Thursday, August 25, 2011


In his Quodlibet II.12, Henry of Ghent was asked whether someone could obtain the halo given to Doctors in heaven if they were worthy to become professors of theology but never actually received a position.

No, it seems, for the judgment of the Church Triumphant conforms to the judgment of the Church Militant. If the Church on earth therefore doesn't see fit to honor a scholar with the rank of master, for which the halo specially belonging to Doctors is merited, neither will the Church in heaven.

Henry disagrees with this. One merits a halo in heaven (as one merits anything) on account of one's acts, not on account of public recognition of those acts or status. So a virgin will receive the halo of virginity even if her virtue is never recognized or lauded; similarly then so can someone who teaches and preaches in order to lead others to eternal life by the way of truth merit the halo of the Doctors.

Henry notes that it's not enough merely to wish to teach, a positive activity is required for merit; if one is impeded from teaching by one's locality or lack of opportunity one may receive the essential reward for one's good will, but not merit the halo. But if a qualified and worthy teacher who teaches well is not given a professorship [magisterium], this is an error on the part of the appointing body.


I have to say that I find this quaestiuncula strangely comforting and cheering, as I hope others will who may, like me, doubt whether they can reasonably hope to be granted tenure by any other university than that whose gates St Peter guards, or wonder what college might accept us onto their permanent faculty besides that which resides in Dante's Heaven of the Sun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Notes on Individuation

After I ranted a bit in a personal exchange Faber suggested that I write up a bit on individuation. First a quick recap: here of course Faber reproduced a bit of Scotus on whether a relation can individuate. "Don Paco" of the blog Ite ad Thomam linked to it here, where commenter Aquinas 3000 asked what he thought of it. Don Paco replies,

I hold the Thomistic view: "The principle of individuation, i.e., of numerical distinction of one individual from another with the same specific nature, is matter designated by quantity. Thus in pure spirits there cannot be more than individual in the same specific nature." (Thesis 11, from the 24 Thomistic Theses).

So the soul is individuated through its body. This is the case, even when the soul no longer informs its body body: even then, this soul is still the soul (form) of that body (matter) and of no other.

On Edward Feser's blog Aquinas3000 puts the position this way:

The soul still has a relation to the body as it is the soul of this particular body. It also has its own separate act of esse. The matter individuates it as this particular human being. Once it is separate from the body it is no longer a human being as such, since this refers to the composite. It is an incomplete substance that is capable of subsisting due to its spiritual character that has a relation to this particular body i.e it is the soul of this body.

Some comments later our own Lee Faber replies:

So immaterial human souls have a different principle of individuation out of the body than in the body? So really for Thomas there are lots of principles. At one time it's matter, at another time it's a relation. But a relation requires two fundamenta. How can there be a relation to a non existent (the body)? All you've got is one term and a relation to nowheresville.

First of all I want to clear up the matter of the foundations of relations. Faber's remark, and Scotus' comment reproduced in the first post just cited, "every relative form presupposes something absolute in which it is founded," needs to be qualified. There can be a real relation with one nonexistent foundation, in the case of opinion, memory, anticipation, understanding, will, etc, regarding a non-existent, no-longer-existent, or not-yet-existent object. That is, there can be a real relation between something with subsistent (subjective) being - the mind - and something with merely objective being - the object which exists only in thought and not in itself. However, that's not really relevant to the present case.

In my view, which is the Scotist view, the Thomist account of individuation is involved in insuperable difficulties, which the case of the separated soul merely highlights. Consider the fact that the human body, upon decomposition, no longer exists, while ex hypothesi the human soul continues to exist apart from the body. The matter does not cease to exist, in the sense that prime matter is never naturally created or destroyed according to the principle of the conservation of energy; but individual bodies certainly do cease to exist. This flesh, this blood, these bones, these ashes, this carbon and oxygen, these electrons etc., can all dissembled into their components, be converted to energy and dissipated, and enter into composition with other matter and assume new forms and become new individual substances. This happens all the time. So "this body," the human body that the separated human soul once informed, ceases to exist. As Faber points out, the principle of individuation for an existing concrete substance cannot be something nonexistent, since no non-being can be the real principle of a being. But upon the decomposition of the body, "this" body no longer exists. According to the Thomists, therefore, the separated soul is individuated by something non-existent. But this is impossible, ergo etc.

