Sunday, August 12, 2007

More on Scotus vs. Henry 2

Yet another post on this Scotus vs. Henry thing. I think I finally figured out what I didn't understand in my last post. Here's my exposition of Scotus's argument in n. 73, from his Ordinatio 1.5.2.un.

On Henry's view, the divine essence plays a causal role in producing the Son. For Henry, of course, the divine essence plays the role of material cause, but for our purposes, it can be any causal role. So let's say that the divine essence plays some causal role, call it C, in producing the Son. When the Father produces the Son, then, C applies to the divine essence as it is in the Father. But, Scotus asks, is C a universal feature of every person that possesses the divine essence, or is it only a feature of a particular person (namely the Father)?

Consider, as an analogy, the property being intelligent. This property necessarily entails certain causal powers (such as the power to think) that every intelligent individual will possess. For example, if Socrates has the property being intelligent, then Socrates can think, if Plato has the property being intelligent, then Plato can think, and if any other individual possesses the property being intelligent, it too can think. But the property being intelligent can also entail other causal powers that will not necessarily be true of every individual that possesses the property being intelligent. For example, it requires intelligence to shop at the Athenian market, but not every intelligent individual can shop at the Athenian market. After all, there could be a possible world with no Athenian market, but there cannot be a possible world where intelligent individuals cannot think.

Scotus wants to know whether C – namely, the causal role that the divine essence plays in producing the Son – is like the causal role that being intelligent plays in thinking, or whether it's like the causal role that being intelligent plays in shopping at the Athenian market. In other words, does the divine essence necessarily entail C for every individual that possesses the divine essence, or is C true only of a particular individual (such as the Father) who possesses the divine essence?

If C is of the first sort, then we obviously end up with a circular explanation for the Son's production. For causal roles of the first sort, it follows that every individual who possesses the divine essence will play (or at least have the power to play) the causal role C in producing the Son, and since the Father, Son, and Spirit all possess the divine essence, C will necessarily be true of each of them. But if that's the case, then the Father, Son, and Spirit will (or can) play the causal role C in producing the Son, and that leaves us with the consequence that the Son is (or can be) caused, in the manner of C, by all three persons, and thus the Son is (or can be) caused by himself.

To avoid such a circular consequence, we are therefore pressured to take C as the second sort of causal role, namely the kind of causal role that is only true for a particular person who possesses the divine essence, namely the Father. In other words, if we want to say the divine plays some causal role in producing the Son, then if we want to avoid explaining the Son's production in a circular way, we need to say that the divine essence plays this causal role only when it exists in the Father.

But then the question is, why would it only play some causal role in the Father? What reason could be given for this? It is tempting to say, as many medieval theologians like Henry and Scotus do say, that the Father has the power to produce the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence. We can use human intelligence again as an example. If a human person has the property being intelligent, then we could say she has the power to think in virtue of possessing that property. That seem sensible enough. But unfortunately, this doesn't get us very far. If the Father has the power to produce the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence, then any other person which possessed the divine essence would have that power too, so why don't the other persons who possess the divine essence produce a Son? This is, in effect, the same question posed in a different way. Why is it that the divine essence plays a causal role in producing the Son only in the Father? Henry and Scotus each have strategies for getting around this, but I won't discuss those. My purpose here is just to figure out the force of Scotus's argument in n. 73.

So, Scotus has essentially shown that if the divine essence plays some causal role in producing the Son, then it can play that role only in the Father. From this, Scotus further argues that if the divine essence can play this causal role only when it is in the Father, and if this causal role is being a material cause as Henry has it, then it follows that the Son is produced in the Father. Imagine for a moment that the divine essence is a lump. If the divine essence is the material cause, as Henry holds, then this means the divine essence is the lump-in-which the Son is produced. But since the lump can only be the lump-in-which when it is in the Father, that is, when it is the Father's lump, then the Son can only be produced in the Father's lump. As Scotus sees it, then, Henry's view ends up with the consequence that the Son is produced in the Father, and that's a consequence Scotus sees as inappropriate.

I must admit that I find it hard to see why this should be a problem for Henry. If the divine essence is a substratum for the Father and the Son in the way that a lump of clay is the substratum of a statue, then of course the Son would be produced in that lump (the divine essence), and that lump would be in the Father. So it would not at all be inappropriate, on Henry's view, for this to be the case.

9 comments:

mutabilitie said...

Damn. I just wrote out this nice long comment explaining the strategies Henry employs to explain why it must be the Father who produces the Son, but then it got accidentally deleted.

Anyways, it has to do with positing a person who is 'not from another', and then consider the personal properties of that person in order to explain a person who 'is from another'. You need to look at the properties of 'being ungenerated' and 'being generative'.

