Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brad Gregory on Scotus

That's Brad Gregory, one of ND's historians, in an article: "Forum: God, Science, and Historical Explanation", in History and Theory 47 (2008), 495-519.

This article, not really about Scotus but rather about the origins of contemporary attitudes holding that scientific findings disprove religion, endorses what historians playing at being philosophers call "narratives" and runs parallel to the Cambridge Phantasists, to wit, that all those Bad Things about the modern world have their origin in Scotus. In this case, its modern atheism. Now, as is common among historians, there is no discussion of Scotus' ideas beyond which what I will quote below; so, like the Cambridge Phantasists I am not terribly concerned as this just another example of the genetic fallacy. Scotus isn't proven to be wrong because of what other people did with his arguments, but rather when his arguments themselves are proven to be wrong. Naturally, neither Gregory nor the phantasists bother to do this as they are too busy writing stories.

p.501: "The supernatural is both defined over against the natural and understood to belong to the same conceptual and metaphysical framework. So if God existed, God plus the natural world would be components within a more comprehensive reality. This conceptualization of the relationship between God and the natural world in the modern "scientific worldview" is not itself the result of empirical inquiry. No one found or discovered it. Rather, it is contingent on certain theological presuppositions linked to particular metaphysical views: it makes assumptions about what God would be like if God were real. As it happens, the metaphysics of modern science relies on a univocal conception of being first articulated by John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) in response to Henry of Ghent's analogical concept of being, which was then further transformed in the fourteenth century by William of Occam (c. 1285-1347). According to them and to Occam's late-medieval scholastic followers, because being is common to all that exists, including God, it must be conceived as pertaining to God in the same manner as it pertains to all creatures in the natural world, however God is otherwise understood to differ from everything else that exists." [completly false with respect to Scotus. Being isn't common, but a concept of being can be formed that is common. There is no corresponding reality. Scotus is the subtle doctor, after all]

[there follows some talk of someones' brilliant book,] "The particular confluence of theology and and natural science in seventeenth-century thinkers as different as Descartes, Hobbes, Henry More, and Newton combined a nominalist insistence on univocity of expression with neo-Stoic Renassance [sic] conceptions of the homogeneity of nature governed by forces. This combination, plus the de facto methodological assumption of Occams razor, established the framework for the eventual retreat of God in modern science and philosophy." [of course 'ockhams razor' is used of Scotus who ascribes it to Aristotle. maybe we need to roll the clock back to Plato]


"...perhaps God is real and is radically distinct from the universe; perhaps God is metaphysically transcendent. [...] If God is real and is radically, otherly[sic] transcendent, then every quality univocally predicated of God would be a category mistake, including even his existence--which was the point of Aquinas' insistence that there is no genus, not even the genus of being, to which God belongs along with creatures. It was such a view that Henry of Ghent modified and Scotus rejected, leading to the unanticipated and enormously influential trajectory traced by Funkenstein." [contrary to Gregorys assertion, Scotus is explicit that being is not a genus and God is not in a genus. see Ord. I d. 8 q.3]


"The metaphysical assertions of modern science can only be agnostic precisely because of its methodological presuppositions. Atheists' heartfelt, personal, subjective beliefs notwithstanding, the findings of science tend toward atheism only if one's theological conception of God presupposes a univocal metaphysics."


"Scotus insisted on a univocal notion of God [So now God is univocal!!! what can that even mean? that God is univocal to God and creatures? this must have been written late at night] because he recognized that without it, nothing could be said about God directly on the basis of reason or philosophy. By contrast, the traditional Christian conception of a radically transcendent God, which flouts ordinary ways of using language and insists on the reality of what is unimaginable, is neither the outcome of philosophical speculation nor the product of empirical investigation. It is the result of theological reflection on the writings of the Old and New testaments, themselves rooted in the experiences of ancient Israelites, some of whom became first-century Christians."

This is pretty bad. Clearly, the author has never bothered to read Scotus or Ockham on the subject of univocity, to say nothing of the followers of either (they're in manuscript, let me tell you, because I read them), as none of them have a monolithic view of univocity. Scotus' followers alone disagree about every point of its interpretation in Scotus, and Ockham just jumps into the middle of this fracas. The view given here is simply wrong as applied to Scotus. Being is univocal conceptually alone. No corresponding reality outside the mind. I sound like a broken record. Being is not a genus. Of course, one has to be sort of obliquely impressed. After all, Gregory's response continued after the last quote follows in the David Burrell line of "theology is a dance". Scotus' (unread) arguments must be so good that the only alternative is to deny the scientific character of theology, as conceived during the thirteenth century and championed by just about all medieval theologians, Aquinas included.

