Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Descriptio Sepulcri Duns Scoti

From the introductory material in Ioannis Duns Scoti subtilis ac celeberrimi doctoris In universam Aristot. Logicam. (ed. Venice, 1583)

"Ipsum sepulcrum elevatum est fere ad altitudinem palmae, in chori conventus minorum con. Coloniensis medio sub campana, ex cupro, et aere fusum, in medio ipsius aerei sepulchri est imago ipsius Scoti, supra quam tres collocati sunt franciscanae religionis summi pontifices, Alexander videlicet quintus, Nicolaus quartus, Sixtus quartus et duo cardinales, scilicet D. Bonaventura et illustrissimus Bertrandus, cum insignibus eorum. Ab utroque latere horum imagines sitae sunt; nec non et discipulorum Scoti, ut pote Alexandri Alensis, Alexandri Alexandrini, Rogerii Baconis *[damage] Guilhelmi Varronis, Alvari Pelagii Hyspani, *[damage] Lyrani sub pedibus vero ipsius imaginis haec visa sunt carmina.

Ante oculos saxum doctorem deprimit ingens,
Cuius ad interitum sacra Minerva gemit.
Siste gradum, lector, fulvo dabis oscula saxo;
Corpus Ioannis haec tenet urna Scoti:
Anno milleno ter CCC cum adderet octo,
Postremum clausit letho agitante diem.

Et in vicino lapide in pavimento ecclesiae excusum est

Obiit Frater Ioannes Duns Scotus
Sacrae Theologiae Doctor
Subtilis nominatus
Anno 1308."

Here is what the tomb looks like today:

And another view:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thomas of Sutton on the Real Distinction

One of the difficulties that arises when discussing Scotus' formal distinction is just what kind of distinction it is supposed to be. Is it midway between a distinction of reason and a real distinction, or a version of a real distinction? This is complicated by some terminological differences between Scotus' Oxford and Parisian accounts. A necessary first step is figuring out what a real distinction is. Big surprise, there is no standard scholastic account of what a real distinction is. Nothing explicit in Aquinas, save for the bit in De ente et essentia that to conceive of an essence apart from an existence is sufficient for their being really distinct in reality. Giles of Rome works this into a theory in which a real distinction obtains between entities that are separable (more on this later). Thomas of Sutton (died after 1319), whose texts I give below, thought that a real distinction was one that existed subjectively in the thing under consideration apart from the consideration of an intellect. This probably reflects the context of his Quodlibeta, which contain a great deal of polemic against Henry of Ghent; the passage at the end of the post is from a discussion of the distinction of divine attributes, an area of dispute that really exploded after Henry's Quodlibet V q. 1, disputed in 1280. Scotus employs both senses of the real distinction (the Aegidian and the Suttonian) in the Ordinatio, though only the Suttonian makes an appearance in his discussion of the formal distinction of divine attributes. Anyway, here is the beginnings of a list:

1. Distinctio ex natura rei (everyone, including Aquinas and Scotus, use this one without defining it)
2. Distinctio realiter:
a. separability criterion (Giles of Rome)
b. in subject prior to intellective operations (Thomas of Sutton)

Note that this is just from the Aquinas' followers, Dominican and Augustinian. I'll post more later on the Franciscans.

Thomas de Suttona, Quodlibet III q. 1 (ed. Schmaus 342):

"Unde haec est differentia inter distinctionem realem et distinctionem secundum rationem quod illa, quae distinguuntur realiter, habent in se subiective suam realem distinctionem, sicut patet de albedine et dulcedine in lacte. Sed illa, quae distinguuntur secundum rationem in aliqua re, non habent in illa re tamquam in subiecto suam distinctionem secundum rationem, sed solum tamquam in obiecto. Illa autem distinctio secundum rationem est in intellectu distinguente ut in subiecto et per comparationem ad intellectum, in quo est distinctio realis. Sed distinctio secundum rationem dicitur per comparationem ad obiectum, circa quod ratiocinatur."


Whence this is the difference between a real distinction and a distinction according to reason: that those things, which are really distinguished, have subjectively in themselves their own real distinction, just as is clear regarding whiteness and sweetness in milk. But those things, which are distinguished according to reason in some thing, do not have in that thing just as in a subject their own distinction according to reason, but only as in an object. That distinction according to reason is in the intellect distinguishing as in a subject and by comparison to the intellect, in which there is a real distinction. But a distinction according to reason is said by comparison to an object around which reasons.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Scotus and Spinoza

Take a look here for two posts from nearly a year ago comparing Scotus with Spinoza. There is also some Deleuze on Scotus, which saves me the trouble of posting on it myself. Also, he quotes a whole chapter from Ariew's book on Descartes and the last scholastics.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Scotist Commission link

Not sure how I missed this, but here is the link to the Commissio Scotistica's webpage. From what I can gather, vol. 12 is coming out soon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Francis of Meyronnes on Intelligible Being

Franciscus Mayronis, Quodlibet q.14/2 (Venezia 1520), ff. 260r-v

"Secunda questio est utrum producat beatissima trinitas creaturas in esse secundum quid antequam producat eas in esse reali simpliciter.
Et videtur quod non...
Circa istam questionem est preintelligendum quod doctor subtilis ponit duplicem productionem creaturarum a deo. Unam que est per modum voluntatis qua producit creaturas in esse reali et illa est ex tempore. Alia est qua producit eas per intellectum suum in quodam esse intelligibili, intelligendo ipsas ab eterno. Et de illo secundo modo est difficultas presens. Circa quam ocurrunt quatuor puncta inquirenda.
Quorum primum est si divinus intellectus producit quidditates creabilium per suum actum intelligendi ab eterno in esse essentie.
Secundum est si producit tales quidditates in esse intelligibili.
Tertium est si producit tales quidditates in esse intellecto.
Quartum est si per talem actum producit eas in esse existentie.

Quantum ad primum... Ideo dico quod divinus intellectus per suum actum intelligendi non dat esse quidditativum creaturis de quo hic loquimur; sed illud esse quidditativum abstrahit ab omni intellectione et comparatione quacumque quia per se notum est lapidem esse lapidem et tamen non est per se notum lapidem intelligi a deo; sed forte demonstrabile et ideo sicut per se nota in essse quidditativo preveniunt demonstrabilia ita illud esse hanc operationem... Sed oritur difficultas quid intelligimus per illud esse quidditativum; dicitur autem quod esse abstractum quod non est fabricatum ab animo nec est in rerum natura sicut dicit quoddam quod equinitas est tantum equinitas; nec universalis nec particularis.

Circa secundum punctum videndum est si divinus intellectus producit quidditates illas in esse intelligibili... Ideo dico quod ante concipimus quidditates esse a deo intelligibiles quam actualiter intelligantur quia illud quod convenit alicui per se et ex sua ratione formali convenit ei antequam illa que insunt ab extrinseco. Intelligibilitas autem sicut et veritas est passio demonstrabilis ex ratione formali subiecti et quod sit intellecta inest ei ab extrinseco scilicet a divino intellectu actualiter intelligente. Sed oritur difficultas quod diciter illud esse intelligibile in obiecto. Dicatur autem quod est respectus fundamentalis consequens quidditatem obiecti in habitudine ad divinum intellectum sicut mobilitas consequitur quidditatem mobilis in habitudine ad movens.

Circa tertium punctum ingreditum est si divinus intellectus producit illas quidditates in esse intellecto.... Ideo dico quod quidditates creabilium producuntur in esse cognito a divino intellectu ab eterno, sicut divinus intellectus ab eterno tales quidditates cognovit quia omne quod accipit esse aliquod post non esse videtur esse productum in illo esse; sed quidditates tales, cum sint intellecte postquam sunt intelligibiles, accipiunt tale esse in secundo signo post non esse in primo, ergo in tali esse videntur esse producte.... Sed oritur difficultas quid intelligitur per illud esse cognitum. Dicitur autem quod esse intellectum a divino intellectu dicit in quidditate cognita respectum rationes ad eius actum intelligendi derelictum ab ipso actu sicut esse productum realiter dicit respectum realem.

Circa quartum punctum videndum est si divinus intellectus per suum actum intelligendi producti quidditates in esse actualis existentie, ita quod producat ipsas existentias eternaliter in esse cognito sicut essentias ipsas.... ideo dico quod esse actualis existentie non fuit productum ab eterno in esse secundum quod tali quia per hoc quod creatura habet existentiam habet esse simpliciter et nulla creatura in esse tantum intellecto ab eterno habuit esse simpliciter. Sed remanet difficultas gravissima: qualiter deus preintellexit ab eterno existentias futuras creaturarum et non produxit eas in esse intellecto cum fuerunt ab eterno intellecte. Dicitur autem quod deus non precognovit existentias secundum proprium modum tamquam per se obiecta, sicut quidditates sed sicut per se obiectorum conditiones et non oportet produci in esse tali omne intellectum, sicut obiecti conditio. Istud tamen non sufficit quia si ideo producitur in tali esse quia cognoscitur eo modo quo intellligitur in tali esse producitur cum sit illo modo intellectum. Ideo dicitur quod deus non precognoscit quidditates ut iam existentes, sed ut futuras existentia autem ut futura non est existentia simpliciter; tunc enim simpliciter existeret futurum qualiter autem illa precognito fiat: habet declarari in primo."

