Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scotistic Flair

It only works in latin.

Ordinatio IV d.3 q.3 n.100 (XI 192):

"Et ideo non urget nos illa dubitatio, Decretum 1, quaestione 1, "Detrahe", ne forte asinus bibat sacramentum, quae vere est dubitatio asinina, quia illa ablutio non durat nisi in fieri, et quantumcumque posset aqua bibi vel huc vel illuc transfundi, ipsa ablutio non."

Also, a few pages later he said beer and mead were not proper matters for baptism.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Warm and Fuzzy Syllogism

I have not read much in medieval sacramental theology, so I do not know if this position is common or not. It came up when I was reading a series of questions on the efficacy of circumcision; the question I have quoted from below is from one dealing with whether there was some remedy for original sin prior to the institution of circumcision.

Duns Scotus, Ordinatio IV d.1 pars 4 incidentalis q.2 n.389 (XI 138):

"Nullo tempore dimisit Deus cultores suos sine remedio necessario ad salutem; sed omni tempore-post lapsum-fuit necessaria ad salutem deletio originalis; ergo quocumque tempore erat aliquod remedium efficax ad deletionem illius peccati"

At no time did God leave his worshippers without a remedy necessary for salvation; but at every time after the fall the removal of original [sin] was necessary for salvation; therefore at every time there was some efficacious remedy for the removal of that sin.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Peter Thomae Contra Scotus

After reading William of Alnwick and the huge amount of space he devotes to criticizing Scotus, Peter Thomae turns out to be a bit of a disappointment in his treatise of the same name as William's. He is much more concerned with Auriol (Ledoux didn't allege any Auriol in his fontes, but maybe it hadn't occurred to him to look). Peter does have some brief comments which I have posted below. He does mention Scotus's Oxford position with the four instants of nature but hasn't directly criticized it (yet; I have only read the first two questions), and seems to be on the whole defending Scotus's Parisian position. On the whole is rather mild compared to Alnwick.

Peter Thomae, Quaestiones de esse intelligibili, q. 2 a. 3 (from mss. NP1W):

"Tertium dubium circa dicta videtur esse quia Scotus, cuius doctrinam sequor ut plurimum, videtur dicere quod intellectus divinus producat creabilium quidditates in esse cognito. Hoc enim ipse dicit distinctione 35 Primi in responsione ad unum argumentum ubi enim dicit quod divinus intellectus in primo instanti intelligit essentiam suam sub ratione mere absoluta. In secunda autem instanti producit quidditates creabilium in esse intelligibili.

Ad tertium dubium, si Scotus velit dicere quod divinus intellectus ut ab essentia distinctus producat quidditatem in esse intelligibili, loquendo proprie de productione, non teneo cum ipso. Si tamen dicatur quod ista productio est mere equivoca et metaphorica ut ipse etiam videtur dicere, detur sibi, licet improprie dicatur."


The third doubt seems to be because Scotus, whose doctrine I follow as do many, seems to say that the divine intellect produces the quiddities of creatable things in 'the act of being thought'. For this he says in distinction 35 of the first Book [of the Sentences] in response to an argument where he says that the divine intellect in the first instant understands his own essence under an aspect merely absolute. In the second however he produces the quiddities of creatable things in intelligibile being.

To the third doubt, if Scotus meant to say that the divine intellect as distinct from the essence produces a quiddity in intelligibile being, speaking properly about production, I do not hold this with him. If however it is said that that production is merely equivocal and metaphorical as he himself seems to say, let it be granted him, althought he spoke improperly."

Oh yes; if you don't know who Peter Thomae is, consult Bert Roest's website for a list of literature. Basically, he was born in Galicia (no one knows when), and ended up at the franciscun studium in Barcelona, later served as Papal penitentiary and abbreviator for John XXII, and seems to have fallen out of favor under Benedict XII as he was jailed on charges of sorcery. He died in prison in Noves, in the spring of 1340.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Alnwick contra Scotus

For all of you just dying to know what went on in the 14th century after Scotus came up with his controversial views on the production of the quiddities of creatures by the divine intellect (see the previous post, the only one listed under the "intelligible being" rubric), here's some relief. Apparently, according to the 17th century Scotist Mastrius (and even this info is second hand, though T. Hoffmann has written a book on this), the 15th and 16th century Scotists accept Scotus's view of the production of creatures in intelligible being and the instants of nature theory that this requires. But the 14th century boys I've looked at are pretty incensed by it. Here is Alnwick, from his Quaestiones de esse intelligibili (ed.Ledoux, p. 136). This is from q.5, which is devoted to analyzing the basic position that Scotus adopts, though Alnwick says it is common to many "moderni". In the first excerpt he is responding to Scotus and refuting him on his own terms.

"Again, second, I prove the same by means of another principle of one holding the opposite, namely that the divine essence, compared to no other, represents all other things, and not by a relation of reason. Then so: whatever befalls the divine essence according to itself and not by the comparison of the intellect, befalls itself prior according to reason than other things are understood. But the divine essence, according to its absolute and infinite perfection, represents all other secondary objects, and not by a relation of reason; therefore other things are first represented by the essence than they are understood by the divine intellect, therefore other things are not instituted by God in intelligibile being by an act of divine understanding. Hence John Dons [sic], who says that creatures are instituted in intelligible being by an act of divine understanding, and nevertheless that the essence according to its absolute perfection represents all other things, says expressly the opposite, because if the divine essence according to its absolute perfection represents all other things, then first they are repsresented to the intellect than they are understood by the divine intellect, and so first they are intelligible before they are understood by the divine intellect."

Here is another argument, one from the beginning where he is also directly criticizing Scotus's position (Ledoux 125):

"Again, third thus: a creature is first intelligible before it is understood by God, therefore it is not constituted by an act of divine understanding. The consequence is clear, because nothing is constituted by an act posterior to it. I prove the antecedent, becase every other intelligible in act that is understood by God is represented by the divine essence, because the essence is the means of understanding all other things. But the essence first represents all intelligibiles before the intellect understands them, because it has the capacity to represent from it itself and not from the intellect. For the intellect does not grant the power of representing other intelligibiles to the essence, because to represent all intelligibiles is a pure perfection (perfectionem simpliciter), because in anything it is better to be something than not to be. But the intellect does not grant a pure perfection to the essence. Therefore a creature first is an intelligible represented by the divine essence than the intellect understands, thefore, etc.

The argument is confirmed: to represent many in act is of greater perfection than to represent fewer; therefore to represent infinite intelligibiles in act is of infinite perfection, but the divine essence, since it is an infinite sea, does not have infinite perfection from the divine intellect, therefore neither does it have from the intellect that it can represent infinite intelligibiles in act. Since therefore the essence distinctly represents infinite intelligibiles, it follows that the essence, as preceding the act of understanding, represents in act infinite intelligibiles, and as a consequence creatures have intelligibile being before God understands them."

According to Tim Noone's article where he edits Scotus's Reportatio account of the divine ideas, Scotus is reviving the opinion of Bonaventure. One question one might ask as well in this context (I think Alnwick dismissed it as not directly germain to the question but said he'd discuss it elsewhere) is how all this relates to the procession of the other two Trinitarian persons. Are persons and creatures understood by the divine intellect in the same instant of nature as creatures? That seems inconveniens somehow.

Perhaps I should mention, the person in question here is William of Alnwick, Scotus' socius at Paris, who is responsible for the Additiones magnae, a sentence commentary, the questions I've translated here, a Quodlibet and some sermons (including one on the beatific vision). He was made a bishop in Italy, and died around 1333.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the Realm of Spells and Fairies

Stump, Aquinas, 61:

"Aquinas's account of the virtues is rich and complex, and his discussion them is situated in an intricate network of medieval lore. This lore includes the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, at least three of which are twins of the intellectual virtues: courage, piety, fear, counsel (consilium), wisdom, scientia (generally translated as 'knowledge'), and understanding. In addition, Aquinas also weaves into his account the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit...and the seven beatitudes."

Lore?! What is medieval lore? So anything that might come from a theological tradition such as the Bible and not from the fertile minds of analytic philosophers counts as lore. These days I am becoming increasingly aware that the study of medieval philosophy is considered at worst a waste of time by philosophy departments and at best a branch of history. With friends like Stump, "Medieval philosophy" doesn't need enemies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on Duns Scotus

From Giovanni Lauriola:

Venerabili Fratri
Archiepiscopo Co1othensi
cunctisque ex toto orbe terrarum participibus
congressus scientifici internationalis
DCC annis elapsis ab obitu beati Ioannis Duns Scoti

Laetare, Colonia urbs, quae doctissimum ac pientissimum virum Ioannem Duns Scotum intra tua moenia quondam recepisti, qui die VIII mensis Novembris anno MCCCVIII e vivis discessit et ad caelestem patriam profectus, eiusque magna admiratione ac vener servas exuvias.
Quem porro Venerabiles Servi Dei Paulus VI et Ioannes Paulus II, Decesores Nostri, amplissimis verbis, exaltarunt, illum Nos quoque nunc merita laude circumadare volumus eiusque patrocinia invocare.

Iure quidem meritoque septimum nunc ab eius pio transitu centenarium celebratur. Ac dum hac felici occasione in diversis mundi partibus in honorem beati Ioannis Duns Scoti acroases integraque opera publici iuris fiunt necnon conventus aguntur, inter quos sollemnis paratur ille Coloniensis, qui diebus V-IX proximi mensis Novembris evolvetur, muneris Nostri officium esse putamus hoc in ambitu quaedam dicere de tam eximio viro, qui bene meritus est de doctrina Ecclesiae et de scientia hominum amplianda.

Ipse enim pietatem cum intellectuali investigatione coniungens, iuxta illam sum precem: “Primum rerum Principium mihi ea credere, sapere ac proferre concedat, quae ipsius placeant maiestati et ad eius contemplationem elevent mentes nostras”1 , subtilissimo ingenio arcana veritatis tam naturalis quam revelatae ita profunde penetravit ac exinde talis generis doctrinam deprompsit, ut Doctor Ordinis, Doctor Subtilis et Doctor Marianus appellatus sit ac dux Scholae Franciscanae necnon lux et exemplar totius populi christiani evaserit.

