Thursday, December 24, 2009

Duns Scotus against Henry on the Creation Problem

Even though Henry of Ghent garnered a healthy group of followers (see the last post for details), there were some dissentors. Scotus was one of the students that grew up under Henry. In fact, Scotus may have even sat in Henry’s classroom. But unlike many of his classmates, Scotus was not happy with Henry’s theory. Scotus was against it.

Scotus’s real problem with Henry’s view is this: it makes the divine essence the subject of incompatible properties. I mean, fatherhood and sonship are incompatible. In logic, we would call them irreflexive relations. Someone can be the father of someone else, and someone can be the son of someone else. But nobody can be the father and son of himself, right? So if the divine essence were like a lump of matter that exemplified both fatherhood and sonship, then the divine essence would be both the father and son of itself! And that’s just flat out impossible.

Indeed, that’s like saying that a lump of clay is shaped like both a statue and a vase at the same time. But that’s crazy. A lump of clay has got to be one or the other, it can’t be both.

So Scotus thinks we cannot say that the divine essence is like a lump of matter or subject of fatherhood and sonship. On the contrary, says Scotus, the divine essence has got to be more like a form that the persons share.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Henry of Ghent on How the Son is Produced 'From Materials'

As I explained in the last post, Henry of Ghent argues that the Son must be produced from materials in some sense, for otherwise the Son would quite literally be created 'from nothing'. Still, Henry recognizes that he needs to explain how that is possible.

To do that, Henry points out that according to Aristotle, you produce things by taking a lump of matter and giving it a form. As an analogy, a sculptor makes a clay statue by taking a lump of clay, and giving it a statue shape. Similarly, says Aristotle, anything that gets produced is made by taking a lump of matter and giving it a form.

Henry likes this model. He points out, “look, the matter is not produced, but the form is”. A sculptor doesn’t produce the clay. She simply gives it a shape. Something similar happens in the Godhead.

According to Henry, and indeed all his scholastic contemporaries, each divine person includes two ingredients: first, there’s a shared divine essence. This is a single item that all three share. So it’s not like sharing a piece of cake where you cut it up into pieces and dish it out. The divine essence is one, undivided thing that exists in all three persons.

Second, each person has a unique ingredient that belongs only to them. These are called ‘personal properties’. So to take the Father and Son, the Father’s unique ingredient is called fatherhood, and the son’s is called sonship. So the Father and Son each share one divine essence, but they also each have their own unique ingredient, fatherhood or sonship.

Henry then says, “look, the divine essence is shared by the Father and Son. So the Father doesn’t produce it in the Son. He just shares it. Sonship, on the other hand, does get produced with the Son. It is unique to the Son, so it only exists when the Son does. So the divine essence is not produced in the Son, but his sonship is.”

And that’s just like a clay statue. The clay does not get produced, but its shape does. So Henry concludes that the divine essence is like a lump of matter, and the personal properties are like forms.

If you can imagine three gold statues all made from the same lump of gold at the same time, that’s very close to what Henry has in mind.

Now, if you think about the medieval context here, this might seem like a really wild idea. This is the age of high scholasticism and perfect being theology, so surely Henry would get condemned as a heretic, and denounced as a crazy man.

But amazingly, that’s not the case. Henry actually ended up with a number of loyal supporters on this issue. Among his students, and even among the next generation of students after that, a number of them thought Henry had hit the nail on the head.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Henry of Ghent against Peter Lombard on the Creation Problem

Henry is acutely aware of the Creation Problem, and this comes out very clearly when he disagrees with Peter Lombard.

Peter Lombard lived at the beginning of the 12th century (1100-1160), and he is a very important figure for medieval philosophy. The reason is this: he wrote a very long book on theology called the Sentences. It is essentially a compilation of quotations from church fathers on a variety of topics. Lombard arranged all this material into a series of ‘yes/no’ questions, with quotations on the ‘yes’ side, and quotations on the ‘no’ side. And occasionally, Lombard would give his own opinion too.

Before long, the Sentences became the standard textbook in theology. In the 13th and 14th centuries, if you were a doing a PhD in theology, you had to lecture on the Sentences. And his was like your dissertation. It was your big theological magnum opus. So Peter is very important simply because he wrote the major medieval textbook for theology.

Now, at one point in the Sentences, Peter asks if the Son is created from nothing. Peter of course says no. The Son is not produced from nothing. He is produced from something.

To back this up, Peter appeals to the Nicene Creed, the earliest Christian Creed. The Nicene Creed says that the Son is produced from the Father’s substance, so Peter says, “the Son is not produced from nothing, he’s produced from the Father’s substance.”

But what does that mean? Peter explains it like this: he says the Son is produced by the Father, who is a substance.

Well, Henry points out that that’s all well and good, but creatures are produced by a substance too, namely God. And creatures are created. So just saying that the Son is produced by a substance does not tell us that the Son is not created.