Perhaps, however, the Thomists do not mean that the soul is individuated by this human body, but by the "signate matter" which individuated the body. So upon the destruction of the body, the "same" matter continues to exist, and the soul is individuated by its relation to this particular bit or chunk or amount of matter which, if it were informing it, would be its body. Sadly, however, this is no better. For the same quantity of matter, when it loses the form of "this" body, takes on some new form. It then becomes a new substance, "this(2)" body, which is numerically distinct from the first "this(1)" body. (Of course what really happens, and which I think strengthens the Scotist case, is that this quantity of matter enters into composition with an indefinite number of new bodies, but talking about it this way is simpler and clearer.) Then, according to the Thomists, this signate matter "this(0)" is the principle of individuation of "this(2)" body; but the principle of individuation for this soul "this(3)" is its relation to "this(1)" body, which is grounded in "this(0)" matter as well. So "this(0)" is the principle of individuation of both "this(2)" and "this(3)", through the latter's relation to the now-nonexistent "this(1)". This sure seems to imply that "this(2)" and "this(3)" are numerically identical, since they share a numerically identical concrete constitutive principle. This is, as a good scholastic would say, inconveniens.

However, a more fundamental objection to the Thomist account arises when we consider the famous Ship of Theseus problem. Any living organic substance, like a constantly repaired ship of Theseus, is constantly excreting old and absorbing new matter. They say - I don't know with how much truth - that we replace all our cells something like every seven years. (In any case particular quantities of matter are exchanged with my environment with every breath, effort, drink, bite, and trip to the restroom.) In that case every seven years all my proximate matter is replaced, and thus of course all my signate prime matter is replaced. But I am the same individual and my body is the same body as it was when I was an infant. Therefore signate matter is not the principle of individuation for my body. Are we really supposed to accept on anyone's authority, even that of a great saint such as St Thomas, that I only remain myself because somehow my body never excretes the little initial collection of atoms making up the chromosomal strings of the sperm and the egg that joined in my conception, and that that self same core of signate matter constitutes my individuality? The notion is absurd. What if that little core were surgically extracted? Clearly I would remain myself. The truth of the matter is that the continuity of the individual existence of any body is insured not by continuous possession of any given bit of matter, or of the whole quantity of its matter, but by the identity and continuity of its form. This is the case even for inanimate bodies, so that souls need not come into it at all. A lake is not individuated by its water; it remains the same lake even though fresh water is continually trickling in and out.

If you want to read more about individuation, the best Scotus texts are in Book VII of the Quaestiones Metaphysicae and in Book II, Dist. III of the Ordinatio, in both of which he discusses a vast range of possible positions and arguments. The best and most comprehensive secondary source is Individuation in Scholasticism, edited by Jorge Gracia. I haven't read all of the latter, I have to admit, despite meaning to get to it for some years now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Scotus on whether Relations Individuate