I'm also suspicious about the link between the nominalists and modern science. Gregory cites literature from the 80's on this, but they look like surveys taking the long view of history, not detailed analyses of individual figures. Anneliese Maier, who held doctorates in physics and philosophy denied any link between fourteenth century science and the renaissance scientists, as the former still maintained most of Aristotle's physical principles that impeded the development of modern science. On her view, even impetus theory was incorrect and still as wrong the rest because it still retained Aristotelian principles. Fr. Wallace in his modelling of nature makes a good case for the "regressus" being common to medieval and modern science, which is basically Aristotle's quia and propter quid demonstrations taken in chains of reasoning. Copleston denies the link as well, for what its worth, though he's no specialist.

It's really too bad; Gregory is a devout son of the Church, who has chosen to follow liberal anglicans in their blackening of the reputation of a man declared blessed by Pope John Paul II.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Univocity of Being and the Knowledge of Substance

This one's for our esteemed co-blogger, who was so scandalized by Pini's paper at the St. Bonaventure Scotus congress. I don't remember if the following passage came up, so here it is again. Scotus is claiming that we don't have direct access to substance, only accidents. If we are to have any knowledge at all, the being of substance and accidents must in some sense be univocal. This is from the Quaestiones de anima, which, having read the introduction and the entire work, I think actually post-dates the Ordinatio, the editors to the contrary. This is because Scotus is clearly abbreviating people like Gonsalvus (dated to 1302-4), as well as himself. But I do think that the editors sufficiently established that the manuscript tradition derives from Oxford, and that Scotus might have taught the de anima course during his year-long exile from Paris in 1303. However, he could also have taught it in Paris in the franciscan studium. After Scotus' death, the main impetus among his students was to get a copy of the Ordinatio out and circulating. Other works were ignored and then taken back to Oxford. I suspect this was the case with the Logica Scoti/Quaestio de formalitatibus as well as the De anima questions. Owing to these considerations, I don't think it necessary to posit a Parisian period for Scotus in the 1290's to account for his knowledge of Parisian sources as I think he taught after 1302. 

Here's the argument:

Quaestiones super secundum et tertium de anima, q.21 n.25 (OPh V 218):

"I prove that the concept of being is common univocally to substance and accident: because if not, we would have no concept of substance. For either we would have of substance a concept proper and quidditative and intuitive, or abstractible; not the first, as was proved; therefore a concept abstractible from substance and accident and common to each; but no concept is common to each unless the concept of being; therefore, etc. That however we are not able to know substance in the wayfaring state by a simple and first concept, is clear from this that all our cognition arises from sense; substance however is not per se sensible; and therefore we are not able to know it intuitively or by a simple concept, but by that mode: because from accidents sensible to us we abstract the concept of being, by saying that they are of being, and by inquiring further we find that it is such being which is inhering to another; it is necessary however for that being to be subsistent, and to such a subsisting one we give the name of substance. And therefore so confusedly do we know substance, by joining its subsistence to being, by saying that it is being per se subsisting; we do not however have an intuitive concept of it in the wayfaring state, by which we know it to be this being, except in the aforesaid way, as experience teaches."

Proof that we do not have a proper, quidditative and intuitive concept of substance from n.12:

"But that substance cannot be the first object [of the intellect], I prove: for it is not first according to predication, because it is not predicated essentially of all intelligibiles, because it is not predicated of accidents. Nor [is it the first object] according to power, because it does not sufficiently move the intellect to knowledge of itself and of others. Which is proved so: because this would only be according to a simple and quidditative and intuitive concept; for this to be first is impossible, because whatever our intellect is able to know intuitively through its presence, it is able to know its absence by nature; but our intellect is not able to know by nature the absence of the substance of the bread in the sacrament of the altar, but only by faith--for equally the substance of the bread is known when it is not there, just as when it is there, therefore etc. The major premise is clear by the example and authority of the Philosopher saying that sight is perceptive of light and darkness, which is the absence of light. Minor is declared. Therefore, etc. Since therefore neither God nor the true nor substance is the first object of the intellect, it follows that being is that first object."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Email from Martin Luther