As Henry sees it, in order to show that the Son is not created, we have to say that the Son is produced from materials in some sense. Otherwise, the Son would be produced from nothing, in which case he would be created.

So Henry really seems to buy into this Avicennian idea that if you produce something without materials, then you create it. And since Henry doesn’t want to say that the Son is created, he says the Son must be produced with materials in some sense or other.

Now, Henry knows this would have sounded absolutely crazy to his contemporaries. I mean, this is the age of high scholasticism. This is the age of perfect being theology. God is the most supreme being, he is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. And the greatest conceivable being is going to be totally perfect, and that means God is going to be totally good, totally perfect, and totally immaterial. He won’t be limited by material dimensions, or anything like that. So Henry knows that his contemporaries are going to say, “Whoa! God is not material in any way!”

So Henry needs to show exactly how or in what sense we can say that the Son is produced ‘with materials’. That is what I will discuss next.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Solving the Creation and Subordination Problems

In the last two posts, I described what I call the 'Creation' and 'Subordination' problems. Here, I want to say something about different ways to solve these Problems. Christian scholastics are dealing with two sets of claims. On the one hand, they have a set from Aristotle and Avicenna (from Aristotle: things can only be produced with materials, from Avicenna: things produced without materials are created and inferior to their producers). On the other hand, they have their own Christian set of claims about divine production (namely, T1, T2, and T3 from the last two posts). As I explained in the last two posts, putting these two sets of claims together results in the Creation and Subordination Problems.

To avoid these two Problems, a scholastic thinker like Scotus or Ockham must reject something from either set of claims. As for the Christian claims (T1-T3), scholastics like Scotus and Ockham feel that T1 and T3 are required by Christian doctrine, for T1 is required by the Nicene Creed, and T3 is required to avoid subordinationism. Consequently, they are not going to reject T1 or T3. However, authors like Scotus or Ockham do not think that T2 is required for orthodoxy in the way that T1 and T3 are. Rather, they see T2 as just a very plausible claim.

In principle then, a scholastic thinker could reject T2, and that could be one way to avoid the Creation and Subordination Problems. For instance, if one were to say that the Son is, in fact, produced from some sort of pre-existing material, then the Son would not be created from nothing, and by consequence, the Son would not necessarily be less perfect than his producer (the Father).

But of course, T2 is extremely plausible, so anyone who wants to reject it would have to explain how a divine person --- who is entirely spiritual and therefore without any material components at all --- could be produced from 'pre-existing materials'. And that is certainly no easy task.

Alternatively, someone Scotus or Ockham could reject one of the claims from Aristotle or Avicenna. That too could be a way to avoid the Creation and Subordination Problems. However, Aristotle’s and Avicenna’s theories are designed to explain production, so if one were to reject a part of these theories, they would have to provide an alternative account, and that too is no easy task.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Divine production and the 'Subordination Problem'

In the Christian tradition, 'subordinationism' is the idea that one divine person is less perfect than another. This is considered a heresy; the divine persons are all supposed to be equal. Thus, one might think that when one divine person produces another, the product must be just as perfect as its producer(s):

(T3) For any divine persons x and y, if x produces y, x and y are equal in perfection.

However, T3 conflicts with Avicenna’s theory of production. Avicenna maintains that whenever a product is produced without any pre-existing materials, it must be different in kind from its producer. Further, many medieval Aristotelians held the even more general claim that whenever a producer and its product are different in kind, the product must be less perfect than its producer.

But supposing all of that is right, then if a divine person were produced without any pre-existing materials (as T2 from the last post says), that person would then be different in kind, and therefore less perfect than its producer.

(1**) For any x and y, if x produces y without any material m, x and y are different in kind.
[From Avicenna.]

(2) The Father cannot produce the Son with any material m.
[From T2.]

(3**) Therefore, if the Father produces the Son, the Father and Son are different in kind.
[From (1**) and (2).]

(4**) For any x and y, if (i) x produces y, and (ii) x and y are different in kind, then y is less perfect than x.
[From any standard medieval Aristotelianism.]

(5) Therefore, if the Father produces the Son, the Son is less perfect than the Father.
[From (2), (3**), and (4**).]

But of course, that amounts to subordinationism, and it contradicts the Christian scholastic claim that

(6) the Father and Son are equal in perfection.
[From T3.]

Thus, scholastic thinkers like Scotus and Ockham cannot hold all these ideas together, on pain of contradiction. Again then, Avicenna’s theory leaves the Christian schoolmen with a problem, for Avicenna’s theory entails that if the Son and Spirit are produced, they are lesser deities. And that is not acceptable to a Christian scholastic Hence what I call the Subordination Problem: how can the Son and Spirit be produced, but not be lesser deities?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Divine production and the 'Creation Problem'

The Nicene Creed states that when the Father begets the Son, the Father does not create the Son out of nothing. For a Christian scholastic like Scotus or Ockham, this suggests that no divine person is created:

(T1) For any divine persons x and y, if x produces y, x does not create y from nothing.