On the Thomistic view of individuation, matter is the individuating factor (or "signate" quantified matter depending on what work of Aquinas you happen to be reading).  But this leaves a problem for Thomists in the case of human souls, which are supposed to subsist after death.  For there is no matter remaining at all (Aquinas famously rejects spiritual matter). Consequently, we should expect subsistent human souls to be universals, or perhaps to be absorbed in the common nature of humanity (... but Aquinas thinks common natures have no being or unity...). Not so fast says the Thomist (or, if you prefer, the A-T theorist; this subject recently came up on Feser's blog), the soul still has a relation to its body. It is this relation that keeps the soul a particular (other Thomists have told me that the soul is individuated at the instant of its creation and just stays that way).  Scotus rejects this line of thought in the passage I have translated below.  This question is something of an embarrassment for Scotists of the strict observance (including the editors), for Scotus endorses spiritual matter (that old foolish doctrine that Thomas allegedly refuted for all time). Well, sort of. The following quote is labeled (without evidence) as "ad mentem Guilelmi de la Mare". For details on Scotus' views on spiritual matter (for example, who actually wrote the following section), see our co-blogger Michael's dissertation.

Duns Scotus, Quaestiones de anima, q. 15 n. 10-(Opera Philosophica V, 131-2):

I respond that probably [probabiliter] it can be said that there is matter in the soul, and this according to the Philosopher and those who posit the contrary. One [argument] is that the plurality of individuals in one species requires matter in those individuals, just as is clear from XII Metaphysics, where it is said " that there are not many in the same species moving heaven, because the first does not have matter." This is also clear from diverse [thinkers] positing matter to be the principle of individuation; but in the species of the rational soul there are many individuals, also when it is separated from the body; therefore, etc.

You might say, just as the contrary [party] does, that the soul has matter which it perfects or is made apt to perfect, namely the body. And by reason of the aptitude for diverse perfectible bodies, the [separated soul] can be plurified, not however does it have matter from which it is made.

Against them:

The soul does not exist on account of the body, but rather contrariwise; therefore neither is the distinction nor plurality of souls on account of the distinction of bodies, but rather contrariwise. Whence the Commentator VII Metaphysics says that the members of a lion differ from the members of a deer, because their souls differ; and not contrariwise.

Again, with the foundation or term of a relation destroyed, there is no relation; but that inclination or aptitude to the body is a certain relation; therefore, with the body destroyed after death, there is no inclination of the soul to the body.

The argument is confirmed: because there is no real relation of being to non-being, for relatives are simultaneous in nature; the soul is separated, not however the body which it informs; therefore, etc.

Again, if the distinction of souls is from the side of bodies only, God cannot create two souls without bodies; because there would not be distinguished by bodies, nor also by an inclination to a body; therefore, etc.

Again, every relative form presupposes something absolute in which it is founded; but that inclination to the body is a certain relative form founded in the essence of the soul which is so inclined; therefore the essence of the soul is prior to that inclination; the prior however is not distinguished by the posterior just as neither is it constituted by it, but rather contrariwise; therefore, etc.

Again, that inclination is not of the essence of the soul, because the soul is an absolute nature in itself; therefore it can be understood by an essential understanding [?? intellectu essentiali] without such an inclination, and consequently one is distinguished from another without an inclination to diverse bodies.

Again, because the soul is a 'this', therefore it has such an inclination to this body, not contrariwise; therefore, etc.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Edith Stein, Essential Being, and Henry of Ghent

I was rather surprised last weekend to receive yet a third issue of the ACPQ in as many weeks (this is the one with Feser's article). I was even more surprised by the final article of the issue.  I reproduce the abstract:

"Edith Stein and Medieval Metaphysics", Victor Salas Jr.

This essay considers Edith Stein's account of "essential being" and finds therein a point of continuity with medieval metaphysics. Scholarly attention has already been given to this feature of Stein's metaphysics; it has been argued that "essential being", while serving as a crucial point of distinction between Stein and Thomas Aquinas's own metaphysics, functions as a point of similarity between Stein and Duns Scotus. However, I argue that, while there are certainly many points of congruence between Stein and Scotus on the topic of essential being, the position that Stein advances comes much closer to Henry of Ghent's doctrine of esse essentiae. Fiinally, I show that the consequence of her adopting a position so similar to Henry of Ghent is that it opens stein to a number of criticisms raised by Scotus himself against esse essentiae.