Animos itaque doctorum virorum et omnium credentium ac non credentium convertere desideramus ad viam ac rationem quam Scotus secutus est in statuenda concordia inter fidem et rationem, in definienda tali modo natura theologiae, ut iugiter extulerit actionem operationem, praxim, amorem potius quam pura speculationem quo in opere exsequendo ductus fuit Magisterio Ecclesiae ac sano sensu critico circa incrementum notitiae veritatis, atque persuasum sibi habebat scientiam tantum valere quantum ipsa in praxim deduceretur.

In fide catholica confirmatus, veritates fidei lumine naturalis rationis conatus est inte1legere, illustrare et defendere. Quapropter nihil reliqui fecit quominus veritates omnes, et naturales et supernaturales, quam ex uno eodemque Fonte promanant, in consonantiam deduceret.

Prope Sacram Scripturam divinitus inspiratam, Ecclesiae auctoritas ponitur. Ipse videtur sequi sancti Augustini effatum: “Evange1io non credere, nisi Ecclesiae credidissem”2. Nam auctoritatem supremam Successoris beati Petri Doctor noster in peculiarem lucem haud raro ponit. Secundum sententiam eius “licet Papa non possit dispensare contra ius naturae vel divinum (quia sua potestas est utroque illo lure inferior), tamem cum sit

1-Duns Scotus, Tractatus de primo Principio, c.1,1(ed. Muller M.).
2 Idem, Ordinatio I d. 5, n. 26.

Successor Petri, Principis Aposto1orum habet eandem potestatem quam et Petrus”.

Itaque Ecc1esia Catholica, quae tamquam Caput invisibile habet ipsum Christum, qui in beato Petro ac Successoribus eius suos Vicarios reliquit, a Spiritu veritatis directa, est authenticus custos depositi revelati et regula fidei. Ecclesia est firmum et stabile criterium canonicitatis Sacrae Scripturae. Ipsa enim “decrevit qui sunt libri habendi in auctoritatem in canone Bibliae”4

Alibi respondet quod “eo Spiritu expositae sunt Scripturae, quo conditae, et ita supponendum est quod Ecclesia catholica eo Spiritu exposuit quo tradita est nobis fides, Spiritu scilicet veritatis edocta”5

Postqum ex ratione theologica variis argumentis probaverat ipsum factum praeservationis Beatae Virginis Mariae a peccato originali, omnino paratus erat hanc sententiam reicere, si constaret quod repugnaret auctoritati Ecclesiae, dicendo: “Si auctoritati Ecc1esiae et auctoritati Scripturae non repugnet, videtur probabile, quod excellentius est, attribuere Mariae”6.

Primatus voluntatis in lucem ponit Deum ante omnia esse caritatem. Hanc caritatem huic amorem, Duns Scotus prae oculis habet cum theologiam vult reducere ad unum habitum, ad theologiam practicam. Ad eius menten, cum Deus sit “formaliter dilectio et formaliter caritas”7 , bonitatis suae et amoris radios liberalissime communi├žat extra se 8. Revera, ex amore Deus “elegit nos ante mundi constitutionem, ut essemus sancti et immacu1ati in

3 Idem, Rep. Par. IV d. 33, q. 2, n. 19.
4 Idem, Ordinatio I, d. 5, n. 26.
5 Ibid., IV, d. 11, q. 3, n. 15.
6 Ibid., IV d. 26, q. 1, n. 13.
7 Ibid., I d. 17, n. 173.
8 Cf ibidem, Tractatus de primo Principio, c. 4, n. 127 (ed. Muller M.)

conspectu eius in caritate, qui praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in ipsum” (Eph 1, 3 4).

Tamquam fidelis assecla sanctis Francisci Assisiensis beatus Ioannes assidue contemplatus est et praedicavit Filii Dei incarnationem et passionem salvificam. At caritas seu amor Christi ostenditur peculiari modo non solum in Calvariae loco, sed etiam in sanctissimo Eucharistiae sacramento, absque quo “periret omnis devotio in Ecclesia, nec exhiberetur actus latriae Deo nisi propter reverentiam huius”9 . Porro, hoc sacrametum est sacramentum unitatis et amoris, quo inducimur ut amemus ad invicem, et ut amemus Deum tam quam bonum commune et condiligendum ab aliis.

Et quemadmodum hic amori haec caritas, fuit initium omnium, ita etiam in amore, in caritate tantum erit nostra beatitudo: “volitio sive dilectio est simpliciter vita aeterna, beata et perfecta”10.

Cum vero Nos ab initio officii Nostri caritatem ante omnia praedicavimus, quae Deus ipse est, laetanter cernimus huius Beati doctrinam singularem locum huic praebere veritati, eandemque nostris temporibus censemus maxime pervestigandam et docendam. Quapropter perlibenter obsecundantes precibus Venerabilis Fratri Nostri Ioachimi S.R.E. Cardinalis Meisner, Archiepiscopi Coloniensis, damus hanc epistulam Apotolicatn qua beatum Ioannem Duns Scotum cupimus honorare eiusque Nobis caelestem intercessionem efflagitare. Denique iis, quod quolibet modo in hoc internationali congressu aliusque de hoc S. Francisci eximio filio inceptis promovendis intersunt, Apostolicam Nostram Benedictionem imo ex corde e1argimur

9 Idem, Rep. Par., IV d. 8, q. 1, n. 3
10 Ibid., IV d. 49, q. 2, n. 21.

Datum Romae, apud Sanctum Petrum, die XXVIII mensis Octobris, anno MMVIII, Pontificatus Nostri quarto.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pico della Mirandola on the Sects of Philosophers

I've done gone and gotten myself interested in renaissance philosophy. I'm starting with Pico and Ficino and will move on from there. The following is from Pico's treaties On the Dignity of Man, transl. by C.J. Wallis p.22-24:

"Further, in each school there is something notable that it does not have in common with theothers. But let me now begin with ourselves, whom philosophy has at least reached. In John Scotus there is certain vigor and breadth. In Thomas, a solidity and equilibrium. In Aegidius, a terseness and precision. In Francis, a sharpness and pointedness. In old Albert, spaciousness and grandeur. In Henry, so it seems to me, there is always something sublime and venerable. Among the Arabs, there is in Averroes a firmness and steadiness. In Avempace and in Alfarabi, something grave and well meditated. In Avicenna, something divine and Platonic. Among the Greeks universally there is, especially, a certain brilliance and chasteness of philosophy. In Themistius, elegance and concision. In Alexander, steadfastness and learning. In Theophrastus, a serious working out of things. In Ammonius, a smoothness and pleasingness. And if you turn to the Platonists, to go over a few of them: in Porphyry you will be pleased by an abundance of materials and a complex religion. In Iamblichus you will feel awe at a more hiddenen philosophy and at the mysteries of the barbarians. In Plotinus there is no one thing in particular for you to wonder at, for he offers himself to our wonder in every part; and while he speaks in a divine manner about divine things, and of human things in a manner far above man, with a learned indirectness of discourse, the sweating Platonists scarcely understand. I pass over the more recent: Proclus, abounding in Asiatic fertility, and those who have flowed from him, Hermias, Damascius, Olympiodorus and many others, in all of whom there always shines that to theion, that is, divine something, the peculiar emblem of the Platonists. Further, if there is a school which attacks truer doctrine and ridicules with calumny the good causes of thought, it strengthens rather than weakens truth, and as by motion it excites the flame rather than extinguishing it. Moved by this reasoning, I have wished to bring into view the things taught not merely according to one doctrine (as some would desire), but things taught according to every sort of doctrine, that by this comparison of very many sects and by the discussion of manifold philosophy, that radiance of truth which Plato mentions in his Letters might shine more clearly upon our minds, like the sun rising from the deep.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lost Works of Scotus

Marianus de Florentia, Compendium Chronicarum Fratrum Minorum (Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 2 [1909], p. 631)

"Item eodem anno 1308, in conventu Coloniensi Agrippine, Germanie Superioris excessit frater Iohannes de Donis, theologus magnus et eximius doctor, ubi honorifice sepultus, in magna veneratione habitus est. Hic natione de Scotia fuit, qui ab Universitate Parisiensi inter ceteros doctores Doctor Subtilis appellatur. Fuit enim toti seculo stupendus, quia ita in scribendo et disputando fuit acutissimus, ut a nullo suo tempore vinci poterat. Scripsit duo egregia et diversa scripta super Magistrum Sententiarum, quorum primum Oxoniense, alterum vero Parisiense appellatur. Scripsit etiam super omnes ferme Aristotilis libros, presertim super Methaphisicam. Item, super 4or Evangelistas. Item, super Epistolas Pauli. Item, super Genesim ad literam. Item, sermones tam de tempore quam etiam de Sanctis, per totius anni circulum. Item, Quodlibeta aliqua. Item, Tractatum de Primo rerum Prinnipio. Item, Collationes Parisienses. Item, Tetragreumatha quedam"

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Blog

For those of you who want even more texts than those which we sometimes post here at The Smithy, take a look at the new blog listed below. His library is better than mine so I hope he posts often.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

St. Bonaventure on the Veneration of Images

In III Sententiarum, d. 9 a.1 q.2:

"It should be said that the introduction of images in the Church was not without rational cause. For they were introduced on account of a triple cause, namely on account of the ignorance of simple folk, on account of the slowness of affections and on account of the weakness of memory. Images were introduced because of the ignorance of simple ones because those who cannot read the scriptures are able to more clearly read the mysterious of our faith in sculptures and pictures just as in the scriptures. They were introduced on account of slowness of affection so that men, who are not excited to devotion in those things that Christ did for us when they perceive them with their ears, might at least be excited when they discern them in figures and pictures just as if present to bodily eyes. For our affection is excited more by those things which we see than those which we hear. They were introduced on account of weakness of memory, because those things which are heard alone, are more easily given to oblivion than those things which are seen. For it is frequently verified by many that which is accustomed to be said: the word enters through one ear and goes out through another. Furthermore, one is not always quick to commit to memory by means of words past benefits supplied. Therefore it was made by the dispensation of God that images might be made, especially in churches, so that the ones seeing them might be reminded about the benefits given to us and about the virtuous deeds of the saints.

