Monday, September 17, 2007


While doing research for a paper I am writing on the historiography of Duns Scotus in the 20th century, I came across the following among the writings of Garrigou-Lagrange. Though I am not seeking to revisit ill-will from the past, I think a lot of these ideas may still be in circulation and so are worth discussinig. Oddly, though Garrigou-Lagrange does not reference any texts on the formal distinction, his portrayal of that doctrine is far more accurate than that of univocity, which he gets completely wrong (and the classic texts of which he does reference in a footnote). He is a bit nasty about the whole thing as well, trying to claim Scotus's positions are a no-no for catholics due to conciliar statements. This is a very rough translation, which I did in about the space of half an hour.

R. Garrigou-Lagrange, De Deo Uno: Commentarius in primam partem S. Thomae

p. 134:

“Scotus, however, holds that the divine essence is distinguished by attributes and by persons, and the divine attributes among themselves by a formal-actual distinction ex natura rei, which is antecedant to the consideration of our mind. According to Scotus, it can only be affirmed that God punishes by justice adn not by mercy; for this is required that these two attributes are formally actually distinct in God, before the consideration of our mind, almost as in our soul the intellect and will are formally-actually distinguished.

The foundation of this theory is the immoderate realism of Scotus, according to which now in creatres formally-actually distinguished in whatever metaphysical grade, namely in Peter humanity, vitality, substantiality, entity. From this it follows that being is univocal in God and in creatures as Scotus maintains explicitly. Nor is it to be marvelled at that being is univocal, if it is formally-actually distinguished before the consideration of our mind from substantiality, from vitality, namely, from the modalities of being.

Criticisms. a. This formal-actual distinction, thought out by Scotus, if truly it is more than virtual, that is, as we have now noted: if truly it exists in re before the consideration of the mind, then (iam) it is a real distinction, howsoever small it is, and then it is opposed to the highest simplicty of God, for, as the Council of Florence (Denziger 703) says, ‘in God all are one, where opposition of relation does not prevent it.” In other words, Scotus so apporaches immoderate realism and to a certain anthropomorphism, inasmuch as he posits in God a distinction which is not except in the human mind. It is the extreme opposite of nominalism and agnosticism. So Scotus did not pull back enough from the immoderate realism of Gilbertus Porretanus, condemed by the Council of Rheims (Denz. 391) as contrary to the highest simplicity of God.

b. The metaphysical grades are not distinguished in act in re prior to the consideration of our intellect ... because they are reduced to the same concept of humanity, of which animality is the genus, and rationality the specific difference, so they correspond to the same reality which is in them but virtually multiple.

c. Indeed if being formaliter-actualiter would be distinguished from the modalities of being, those modalities would be outside being, and therefore they would be nothing. In this there is danger of pantheism: if being would be univocal, it would be single (unicum), because the univocal is not diversified unless through differences extrinsic to itself, and outside being there is nothing. In fact being is included in its own modalities, and containes them implictly in act. Furthermore, it is not univocal (as a genus, whose differences are extrinsic) but analogous. Being expresses something [ of Thomas’s transcendentals from De Veritate q. 1?] not in an unqualified way, but proportionally the same in Being from itself, in created substantial being, in accidental [being]. Therefore this doctrine of Scotus does not seem to be in conformity with the fourth Lateran Council (Denz. 432) where it can be read: ‘between creature and creator such a similitude cannot be observed, rather between them a greater dissimilude must be known.’ This is just as the definition of analogy, inasmuch as the ratio of analogy is not absolutely [simpliciter] the same in God and in creatures, but proportionally the same, as wisdom which in God is the cause of things and in us is measured by things.

Whence while the nominalists approach the equivocity of being, Scotus holds the univocity of being. The opinions are radically opposed to each other.”

There follows a note: “But when Scotus substitutes his own formal distinction in place of the real distinction of saint Thomas, for example bewtween the faculties of the soul, he opens the way to nominalism.”

p. 322

“Third is posited the difficult question about the identification of divine perfections in God...

The difficulty is chiefly proposed by Scotus, and he defends his distinctionem formalem-actualem ex natura rei between the divine attributes, because he thought their formal identification to be impossible. For Scotus, in order that the divine attributes are formally in God, it is necessary that in Him they should be formally distinct and more than virtually [distinct].”

[omitted: some unintelligble point by Cajetan, about the ratio of justice and the ratio of wisdom not being each other but that being ok because together they do not make up a third ratio.]

G.-L. Quoting Cajetan, “‘in the second place, it can be understood, if we maintain that the ratio of wisdom and the ratio of justice are eminently contained in one formal ratio of a superior order and to be identified formally.’”