Note that this is just the Quodlibet. For a FREE article on divine ideas in Francis' Conflatus, see the following link to an article by E. Bos, containing some remarks on Francis' view that Aristotle was the "pessimus metaphysicus": Here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gueranger on the Immaculate Conception

From the Liturgical year, vol. 1 p. 403:

"But whilst thus mentioning the different nations which have been foremost in their zeal for this article of our holy faith, the Immaculate Conception, --it were unjust to pass over the immense share which the Seraphic Order, the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our Blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned John Duns Scotus! And when at length the great day of the Definition of the Immaculate Conception came, how justly merited was that grand audience, which the Vicar of Christ granted to the Franciscan Order, and with which closed the pageant of the glorious solemnity! Pius the Ninth received from the hands of the children of St. Francis a tribute of homage and thankfulness, which the Scotist School, after having fought four hundred years in defence of Mary's Immaculate Conception, now presented to the Pontiff."

Friday, December 4, 2009


From here on out, I will be adopting Dr. Feser's descriptive categories. In addition to everyone's favorite A-T (Aristotelian-Thomism), the putative perennial philosophy (never mind that the term was invented in the 16th century to designate pure pagan platonism) look for discussions of A-S (Aristotelian-Scotism), or perhaps it should be A-A-S (Aristotelian-Augustinian-Scotism), or, following Gilson, A-A-A-S (Aristotelian-Augustinian-Avicennian-Scotism). Maybe it would be simpler to stick to A-H-S (Aristotelian-Henrician-Scotism; after all, Henry of Ghent is target #1), and to stay away from A-S-S (Aristotelian-scholastic-Scotism). And for our bitterest foes, the "invincible" and "unconquered" school of the nominalists, expect A-O (Aristotelian-Ockhamism; hey, he wrote as many commentaries on Aristotle as did Aquinas!) or a safe N-A-D-S (Nominalist-Aristotelian-dialectical-scholastics).

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Pious Argument from Petrus Thomae

I am sure you all remember Duns Scotus first argument for univocity, based on certain and doubtful concepts. Question five of Petrus Thomae's work De transcendentibus is devoted to a defense of this argument against Gerard of Bologna and maybe Auriol. In a section defending the premise that we cannot be certain and doubtful with respect to the same concept, PT makes the following argument.

Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de transcendentibus, pars 1 q.5 a.1 prop. 3 (Wien, ONB, pal. lat. 1424, f. 6ra):

Preterea tertio, sancti patres quibus fiebat aliqua apparitio certi erant quod aliqua persona eis loquebatur: dubitare tamen poterant an persona creata uel increata, puta de Paulo cui dictum est ‘Saule Saule quid me persequeris’; dubius enim fuit que persona ei loqueretur, unde quesiuit ‘quis es domine’. Certus tamen erat quod aliqua persona sibi loquebatur, ergo idem quod prius.

"Furthermore, third: the holy fathers, to whom there was an apparition, were certain that some person was speaking to them; nevetheless they could doubt whether it was an uncreated or a created person. For example, Paul, to whom it was said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"; for Paul doubted what person spoke to him, whence he asked "who are you, lord?". Nevertheless he was certain that some person was speaking to him, therefore the same as before" [i.e., the same conclusion as the previous arguments]

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Feast of Duns Scotus!

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.

This makes 701 years since his passing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eustacius a Sancto Paulo on Intelligible Being

More from Ariew's Descartes and the Last Scholastics, p. 44. Perhaps there might one day be interest in Petrus Thomae after all. This is from Ariew's chapter on Descartes and Scotism, in which he takes Gilson to task for glossing over differences in 17th century scholasticism (ie assuming they were all Thomists). But the following is some pretty clear Scotism, albeit of the Petrus Thomae and Alnwick kind, as I am not sure Scotus used this distinction much himself, if at all.

"To understand what is meant by objective being in the intellect, one must note the distinction between objective and subjective being in the intellect. To be objectively in the intellect is nothing else than to be actually present as an object to the knowing intellect, whether what is present as an object of knowledge has true being within our outside the intellect, or not. To be subjectively in the intellect is to be in it as in a subject, as dispositions and intellectual acts are understood to be in it. But since those things which are in the intellect subjectively can be known by the intellect, it can happen that the same thing can at the same time be both objectively and subjectively in the intellect. Other things which really exist outside the intellect, though they are not subjectively in the intellect can be in it objectively, as we have noted. But since all these things are real, they have some real being in themselves apart from the objective being in the intellect. There are certain items which have no other being apart from objective being, or being known by the intellect: these are called entities of reason."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ockham contra Auriol

Here's a bit I've been meaning to post for a while, Ockham's comments prior to criticizing Auriol's theory of apparent being (also, as I am sure you recall, criticized by Petrus Thomae).

William of Ockham, Ordinatio I d. 27 q.3 (trans. Pasnau p. 226):

"This view seems to me false as regards the conclusion for which the above arguments are advanced. But because I have seen little of what this Doctor says - for if all the time I have had to look at what he says were put together, it would not take up the space of a single natural day - I do not intend to argue much against the one who holds this view. For from ignorance of what he says, I might facilely argue against his words rather than against his meaning. But since his conclusion appears to me false, based on what he says, I will argue against it, regardless of whether the arguments run contrary to his meaning. The arguments that I made in distinction 36 of this book, against one view of cognized being, could also be advanced against this conclusion. I composed that material, and almost everything else in book one, before I had seen the view recited here. Whoever wants to should look for those arguments there and apply them." [arguments follow]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bonaventure contra Feeney

Each of these excerpts should be of interest to Protestants and those who encounter Protestant ideas. It's always nice to see an old author affirm something that people accuse of being a modern innovation. Each excerpt is from In Sent. IV. Dist. XVII. Pars I. Art. I. Q.IV, on whether confession is necessary for justification, and I translate without providing the Latin:

Again, it seems so from reason, for everyone having grace and justice enters into the kingdom of heaven, nor can anyone close the gate, justice and grace being preserved; but no one can enter into the kingdom of heaven except through the doorward [ostiarium] Peter, since the keys are given to him, from which no one is exempt: therefore no one can obtain grace nor have remission of guilt, unless he has it through the authority of the supreme Pontiff and those who are in communion with him. But no one is absolved by a priest without confession first, ergo etc . . . it should be replied that to enter without the power of the keys can be understood in two ways: either without the power, understood contrarily, as though despising the key of Peter; or without the power, understood privatively, and this [can be understood] in two ways: either simply privatively, so that one does not have the effect of absolution, neither in work nor in devotion nor in desire; or so that one has it in devotion and intention [proposito], and so has it in a certain way. In the first and second way one does not enter, nor is justified, but in the third way one may enter, and this in some way through the key, although not just as he who is actually absolved.

And the second:

God is more prone to being merciful than to condemning . . . God does not restrict his power to the sacraments. Therefore whenever man does what is in himself, God does what is in himself: therefore, if someone is sorry for his guilt in his heart, [even] if there is not a confessor or external confession, God does what is in himself: therefore he justifies.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Item quaritur de hoc quod dicit: 'Confessio ibi commendatur: Iustus in principio est accusator sui'. Videtur enim male dicere, quia aut accusat se iustus in quantum iustus aut in quantum peccator. Se in quantum iustus, sed omnis qui accusat iustum in quantum huiusmodi, accusat iustitiam; et omnis qui accusat iustitiam est iniustus: ergo, si accusat se in quantum iustus, est iniustus. Si accusata se secundum quod peccator, sed omnis qui accusat peccatorem secundum quod peccator, accusat peccatum; et omnis talis iuste accusat et est iustus: ergo, si accusat secundum quod peccator, accusator est iustus, et ita secundum quod peccator est iustus.

--St Bonaventure, Sententiarum Lib.IV Dist. XVI. Pars I. Dubium IV


Going through my private manuscript hoard again, and I've discovered another snippet from the writings of Ioannis de Ultima Thule, this time taken from his Commentarium in librum rubrum occidensmerci, long thought to be utterly lost. Only the beginning of a single question is preserved in the codex I've examined, and it begins Quartum, quaeritur utrum unus anulus habeat aliquantulus esse? Et videtur quod non . . . I translate the fragment below:

Whether the One Ring has any kind of being? And it seems not:

For the One Ring neither exists now, nor did it exist at any time in the past, for it is legendary [fabulosus]. But whatever exists at no time has no being, ergo etc.

On the contrary: whatever is the object of knowledge exists, for of nothing nothing is known. But of the One Ring many things are known, for instance, the names of its possessors: Sauron, Isildur, Smeagol, Bilbo, Frodo. Ergo, etc.

Again, we may indicate the Ring's exemplary cause, namely elvish lore [doctrina Eldaliae seu Larum antiquorum]; its efficient cause, namely the Dark Lord [Dominus ater seu anularius magnus]; its formal cause, namely roundness [figura orbis]; its material cause, namely gold [aurum]; and its final cause, as its own inscription said:

Unus anulus omnes regere, unus anulus eos comperire,
Unus anulus omnes redigere et in caligini eos devincire

But where the cause is posited insofar as it is a cause, the effect is also posited. Ergo, etc.