Since therefore the image of Christ has been introduced for representing him who was crucified for us, neither does it offer itself to us for itself but for him, therefore all reverence which is shown to it is shown to Christ. And therefore the worship(cultus) of latria ought to be shown to it. And this is what Augustine says in Book III of On Christian Doctrine: "he who venerates such a sign divinely instituted, of which he understands the power and signification, does not venerate this thing which he sees and which passes away, but rather that to which all such are referred."

Ad obj. 1-2: To that therefore which is objected in contrary, that it was prohibited for anyone to make for himself an image, it should be said that for that time it was prohibited, in which time God had not yet assumed human nature. For then, since God was entirely spirit, he was infigurable; and therefore to make an image of him was error and impiety. <...> God on account of his inward mercy was made man and held conversation with man, he did miracles, suffered, was crucified; these things are written for the memory of men and for our teaching. But because not all know letters nor are free for reading, the fathers decreed to describe certain triumphant images for ease of memory.

Ad obj. 5: To that which was objected, that that seems to be idolatry, it should be said that that is true, if the images are adored with respect to themselves, so that something divine is believed to be there. Now however it is not so, indeed the minds of the faithful venerate in an entirely different manner, and therefore they are not guilty of idolatry. And if you object that they are the occasion of error, it should be said that even the sacred letters were and are even today and also to other creatures sometimes the occasion of error; nevertheless, not on account of this should the letters be destroyed and the creatures that erred be destroyed, because this is a matter of divine judgement so that the good into more goods and evil into more evils are converted. So also it is to be understood about the images.

Ad obj. 6: To that which was objected that that does not have authority from scriptures, it should be said that the Apostles handed down many things which were not written. Hence the Apostle (Paul: I Cor. 2,2, II Thess. 2,14) praised those who held the traditions and the Church has preserved faithfully what she received from the Apostles. And so it is clear that images of this sort are not novelties, but are divine traditions and of apostolic sanction."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Visions of Gonsalvus

Alvaro Pelagio (d. 1349) De statu et planctu ecclesiae lib. 2 c. 67 fol. 169v-170r:

"Et quamquam sanctae memoriae frater Gonsalvus hispanus de provincia Galiciae, nobilis genere, sed nobilior vita et moribus et evangelica paupertate, vere frater minor et zelator ardentissimus Regulae et dominus paupertatis... et dominicae humilitatis, cum quo in loco fratrum de Luca scutellas lavi in eadem pelvi lapidea, magister in theologia realissimus verbo et opere, de maioribus mundi litteratis in trivio et quadrivio, qui parum post mortem suam Parisiis, in visione quibusdam fratribus nostris apparuit gloriosus in throno residens cum corona aurea et sceptro, qui dixit tunc quod sedes throni sibi assignata erat in caelo, quia purissime in Ordine iustitiam observaverat... generalis, magister noster, totum Ordinem expropriaverit in vita sua et sententiam excommunicationis tulerit contra omnes fratres subditos et praelatos, nisi intra certum terminum illis a quibus habebant reditus vel eorum haeredibus resignarent, quod et factum est... Et ipse cum patribus sanctis requiscit in pace beati Francisci verus vicarius et successor"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opera Omnia XI

I noticed yesterday that a new volume of the Ordinatio is now available from , covering Book IV d.1-7, at the hefty price of 160 euros. Support the cause, buy one today; you shelled out money for the Obama campaign, America, now its time for Scotus.

Oh yes. There is also a new Futurama movie out, "Bender's Game". buy it!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

700 Years!

Happy optional memorial, everyone! Today is the 700th anniversary of his death in Cologne. Here's to another 700 years. May he soon be canonized and take his rightful place as Doctor Ecclesiae. Here is a prayer to that effect:

O Doctor Subtilissime, Ioannes, qui Deiparae Custos fidus fuisti; quamque Adam non foedaverat, Immaculatam clarius tu primus perpexisti; nostri tuam da mentibus doctrinam datam coelitus ad Matris laudem Christi.

v. Protege nos, Virgo praeservata ab omni macula.
R. Ut liberati a peccatis omnibus, per te perveniamus ad Praeservatorem tuum.


Deus, qui per Immaculatam Virginis conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti: et qui per hoc lucis mysterium Seraphicam S. Francisci Religionem illustrare, atque in ea gloriosum Doctorem Subtilem Ioannem Scotum mirificare dignatus es: praesta quaesumus; ut qui ex morte Filii Mariae praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos eius intercessione ad te pervenire concedas. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

And the collect for today from the Liturgia Horarum, proprium Coloniense:

Domine Deus, fons omnis sapientiae, qui Beatum Ioannem
presbyterum, Immaculatae Virginis assertorem,
nobis magistrum vitae et scientiae dedisti, concede, quaesumus,
ut, eius exemplo illuminati, et doctrinis nutria,
Christo fideliter adhaereamus. Qui tecum vivit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Proclus, Scotus and the Trinity

The following is a highly interesting bit from Proclus, the platonic theologian. At the outset, I do not think that this is directly applicable to the Trinity. Obviously, Trinitarian processions are not from higher orders of being to lower ones. But if we drop this element from the passage, it bears striking resemblance to Duns Scotus' theory of Trinitarian processions (see the various posts in which Michael was disputing with the energetic easterners). Basically, what I have in mind is the idea that the Father, in generating the Son, transmits everything to him save for his own personal property. This includes the power of spiration, and guarantees that the productive principal of the Holy Spirit is the same for both Father and Son. 

Now Scotus does mention Proclus once or twice by name, albeit not in this context. The proposition of Proclus quoted below is quite similar to the first proposition from the Liber de causis (omnis causa primaria plus est influens super causatum suum quam causa universalis secunda), which Scotus probably did read.

Propositio 56 (ed. Dodds 55) "All that is produced by secondary beings is in a greater measure produced from those prior and more determinative principles from which the secondary were themselves derived.

For if the secondary has is whole existence from its prior, thence also it receives its power of further production, since productive powers reside in producers in virtue of their existence and form part of their being. But if it owes to the superior cause its power of production, to that superior it owes its character as a cause in so far as it is a cause, a character meted out to it from thence in proportion to its constitutive capacity. If so, the things which proceed from it are caused in virtue of its prior; for the same principle which makes the one a cause makes the other an effect. If so, the effect owes to the superior cause its character as an effect.

Again, it is evident that the effect is determined by the superior principle in a greater measure. For if the latter has conferred on the secondary being the causality which enabled it to produce, it must itself have possessed this causality primitively (prop. 18), and it is in virtue of this that the secondary being generates, having derived from its prior the capacity of secondary generation. But if the secondary is productive by participation, the primal primitively and by communication, the latter is causative in a greater measure, inasmuch as it has communicated to another the power of generating consequents."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aristotle's Tomb

I am about to post a series on Henry of Harclay's first ordinary question (recently edited by M. Henninger), which concerns theories of end-time chronologies based on Daniel and Revelation. Here is a foretaste, a story related by Alexander Neckham in De naturis rerum. Harclay does not give a refutation of this view.

p. 63 of Henninger's ed. and transl.: "We should also look at the remarkable story Alexander Neckham tells in the second book of On the Nature of Things, in the chapter called 'On the Jealous'. It concerns the evidence for Antichrist's coming. He writes that Aristotle, the Philosopher, when about to go the way of all flesh, gave instructions that all of his subtlest writings were to be placed with him in his tomb, so that they could be of no use ot those who came after him. When he was alive, he fortified a place for his tomb with his own hands so that to this day no one has been able to enter it. This place, Neckham writes, will be given over to Antichrist when he comes. Antichrist, then, will work wonders by means of the cunning inventions to be found in Aristotle's writings, so much so that the folish will take him for God. At that time, if anyone were to know where Aristotle's tomb was and were to see it lying open, that person could (if this story is true) argue that Antichrist had come.

Alexander's exact words are these: 'I would be unwilling to write that Aristotle was afflicted with so deadly a plague as jealousy, if I did not mean to insult so wicked a monster. When he was going the way of all flesh, this philosopher ordered his most subtle writings to be walled up with him in his tomb, so that they could be of no use to those who came after him. He prepared the place of his tomb and the surrounding area so that no one, even to this day, is able to enter it; I do not know wheteher he did this by natural means or by some skill he had (I shall hardly suggest he used the unnatural means of magical arts.). Some people say that this place will yield to the wiles of Antichrist, and they think that he will examine the writings contained therein. So Antichrist's messengers, as they say, will bring Aristotle's secrets to the eyes of him who will be the idol of abomination and desolation."

I guess we know where his fabled dialogues are.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scotus on Instants in Divine Cognition

One of the controversial claims Scotus makes in I Ord. d.36 is that the main difference between the human intellect and the divine is that the divine intellect produces created things in intelligible being. He was not followed in this by his disciples, who argue against him outright on this point (See Francis of Meyronnes, Peter Thomae, even William of Alnwick). Francis just says "non capio" and moves on, Peter tries to restrict the intelligible being of creatures to the divine essence, and I'm not sure what Alnwick does. A post for another time. Here is an equally controversial bit from d.35, also about the status of the divine ideas in the divine mind.