Now, if the Son and Spirit cannot be produced from nothing, then it might be tempting to think that they must be produced from something. But what could that 'something' be? Surely it cannot be any pre-existing materials. After all, the Son and Spirit are spiritual beings, so how could they be 'made' from anything material? It seems very plausible to think that the Son and Spirit cannot be produced from materials at all. Thus:

(T2) For any divine persons x and y, if x produces y, x cannot produce y with any material M.

However, (T1) and (T2) lead to problems. Consider the following.

Aristotle maintains that nothing can be produced unless it is produced from pre-existing materials. According to (T2) though, a divine person (e.g., the Son) cannot be produced from pre-existing materials. Thus, a divine person (like the Son) cannot be produced at all:

(1) For any x and y, if x produces y, x cannot produce y without any material m.
[From Aristotle.]

(2) The Father cannot produce the Son with any material m.
[From T2.]

(3) Therefore, the Father cannot produce the Son.
[From (1) and (2).]

Of course, scholastics like Scotus and Ockham want to affirm that

(4) the Father produces the Son,

but that contradicts(3), so one cannot hold all these claims at the same time, on pain of contradiction.

In order to avoid this, one might be tempted to give up Aristotle’s claim in (1), just as Avicenna did. After all, Avicenna was a good Muslim, so he believed in creation: some things can be produced without pre-existing materials.

However, Avicenna also holds that if a product is produced without any pre-existing materials, then it must be created from nothing. And that would entail that if a divine person is produced without pre-existing materials (as T2 says), then that person would be created from nothing.

(1*) For any x and y, if x produces y without any material m, x creates y from nothing.
[From Avicenna.]

(2) The Father cannot produce the Son with any material m.
[From T2.]

(3*) Therefore, if the Father produces the Son, the Father creates the Son from nothing.
[From (1*) and (2).]

But according to the Nicene Creed, no divine person is created from nothing, so:

(4*) if the Father produces the Son, the Father does not create the Son from nothing.
[From T1.]

But that contradicts (3*), so again we get a contradiction.

On the face of it then, both Aristotle’s and Avicenna’s theories of production present scholastic authors like Scotus and Ockham with a problem. For Aristotle’s and Avicenna’s theories entail that either the Son and Spirit cannot be produced at all, or they must be created from nothing, and neither consequence is acceptable for the Christian schoolmen. Hence, what I call the Creation Problem: how can the Son and Spirit be produced, but not created?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scotus on the 'indetermination' of active and passive powers

Scotus on the different ways that active and passive powers can be indifferent (or 'indeterminate') to the different activities they empower.

Lect.,, n. 415 (Vat. 16: 390.22-391.6): 'dicendum quod indeterminatio duplex est: una est indeterminatio quae convenit causae materiali, et alia est indeterminatio quae convenit causae agenti universali et quodammodo illimitatae. Exemplum primi est de indeterminatione ligni respectu caloris vel alterius formae; exemplum secundi est de indeterminatione solis ad producendum hoc generabile vel illud; unde haec indeterminatio virtutis activae est ad agendum et non ad aliquam formam ab aliquo recipiendam. Quando igitur dicitur quod illud quod est indeterminatum requirit aliquam formam determinantem qua determinetur, verum est de potentia passiva’.

'It should be said to this that indetermination is twofold: one is the indetermination that belongs to material causes, and the other is the indetermination that belongs to a universal agent cause which, in a sense, is unlimited. An example of the first is the indetermination of a log with respect to heat or some other form. An example of the second is the indetermination of the sun with respect to producing this or that generable thing. Whence, the indetermination of active power is for acting, not for receiving some form from something. Thus, when it is said that something indeterminate requires some determining form to determine it, this is [only] true of passive power’.

Lect.,, n. 415 (Vat. 16: 391.6-22): 'Si autem loquimur de indeterminatione causae effectivae, hoc contingit dupliciter: aliquando enim causa efficiens est indeterminata ad producendum aliquem effectum quem tamen immediate producere potest, et aliquando est determinata ad effectum producendum quem tamen sine causa proxima producere non potest. Loquendo autem de causa effectiva primo modo, ad hoc quod determinetur ad agendum sufficit praesentia passi, sicut sol habet virtutem qua immediate potest dissolvere et constringere: ad hoc quod dissolvat sufficit praesentia dissolubilis, ut glaciei, et ad hoc quod constringat sufficit etiam praesentia passi, ut luti; unde causa effectiva non determinatur per hoc quod aliquam formam recipit. Sed ad hoc quod causa effectiva secundo modo determinetur, sufficit praesentia passi cum praesentia causarum particularium concurrentium, sicut est de sole ad producendum animalia perfecta, ut asinum, bovem; requirit enim, ad hoc quod determinetur ad productionem bovis, causam particularem univocam, ut bovem et passum praesens’.

