Thursday, April 3, 2008

Quid est "nolle"

Recently, over a beer, a friend and I got into a dispute about what 'nolle' is supposed to be. I, relying on confused memories of Wolter's book of translations on the will and morality and comments made in class, maintained that the act of nolition, translated by Wolter as "nil" and Marilyn McCord Adams as "to will against", was a positive act. On my view of Scotus, the will can either act or not act, and its action can be either volitional or nolitional. My friend, however, as far as I can recall (this was some time ago) maintained that rather we should translate 'nolle' as to 'not will' something, which denies that it is an action at all. He seemed to identify the ability of the will to act or not act with 'velle' and 'nolle'. At the time, as we were in a bar, it was my word against his and we did not get very far in the debate. I believe that the following texts support my interpretation, though really it was just a matter of looking things up. In any case, it highlights the difficulty in translating this word from latin; my handy little 'words' dictionary renders it as "be unwilling; wish not to; refuse to", all of which support my friends interpretation. This should serve to remind us that while we can laugh at Scotus' bad grammar all we want (this is directed at myself as much as anyone else), we have to keep in mind his specialized uses and invention of technical terminology.

Ordinatio II d.6 n.34: "...dico quod est in communi duplex actus voluntatis, scilicet velle et nolle: est enim 'nolle' actus postivus voluntatis, quo fugit disconveniens sive quo resilit ab obiecto disconveniente; 'velle' autem est actus quo acceptat obiectum aliquod conveniens."

I say in common that there is a double act of the will, namely 'to will' and 'to will against'; for 'willing against' is a positive act of the will, by which it flees the disagreeable or by which it recoils from a disagreeable object. 'Willing, however, is an act by which it accepts some agreeable object.

Reportatio IA d. 1 pars 2 n.40 "Probabile tamen est quod ubi non inveniret defectum aliquem boni non posset illud nolle - qui est actus contrarius ipsi velle, et est actus positivus..."

Nevertheless it is probable that where one does not find some defect of the good one cannot will against it: which is a positive act contrary to that act of willing.

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