Wednesday, August 8, 2007

More on Scotus vs. Henry

More on Scotus's argument against Henry's substratum view. Here's my translation of the relevant bits.
[Ord. 1.5.2.un, my translation]

[n. 72] Further, a second argument against the principle claim [of Henry that the divine essence is the material term of the Son's production]. It is necessary to assign some being to the [divine] essence as it is that from which the Son is generated, because to be the causal basis of some true entity, in whatever genus of causal basis, does not belong to anything except a real entity.

[n. 73] Therefore, I ask what sort of being belongs to the essence as it is 'that from which the Son is generated' (by an impression). Either it is (a) precisely being ad se, which is the being of the essence qua essence – and then the Son is from the essence qua essence, and in this way [he is from] the three persons – or (b) it belongs to it to be in some subsistent [person]....

[The rest of n. 73 and n. 74 are translated in a previous post.]
The bit I have trouble with is (a).

Let me explain how I'm understanding this. For Henry, the divine essence is the material term of production, while for Scotus, it is the formal term. Consider a clay statue. We have a sculptor and a lump of clay. The sculptor takes the lump of clay, and fashions it into a statue by giving it the form of a statue. The sculptor is the producer, the form of the statue is the formal term of production, the clay is the material term of production, and the whole statue is the primary/adequate term of production. Saying the clay is the material term of production basically means that the clay is the stuff the statue is produced from. So the statue is related to the clay by a produced-from relation.

By analogy to the divine case, Henry thinks we can say the Son is produced-from the divine essence in the sense that the divine essence is the subject in which the Son is instantiated, similar to the way that a lump of clay is the subject in which a statue is instantiated. To put it in terms of causality, the divine essence plays the role of material cause in the Son's production.

Scotus says: okay, so if the divine essence plays the role of material cause, then are we talking about the divine essence as it is in all three persons, or as it is in the Father? If we go with the first option, then it follows that the divine essence as it is in all three persons will play a causal role in the Son's production. Scotus doesn't explain why this is a problem, but presumably, the consequence is that if the divine essence as it is in all three persons plays a causal role in producing the Son, then the divine essence as it is in the Son will play a causal role in producing the Son, and that's circular.

But what's the problem with this? I don't really see why this is a problem. We're just talking about material causality here, not efficient causality here. If the divine essence were the efficient cause (or played some efficient role) in the Son's production, then it makes sense. If the divine essence were the efficient cause of the Son, and if the divine essence were a part of the Son, then the Son would be efficiently caused by (a part of) himself. But we're not talking about efficient causality. We're talking about material causality, and I don't see why this is in any way odd.

Consider a clay statue. A statue is produced-from a lump of clay, and so the clay plays the role of material cause, but nobody would say the statue is produced-from a part of itself (or, if we allowed such a phrase, it wouldn't be problematic, for we all know what we mean: the statue is just produced from the lump of clay). On Scotus's reading, if the Son is produced-from the divine essence, then the Son is produced-from a part of himself, and that's circular. But if that's right, then this should be true for clay statues as well: if a statue is produced-from a lump of clay, then the statue is produced-from a part of itself, and that's circular. But surely we don't take the case of the clay statue as problematic, so why should we take the divine case as problematic?

I'm tempted to think Scotus is equivocating between efficient and material causality. As I hope is clear from what I've just written, Scotus's argument seems completely sensible if we think 'produced from' implies efficient causality, but it makes no sense if we think 'produced from' implies material causality. So it would be natural to think Scotus was just thinking about efficient causality when he wrote this bit.

But unfortunately, he seems to suggest in n. 72 that this argument applies, no matter what kind of causal role the divine essence plays (as Scotus puts it, 'in whatever genus of causal basis'). So apparently, Scotus thinks this works for any genus of causal role: efficient, material, formal, or final. So I'm stumped here. I can't seem to see why it would be a problem for material causality.

Besides, if Scotus thinks the argument works for any genus of causal basis, then it applies to the formal cause, and Scotus thinks the divine essence is the formal cause of the Son. So his argument would apply to his own theory just as much as to Henry's, if it were successful. Yep, I'm stumped.

Perhaps we could appeal to time here. A statue is produced from clay, but the clay is not a part of the statue until after the statue is produced, so it is not true, strictly speaking, that a statue is produced from a part of itself. But in the divine cause, time is not an issue. The Son is supposed to be eternally produced, so whenever it is true that the divine essence is a part of the Father, it is a part of the Son too. Thus, if the Son is produced-from (via material causality) the divine essence as it is in the Father, it is also true that the Son is produced-from (via material causality) the divine essence as it is in the Son. Then it would be circular.

But does that even work? I don't know. Something about all this seems very hocus pocus.

6 comments:

mutabilitie said...

As I don't have the full text in front of me, I can't really engage with you (yet). Still, isn't (a) just a case of whether or not the (proximate) cause of the Son is the essence as such or the essence qualified in some way (e.g. in the Father). Obviously, as you say, it can't be the essence as such, b/c the essence as such (what Henry might call the essence considered simply/simpliciter) by definition is in the three divine persons, and as you say, this view would posit that the Son generates Himself; and this is circular. Therefore, etc.

'The problem' with this (contra your example of clay) from Scotus's point of view is that the divine essence as such just is in the three persons. In other words, to consider the divine essence in this way is to presuppose both productions (Son and Holy Spirit). So, if we talk about the divine essence simply, we presuppose in the order of explanation that the Son is already produced by the Father.

Clearly, this won't do; any consideration of the divine essence as such won't explain the production of the Son-- we have to qualify it so as to say 'the divine essence in the Father (and then add something about modes of production: by intellect and by will)'. In Henry's lingo, this is a difference btwn. considering the essence simply and in the order of origin of the persons (what I've referred to before as the 'principiative order').