Judging from the instant responses on facebook to this, it may well be worthy to post on the blog. But it may be funnier to hear about than to actually read. In any case, here it is. I got an email from one "Martin Luther" with the subject "Please Read!!!". This is what the email said:

I am Martin Luther Aggrey the Former Accountant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ghana my office monitors and controls the affairs of all banks and Financial institutions in Ghana concerned with foreign contract payments. I am the final signatory to any transfer or remittance of huge funds moving within banks both on the local and international levels in line to foreign contracts settlement.
I have before me list of funds, which could not be transferred to some nominated accounts as these accounts have been identified either as ghost accounts, unclaimed deposits and over-invoiced sum etc. I can now include your name among the people expecting the funds to be transferred into their account, on this note; I wish to have a deal with you as regards to this unpaid funds. I have all the files before me and hope to fix your data correctly once i hear from you as one of the beneficiaries.
My conditions are as follows: First and foremost That I will send a reasonable sum of the list of funds before me to you. After you have confirmed the transfer of the total sum into your account by telegraphic Transfer, to be confirmed in three Working days. I will fly to your country to meet with you for the sharing which we shall discuss when I hear from you. Secondly, This deal must be kept secret forever, and all correspondence will be strictly by email and telephone, for security purposes. You must assure me of your fully commitment and attention to enable us conclude this transaction in a couple of days. Lastly That There should be no third parties as most problems associated with most businesses are caused by agents or representatives. If you AGREE with my conditions, l will advise you on what to do immediately and the transfer will commence without delay as I will proceed to fix your name on the Payment schedule instantly to meet the three days mandate. Please reply to my email below.
Best Wishes
Martin Luther"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Four Ways of Knowing

From Duns Scotus, Quaestiones de anima, q. 19 (OPh V, 193-94):

"It should be said that something can be known in four ways: 
In one way by the comparison to another, as man is known to be the most perfect of the animals; another absolute necessarily precedes such cognition.

In the second way something can be known through its accidents, as man by 'risibile'; and this cannot be first, because it is of necessity that if I know a disposition, that I know the subject acting as a substratum to it, although confusedly.

In the third way something can be known through a concept common to itself and others, as I know man through animal. And so to know God is to know imperfectly, namely through a concept common to himself and others; for this is more imperfect than to know a stone distinctly, because through that common concept God is not more known than another, and therefore such a cognition is not allotted nobility from God.

In the fourth mode something is known by a quidditative concept, but this is double:

One is primarily first, which namely is not resolvable into other concepts, by which a thing is known intuitively in itself as it is of such a nature, and such a concept we cannot have of God in the wayfaring state, indeed neither of our soul nor of some spiritual substance. The reason is because we have no cognition of God naturally except through creatures. No creature, however, nor all taken together, are able to sufficiently represent the divine essence quidditatively, that is as this nature or essence.

The other quidditative concept of a thing neither is entirely simple nor first, but is resolvable into others, as is the defintion of a thing composed from diverse concepts. We are able to have naturally  such a concept of our soul, namely by considering that there are certain beings in potency, certain ones in act; and that being in act has two integral parts of which one is act; and so we apprehend what act is. We proceed further, by dividing, that certain acts are first, certain ones second, and so we apprehend afterwards what is first act. Afterwards we divide those which are actualized, and so, by comparing them to each other, finally we arrive to this which is an organic physical body which is acualized by the soul. And so, by comparing to each other, we have a quidditative concept of our soul. This concept of the soul, however, is proper so that it does not befall another spiritual substance, but by this concept I do not know my soul either in itself intuitively and specially as it is this soul, just as not that which I never saw (sicut nec illud quod numquam vidi).


Likewise from many beings we are able to abstract this which is being absolutely; and from many goods, the good itself. And because beings and goods are ordered, finally we are able to arrive at this which I understand to be the highest good, because there is no process into infinity. So therefore I can compare them to each other by the intellect and say some being is the highest good, which composed concept befalls God alone. And therefore we are able to have naturally a quidditative concept of God, nevertheless one that is composed. But by such a concept we do not know him in himself, as he is of a determinate nature, but so to know him is simply more perfect than to know something other than God.  So therefore it is clear that the adequate object of our intellect is not the material quiddity, because we are able to know in some manner both God and the spiritual substances."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


In case anyone out there cares, I'm leaving town and state today for a little over two weeks. I won't be posting and probably will not be able to take further part in any ongoing discussions. Those of you who rely on The Smithy for your dose of sweet sweet reason will have to rely on Faber to take the helm in the meantime. Hopefully if I can't post I'll still be able to study.

