Monday, November 5, 2012

Scotus on Participation

It's a common claim made by contemporary intellectuals of various disciplines (I have in mind the Brad Gregorys, Fr. Barrons, the Cambridge fantasists, etc.) that Scotus denies participation. They never bother to cite a text of course, because none of these people have ever bothered to read Scotus. The claim is usually linked to univocity. To hold univocity is to automatically reject analogy and particpation. I've talked about analogy before, how Scotus holds analogical concepts but just isn't interested in talking about them. I've known for a number of years that the same is true of participation, but I never bothered to write any of the passages down. This time I did and offer for your delectation an unequivocal endorsement of participation.

Reportatio II d. 16 q. un. (Wad.-Viv. 23, 70-71):

Ad aliud alterius Doctoris dicit unus Doctor quod nihil agit per essentiam, nisi solus Deus, et ipse semper agit. Vel potest dici quod 'per essentiam' potest accipi dupliciter: aliquando ut distinguitur contra illud, quod est per participationem; aliquando ut distinguitur contra per accidens. Primo modo, dico quod nihil est per essentiam nisi Deus, quia omnis veritas, et entitas creata est talis per participationem, et isto modo agens per essentiam semper agit. Secundo modo agens per essentiam, hoc est, non per accidens, non semper agit necessario.
To the other [argument] of the other doctor, one doctor says that nothing except God alone acts through essence, and he always acts. Or it can be said that 'by essence' can be understood doubly: sometimes as it is distinguished against that which is by participation, sometimes as it is distinguished against 'per accidens'. In the first way, I say that nothing is by essence except God, because every truth and created entity is such by participation, and in that way an agent always acts through its essence. In the second way an agent by essence, this is, not per accidens, does not always act necessarily.

Not much, sure, but clear enough to show that simply because Scotus does not talk a lot about a particular feature of the philosophical tradition does not allow us to infer that he rejects it.


Anonymous said...


Is this the ONLY passage though in which Scotus discusses participation? Do you think he is less interested in participation because Scotus is much more of a thoroughgoing Aristotelian, than others such as Thomas Aquinas? Such seems to be the case with later Scholastics such as F. Suarez, who, though he mentions participation from time to time, doesn't really seem to hold it central in his metaphysical project, At least not to the same extent as (again) Thomas.

Lee Faber said...

No it's not the only one; it's just one that I happened to write down the locus for once. I suspect you are right about the reason why it doesn't come up much. He is also happy to talk about the exemplar cause, but then reduces it to the efficient cause, trait I have noticed in other Scotists.