Ordinatio I d.35 q. un


"Hoc potest poni sic: Deus in primo instanti intelligit essentiam suam sub ratione mere absoluta; in secundo instanti producit lapidem in esse intelligibili et intelligit lapidem, ita quod ibi est relatio in lapide intellecto ad intellectionem divinam, sud nulla adhuc in intellectione divina ad lapidem, sed intellectio divina terminat relationem lapidis ut intellecti ad ipsam; in tertio instanti, forte, intellectus divinus potest comparare suam intellectionem ad quodcumque intelligibile ad quod nos possumus comparare, et tunc comparando se ad lapidem intellectum, potest causare in se relationem rationis; et in quarto instanti potest quasi reflecti super istam relationem cuasatam in tertio instanti, et tunc illa relatio rationis erit cognita. Sic ergo non est relatio rationis necessaria ad intelligendum lapidem-tamquam prior lapide-ut obiectum, immo ipsa ut causata est posterior (in tertio instanti), et adhuc posterior erit ipsa ut cognita, quia in quarto instanti"

This can be posited thus: God in the first instant understands his essence under a merely absolute conception; in the second instant he produces the stone in intelligible being and understands the stone, to that there is a relation in the understood stone to the divine intellection, but still none in the divine intellection to the stone. But the divine intellection terminates the relation of the stone as understood to itself. In the third instant, the divine intellect can compare its own intellection to any other intelligible to which we can compare, and then by comparing itself to the understood stone can cause in itself a relation of reason. And in the fourth instant it can quasi reflect over that relation caused in the third instant, and then that relation of reason will be known. So therefore there is not a necessary relation of reason for understanding the stone-just as prior to the stone-as object, indeed it as caused is posterior (in the third instant), and it will still be posterior as known, because in the fourth instant.


"Et ita, intelligo quod in primo instanti est a sub ratione absoluti; in secundo est b sub ratione absoluiti, habens esse per a; in tertio b refertur ad a sub ratione absoluti, si est relatio non mutua, - vel a et b referuntur relationibus mutuis. Hic ergo, in primo instanti intellectus est in actu per essentiam ut mere absolutam, tamquam in actu primo, sufficiente ad producendum quodlibet in esse intelligibili; in secundo instanti producit lapiedem in esse intellecto, ita quod terminus ille est et habet respectum ad intellectionem divinam: nullus autem est respectus e converso in intellectu divino, quia respectus non est mutuus.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Peter of Trabes

I have lately been pouring over the small number of edited questions of Peter of Trabes, a student of Olivi who died ca. 1300; the most striking thing about his doctrine is how Scotistic it is; whether Scotus read him or not, their views are extremely similiar. Scotus' are just more spelled out. In particular he has the separability criterion for real distinction, real or formal rationes in divinis that are present outside the operation of the created intellect, and the list goes on. I'll post a bit on divine simplicty below, which is not at all like Scotus. Indeed, they disagree on the relation of essence and existence. Scotus seems to think they are only notionally distinct, or even, following Avicenna, that existence is an accident of essence. Peter of Trabes thinks they are really distinct, and employs the separability criterion, though it's hard to see if he means it as proof, or if he has devoted a question to the issue elsewhere. As for the divine attributes, my dissertation topic, he thinks that the attributes are real diverse rationes, or formal rationes, but not really diverse natures or forms. They are diverse in creatures because creatures only participate in the rationes that are united in God (Scotus completely drops participation from his metaphysics, and at one point thinks it is only useful if understood as efficient causality). Any way, here is a bit on divine simplicity, which is quite extraordinary, and, ULTIMATELY, not like anything else I have run across:

I Sent. d.8 a.4 q.1:

"Dicendum quod Deus est summe simplex, in fine simplicitatis, nec aliquam compositionem habet, tum quia omne compositum secundum quodlibet genus compositionis habet in se essentiarum pluralitatem in potentia vel in actu, quod non contingit in Deo; tum quia omne compositum secundum omne genus compositionis habet esse indigens et dependens; tum quia omne compositum habet aliquam potentialitatem et non est pure actuale; tum quia omne compositum habet aliquam posterioritatem et non simpliciter primum, quae omnia esse divino repugnant. manifestum est quod in Deo non potest aliqua compositio esse; nec repugnat huic pluralitas personarum, nec pluralitas attributorum, quoniam pluralitas personarum non est pluralitas essentiarum sed exsistentiarum, quae non repugnat, immo maxime concordat summae simplicitati plures existentias habere; pluralitas vero attributorum non dicit pluralitatem rerum, sed ratio connotatorum, sicut fuit prius dictum."

One essence, 3 existences. maybe its a scribal error for subsistentes, but book I only has one mss. which is probably in Peter's own hand.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Socratic Ass and Denominative Predication

Here's a bit on denominative predication from St. Bonaventure, a topic that I have always been a bit shaky on. No translation, as I've been taking heat on their poor quality.

III Sent. d. 4 a.1 q.3 ad 4

"...dicendum quod praedicatio denominativa potest esse quatuor modis: per modum inhaerentiae, ut cum dicitur 'iste est albus'; per modum transmutationis, ut cum dicitur 'Petrus est dealbatus'; per modum possessionis, ut cum dicitur 'asinus Socraticus'; et per modum unionis, ut cum dicitur 'ferrum ignitum', id est igni unitum. Cum ergo dicitur quod praedicatio denominativa est accidentis, dicendum quod verum est quando est per modum inhaerentis, non autem est verum si semper intelligatur de praedicatione denominativa secundum alios modos. Cum autem dicitur 'Christus est humanatus', non est ibi praedicatio per modum inhaerentis, sed per modum unionis et relationis. Et ideo non sequitur quod humana natura sit accidens; nec sequitur ex hoc quod persona dvina sit mutata, quia, quamvis mutatio absoluta in accidente ponat mutationem in subiecto, introductio tamen ipsius relationis in esse potest esse ex mutatione facta in altero extremo."

Rant of the day: A few pages over from this I found a discussion by Bonaventure on the Lombard's three Christologies (if you recall, certain Thomists claim that Thomas, being the great reader of ancient councils that he was, managed to avoid heresy because he found the acts of one of the more obscure councils and endorsed the only possible option out of the Lombard's three while Scotus, because he was so dumb and uneducated, fell into heresy by endorsing the wrong one--of course, since Ordinatio III has been edited, it's clear there that Scotus thinks the question is booo-ring, and he cites a decree of Alexander III that had been incorporated into Gratian and opts for the correct option). Big surprise. Bonaventure also says that only one option is possible in his day and that it is commonly held by the Doctors. Yawn.

Old Wisdom

We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so.
Once School-divines this zealous isle o'er-spread;
Who knew most Sentences, was deepest read;
Faith, Gospel, all, seemed made to be disputed,
And none had sense enough to be confuted:
Scotists and Thomists, now, in peace remain,
Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane.*

--Pope, An Essay on Criticism

*Old London second-hand book district

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scotus on Knowing Individual differences

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Here is an interesting bit I came across today, regarding the possibility of cognizing our own individual difference. Not entirely clear, and the example about God annihilating one's body and uniting it to another while the soul remains in its original act of intellection is just plain weird and worthy of an analytic philosophical experiment.

Quaestiones super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis VII q.13

Differentia individualis a nullo nota est in hac vita communiter. Cuius probatio est: quia tunc nota esset differentia eius ad quodcumque aliud, et ita non posset errare de quocumque alio sibi intellectualiter ostenso quin iudicaret illud esse aliud. Sed hoc est falsum de alio omnino simili nisi tantum de intelligendo se animam et suum actum forte, a quibus differre diceret quantumcumque similia sibi ostensa. De intelligendo tamen se compositum forte erraret quis, si subito Deus suum corpus annihilaret, et aliud suae animae uniret, manente anima in eadem intellectione non interrupta, sic quod anima quantum ad differentiam individualem se ipsam certissime novit 'hoc ens'. Quantum ad naturam specificam, alia, ut sensibilia, certius novit; et hanc notitiam de se inquirit. ... Ergo non possumus individuum definire, non ex parte eius, sed ex impotentia nostra, sicut nec substantias separatas"

The individual difference is commonly known by none in this life, the proof of which is because then its difference to any other would be known, and so it would not be able to err about anything intellectually shown to it that it not judge it to be other. But this is entirely false about any other similar thing unless of understanding itself to be a soul and perhaps its own act, by which it would be said to differ from whatever similar shown to it. Someone would perhaps err in understanding himself to be composite, if God suddenly annihilateed his body and united it to another while at the same time not interrupting the intellection, so that the soul as far as its individual difference most certainly knew itself to be 'this being'. As far as specific nature, it more certainly knows other things, such as sensibiles; at it seeks this knowledge of itself. Therefore we are not able to define the individual, not because of something on the side of the individual, but from our own weakness, just as we cannot define the separated substances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WOD: Nihileitas

We've had nihilitates, so now make way for "Nihileitas", a term the humanists would most definitely screamed "Barbarism!" at. Now, you gentle readers may think that such a monster was coined by the decadent 14th century, by the likes of a Peter Auriol or Peter Thomae, but hark:

Duns Scotus Ordinatio I d.36 q. un (VI 296): "Prima ergo omnino ratio et non reducibilis ad aliam, quare homini non repugnat 'esse', est, quia homo formaliter est homo (et hoc sive realiter in re sive intelligibiliter in intellectu), et prima ratio quare chimaerae repugnat 'esse' est chimaera in quantum chimaera. Aliter ergo inest ista negatio 'nihileitas' homini in aternitate, et chimaerae, et tamen non propter hoc est unum magis nihil altero."

I won't bore you with an explanation of the context (whether the divine intellect by knowing created essences ab eterno gives them some real or intelligible being), but I will give a snippet about what the term means:

Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de esse intelligibili q.9 a.1:

"Quantum ad primum, primo explicabo aliqualiter nihileitatis quid et modum, secundo nichileitatis ortum, tertio nihileitatis gradum, quarto ipsius habitum. Quantum ad primum, dico ista per ordinem. Primum est quod nihileitas non est aliud quam negatio aliquitatis; idem enim est nihil quod non aliquid. Secundum est quod nihilitas quedam est totalis quod partialis, nam aliqua negatio est que negat totum que vocatur negatio extra genus; aliqua que non totum sed aliquid ut negatio in genere. Tertium quod quedam est nihileitas non repugnantie quedam repugnantie."

Descartes and Scholasticism

Back to our regularly scheduled programming with some Descartes. I've been reading Ariew's book Descartes and the Last Scholastics in my continuing attempt to discover what "really" happened to scholasticm: was it really laughed to death, or what? In any case, here are some quotes from Descartes on scholastic-y topics, univocity and the knowledge of substance, from his Principles of Philosophy.

