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