*The verse, of course, famously concludes in terra Mordor [indcl. n.] ubi tenebrae latunt.

It remains to be seen whether any more fragments, or even the whole work, might surface at some future date when the world's libraries are better catalogued.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Roger Bacon, Alchemist.

How else to explain the following, from Blackwell's A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, page 2: "Among the first scholastics of note were Roger Bacon (b.1214/20; d. ca. 1492) . . ."? The book's proper entry on Roger Bacon states, on page 616, that Bacon died about 1292. However the entry's first sentence is "The basic facts of Bacon's chronology are still in dispute."

Current hypothesis: Bacon found the philosopher's stone, faked his own death in 1292, lived another 200 years or so being awesome, then was lost at sea in the search for a western route to India and Cathay. Probably still living in Atlantis.

Or else the first date was a typo. Right? Right?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Auriol on Scotus on Intuitive Cognition and the Beatific Vision

Here is an interesting summary of some of Scotus' views by Peter Auriol, that seems to me to be fairly accurate. This is from a discussion of the nature of theology, specifically of Scotus and Godfrey's criticisms of Henry of Ghent's special mode of illumination restricted to theologians, the lumen medium.

Petrus Aurioli, Scriptum super primum Sententiarum, Prooemium sect. 2 (ed. Buytaert vol. 1 p. 191):

"Primo quidem, quid est notitia abstractiva et intuitiva. Est enim intuitiva, quae concernit rei praesentialitatem et existentiam, et terminatur ad rem ut in se existentem. Abstractiva vero dicitur quae abstrahit ab esse et non esse, existere et non existere, et a praesentialitate; quemadmodum rosam intueor dum eam praesentem conspicio, abstractive vero cognosco dum eius quidditatem et naturam considero. hae autem duae sunt possibiles in intellectu; certum est enim quod angelus intuetur rosam dum est; cuius tamen essentiam abstractive considerat, etiam dum non existit.

Secundo vero probant quod divina essentia possit cognosci abstractive, sicut et quelibet quiddiativa natura; Deus enim potest facere sola voluntate, quidquid facere potest mediante sua essentia; sed mediante sessentia movet intellectum beati ad suam notitiam claram et nudam, quae quidem est intuitiva, pro eo quod terminatur ad eam, ut praesentem realiter et existentem, quoniam ut sic movet. Ergo sola voluntate poterit movere intellectum ad notitiam suae essentiae nudae et clarae. Certum est autem quod talis notitia sub illa ratione terminatur ad divinam esentiam, sub qua ratione intellectus movetur ad eam; non movetur autem per praesentialitatem et existentiam essentiae divinae, sed per imperium omnipotentis voluntatis. Ergo nec terminabitur talis notita ad essentiam ut existentem et praesentem, sed ad essentiam mere abstrahendo ab existentia et praesentialitate et per conseuqens non erit intuitiva, sed potius abstractiva."


First indeed, what is abstractive and intuitive knowledge. Intuitive knowledge is that which concerns the presence and existence of a thing, and is terminated to the thing as it is existing in itself. Abstractive cognition, however, is that which abstracts from being and non being, existence and non existence, and from presence[or presenciality]. Just as when I cognize a rose, I consider it as present, but when I know it abstractivly I consider its quiddity and nature. These are two possible [modes of cognition?] in the intellect; for it is certain that an angel knows a rose while it is, nevertheless it considers its essence abstractivly, even while it does not exist.

Second they prove that the divine essence can be known abstractivly, just as any other quidditative nature; for God can do by means of his will alone, whatever he can do by means of his essence; but by means of his essence he can move the intellect of the blessed to clear and naked knowledge of himself, which indeed is intuitive, on account of the fact that the intellect of the blessed terminates at the divine essence as really present and existing, since as such it moves. therefore by the will alone he can move the intellect to clear and naked knowledge of his essence. It is certain that such knowledge under that aspect is terminated to the divine essence, under which aspect the intellect is moved to it; it is not moved, however, by the presence and existence of the divine essence, but through the command of the omnipotent will. therefore such knowledge will not be terminated by the essence as existing and present, but to the essence merely by abstracting from the existence and presence and consequently it will not be intuitive but rather abstractive.

Monday, October 5, 2009


What wild desires, what restless torments seize
The hapless man, who feels the book-disease,
If niggard Fortune cramp his gen'rous mind,
And Prudence quench the Spark by heaven assign'd!
With wistful glance his aching eyes behold
The Princeps-copy, clad in blue and gold,
Where the tall Book-case, with partition thin,
Displays, yet guards the tempting charms within . . .
For you the Monk illum'd his pictur'd page,
For you the press defies the Spoils of age;
Faustus for you infernal tortures bore,
For you Erasmus starv'd on Adria's shore. . . .
Ev'n I, debarr'd of ease, and studious hours,
Confess, mid anxious toil, its lurking powers.
How pure the joy, when first my hands unfold
The small, rare volume, black with tarnish'd gold!
The Eyes skims restless, like the roving bee,
O'er flowers of wit, or song, or repartee,
While sweet as Springs, new-bubbling from the stone,
Glides through the breast some pleasing theme unknown.

--From Dr John Ferriar's Bibliomania

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the Internal Combustion Engine

This curious device, in its motor-car form, affords some pleasures, either minor and inferior, or druglike and obsessive. It may have some practical uses, though one suspects that these consist rather in alleviating problems whose radical cure lies elsewhere; and certainly from the supposed profits a multitude of new problems and disadvantages have to be deducted. But the motor-car is, essentially a mechanical toy that has run off the nursery-room floor into the street, where it is used as irresponsibly as before and much more dangerously. It is a dubious piece of ‘escape mechanism’. For of course it would not be made in ‘mass’ (which means that it would hardly be made at all), nor would millions be made out of its purchases, but for its invention at a time when we have made our towns horrible to live in—a process which it has itself accelerated. The motor-car attracts, because it enables people to live far away from their noisome and inhuman ‘works’, or to fly from their depressing dormitories to the ‘country’. But it cheats: for the motor-factories, and their subsidiaries (garages, repair-shops, and pumps), and the cars themselves, and their black and blasted roads, devour the ‘country’ like dragons. This is the splendid gift of a magician: he offers to a caged bird that has defiled its cage and perch—what? a little length of chain so that it can flap to a near-by twig and foul that. Magnificent! This is freedom! And the made the chain hundreds of the magician’s prisoners sweat like morlocks. This is Real Life . . .

--J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pop Quiz

Who said this?

"...et hoc modo esse potest intelligi sine vero, sed non e converso: quia verum non est in ratione entis, sed ens in ratione veri; sicut potest aliquis intelligere ens, et tamen non intelligit aliquid de ratione intelligibilitatis; sed nunquam potst intelligi intelligibile, secundum hanc rationem, nisi intelligatur ens. Unde etiam patet quod ens est prima conceptio intellectus."

in this way being can be understood without the true but not contrariwise, because the true is not in the definition of being but being is in the defintion of the ture; just as someone can understand being, and not understand something from the notion of intelligibility; but the intelligible can never be understood, according to this aspect, unless being is understood. Hence it is clear that being is the first conception of the intellect.

The answer is in the comments section.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars V

Part five of Bl. Duns Scotus' Theoremata is a kind of deconstruction of natural theology. In it he attempts to find the fundamental principles upon which natural theology rests and shows how the whole edifice comes tumbling down if those principles are not sufficiently rigorously established.

The context in which we should understand this part seems to me to be clarified by a remark Allan Wolter makes in the Preface to his edition of Scotus' De primo principio, namely that this latter work "may be the most carefully thought out attempt of any schoolman to prove the existence of God within the epistemic norms for demonstration laid down in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics." Anyone familiar with that work will appreciate the justice of that remark, as well as the nature of Scotus' project in proving God's existence and attributes. For the subtle doctor is not satisfied with providing "reasons" to accept God's existence or "ways" by which it can be proved; he wants to provide a really rigorous demonstration, one which if properly grasped will give the human mind certain knowledge.

The fifth part here is jumbled. It is clearly divided into three parts, but the parts seem to have been mixed up, with the apparent beginning only coming in around paragraph 70 in the critical edition, and the final third seeming to be put first. Paragraph 70 is where I start.

Assumption 1: In essentially ordered things one must posit a first, which is unique in that ordered series, and cotemporal with it.

Assumption 2: There is an essential order in every kind of cause.

These are called "assumptions" here, because the ability to prove them is precisely what is called into doubt in this part, although it is on these principles that, for Scotus, natural theology--knowledge about God which cam be proved from natural things and insofar as he is the cause of things known to us--rests. Of course they are not "assumptions" for Scotus absolutely, because he spends a lot of time in other works trying to prove them. But here he says, "These two propositions are assumed, of which the first has three parts [i.e. that God is 1) first, 2) unique, 3) cotemporal with his creation], [but] the second is simple. But although either of these parts, namely 'first', 'unique', [and 'cotemporal'], may be probable, still it would be difficult or perhaps impossible for us to prove it simpliciter by necessary argument and by purely natural [reason]."

Conclusion 1: In the genus of efficient cause one must posit a unique first efficient [cause], which exists now in the nature of things.