Back to Garrigou: “This is the Thomistic sense of this expression, ‘formally, eminently’: ‘formally’ he signifies both ‘substantially’, and not causally, ‘properly’ and not metaphorically, but ‘analogically’. ‘Eminently’ excludes the formal actual distinction of the attributes of God, and expresses their identification or rather identity in the most eminent formal ratio of deity, whose proper mode, hidden in itself, is not known in via except negatively and relativly.”

Back to me. The claim of GL that the formal distinction entails univocity is a strange one. It seems kind of true, in that one cannot fall back so easily on mystery and 'eminent' ways of containment of perfection terms are univocally common, but I tend to think of these as separate issues. No serious scholarship has been done on this as far as I know.

Garrigou is clearly off his rocker on this one, though it is the usual criticism, voiced by Thomists probably from Thomas of Sutton down to Catherine Pickstock. There is a refusal, or inability (if one prefers to locate the source of their error in the intellect than in an intractible will) to understand Scotus's clear statements. He says being is not only analogous, but univocal. That's right, he favors the analogy of being. But he is not interested in that specifically, or at least his interest is in giving it a conceptual foundation so that it is not a nice name for pure equivocity. Instead, one must see Scotus's discussion of univocity as taking place on the conceptual level. By this he avoids the nasty charges against him, as he can fully admit the conciliar statements; they are talking about matters in re, not on a conceptual level. This is not to say that Scotus and Thomas can be harmonized as some have tried to argue at Kalamazoo; Thomas thinks analogy holds on the conceptual level, though he doesn't say much about it. But he clearly talks of differing rationes in the Summa.
The other major error he makes is another usual claim, that univocity entails that being is a genus. Scotus himself is aware of this, and in a passage referenced by Garriogu deals with the objection (Ord. I d.8 q.3). Scotus's own view of the matter is that being cannot be a genus due to the resulting incompatibility with divine simplicity. He thinks that genera are contracted by differences, two entitites which are in a potency-act relationship. His response instead is the notion of intrinsic modes, which represent different degrees of intensity of something, and are not part of the genus-species model. Of course, one can simply not accept Scotus's solution or argue against it, but Garrigou is not even aware of it and rushes to judgement.

Formal Distinction:
Oddly, it gets this mostly right, though he omitts key aspects. I am not sure why he calls it a disticntion "formaliter-actualiter." The actualiter is not from Scotus and I am not sure what it even means. Perhaps he is stressing the fact that the formal distinction is on the real side of things as distinctions go, but this is unnecessary as he has already put in the qualifications of it holding prior to any operation of the intellect and being "ex parte rei." So that's wrong. He also does not choose to admit that Scotus says that one ought to refer to this as formal non-identity instead of a formal distinction, lest people be confused. A small point, which does not change Scotus's actual arguments. He also does not admit the way the subtle doctor preserves simplicity, instead preferring to rush to a council and make the charge of implicit heresy. Scotus thinks, formal distinction notwithstnding, that God is one in re, for due to the fact that all the divine attributes, essence, etc., are all one by infinity (their intrinsic mode), and are one infinity not many infinities. So ultimately I don't think the Thomists and Scotists diagree on all that much here. Just look at the last paragraph or two when Garrigou invokes mystery in via, and especially that second quote from Cajetan. One just has to shake one's head. Cajetan is somewhat of an ambigous figure among Thomists, who alternatively love and hate him, but reading his criticisms of Scotus and his own solutions to the same questions, he either sounds like a moron (such aswhen he responds to Scotus's argument for univocity "from doubtful concepts", his "Achilles" argument, with "but they're one by unity of analogy" with an implied "ha ha ha"). But, he is a saint so he probably knows better now.
That's all for now, back to grad school.


Unknown said...

How dare you critique Garrigou-Lagrange? Touch not the Lord's anointed!


Lee Faber said...

He is the Sacred Monster!

Unknown said...

That's a "subtle" description for the "angelic" doctor.

Unknown said...

I need your help with a topic.

Could you do a post on the Scotist tradition and the pactum salutis?

Lee Faber said...

What is the "pactum salutis"? A reference to sacramental causality and the Franciscan and early scholastic notion of "pact" causality?

Unknown said...

The pactum salutis is an idea associated with the Franciscans that salvation was accomplished by an "eternal pact" of the Blessed Trinity to save mankind.

It is the basis of the covenant theology that began to be articulated in Franciscan soteriology.

Lee Faber said...

Right, it's the same thing. At the moment I don't have the time (also being a grad student with phd comps this year) to look at Scotus directly, though Irene Rosier-Catach has a chapter on this topic in her book "La parole efficace" where she deals with early scholastics, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Olivi and Scotus. I'll try to take a look and post on her summary. Off the top of my head, you can look for these discussions to be in the first few distinctions of Book IV of the ordinatio/opus oxienses which should be volume 16-18 of the wadding-vives edition.

Lee Faber said...

But yes, it goes back earlier than Bonaventure. Even Thomas's instrumental causality was a modification of earlier views.