'But if we are talking about the indetermination of an effecting cause, it applies in [one of] two ways, for sometimes the effecting cause is indeterminate with respect to producing some effect that it can produce directly, and sometimes it is determined to produce some effect that it cannot produce without [the help of] a proximate cause. Speaking of an effecting cause in the first way, the presence of the recipient is enough to determine it to activity. For example, the sun has the power to melt or dry [something] directly, so the presence of something meltable (like ice) is sufficient for the sun to melt it, and the presence of some recipient (like mud) is sufficient for the sun to dry it. Whence, the effecting cause is not determined through the fact that it receives some form. But in order for an effective cause to be determined in the second way, the presence of the recipient along with the presence of [any] concurring particular causes is sufficient. An example is the sun’s ability to produce complete animals like donkeys or cows, for in order to produce a cow, the sun must [act along with] a particular univocal cause such as a cow, and a recipient must be present’.

Ibid., n. 416 (Vat. 16: 391.23-392.3): 'Dico igitur quod intellectus est indeterminatus ad eliciendum actum intelligendi, non indeterminatione causae materialis et passi sed indeterminatione causae activae, quae requirit causam aliam particularem, ad hoc quod causet intellectionem, --- et illa est obiectum, vel species in qua obiectum relucet; et ideo determinatur per obiectum et speciem. Sed non determinatur ipsa tamquam intellectum perficiat, ad hoc quod intelligat, sed determinatur sicut causa universalis et quodammodo illimitata, per causam particularem’.

'I say, then, that the intellect is indeterminate with respect to eliciting acts of understanding not by the indetermination of a material or recipient cause, but rather by the indetermination of an active cause which requires some other particular cause to bring about understanding. And that is the object or species in which the object ``shines through’’. For this reason, it is determined by the object and the species. But it is not determined such that it perfects the intellect enough to understand, but it is determined --- as a universal cause which is, in a certain sense, unlimited --- through a particular cause’.

Lect., 1.7.un., n. 26 (Vat. 16: 481.16-22): 'Sed contra hanc opinionem arguo sic: duplex est potentiae indeterminatio, sicut supra dictum est. Una enim est indeterminatio ``potentiae passivae’’, et haec est ad contradictoria, quae ad hoc quod determinetur, oportet quod recipiat (sicut lignum est in potentia ad calefaciendum et privatur calore aliquando, et ideo non vadit in actum nisi recipiat calorem); et haec est potentia passiva, quae est ``materiae’’’.

'But against this opinion [of Henry’s], I argue as follows. The indetermination of a power is twofold, as I said above. One is the indetermination of a ``passive power’’, and this is [indeterminate with respect] to contradictory [states of affairs]. In order for this [indeterminate power] to be determined [to one or the other state of affairs], it must receive [something]. For instance, a log has the potential to be heated, but sometimes it is deprived of heat, so it only becomes actually [hot] when it receives heat. This is the [indeterminacy of the] passive power of ``matter’’’.

Lect., 1.7.un., n. 26 (Vat. 16: 481.22-482.5): 'Alia est ``potentiae activae’’ indeterminatio, quae indeterminatio consequitur illimitationem suae causalitatis et suae virtutis, et haec potentia in naturalibus -- licet non in voluntate --- non est ad contradictoria; et ista potentia indeterminata, ad hoc quod determinetur, non recipit aliquam formam, sed sufficit praesentia passi si requirat passum (sicut sol est indeterminatus ad multos effectus indeterminatione et illimitatione quadam suae virtutis activae; et ideo ad hoc quod determinetur, non requiritur quod aliqua forma sibi imprimatur)’.

'The other [kind of] indetermination is that of ``active power’’, which is an indetermination that follows from the unlimitedness of its causality and power. And this power [that exists] in natural things -- though not in the will -- is not [an indetermination with respect] to contradictory [states of affairs]. In order for such an indeterminate power to be determined, it does not need to receive some form. Rather, it only requires the presence of a recipient (if it requires a recipient [at all]). For instance, the sun is indeterminate with respect to many effects by an indetermination and a certain unlimitedness that belongs to its active power. For this reason, in order for it to be determined [to some effect], it does not need to have some form imprinted in it’.

Lect., 1.7.un., n. 27 (Vat. 16: 482.6-17): 'Ex his arguitur sic: principium indeterminatum ``indeterminatione activa’’, quod est totale principium naturale et non ``voluntarium indifferens ad contradictoria’’, est de se determinatum ad producendum. Ista propositio iam manifesta est in exemplo praedicto [viz., solis], et iterum probatur ratione: quia si talis causa limitaretur ad unum effectum tantum, determinaretur sufficienter ad illum; sed per hoc quod talis causa ponitur illimitata respectu aliorum effectuum, non aufertur determinatio ad istum effectum nec tollitur comparatio eius ad istum effectum, unde nihil eius perfectionis tollitur per comparationem ad istum effectum; igitur potentia naturalis quae est indeterminata illimitatione suae naturae, determinatur ex se’.

