Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scotus and Aquinas on the Possibility of Real Relations between God and Creature

In Asello's recent post, a commenter and I discussed a comment made in the post noting the common opinion among the scholastics that there was no real relation between God and creatures, although there are real relations of creatures to God. The scholastics of course are willing to admit relations of reason, such as calling God "lord", but these are, or were, generally considered to be relations of reason. So taking Scotus and Aquinas, the two we discuss most on this blog, I examined their texts and found some germane remarks. Interestingly, their respective approaches on the matter reveal something of their general methodologies. Scotus relies on metaphysical arguments, here primarily on the nature of necessity, while Aquinas spends a great deal of time discussing physics. The sense of 'relation' here is undoubtedly the Aristotelian one, or at least is of Aristotelian origin; Scotus at one point in his discussion says that the only kind of relation that God could have to a creature is that from the third kind of relation, of measure to measured. One could, I suppose, simply criticize the scholastics as being too Aristotelian, as did then Cardinal Ratzinger in his Intro to Christianity where he says the scholastics failed by not seeing that human beings are essentially relational beings, or perhaps argue that since Christians already except one special case of non-Aristotelian relations, the Trinitarian persons, why not posit another kind of non-Aristotelian relation to take care of God's relation to creation? But this is not the path followed by the subtle and angelic doctors.

Duns Scotus, Reportatio I-A d. 30 q. 2 (ed. and transl. Wolter-Bychkov 2, 259-60):

Therefore, I say that there is no real relation to the creature in God. This is clear, first of all, from the perfection of his necessitu. Indeed, something that possesses perfect necessity cannot, on account of something other than itself, be otherwise [than it is], no matter whether one argues by assuming the possible or the impossible. But God is a perfectly necesssary being. Therefore, he cannot be altered, nor changed, nor be otherwise [than he is] except through [the agency of] a greater necessity, which should not be posited. However, if he were related really to creatrues outside [himself], then he would be come different [from what he is], once the creature has been posited; therefore, etc.

Also, this is confirmed [in the following way]: no matter how often the philosophers postulated that there are other necessary [things] apart from God, they always postulated them to be less necessary than God, because they stated that they were somehow dependent on him, and not vice versa. However, a gerater necessituy cannot be altered by a lesser one, as has been said, nor become different [from what it is]. This is also clear from [the words of] Augustine, Bk. XI of The City of God, chapter 10.

The second demonstration is from the perfect simplicity of God, as a result of which he ‘is what he has.’ [Assuming this,] if some real relations to creatures existed in God, they would be really identical with the divine essence. But a real relation to [something] outside necessarily co-requires an external term; therefore, that which is perfectly identical with the divine essence would require something external, and consequently the divine essence would not be necessary to the highest degree, because it would make a difference to it whether the creature has been posited or not. Therefore, if the creature were eliminated, [God] would cease to be [what he is, i.e.,] God.”

Thomas de Aquino, De potentia Dei q.7 a.10 (ed. Marietti)

“I respond: it should be said that relations, which are said from God to a creature, are not really in him. For the understanding of which it must be known that, since a real relation consists in the order of one thing to another thing, as it was said; in those things only a mutual real relation is found in which from each side there is the same principle of order of one to another: which indeed is found in all relations consequent on quantity. For since the principle/notion[ratio] of quantity is abstracted from all sensible [things], quantity is of the same kind[ratio] in all natural bodies. And for the same reason by which one having quantity is really referred to another, also the other to it. [...] God however does not act through a mediate action, which is understood as proceeding from God, and terminated in a creature: but his action is his substance, and whatever is in him is entirely outside the genus of created being, by which a creature is referred to God. Nor again, does some good accrue to the creator from the production of a creature, whence his action is maximally free as Avicenna says. It is clear also that he is not moved to this that he acts, but without all change he makes changeable things. Whence it is granted that in him there is not some real relation to a creature, although there is a relation of a creature to him, just as effect to cause.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Strange Remark of William of Varouillon

The following comes from the commentary on the Sentences by William of Varouillon, a fifteenth-century Franciscan theologian. Scotist, maybe, probably with Bonaventurian modifications. In his discussion of the divine ideas he makes the following weird comment, which I shall not bother to translate.

