anyway. I skimmed through the Scotus and it seems that Cross is accurate here. At least, Scotus does posit that the infusion of grace is a real change, while the accompanying remission of sins is distinguishable only by reason, ie., a distinction of reason. From the four arguments Scotus makes at the beginning of the question it seems as if this is due to his use of Aristotle. Grace is a form in the will. sin corrupts this form in a real change. In the sacrament of penance, grace is infused again, in a real change. As sin seems to be a privation of grace (this would bear further investigation; I didn't see this spelled out explictly by Scotus), it cannot be corrupted by a real change like grace can. Privations aren't forms in the category of quality.

That's it for now. As for Cross, he seems to have all the right pieces, but hides the bit about grace at the end of one paragraph, and then spends the next two pages emphasizing the remission of sin without a real change. The net result is to make Scotus sound like a proto-protestant if one has missed the bit about grace. It is somewhat distorted and I do not know why Cross put it that way. But he had a lot on his plate in that book and so perhaps can be forgiven. The question would bear more looking into, however, as this is a long question in Scotus, with even lengthier commentary by the 16th century scotist. Trent is mentioned left, right, and center. But, it does not seem to be relevant to the issue at hand, ie, did Trent censure this alleged protestant teaching of the subtle doctor. The answer is no. The Council wasn't looking to settle longstanding scholastic disputes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Divisions of the Will

For those of you out there who are just dying to hear about Scotus and the will, check out Ord. II d. 6 qq.1-2 (in vol. 8 of the vatican ed., for those privileged few who have obtained this volume). There we find almost all of the famous distinctions Scotus makes in the will. We have the amor amicitiae vs. the amor concupiscentiae, the affectio iusitiae and the affectio commodi. As far as I could tell, these are all found within the actus elicitus; at least, the actus imperatus was not mentioned (for this latter distinction see the prologues to the various sentence commentaries; the difference seems to be between an act willed only and an act willed as well as carried out...but that's just a guess).

There are certain oddities as well, as we would expect from Scotus. For example, he seems quite clearly to state that the affectio commodi (affection for the advantageous) is the will considered as a rational appetite. This provokes two reactions from me: 1. Will as rational appetite is the preferred way that Thomas talks about these matters, which means, as Scotus locates the native freedom in the will not in the affectio commodi but in the affectio iustitae that he probably thinks Thomas unable to account for free will in any fashion whatsoever, and 2. There is a possible contradiction. On the one hand, Scotus says that there is only one will, that the two affectiones are not two wills. But from book IX of his Questions on the Metaphysics we have a strong distinction between Will and Nature, Intellect being included in the latter as it is determined by its object. Indeed this is an important element of Scotus's voluntarism. But which is it, Will as an appetite of the Intellect, or Will as somehow separate from natural, determined processes. The answer undoubtedly lies in looking again at book IX, which I have not done in over a year.

Friday, August 17, 2007


If you haven't already heard, another volume of the Opera Omnia was released at the end of June, completing book 3 of the Ordinatio. It lists at 180 euros, and is available from Quaracchi or Deastore, both listed in my bookseller links. This leaves four volumes for book IV, and a single volume of indices which will bring the numbering up to the beginning of the Lectura.

According to the introductory discussion by the editors, the Assisi manuscript 137, A in the app. crit., is only trustworthy to around distinction seven of book III. It also is trustworthy for all of book I up through d. 2 of book II; I don't know about IV (though it is probably discussed in the lengthy prolegomena to the entire edition in vol. 1 which I haven't waded through yet). A professor of mine who taught manuscript editing and worked on the Scotus de anima questions was highly critical of the vatican editors use of this manuscript, which purports to be a copy of the Liber scoti. This latter ms. was Scotus's autograph, probably kept at Oxford until it was burned by the prots in 1535 or 1550. It is imporant as it contains lots of marginalia designating the order of paragraphs and additions, deletions and other authorial notes. Its text serves as the base text of the edition, save where the editors find it untrustworthy (bks 2 and 3). According to my professor, though the comments is preserves are precious, and the scribe probably did have some access to the autograph, he only wrote in Scotus's comments; the text itself is from somewhere else, and is inferior to some of the other manuscripts in the tradition. I'm still trying to sort all this out and don't have strong opinions either way.