'From these points, I argue as follows. The basis [for a power] that is indeterminate by ``the indetermination of active [power]’’ -- which is the total natural basis and not [a power that is] ``indifferent to contradictory things that can be chosen’’ -- is determined to produce [the effect or effects in question] from within itself. Now, this claim is obvious in the aforesaid example [of the sun], but it can further by proved by argument. For if such a cause were limited to one effect only, it would sufficiently be determined to that [one effect from within itself]. But given that, if such a cause were then supposed to be unlimited with respect to other effects, it would not lose that determination to the first effect nor would that take away its relationship to that effect. Whence, nothing of its perfection would be lost through its relationship to this [other] effect. Therefore, a natural power that is indeterminate by the unlimitedness of its nature is determined from within itself’.

Lect., 1.7.un., n. 27 (Vat. 16: 482.17-22): 'Cum igitur essentia divina sit indeterminata non indeterminatione passiva, sed indeterminatione quae est virtutis activae illimitatae, ipsa non requiret aliquam formam ipsam determinantem; si igitur essentia divina sit principium generationis aut spirationis, ipsa non determinatur ad producendum per aliquam proprietatem respectivam’.

'Thus, since the divine essence is indeterminate not by the indetermination of passive [power] but rather by the indetermination of the unlimitedness of its active power, it does not require some form to determine it. If, then, the divine essence were the basis for generation or spiration, it would not be determined to produce through some relative property’.

Ord., 1.7.1, n. 20 (Vat. 4: 114.1-11): 'Indeterminatio, quaedam est ``potentiae passivae’’ et quaedam ``potentiae activae’’ illimitatae ad plures effectus (exemplum: sicut sol est indeterminatus ad producendum multa generabilia, non quod aliquam formam recipiat ut agat, sed quia habet virtutem productivam illimitatam). Quod est indeterminatum ``indeterminatione materiae’’ oportet quod recipiat formam ad hoc quod agat, quia non est in actu sufficiente ad agendum, sed quod est indeterminatum ``indeterminatione potentiae activae’’ est ex se sufficienter determinatum ad producendum quemcumque illorum effectuum: et hoc si passum-dispositum sit approximatum, ubi requiritur passum, vel ex se ipso ubi passum non requiritur’.

'One kind of indetermination belongs to ``passive power’’ and another to ``active power’’ that is unlimited with respect to many effects. For example, the sun is indeterminate with respect to producing many generable things, not because it needs to receive some form in order to act, but rather because it has unlimited productive power. That which is indeterminate by ``the indetermination of matter’’ must receive a form in order to act, because it is not sufficiently actual itself to act. But that which is indeterminate by ``the indetermination of active power’’ is sufficiently determined from within itself to produce any of those effects (and in cases where a recipient is required, this will happen if a disposed recipient comes near enough, but in cases where no recipient is required, this will just happen from within itself)’.

Ord., 1.7.1, n. 20 (Vat. 4: 114.11-115.2): 'probatio: si tale activum esset de se determinatum ad unum effectum, posset de se sufficienter producere illum, --- sed si est indeterminatum ad hoc et ad aliud, ex tali illimitatione non tollitur perfectio causalitatis eius respectu talis effectus, sed tantum additur causalitas respectu alterius; ita ergo potest istud producere, sicut si tantum esset istius, et ita non requiritur aliquod determinans’.

'Proof: if such an active thing were determined within itself to [produce only] one effect, it could produce that effect sufficeintly from within itself. But if it were indeterminate with respect to this effect and another effect, such unlimitedness would not entail that it would lose the perfection of its causality with respect to the [first] effect. Rather, this would only add causality with respect to the other effect. Thus, it could produce this other effect, just as if it were limited to [produce only] this other effect, and it would not need something to determine it’.

Ord., 1.7.1, n. 21 (Vat. 4: 115.3-7): 'Ad propositum. Essentia divina non est principium indeterminatum ``indeterminatione materiae’’: ergo si est indeterminatum indeterminatione alterius quasi principii activi, erit simpliciter determinatum determinatione quae requiritur ad agendum, et ita non requiritur aliquid aliud’.

'As for the case at hand, the divine essence is not the basis for indeterminate [power] by the ``indetermination of matter’’. Therefore, if it is indeterminate by the indetermination of the other [sort], as the basis for active power, so to speak, then it will simply by determinate by the determination which is required for acting, and it will not need anything else’.

Ord., 1.7.1, n. 21 (Vat. 4: 115.7-12): 'Confirmatur, quia talis indeterminatio activi licet sit ad disparata, non tamen est ad contradictoria, sed determinate ad alteram partem contradictionis respectu cuiuslibet illorum disparatorum; nulla autem indeterminatio prohibet ex se determinate agere, nisi quae aliquo modo esset ad contradictoria, ut ad agere et non-agere; ergo etc.’