I'll write more soon.

I've been somewhat distracted over at The Lank of Unlikeness and my little squabble about the nature of theology.

mutabilitie said...

So: supposing Henry is successful in his proof for God's existence, he has shown that there is a first being who is not 'from another' who is the creator of all thing (i.e. denying an infinite series). So, the property of this person is 'ungenerated'. But when we get to revealed doctrine, we know that God is a trinity. Strictly speaking, natural theology shows that the divine essence is not from another--but supposing this 'not from another' is a person, we thus say affirm two properities, one that is personal ('not from another') and one that is essential 'not from another'). So, in the order of origin the Father is 'not from another' and in the order of essence, the Father is 'not from another'. Similarly, the Son and Holy Spirit share the essential property of being 'not from another', but do not share the personal property of being not from another. Rather, e.g the Son is 'from another', and more specifically, the Son is _generated_ from another, i.e. the one who is not from another (personally).

So: why is it the Father who is the one who produces the Son? The one who produces the Son must be 'not from another' both essentially and personally (i.e. personal property), otherwise, this producer would be a Son producing a Son-and since there can't be two Sons in the divinity (Henry thinks these wouldn't be distinguished from another so as to posit 2 real sons), nor can there be two Fathers (again, they would be entirely identical and thus indiscernible and not really distinct persons). Rather, the one who produces the Son must be 'not from another' AND 'generative of another'. Since the Father is constituted by both these properties alone among divine persons, the Father alone is the one who produces the Son.

JT Paasch said...

Thanks for the tips on the personal properties. That's helpful to know about Henry's strategies here for when I write my chapter on that! =)

But anyways, this post is about a problem I call 'the second son problem'. Basically, if you say the Father produces the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence, then it follows that some divine person x produces the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence. The Son is a divine person, so it should follow that the Son produces a (second) Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence.

But obviously we don't think the Son produces a second Son, so Henry (and Scotus, I should add) need to block this conclusion.

Mike said...
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Scott Williams said...

JT wrote: "if you say the Father produces the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence, then it follows that some divine person x produces the Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence." Henry would deny the conclusion that just 'any' divine person possessing the divine essence could produce the Son. The reason would be that the Son's personal property is 'being generated'. There is only one sort of divine person that could produce that sort of divine person. Only a divine person who's personal property is 'not from another' could produce a divine person who is 'generated'. If you ask, why can't the Son produce a Son in virtue of possessing the divine essence; the reason is that (a) there can only be one Son b/c the means by which the divine nature is communicated to the Son has no further opportunity for producing another Son (call this the 'exhaustion argument'); (b) if there is only one divine Son b/c of (a), then only a divine person with the personal property 'not from another' could produce a Son. For there must be an actor for some action to happen. The actor who produces the Son can't 'be generated', b/c then Son1 would produce Son1, which is circular; thus, only the divine person who is 'not from another' could produce the divine Son.

But, if you deny the exhaustion argument, then clearly Henry's strategy comes apart and you can ask your Ockhamist question: why must it be the Father who produces the Son?

JT Paasch said...

Yes, that's exactly right. The personal properties don't get Henry out of this problem. The personal properties don't explain the productions, the productions explain the personal properties (the Son is not produced because his property is 'being produced', rather his property is 'being produced' because he is produced).

The exhaustion principle, however, is what Henry and Scotus (and Alnwick) both use to get out of the second Son problem. And you're right to bring up Ockham, as our boy Bill does reject the exhaustion principle.

JT Paasch said...

Apparently 'someone' decided to remove a post revealing how turned on they were getting by all this. My favorite part of that post was 'But seriously'.

Scott Williams said...

I think you are spot on to say the production explains the personal properties. Although, a few tweaks could be made. We would put personal properties in terms of saying the express certain properties of the order of origin, otherwise called the principiative order; these do not express the 'essential order' as such, though the latter is certainly causally related to the former, since the latter is the causal basis for the former (notional acts are founded on essential acts)--for Henry.

If you looked at the 42 personal properties exposition that Henry gives (cited in my Henry paper), you'll see that it entirely has to do with the principiative order. Still, e.g. the Son is not entirely conceptually expressed by 'being produced' or even 'being generated', b/c Henry thinks there are other descriptions that also apply which neither of this precisely express (e.g. that 'generating' is equivalent to 'speaking', and so the whole psychological model adds more conceptual content for us to acct. for than the mere 'biological model' of Father & Son.)

Yeah, that crazy Mike- always wanting to 'get some(thing)' out of philosophy or philosophical theology.

Mike said...
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