Guillelmus de Varouillon, I Sent. d.36 q. 1 (ed. 1502 f. 61ra)

"Et si obicitur quod sic dicetur est doctori subtili contradicere qui posuit quidditates rerum et essentie esse distinctas ab esse essentie et ab eterno, quantum mihi dicens intelligere doctorem subtilem dedit.

Dico quod non est opinio sua imo in presenti distinctione ex intentione oppositum dicit inveniendo quod totum quod est in creatura est ex tempore bene tamen est ibi distinctio formalis sicut inter humanitatem et animalitatem et ceteras quidditates non enim videt quomodo posset esse creatio aut annihilatio si istud poneretur. Unde rerum ante suum existere solum ponit esse ydeale quod est ens rationis in mente divina nec apparet de qua serviret istud esse essentie unde patet quod ista opinio est aut gandista a Gandavo aut provincialis a Francisco de mayronis qui fuit de provincia provincie aut turonica a Boneto non scotica a doctora subtili sicut eroum quidam somniando dicit quod iste quidditates ortum habuerunt non in scotia aut francia verum dicit sic accipiendo sed locis predicti.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blessed Newman

From the New York Times, no less:

On Saturday, Benedict addressed Britain’s politicians in the very hall where Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic martyr, was condemned to death for opposing the reformation of Henry VIII. It was an extraordinary moment, and a reminder of the resilience of Catholicism, across a gulf of years that’s consumed thrones, nations, entire civilizations.

This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.

Gratias agimus Domino.

Beate Ioanne Newman, ora pro nobis.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Early Text on Analogy

Duns Scotus, Quaestiones super librum Elenchorum, q.15 (Opera Philosophia II, 336-7):

"To the question it should be said that as far as it is from the side of the utterance (vocis) signifying, it is not possible for an utterance to signify one per prius and a second per posterius, for to signify is to reprsesent something to the intellect. What therefore is signified, is first conceived by the intellect. But evertything which is conceived by the intellect, is conceived under a distinct and determinate definition/concept (ratio), because understanding is a certain kind of act, and therefore what understands distinguishes by another (?). Therefore everything which is signified, is signified under a distinct and determinate definition/concept (ratio). This is clear for prime matter which of itself is being in potency, if it is understood, it is necessary that it be understood under a distinct ratio. And if such is the case with matter, much more will this be true of everything else.

If therefore an analogous statement (dictio) or utterance (vox) is imposed to diverse [things, entities], it is necessary that it is imposed under a distinct and determinate ratio. Therefore if an analogous statement, under diverse rationes, is imposed to diverse [things, entities], it is necceary that those thing, insofar as it is the case from the side of the signifying utterance, represents equally. Whence in a thing there can be analogy, but in an utterance signifying there can fall no priority or posteriority, because there is some property which more befalls one thing than another. But there is not some property which more befalls the substance of an utterance than another. This is clear by a sign, because Aristotle in the book of the Categories, where he determines about signifying utterances, makes no mention of those things which are analogates in the thing, but he only speaks there about univocals and equivocals. Whence Boethius says in the same place that, since Aristotle said that 'equvocals are those of which the name is common and the ratio of the substance are diverse' that under that definition he includes those things which in the thing are analogates and every genus of equivocation. Whence 'ratio of substance' according to him is received there for a determinate ratio which the intellect attributes to those things, and not for a reason inasmuch as it is present(constat) from genus and difference. On account of which I say that, as far as the case is from the side of the signifying utterance, there falls no priority or posteriority, although the things signified have a relation (habitudo) to each other.

[Against the Principal Arguments]

To the first argument it should be said that as far as it is from the side of the utterance signifying, there is no medium between a univocal and equivocal.