'This is confirmed in the following way. Although the indetermination of active [power] is [indeterminate with respect] to different kinds [of activities], it is not [indeterminate with respect] to contractory [states of affairs, viz, acting or not-acting]. Rather, it is determinate only to one of the contradictory [states of affairs, i.e., it is determinate to acting rather than to not-acting], and so [it is only indeterminate] with respect to the different kinds of [activities] for which it is [the basis]. However, no indetermination prohibits something within itself from acting except the kind [of indetermination that is indeterminate with respect] to contradictory [states of affairs] such as acting and non-acting. Therefore, etc.’

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Been offline for a while

As Seinfeld said in his dramatic return, 'what have I been doing?' Well, I've been working hard on my book, and I've been preparing applications for jobs. And all of that takes crazy amounts of time. I hope to get back to writing stuff here soon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Richard of St Victor on the Trinity

Over at, I began a series of posts on Richard of St. Victor's argument that God must be triune. It's a famous argument, or at least the argument Richard gives in book 3 of his De Trinitate is famous, and it's been taken up by a number of people in the 20th century, perhaps most notably by Richard Swinburne. For the first post of this series, see here, but keep an eye out for the rest of the series by myself, Scott Williams, Joseph Jedwab, and Dale Tuggy (the series is ongoing, so these cats haven't all posted their thoughts yet).

Basically, Richard argues that perfect love requires sharing it with another person, and perfect love between two requires loving for the sake of a third. And since God has perfect love, there must therefore be three persons in the Godhead. In my posts for this series, I argue that Richard probably begs the question: if we insist that perfect love requires, by definition, sharing it with another person, then we've already assumed from the start what we're trying to prove, namely that there is more than one person.

But hey, there are a lot of defenders of Richard out there (or perhaps they should more accurately be described as lovers of Richard, and therefore said lover(s) and Richard both exist -- studio audience laughter should be heard at this point), so my view will probably take some criticism.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Another argument of Scotus against Henry of Ghent (translation)

From the Lectura

‘If the [divine] essence is that from which the Son is produced, then this can only be in virtue of some being that belongs to that essence, for that from which the Son is generated must have some being if a form is imprinted on it’.

[Scotus, Lect., 1.5.2.un., n. 83 (Vat. 16: 441.22-25): ‘si essentia sit illud de quo producitur Filius, oportet quod hoc sit secundum aliquod esse ipsius essentiae, quia illud de quo generatur Filius oportet habere aliquod esse prout sibi imprimitur forma eius’.]

‘Therefore, I ask what is this “being” that the essence has, in virtue of which the Son is produced from it? It is either the being which the essence has in itself, or it is the being it has unshareably in some person’.

[Scotus, Lect., 1.5.2.un., n. 84 (Vat. 16: 442.1-3): ‘Quaero igitur quid est illud esse quod habet essentia, secundum quod de ea producitur Filius: vel est esse quod est essentia de se, aut est esse incommunicabile in alia persona?’]

‘If in the first way, then the Son would truly be generated from the essence of the Son just as [he is generated] from the essence of the Father [for the essence is shared by the Father and the Son]. But they [viz., Henry and his followers] concede that this cannot be admitted, for they say that the Son is [produced] from the [divine] substance as it is in the Father and not from the substance as it is in the three persons’.

[Scotus, Lect., 1.5.2.un., n. 84 (Vat. 16: 442.4-7): ‘Si primo modo, igitur ita vere Filius erit genitus de essentia Filii sicut de substantia et essentia Patris; unde et ipsi concedunt quod hoc non potest dici, dicentes quod Filius sit de substantia ut est Patris et non de substantia ut est trium personarum’.] [The reference is to Henry of Ghent, SQO, 54.3 (Bad. II f. 84rF): ‘Dico autem [Filius generat] de substantia generantis cum reduplicatione, in quantum scilicet generans est: licet enim eadem sit in tribus, non tamen habet rationem potentiae ut de ea generatur aliquis, nisi secundum quod habet esse in Patre’.]
‘But if it is said that the Son is [produced] from the essence of the Father insofar as the being [of the essence is unshareably] in another person (e.g., in the first existent [viz., the Father]), then I argue like this: the being [of that] from which something is [produced] by imprinting [a form in it] cannot be understood without the being [of that] in which that [same] something is [produced by imprinting a form in it], nor can the being [of that] in which that [same] something is [produced by imprinting a form in it] be understood without the former [viz., that from which that same something is produced by imprinting a form in it]. If, then, there is something from which the Son is [produced] by imprinting [a form in it], e.g., the substance insofar as it is in the Father, then that substance insofar as it is in the Father will necessarily be that in which the Son is [produced]. For if a surface is that from which whiteness [is produced] by imprinting [the whiteness in it], then that surface [will be that] in which the whiteness [is produced], and so by consequence, just as that surface will have whiteness, so also the essence as it is in the first person will have filiation’.