I need more text [n.74ff] to sort through this more. My own copy is boxed up and will be found in the coming weeks.

Perhaps Scotus thinks the essence can't be a material cause b/c matter implies imperfection. The divine essence must be a 'form', for forms are actual, and matter is not w/o some form. If we construe the divine essence by formal cause (i.e. a form) then no imperfection is implied. In other words, Scotus probably wants to say that the production of the Son does not in any way perfect the Father's intellect. Whereas Henry thinks that in order for the divine intellect to be perfect(ed) it must perform two sorts of acts, one that is complete(d) in the Father himself (i.e. an operative intellectual act), and one that is complete(d) in another real being (i.e. a productive intellectual act).

Anyways--Scotus probably doesn't think formal cause is a problem, but he does think material cause is a problem. In n.72, when he says 'in whatever genus of causal basis', he's just saying that we need to pick which sort of cause best explains the causal role of the divine essence for the production of the Son. All four causes have 'real being', so it could be any one of these, but for certain reasons, certain causes don't explain the causal role of the divine essence very well--and Scotus thinks a material cause is insufficient for what needs to be explained (b/c he thinks it would posit imperfection?).

JT Paasch said...

This is helpful Scott. Thanks for engaging.

The rest of n. 73 and 74 are translated here.

1. It hadn't occurred to me that the DE (divine essence) considered as such presupposes the persons. I assumed it was considering the DE in abstraction from the persons (and thus irrespective of whether it's in the persons).

Let me put it this way. We can talk about the DE as it is 'common' to the three persons in two ways: (i) concretely, or (ii) abstractly.

(i) If we think about it concretely, then we mean the DE as it exists in all three persons. It is common to all three persons because it is in all three concretely. This would be analogous to the way I would consider Plato's humanity concretely: I would consider the property being human as it exists in Plato.

(ii) On the other hand, if we think about the DE abstractly, then we mean the DE considered in abstraction from the three persons, and thus it is irrespective of which (or any) person it is in. It is 'common' the three persons because it applies (is predicable of) the three persons because it is truly predicable of each of them, but we're not considering it as it concretely is in each divine person here. This would be analogous to the way I consider 'humanity' abstractly: I am considering it in abstraction from its existence in Plato and Socrates. The abstract notion of 'humanity' still applies to Plato and Socrates because it is truly predicable of each of them, but we're not thinking of 'humanity' as it exists in each of them.

When Scotus asks if Henry means the DE as such, DE qua DE, do you think he meant it in sense (i) or (ii)? I took Scotus to mean sense (ii). Do you think he's taking it in sense (i)?

JT Paasch said...

3. I took it to mean sense (ii). So the question in my brain was: is there anything about the DE qua DE (in abstraction from being in any person) which prevents it from being the material cause of the Son? Alternatively, is there something about the DE qua DE (in abstraction from being in any person) which entails that it must be the formal cause of the Son?

mutabilitie said...

One thing of note is that when Henry is discussing the divine essence as the substratum (quasi matter) of a person, what he is saying is that the divine essence is a thing, it is that which subsists. So, whoever has this essence, therefore subsists. The Father has this essence, therefore the Father subsists. In a similar fashion, if the divine essence were not the material cause of the Son via the Father's productive act, then what the Father would produce is not a subsistent person, but just a thought (an intellectual operation). I think this is the crux for Henry. Matter = subsistence. He thinks this b/c the DE is the one 'thing' of the Godhead, the persons are real characteristics/relations of this one thing. So, again, denying that DE is a material cause is denying that the Son would subsist.

I realize more needs to be said about this, but it's all I have time for at the moment. I think this aptly shows, as I claimed in the past, that the 'quasi' in 'quasi matter' is not to be glossed over. So, I can't see anything, given Henry's metaphysics of substance and relation (supposing it were true or plausible), that would prevent the DE from being the material cause.

Does the DE entail that it is the formal cause of the Son? Well, if you look to SQO 54.4 AD 4-5, you'll find that Henry speaks of the Son being produced by a certain quasi species (intellect). So yes, one feature of the divine essence entails the formal (specific) production of the Son. Though, it is just a remote formal cause, b/c you need to posit the Father as the proximate (principiative) cause. I have yet to see him say the Father is the efficient cause of the Son--I'd somewhat think he might reserve this for the sort of cause that brings about the Holy Spirit--since the HS is produced through the will. If this is true, then the Father is the proximate formal cause of the Son and the DE is the remote formal cause. This would be so b/c will (=efficient cause) is not the principle by which the Son is produced, although it accompanies (adiuncta) it (i.e. the Father loves the Son, but this doesn't produce the Son).

mutabilitie said...

In the last paragraph I skipped over Henry's discussion of the powers of the divine essence. If we consider the DE simply, we consider all its features. If we consider some aspect (ratio) of it, we can then consider the causal basis of the essence for the production of the Son. So, Henry distinguishes btwn. the nature communicated to the Son (=material cause), and the species by which it is communicated to the Son (=formal cause = intellect). He employs an example from Ambrose who discusses various kinds of generating the same creature. He thinks a male and female can produce a child; but he also (oddly) thinks that other natural causes could do this (sun, stars, heavens)- in other words, he uses this to claim that there are various ways of producing one and the same thing. Thus, the Father can communicate the divine essence in all the ways available in the essence. Since there are intellect and will, there are two ways this essence could be produced in another. He interestingly says that among creatures, they can't produce by will, but only by nature (intellect)-and this is an imperfection in creatures. So, he thinks it is a perfection to be able to produce another in these two ways, but only the former can be done by creatures.

JT Paasch said...

Okay, I figured it out and made a separate post of my summary of this issue. Your comments have been very helpful amigo.