Felix, qui potest rerum cognoscere causas,
atque metus omnis et inexorabile fatum
subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari.
fortunatus et ille, deos qui novit agrestis,
Panaque Silvanumque senem Nymphasque sorores.
illum non populi fasces, non purpura regum
flexit et infidos agitans discordia fratres,
aut coniuratio descendens Dacus ab Histro,
non res Romanae perituraque regna; neque ille
aut doluit miserans inopem aut invidit habenti.

--Virgil, Georgics II.490-499

The Cambridge Theses

Here is a site purporting to have 24 thesis from the Cambridge Phantasists. There is also a list of anti-theses, also allegedly emanating from within the Cambridge theology faculty. 

The theses affecting Scotus are:

"10. Theology before Duns Scotus must be continuously re-read and reclaimed, and its relation to thinkers who opposed the post-Scotist development carefully reflected upon. Good and bad in the enlightenment legacy must be sifted; since the enlightenment both reacted against and perpetuated a deformed Christendom.

14. Radical Orthodoxy is focused on the recovery and non-identical repetition of an authentic pre-Scotist Catholicism. It finds elements of an authentic continuation of the same in High Anglicanism, but also in many other places and countries as well. It detests evangelicalism, because it is creepy, voluntaristic and therefore nihilistic."

And my personal favorite:

"23. Radical Orthodoxy rejects the idolization of academic 'politeness', as part of that legacy of civic humanism which substituted 'manners' for a true liturgical order grounded in a collectively shared vision. Indeed, the Devil is known for his civility."

I suppose there is no reason for us to be nice to them, either. This is great; Jesus Christ divided History itself, Duns Scotus, the anti-Jesus divided theology. It's quite an accomplishment. Of course, this could all be a joke.

On a different note, the other day Milbank commented on Cynthia Nielsons's post on univocity. The part I am interested in is the following:

 "I don’t ever say that Scotus’s intentions were laudable because I feel they are linked to a somwhat dubious spirituality which has ultimately to do ith the entire way the Franciscans regarded Francis. That’s the deeper aspect to the genealogy of the modern outlook which various RO writers are now working on. I’m afraid that this puts Bonaventure in the dock also."

At first this just struck me as bizarre, or just plain mean. What, he doesn't like the stigmata or St. Francis walking around naked? I thought these guys were all about sacral bodies and eros. But then it hit me in a flash of Lonergian insight: Franciscan spirituality, despite some ascetic elements, is largely affirmative. Francis affirms nature in his canticle of the sun, would start eating in the middle of the night to encourage his brothers who had fasted too much, and would demand under holy obedience that his brothers give him their iron belts and other disciplines. The basic principle of Franciscan spirituality is love, joined with the affirmation of creation. This is the via affirmativa. Scotus really is implicated in this as well, not just in his "voluntarism": in his two pages of criticism on negative theology (that's right, he dared deface that most precious of Cambridge idols) one of his comments is "negationes in summe non amamus". That is, "we do not LOVE negationes most of all." Scotus, although he doesn't reject negative theology outright, prizes love above all else, a positive notion. But our Cambridge friends are inventing their own brand of platonism and foisting it on the past. Perhaps they have deep down retained some hatred for matter, and are suspicious of the affirmation of material things. Perhaps the "fetishized infinite absence" they accuse Scotus of creating is but their own half-concious fear of love.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Historiographical Fiction

As for internal criticism, which is so necessary and excellent so long as it uses one document in order to criticize another, eliminating from them what only appears to be true in order to discover what is really true, it loses all its value from the moment that it substitutes the point of view of the observer for that of the things observed. We have seen the birth of the "Critical Spirit" and all the pedantic fiction with which it encumbers history, fiction which at its best is not even entertaining. For it is characteristic of the "Critical Spirit" to be itself the measure of historical reality. When an event surprises it, the event loses the right to have taken place.