I didn't read the article, though it did look fairly serious and scholarly. He cited the appropriate editions, etc., and showed himself to know about medieval thought in his discussion of Scotus, Godfrey and Henry. It is just a rather surprising revisionist project to adopt. But I suppose in the catholic world, Stein is a hot commodity right now (I seem to be constantly seeing announcements for conferences about her), so I suppose it makes sense.  Her indebtedness to Scotus sometimes went off the rails, however. A cursory glance at her From Finite to Essential being reveals a reliance on spurious material she believed to be by Scotus (the de rerum principio). Consequently, she defended spiritual matter (which should make my co-blogger Michael happy).

All in all, itt was a nice surprise to see an article in the ACPQ which took Scotus seriously, rather than assigning him boogey-man status as is normally the case.  I guess I could try my hand a being relevant as well: an essay about Lonergan's criticism of Scotus' formal distinction showing that Lonergan confuses Henry's intentional distinction with Scotus' formal distinction. Hmm...

Another item which caught my interest was an essay by David Schindler about Aquinas, Balthasar, and the Transcendentals. On p. 338 he claims that "This  continuity within dissimilarity, or unity in every greater difference, is what the fourth Lateran Council defined as the essence of analogy."  His emphasis. But of course this is ludicrous. The text is found in the Council's repudiation of the doctrine of Joachim of Fiore, and the quote in full is: "...quia inter creatorem et creaturam non potest tanta similitudo notari, quin inter eos major sit dissimilitudo notanda."  This has on the surface nothing to do with the analogy of being, and certainly wasn't conceived as a definition of it.  This misuse of the council's phrase is common among Thomists, however, though I thought this sort of thing had gone out of fashion. Schindler himself makes no more of this than what I have quoted, but the standard procedure among polemicists such as Garrigou-Lagrange was to maintain that Scotus violated every conciliar decree ever promulgated, and this text was one of their favorites. So it look's like we have the ghosts of the 60's still present.

Reflections on the 'Resurrection' of Medieval Philosophy

Here.  The comment about the "stifling" atmosphere that Catholic colleges create for the study of medieval philosophy made me laugh. Catholic colleges aren't interested in medieval philosophy any more than analytic philosophy departments.  They just need an in-house pet Thomist that they can point to when the Magisterium comes a knockin'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


When I logged into the blog today a window popped up with a statement to the effect of "It looks like your blog is popular! Why not Monetize!" I find the idea that The Smithy is getting popular somewhat dubious as our all time highs this spring were just around a 100 hits a day, and have recently plummeted to a mere 50. But, anyway, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Giraldus Odonis' Marian Miracle

G.O. is getting hotter these days, so this quote is probably well known. But for those who don't know about the circumstances of his conversion to the immaculatist position, here's the story:

Henrici de Werla Opera Omnia I, p. 93:

Sextum [miraculum], venerabilis doctor Giraldus Odonis Ordinis Minorum, cum semel diutius contra Virginem protraxisset, finito sermone missam suam devotissime celebrans elevatione corporis Christi facta eadem Virgo sibi praesentialiter apparens et speciebus panis ab altari sublatis torvo et crudeli oculo: "qua fronte, inquit, inique frater, corpus de me sumptum sumere vis, quam hodie verbis et factis voluntarie maculasti!" Ipse autem cum gemitibus petente veniam Eucharistia sibi reddita missam finivit et immediate ascendens pulpitum, quod in primo sermone contra Virginem praedicaverat revocans et miraculum longe referens, valde solemnem sermonem fecit.