Part 1 n.51: "what is meant by 'substance' - a term which does not apply univocally to God and his creatures

In the case of those items which we regard as things or modes of things, it is worthwhile examining each of them separately. By substance we can understand nothing other than a thing which exists in such a way as to depend on no other thing for its existence. And there is only one substance which can be understood to depend on no other thing whatsoever, namely God. In the case of all other substances, we perceive that they can exist only with the help of God's concurrence. Hence the term substance does not apply univocally, as they say in the Schools, to
God and to other things; that is, there is no distinctly intelligibile meaning of the term which is common to God and his creatures. "

Note that he doesn't quite ask the question the way an actual scholastic would (Ariew says that during the time Descartes wrote his major works it had been over 20 years since he had ready any scholastic material, and that prior to writing this treatise he requested a few manuels from his friends, manuels which turned out to be Scotistic as the dominant school at Paris at the time was that of the Scotistae). A scholastic, at least during the 13th and 14th centures would ask if being was univocal to God and creatures, substance and accident. Clearly, in this passage Descartes denies that the term substance is univocal to God and creatures. Pickstock has claimed that Descartes and Kant were basically regular old scholastics in virtue of (evil) Scotistic influence, etc., which seems absurd as his whole project is to supplant scholasticism; but perhaps in supplanting it he was also highly conditioned by it. In any case, this is not all that relevant here. One wonders what Scotus would make of this. He clearly thinks the human mind can form concepts that are univocal to God and creatures, and distinguishes four grades. But they are all transcendentals, that is they transcend the categories. The answer would then hinge on whether one thought that being a substance was a pure perfection. I've never seen Scotus say that it was, but I suppose being a substance is better than not being a substance so there may well be a transcendental sense of the term substance, though again, I am not entirely sure Scotus would agree on that. I also doubt that the scholastics would make such a use of dependence and substance; I've read plenty of discussions about substance being being per se yet even Scotus doesn't hasten to add that only God is substance in the true sense (which sounds more like a Thomistic position, in the manner of predication per prius et posterius which Scotus singles out for attack in one of his main arguments for univocity).

Here is the other passage, which may betray more Scotistic influence than the above:

n.52: "The term substance applies univocally to mind and body. How a substance itself is known

But as for corporeal substance and mind (or created thinking substance), these can be understood to fall under this common concept: things that need only the concurrence of God in order to exist. However, we cannot initially become aware of a substance merely through its being an existing thing, since this alone does not of itself have any effect on us. We can, however, easily come to know a substance by one of its attributes, in virtue of the common notion that nothingness possesses no attributes, that is to say, no properties or qualities. Thus, if we perceive the presence of some attribute, we can infer that there must also be present an existing thing or substance to which it may be attributed."

I'm not sure how useful this actually is; his argument that substance is univocal to mind and body is based on a common concept; is this common concept that of substance? It seems rather in his own words to be the fact that they both need divine concurrence in order to exist. But this would make everything univocally a substance, even accidents. I don't know what this is supposed to mean. In any case, we seem to be closer to Scotistic territory here, as Scotus does make the controversial claim that we do not know substance qua substance. Rather, we have a common notion of being common to substance and accidents that allows us to infer substances underlying the accidents that impinge on the senses.

Stay tuned for more "Posts of Interest!"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Democritus to the Reader

A labyrinth of intractable questions, unprofitable contentions, incredibilem delirationem, one calls it. If school divinity be so censured, subtilis Scotus, lima veritatis, Occam irrefragabilis, cuius ingenium vetera omnia ingenia subvertit, Thomas himself, Doctor Seraphicus, cui dictavit angelus, what can she plead? what can her followers say for themselves? Much learning cere-diminuit-brum, hath cracked their sconce . . .

--Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Motor Bus

What is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet in the Corn and High
Terror me Motoris Bi:
Bo Motori clamitabo
Ne Motore caedar a Bo--
Dative be or Ablative
So thou only let us live:
Whither shall thy victims flee?
Spare us, spare us, Motor Be!
Thus I sang; and still anigh
Came in hordes Motores Bi,
Et complebat omne forum
Copia Motorum Borum.
How shall wretches live like us
Cincti Bis Motoribus?
Domine, defende nos
Contra hos Motores Bos!

--A.D. Godley

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hermetic Esotericism

Mr Jones and his commenter Fr Maximus have discovered our secrets at last. Re my latest:

"If there ever was sophistry, this is it. . . . A non sequitur, which contradicts his earlier statement that person and essence are not distinct. There is an evil force pushing this system forward into a total denial of the Trinity, and Aquinas can resist it only by abandoning his own logic at the last moment in order to presrve the Trinity in name, if not if fact. The result is total confusion and blatant contradition."
"I’m afraid so, which is why I’m ready to start looking at the very esoteric aspects to the filioque. I believe this dogma was to ensure the survival of Hermeticism and “sacred science” and its methods under the cover of religion."
"It is very telling that Mike Liccione and company have named their new blog “Philosophia Perennis.” Virtually every attempt of man to come to an intellectual understanding with religion has resulted in something close to the same doctrine of God: there is not much difference between Neo-Platonism and Hinduism, and all modern religions of east and west are intellectually offshoots of one or the other. . ."

What is especially impressive is that our friends have penetrated our inner sancta without, so far as I can tell, having actually read with understanding a single work of Latin theology. They must, somehow, have become initiates some other way. Perhaps they took the Hidden Path into our gnosis:

"I would say that the ideal reader . . . would be a Rosicrucian adept, and therefore an expert in magiam, in necromantiam, in astrologiam, in geomantiam, in pyromantiam, in hydormantiam, in chaomantiam, in medicinam adeptam, to quote the book of Azoth, which, as the Raptus philosophorum explains, was given to Staurophorus by a mysterious maiden. But the knowledge of the adept embraces other fields, such as physiognosis, which deals with occult physics, the static, the dynamic, and the kinematic, or astrology and esoteric biology, the study of the spirits of nature, hermetic zoology. I could add cosmognosis, which studies the heavens from the astronomical, cosmological, physiological, and ontological points of view, and anthropognosis, which studies human anatomy, and the sciences of divination, psychurgy, social astrology, hermetic history. Then there is qualitative mathematics, arithmology . . . But the fundamentals are the cosmography of the invisible, magnetism, auras, fluid, psychometry, and clairvoyance, and in general the study of the five hyperphysical senses--not to mention horoscopic astrology (which, of course, becomes a mere mockery of learning when not conductd with the proper precautions), as well as physiognomics, mind reading, and the predictive arts (tarots, dream books), ranging to the highest levels, such as prophecy and ecstasy. Sufficient information would be required on alchemy, spagyrics, telepathy, exorcism, ceremonial and evocatory magic, basic theurgy. As for genuine occultism, I would advise exploration of the fields of the early cabala, Brahmanism, gymnosophy, Memphis hieroglyphics--"
"Templar phenomonology" . . .
"Absolutely . . ."

Cum insanis non est arguendum.

St Thomas on Existence/Essence and Identity

Mr Jones at Energetic Processions offers the following from St Thomas:

“Therefore that thing, whose existence differs from its essence, must have its existence caused by another. But this cannot be true of God; because we call God the first efficient cause. Therefore it is impossible that in God His existence should differ from His essence.” - ST Ia. Q.3 A.4

“Therefore “suppositum” and nature in them are identified. Since God then is not composed of matter and form, He must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him.” - ST Ia. Q.3 A.3

“The truth of this question is quite clear if we consider the divine simplicity. For it was shown above (Question 3, Article 3) that the divine simplicity requires that in God essence is the same as “suppositum,” which in intellectual substances is nothing else than person. But a difficulty seems to arise from the fact that while the divine persons are multiplied, the essence nevertheless retains its unity. And because, as Boethius says (De Trin. i), “relation multiplies the Trinity of persons,” some have thought that in God essence and person differ, forasmuch as they held the relations to be “adjacent”; considering only in the relations the idea of “reference to another,” and not the relations as realities. But as it was shown above (Question 28, Article 2) in creatures relations are accidental, whereas in God they are the divine essence itself. Thence it follows that in God essence is not really distinct from person; and yet that the persons are really distinguished from each other. For person, as above stated (29, 4), signifies relation as subsisting in the divine nature. But relation as referred to the essence does not differ therefrom really, but only in our way of thinking; while as referred to an opposite relation, it has a real distinction by virtue of that opposition. Thus there are one essence and three persons.” - ST Ia. Q.39 A.1

He doesn't here actually make an argument, but the implications, he thinks, are clear. In his comments he writes:

The whole thomistic tradition says that the persons of the trinity are identical to the divine essence. What does that amount to? Chicken scratch? Goody for you if you can prove that some Franciscans don’t make this mistake, bad for you that you commune with heretics that do. . . . Oh so when Aquinas says that essence and existence are identical in God it means they are not something other but actually the same thing, but when he says that one of the person’s of the trinity is identical to the essence that use of identity means something different. Okay…more Roman Catholic sophistry to document.

Respondeo: Yes, the identity of essence and existence in God and the identity of person and nature in God are not exactly the same. The quotes in Mr Jones' latest post show this clearly.

The identity of essence and existence, due to God's simplicity, is such as to make each of God's essential attributes really identical with each other and only notionally distinct (for Thomas, let's be clear, not for me). God's existence, goodness, eternity, are all really one and the same "item".

The identity of the persons with the essence is not the same. They are identical in the sense that there is in one sense one "item" and in another sense three "items". In no sense are there four "items": essence, Father, Son, and Spirit, such as there would be if any or all of the divine Persons were *really* distinct from the essence in any way. This is in fact precisely Thomas' denial of E.P.'s "God in general" accusation--the divine essence is not a universal property to which is added an individuating difference, i.e. Divinity+Paternity=God the Father. Thomas denies this. Rather, the Person who has God's Paternity=God. In that sense, God the Father (the supposit) is the same "thing" or "reality" (rem) as the divine existence/essence. There is no actually existing reality in God other than the divine ousia--God the Father is not something other than God, more, less, or different. There is no composition of personal properties with nature in God which would produce an additional something.

BUT the divine existence/essence and God the Father are NOT identical in the sense that referring to the single divine nature refers to a single divine supposit or person. God the Father is God (the existence/essence, ousia), God the Son is God, but God the Father is not God the Son. The Persons are really distinct from one another, not notionally. Because of this we have to say that the identity of the persons with the nature is not the identity of the = sign, as is the case (for Thomas) with God's essence and existence and essential properties.