This follows from the two assumptions, and this cause is called God.

Conclusion 2: Every efficient [cause] is more perfect than its effect or equally perfect, because nothing acts to a greater extent than it is in act.

Conclusion 3: God is more perfect than every effect.

From Conclusions 1 and 2. If God is the cause of everything else he must be at least as perfect as everything else.

Corollary: And so [God] is the most perfect of all and the highest in every difference of being, which simply implies a perfection, among which are one, true, good, necessary etc., because whatever is such is simply a perfection in some way . . . Put here the boundary of wha tis knowable about God by natural necessary reason; and this is supposing those first two assumptions.

This is classic scotism, showing that natural theology is developed by showing that God must contain in a supereminent way all pure perfections. But the conclusions are only as solid as the ground they're built on, and Scotus now begins to explore the difficulty with providing true demonstrations of natural theology's foundations.

How can the first part of the first [assumption] be proved, namely [that God is] "first" more in essentially ordered causes than [in] accidentally [ordered ones] [since in accidentally ordered causes there is no first cause simpliciter]? How can the second part by proved, [that God is] "unique"? How can it be proved [that God is] "cotemporal?

A primary difficulty that Scotus brings up here is how can it be proved by demonstrative arguments that the God who created the world--the temporally "first" cause--is the same as the principle which stands at the head of the chain of essentially ordered causes in the world now? How do you prove that the creaturely order of secondary causes need to be conserved in being by the first cause, even after their initial creation? Scotus sees that the Big Bang does not prove that God exists now, but only that there was an first cause in the sense of an initial one. Our impulse, of course, is to appeal to God's eternity or immutability, but if the foundations of natural theology haven't been secured yet, we can't appeal to its posterior conclusions. And if we can't prove that the initial cause is identical with whatever is the current "first" [in the ontological, not the temporal sense], then what happens to our natural certainty that God is "one" and "unique"?

The second assumption does not seem to be proved necessarily. For if many effects are so coordinated among themselves, so that none of them has the character of an effect with respect to another--as with a cow and an ass--why are all causes so ordered, that the first [in one causal chain] is always the cause of another [causal chain]? If this name "God" is given to some numerically identical first efficient [cause], it follows from this that it cannot be proved that God exists in the real world now, because if he no longer existed the coordination [of causes in the world] would remain through another [first cause, another God] univocal with him.

Again, remember that Scotus has not yet made his argument for the incompossibility of two first causes, because in this work the conceptual apparatus with which to do so hasn't been developed yet. From comments he makes later on it seems that what Scotus is showing what kinds of problems a thinker proceeding along Aristotelian lines, with principles and arguments from the Physics, is going to run into.

Beyond this, Scotus continues, the second assumption does not prove that any God exists, even a new one like the first, if it cannot be proved that conservation of the created order is needed as much as the original act of creation. Otherwise we can only conclude that a first cause is necessary for the world's becoming, not for its being. Whence it follows only that either exists or did exist once, as from a house it can be proved that a builder exists or did exist once.

Therefore these things, which it seems cannot be proved by necessary arguments from merely natural [reason], are laid out in order in the conclusions, as well as some others which cannot be proved.

That is, if these primary propositions of natural theology turn out to be unprovable, so are whatever less know propositions which follow from them and depend on them.

I omit any detailed discussion of the rest of Part V, in which Scotus lays out the "unprovable" conclusions systematically. It's rather horrible reading, a kind of anti-Contra Gentiles in which Scotus insists at great length that unless he who builds metaphysical systems builds his house upon the rock, he labors in vain that builds it.

In any case, the problems that he lays out here are not solved here. The reader must go to the De primo principio or other theological writings to see how Scotus deals with them. As I said yesterday, what seems to emerge is that the Theoremata is a kind of testing-ground where Scotus is working out the consequences of different approaches before giving them a more authoritative treatment elsewhere.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars IV

The fourth part of Scotus' Theoremata contains little worthy of comment. It consists of a (largely scattered and unconnected) series of notes on some of the questions in books VIII and IX of Scotus' QQ in Metaphysicam. The notes are mostly about the construction of a composite substance, the causes of its constituents and of the whole, and of the causation effected by each. There are no settled conclusions and no immediately discernible order in the notes, and so I'm going to omit any translation from the text.

Part IV supports what I've been suspecting about the nature of the Theoremata, namely that it seems to be a set of--not drafts, exactly--but of preliminary studies on questions that interest Scotus and which he discusses at much more length elsewhere. He's working out in a systematic way the consequences of various approaches to the problems set out in the various parts. Because of this none of it should be taken as Scotus' final word on anything without confirmation from one of the more authoritative works.

This sketch of an interpretation is particularly relevant for how to approach part V, which contains much of interest and which is very disconcerting at first. We'll see tomorrow how plausible it is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars III B 2

Now we proceed with the second part of the section section of part three of Scotus' Theoremata, on conceptual analysis. After the lone conclusion about act we begin the numbered conclusions about concepts.

Conclusion 1: The analysis of concepts has a stopping-point.

This is of course the same as the first conclusion in section A. The explanation is also similar. For otherwise by definition nothing would be perfectly knowable, because none of the more primary things which might belong to it would be perfectly knowable either. Analysis has to stop at something which just is understood. "For neither can we conceive of infinites in one act, nor in infinite [acts], which could not be passed through," and so forth.

Conclusion 2: Every analyzable concept is primarily analyzed into determinable and determining [concepts], since into potential and actual or into material and formal. The determinable concept is called quidditative, the determining qualitative. Therefore essentially [predicative concepts] exceed quidditative ones.

This is quite different from the second conclusion in section A, although related to material presented later on there. But Scotus has decided not to continue with the previous thought and see where this determinable/determining set of concepts leads him--which is somewhere quite different. Read on.

Conclusion 3: Determinable and determining essentially include nothing the same, nor does one include the other, and this they are fundamentally [primo] diverse.

This is of course related to the corollary following the second conclusion in section A, and follows from the same reasons given there.

Conclusion 4: There is some last determining [concept] of every analyzable [from Conclusion 1]; [it must be] unique [from the unnumbered conclusion at the end of the last post]; [it must be] simple, because it is the last [therefore not further analyzable].

"And this one is properly called the determining one, because whatever else in included in that concept is determinable with respect to it, although with respect to [something] prior it might be determining in some way, but not [with respect to] the total concept."

Corollary 1: Therefore there are as many analyzable concepts as there are properly determining ones [which are] primarily diverse from the determinable ones. . . . Corollary 2: Therefore there is no concept which is common to all, [...] but the analysis of anything stops with what is qualitatively unanalyzable.

Again, otherwise there is an infinite progression. And if there were not more than one primary and irreducible concept, then there could be no different concepts at all, since each would contain the same formal content.

Conclusion 5: Not just any concept is analyzed at once into qualitatively unanalyzable ones.

This is the converse of the preceding corollary. Because if it were otherwise, then any two concepts whatsoever would be primarily diverse, rather than (as is the case) many concepts sharing something in common as well as having something different. If every concept were immediately analyzable into primary constituents, everything would be in its own genus.

Conclusion 6: Quidditative concepts are more common than analyzed ones, but in analysis the posterior are more common than the prior.

Conclusion 7: There is a stopping-point in quidditative analysis at one first concept.

"But this concept is the most common [from Conclusion 6], and it is the concept of being."

Wait a minute! Hold on! Section A, especially Conclusions 2 and 5, were looking like a direct rejection of the univocity of the concept of being, which was strange and disconcerting, because this is Scotus after all. But now, after largely similar definitions and conclusions, Scotus is clearly affirming a univocal concept of being! What's going on? Perhaps the explanation which follows here explains the difference in the thinking between the earlier and later versions:

"Now there can be certainty about this and yet doubt remain; this is not true of any other quidditative concept: it would be certitude and doubt about the same concept. {*Interpolated note: One can know quidditatively that potency is a being, yet not know what kind of being or whether subject or accident.}

There is some more stuff on this subject, less clear than the foregoing, in the next few paragraphs. More helpful are the parallel texts from other works the editors give us. The key point here is that we can have the concept of being confusedly in a way that we can't with any other concept. I cannot really be unclear whether white is a quality or a quantity without simply failing to have the concept. I either know it or I don't. But I can be sure that it is something.

More immediately relevant to us is the application this have to Conclusion 5 in section A, which was, as we recall, "No identical concept is per se common to the created and the uncreated." Why does Scotus not repeat this? Because he's now being more clear about the difference between the concept of being and other concepts. Remember that properly-formed concepts about extramental things are not fictions, but have real adequation to the external world. And our concepts if true need to reflect the structure of things outside of ourselves. I can't think that man is a quality or that white is a place. This is not merely false but nonsense.

Now it is also nonsense to think that God and creatures have anything whatsoever in common. God does not exist in the way that man does; he does not belong to the genus of substance as man does, nor does he fall under any other genus. He's not the sort of thing that the rest of things are. And yet! He exists, and because the concept of being is indeterminate in any sense whatsoever, we can think that God is and not be wrong, as we would be wrong to attribute to him any other creaturely determination. So--just as Scotus says above that I can know that potency is a being while unsure whether it's a subject or accident or what kind of being--I can think accurately that God exists, without being sure whether God is temporal or eternal, material or immaterial, willing or bound by necessity, etc.