The sixth miracle, the venerable doctor Giraldus Odonis of the friars minor, when once he had inveighed against the Virgin for a while, after his sermon was finished and he was devotedly celebrating mass, at the elevation of the body of Christ, the same Virgin appeared presentially and with the species of bread lifted from the alter regarded him with a harsh and stern eye: "With what face, wicked brother, do you wish to take the body taken from me, which today you have willfully stained with words and deeds!" He however with groans begged pardon, and with the Eucharist returned to him, finished mass and immediately ascending the pulpit, which in the first sermon he had preached against the Virgin, he retracted and for a long time related the miracle, making a very solemn speech.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Marenbon on Textual Editions

The following is from a flyer for the Auctores Britannici series from the British academy, via  Brunellus (but I can't remember where). It was written by John Marenbon

Scholarly editing

Bringing a work like Anselm’s or Wylton’s into the form of an
accessible, edited, printed text is an extraordinarily time-consuming
and skilled job. First, the manuscripts must be transcribed. Whilst
scribes in the earlier Middle Ages used an easily-readable form of
handwriting that was revived in the Renaissance and provided the
model for print, most medieval philosophical manuscripts are
written in difficult to decipher Gothic and late medieval scripts.
Since parchment and then paper was precious, the hands are often
tiny; and a complex system of abbreviations was used to save more
space. Only someone specially trained in the reading of medieval
handwriting, with an excellent command of Latin, and who also
fully understands the often highly technical discussions in the text
can set about the task. Usually, there will be more than one
manuscript, and often dozens. They are rarely authorial autographs,
and so the editor needs to collate and classify the manuscripts, so as
to reconstruct as well as possible the text the author intended. And
then, if the text is to be accessible and useful, the sources it uses and
references it makes must be sought out, a translation provided, and
an introduction written on the work’s context and contents.

Unfortunately, universities and funding bodies in Britain today seem
blind both to the fundamental value of such editions for scholarship
and to the extraordinary skills needed in those who make them. Any
genuine scholar of the Middle Ages, even one not personally
inclined to text-editing, recognises that, without new editions,
scholarship in the area is condemned to try to build without
foundations, and that editing a text is one of the supreme tests of a
medievalist’s training and ability. Yet officially far less credit is given
for the years of patient work required to produce a good edition than
to a few articles or a monograph that catch a fashionable theme and
will probably no longer be read in a few years – whereas a good
edition can still be useful a century later. It is a tribute to a certain
self-sacrificing integrity that so many scholars continue to come
forward to make available, through their painstaking work, more of
the philosophical heritage of medieval Britain – but sad that so few
of them have been trained or work in this country.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Duns Scotus Opera Omnia Vol. 13 Now Available!


Ioannis Duns Scoti Opera Omnia Tom. XIII Ordinatio. Liber Quartus. Distinctiones 14-42. Città del Vaticano, 2011 ISBN 978-88-7013-313-4

Get it now, while supplies last, for a cool 190 euros.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scotus on the Soul, Immortality, and Resurrection

A segment of the blogosphere has been ablaze of late with discussion of the soul and whether hyle/o-morphic dualism is inconsistent.  See for this Dr. Feser's blog, and his links to the Maverick Philosopher. Scotus holds to hylemorphic dualism like most other scholastics, with the twist that he does not accept the unicity of substantial form thesis (though that does not enter into the discussion quoted below), holding instead that there are two substantial forms in the human composite.  In the following selection, Scotus examines a bad version of the Aristotelian-Thomistic argument for the immateriality of the intellect based on the fact that it is not the act of a bodily organ. He also gives a better version and subjects it to analysis.

Scotus' question is about the general resurrection. Specifically, "Can it be known by natural reason that there will be a general resurrection of mankind?"  His procedure is to evaluate whether three propositions can be proven by means of a priori or a posteriori arguments:

1. The Intellective Soul is the Specific Form of Man 

2. The Intellective Soul is Immortal

3. The Human Soul will not Remain Outside the Body Forever

In the end, Scotus will argue that propositions 2 and 3 cannot be proven demonstratively by natural reason, that instead they admit of only probable arguments.

In what follows, I will be using Wolter's translation as found in Duns Scotus Philosophical Writings, which, in the absence of a critical edition, corrects the Wadding edition against the Assisi 137 manuscript. These will only short selections.

