Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MacIntyre's view of Scotism

This tidbit is from MacIntyre's new book, God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition, p. 100-101

"Scotus's teaching secured him a large following in the later middle ages especially--and not only in the Franciscan order--and an even more numerous following in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some of his views and arguments have been influential in later secular philosophy, most notably perhaps his thesis that being is and must be ascribed univocally, a thesis powerfully reinterpreted by Gilles Deleuze in our own time. Scotus's later Franciscan followers presented his views and arguments as the articulation of a system, giving it the name 'Scotism', so that Scotism and Thomism were presented as two rival scholastic systems. Yet this is misleading. For Scotus is philosophically--not theologically--a significantly less systematic thinker than Aquinas, someone who tends to address problems piecemeal, drawing on his predecessors in a creatively ad hoc manner.

In this respect he is followed by another philosophically remarkable Franciscan, William Ockham (1283-1347). Ockham's work shows Scotus's influence in other ways. Ockham agrees with Scotus and disagrees with Aquinas in holding that the soul is not the form of the body, that embodied human beings do not have the kind of unity that Aquinas ascribed to them."

I almost tremble to post this; in the past I've been part of graduate student reading groups in which certain members, not even all of them Thomists, become exceedingly outraged that someone would dare to criticize the great MacIntyre, flower of catholic intellectuals and fount of philosophy.

But I will make a few remarks...the first being that this is from a very short chapter entitled "After Aquinas". In general, throughout this book we see the generic narratives and metanarratives inherited from 19th century Thomism. The nice thing I will say about the book is that he does at least know enough about Scotus to point out that Aquinas is not the primary target. He even mentions Henry of Ghent, so he is at least somewhat aware of modern scholarship, even if he can't resist following this up by giving brief, bad, descriptions of three or four areas in which Scotus and Aquinas are at odds.

Both the quotes posted are rather absurd. I only post them as there is no one on the popular level defending Scotus, who is constantly maligned by the pomo crowd and the Thomists. Interestingly, it is the contemporary analytic philosophers that give Scotus the honor of actually trying to figure out what he actually said before they criticize him.

Passage 1: This is rather contradictory. Scotus is said to have had a large following in the later middle ages (pshaw--even in his own lifetime and certainly during the 14th century) and the 17th and 18th centuries, but somehow Scotism does not count as a school like Thomism. One would think a large following, filling in the gaps of the master and defending him would count as a school, in fact this seems to be the very definition of a school. But, the usual Thomist practice is that one can count as a Thomist only if one only says what Thomas says and does not add a jot or a tittle, so I can sort of see where MacIntyre is coming from here. Of course, he does admit that there is a Scotist system where theology is concerned, so why no Scotism? And why distinguish between Scotus's theology and philosophy as between systematic and non-systematic? Scotus followed the same method in each: detailed analysis of contemporary opinions followed by the careful exposition of his own opinion. I'm reaching here, I really don't understand what the last two or three sentences of this paragraph are supposed to mean. It just sounds like a cheap, almost political, shot to guarantee that only Thomism is an acceptable candidate for the catholic intellectual.

We can also add that being is not univocal, only the concept of being, and, contra Suarez, the Thomists, the Cambridge Phantasists and Brad Gregory, Scotus accepted 'real' analogy.

Passage 2: This one is just plain stupid and I only included it as it followed directly from the above and it is so patently false and reveals such a poor understanding of the issues that I thought it needed to be pointed out. Pretty much all of the scholastics think that the soul is the form of the body. End of story. The notable exception is Peter of John Olivi, whose views on the matter were condemned at the council of Vienne. Even such a Thomist-leaning theologian as Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals takes pains to point out that the censure of Olivi has no bearing on the plurality of substantial forms debate, that Scotus' opinion is not also included in the censure. The debate is whether the rational soul informs prime matter directly, or through the mediation of another substantial form, the forma corporeitatis. Scotus holds this latter position, and thinks that all lower forms are in potency to higher forms, with the ultimate actuality of the composite deriving from the rational soul. He can hold this and also that the rational soul is the form of the body, and I have personally come across numerous references attesting to his belief in this latter position (his discussion of the plurality of forms is to be found in his discussion of eucharistic conversion, for any who are interested and do not already know).

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Distinction from Petrus Thomae

Now that I got the following cleaned up (the Salamanca ms. was quite helpful), I think it might be worthy of posting.

Petrus Thomae, QQ de esse intelligibli, q. 2 a.1 (ed. me):

Distinctio est ista: intellectualitas, intellectivitas, intelligibilitas et intellectitas hoc modo se habent, nam prima duo respiciunt suppositum intelligens, alia vero duo obiectum quod intelligitur. Dico ergo primo quod prima duo respiciunt suppositum quod intelligit, tamen differenter, nam intellectualitas respicit naturam qua suppositum dicitur intelligibile; sed ipsa intellectivitas respicit principium vel virtutem vel potentiam qua vel per quam suppositum potest in talem actum exire. Alia autem duo respiciunt obiectum similiter diversimode, quoniam intelligibilitas ponit in obiecto solum aptitudinem intelligendi; sed intellectitas ponit circa idem obiectum respectum actualem ipsius obiecti intellecti ad actum.