God the Father cannot be really distinct from the divine essence because he is wholly God and in no way something other than God. There is no reality in God the Father which is not God. Nevertheless, it is not the case that, simply, Divinity=Paternity, the way that Divine Immensity=Divine Eternity, because God the Son is God, he has all Divinity, but he has no Paternity. There are two related but distinct senses of identity in play. All three Persons are identical with the essence (and with each other) in the sense that there is only one SOMETHING. There are, however, really three SOMEONES. All three persons are really distinct from each other, because the Father is not the Son is not the Spirit. To the extent, then, that Father/=Son, or Paternity/=Filiation, and yet Father=God and Son=God, there is a difference between the *kind* of identity Thomas postulates between the Person(s) and the essence and that between the existence and the essence/attributes.

I think this is clear enough in Thomas, although it could be clearer. And it is not my position--I don't think Thomas has the conceptual tools to adequately express the different kinds of identity he has in mind, which makes him a bit confusing and occasionally sounds almost contradictory--but I don't think it's heretical and I don't think it falls prey to Mr Jones' objections. Rather, I think he misunderstands and misconstrues Thomas, because he gives him the least possible sympathetic reading. He's looking for heresy and so he finds it. But everyone should know how easy it is to apply the same trick to any of the Fathers.

In any case, it's easy to call something sophistry when one makes no attempt to understand it on its own terms and shows no inclination or ability to think through difficult distinctions.

This will be my last response to Mr Jones.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feigned Erudition

"Many men" (saith Seneca) "had been without question wise, had they not had an opinion that they had attained to perfection of knowledge already, even before they had gone half-way," too forward, too ripe, praeproperi, too quick and ready, cito prudentes, cito pii, cito mariti, cito patres, cito sacerdotes, cito omnis officii capaces et curiosi, they had too good a conceit of themselves, and that marred all; of their worth, valour, skill, art, learning, judgment, eloquence, their good parts; all their geese are swans, and that manifestly proves them to be no better than fools. In former times they had but seven wise men, now you can scarce find so many fools. Thales sent the golden tripos, which the fishermen found and oracle commanded to be "given to the wisest," to Bias, Bias to Solon, etc. If such a thing were now found, we should all fight for it, as the three goddesses did for that golden apple, we are so wise: we have women politicians, children metaphysicians; every silly fellow can square a circle, make perpetual motions, find the philosopher's stone, interpret Apocalypsis, make new theorics, a new system of the world, new logic, new philosophy, etc. Notra utique regio, saith Petronius, "our country is so full of deified spirits, divine souls, that you may sooner find a god than a man amongst us," we think so well of ourselves; and that is an ample testimony of much folly.

--Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Photian Argument

Photius negat posse dari quid notionale commune duabus personis, sed ait quidquid non est commune tribus personis esse personale, et proprium unius tantum personae.

Gratis id negat, neque ullum est principium theologicum in quo fundari possit haec negatio. Praeterea etiam admittit Photius missionem Spiritus Sancti esse communem Patri et Filio, unde Patres cum Scriptura dicunt Spiritum esse proprium utriusque.

--Dalmau, De Deo Uno et Trino, sec.420.

All that the Father has which is not Paternity he gives to the Son. This includes the act of spiration, which cannot be identical to the divine essence, since the Spirit Himself does not spirate.

That the principle in question--that whatever is not shared by all three persons is a personal property--is false may be proved by the fact that the Son and the Spirit have in common originating from the Father, while the Father alone is unoriginate.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Authority of the (Thomistic) Manuels

What do you all think about this?

"...the unanimous teaching of the scholastic theologians in any area relating to faith or morals is the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bonaventure on the Distinction between Person and Nature

In III Sententiarum d.5 a.2 q.2:

"In hunc autem errorem pessimum decidit Nestorius, ut dicit Boethius, pro eo quod nescivit distinguere inter personam et naturam. Pro eo enim quod vidit in Christo duplicem esse naturam, intellexit duplicem esse personam. Eutyches vero ex eadem causa erravit, sed non eodem modo. Quia enim nescivit discernere inter personam et naturam et vidit quod in Christo non poterat esse nisi una persona, ex hoc compulsus est ponere quod in Christo non est nisi una natura. Et ideo sicut duo fuerunt errores in divinis, scilicet Arii et Sabellii, pro eo quod nesciverunt distinguere inter naturam et personam, sic duo fuerunt errores circa incarnationem Christi, videlicet Eutychis et Nestorii. Catholica vero Ecclesia per medium istorum errorum pertransiit, dicens in deitate plures esse personas et unam naturam, et in Christo plures naturas et unam personam. Et ideo simpliciter concedit personam assumsisse naturam et negat personam assumsisse personam, sicut Magister dicit in littera."

Nestorius fell into this worst error, as Boethius says, becuase he did not know to distinguish between person and nature. For because of the fact that he saw in Christ a double nature, he understood there to be a double person. Eutyches erred for the same reason, but not in the same way; for because he did not know to distinguish between nature and person and saw that in Christ there could only be one person he was compelled to claim that in Christ there was only one nature. And therefore just as tehre were two errors in divine matters, namely of Arius and Sabellius, because they did not know to distinguish between nature and person, so there were two errors about the incarnation of Christ, namely of Eutychis and Nestorius. But the Catholic Church passes through the middle of those errors saying that there are many persons and one nature in deity, and in Christ manynatures and one person. And therefore she grants unqualifiedly that a person has assumed a nature and denies that a person has assumed a person, just as the Master says in the text.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In honorem Ioannis Duns Scoti

by Fray Angelico chavez of New Mexico, written ca. 1925-1932

O Maria Immaculata,
Scoti tu victoria,
Sic concepta sicque nata
Es Minorum gloria.

Quando de Conceptione,
Matris disputatio fit,
Summa Dei ratione
Ait Scotus: Potuit.

Dixit: Pater cum coelorum
Genitum monuerit
Homo fiat, templum purum
Praeparari decuit

Tandem Scotus cantem jecit
Congaudente Filio:
Deus Matrem ergo fecit
Sine labe in utero.


"...a nation's civilization and refinement depends on the superiority of the philosophy which is practised there."

-Descartes, Preface to the French edition of the Principia philosophiae

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bonaventure on the Difference between Nature and Essence

In III Sententiarum, d.5 a.2 q.1 ad 4: "In hoc enim differt essentia a natura, quia essentia nominat rei formam in quadam abstractione, natura eam nominat entem in motu et materia ut naturalium operationum principium. Et ideo doctores catholici magis isto verbo uti voluerunt 'Deus assumsit humanam naturam', quam hoc 'Deus assumsit humanam essentiam', quamvis utraque sit vera; ista enim est magis propria."

In this essence differs from nature, that essence names the form of a thing in a certain abstraction, nautre names a being in motion and in matter as a principle of natural operations. And therefore the catholic doctors more mean to use "God assumed human nature," than this "God assumed a human essence", although each is true; for that one is more proper.

Somewhat obvious you may say, but distinctions are important, or so the Scotist in me says. We should be clear about such basic notions when we discuss more complicated issues, as I've found in recent discussions about the Eucharist, if we want to avoid simply talking past each other.

For long time fans, compare this to the bit I once posted from Peter Thomae's Questio de distinctione predicamentorum, who elaborates a whole series of different types of distinctions with their corresponding types of identity.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bonaventura Pius

Been busy with the dissertation and the Logica Scoti, but will try to post more for our hordes of adoring fans.

Here's some nice, pious comments from St. Bonaventure on the Blessed Virgin. In this question, he twice refers to John Damascene as the "verus doctor".

In III Sententiarum d.4 a.3 q.3: "Dicendum quod verba fidem christianam exprimentia debent esse ab errore longinqua est devotioni approximantia, maxime illa in quibus est sermo de Virgine Maria. Ipsa enim cunctas haereses interemit in universo mundo, Veritatem ex se ipsa concipiendo et pariendo; ipsa enim reconciliationem toti generi humano promeruit: et ideo erga eam ardere debet omnis Christianorum devotio"

It must be said that the words expressing the Christian faith ought to be far from error and drawing close to devotion, most of all those in which there is speech of the Virgin Mary. For she destoryes all the heresies in the whole world by conceiving and giving birth to the Truth from herself, for she merited the reconciliation of the whole human race. And so all devotion of Christians ought to burn toward her.

Scotus is Not For Children

Multis amara sunt grammatices praecepta: Aristotelis ethice non est apta peueris: theologia Scoti minus; ne viris quidem admodum utilis ad parandam bonam mentem: et plurimum habet momenti, gustum optimarum rerum protinus insevisse teneris animis.

--Erasmus, De utilitate colloquiorum ad lectorem

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Glimpse of Spiritual Matter in the Fourteenth Century

For Michael, an interesting snippet from the Carmelite theologian Guido Terrena's (died ca. 1340) Quaestiones ordinarie q.2:

"Et ideo alii dicunt quod suppositum dicit compositum ex materia et forma; natura autem dicit formam. Sed istud est falsum, quia materia est de quidditate, natura rerum naturalium. Unde nihil differt per materiam. Item cum secundum communiorem opinionem et secundum philosophiam in angelo non est materia, tunc in angelo natura praedicatur de supposito, quod non est verum."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

King Bonaventure

I came across the following quote from Stephen Brulifer, comparing Bonaventure and Scotus: "Unde merito comparatur hic doctor, S. Bon. leoni tanquam rex inter doctores, Scotus autem aquilae quae est rex avium"

In the Octave of the Assumption

This day the Ark of the living God, even the holy and living Ark, wherin once its own Maker had been held, is borne to its resting place in that Temple of the Lord which is not made with hands. Her ancestor David leapeth before it. And in company with him the Angels dance, the Archangels sing aloud, the Virtues ascribe glory, the Principalities shout for joy, the Powers make merry, the Dominions rejoice, the Thrones keep holiday, the Cherubim utter praise, and the Seraphim proclaim its glory. This day the Eden of the new Adam receiveth her who was the living garden of delight, wherein the condemnation was annulled, wherein the Tree of Life was planted, wherein our naked was covered. This day the spotless Virgin, who had been defiled by no earthly lust, but rather was enobled by heavenly desires, died only to live without returning to dust. For being herself a living heaven, she took her place today among the heavenly mansions. From her the true Life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by him to whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, who is the very Life itself, had not refused. But, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by him unto himself.