St Bonaventure makes this exact same point in his Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity. And it simply must be accepted as true, or else what philosophers and theologians have been doing for the last three thousand years is simply nonsense. Homer thought that divinity was plural and finite and was wrong, but he really was talking about the providential order of the universe. Aristotle thought God knew only himself and made the world by necessity, and was wrong, but he was talking about God. Tertullian and Manes thought God was a finely diffused material substance, and they were wrong, but they were talking about God. Therefore we allude to God using the same concept of "something that is" that we do to everything else, even though in point of metaphysical fact there is nothing whatsoever really in common between God and any creature.

Conclusion 8: There is only one most common quidditative concept.

Everything else will fall into some category. "Because if there were two, both would be included in any other quidditative [concept]. Therefore either one would be in the other and then one would be most common, or else neither in either and then one is determinable and the other determining, and so only one is quidditative." See Conclusions 1 and 6.

Conclusion 9: Some quidditative concepts are immediately contained under the first quidditative [concept].

These are "famously posited to be only ten," the categories which cannot be reduced to each other or to anything more common, except being, and are the ten primary genera. Being itself does not fall under any genus.

Conclusion 10: There is some qualitative concept denominating any quidditative one [...]

"This is proved, because the first denominating [concept] per se denominates whatever is below. These first ones denominate being as one, true, good. Thus they will denominate per se any quidditative [concept]. These are called the most common denominatives."

Conclusion 11: No most common denominative concept includes per se the first quidditative concept, nor therefore any inferior one, and so [they are] in no genus . . . Thus they are qualitative transcendentals.

Otherwise it would be nonsense to say "one being", since "one" and "being" would have an identical meaning, which they obviously don't.

So here we conclude with Scotus coming upon four transcendentals, one quidditative, three qualitative, which neither fall into any categories, describe any genera, nor follow the general rules applying to nearly every concept. None of this was included in the version of Theoremata part III labeled section A. Is it perhaps the case that we can't simply speak in the realm of concepts without examining the metaphysics behind them, since not every concept has the same kind of reference to the extramental world? Could it be the case that a denial of conceptual univocity comes from an insufficient examination of the uniqueness of the transcendentals? And--interesting as this conclusion may be--what does the difference between the two sections here tell us about the nature of the work we are examining? What exactly is Scotus doing in the Theoremata?

Further reflection will have to wait for later posts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Discovery

In a comment to my post from last night, one of our anonymous readers writes the following:

Hurry, before I start solving the problem about how many angels are on a pinhead!

Hopefully the Scotus installment for tonight will sate the hunger of our ravenous audience for a while. But if not, I hereby announce a discovery which will render anonymous' project superfluous: the only known scholastic discussion of this famous question. I found the following disputation in one of the many medieval codices lying around in my library, in a collection of little-known quodlibets by the obscure but brilliant Ioannis de Ultima Thule. Although short and in especially barbarous jargon, nevertheless its unique character makes it a highly significant text. You heard it here first! Enjoy:

Utrum possit determinari quanti angeli in capite acus sunt.

Interrogatus est quanti angeli sunt in capite acus. Et arguitur quod numerus est infinitus. Quia angelus nulli magni magnitudini est. Ergo, etc.

Contra: angelus est pura intelligentia. Sed caput acus est stultus. Intelligentiarum autem cum stultorum non societatum potest esse. Ergo videtur quod numerus angelorum in capite acus est nullum.

Respondeo quod stultus quoque habet curatorem angelum, qui non eum relinqueret quamvis stolidus. Ergo numerus est unus.

Here is my translation:

Whether it can be determined how many angels are on a pinhead.

It was asked how many angels are on a pinhead. And it is argued that the number is infinite. For an angel has no magnitude, therefore, etc.

On the contrary: an angel is a pure intelligence. But a pinhead is stupid, and there can be no association between the intelligent and the stupid. Therefore it seems that the number of angels on a pinhead is none.

I respond that even a stupid person has a guardian angel, who would not desert him no matter how dumb he might be. Therefore the number is one.

Theoremata Scoti, Pars III B 1

In Theoremata Part III, section B, Scotus starts in the same place as in section A, with the definition of the concept. Here, however, the treatment is fuller and soon veers off down an alternative path. This sort of thing is not unprecedented elsewhere in Scotus' works. It appears that more than once he will begin a treatment of a topic, change his mind about how he wants to approach it, and start over. But because of the unfinished state in which he left so many of his works, both versions end up in posthumous editions of the book as though they were distinct parts. For another example, see the QQ. In Metaphysical VII, questions 14 and 15.

All right, beginning again with the definition of a concept:

I call a concept an object understood in act, namely as it is in the intellect, not as the form [exists in itself], but as it is in the act of thought [in esse cognitum].

"Here 'to be in' is nothing except having an actual relation to the intellect, or the intellect [having an actual relation] to it, or either to either."

It's clear that Scotus is trying to be more clear here than in the parallel definition in section A. The follow-up explanation in part A was about terminology, but here instead Scotus goes on to define subsets of concepts, perhaps a more useful task. He divides concepts into several varieties and explains their differences:

"Every concept [which is] per se one is either altogether simple--that is, of which either nothing is conceived, or else the whole is--or it is not altogether simple, but rather incomplex." *{Interpolated note: That is, it is not composed of potency and act, as [for instance in the concept] of an infinite being.} "Infinite being" is not simple, because I can conceive "Infinite" and "Being" separately, but it's not a complex concept either, since "Infinite" is not exactly a determining characteristic of "Being"--since the latter, after all, is neither a genus nor in a genus.

"A concept is called analyzable, when it essentially includes several concepts, of which one can be conceived without the whole." For instance, "Triangle" can be analyzed into "Three" and "Plane Figure", etc., which can be conceived apart from "Triangle".

"Of concepts which are not per se one, [there are some] which are called aggregate, such as 'white man'; and about a fourth kind, called complex, and a fifth, called discursive, see below."

Now Scotus adds some remarks about how these varieties of concepts are related to one another.

"Every concept [can be] compared to any [which is] not altogether the same as itself: either it is primarily diverse from itk, if it agrees with it in no concept; or different, if it agrees in something and differs in something; or ordered, for instance if one whole [concept] includes another, but not conversely, the one is called including and the other included. Only an analyzable concept can be different [in the just-defined sense] and can include primarily diverse [concepts]; and an included one can itself be either simple or analyzable."

See? That's much more thorough! But the second definition is identical to its counterpart in section A:

Definition 2: That is said to be conceived first which is adequated to the intellect.

The third definition is going in the same direction as its counterpart, but is less clear and making a slightly different point:

Definition 3: Whatever is included in the primary [object] understood is per se not primary.

The fourth definition is similar to its counterpart but formulated differently:

Definition 4: [Something is] perfectly known on the part of the object when nothing pertaining to the object lies concealed.

And two corollaries:

Corollary: Therefore a simple [object], if it is conceived, is conceived perfectly. [Second corollary:] An analyzable [concept] may happen to be conceived imperfectly.

At this point Scotus starts doing something different than in section A. There are no new versions of definitions 5 and 6, but rather than moving directly to his conclusions, there's some additional business. After explicitly making the assumption that there are in fact some analyzable concepts, he looks in some more detail at how the different varieties of concepts are related to each other.

"Some concepts are not included [in others], such as the concepts of all singulars and lone [objects]. All others are included in these and are abstracted by analyzing from these." There follows an interpolated note, to the effect that things are conceived by us confusedly before being conceived distinctly. The main text goes on to say that something is conceived distinctly when conceived according to the way it is distinguished from other things; but is conceived confusedly when indistinctly. Therefore not everything which is not a first or primary object is conceived confusedly, because (for instance) a genus is conceived as distinctly in the concept of a definition as it is per se, yet then it is not conceived primarily, but the definition is primary.

Here Scotus reminds of the principle that "everything per se one and not simple is [contituted] from act and potency or from matter and form." He indicates that this is Aristotelian boilerplate, before going on to draw the following conclusion:

There is some unique and simple act of any composite.

"From that [act] is the unity of the composite in itself and [its] distinction from something else. For the act distinguishes, therefore it is proper. But it is unique, because anything belonging to the composite is potential with respect to it and so is not the act of this composite, although with respect to anything else in the composite it can be called an act. For the some [reason it is] simple; otherwise something belonging to it would be a further act."

Now Scotus seems to be wandering away from conceptual analysis and just doing straightforward metaphysics; for this reason the editors don't number this conclusion with the ones he draws from the definitions. But since this seems like enough for one post already, I will save the conclusions proper for the next sequel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars III A

Part three of the Theoremata is divided into subsections, labeled by the editors "A" and "B". These appear to be two versions or two drafts of the same train of thought: Scotus gives some definitions, draws some corollaries, and makes some conclusions, all about conceptual analysis. Then he starts over with the same material, but takes it in another direction. This post looks at the first subsection.

Definition 1: I call that which terminates the act of understanding a concept.

