Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What is a Formality IV: Franciscus de Mayronis

For the previous posts in the series, see Petrus Thomae, Antonius Andreas, Nicolaus Bonetus. Today I am translating a question from Francis of Meyronnes, the French Scotist known as the Princeps Scotistarum in later ages. I haven't looked much into his commentaries on the Sentences, but apparently there are some three versions. He initially lectured at Paris in 1320, [a bunch of stuff then happened, before, voila] a final version known as the Conflatus appeared and was later printed several times. He died ca. 1328. For more information see the "Franciscan authors" website. What follows is only a translation, as the question is too long to type out in Latin in full.

Conflatus I d. 8 q. 5 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 48vb-49ra):

...Therefore I say that some distinction between the formal rationes or formalities and realities must be posited necessarily, and not as between formality and formality but as between formality and intrinsic mode.

For the evidence of which it must be known first what a formality is, second what an intrinsic mode is.

As far as the first, 'what a formality is', some [people] say that 'formality' is said from 'form', just as materiality is said from matter. And therefore some [people] say that there cannot be many formalities without many forms, just as neither many materialities without many matters.

Against this: that is a very coarse[grossa] and asinine imagination, which is clear from two reasons. First thus: because just as formality is said from form, so 'essential' from 'essence'. We, however, posit in the divine being many essential features, and nevertheless there are not there many essences, as is clear expressly through Blessed Dionysius cap. 3 De unica et discreta theologia. Therefore neither does a multitude of forms follow upon the position of many formal rationes as you say.

Second, because in the person of the Father in the divine being are posited many personal features, namely ungenerated, paternity, active spiration, all of which are personal features and nevertheless the person of the Father is single(unica); therefore, etc.

Furthermore, many material things, according to the ones speaking commonly, are posited in one composite, namely many material accidents; and nevertheless many matters are not posited there; so in man many human features, not nevertheless unless one man.

Therefore others say that formalities are real rationes which are posited in the same simple thing.

Against this: first because formalities are not only posited in simple things but also in composites, according to the ones positing the formalities. Therefore that is not a good description. Second because not all formalities are real, for man in potency has a formality and nevertheless not a reality. Likewise beings of reason have formalities but not realities.

Therefore others say that those formalities are certain modalities.

Against this: for the ones positing them divide them against modes. Second because modes are not able to be first in beings, because a mode is always posterior to that of which it is a mode; but formalities are posited simply first in beings, for the ratio of entity is a certain formality and the ratio of deity, which  are absolutely prior to all others.

Therefore others say that formalities are definitive rationes, for the definitive ratio of each one is called formal and it is clear that it is a formality.

Against this doubly: first because the categories are not definable, becasue they are absolutely simple  and nevertheless they have formalities by which they are formally distinguished [from each other]. Second because the ratio of being and ratio of deity are posited as formalities and nevertheless they cannot be defined because every definition is given through prior [features, such as genus and difference]; but than these [categories] nothing is prior.

I say therefore that a formality is a quiddity of each thing haveing a quiddity whether it is definable or not, because the formal ratio of each thing is that which is present in [inest] it in the first mode of predicating per se; such however are all quidditative [features, aspects].

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Resurrection of the Body

The favorite objection used to be that if a man was eaten by cannibals, there would be certain particles of matter which would belong both to the cannibal and to the victim of the experiment. And it has often been pointed out that, even in civilized countries, we may find ourselves eating mutton that comes from a sheep which has been browsing in the churchyard, and so the same difficulty arises in a rather more circuitous way. And, while arguments like these have suggested to irreverent minds the possibility that there will not be enough bodies to go round, so to speak, on the day of judgement, it is equally easy to suggest that there will be too many bodies going about; because after all you and I change, even in the course of a single year, nearly all the material particles which go to make up our bodies, so that it would be very hard to know which of a series of material bodies we are going to rise with. Sceptical difficulties like these have led some Catholic thinkers to suggest - and I understand that it is an allowable position - that the identity between the earthly and the heavenly body is formal, rather than material; depends upon the persistence, not of actual material particles, but of the form which organized them. The trouble about that is that if you are a good Thomist - if you are a Scotist, I fancy you get out of it, somehow - you hold that the from which organizes our material bodies is nothing other than the soul . . . and it is difficult to see how or why the re-embodies soul in heaven differs from the disembodied soul in purgatory.