[Scotus, Lect., 1.5.2.un., n. 84 (Vat. 16: 442.8-18): ‘Sed si hoc dicatur, quod Filius est de essentia Patris secundum esse in alia persona, ut in prima exsistens, tunc arguo sic: esse de quo est aliquid per impressionem, non potest intelligi sine esse in quo est aliquid, nec esse in quo est aliquid potest intelligi sine hoc quin sit illud. Si igitur est aliquid de quo per impressionem est Filius, ut substantia secundum quod est in Patre, tunc substantia secundum quod est in Patre necessario erit illud in quo est Filius; sicut si superficies sit illud de quo per impressionem est albedo, superficies est illud in quo est aledo, — et per consequens sicut superficies est habens albedinem, ita essentia ut est in prima persona erit habens filiationem’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘It is necessary to assign some being to the [divine] essence insofar as it is that from which the Son is generated, for to be the principle — whatever kind of “principle” — of some real being only belongs to a real being. Therefore, I ask: what “being” belongs to the essence as it is that from which the Son is generated by an impression? If it is precisely its absolute being, which belongs to the essence qua essence, then the Son will be [produced] from the essence qua essence, and in this way the Son will be of three persons. Alternatively, if the “being” [I’m asking about] belongs to the [divine] essence insofar as it exists in some subsistent [person], then I ask: in which person? If it’s the ingenerate person [viz., the Father], then the concept of “the being from which something is produced” includes the notion of “the being in which the form is induced”, and so in that concept the “being in which” includes “that which is in it”, and by consequence the being that comes along with it formally. Therefore, if the [divine] essence as it is in the Father is tha from which the Son is generated (and by an impression, according to them), then it follows that the essence itself as it is in the Father will be that in which begotten knowledge [viz., the Son] is imprinted, and so the essence as it is in the Father will formally by the Word or “that which knows begotten knowledge”, which is inappropriate’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., nn. 72-73 (Vat. 4: 50.15-52.4): ‘essentiae ut de ea generatur Filius necesse est assignare aliquod esse, quia principiare aliquod verum ens — in quocumque genere principii — non convenit alicui nisi realiter enti. Quaero igitur, quod esse convenit essentiae ut ipsa est de quo per impressionem generatur Filius: aut praecise esse ad se, quod est essentiae ut essentiae, — et tunc Filius est de essentia ut essentia, et hoc modo est trium personarum; aut convenit sibi esse in aliqua subsistentia. Et tunc quaero, in qua: aut ingenita, — et si hoc, cum in intellectu eius quod est “esse de quo aliquid producitur” includatur hoc quod est “esse illud in quo forma inducitur”, et in intellectu eius quod est esse in quo includatur habere illud quod est in eo, et per consequens esse formaliter per ipsum, — ergo si essentia ut est in Patre sit de quo Filius generatur (et per impressionem, secundum eos), sequitur quod ipsa ut in Patre erit illud in quo notitia genita [viz., Verbum vel Filius] imprimitur, et ita essentia ut in Patre erit formaliter Verbum [viz., Filius] sive noscens notitia genita, quod est inconveniens’.]

From the Reportatio

‘Every real principle of a real entity has real being in virtue of which it is a principle, for otherwise it would be the principle of a non-being. The [divine] essence is a real principle of a real entity, namely insofar as it is a quasi material principle of a real being, namely the Son. Therefore, it gives some real being to him. But it either gives him absolute being or relative being. It does not give him absolute being, because then the Son would be from the substance of the Father insofar as [the Father’s substance] has absolute being, and then the Son would be from the substance of the three persons, for the absolute being of that substance does not belong to one person more than to another. Therefore, it is clear that the essence is not the principle from which the Son is produced insofar as it has absolute being. However, if the essence, as a quasi material principle, were to give relative being [to the Son], then this will be in the first person . . . . But it does not give relative being in the first person, because that which is the material principle of generation and that which receives the form are the same according to this “relative being”. Therefore, the being of this quasi material principle in the first person would receive the property of the Son, and then filiation would be received in the Father, so that in this way the Son [would be the Son] of [the Father’s] substance’.

[Scotus, Rep. 1.5.2.un., nn. 68-69 (Wolter, 276-278): ‘omne principium reale entis realis habet esse reale secundum quod principiat, alioquin illud quod principiat esset non-ens; essentia est principium reale et entis realis, scilicet in quantum est principium quasi materiale, et entis realis, scilicet Filii; ergo dat sibi aliquod reale esse. Ergo vel dat sibi esse ad se vel esse ad; sed non dat sibi esse ad se, quia tunc Filius esset de substantia Patris secundum esse ad se; ergo de substantia trium, eo quod substantia ad se non est plus unius personae quam alterius. Sic ergo patet quod essentia secundum esse ad se non est principium de quo principiatur Filius. Si autem essentia ut est principium quasi materiale det esse ad, ergo hoc erit vel in prima persona . . . . Nec dat “esse ad” in prima persona, quia secundum idem “esse ad” istius aliquid est principium materiale generationis et recipit formam; ergo secundum esse istius principii quai materialis in prima persona recipitur proprietas Filii, et sic filiatio recipitur in Patre et sic Filius substantiae’.]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One argument of Scotus against Henry of Ghent (translation)