"A concept is called either "object" or "intelligible" or "intellected" [intellectum] or "intention". The first is most common, because [it pertains] to all [intelligible] potencies. The second is common, because [it pertains] to the object understood either in potency or in act. The third is proper [i.e. is properly a concept]. The fourth is how the Arabs Avicenna and Averroes understand it. But just as "intention" is said equivocally of the object and of the act, so also is "concept". But here I take it to be the object."

Definition 2: That is said to be conceived first which is adequated to the intellect.

Scotus explains that by adequation he means that in the "first" concept what is understood is the whole object, not some part of the object.

Definition 3: Whatever is essentially included in the first concept is conceived per se.

For instance, whenever a species is conceived its genus is automatically conceived per se, and so for similar cases. When I conceived of "triangle" I also ipso facto conceive of "figure".

Definition 4: That and only that is perfectly conceived, of which nothing is concealed which is essentially included in it.

"'Perfect' is here understood [to mean] the act, not insofar as it is elicited from its potency, but insofar as it is compared to its object, namely so that nothing intrinsic to the object is unknown, in whatever mode it is being known."

Definition 5: A concept which cannot be analyzed into [simpler] concepts is simply simple.

Definition 6: A concept which is per se one, yet is analyzable into [simpler] concepts, is not simply simple.

For example: "triangle" can be analyzed into simpler concepts, namely "figure", "side", "three", etc. It is a simple concept--it can be grasped as a per se whole--but it isn't simple simpliciter.

Corollary: Therefore "essentially" belongs to more than is said "in quid".

Scotus next offers two premises establishing or assuming that his definitions have actual counterparts. There is something which can be conceived first and perfectly, and there are some concepts which are distinct.

From all the foregoing Scotus now draws several conclusions and corollaries:

Conclusion 1: The analysis of concepts has a stopping-point [status].

Here Scotus inserts a brief discussion of the inability of a finite power, such as the human mind, either to grasp infinites all at once or to be able to run through an infinite series. This is relevant to the following conclusions.

Conclusion 2: No concept [which is] one "in quid" can be predicated of all others.

There is no concept--call it a--which designates "what" something is as a whole which can be predicated of every other such concept. There is no common "what" under which every such concept can be subsumed. This is because, if there were, no other concept other than this hypothetical one a would be simply simple as defined above, since every other concept would include a as a factor or constituent. Therefore one and the same concept--every concept except for a--would include a concept of an infinite in itself, or rather would include actual infinities. For any concept other than a would include both a and something else, and that something else would include a and something else, and so on to infinity.

In addition to this argument Scotus offers two more for the same point.

Corollary: There is nothing in common between the concept of a genus and a difference, nor does one include the other; similarly with matter and form.

"Figure" does not include "Three Sides", when the difference "Three Sides" is added to "Figure" to produce "Triangle". We can't define "Triangle" as "Three-sided Figure with three sides". And so forth.

Another Corollary: Nor is a superior difference, which is included in a genus, included in an inferior difference. Otherwise definition would be pointless [nugatio] and there would be a progression to infinity with difference, because they would differ by their own differences.

This point is similar to the last one. "Animal" cannot include "Rational" and "Rational" cannot include "Animal", since the one is determinable by the other and vice versa.

Conclusion 3: The analysis of concepts will come to a stop at some first [concepts].

Definitions, etc., must be in terms of things which are themselves not reducible to something.

Corollary: a determining and a determinable never include one concept, nor does one of them include the concept of the other per se.

As though it follows from the foregoing, Scotus finishes this subsection, without further explanation or argument, with a conclusion which seems to contradict the theory of conceptual univocity which he holds elsewhere:

Conclusion 5: No identical concept is per se common to the created and the uncreated.

What to make of all this? Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars II

The second part of the Theoremata is concerned with showing the priority of quality over quantity. I note that, if we accept this, there are some interesting implications for the sciences. Mathematical physics, our paradigm modern science, is primarily concerned with what can be quantified, but for Scotus quantity and the quantifiable are not primary substantial traits.

The editors of the new edition number four main conclusions. Why these propositions are called conclusions in Part II and propositions in Part I is unclear to me. In any case:

I. Quality is naturally prior to quantity.

"Because [quality] is found in every substance, but quantity only in corporeal substances." Quantity can be attributed to separated souls, angels, and so forth, only insofar as they are numerable, i.e. insofar as we can mentally collect them into multitudes. In himself an angel has no dimensive quantity, since he has no dimensions.

"Quality is in substance by reason of form, quantity by reason of matter." Form is primary over matter, ergo, etc. Note that this would not be accepted by earlier Franciscans who would admit matter in the angels, but not dimensive quantity, which they would attribute to corporeitas.

"Again, quality is the principle of acting, quantity [is] not. Quality is that by which an agent alters [something]. But alteration precedes augment[ation]. It is impossible for quantity to be induced except through the action of quality, [but] not conversely."

II. Qualities are attributed to God as perfections, not so quantities.

That is, some quality can be seen as a pure perfection, and when existing in an infinite mode can be identified with God himself. For any quantity, however, this is simply nonsense. There cannot be an actually infinite quantity.

III. Qualities have many species in both spiritual and corporeal [things], as light, etc., by which entities attain their ends, as man [attains] beatitude through grace and charity, etc. But continuous quantity has only three species and no being attains its end through it.

This is losing the pithy aphoristic edge a bit, but is there a shorter way to say it? Since quality pertains to the form more than quantity, one can see how it helps to attain a thing's end. No thing attains its end, however, merely or primarily by being a certain size, mass, etc., even if a certain quantity is a sine qua non of its natural perfection. Quantity is of the same sort for everything; it's general, not specific. In other words:

"[Quantity] accompanies any species according to its actuality, not so quantity. According to it is the order of the universe and natural place and motion and rest. According to them as objects are distinguished the powers of the soul."

IV. A being has more perfect [quality] the more perfect it is. Not so with quantity. Neither an angel nor a man has as much quantity as the earth does.

A more perfect tree has more perfect flourishing. A more perfect man has more perfect intelligence. But if my quantity were to increase much I would get less perfect, not more!

This covers about the first third of Part II. The rest is devoted to what I called in my last post one of Scotus' frequent rabbit-trails. Not because they're pointless, but because they lead you down into a hole. Like the rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland, Scotus' digressions can sometimes wander into a wonderland of argumentation, in which everything is brilliant and stuffed to the rafters with things to consider, but you never know quite where you are, who's talking, how things got so tangled up, or what's at stake. So here. After the discussion of quality and quantity Scotus starts thinking about accidental inherence in general and asks, "What can be the subject of an accident?" Not God, since he is completely perfect and so not in potentiality to receive new forms. Only things with some perfection--i.e. per se actual existence--and some imperfection can be the subject of accidents. He then considers arguments that 1) substantial form, 2) accidental form, 3) matter, and 4) angels don't meet these criteria, before opposing them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Theoremata Scoti, Pars I

The first part of Scotus' infamous Theoremata is concerned with the universal, and its relation to the singular existent on the one hand and the intellect on the other hand. There are six main propositions, with explanations and--as always with Scotus--some rabbit trails. This preliminary study will be English-only, since I don't feel like typing in the Latin (hey, if you want real scholarship, read a print journal!), but for the record I'm using as my text Vol. II of Scotus' Opera Philosophica.

I. The intelligible precedes intellection by nature.

"Which is because reception [passio] presupposes an agent and every action is about something." If we are to understand something there must be something to understand. The intellect does not create all of its own intelligible content, any more than the sense power creates the objects of the senses: sight presupposes the visible object as well as light and a working eye. Unlike sight, of course, the intellect can create some of its intelligible content.

II. It is impossible for the first intelligible to be caused by intellection.

"Which is from comparing intellection and the intelligible to the same intellect." Even if the intellect received no information from outside itself it would still have to understand something other than its own concepts: no intellect could know nothing but logic. The intellect itself is an intelligible object before it understands or is understood.

III. We understand the universal first.

Scotus spends a lot of time arguing this point. Unlike, say, Thomas, Scotus admits that the singular is intelligible per se, since for him singularity is a formal property, not some material detritus. Why then is the singular not the first intelligible object? After all, it is the singular thing which acts, not its abstracted universal nature, and so the singular should be the first thing to act on the intellect. Scotus reminds us, however, that there is for us no science of the singular, that the intellect forms a universal by separating the intelligible nature from the leftover singularity. "It is true [that it is the singular which acts], but not insofar as it is singular. For the nature is the ratio of acting." Just as in natural generation the species is multiplied, but not the individual, so in cognition the singular gives rise to an intelligible universal, not a proper concept of the singular.

Our lack of knowledge about the singular per se is neither because we fail to actualize our capacity for it, nor because the singular is unintelligible per se, but because our intellect is too imperfect to achieve it. Just as an intrinsically visible object might not be seen by feeble eyes in weak candlelight, the light of our intellect is strong enough to illumine the nature but not the singularity. Our knowledge then is always imperfect. "For although in a precise comparison the nature is a more perfect knowable than the singularity, nevertheless the cognition of a singular nature is more perfect than that of the nature alone, because it is more distinct."

Scotus goes on to discuss possible reasons for this weakness of the intellect at some length, with more comparisons to the sense powers.

IV. To any universal there corresponds in reality [in re] some grade of entity, in which the things contained under the universal itself coincide.