The editors have also tried to lay out for us (though here I'm talking about the discussion prefaced to vol. 8) the layers of interpolations and editorial work by Scotus's own students. the initial layer is by an anonymous scribe who inserted Ord. I d. 39 (William of Alnwick refers to it as genuine, but MS. A says that there was a blank space in the Liber Scoti; all the other mss. have it, but the vatican editors placed it in an appendix, much to the wrath of certain scholars. Already we can see the consequences of this close adherence to ms. A). Then we have William of Alnwick, Scotus's secretary. He inserted passages from all sorts of places; Reportationes, Lecturae, his own works, the list goes on. For example, some ten distinctions are missing from book III, though Alnwick filled them in. Then there is a smattering of interpolated passages by other anonymous scribes, some of whom apparently inserted things to make Scotus look bad or seem heretical, as none of the early mss. contain them.

That's all for now, I hope you all run out and by vol. X. I know you want to.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Plurality of (Substantial) Forms

One of the issues that arose in the discussion in the 1277 post was the compatibility of Scotus's views on the plurality of forms and the intellectual soul's relation to the body. In my continued reading of the (long) question mentioned in the post de materia, I came across some comments that are related to some of the wider issues of the plurality of forms, though it does not directly touch on whether or not the intellective soul is the form of the body. Scotus thinks that it is, but he does not say so clearly here. One thing that is clear is that Scotus, while deciding in favor of a plurality of forms against Aquinas, does partially accept the latter's view that there can only be one esse per being. Partially, in that Scotus thinks there is an ultimate form that interacts "completive" with the previous forms that dispose matter so that it can receive the intellective soul (either the forma corporeitatis or the forma mixti).
Now for some Scotus. Scotus is here responding to an argument identified by the commentator in the wadding-vives to be that of Aquinas: "of one being (ens) there is one act of being (esse). one act of being (esse) is from one form. therfore of one being (entis) there is one form." To this Scotus takes issue with the second proposition, and makes a number of interesting comments that I will be quoting here.

Ord. IV d. 11 q. 3 (whether the bread can be transubstantiated):

"To the first, I grant the first proposition, that of one being there is one act of being; but the second, that one act of being requires only one form, should be denied, by taking 'act of being (esse)' uniformly in the major and the minor. For just as being (ens) and one are divided into the simple and the composite, so also to be (esse) and to be one (or one 'to be': ita esse et unum esse) is distinguished into to be such and such; therefore to be (esse) per se one does not determine itself precisely simple (?? non determinat sibi esse simplex praecise), just as neither something divided determines for itself precisely the other of the dividing ones. In that way there is one act of being (esse) of the entire composite, and nevertheless it includes many partial acts of being, just as the total is one being (ens), and nevertheless has many partial entities. For I know not (nescio quid) that fiction, that esse is something supervening to a non-composed essence, if essence is composite.. In this way the esse of the entire composite includes the being (esse) of all the parts, and includes many partial esse's of many parts or forms, just as a total being (ens) from many forms includes thos partial actualities.

"If, nevertheless, there be made any force in speech, I grant that the formal esse of the total composite is principally through one form, and that form is that by which the total composite is this being, that however is the ultimate advening to all the preceding (forms); and in this way the total composite is divided into two essential parts, in its proper act, namely ultimate form, by which it is that which it is, and proper potency of that act, which includes prime matter with all the preceding forms. And in that manner I grant that that total being (esse) is completed by one form, which gives to the total that which it is. But from this it does not follow, that in that total is included precisely one form, or that in the total are included many forms, not just as specifically constituting that composite, but just as certain things included in the potentiality of that composite."

