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.


Lee Faber said...

Ah ha, but remember, foolish Scotist, that thou art dust, for Thomas, in one of the final questions of Summa prima pars q.13 a.10 shows that 'God' predicated of the true God and of a pagan idol are analogical.

Respondeo dicendum quod hoc nomen Deus, in praemissis tribus significationibus, non accipitur neque univoce neque aequivoce, sed analogice. Quod ex hoc patet. Quia univocorum est omnino eadem ratio, aequivocorum est omnino ratio diversa, in analogicis vero, oportet quod nomen secundum unam significationem acceptum, ponatur in definitione eiusdem nominis secundum alias significationes accepti. Sicut ens de substantia dictum, ponitur in definitione entis secundum quod de accidente dicitur; et sanum dictum de animali, ponitur in definitione sani secundum quod dicitur de urina et de medicina; huius enim sani quod est in animali, urina est significativa, et medicina factiva. Sic accidit in proposito. Nam hoc nomen Deus, secundum quod pro Deo vero sumitur, in ratione Dei sumitur secundum quod dicitur Deus secundum opinionem vel participationem. Cum enim aliquem nominamus Deum secundum participationem, intelligimus nomine Dei aliquid habens similitudinem veri Dei. Similiter cum idolum nominamus Deum, hoc nomine Deus intelligimus significari aliquid, de quo homines opinantur quod sit Deus. Et sic manifestum est quod alia et alia est significatio nominis, sed una illarum significationum clauditur in significationibus aliis. Unde manifestum est quod analogice dicitur.

Michael Sullivan said...

I suppose you're just trying to get a rise out of me, for surely you can't be overlooking the difference between a pagan idol and the true God insofar as he can be known to the natural reason, confusedly and incompletely understood.