Scotus says this should be clear from I. and II. For if the universal is not created by the intellect then it must have something corresponding to it in reality. This correspondence is not fictional, but real, or else there could be no true quidditative predication and metaphysics would not differ from logic.

V. In essential predication it is impossible to go to infinity.

Otherwise nothing would be knowable, since we can't pass through an infinite series, nor can our finite intellect apprehend an infinite series all at once. Definition has a limit, and we can really know what something is, even if only confusedly.

VI. It is simply impossible for the first and most universal to be plural.

There cannot be a plurality of first and most universal concepts or grades of entity. In analyzing we always proceed to the simpler concept, and therefore eventually to the first and simplest. And as in any order it is impossible to find two firsts, it is even more so in the highest order, to which multitude is more repugnant.

To conclude:
I. The universal, although produced by the agent intellect, is strictly speaking not caused by it, because something in reality corresponds to it. II. That universal, insofar as it has being in something or with something singular, we first understand as a kind of primary whole object, although the intellect from its imperfection can per se understand the nature as a quasi-part of the primary whole object, and can distinguish this from that [i.e., can distinguish the nature as such from the whole object], while not conceiving the other part, namely the singularity.--For which intellection the action of the agent intellect is required. Whence any part of the first whole object can be first for the intellect, and afterwards the intellect can per se distinguish it from another. Whence a child first distinguishes his father from non-man, then from non-father.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why I Don't Have A Kindle

One generation of ignorance effaces the whole series of unwritten history. Books are faithful repositories, which may be a while neglected or forgotten; but when they are opened again, will again impart their instruction: memory, once interrupted, is not to be recalled. Written learning is a fixed luminary, which, after the cloud that had hidden it has past away, is again bright in its proper station. Tradition is but a meteor, which, if once it falls, cannot be rekindled.

--Samuel Johnson, Journey to the Western Islands

People say that once something is on the internet, it's permanent. Things you said on Facebook five years ago come back to haunt you in job interviews today, and so forth. But I don't know that anything can be called permanent which is only a few years old. I remember, myself, a time when the internet was new to me and it was a strange and special thing for an ordinary layman to access it in their home. I remember the first time I saw a website. To my children this will be amusing and strange, the way our grandparents remember the first TVs, their parents the first radios, and theirs the first telephones.

To my point, however: I am very skeptical that the internet is a permanent thing. I doubt very much whether it has the properties which Johnson attributes to books above. A book will indeed lie dormant for centuries in a monastery library, ready to be read whenever a learned man comes along. I have books on my shelves more than a century old, which have never been read--their pages uncut, relics of the time when books came that way--passed for generations from library to library and bookstore to bookstore, waiting for me. But when I sit, penknife in hand, they are as clear and simple to use for me as for those who first bought them, long dead now. This is not the case for anything which needs a machine to access it.

If I were to find a father's or teacher's or colleague's diary after he had died, I could open it and his thoughts would live again for me. But say, decades from now, I were to find a shoebox full of punch cards. Or a floppy disc. Or a diskette. Or even a CD. Would I be able to access whatever was on it? Would I have any way of knowing whether it was worth seeking out whatever antique machine and antiquarian technician I would need? No. The papers I wrote for high school can still be easily read on whatever hard copies I've preserved, but the computers I wrote them on and the discs I saved them to are long defunct.

Electronic "memory", like human memory, is fragile and requires constant refreshment and updating. Just as oral tradition--unlike books--requires continuity to survive, so does our vast modern storehouse of information. If one want to preserve electronic information for twenty years one will have to move it from machine to machine, reformatting it every so often, to make sure it stays accessible in a meaningful way. Our machines are not a monument to future generations, but a temporary expedient. Nothing is built to last ten years, much less a millenium. If the internet seems so permanent now, isn't that only because our horizon is short and because our civilization hasn't had any upsets in the last twenty-five years? If once the chain of machines is broken, though, won't it all be lost? Are Google's servers, which make the contents of so many libraries so accessible to the world, really a better and more reliable word-hoard than the libraries themselves?

It seems to me that putting something on the internet is less like engraving it in stone than like saying it aloud in a crowded room full of nosy and opinionated listeners. Sure, it may come back to haunt you; sure, it may be dredged up long after you forget saying it. But in the long run it will be as though it never happened. Our age, perhaps, is like that civilization Chesterton imagines in The Everlasting Man, which leaves no record of itself for posterity because its greatest accomplishments were in weaving, the products of which have all decayed. Posterity thinks it barbarous when it was only ephemeral.

For similar reasons, then, all of our computerized gadgets of convenience, especially those which rely on satellites, the internet, or other networks presupposing a great deal of infrastructure, and intrinsically transitory. Sure, it's great if I can have any "book" (read: sequence of bits formatted for display on a screen) I want in seconds, wherever I am. The problem is that I can't be sure any of those "books" will be there tomorrow. One thing is nearly certain: unlike my actual library, they will not be there a century from now, waiting for my great-grandchildren.

A Scholastic Parody by Ronald Knox

The notion of a bazaar is 'that form of vendition in which things of the least possible value are sold at the greatest possible price, by those who most want to get rid of them to those who least want to acquire them, for charitable purposes'.

The EFFICIENT cause of a bazaar is the parish priest; and the more efficient he is, the more bazaars he has.

The MATERIAL cause of a bazaar is all unwanted objects, such as photograph frames, pincushions, and Japanese screens.

The FORMAL cause of a bazaar is because you can't think of any excuse for evading the formality.

The FINAL cause of a bazaar is the wiping off of the Church debt. This is the end of all bazaars, having no end itself.

It is asked 'Whether it is permissible to hold parish bazaars?' And at first sight it appears not. The first reason is taken from the principle that it is not lawful to do evil in order that good may come of it. But to sell anything for more than it is worth is an evil. Ergo. And again, St Paul tells us that charity is not inflated: now, to be able follows to be; therefore it is repugnant that charity, not being itself inflated, should inflate prices. Ergo.

The second reason is taken from the principle that nothing is vendible except what is desired by the buyer as a good. Now, the buyer desires a good either under the species of the useful or under the species of the beautiful. But that the things sold at bazaars are not useful is clear from the terms of the definition; and that they are not beautiful is clear from the contemplation of the things themselves. For the senses are not deceived over their proper objects. And from another point of view it may be argued that the things bought at bazaars are never either used or exposed as beautiful: they are kept in a back room and sold at the next bazaar. And this process will go on ad infinitum. But the concrete infinite is not found in experience.

The third reason is taken from Scripture, from that passage to wit where the holy Apostles say that it is not right for them to serve tables. Now a stall at a bazaar partakes in some way of the nature of a table; a priest, therefore, may not serve a stall at a bazaar, nor cause others to serve at it, for he who acts through another acts in his own person.

But the argument that it is not permissible to hold parish bazaars is found to be untenable. For Father Sims is holding a parish bazaar. Ergo.

It must be replied therefore to the first point that no injustice can be done to one who knows it and wills it. And everybody who goes to a bazaar knows that he is being defrauded and also wills it - not directly indeed but by accident, in order to avoid greater evils, such as a personal appeal for a subscription. And also, St Paul tells us that charity endures all things; it is evident therefore that it must endure even a parish bazaar.

It must be replied to the second point, that a thing may be useful to its owner not in so far as he applies it to himself, but in so far as he applies it to another. For an arrow is useful to its owner only when he applies it to another, not to himself. It is useful therefore to possess a photograph frame which you can hand over to the next parish bazaar. And that this process is infinite is not true; for the frame will fall to pieces sooner or later, and all the sooner in proportion as it is a bad frame.

To the third point it must be replied that a stall at a bazaar does not fall under the definition of a table, but under the definition of a tent. And St Paul made tents. Now, he who wills the means wills the end; St Paul, therefore, in willing that tents should be made, willed that they should be used. And again, the Scripture says that we ought not to muzzle a Knox -

(We will though. Editor). April 1st, 1924

from the 'Souvenir de Luxe' of a bazaar at Golders Green, May, 1924 and published in In Three Tongues, 1959, Chapman & Hall

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Formalist Matters

Ever wonder just what the heck Scotus means by the phrase "ex natura rei" or "esse ibi formaliter"? Me too. Wonder no more, for Scotus himself tells us in an illuminating passage in Reportatio IA d.45 q.1-2 nn.18-20 (ed. Wolter-Bychkov 544):

"...respondeo ad quaestionem et expono duo verba posita in quaestione: quid intelligo per ea, scilicet quid per 'esse aliquid in divinis ex natura rei,' et quid per 'esse ibi formaliter'?

Quantum ad primum dico quod illud est in alio ex natura rei quod est in re, non per aliquem actum comparativum cuiuscumque potentiae: nec per actum intellectus negotiantis nec voluntatis comparantis.

Secundo dico quod illud est in alio formaliter, sive est in aliquo formaliter tale, quod non est in altero potentialiter (ut album est in subiecto nigri potentialiter), nec virtualiter (ut effectus in causa et passio in subiecto), nec confuse (ut extrema in medio et miscibilia in mixto) -- sed dico hoc esse 'tale formaliter' et esse 'formaliter' in alio, quod est in eo actualiter, determinate et distincte, et secundum suam rationem quiditativam, circumscripto omni actu cuiuslibet potentiae comparativae, -- et isto modo dico voluntatem Dei esse in sua essentia formaliter et ex natura rei."