To the other argument it should be said that a natural philosopher, and also the metaphysician, consider things themselves; the logician considers things of reason. And therefore there are many univocals according to the logician,wqhich are called equivocal by the natural philosopher. For the natural philosopher would say that 'body' is said equivocally of an inferior and superior body. But a logician would say that it is said of each univocally. Whence from each a logician can abstract one common notion (ratio), and says that in that notion the common is united or univocated (univocari). Whence because in superior and inferior bodies it befalls to find one common notion (because this and that body agree in having three dimensions), therefore the logician says they are both united in that univocal notion. But because a natural philosopher applies his consideration to the things themselves, and the nature of corruptible body is other than the nature of an incorruptible one, therefore the natural philosopher says that 'body' is said of this and that body equivocally. The logician however says that all species of one genus are univocal in their genus. But the natural philosopher says that 'many equivocations lie hid in the genus'. Whence the logician considers things as they fall under reason. But between the same and diverse there is no medium, and therefore the lgoician does not posit a medium between the equivocal and the univocal.

Whence by this to the form of the argument it should be said that because the first philosopher considers thingsd according to their quiddities, and in the thing it is the case that certain things have a relation (habitudo) to each other, therefore the Philosopher says that being is said analogically of substance and accident. But because a logician considers things as they fall under reason, therefore he says that being is said equivocally of substance and accident. Whence Porphyry says that 'if someone should call all things beings, he will name them equivocally, not univocally.'

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Object of Hope in Thomas and Scotus

A scholar of medieval thought, in an unpublished lecture, notes that Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 62, a. 2, c., says that "the three theological virtues all have God as their object insofar as he exceeds our natural knowledge. The difference between them is in the way that God is the object . . . The difference is not the thing which is the object, but rather a difference in the ratio of the object."

Explaining himself in further detail in his Disputed Questions on Hope, Thomas says that there are two objects (material and formal) to both hope and faith. Quoting Thomas:

The hope of attaining eternal life has two objects, namely eternal life itself, which someone hopes, and the divine help, by which (quo) he hopes; just as even faith has two objects, namely the thing which he believes and the first truth to which it [faith] corresponds.

In this case, the formal object of hope is divine help and the formal object of faith is first truth, that is, God as first truth speaking.The material object of hope can be subdivided: primarily, it consists in eternal life for oneself; secondarily, eternal life for others. Now eternal life is one's attainment of God.

Similarly, Thomas distinguishes between the material object of hope (the attainment of God) and the material object of charity (God in Himself as supremely good). The scholar says, "Thomas distinguishes hope from charity without reference to hope's formal object."

Now, in order for Thomas' later statement to be consistent with his earlier statement, he must say that the attainment of God is the same as God understood under a particular ratio; in this case, one might say, God as attainable. But it does not seem that God as attainable can be man's primary object of hope. On the one hand, God is the same as eternal life: "And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God." On the other hand, we can distinguish between the attainment of God with God in Himself, for it is one thing to will to be united with Him as He is with no mediating creature, and it is another to will God in Himself to be what He is. In other words, there are two distinct objects of the will: God in Himself and union with God in Himself. And because there are two objects, there must be a distinction between things. From this it follows that man has two different objects to his hope: one is for God in Himself, another for the attainment of God. Clearly eternal life (or attainment of God) as an object of hope must be subordinated to God in Himself, the supreme Good, who is the primary object of hope. Therefore, there does not seem to be a real distinction between the material object of hope and the material object of charity, for both are God in Himself.

Even if the reasoning above is invalid, there still remains a problem with St. Thomas' position that there is a difference between the material objects of hope and charity. The scholar notes that Scotus

"considers the suggestion that hope has as its object the divine goodness for oneself, whereas charity has its object the divine goodness in itself. He rejects this view because, 'that condition or circumstance "to whom" is not a per se condition of the object, but rather such a condition can be added onto the object with the same formal nature of the object remaining.'"

In other words, God considered as "attainable" is not part of God's formality, it is a part of man's relation to God. God has no relation with creatures, but they have a relation to Him.