--Etienne Gilson, Heloise and Abelard

Happy Easter, readers all.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Davide Panagia

Time to reopen an old can of worms, pomo appropriations of "univocity". As generally seems to be the case among this crowd, the underlying interests and motivations are political. To see how much Scotus cared about politics, read Wolter's translations of "Political and Economic Philosophy" and compare it to the size of On the Will and Morality. I've never been sure how to deal with this sort of thing; it's completely false, driven by contemporary concerns about which Scotus knew nothing, completely unfounded in the texts of Scotus himself, a truly bizarre mating of 19th century Thomist historiography of the strict Leonine observance with contemporary liberal protestant theology/philosophy. Any criticism I offer will naturally be construed as "just history" not theology or philosophy. I think I would be content if instead of taking a misunderstood conclusion of Scotus and applying it to all sorts of issues that didn't exist in Scotus' day, they would first try to give an accurate explanation of what Scotus was trying to do, and then, say, and I know this is truly revolutionary, actually discuss the validity of the argument.  Anyway, here is another idiotic example. I'm experimenting with Fr. Z's format here.

From The Poetics of Political Thinking p.58:

"For Duns Scotus, the idea of negation compels the metaphysical question of relation[Actually, scotus' most detailed studies of relation are in Ord. IV where he talks about the eucharist. Apparently, in some of his philosophical commentaries he developes a theory of relation highly dependent on Simplicius]: How does multiplicity relate to Being? What force is it that relates beings to Being?[Not a distinction found in Scotus, unless by Being you mean that entity whose intrinsic mode is infinity, and being an entity whose intrinsic mode is finite] Duns Scotus's answer is that a "univocity of Being" enables an association between disparate entities, but not on the basis of analogy. Rather, Being relates to beings through predication: "God is thought of not only in some concept analogous to that of the creature,[this is a quote from scotus who here admits that he holds the analogy of being] that is, one entirely different from  what is predicated of a creature, but also in some concept univocal to himself and to a creature.[recall that Aquinas' "Analogy" is Aristotle's equivocity] And lest there be any contention about the word 'univocation,' I call that concept univocal that has sufficient unity in itself that to affirm and deny it of the same subject suffices as a contradiction." In contrast to the Judeo-Christian claim that we are all made in God's image,[So Scotus is outside the Judeo-christian tradition? oh, wait he also thinks we are made in the image of God and devotes several questions to it in the same volume of the critical edition as the univocity material is found; so this is slander and misdirection. I get it.] Duns Scotus argues that our similarity to God exits because all beings possess univocity; [How do beings/Beings "possess" univocity? Now it sounds like a concrete thing, not a property of concepts] God, then, is not merely analogous to other beings but is univocal both to himself and to others. The first sentence of the passage teaches us that God is univocal of all creatures[sic. what does this even mean? English please](i.e., present to all creatures [totally out of the blue; divine presence to creation is an entirely separate issue; I thought we are talking about predication]) and "entirely different from what is predicated of a creature." By retaining the principle  of absolute difference between Being and beings,[this "principle" is the commonly accepted distinction between univocal terms and equivocal terms, going back to Aristotle and mediated through Boethius; if you're going to go after Scotus, go after him for not using Aristotle's defintion of what univocal terms are] Duns Scotus makes difference in itself the first quality of Being.[Actually, being/Being can't have qualities because qualities are found in the categories and being is a transcendental, which means it is supracategorical. What being does have is passiones/attributes. Lets talk about them if that's what he means] Associations,[what are associations and where did they come from? Aquinas doesn't talk about them] then, cannot be premised on analogy, since Duns Scotus is not positing a resemblance between God and beings.[wait...i thought the whole point was that he creates a univocalist ontology and makes everything the same?] Rather, he is positing univocity of Being that asserts the radical difference between particulars while relating them to one another." [I get it; Scotus' univocity is really just another form of equivocity...but what does this say about Aquinas' analogy, which is just a weaker form of equivocity than univocity]

There follows a discussion of Deleuze's uses of univocity and his claims that they are rooted in Scotus, though he doesn't use any of the same terms in the same sense, "Scotus" is as much a cipher in Delezue as it is for the Cambridge Phantasists. The following is the summary of what Deleuze is doing:

"The principle of univocity marks both an ontological turn in the conception of difference and a "minor event" in the history of philosophy. By weaving that historical thread from Duns Scotus, thhrough Spinoza, to Nietzsche, Deleuze presents a counterhistory of metaphysics that illuminates the "banality of the negative." Importantly, this historical trajectory is also part and parcel of his overturning of Platonism--to the extent that Plato, in the flash of an instant, was the first to confuse difference with negation by denying simulacra their proper place among philosophical claimants."