--St John Damascene, Orat. 2 de Dormitione B.V.M.

Word of the Day: Aliusitas

Today's word of the day is aliusitas. It apparently is a certian kind of alietas. I am not exactly sure what kind. As one might surmise, it comes from the 14th century theologian and Scotist philosopher Peter Thomae, from his Formalitates seu Quaestiones de modis distinctionis q.5 a.4. Here it is, in all its glorious context.

Omnis enim alietas vel facit aliud et sic potest vocari alietas aliuditatis vel alium et sic alietas aliusitatis; et ista alietas est proprie inter diversa supposita sicut prima inter diversas essentias; vel facit alterum et haec est alietas alteritatis quae est non alietas essentiae nec suppositi sed alicuius accidentalis dispositionis.

Honestly, I don't even know how to translate this. "For otherness either makes another and so can be called otherness of otherness, or other, and so otherness of [some other kind of otherness]; and that otherness is properly between diverse supposits, just as first among diverse essences. Or it makes an other, and this is otherness of otherness which is not otherness of essence or supposit but otherness of an accidental disposition.

Admittedly, it is utterly out of context.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More on Plantinga, Divine Simplicity

It would seem that Catholics, at least, cannot follow Plantinga in his claim that God is other than his nature (philosophical arguments aside, for the moment), due to the decrees of the council of Rheims against Peter of Poitiers. Of course, it was not an ecumenical council, but its decrees are included in Denzinger. In any case here it is, #745

Quod divina essentia, substantia et natura, quae dicitur divinitas, bonitas, sapientia, magnitudo Dei, et quaeque similia, non sit Deus, sed forma, qua est Deus.

that the divine essence, substance and nature which is called the divinity, goodness, wisdom, magnitude of God, and suchlike, is  not God, but a form by which God is.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eco on Beauty in Thomas Aquinas and Scotus

I randomly came across the following quote when I was procrastinating today, which I post for my beauty-loving friend. It is from The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas by Umberto Eco, p. 205 ff. Because it is at the end of the book, and I have not read the rest of it, I won't make any hasty judgments, though I object to the notion of such entities as "post Thomistic Scholasticism".

"The Dissolution of the Concept of Form
in Post-Thomistic Scholasticism

John Duns Scotus defined beauty as follows.

Pulcritudo non est aliqua qualitas absoluta in corpore pulchro sed est aggregatio omnium convenientium tali corpori, puta magnitudinis, figurae et coloris aggregatrio omnium respectuum qui sunt istorum ad corpus et per se invicem.

Beauty is not some kind of absolute quality in the beautiful object. It is rather an aggregate of all the properties of such objects-for example, magnitude, shape, and color, and the sum of all the connections among themselves and between themselves and the object. [quoted from the Wadding ed.]

Here, the term aggregatio might seem to refer us to the theory of proportion, except that Duns Scotus denies that beauty is an "absolute quality," and denies therefore that it is a substantial form inhering in the object as a whole. The reason for this becomes clear if we remember the Scotist doctrine that there is a plurality of forms. The unity of a composite object does not require a unity of form, but only the subordination of the forms of the parts, none of which is annulled, to an ultimate form. This is just the opposite of Aquinas: one thinks of Aquinas's discussion of mixed bodies, where, in order to salvage something of the powers of the forms included in the composite, he had to engage in some tricky maneuvering. This was because his system could not allow the forms of the parts to retain any autonomy, within the shadow as it were of the composite's substantial form.

It is clear that, if one insists upon the existence of a relational structure of autonomous forms, the conception of beauty will become a more analytical one. And this analytical quality is further affected by another theory of Duns Scotus's, the theory of haecceitas, or "thisness". Haecceitas is an individuating property. Its function is not that of perfecting form--which cannot be other than universal--but rather of giving to the whole composite a concrete particularity, uniquely individual with respect to every other composite. It is quite different from Aquinas's quidditas, or "whatness," which makes substance exemplify a category, the typical rather than the individual. Haecceitas is a principale which completes a thing to the point where it is irreducibly concrete. "The ultimate specific difference," says Duns Scotus, "is simply to be different from everything else." Particulars, therefore, are superior to essences. In Aquinas, the particular was more perfect than universal form because it had existence. In Duns Scotus, it is more perfect because it is a unique thing which is defined by its uniqueness. For Duns Scotus, something is included in the nature of the individual (ratio individuui) which is lacking in shared nature (natura communis).

Illud autem inclusum est entitas positiva. Et facit unum cum natura. Eergo est per se praedeterminans illam naturalm ad singularitatem.

It includes positively being something. This makes it one with nature. Therefore, nature is predetermined to particularity.

We might wish at this point to examine whether this assertion of the absolute particularity of substance was homologous with the types of art which were contemporary with it. Aquinas's philosophy would seem more akin to the art of classical Gothic, which tended to represent the typical. Duns Scotus's would seem to be the philosophy of Flamboyant gothic, with its liking for the particular, for individuality in the person, for a detailed and analytical mode of vision, for a sense of particularity opposed to the grand and unifying works of the preceding period. However, making connections of this kind is always dangerous. It is difficult to establish a point-by-point correspondence between theoretical propositions and works of art, just because they happen to be contemporary. I shall therefore confine myself to noting that the theory of haecceitas would imply that we do not grasp a form by means of a purely intellectual act, but in an intuition; whereas the intellect, which can know particulars only in a  confused manner, has to fall back upon universal concepts. This shows that Scotist theory brings us to a new aesthetic world, even if Scotus himself did not care to follow his own principles to their ultimate conclusions.


This brief survey is the merest introduction to quite a different topic, namely the birth of modern conceptions of art. But it might be risky to stop at just this point, just when I have indicated the lines of fracture which caused a crisis in Scholasticism and opened up new perpsectives. It is risky at least in this sense, that every chapter in the history of philosophy is constantly in danger of infection by Idealism (which is at the same time an aestheticizing tendency). Thus, historians are tempted to present philosophy as an epic poem or a bourgeois novel of the nineteenth century. We are shown the rise and fall of philosophies, the triumph of a rationality which is immanent in the forms of thought; and its various stages follow one another, not by chance, but in a dialectic in which each stage supersedes the stage preceding it. Thus, for example, Eckhart's theory of the image could be said to represent the "truth" of the matter, to translate the problems of art and beauty of a "more mature" level, and to put an end to the primitive, disingenous beginnings represented by the Scholastic systems.

In contrast to this vice of Idealist historiography, there is an opposite vice3, one againsts which I have been struggling in this book. It is the neo-Scholastic vice of attempting to rescue, whole and entire, a body of thought which is valid and consistent only when applied to the problems of its own period.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to find a middle way between these two. But in order to do so, it is necessary to keep two things in mind, one historical, the ohter methodological. First of all, whenever a system of thought disintegrates, this never occurs just because an internal dialectical explosion, purely on the level of thought alone, produces contradictions within it, and causes it to be nullifed in whatever supersedes it. Any system comes about as a response to specific social, political, and cultural questions, and to solicitations which are implicit in the relations of production and are mediated through the superstructure. Therefore, when a system breaks down, it does not do so just from within. It breaks down because of something outside it.

This indicates the conditions under which a system enters a state of crisis. But at the same time, it means refusing to countenance the complete disappearance of the mode of thought in question. If similar conditions should arise again, some of the forms of argument and systematic correlations might well recover their effectiveness. Historical reconstruction helps to restore the model of a particular way of thinking and, therefore, an image of one possible form that the world can have. In certain social and cultural circumstances, this can provide the conceptual instruments by means of which we can validly construct additional images of the world, in situations which are at least partly homologous.

This historical procedure immediately becomes the instrument of a method of theoretical analysis. Every so often we can usefully revisit our models of the thinking of the past and try out in new circumstances the conceptual instruments which at one time proved effective. Or we may discover that in fact we are already using them without knowing it. Thus, the reconstructed model can help us to avoid pathways which have already been found to lead no-where, or it can indicate how to take new paths in a critical manner.

This is the twofold manner in which I now want to give an estimate of Aquinas's aesthetics: an estimate of what it was in its time, and of the ways in which it entered upon a crisis; and an estimate of his model for aesthetics, of what it can still say to us today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Auriol on the Formal Distinction

Here's a bit from Peter Auriol's lengthy criticisms of the formal distinction, where he summarizes his disagreement just prior to going after basically every version of the formal distinction ever elaborated by Scotus. From his Scriptum d. 8 sec. 23 a.5 [ed. Buytaert 1009=1010)

"Circa quintum autem considerandum quod, licet iste modus dicende valde subtilis sit, nihilominus deficit in duobus. Primo quidem quia quae distincta sunt ex natura rei, oportet quod importent determinatas rationes. Nunc autem supra probatum est quod iustita non dicit deitatem sub aliqua determinata ratione, quoniam iustitia in communi quantum ad importatum principaliter et in recto, nihil deteminatum dicit, sed tota terminatio est in connotato quod importatur in obliquo. Iustitia vero divina coincidit in rationem detitatis, sicut et iustitia creata in rationem propriam qualitatis cuiusdam. Et quod dictum est de iustitia, intelligi oportet de sapientia et aliis attributis. Ergo imossible est quod talia distnguantur in Deo ex natura rei, vel re vel ratione, cum coincidant penitus in rem et rationem deitatis.

Secundo vero quia inevitabile est quin esset attributorum aliqua multitudo realis, et per consequens laederetur et infringeretur divina simplictas; quod est contra auctoritatem Sanctorum et philosophorum, ac generalis Concilii dicentis postquam enutiatum est de Deo quod est immensus, incommutabilis, omnipotens et aeternus, quod est 'simplex omnino'. Et quia quinque viae superius tractae sunt, quibus videtur posse salvari divina simplictas non obstante ista distinctione, restat ostendere discurrendo quod nulla earum salvat."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Intuition of Relativity?