The wider context of this (if anyone is interested) is that of eucharistic conversion. Aquinas holds (and here Scotus agrees) that transubstantiation entails a conversion of the matter and the form of the bread into the matter and form of Christ. Scotus thinks Thomas's view is problematic because of the latters' thesis of the unicity of the substantial form. The identity of the terminus ad quem is supplied by the words of institution: the body of Christ. On Aquinas's view, the body of Christ is the term of the change and the soul is only present by natural concomitance, that is, what is present naturally in the body of Christ. But it isn't the term of the change. Aquinas tries to get around it with a clipped remark that since the intellective soul virtually contains all the lower functions, one of which is esse corporeum, this lower function can act in place of the soul. Scotus attacks this as insufficient due to the fact that the functions of the soul (on Aquinas's view) amount to only being distinct by reason and instead postulates that the terminus ad quem must instead be the forma corporeitatis of Christ.

One could ramble on all day about this stuff.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

De materia

One of the facets of Scotistic philosophy that the uniniated gawk at and find shocking are his views on matter. He is often presented (no references will be supplied; just take my word for it-besides, its just a blog!) as claiming that matter can exist without form. Now, in Lectura II.12 (a locus-possibly erroneous- for what little modern discussion there is on the potentially embarassing question of Scotus and spiritual matter) there is some indication on this, as Scotus says that matter has some positive entity, enabling it to act as a substrate for change, to subsist beneath a succession of forms. The other day, while studying for exams, I came across the following interesting passage from Ord. IV d.11 q.3, the place where Scotus analyzes the merits of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, annihilation. Here he is more explicit than in the Lectura, and analyzes matter in terms of potency as a disjunctive transcendental (transcendental pairs that between them divide being: another example would be the necessary and contingent) and matter as potency to form. The second paragraph is pretty strange; either reflective of ms. problems or just a long run-on sentence.

By the way, when I get back into town I intend to look into the penance issue, and consult the wadding ed. with its accompanying post-Tridentine commentaries to see Scotus's relation to the doctrinal formulations and the analysis by Richard Cross.

Here's the passage on matter (the context is eucharistic conversion):

"And when it is argued against the first, because then matter would be without form, and so in act, and not in act, there is an equivocation regarding 'act', because in one mode act is a difference of being opposed to potency, inasmuch as every being is divided, that is, into act or into potency. In another mode act means that relation [habitudinem: At one point in Book one Scotus says that the terms respectivum, relatio, and habitudo all mean the same thing], which is that of form to the informable, and is to the totality of it. And in the same way there is an equivocation about 'potency', because as it is opposed to act in the first mode, it means diminished being [ens diminutum], to which namely, it is not repugnant to be outside its own cause. Being however in act opposted to that potency, is being complete in its own being [esse] outside its own cause, whatsoever that may be. In another mode potency means a receptive principle of act in the second of the aforesaid modes, just as matter is called potency and form act. [there follows an omitted paragraph reciting passages of Aristotle in support].

"To the question at hand [propositum], matter without form is in act in the first mode, and not in potency, which is proved by the Confessions of Augustine. Note his words: 'matter itself receives from God its imperfect being, which it has, namely in potency,' And it is necessary for him to say this, because he grants that matter is created by God, but before it was created, it was in potency in the first mode. This is proved, because otherwise it would be created, which is impossible to be created, therefore after creation it was in potency, not by that mode, because then by creation there would not have been some entity of produced matter, only therefore after creation was in potency in the second mode, because it was receptive of act in the aforesaid second mode. but then there is ignorance of dialectics [elenchi?], when it is said, matter is in act in the first mode, and not in act in the second mode; therefore it is in act, and not in act. In the same way there is an equivocation about potency here as there."

There's a gloss in the margin here by Wadding or Antonius Hiquaeus Hibernus (the commentary printed in this volume) that refers this matter prior to creation to be first in objective potency and then in subjective potency, which to my mind squares with what Scotus says elsewhere. Basically, what he seems to be saying in the second paragraph here (no latin today) that matter had to be created, but before it was it was in potency; it was potency as disjunctive transcendental/ens diminutum (though I think this latter term is sometimes synonymous with esse cognitum). after creation it was in potency in the second way, as related to form. weird.