This model of the history of philosophy is, I suspect what motivates RO. But why not just criticize Deleuze? It would be far more of a blow to him to show his view of history is bogus, than accept his views on certain things and then try to counteract them by, say, getting rid of every discipline except theology. What would Thomas say...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ora Pro Nobis

In honor of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer of Scotists and Thomists:

Hoc etiam opus, ut iam cetera, Virigini Sanctae, quam in ipsis huius voluminis initiis Stellam Matutinam, Stellam Maris, Reginam mundi, Virginem incorruptam, Sanctam Dei Genetricem vocare volumus, offerimus. Astronomicus etiam caelus quodammodo ab Ipsa regitur et sancificatur, ex eo temporis praecipue, cum, in caelum assumpta, Imperatrix et Mediatrix Begigna totiu mundi effecta est. Sed caelus, qui vere suus dici potest, longe altior est; in quem, Ea intercedente, nobis bona ac firma spes est perveniendi, si fideles nos exhibuerimus Dei verbis, quae, etsi caeli et terra parteribunt, ipsa numquam praeteribunt.

This lovely dedication is by Fr Raymond Spiazzi O.P., the editor of the Marietti edition of the Leonine text of St Thomas' In Aristotelis Libros De Caelo et Mundo, De Generatione et Corruptione, Meteorologicorum.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Episcopi contra Notre Dame

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the following:

April 3, 2009

The Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C
President, University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Reverend and dear Father Jenkins,

Permit me to add my name as well to the long list of Bishops of the Catholic Church who are utterly appalled at your dedication to immorality and wrong-doing represented by your support for the obscenity called “The Vagina Monologues” and your absolute indifference to the murderous abortion program and beliefs of this President of the United States. The fact that you have some sort of past connection with the State of Nebraska makes it all the more painful that the Catholic people here have to see your betrayal of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

I can assure you of my prayers for your conversion, and for the conversion of your formerly Catholic University. I am

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,

The Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz
Bishop of Lincoln

Many other bishops have chimed in, including the bishop of South Bend itself. Among them, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, is Bishop Doran of Rockford, Ill:

Bishop Doran wrote that Fr. Jenkins should rescind the invitation “and so avoid dishonoring the practicing Catholics of the United States, including those of this Diocese.” In a separate letter to The Cardinal Newman Society, the Bishop indicated that he has advised the people of the Rockford diocese how to make their own sentiments on the matter known to the authorities at Notre Dame. The bishop suggested that if Fr. Jenkins fails to rescind “this unfortunate decision” he should have the “decency” to change the university name to something like, “The Fighting Irish College” or “Northwestern Indiana Humanist University.”

Happy Triduum, everyone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

As conceptualized, existence manifests itself as absolutely necessary for the constitution of the thing. As originally grasped through judgment, it shows itself to be accidental to the thing. Existence is that way. It has both aspects, and allows itself to be known under both. If either aspect is neglected or excluded, a one-sided picture arises. If the specific role of judgment is not understood, the contingent side of existence is disregarded as irrelevant to philosophy, for instance in Aristotle and Duns Scotus. If the universalizing and necessitating function of conceptualization is set aside in the case of existence, the extreme individualism and antinomian vagaries of recent existentialist movements result. Existence, as actually found in things, is both highly individual and necessarily specified by a universalizing nature that it actuates. For a balanced estimate, neither viewpoint, neither cognitional approach, can afford to be neglected.

--Joseph Owens, An Interpretation of Existence, 62.

On Illegal Moves

Many years ago when Lee Faber and I were in high school together we used to play chess. Good times were usually had by all, until one or the other got too wrapped up in the game and then started losing. More than once a game with Faber ended with him overturning the chess board in rage, scattering all the pieces. He may or may not have yelled, "How's that for checkmate, jerk!?" I may or may not have behaved in a similar manner on one or more occasions.

Later, back when I began college--still many years ago now--we stopped playing chess and moved on to the far eastern game Go, a much more complex, subtle, and nuanced game. In chess each player is trying to find the checkmate move or the path to checkmate at all times. Go is different: in Go if I can play a checkmate move that means that you have played a lot of boneheaded moves in a row. In a game with skilled players each side builds up his position step by step, carefully accounting for his opponents moves with each play and balancing his own position against them. In a good game the entire board remains balanced until the end, where finally one side proves to have been the (slightly) stronger.

So, when Faber and I grew up we abandoned chess and took up this new game. There was certainly a learning process to go through. It was a challenge to realize, and then to act on, the principle that the game is not about seeking death for the opponent, and that in fact this strategy usually ends up making one lose. And it's just possible that Faber and/or I may have overturned a board mid-game a time or two. But eventually we began to discover the pleasure of a game that was not so much about victory and defeat as about beautiful and elegant play--on both sides, ideally.

