Tuesday, June 4, 2013


If there is anything anyone would like to see here, post it in the combox below. I am perfectly content to keep posting mysterious quotes that generate no comments, but I am willing to make concessions to our readers once in a while (the Gonsalvus post was at the behest of "credo"). I received an email from "awatkins69" some time ago about doing a post on Scotus and Molinism, which I will start thinking about. But let me know if there is something else you would like to see.


Daniel Aledo said...

I would like to hear more about Scotus on teleology or final causes.

I have seen, for example, in the Cambridge companion a quote from Scotus ridiculing teleology in the natural world as "a flight of fancy."
I would like to hear more about his take on final causes.

Jim Given said...

Scotus and Molinism would be huge. I have only Eef Dekker's paper on this.

Does Scotus resolve the tension between Divine foreknowledge and human freedom? Sylwanowicz, William Lane Craig, and Pascal Massie ( Contingency, Time, and Possibility: An Essay on Aristotle and Duns Scotus) all have thought-provoking but incomplete meditations on this topic.

Jim Given said...

In connection with contingent causality and the relation of human freedom to Divine omniscience, it would be excellent to learn more about the connection between Thomas Bradwardine and Duns Scotus.

awatkins909 said...

Aside from the Molinism stuff, I currently have to write a paper on ontological priority. So anything even tangentially relating to essential ordering, the order of eminence vs. order of dependence, logical instants of nature, priority and posteriority, etc. would be very nice and helpful, as well as very interesting.

Tap said...

a scotistic defense of the Filioque?
Second Scotus on teleology.

Matthew said...

Not sure if these topics have already been treated of on your blog (I haven't seen them, at any rate), but I would be interested to see these topics discussed:

1) Scotus on the habit of Faith

2) Something against the charge that Scotus' Christology is Nestorian

3) Scotus on the interpretation of Scripture

4) How Scotus would (or does) avoid the charge of Deism (how it is that he is able to maintain that we predicate being univocally of all that is and that God is not just one being among others; and, following upon this, how it is that, according to Scotus, created wills are not set in competition with the Divine Will)--yes, I recently heard this charge leveled against the Subtle Doctor, and I found myself unable to answer it.


Anonymous said...

I would dearly love to see Duns Scotus discussion on the individuation of angels translated: Ordinatio II, D.3, Q.7. ‘Whether it is possible for there to be many angels in the same species.’

Also, a translation of Duns Scotus’s Disputed Question on Individuation with the Dominican William Peter Godinus would be life-changing.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered, given that Scotus started out his questions on Individuation with:
"Distinction 3, we must ask about the personal distinction among angels. But to see this distinction among them, we must first ask about the individual distinction among material substances."
...why do all the translations of these questions only contain questions 1 to 6, and leave out question 7 on the individuation of angels? (which after all should be the punch-line of the piece) I'd love to see this too.

I've heard that the published edition of Scotus vs. Godinus "Disputed Question on Individuation" is not in great shape. Is this why no translation or detailed discussion of it has emerged? (Timothy Noone mentions it briefly when discussing individuation in Scotus, as does Giorgio Pini.) It is very hard to find even the Latin text of this question. Does anyone know if it might be somewhere online?
But Latin & English version of these two questions would certainly round off the available material on Scotus on Individuation (though it's no small task).

lee faber said...

Thanks for the comments everyone, I'll see what I can do.

Daniel: Do you remember the page # for that quote? I vaguely remember it but couldn't find it.

Matthew: I've never hear the bit about created wills and competition before, can you unpack it some more?

Matthew said...


As far as I remember, it was maintained that because on Scotus' view God is one being among, the moral law becomes some sort of imposition from above by a God who's some sort of omnipotent tyrant, ala Ockhamism and Islam(?): the moral law is really then a set of rules laid out by an infinitely powerful being to which I must conform if I'm to avoid a what amounts to a sempiternal vicious spanking, and is not an expression of the order of things with which I must act if I am to become fully what I am. So, I think I can say that, according to the fellow with whom I was speaking, freedom on the Scotus view would basically amount to freedom to will as I please, which is curtailed by the Infinite Will that has constituted me but which strives to keep me under control. What happens, then, is that because God is one being among others, it becomes His will against my own, His freedom against mine, as His will ends up being just one among others (though infinitely more powerful), and must thus impose Itself on every other in order to bring about order--something like that.

In any event, I'm more interested in seeing how it is that a Scotist can safeguard Divine transcendence, or how the Scotist might show that God is not one being among others. But the side-issue (or what I think is a side-issue) of the relation between the Divine Will and that of every other is definitely something I'd like to see treated of.


fiddlerwoaroof said...

As a card-carrying Thomist, I'd love to see a series of Scotistic commentaries on articles of the Summa (something like a Scotistic version of Cajetan's commentary.)