"The reason why such a circumstance does not partake of the object's formal character is that this circumstance merely belongs to the order of reason and does not really exist in the object, which is God. A being of reason does not make a formal difference in the object. The reason why faith, hope, and charity are not differentiated by their objects' formal ratio is that no real or formal distinction in God explains their difference."

Furthermore, we must insist that a circumstance does not specify a being; neither does it individuate a being. Here I can quote the philosophy thesis of another scholar (who will remain anonymous until he reveals himself):

Scotus lists five possibilities which have been raised by previous thinkers [to explain individuation]: the nature is individuated through 1) an aggregation of accidents, 2)quantity, 3) matter, 4) actual existence, or 5) the relation of the individual to its efficient cause.

Diverse as they are, Scotus finds that the proposed principles all have something in common: they are accidental to the thing they are supposed to individuate. Each one adds something extrinsic to the nature in the form of an accident. Because of this he can argue against all of them as a group.

An aggregate of accidents, or of substance together with accidents, is not a per se being but an accidental being, and as such is not the primary individual. The individual substance “is prior by nature to every accident,” therefore the accidental cannot provide unity for the substantial or determine it;[3] rather substance is what unifies its accidents and provides the ground for them. The aggregate of accidents, like any individual accident, is posterior to the substance it belongs to. Matter[4] and quantity in a thing fluctuate, are replaced or augmented, come and go, while the this they belong to endures; nor are they general enough to individuate everything.[5] Existence belongs to everything actual indifferently, regardless of whether it is this or that, and is determined by rather than determines this. Relation also depends on substance, which is not relative, but absolute.[6] Finally, each of these prospective individuators violates category boundaries.

When I ask why Mittens is not the same as Whiskers, even though both are cats, I’m looking for a difference within “cat,” not outside of it, just as someone asking about the difference between dogs and cats wants a difference falling within the genus “mammal.” But no accident is a difference within that to which it is accidental; accidents rather are extrinsic and posterior. If cats belong to the category of substance, nothing regarding its catness will be altered or differentiated in any given cat by the addition of some accident or property from another category; rather, “that subject will remain universal and will not become any more individualized after the [added] determination than before.”[7]

[3] “Scotus argues that the individuation of something belonging to one of Aristotle’s categories . . . cannot be explained by something existing in another of the categories.” Richard Cross, Duns Scotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 142.
[4] Matter is not an accident in the same sense as quantity, etc. Matter is included in the quiddity, but only in general. Both humanity and Socrates must have matter to exist—-humanity is such-and-such a form in such-and-such a material—-but it is not any more essential that Socrates be made up of this particular bit of matter than it is that the nature humanity exist in some particular matter. Indeed his eating, breathing, and elimination show that there is a constant exchange of matter in Socrates without disrupting his continuity as this man. See Scotus, Metaphysics, VII.16.40.
[5] “In the case of physical entities, matter would be a candidate for the principle of individuation, but it would never do in the case of nonphysical entities.” Jorge Gracia, “The Problem of Individuation,” in Individuation in Scholasticism: The Later Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, 1150-1650, ed. Gracia (New York: State University of New York Press, 1994), 3. Although at this point Scotus is technically only asking about the individuation of material things, one would like to produce a theory which can expand to become more general.
[6] Scotus, Meta., 190-197.
[7] Ibid., 199.

What is important for my analysis is that 1) Thomas' understanding of the primary object of hope seems inadequate in light of his own principles, 2) Scotus' critique is more encompassing — not only does he show that Thomas' distinction between the theological virtues is problematic, he shows that the deeper problem is Thomas' explanation of how objects of the will are specified. Interestingly, one of the major points of dispute among modern Thomistic moral theologians, a topic which has taken up reams of paper, is how objects of the will are specified according to St. Thomas.