Grown-ups don't toss the board and call it checkmate. They don't demand to start over and then make the exact same moves all over again, acting as though the intervening moves never happened. They certainly don't claim to win based on the merits of insults directed at their opponents' mothers. Not, at least, if they want other grown-ups to play with them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chaucer on Spring

And so befel, whan comen was the tyme
Of Aperil, whan clothed is the mede
With newe grene, of lusty Ver the pryme,
And swote smellen floures whyte and rede,
In sondry wyses shewed, as I rede,
The folk of Troye his observances olde,
Palladiones feste for to holde.

--Troilus and Criseyde I.155-161

In May, that moder is of monthes glade,
That fresshe floures, blewe, and whyte, and rede,
Ben quike agayne, that winter dede made,
And ful of bawme is fletinge every mede;
What Phebus doth his brighte bemes sprede
Right in the whyte Bole, it so betidde
As I shal singe, on Mayes day the thredde . . .

--Troilus and Criseyde II.50-56

And let's not forget the classic:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his falfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen all the night with open yƫ,
(So priketh hem nature in his corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages . . .

--Canturbury Tales, Prologue 1-12.

I might also note, speaking of peregrinating there-and-back-agains, that April is the month to begin burglarious quests in search of dragon-gold.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Scotus on the Filioque

On this question the Greeks disagree with the Latins. I have found, however, in a note of Lincoln [i.e. Robert Grosseteste] . . . that the Greeks really did not disagree with the Latins, because the opinion of the Greeks is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. In this way, therefore, two wise men, one Greek and the other Latin, not lovers of proper speech but of divine zeal, would perhaps find the disagreement not to be real, but one of words, for otherwise either the Latins or the Greeks would be heretics. But who wishes to say that Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Damascene, Chrysostom and many other excellent doctors are heretics; and for the other part that Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Hilary, etc., who were the most excellent Latin doctors, are heretics? Perhaps modern Greeks have added to the aforesaid article from their obstinacy what the preceding doctors have not said or understood. This must be held, therefore, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, because the Church declares this. . . . . . one must say that many things were transmitted explicitly in the later creeds that were contained implicitly in the first ones. Hence, heresies were the occasion of expressing and explaining truths, and therefore, in the first creed it was not necessary to explain, because then there was no heresy. Afterwards, however, there was, and a new creed followed, and with as much authority as those before had. Hence there is no corruption of the first creed, but an explanation; nor did we make another creed, but a new one from it.

--Scotus, Reportatio I-A Dist. 11 Q.2, trans. Wolter and Bychkov.

Scotus on Why the Son Does Not Generate, etc.

Time to bring the discussion back to the top. I've been meaning to post this for the last two days, but my blogging time is limited. Anonymous Commenter mentions the "momentous pauses on the blog when an entry doesn't come about until days or even weeks later," for which I apologize. The explanation is simple: both Lee and myself are working on our dissertations, and real work has to come first. In fact mine is nearly done and I hope to have a finished draft in to my director by the end of the weekend, which means I've been doing a lot of boring footnote work rather than the spirited polemics we all love best. Speaking of which, apologies to any and all for the acrimonious tone which always seems to creep into these discussions. I'll try to stick to the arguments. Meanwhile we appreciate our (tiny handful of) loyal readers!

Mr Jones comments in the Cross thread:

The rest of what you say is fine. Here is the problem: . . . What your saying is that the Son inherits the principle property of causing a divine person because "what he has is only the Father's, i.e. the substance of the Father"? So if the Son inherits the principle property of causing a person, so should the Spirit since He inherits the same substance. By your gloss Principle and to be Father are not co-extensive, since the Son shares it. So it is not an exclusive personal feature. On my view, principle is the exclusive personal feature of the Father.

I agree that some clarification is needed here. At the same time Mr Jones' objection seems ambiguous at best. I would not admit that there is any "principle property of causing a divine person"--first because this again seems to be equivocating on "principle" as it's being used here; second because, as EP have themselves rightly pointed out in past discussions, "causing a divine person" is not a personal property in divinis. It is a fact that both the Son and the Spirit are "caused", but there is no real generic property of which generation and spiration are species.

The real problem, namely why the Son does not inherit generation and the Spirit spiration, since they both inherit the divine substance which is the principle of all action, needs more elaboration. For my purposes I will use Scotus' Reportatio I-A, which has the merit of being published alongside an English translation by Allan Wolter and Oleg Bychkov, sparing me the trouble of making my own translations. I make some slight emendations, however, in the snippets which follow.