I'm particularly interested in Question 5. I'd like to see a good argument for the formal distinction between goodness and being (if John of St. Thomas is right about Scotus's position).

Another topic I'd be interested in is an exposition of Scotus's position on per se nota. Dr. Noone spent five or ten minutes of a class arguing with the Thomists about Scotus's position, but I never got a clear idea of the reason's for Scotus's position.

Johannes said...

It would be interesting to see a post on how Scotism can accomodate the message of a well-known private revelation which was even quoted by JP_II in his catechesis of August 7, 1985.

In his Life of Catherine of Siena, Bl Raymond of Capua records what St Catherine (1347-1380) had often told him Christ taught her when He first began appearing to her:

"Do you know, daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you have beatitude in your grasp. You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is. Let your soul but become penetrated with this truth, and the Enemy can never lead you astray; you will never be caught in any snare of his, nor ever transgress any commandment of mine; you will have set your feet on the royal road which leads to the fulness of grace, and truth, and light." (Life, no. 92. Original: "Tu sei colei che non è; Io sono Colui che è.")

In my view, "You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is." fits much better with the thomist philosophical framework than with the scotist. Because it shows unequivocally that "being" in us and in God must be understood analogically, not univocally.

From another angle, the key difference between us and God is that we are something of which "to be" is not part, i.e. "to be" is not part of our essence. But clearly we have an essence, therefore existence and essence are really distinct. In contrast, God's essence is "to be", therefore God's essence is his own (unreceived, unlimited and eternal) act of being.

Michael Sullivan said...

Interesting suggestions all; this is just a quick note to respond to Johannes. First, of course, Scotism doesn't really need to accommodate a private revelation as such, even an approved one, but the data of faith. That being said, the notion you bring up ("You are that who is not; I Am He Who Is.") is a very common one and isn't at all in conflict with Scotus' thought.

It's important not to look at a theological or philosophical difference with Thomism and conclude that, since the Thomistic distinctions are not deployed, there's no way to accomplish what they accomplish. You have to look at Scotus' thought itself and see whether it conflicts with the datum explanandum.

Much of the "work" that Thomas accomplishes with the real distinction between being and essence is accomplished by Scotus through the deployment of the concept of intrinsic modes. God is being, and has being under the aspects of all the coextensive transcendentals; after that his most salient property is radical infinity. Everything but God is finite; in his infinity God is utterly, radically, supereminently other than every other being. Moreover there is no commensurability between the finite and the intensively actual infinite; by comparison with infinite being every finite being is, so to speak, equally infinitely deficient. We could say that the incommensurability is so great that next to infinite being every finite being is nil - I think Scotus would say, however, that this is true only metaphorically.

So you see the same "work" is performed; the radical otherness and distance between Creator and creature is preserved; but not using the same distinctions, because for Scotus the Thomist ones are ultimately incoherent. Whether he's right about that or not, however, has little bearing on whether his own system of thought achieves the same result.

Michael Sullivan said...

"From another angle, the key difference between us and God is that we are something of which "to be" is not part, i.e. "to be" is not part of our essence. But clearly we have an essence, therefore existence and essence are really distinct."

Again, Scotus accomplishes the same end but by using a different set of conceptual tools. For him as for the Franciscan tradition commonly, the real distinction between essence and existence contains an incoherence, because a real distinction implies that one or both of the distincta can exist without the other; but the essence can't exist without having existence, and the existence of an essence can't exist without existing under that essence. So neither essence nor existence has real being without the other; so they are not really distinct.

However, the difference between Creator and creature is preserved in another (hopefully more coherent) form, by adverting to the radical contingency of the creature on the one hand and the radical necessity of the Creator on the other. Contingent being by definition is utterly dependent on another and is open to both being and non-being, receiving being only thanks to the intellect and will of some being which is utterly non-contingent. It's just that the act of creation isn't conceived of as taking some vessel of essence and filling it up or infusing it with an act of existence. The becoming of the essence into real being is just its becoming existent.

Michael Sullivan said...

Another way to say this is to agree with the Thomist that ""to be" is not part of our essence", but on the other hand to deny that "to be" is part of the divine essence, because a) the divine essence has no parts, and b) "to be" is not the sort of thing that can be the content of a quidditative ratio. What we would say instead is that the divine essence is such that it can only exist under the modes of infinity and necessity, while every finite essence is such that it can only exist under the modes of finitude and contingency.

Lee Faber said...

Edward, do you have a passage from john of St. thomas in mind?

Also, there were some 17th century Scotist works that paralleled the structure of the Summa, which are being reprinted by the print on demand conglomerates.

Finally, if Dr. Noone couldn't explain Scotus' view of per se nota propositions clearly, I doubt I would do much better.

Johannes said...