Gilson on Voluntarism

From Gilson's History of Christian Philosophy, reprinted in A Gilson Reader, p. 134-136:

"Having thus posited a necessary being as the first cause of all that is, Duns Scotus finds himself at the same starting point as Avicenna, but when it comes to explaining the relation of finite beings to the infinite being, he separates from the Arabian philosopher. For Avicenna, the possible emanated from the necessary by way of necessity; for Duns Scotus, whose doctrine in this case becomes a radical anti-Avicennism, the possible comes from the necessary by way of liberty. The God of Duns Scotus is a necessary being because he is infinite being. Now, between infinite being and finite beings, all ontological relations are radically contingent. In a doctrine which is based on univocal being and not upon analogical acts of being, a dividing line other than the act of being must be drawn between God and creatures. The role played in Thomism by the existential purity of the divine act-of-being is played in Scotism by the divine will. The infinite essence of God is the necessary object of God's will. There is, in the God of Duns Scotus, no voluntarism with respect to God. There is no trace of voluntarism in him even with respect to the essences of creatable beings. Even in the moral domain God s in some way bound by the first two commandments of the Decalogue, which are the expression of the natural law and correspond to an absolute necessity. In Scotism, divine liberty is emphatically not the enlightened despotism of the Cartesian Lawgiver whose will freely promulgates even necessary and eternal truth. In Scotism, the will of God intervenes to bridge the ontological gap there is between the necessary existence of Infinite Being and the possible existence of finite beings. In the universe of Avicenna, because the First was necessary, all the rest enjoyed a conditional necessity; in the universe of Duns Scotus, because the First is infinite, all the rest is contingent. Between the necessary and the contingent the only conceivable link is a Will.

In a curious text wherein Duns Scotus describes a hypothetical generating of essences in God, we see that, at the first moment, God knows his own essence in itself and absolutely; in the second moment the divine intellect produces the stone, conferring upon it an intelligible being, and God knows the stone (in secundo instanti producit lapidem in esse intelligibili, et intelligit lapidem); in the third instant, God is compared to this intelligible and a relation is thus established between them; in the fourth moment, God in some way reflects on that relation and knows it. It is therefore clearly a posteriority of finite essences in relation to the infinite essence of God which is here at stake. Since God's essence is the only necessary object of God's will, there is not one of these finite essences whose existence should be necessarily willed by God. God creates if he wills to do so, and only because he so wills. To ask the reason why God willed or did not will such-and-such a thing is to ask the reason for something for which there is no reason. The sole cause for which the necessary being willed contingent things is his will, and the sole cause for the choice he made is that his will is his will; there is no getting beyond that. The only conditions this liberty observes are to will essences such as they are, to chose only compossible essences among those that are to be produced, and to preserve unchangingly the laws which have once been decreed. With the exception of the principle of contradiction and of the intrinsic necessity of the intelligible forms taken in themselves, the will of God is therefore absolute master of the decision to create or not to create, as well as of the choice and combination of essences to be created. With respect to what is not God, the divine will is not necessarily ruled by the good; it is on the contrary the choice of the good that is subject to the will of God. If God wills a thing, that thing will be good; and if he had willed other moral laws than the ones he established, these other laws would have been just, because righteousness is within his very will, and no law is upright except in so far as it is accepted by the will of God. One could not go any further without ending in Cartesianism; but in order to go further, one should first reject the very essence of Scotism, which lies here in the formal distinction there is between the intellect of God and his will."