And the translation for the differently abled:

"...I respond to the question by explaining two expressions used in this question: what do I understand by the expressions 'for something to be in the divine from the nature of things' and 'to be there formally'?

As far as the first is concerned, I say that for something to be in something else from the nature of things' means for it to be there really, and not as a result of some relational act of some potency: neither through the processing act of the intellect nor [through] the relating [act of the] will.

[Regarding the] second, I say that for something to be in another formally, or to be in something formally 'such', [first of all] means that it should not be in that other potentially (as white is potentially in the substrate of [something] black), nor virtually (as an effect is in a cause or an attribute in a subject), nor confusedly (as extremes are in the mean and components in a mixture). On the contrary, for something to be 'formally such' or [simply] 'formally' in another is for it to be in it actually, determinately and distinctly, as well as according to its quidditative principle, apart from every act of any relating potency--and it is in this way, I say, that the divine will is in his essence formally and from the nature of things."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tolkien and the Modern Church

From Fr. Z's blog

A letter of Tolkien from 1967:

"‘Trends’ in the Church are…serious, especially to those accustomed to find in it a solace and a ‘pax’ in times of temporal trouble, and not just another arena of strife and change. But imagine the experience of those born (as I) between the Golden and Diamond Jubilee of Victoria. Both senses of imaginations of security have been stripped away from us. Now we find ourselves nakedly confronting the will of God, as concerns ourselves and our position in Time. ‘Back to normal’ – political and Christian predicaments – as a Catholic professor once said to me when I bemoaned the collapse of all my world that began just after I achieved 21. I know quite well that, to you as to me, the Church which once felt like a refuge, now often feels like a trap. There is nowhere else to go! (I wonder if this desperate feeling, the last state of loyalty hanging on, was not, even more often than is actually recorded in the Gospels, felt by Our Lord’s followers in His earthly life-time?) I think there is nothing to do but pray, for the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and for ourselves; and meanwhile to exercise the virtue of loyalty, which indeed only becomes a virtue when one is under pressure to desert it.

There are, of course, various elements in the present situation, which are confused, though in fact distinct…The ‘protestant’ search backwards for ‘simplicity’ and directedness-which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because ‘primitive Christianity’ is now and in spite of all ‘research’ will ever remain largely unknown; because ‘primitiveness’ is no guarantee of value, and is and was in great part a reflection of ignorance. Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian ‘liturgical’ behavior from the beginning as now. (St. Paul’s strictures on eucharistic behavior are sufficient to show this!) Still more because ‘my church’ was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to a plant), which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history – the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set. There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up., for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree. Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, get rid of parasites, and so forth (with trepidation, knowing how little their knowledge of growth is!). But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unaffected by evils.

The other motive (now so confused with the primitivist one, even in the mind of any one of the reformers)” aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. With this ‘ecumenicalness’ has also become confused. I find myself in sympathy with those elements that are strictly ‘ecumenical,’ that is concerned with other groups or churches that call themselves (and often truly are) ‘Christian.’ We have prayed endlessly for Christian reunion, but it is difficult to see, if one reflects, how that could possibly begin to come about except as it has, with all its inevitable minor absurdities. An increase in ‘charity’ is an enormous gain."

Tolkien's grandson, Simon on his grandfather:

"I vividly remember going to church with him [J.R.R.] in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn’t agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious. He simply had to do what he believed to be right. He inherited his religion from his mother, who was ostracised by her family following her conversion and then died in poverty when my grandfather was just 12. I know that he played a big part in the decision to send me to Downside, a Roman Catholic school in Somerset."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thomistic Meditations; Or, A Scotist Looks at Vatican II

This post will be of interest only to our catholic readers. On today's "The catholic thing" blog, Ralph McInerny wrote the following, about the publication of some letters of Maritain:

"In the post-Conciliar years bumptious readers of the Council documents have declared that the hegemony of Thomas Aquinas is over, that Thomism no longer plays a favored role for the Catholic philosopher and theologian. Nothing in the documents supports this claim, nor do the repeated endorsements of the popes, but that scarcely matters to a certain kind of Catholic. Having lived through the decades of this condescension toward Thomas, it is refreshing to turn to the letters of two men for whom Thomas Aquinas was the major inspiration and whose work developed ever new lines of relevance between the Thomistic text and modern times."


"The Church’s centuries old and reiterated preference for Thomas Aquinas is sometimes looked upon as an untested hypothesis, a promissory note that might or might not be redeemable. That is why the concrete efforts of those who followed the Church’s advice and produced work of lasting interest is important. Here is variegated proof of the fruitfulness of turning to Thomas Aquinas as one’s principal guide in philosophy and theology."

This is of course old hat. Thomists have long claimed that Thomas Aquinas enjoys a pre-eminence, is a higher authority, than other catholic thinkers. This goes for theology and philosophy. There are a number of things I have never understood about these sorts of claims. For example, does this mean knowledge of Thomas is necessary for salvation? Or at least to hold opinions contrary to Aquinas is to fall into heresy, say, to maintain Scotistic univocity in the church of today? Does the Church have the authority to dictate philosophy? I have seen some Thomists from pre vat. 2 days claim that Thomistic philosophy and theology is binding on the faithful, save in those areas where the thomistic commentary tradition itself is divided as to the meaning of Thomas.

That Thomas has been recommended by many Popes is not at issue (though the claim that the Summa theologiae sat next to the Bible on the altar at the council of Trent is a thomist myth). But Duns Scotus has also been recommended by many popes, as has the "old" franciscan school comprised of those who follow Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, etc. Indeed, representatives of both franciscan schools were present at Trent and the Tridentine decrees were worded so that franciscan theologian opinions would not be excluded.

But when we look around at the recent history of the church it is clear that these claims by thomists were given an appearance of truth by the fact that everyone prior to vatican two were thomists or neo-thomists (excepting the very few genuine modernists and other groups such as the Novelle theologie). One would expect then that this critical mass of thomists was the result of some victory of the thomist school in the past, some famous disputation in which the Augustinians, Scotists, old franciscans, Albertists, and the Nominalists were all present and clearly refuted. But the historical record does not contain evidence of such a momentous event. What we have instead is the apparent collapse of scholasticism as a force in the universities sometime around the beginning of the 18th century. In the church, there were all sorts of doctrinal factions, much like there was in the 13th century, and much like today. But some were opposed to this, and began studying Aquinas on their own, often discouraged by the church hierarchy. Eventually this movement culminated in Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris which initiated the neo-thomistic revival. Make no mistake; though Leo generally mutters out of the side of his mouth "...and the other great scholastics" he gives pride of place to Aquinas. They ruled for a time, times, and half a time, until they were overthrown after Vatican II. Now I agree here with McInerny; there is nothing in the council documents to support the upset. But it seems true de facto. It was just plain dropped as part of the general heady revolutionary fever of the times that produced also the travesty of the new mass (NB: I am not a SSPXer, and fully admit the validity of the new mass and the church's authority to promulgate it). The origins of this revolution seem easy to explain; the thomist hegemony ruled the church with an iron hand, suppressing a great deal of discussion and persecuting those who did not agree with them. The revolution was a revolution not against the tradition of the church, nor even against "post-tridentine" catholicism, but against the neo-thomistic revival.

According to hearsay, the "Vatican" Commission charged with editing Scotus' opera omnia thought Leo XIII's endorsement of Thomas to be a huge mistake, and that Scotus should have been proposed instead. Indeed, I largely agree with them, and would add that in my opinion, Aeterni Patris was the biggest mistake in the modern history of the church; if, however, there had been a Scotist party in existence at the time (there certainly was critical scholarship on Scotus, but that is not the same thing), I doubt they would have behaved much differently (I assume, then, as I see myself as a loyal son of the Church, that Aeterni Patris was not a magisterial declaration, but a disciplinary directive). No, the problem as I see it was giving power to any one of these traditional viae (ie., thomism, scotism, albertism, nominalism), as much of their traditional behavior during the middle ages was the defense of their own via against all comers, which in the 14th and 15th centuries often took the form of legislating each other out of existence at various universities (ie, by university statue one would have to hold nominalist positions; Cologne was unique in that the viae all existed side by side at the same university) that were then coming into being.

To return to McInerny's statements and the larger questions they bring, if we grant them, does this mean all of Thomas is authoritative? Even the part where he denies the immaculate conception, advances the Aristotelian embryology, or holds to geo-centrism? Clearly not. So there must be some common doctrine embedded within the thought of the common doctor; could we go so far as to say this doctrine is common to all the scholastics? Is the common doctrine those points where there is unanimous agreement? But what then do we do with the church recommending both Scotus and Aquinas? Can we tolerate, at least on the level of church politics or theological dialogue, or whatever, a sort of relativism in which both their opinions and say, Rahner and von Balthasar's are permitted while still affirming that there is only one Truth? Or will we rather, as Scotus says in his question on the Filioque, remain lovers of our own opinions?

[NB: I am fully aware that everything I have been trained in and the critical editions and scholarship I read owe their being directly to Aeterni Patris. It was the Thomists that first returned to manuscripts.]