Given the quality response of the blogmeisters to my previous suggestion, I dare make another:

What is the position of the Scotist school in the nature-grace controversy between the "integralist" view that Henri de Lubac presented in his 1946 book "Surnaturel" and the view of the thomist commentatorial tradition, a view dubbed "extrinsicist" by the Lubac?

The question includes whether the Scotist school has a more or less unified position on the subject or they have their own internal debate on it.

Clearly there is a specific aspect of the debate about which Scotists probably could not care less: whether Cajetan's "natura pura" doctrine was his own innovation or was already present, although not explicitely stated, in the work of St Thomas. So my question is concerned only with the subject itself.

Lee Faber said...


I haven't encountered a debate on the 'pure nature' among the scotists. Scotus' views on matters pertaining to books II and III of the Sentences are far less developed and comprehensive (for example, books I and IV each have six and 5 volumes, respectively, devoted to them in the critical edition, while books II and III get two each, and each have massive gaps of numerous distinctions). I've seen him mention prefallen nature from time to time, but nothing very memorable. But I will add it to the list of things to do...

Johannes said...

Lee, the prefallen nature does not have much to do with this issue, because it is de fide that Adam and Eve had been raised to participation in the divine life, or in other words given sanctifying grace. So "pure nature" is a hypothetical notion that was never an actuality, either before or after the fall.

The issue deals rather with whether the Beatific Vision, which clearly requires that God first raises men (and angels) to participation in the divine life, is the only end that can satisfy rational beings in general, or at least human beings in particular, so that an everlasting (as different from eternal) life of "natural beatitude" would not be a true happiness, though of course infinitely lesser than the BV.

Anyway, I googled the subject and found a page in Spanish that answers exactly my question. For the benefit of potential readers who master Spanish, it is:


I warn that the text has a few errors. Particularly, the string "se advierte que en los que tienen" should be "se advierte que los primeros tienen".

Lee Faber said...

Thanks Johannes.

Note that one would also want to look at Wylton, who knew Scotus personally, and who engaged in extensive debates on the beatific vision with Auriol and the Thomist hervaeus Natalis. This material has been edited.

RFGA, Ph.D. said...

I would like to see material on DS' view of free will. Also, individual essences.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I was wondering if you could devote a post to the scotist tradition and touch on the important philosophers that worked within it.

Matthew G. said...

Lee and Michael,

What about something on the (logical) relation of Scotus' insistence upon the Immaculate Conception to any of his basic metaphysical/philosophical commitments? Was it the case that particular insights of his in metaphysics might have lead him - or aided in him in concluding to - this doctrine? I was once told by a Dominican that Scotus' metaphysics had nothing to do with his commitment to this doctrine, but I wonder. That today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception lead me to think this may be an appropriate question to ask.


Lee Faber said...

Matthew, that topic has probably been covered exhaustively by Peter Damien Fehlner's writings. An opera omnia is now in progress.

Matthew G. said...

Excellent! Thanks for the heads-up!

Matthew G. said...

If I recall correctly, I read somewhere here that, for Scotus, God knows creatures in their singularity/thissness; that is, in a way, God knows creatures in themselves, as they are in themselves. In a certain sense, then, on this view God's knowledge would somehow terminate in his creatures (if I understand it right). As is probably well known, Banez, John of St. Thomas, and Cajetan (if I recall), rip into Scotus for this; Suarez thinks it's fine. If one of you (Lee or Michael) would be able/willing to write a piece on this here, at the Smithy, that would be great.

Lee Faber said...

Matthew, I have published on related issues. Basically, the divine knowledge of singulars is expressed in the Metaph. questions but is not repeated in his later theological writings, where he prefers the view that the divine essence either represents creatures in virtue of their being contained secondarily in the divine essence or the divine intellect simply produces them. But Thomists generally rip Scotus for saying anything different than Thomas. On these matters, Thomas is basically a straight Averroist and Scotus is a modified Themistian.

Matthew G. said...


What are the titles of your relevant publications?

Ok, so Scotus at one point maintained that God knows creatures in their singularity in themselves and not in Himself at one point, but then shifts to maintaining that God knows creatures in another (Himself?) Or is this not so?

By "Metaph. questions" I'm assuming you mean Scotus' commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics? I've read through parts of it, but didn't realize you get a treatment of Divine Intellection there as well. I'll check it out. (I recall reading in Wolter that this commentary was made later in Scotus' career. Is this not so?)

How is Thomas a straight Averroist? Doesn't Averroes maintain that God only has a general knowledge of creatures, and not of singulars in their singularity? Aquinas argues directly against that in ST I 14.6 (even if his position reduces to that...although I don't immediately see how it would.) Would you mind elaborating on that?

As to Themistius, I've never read him. Could you recommend a particular work of his that would be best to compare with Scotus?


Lee Faber said...


