Wednesday, February 10, 2010

God as Being

The second paragraph of Scotus' De Primo Principio reads as follows (trans. Wolter):

O Lord our God, true teacher that you are, when Moses your servant asked you for your name that he might proclaim it to the children of Israel, you, knowing what the mind of mortals could grasp of you, replied: "I am who am," thus disclosing your blessed name. You are truly what it means to be, you are the whole of what it means to exist [or: you are true being, you are whole being]. This, if it be possible for me, I should like to know by way of demonstration. Help me then, O Lord, as I investigate how much our natural reason can learn about that true being which you are if we begin with the being which you have predicated of yourself.

In The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy Etienne Gilson comments on this passage:

Nothing can surpass the weighty fullness of this text, since it lays down at once the true method of Christian philosophy, and the first truth whence all the others derive. Applying the principle of St Augustine and St Anselm, the Credo ut intelligam, Duns Scotus, at the very outset of his metaphysical speculation, makes an act of faith in the truth of the divine word; like Athenagoras, it is in the school of God that he would learn of God. No philosopher is invoked as intermediary between reason and the supreme Master; but forthwith, after the act of faith, philosophy begins.

Gilson has a number of favorable remarks about Scotus in the present book. Here is another one, from an endnote: "Duns Scotus' proofs of God's existence should occupy a prominent place in any history of Christian philosophy, for they are immediately based on the idea of being and its essential properties, causality and eminence."

1 comment:

Lee Faber said...

and yet Gilson wrote an article trashing Scotus, as being a destroyer of natural philosophy. The article was an analysis of several theorems out of the theoremata.