Here we have classic Gilson: Avicennism, comparisons to Descartes (the subject of Gilson's dissertation, as everyone already knows), and the act of being. I posted this because of his remarks about how there is no voluntarism in God, which I found surprising from a Thomist. But Gilson always was fair (save when he berates later Scotists for saying existence is an accident in Being and Some Philosophers). There are a few things that aren't quite right, however. Such as the bit about the will serving for Scotus what essence-existence/act of being does for Thomas. For Scotus the principle that distinguishes God and creatures is the intrinsic modes of infinity and finitude. And some of the later comments on the will are rather overstated; that is, they are more Gilson's interpretation than anything Scotus ever said. Scotus does say that the second table of the ten commandments is contingent, but he is mainly trying to reconcile believed contradictions to the table carried out by God himself. This is a little different than claiming the divine will is not ruled by the good. This may follow, but I don't think Scotus thought of it that way; he is more interested in enumerating the kinds of acts the will has and how they are elicited. Regarding the "hypothetical" production of creatures into intelligible being, well, he should drop the hypothetical bit. This scandalized plenty of 14th century Scotists (the subject of a forthcoming article), but Scotus appears to have meant it. Caveat: Petrus Thomae claims that Scotus only meant it metaphorically, and proceeds to exegete a passage in Scotus he claims proves this. But he doesn't bother to say where this passage is, and I have yet to find it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scotus on the Relation of Metaphysics and Various Branches of Logic.

Fun times with the Doctor subtilis. From the QQ. super librum Elenchorum, q.1 (Opera Philosophica II, 271-3):

To the question it should be said that logic is of common things as is first philosophy, but in different ways. For first philosophy considers being insofar as it is being, whence it considers a thing according to its quiddity. And because the quiddity of a thing is per se the entity of a thing, therefore first philosophy considers a thing according to its entity. And because it considers a thing according to its quiddity, and many things follow upon a thing according to its quiddity, therefore the first philosopher can consdier the attribute of a subject and about whatever other. For although by understanding being insofar as it is understood in common and inasmuch as it comprehends under itself being of this kind, something cannot be shown, nevetheless many things can be shown about being according to its quiddity; for many things follow a thing according to quiddity, as to be perfect and imperfect, and many others.

Likewise, logic is about common being, or it considers it. But being is double, namely of nature and of reason. Being of nature, insofar as it is such, is the being which does not depend on the soul. But being of reason is said of certain intentions which reason finds in things themselves, such as genus, species, definition, and others of this kind. Being however said in that second way is equated according to its community to being said in the first way. For there is not some being of nature that cannot fall under being of reason, that some intention can be founded over it, as genus or species or property or individual, or at least of cause and caused. Because therefore lgoic is of intentions of this kind, which are applicable to all thihngs, therefore logic is said to proceed from common things.

Further it must be understood that although logic as far as its doctrine is from common things, nevertheless the doctrine handed down in dialectics and demonstration is a diverse use. For dialectic is from common things and in particular sciences argues from common elements to proper conclusions. For it shows that love and hate are receivable in the same thing, not by considering the property of love or hate but this medium that "contraries are made around the same". Whence from common things it does not argue to common, but from common things it argues to proper conclusions. That part of logic which is demonstrative, even if the docrine is handed down from comon things, as for example of a syllogism, nevertheless in special it argues by its proper medium. For the geometer uses the demonstrative art, and thence he receives the first causes of a conclusion, and per a proper medium he argues to a proper conclusion. But one arguing dialectically can show another and another conclusion in another and other science by the same medium. Whence in natural philosophy and medicine there can be shown a diverse conclusion by the same medium.

Monday, September 13, 2010

De disputationis scholasticae utilitate

Crede mihi: multi, qui et voce et scripto et editis voluminibus putant se aliquam opinionem defendisse aut aliquem adversarium confutasse, si adduci possent, ut quaecumquae disputarunt, ad syllogisticam formam exigerent, statim animadverterent, se forte eloquenter declamasse, erudite scripsisse, eleganter descripsisse, at simul scopo aberrasse, nihil demonstrasse, nihil refutasse, immo forte nec quid demonstrandum aut refutandum sibi esset, clare percpisse.

Crede iterum mihi: si haec disceptandi ratio in rebus praesertim subtilioribus et implexis aut in iis, quae adhiberetur, multae quaestiones, quae hinc inde agitantur, non agitarentur; multae nullo negotio solverentur; multae, quae solutae putantur, insolutae atque adeo insolubiles agnosceretur; multi errores statim ac orti sunt extabuissent; praefidentia, clamores, irae concertantium vix locum haberent.

--Philosophiae Scholasticae Summa vol. I, p. 198