You can find one here:


Also the volume still on the front page on the present blog on Peter Thomae's QQ. de esse intelligibili a has an intro treating some of these ideas.

My interest is in the mechanisms of cognition. In this respect, Aquinas simply follows Averroes that the medium of knowing is the divine essence known under the aspect of imitability. Themistius was only known through the report of Averroes In Met. XII com. 52 or 51, not being translated into latin until the renaissance. He idn't like Aristotle's position and claimed instead that God's mind moves out to things to know them directly (I make no claim that Scotus knew more than the report of Averroes; i have a paper on all this as well, but it's in indefinite limbo at the pre-press stage). Scotus' instants of nature theory and the production of creatures in esse intelligible seems to me be Themistian in inspiration.

Scotus never connects the two claims regarding knowledge of hecceities and their representation. He could just mean that creatures are represented with their hecceities; his Sentence-commentary definition of a divine idea is the 'creatura intellecta' which would include hecceities. So there is no need to play the chimerical "development" card. Sure, one or two things like univocity and relations of origin being absolute have clear development, but not much else. The modern editorial effort has been to separate what is joined in the manuscripts and then claim development between the now discrete parts. But the more I work with Scotus manuscripts it seems apparent that much of the conflation is going on under his direction, if not his hand. So yes, typically scholars say that bks 7-9 of the QQ in Met. are later than bks 6 and try to locate them somewhere in the Lectura-Ordinatio sequence.

That being said, unitive containment (how the representations of creatures are present in the divine essence) seems to be Parisian idea, as it is only found in 'extra' additions to the QQ. in Met. and Ord. I, whereas Ord. IV is itself probably from paris.

Matthew Guertin said...

Yet another question - this one requiring the now somewhat oft-raised question about Scotus' understanding of the rational soul as true and per se form of the body...I am not interested in the question whether or not Scotus' doctrine was the target of the condemnations of Vienne (that seems pretty clearly to have been settled, here as in Ott); rather I'd be interested to see how you'd defend the coherence of the thing.

It seems to me that Scotus cannot hold that the rational soul really and truly is the per se form of the body. By "per se" I understand "in and through itself" - or just "through itself"; I understand "form" to mean, at least, that by which something is what it is, and through which that which is has existence as what it is. If these senses of the terms be admitted by Scotus, then there is a problem: Scotus holds that their is a forma corporeitatis (FC), by which the body is a body - and a human body, even -, which remains really distinct from the rational soul even after the infusion of the rational soul (as far as I'm aware...); it seems to follow, then, that it is the FC and not the rational soul that is the per se form of the body, insofar as in and through the FC the body is what it is, and has existence as what it is. That's the dilemma, as I see it.

How would you (either of you) respond?

Michael Sullivan said...


I'd respond that the soul is the per se form of the living body qua living, not of the body qua body, because the body remains a body, and a human body, after death as a corpse even when the soul is gone. If the presence of the soul in the body is the difference between life and death, and animal life just is the operation of the soul in the body, then a) what makes the body a body and even this body must be there even when the body is dead, while something more than this body qua body is required to explain the form of the body just insofar as it is living the life of, i.e. performing the operation proper to, the kind of body which it is.

This explanation does not rely on the intellectuality or separability of the rational soul. The animal soul of the dog explains the dog's life; the corpse of a dead dog is still a body, and still the body of a dog; but the dog's soul is gone because its proper form, i.e. the form in act which just is the life of the dog, is gone; but that ensoulment is a necessary condition for the particular corporeal form of the dog's corpse as canine, since if the corpse had not once been ensouled as a dog, it would not now be the corpse precisely of a dog, but some other sort of body.

Does this help any?

Matthew Guertin said...


Thanks! Yes, this helped. I wonder whether or not a corpse has the unity that would suggest there is in fact a form proper to it and making it to be some kind of thing - A mark of death just seems to be loss of bodily integrity. But, that being said, I think it clears things up: You'd say, here, that the rational soul is the per se form of a human being's body because a human being, properly speaking, is a living being, and the rational soul is the principle of life throughout. Is that a fair summary?


Numquam nega, raro adfirma, distingue frequenter said...

Dear Michael,

I have been following The Smithy for nine months now. It is an outstanding resource for Catholic philosophers and medievalists, aspiring and established ones alike. My background is in Aquinas and Thomism. I am currently undertaking a doctoral dissertation about Duns Scotus on act and potency and existence and essence. I have learnt a lot about these issues from reading your blog, and I have many more questions that I don't think I can answer for myself. I would greatly appreciate the ability to correspond with you once or twice, in a more extended fashion, about the Subtle Doctor's metaphysical thought as it pertains to these points. At my university, there are unfortunately no experts on Duns Scotus, and that is proving difficult for my studies.

If you would be willing to receive an email from me about this, I would be most grateful if you could contact me at nick.augimeri@gmail.com.

Mille gratias!