I turn then to Dist. 7 Q.1, "Is the principle of producing in the divine a relation or the essence, or is [it] something absolute or relative?" This is a long question, but the money quote is this:

the divine essence is the formal principle of producing some person--moreover, sufficiently without any determination--but it cannot proceed to function unless the personal property concurs. And if the formal principle of producing something is understood in this way . . . I concede that the relation concurs with the essence to produce the Son, not to determine the essence which is determined of itself, but in order that the latter may come to be in proximate potency for acting, in which i can only be insofar as it is an individual subject and person.

I.e., the essence is the entire sufficient cause for what is generated being God. But in order for generation to take place the personal property of the Father--generation--has to "concur" with the essence. It is not the essence taken all by itself that generates, but the essence concurring with Fatherhood, i.e. the essence precisely as existing in the Father qua Father. Therefore when Mr Jones says "On my view, principle is the exclusive personal feature of the Father," I say we must distinguish between the principium quod and the principium quo.

The Son, then, does not generate, and for the same reason the Spirit does not spirate. Here is Scotus in Dist.7 Q.2 on why it is impossible for the Son to generate:

If the Son had the potency to generate, either he would generate by the same generation as the Father does, or by another. Not by the same; for if he did, the Son would generate himself, just as the Father generates him. Not by another generation, because there is no more than one production of a given sort in God because each is of itself just this, as was proved above in distinction 2, and also each production is suited precisely to its productive principle; therefore in no way does the Son have the potency of generating.

There can only be one generation and one spiration in God. If they were two generations, there would have to be something to distinguish them. But what would this be? There is no "principle of individuation" in God besides Himself. The Son cannot generate because, if he did, his generation would be identical with the generation of the Father, and thus what the Son would generate would be the Son, and thus the Son would generate Himself, which is contradictory and absurd. It is not contradictory and absurd for the Son to spirate, because the Son is not the Spirit. The Son receives his ability to spirate from the Father along with everything else pertaining to His Sonship. But the spiration of the Father and the Son is one spiration, not two, for there can only be one spiration in God. It is contradictory, however, for the Spirit to spirate, because what is spirated in God is the Spirit, and thus the Spirit would spirate Himself.

Also relevant is this bit later in Dist. 7 Q.2:

It must be said that this is not a precise expression: 'the essence is the principle of generation.' Indeed it is a truncated version unless it is specified 'the essence is the principle of generation for this one, namely the Father'; therefore it does not follow that there will be a potency to generate in the Son, indeed that is a fallacy of accident. For the essence is in the Son under such an aspect, under which the minor extreme, the potency to generate, is repugnant to him, as has been shown.

For divine generation both divinity and Fatherhood are required; in one sense divinity is the principle, since it is God which is generated, and in another Fatherhood is the principle, because it is the Father Who generates by His divinity; the Son does not have generating divinity but generated divinity. Similarly with the Spirit.

One final quote, from Dist. 12 Q.3:

This action of spiration can be considered in three ways: either in itself or towards another, or as it is in supposits acting. In the first two ways there is uniformity, just as if it were of one supposit. But in the third way, this action would not be uniformly from these supposits. For the Father has nothing that has been born, and whatever the Son has was received through generation. In this way, therefore, they would have the spiration action according to a certain order, and by reason of this a certain diversity could be asserted. And in this way one should understand the authorities; for I don't understand them in any other way.

There is only one spiration in God in itself. There is only one Spirit spirated. But there are two persons spirating, and the way they spirate is different, for the Father is the "principle" of spiration in this sense, that he spirates in virtue of his fontal plenitude, his being the source of everything in the Godhead, whereas the Son spirates in virtue of receiving everything He has from the Father. The Father spirates from Himself alone, then, whereas the Son spirates only through the Father and with the same spiration as the Father.

A very great deal more could be said, but perhaps this post is long enough. On final note. Mr Jones says "as far as explanation goes I don't find anything proffered by Bonaventure and Scotus that wasn't already covered by Alcuin and Ratramnus." I admit I don't know how to take this. Do Alcuin and Ratramnus really say what Scotus says in this post? If so I would be astonished. The increase in theologians' explanatory power from the beginning to the end of the thirteenth century alone is incredible, and also obvious to anyone to anyone who reads both early and late scholastics.