Ordinatio IV d. 43 q. 2 (Wolter, pp. 133-62):

[About prop. 1, after several authorities there is a proof from reason]

As to the second, it is not easy to find either an a priori or an a posteriori argument, unless it be based on a function proper to man, for the form is known from its proper function, even as matter is known from the existence of change.

One argument based on the function of the intellect that is used to establish the proposed conclusion is this. To understand is a function  proper to man. Therefore, it has its source in the form  proper to man. The intellective form then is that proper to man.

This argument, however, is open to criticism inasmuch as those who propound it admit that the intellect has only a passive and not an active relation to intellection. Hence, this proposition 'A function that is proper proceeds from the proper form' really does not prove that the intellective part is the proper form of man, for this operation does not proceed from the form but according to them it is caused by the intelligible object, or according to the view of others it proceeds from the sense image.

I put this argument, then, in another form. Man formally and properly understands; therefore the intellective soul is the proper form of man.


...we should try to prove the antecedent by reason lest some contentious individual deny it. Now in the antecedent, I take 'to know' or 'to understand' in the proper sense of the term as an act of knowledge which transcends every type of sense knowledge.

One way of proving this antecedent, then, is this. Man knows by an act of knowledge which is not organic; hence he knows or understands in the proper sense of the term. The consequence is evident for the reason already given, since intellection  properly speaking is a knowledge which transcends all sense knowledge. All sensation, however, is organic knowledge as Aristotle shows in De anima, Bk. II. There the antecedent of this enthymeme is proved from the fact that every organ is determined to a certain kind of sensible, and this because it consists in a balance between two extremes. But we do experience in ourselves some knowledge which we do not have in virtue of some organ, for if it were organic, this knowledge would be limited precisely to the sensibles of some determined kind, which is the very opposite of what we actually experience. For by such an act we know precisely how one kind of sensible differs from another, and conseqently we know both extremes. This consequence is evident from the Philosopher, who uses this argument in De anima bk. II, in regard to common sense.


[Second proof] Another proof for the principal antecedent is based on the fact that we possess some immaterial knowledge. No sense knowledge, however, can be immaterial; therefore, etc.

This word 'immaterial' is frequently used by the Philosopher in this connection, but it appears to be ambiguous. There are three relevant ways in which it can be understood. (a) Either this knowledge is immaterial because it is incorporeal in the sense that it is not an operation that involves a corporeal part or organ. In this sense, the present proposition is the same as that previously posited with regard to non-organic knowledge. (b) Another way in which this knowledge could be immaterial would be that it is not extended in any way. In this case much more is asserted than the fact that it is not organic. For although everything organic is extended inasmuch as it is received into something extended [viz. the organ], this is not the only reason. It would still be extended if it were received immediately by the composite as a whole,a because the composite itself is extended. (c) Immateriality can be understood in a third sense, namely with reference to the object, inasmuch as this knowledge considers the object under immaterial aspects, as for instance, abstracting from the 'here and now' and such like, which are said to be material conditions. If we would prove this knowledge to be immaterial in the second sense and not merely in the first our proposed conclusion would follow all the more. But it seems that the only way we could do this would be from the conditions which characterise the object of such an act (unless perhaps we could do so on the basis of reflection, since we experience ourselves reflecting on this act of knowledge, for what has quantity is not capable of reflecting upon itself). At an rate the proof of the antecedent ultimately rests upon the object of this act.