For this reason, the more cautious among Catholic authors are content to point out that we needn't insist on the necessity of reassembling every individual particle of the terrestrial body in heaven. Part will do: and, precisely in view of the large number of transformations which our body has been through, it ought to be possible to make good any losses through cannibalism. I confess that I find it a little difficult to frame my mind with confidence into this particular type of orthodoxy. I should prefer to think that, without meddling with any controversies between Thomists and Scotists, we can take refuge here in our ignorance. [...]

- Ronald Knox, "The Resurrection of the Body", in The Hidden Stream

Monday, March 4, 2013

Books Received: Promptuarium Scoticum

I recently received some beautiful volumes in the mail.  At one point they were for sale here, though I don't see them there now. Anyway, photos below. They are part of a series of reprints, for a series called Scripta Scotsitica Antiqua. (What a great idea!) They claim that they will eventually add several other volumes to the series, such as some of the works of Mastrius and other early modern Scotists. I for for one look forward to that day, as there is nothing more irritating than reading Mastri in the grainy scans one finds on the web. 

The volume I was sent is a reprint of an index by Carolus Franciscus de Varesio and is found in two volumes, reprinted by the Seminarium Theologicum Immaculata Mediatrix.

There is an English introduction by fr. Peter maria Fehlner, F.I.,  from which I will reproduce some snippets.

The goal of this series is to make accessible once again to the general public, particularly that public interested in the study of Bl. John Duns Scotus, the now virtually inaccessible published works of those disciples of Scotus in times past, before the suppression of the many and influential university centres dedicated to the study and promotion of Scotus in the Church and in the world. These works, in fact, constitute a kind of on-going witness to the mind of the historic Scotus and not a Scotus recycled according to the exigencies of current intellectual fashions. Hence, these ancient works are in fact the only adequate objective standard for discerning in modern reconstructions of Scotus' thought what is historically valid, and what is merely reinterpretation to adapt the subtte Doctor to current intellectual fashions and so make him once again "acceptable" in the halls of academe.

These works are for the most part fruit of the systematic, intense, continuous and in large part interacting scholastic activities of those many centres of scotistic study throughout all parts of Europe up to the Protestant reformation, and thereafter to the French Revolution and its aftermath in the 19th century throughout  most of Catholic Europe. The first components of these studia scotistica were present even before the premature death of Bl. John in Cologne, Nov. 8, 1308. Through the efforts of the first disciples formed by the Master himself by the middle of the 14th century Franciscan friaries linked to the Universities of Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, and of Cologne, where Scotus himself either studied and/or taught, and shortly thereafter to that of Naples, and later still to those of Salamanca, Erfurt, Padua, and Bologna, [and Barcelona!!!] to mention only a few of the better known, had become major scotistic centers. There the study and promotion of the via Scoti in theology, philosophy and science, and in the practical order: spirituality, moral theology, jurisprudence and what is today called aesthetics, made Scotus one of the major influences in European thought even to the present days, outside the Church as well as within. Often enough the scotistic provenance of key aspects of this thought are no longer expressly recognized or their original meaning and implications correctly understood and appreciated.

There is a lot more discussion of the history of the decline of Scotism. Fr. Fehlner thinks it is largely because of the immaculate conception. This made the Dominicans bitter enemies of Scotus probably during his lifetime, and the protestants shared this disdain. Apparently the protestants published in 1540 a "Alcoranus Franciscanus" which attacked Scotus, especially the "Franciscan thesis" of the motive for the incarnation.

See also:

Reading and interpreting these stupendous contributions to the theological-philosophical tradition of the Church, however, involves something more than availability of a good text (and perhaps a good dictionary). Without a living tradition made up of masters whose ability to provide the hermaneutic key to these writings derives in unbroken fashion from Scotus himself, there exists in practice no sure and reasonably easy to apply neutral criterion for discerning in current reconstructions of his thought what is the sense of Scotus himself and what is merely an accommodation to current intellectual fashion."

So there you have it. The series will publish the works of the great masters of the Scotist tradition to aid in the study of Scotus. This is what I have learned to do myself, though I largely confine myself to those who would have known Scotus personally or would have known those that did (so up to basically the 1340's, I suppose). Hopefully some of them will go into the series as well. So many thanks to my benefactors, and keep up the good work!