While working through Peter Thomae's first question in his Quaestiones de esse intelligibli, I came across a rather interesting section, in which he gave eight arguments ex experientia, something I have not seen a Latin scholastic do before. I give the first below as it is the most interesting and sets up a scenario vaguely reminiscent of Einstein's bit on the trains that I read back in high school. The others are more familiar, such as a stick that looks broken in water, or staring at the sun and still seeing afterimages when looking at other things. Of course, Augustine is cited so much, he might not even have come up with this one on his own, but gotten it from one of the fathers. The word "potatur" I think needs to be translated as "swimming" though it literally means to drink, but I could not make out the abbreviation (there was an -x- involved as well) in the manuscript so even "potatur" is just a guess.

"Prima est quando aliquis potatur in aliqua aqua, tunc enim quando navis vadit velociter, arbores in ripa existentes videntur moveri. Huiusmodi autem motus qui est obiective in oculo non potest poni quod sit ipsa visio, alioquin visio est obiectum visus et ita visus est potentia reflexiva; nec potest poni quod sit realiter in arbore vel ripa quia tunc realiter moveretur; nec potest poni quod sit in aere, quia aeri non attribuitur sed arbori est, ergo solum intentionaliter non realiter in esse viso et esse iudicato."

First is when someone swimming in some water, then when a ship quickly goes by, the trees on the shore seem to be moved. Motion of this kind which is objectively in the eye cannot be posited to be vision itself, otherwise vision is the object of the sight, and so sight is a reflexive power; nor can it be said that it is really in the tree or shore, because then it[ie, they] would really be moved; nor can it be said to be in the air, because it is not attributed to the air but to the tree, therefore it is in "being seen" or "being judged" only intentionally, not really."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mr. Bush's impending conversion

This post is mainly for Michael, as I am sure he will find it as humerous as did I; it is some excerpts from Dr. Samuele Bacchiochi's latest "Endtime Issues" newsletter. Note the usual dammed if you do, dammed if you don't attitude.

"Perhaps the most impressive example of President Bush sheer reverence for Pope Benedict XVI, is the affirmation he made on Friday, April 11, 2008, when he answered the last question posed him by Raymond Arroyo, anchor of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Arroyo asked the President, "You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul." The President replied, "Yes." Arroyo followed with this final question: "When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?" The President replied "God" ( News Agency, April 13, 2008). This is a shocking affirmation that speaks volumes about Bush's misconception of God. For the President to see "God" in the eyes of Benedicts XVI, means to ignore the historical role that the papacy has played in promoting false worship and persecuting sincere Christians. The "god" represented by the Pope, is not the biblical God, but a Catholic-made god, who claims divine titles, like "God on Earth, Vicar of Christ, Holy Father," The Pope is a god fabricated by the Catholic Church to lead sincere people away from the true worship of God into the false worship of a church-made god. For a Methodist President to see "God" in the pope's eyes, means to have lost sight of the biblical commandment not to identify God with "anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath" (Ex 20:4). It means that he has been brainwashed by those Catholic theologians whom he has invited at his Texas residence and at the White House to teach him the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith.


It is evident that President Bush does not realize that the majesty and splendor of the Catholic liturgy is based on a host of heresies such as immortality of the soul, survival of the soul in Purgatory, Hell, or Paradise, and the veneration of Mary and the Saints. All these heresies are traced historically and examined biblically in my latest book Popular Beliefs: Are They Biblical? Most likely Bush's Methodist religious education never helped him to understand the pagan origin of Catholic beliefs and rituals.


Benedict XVI must be commended for his frank analysis of the socio-religious-political situation of Western Europe. What he fails to realize, however, is that the Catholic Church is largely responsible for the pervasive secularism and moral relativism in Europe today. After all the Catholic Church has influenced and controlled for centuries the social, religious, and political life of Western Europe and Latin America. The fruits of Catholic religious indoctrination are evident in all the dominant Catholic countries where political corruption is rampant and indifference toward religion is the order of the day. By teaching people that salvation is a dispensation of the church, administered through the sacraments, the Catholic Church has fostered the moral relativism pervasive in Catholic countries. The reason is that Catholics are taught that no matter how sinful their life will be, at the end the sacramental powers of the Church can hasten their transition from Purgatory to Paradise. By contrast, Protestantism teaches that salvation is a disposition of the believer. Christians are expected to live morally responsible toward God and fellow-beings. This is known as "Protestant ethics." The fruits of Protestant religious indoctrination can be seen in the influence of religion in the social-political life of countries like the United States.


By promoting successfully the cause of social justice, Benedict XVI is predispose people around the world to more readily accept those teachings that have divided Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. The gulf of separation between Catholicism and Protestantism is truly being bridged, but the bridge is being built at Protestant expenses. To Protestants, it means that, on the one hand, we must admire John Paul's courageous and unpopular stand for the Biblical view of the sacredness of marriage and human life as well as his uncompromising denunciation of homosexuality and of sex outside marriage as sinful acts. On the other hand, we must never forget that the same Pope is equally uncompromising on the fundamental Catholic teachings that have divided Protestantism from Catholicism because they rest on venerable ecclesiastical traditions."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

John de Bassolis contra Henry of Ghent

Here's a quote from Ioannes de Bassolis, one of the students of Scotus at Paris. No manuscripts of his writings survive, though his Sentence commentary was printed in the 15th or so century. It is believed to have been redacted around 1320. In the quote he will be arguing against Henry of Ghent's view in Quodlibet V q.1 in which he claims that the divine attributes are known by the divine intellect purely by knowing the divine essence, not by knowing creatures, as Godfrey of Fontaines and Thomas of Sutton claim in attacking Henry. Henry's view is that the divine attributes are in quasi potency, "in radice" in the divine essence, and the divine intellect, by "negotiando", somehow moving around the divine essence moves the perfections from potency to act. Henry also seems to posit the three acts of the intellect into the divine intellect, all the while protesting his adherence to divine simplicity and unity.

I. de Bassolis In I Sent. d.22 q.3 (f.138)

"Contra secundam opinionem arguo primo sic: quod attributa saltem omnia non distinguantur per intellectum, quia intellectus est quoddam attributum. Sed intellectus non distinguitur primo per opus intellectus, quia opus distinctum necessario praesupponit intellectum distinctum, aliquando actus distinguendi; ita bene est per essentiam et per bonitatem sicut per intellectum, quod est falsum. Similiter etiam est contra eos, quia si est per essentiam est ex natura rei talis distinctio, oportet ergo ibi ponere intellectum formaliter et distinctum ex natura rei. Non enim distincta potentia est originaliter per distinctum actum sed per distinctam potentiam et a distincta potentia est distinctus actus, quaere etc.

Translation: "Against the second opinion, I argue first so: that all the attributes at least are not distinguished by the intellect because the intellect is a certain attribute. But the intellect is not distinguished primarily by an operation of the intellect, because a distinct operation necessarioly presupposes a distinct intellect [and] some act of distinguishing; so it is as well as distinguished b goodness as by the intellect, which is false. Likewise against them, because if there is distinction through essence, the distinction is such from the nature of the thing, therefore it is necessary to posit there formally the intellect and it as distinct from the nature of the thing. For a distinct power is not orginally by a distinct act, but a distinct act is by a distinct power and from a distinct power, wherefore etc."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Angels on Pinheads

Although it does not seem that the scholastics ever actually asked how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, still it must be admitted that they do at times discuss questions which seem, at least from this distance, just as trite and ridiculous. Take, for instance, St Bonaventure's In IV Sententiarum Dist. VIII. Pars II. Art. I Q. II ob. 7-8, where someone in Bonaventure's class is worrying about the fact that in the words of consecration--"This is the cup of my blood"--the principle thing referred to, the Precious Blood, is, horror of horrors, declined rather than in the nominative case, that is, crooked obliquo rather than straight recto! I have to admit it's hard to see why anyone would think this is a legitimate problem, or why Bonaventure would deem it worthy of response. It should at least be recalled that Bonaventure's Sentences commentary is a revised record of actual classroom lectures, and that even silly questions might come up and be discussed in a classroom setting which an academic professional would not today include in his published work.

At the same time the present question is extremely interesting in a number of other respects. For one, it sheds light on the present-day "pro multis" controversy. Just a few objections after the frivolous declension ones, it is asked why the words of consecration are "pro vobis et pro multis", for you and for many, and not "pro omnibus," for all, given that the blood of Christ was in fact shed for all. Bonaventure replies that by "pro vobis" Christ meant the Apostles to whom he was speaking, and by extension the Jews, and that by "pro multis" he meant the gentiles; or, similarly, by "for you" Christ meant the priests, the ministers of the sacrament he was instituting, and by "for many" he meant those to whom the priests were to minister. So that "for you and for many" in fact means the same thing as "for all". In the body of the question Bonaventure ventures the opinion that the *exact words* of the Roman canon are not *absolutely necessary* for confecting the sacrament--for one thing they are not the words found in the New Testament--and that so long as the sense remains identical the words might vary without changing the sacrament's form: forma in illis verbis omnibus salvatur, et modica variatio verbi, salvo sensu, formam non mutat. So thanks to St Bonaventure we can dispense with that canard of today's Traditionalists.

In any case, the "for you and for all" translation in today's English mass was approved specifically by Rome. In this same Responsio St B also deals with the question of *why* the form of confection differs from any of the formularies found in scripture, and his response is simply that the Roman Church has declared that this is the form. He affirms Roman primacy--based of course on its founding by Peter and Paul the princes of the Apostles--in explicit and strong terms, as well as the priority of the unwritten Tradition handed down by the Apostles over the authority of Scripture, at greater length than I care to quote and translate.

So here we have an excellent demonstration of the awesomeness of the scholastic method. Right next to merely absurd grammatical quibbles and scruples--just making sure we leave no stone left unturned, thank you--we have an exposition and defense of some of the central doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, with immediate applicability to controversies very much alive today within that Church. Did I mention that St Bonaventure is great?