The proof is as follows. We possess some knowledge of an object under an aspect it could not have as an object of sense knowledge; therefore etc. [various proofs of the antecedent and consequent follow]

[one proof of the principal consequent is as follows] We can prove the same from the second operation characteristic of man, namely volition, for man is master of his acts to such an extent that it is within his power to determine himself at will to this or to its opposite ... And this is something known by natural reason and not merely by faith. Such a lack of determination, however, cannot exist in any organic or extended appetite, because every organic or material appetite is determined to a certain class of suitable objects so that what is apprehended cannot be unsuitable nor can the appetite fail to seek it. The will, therefore, by which we can will in such an indeterminate way, is not the appetite of a material form, and in consequence it belongs to something which excels every such form. But this is just what we assume the intellective form to be. And therefore, if this appetite is formally in us inasmuch as its act is in us, it follows that this form is our form.

[Concerning prop. 2. Various arguments and authorities for and against immortality follow]

[arg. 5] Also, some arguments can be constructed from the dicta of the Philosopher. One of his principles is that a natural desire is not in vain. Now the soul has a natural desire to exist forever.


It can be stated that although there are probable reasons for this second proposition, these are not demonstrative, nor for that matter are they even necessary reasons.


Another answer, and one more in accord with facts, is that not all the statements by the philosophers were established by proofs both necessary and evident to natural reason. Frequently, what they gave was nothing more than rather persuasive probable arguments or what was commonly held by earlier philosophers... Hence, in those matters where they could find nothing better without contradicting the principles of philosophy, 'slight indications' frequently had to suffice for the philosophers. ... Therefore the philosophers agreed to things sometimes because of probable persuasive reasons, at other times because they had asserted as principles, propositions which were not necessary truths. And this reply would suffice for all the testimonies cited above; even if they clearly asserted the proposed conclusion, they still do not establish it. nevertheless, these arguments can be answered in order as follows.

[To 1] To the first: Aristotle understands this separation to mean nothing more than that the intellect does not use the body in performing its operation, and for this reason it is incorruptible as to function. This is not to be understood in the sense that it is unlike an organic power which perishes precisely because the organ decays. this type of decay pertains exclusively to an organic faculty... Hence, the faculty of vision grows weak or decays only from the standpoint of its organ and not in so far as its  operation directly is concerned. From the fact that the intellect, however, is incapable of decay in the sense that it has no organ by which it could perish, it does not follow that the intellect is imperishable as to function in an unqualified sense, for then it would indeed follow that tis also imperishable in being as the argument maintains. What does follow is this. So far as its ability to operate alone is concerned, the intellect is incapable of dissolution in the same sense that an organic power is corruptible. Absolutely speaking, however, the intellect is assumed to be perishable according to the Philosopher's statement in De anima bk. III, that the intellect perishes in us once the interior sense perishes. And this is just what one would have to maintain if he assumed the soul to be a principle which ash an operation proper to the composite as a whole. The composite, however, is perishable. Consequently, its operative principle is also perishable. That the soul is the operative principle of thew hole composite and that its operation is also that of the while is just what Aristotle seems to say in De anima, bk. I

[to 5] The other argument about the natural desire will be answered in the reply to the initial arguments, for the first three proceed from this notion.

[Concerning prop. 3] So far as this proposition is concerned, it seems that if the Philosopher had assumed the soul to be immortal, he would have held that it continued to exist outside the body rather than in the body, for everything composed can be destroyed by its contraries.

[Evaluation of the a priori proof] Of the three propositions used to construct a kind of a priori argument in the sense that the proof is based on the nature of the form of man that is to be restored, I say that the first is known by natural reason and that the contrary error, which is proper to Averroes only, is of the very worst kind. Not only is it opposed to theological truth but to philosophical truth as well. For it destroys knowledge itself inasmuch as it denies any act of knowledge distinct from sensation or any act of choice distinct from sense appetite and hence does away with all those virtues which require an act of choice in accord with right reason. One who errs in this way, consequently, should be banished from the company of men who use natural reason.

The other two propositions, however, are not known adequately from natural reason even though there are a number of probable persuasive arguments in their favour. The reasons for the second, indeed, are more numerous as well as more highly probable. For this reason, the Philosopher appears to have held this doctrine more expressly. For the third, however, the reasons are fewer. The conclusion, then, which follows from these three propositions is not sufficiently known a priori by natural reason.

