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.


Michael Sullivan said...

I'd be interested in the arguments to the contrary by the Scotists. The formal distinction seems to make this kind of thing fairly natural--that the divine intellect generates the Platonic universe, which is not really separate from it. Sure it seems to mitigate the divine simplicity somewhat, but it doesn't destroy it--just gives it "nuance"! Sic saltem mihi videtur.

Lee Faber said...

I'll try to post some of it; Alnwick just says Scotus didn't mean what he said, Peter Thomae says something like, if Scotus meant what I"m saying, good for him, but if he meant what he actually wrote, then he spoke badly.

I have a hard time seeing why its so terrible, other than the reason you mentioned; all of them would probably agree to the first instant, so it seems to me that Scotus is just spelling out what goes on when(the eternal when) the divine intellect understands the divine essence, as opposed to more vague claims made by other scholastics such that "God knows creatures by knowing His essence".

Michael Sullivan said...

The trick it seems to me is to determine just what these "instants" are in the eternal cognition. Would it be helpful to speak of "layers" or "levels" to remove the quasi-temporal feel? Should we understand the "production" of the contents of the divine intellection as occurring logically but not sequentially, like mathematical objects in the classical treatises? e.g. the production of a conic section in Apollonius. I can't think of another way to understand it.

Lee Faber said...

given the fact that Scotus elsewhere upholds divine simplicity and immutability, and the fact that he wasn't a moron, your suggestion sounds like a great idea.Incidentally, in discussing predestination he posits a similar process (i think it also has four stages/levels) in the will. If you want to read PT's remarks, look at the second question in the group that i sent you a while back. the text is decent enough, though there are a few homoeoteleuta.

Anonymous said...

This is an off-topic question, but why do you gentlemen call your blog, "The Smithy"?

Michael Sullivan said...

It's an inside joke.

Matthew said...

In that passage, Scotus talks of the Divine Intellect causing within itself relations of reason explicitly. The stuff about producing things in intelligible being and such also seems to suggest causation in the Godhead. So, how would Scotus, in face of all this, still defend divine immutability, as a commitment to divine simplicity (even though a loser conception than Aquinas'), among other things, would require? For myself, I cannot see it; I would be interested in an explanation from one of you (Lee or Michael), if you have the time. Thanks!

Lee Faber said...

well, it shows up in the Thomist tradition as well, for example Hervaeus.

As for Scotus, I would say such talk reflects the logical stages necessary for understanding and not an actual change. There are other passages where it sounds as if 'produce in intelligible being' just means to understand something, and there are other passages where he says that these instants are according to our mode of understanding, which also speaks to your concern.

And similar language is used about the divine Persons being generated, without there being a change.

Matthew Guertin said...

First off, the clarification you provided, Lee, was very helpful. Thanks.

As to the first, yeah, well, it seems that members of the Thomist tradition didn't necessarily always get Aquinas right, nor such that they developed genuinely Aquinas' own thought as considered in itself. To take one small example, Banez, for instance, in his commentary on ST I 14.6 talks of representation of creatures in the divine mind, which is talk I don't think Aquinas would have ever countenanced; Aquinas, as far as I can tell, was no representationalist about knowledge, pace portions of the analytic Thomist commentary tradition. About the point in question, while other Scholastics have used the language Scotus used in the above excerpt, from my reading of Aquinas it seems like the sort of language Aquinas would himself avoid - and has consciously avoided - using: I can't remember so clearly, but I seem to recall that it comes out, at least, in his discussion of the difference between the meaning of "cause" and "principle" in his discussion of the Greek approach to the Trinity, and why he thinks it better to use the word "principle" to describe the Father's "relation" to the Godhead.

In any event, as someone with thomistic leanings, I find your explanation of Scotus here agreeable - for whatever that's worth.