Friday, November 30, 2018

Petrus Thomae's De ente: Prologue

Here is a translation of the prologue from the Quaestiones de ente, the critical edition of which was recently published here.

[Quaestiones de ente]


Just as the Philosopher says in I Physics chapter 7, “first according to nature we say common things and thence speculate about proper things.” For with common things unknown, so also are proper things unknown, according to him elsewhere, and therefore “it is necessary to proceed from universals into singulars,” from I Physics chapter 1. Since therefore the transcendentals are the most common, it is opportune to treat something of them for the acquisition of scientific knowledge; among the transcendentals being itself holds the first and chief place, as will be seen below. And therefore, in order to acquire knowledge of the transcendentals, we will procede in this order: first we will inquire about the concept of being, second about what follows [consequentibus] it, third about the first parts of being.

Concerning the first [part] we proceed thus:

First we ask whether the concept of being is known per se or is knowable from others

Second whether the concept of being is quidditative

Third whether the concept of being is maximally first

Fourth whether being has a proper concept distinct from the concept of every special being

Fifth whether the argument from a certain and doubtful concept concludes necessarily

Sixth whether among quidditative concepts only the concept of being is irreducibly simple

Seventh whether true analogy and true univocity are compatible in the same concept

Eighth whether the concept of being is one only by a unity of equivocation

Ninth whether the concept of being is one only by a unity of confusion

Tenth wehther the concept of being is one by a unity of univocity

Eleventh whether the univocity of the concept of being is real

Twelfth whether being is predicated ‘in quid’ of its proper attributes

Thirteenth whether being is predicated ‘in quid’ of ultimate differences

Fourteenth whether the concept of being is immediately contractible by some differences

Fifteenth whether there can be something univocal to real being and being of reason.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My MicroNarrative

The common Thomist narrative of the rise of theology and philosophy to its zenith in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, the common doctor of all and the angelic doctor, a rise which soon turned into a flaming nosedive needs no introduction here. It is so widespread that Milbank can refer to it as "scarcely then controversial". The text-base defense of Scotus seem to have all failed, at least rhetorically. The "semantic" defense of Scotus has been effectively undermined by Milbank (in the linked piece) on the grounds of a-historicity (think about that for a minute, then try not to spill your beer). The narrative normally focuses on the "twin scissors" (to use Hans Boersma's turn of phrase) of univocity and voluntarism that snipped the "sacramental tapestry" that Scotus had inherited from Christ and the Apostles via Thomas Aquinas.

Here I want to propose a counter-narrative, though it is more fact-based than interpretative, so it probably does not count as a narrative. And it does not explain the present, but is the sequence of what went on in the 12th-14th centuries. The narrative is ultimately more driven by the waves of Aristotelian translations than anything else.

Step 1: In the twelfth century, the common opinion among the theologians was that perfections or attributes are said univocally of God and creatures. The basic sense of univocity was that of Aristotle's Categories.

Step 2: Aristotle's Metaphysics and Posterior analytics were translated. Aristotle's view in the former is that being is said in many ways. This sense is what became the "analogy of being". Following the Arab commentators one could posit it as "midway" between equivocity and univocity, or following Boethius, one could take the division of the Categories as immediate; there is no medium between univocity and equivocity, analogy becomes  equivocity, in particular, 'equivocal by design', as opposed to pure equivocity. Aquinas himself seems a bit ambiguous here. He often says analogy is a middle way between the extremes, but he clearly knew the Boethian definition, for in Summa contra gentiles when he rejects equivocity he rejects "pure" equivocity. But he does not identify analogy as an equivocal by design. At this step, there is no attempt to unite the metaphysics with the notion of a science in the Posterior analytics

Step 3: The posterior analytics' criteria for science are applied to the science of being, requiring univocity. An early defense of univocity was launched in the 1280's, though I have not found who it was. Their attempt posited a real agreement between God and creatures. Scotus himself attacks this person, as did William of Ware and Peter Sutton. Scotus also posits univocity, at some stage, the univocal concept of being may well be common to God of creatures, the object of the intellect, and the subject of metaphysics. Scotus retains the analogy of being.

Step 4: Criticism of Scotus. Scotus is the locus of the discussion. Early critics reject his position and return to equivocity of being, linked to some 12th c. discussions as well as Porphyry and Boethius. Ockham jettisons analogy.

With the emerge of Ockham, the basic positions of the scholastic discussion are set until the dissolution of scholasaticism itself: equivocity of being, univocity of being with analogy, univocity alone, analogy of being alone. There was much discussion of the issue during the 14th century. I have found little discussion in Franciscans of the fifteenth century on the topic. Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough. Most mention it, but say nothing interesting and don't devote questions to it. Thus there is some justice in Mastri's comment that there was little discussion of analogy before Cajetan. Cajetan revived the debate (note I deny the existence of a distinction between first or second scholasticism and the fanciful claims made today about Cajetan restarting scholasticism). By Mastri's day (17th c.) there were extensive debates among the schools about analogy and univocity, long after the RO narrative has jumped to Luther and Kant. In truth, analogy was never abandoned by anyone save Ockham and the nominalists, certainly not by Scotus and the Scotists.

Get to work in the comments and tear this apart!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Feast of Scotus 2018

Happy Feast, everyone! Generally busy these days, so nothing original today.

Here are some remarks on Scotus by the Franciscan Minister General.

And here I give you the famous poem by Hopkins for your delectation. Source.

Duns Scotus's Oxford

Towery city and branchy between towers; 
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded; 
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did 
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers; 

Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours 
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded 
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded 
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.

Yet ah! this air I gather and I release 
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what 
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace; 

Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not 
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece; 
Who fired France for Mary without spot.