[The a posteriori proofs]

The second way to prove the resurrection is by a posteriori arguments. Some probable arguments of this kind were mentioned in the initial arguments, for instance, those concerning the happiness of man. To the latter this argument based on the justice of a rewarding God is added. In the present life the virtuous suffer more punishments than those who are wicked. It is this line of argument that the Apostle seems to have in mind in the first letter to the Corinthians: "If with this life only in view we have had hope in Christ, we are of all men the most to be pitied," etc.

[Evaluation of the a postiori arguments] These a posteriori arguments, however, are even less conclusive than the a priori proof based on the proper form of man, since it is not clear from natural reason that there is one ruler who governs all men according to the laws of retributive and punitive justice. It could also be said that the good act is itself sufficient reward for anyone... Such arguments are nothing else than probable persuasive proofs, or they are reasons derived from premises that are matters of belief, as is evident if we examine them individually.

[Solution to the Question] to put it briefly, then, we can maintain that natural reason cannot prove that the resurrection is necessary, neither by way of a priori reasons such as those based on the notion of an intrinsic principle in man, nor by a posteriori arguments, for instance, by reason of some operation or perfection fitting to man. Hence we hold the resurrection to be certain on the basis of faith alone.

[Reply to the Initial Arguments. arg. 1] to the first argument: If the argument is based on the notion of natural desire taken in an exact and proper sense, and a natural desire in this sense is not an elicited act but merely an inclination of nature towards something, then it is clear that the existence of such a natural desire for anything can be proved only if we prove first that the nature in question is able to have such a thing. To argue the other way round, therefore, is begging the question. Or if natural desire is taken in a less proper sense, viz. as an act elicited in conformity with the natural inclination, we are still unable to prove that any elicited desire is natural in this sense without first proving the existence of a natural desire in the proper sense of the term.

But suppose that someone were to argue that whatever is immediately desired, once it is known, is something that is desired naturally, since such proneness seems to arise only from some natural inclination. One answer to this objection would be to deny the first statement, since a person with bad habits is inclined to desire immediately whatever is in accord with these habits just as soon as such a thing presents itself. However, if nothing else intervenes, nature of itself is not vicious; neither is it vicious in everyone. Consequently, if everyone immediately desires such a thing as soon as he knows of it, it would follow that the desire in this case is not vicious. The first answer to this objection, then, is not adequate. Therefore it could be answered like this. We must show that such knowledge is not erroneous but is in accord with right reason. Otherwise, it does not follow that just because everyone, on the basis of an erroneous conception, were immediately to elicit an act of desire, this desire is in accord with an inclination of nature. Indeed, it is rather the opposite that follows. Now it is not clear by natural reason that the argument establishing eternal existence as something desirable is not erroneous, since man must first be shown to be capable of such a thing.

To put it briefly, then, every argument based on natural desire seems to be inconclusive, for to construct an efficacious argument, it would be necessary to show either that nature possesses a natural potency for eternal life, or that the knowledge which immediately gives rise to this desire, where the latter is an elicited act, is not erroneous but in accord with right reason. Now the first of these alternatives is the same as the conclusion to be established. The second is more difficult to prove and is even less evident than the conclusion.

As for the proof that man has a natural desire for immortality because he naturally shuns death, it can be said that this proof applies to the brute animal as well as to man.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


According to this NEH pdf, The American scholars who are going to be editing Duns Scotus' Reportationes have won their grant; this is excellent news.

Also, on the same announcement, Rega Wood has won funds to edit Richard Rufus of Cornwall's Scriptum super Metaphysicam.

Finally, I would like to call our readers' attention to the current volume of the ACPQ, which is devoted to Bonaventure. There is a nice variety of articles to delight the reader, from textual studies on the De reductione to engagement with Milbank and contemporary theology.