Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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.


Michael Sullivan said...

The funny thing is that the thinking behind "negationes in summe non amamus" is about as far as nihilism as one can get.

All right, I'm going to turn off the computer and finish packing now.

Anonymous said...

Elsewhere on this site someone said that the RO attitude to Scotus was politically-motivated. Based on my own research on RO, I'd agree entirely. Scotus wrote defending a Christian theory of popular sovereignty, contrary to Giles of Rome and John of Paris. Alexander Broadie thinks his ideas lent themselves to the Declaration of Arbroath by the Scots against the English. As a British Franciscan, Scotus would have been aware of the Magna Carta, which sought to make the monarch accountable to the people's representatives and the rule of law. The Franciscans may indeed have been supportive of the nascent English Parliament.

It's also important to recall that it was the Dominicans who were implicated in the origins of the Inquisition, and allowed to use torture by the papal bull of 1252, before Scotus was even born, but during Thomas Aquinas' lifetime. All that makes complete nonsense of the RO thesis that Scotist univocity was to blame for a supposed development of an 'ontology of violence' in 'modernity'.
The tactics used against Scotus by some of these fashionable pomo academics are intellectually dishonest and border on inquisitorial - putting Scotus in a double bind.