"The distinction is this: intellectuality, intellectivity, intelligibility and intellectness(!) are related in this way: the first two are said of an understanding supposit, but the other two are said of the object which is understood. I say first that the first two are said of the supposit which understands, nevertheless differently, for intellectuality looks to the nature by which a supposit is said to be intelligible, but intellectivity looks to the principle or power by which or through which the supposit is able to go into such an act. But the other two look towards the object, likewise in diverse ways, since intelligibility posits only an aptitude of understanding[perhaps it should be intelligi] in the object, but intellectness posits in the object the actual relation of the understood object to the act of understanding."

Gotta love "intellectitas". For quite a while I wasn't even sure if I was expanding the abbreviation correctly, but this Salamanca ms. spells it out without any contraction marks. As it turns out, the entire article is about the relation between intellectitas and intelligibilitas, which in turn is the source of Peter Thomae's (And Alnwick's for that matter) disagreement with Scotus on the production of creatures in intelligible being.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bassols and Rubio, oh my!

check out the following link for a wealth of sentence commenaries. I found the William of Rubio and John Bassols commentaries, as well as some cursus philosophici iuxta mentem Scoti and some disputationes iuxta mentem Scoti as well. They also have lots of Thomist stuff if that's the way you swing

Update: I didn't realize how much they actually have...they have Wodeham, Ockham, William of Vourillion, Richard of Middleton, Auriol, Thomas of Strasbourg, Biel, Gregory of Rimini, Capreolus, and the Lombard himself.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aquinas on Divine Ideas I: Scriptum super Sententias

While investigating fontes for my edition of the intelligibile being treatise I read d.35 and 36 of Aquinas' commentary on the Sentences, and offer here a summary of his position with some short reflections. In an earlier version of this post I accused him of contradiction, but I do not now think it is so simple as that. 

1. Creatures (i.e. the quiddities of creatures) are not contained in the divine essence.

2. Creatures are known by the divine intellect, which is their principle of production (presumably in esse reale; at least he does not specify intelligible being)

3. God does not know creatures by knowing their essences, but in a higher, more nobler manner by knowing the divine essence

4. The divine essence is the exemplar of created things.

5. The divine essence is the ratio or principle by which the divine intellect knows.

Interestingly, I think (3) gets Aquinas out of a Plantinga-like attack, which claims that the divine intellect "depends" on the "platonic horde" which is apparently distinct by some unspecified distinction from the divine essence. Scotus and the Scotistae probably need a little extra work to get out of it.

What I'm not clear on is how the divine essence can be an exemplar without containing creatures in some sense. Perhaps all it means is that the essence can be imitated by creatures and so is an exemplar, and the divine intellect knows that the essence can be imitated by creatures and so contains them. 

What seems to be implied, and in the light of Scotus seems to be a necessary step, is the production of the essences of creatures in intelligible being by the action of the divine intellect knowing the essence, however one wants to explain it, by logical instants, instants of nature, order, etc.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pius Guilelmus

Guilelmus de Alnwick, Quaestiones de esse intelligibili, q.6 (ed. Ledoux 161):

"Therefore it seems to me that, although the one so opining [i.e. Scotus] says in many places that creatures according to their eternal intelligible being are produced by God, and that the divine intellect by understanding a creature institutes it in intelligible being, nevertheless his arguments in many places show the opposite, and therefore I think that if he had held a special question about this he would have spoken carefully; for in this matter he was speaking according to the common opinion, which then was running in the mouth of men saying that creatures had no being from themselves, and therefore also according to intelligible being they are produced from another, and this indeed I have experienced in him, that by following the common opinion of the ones speaking he was accustomed with them to say that creatures according to their eternal intelligible being are produced by God. But now by more diligently inquiring after the truth the contrary is completely clear to me. So also the Solemn Doctor, Master Henry of Ghent, said many things in determining some questions which then did not pertain to his principal intention, and this indeed according to the common opinion of others, of which nevertheless he said the opposite afterwards when he held a special question over the matter, and so I save each doctor from contradiction. So also Aristotle said many things according to the common opinion of the philosophers, of which nevertheless he said the opposite when he determined about them specially from intention."

Comments: Not much in the way of argument here, but the passage does contain some precious historical information. Prior to reading this I had thought that Scotus' opinion was a novelty (if you recall, Scotus posits the production of the quiddities of creatures by the divine intellect in a series of four instants of nature) but Alnwick describes it as the common opinion. Probably the common opinion didn't involve instants of nature; just that the divine intellect or divine essence in some manner generates the essences of creatures. Both Alnwick and Peter Thomae argue against this opinion of Scotus/common opinion, although without attacking the use of instants of nature, while the rest of the Scotistae in the 14th century up to Maestrius et al. follow Scotus. Both Alnwick and Peter Thomae in the end remained without any influence (although they have quite convinced me). It is an interesting  that Alnwick, and probably other scholastics as well, were aware of contradictions in the thought of the great masters (even Thomas changed his mind on the verbum, as Auriol pointed out), but still try to harmonize them anyway. Well, sort of. In some of the questions in this work Alnwick exploits Scotus' contradictions by using the arguments from his Parisian period in the Reportatio and Quodlibet against the Oxford positions expressed in the Ordinatio.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Smithy Update

I am back from my "sprachurlaub" excursion to Munich and Italy, and while I probably did more on the "urlaub" side of things I did pick up a little German. So things should pick up around here. I hear Michael has  finished a draft of his dissertation, so he may step up with a few posts as well.