From the Lectura

‘According to the Philosopher in Physics 5, a change belongs to the same species as its end-point, just as [the act of] whitewashing [a log] belongs to the species of whiteness, not the species of “white-log”, which is only one “thing” incidentally’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 72 (Vat. 16: 437.2-4): ‘quia secundum Philosophum V Physicorum [224b6-8] mutatio est eadem specie cum termino, ut dealbatio cum albedine, et non cum ligno albo, quod est unum per acccidens’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘A production is placed in a genus or a species from its formal end-point, as is clear from the Philosopher in Physics V [224a26-30]. For instance, a change in quality is placed in the genus of quality, for here there is a [qualitative] form which is the formal end-point of the change in quality. Therefore, if the formal end-point of some such production were a relation, that production would be placed in the genus of relation, and it would not be a generation’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 69 (Vat. 4: 49.8-13): ‘productio ponitur in genere vel specie ex suo termino formali, sicut patet per Philosophum V Physicorum, — sicut alteratio ponitur in genere qualitatis, qua ibi est forma quae est formalis terminus alterationis; ergo si formalis terminus huiusmodi productionis esset relatio, ista productio poneretur in genere relationis et non esset generatio’.]

From the Reportatio

‘Change and every per se production is placed per se in the genus of the end-point to which [the change or production is directed], and [it is placed] precisely in the genus of the formal end-point, according to Physics V, where examples are given from each [kind of] per se motion or change, namely generation, alteration [i.e., change in quality], and growth [i.e., change in size]. If, then, the formal end-point of the Son’s production were a relation [i.e., the Son’s unique property of sonship] rather than the [divine] essence, then the Son’s production would not be a generation, but more a change in relationship’.

[Scotus, Rep. 1.5.2.un., n. 63 (Wolter, 275): ‘mutatio et omnis per se productio ponitur per se in genere termini ad quem et praecipue in genere termini formalis, V Physicorum, ubi exemplificatur de omnibus per se motu et mutatione, scilicet generatione et alteratione et augmentatione. Si igitur formalis terminus productionis Filii non est essentia sed relatio, tunc productio Filii non esset generatio, sed magis adaliquatio erit’.]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some Scotus passages on the formal distinction (translation)

‘By this composite of realities — i.e., of a potential reality and an actual reality — it is minimal, which suffices for the nature of a genus and a difference. But this is not able to obtain where any reality in something is infinite, for however much something [infinite] is taken precisely, it cannot be potential with respect to some reality. Therefore, since there is some essential reality in God that is formally infinite, there is nothing that can be formally taken as having the nature of a genus’.

[Scotus, Ord., n. 107 (Vat. 4: 202.5-11): ‘Ista composito realitatum — potentialis et actualis — minima est, quae sufficit ad rationem generis et differentiae et ista non stat cum hoc quod quaelibet realitas in aliquo sit infinita: realitas enim si esset de se infinita, quantumcumque praecise sumpta, non esset in potentia ad aliquam realitatem; ergo cum in Deo quaecumque realitas essentialis sit formaliter infinita, nulla est a qua formaliter posset accipi ratio generis’.]

‘Because some reality is taken to be a genus which, considered in itself, is potential with respect to a reality that is taken to be a difference. But nothing infinite is potential with respect to anything, as is clear from the preceding question. This proof obtains for the composition of a species and by the potentiality of a genus, but both are removed from God, on account of his infinity’.

[Scotus, Ord., n. 103 (Vat. 4: 200.5-10): ‘quia genus sumitur ab aliqua realitate quae secundum se est potentialis ad realitatem a qua accipitur differentia; nullum infinitum est potentiale ad aliquid, ut patet ex dictis in quaestione praecedente. Probatio ista stat in compositione speciei et potentialite generis, sed utraque removetur a Deo, propter infinitatem’.]

‘Sometimes, when there are not two things there (as there are two things in incidental composites), or at least when in one thing there is some proper reality that is taken as a genus and another reality that is taken as a difference, and let’s call the first a and the second b, then the following obtains: a, considered in itself, is potential with respect to b, and so by understanding a precisely and by understanding b precisely, when a is understood in the first instant of nature (it which it is precisely itself), it is perfectible by b (as if b were a distinct thing), but it is not really perfected by b, and this is because of the identity of a and b with some whole with which they are really and primarily the same, for [in these cases] a certain whole is produced primarily, and in that whole both of those realities are produced. But if one of those were produced without the other, then the one would be potential to the other and it would really be imperfect without the other’.

[Scotus, Ord., n. 106 (Vat. 4: 201.11-202.4): ‘Aliquando, quando non sunt ibi res et res (sicut in accidentibus), saltem in una re est aliqua propria realitas a qua sumitur genus et alia realitas a qua sumitur differentia; dicatur prima a et secunda b: a secundum se est potentiale ad b, ita quod praecise intelligendo a et praecise intelligendo b, a ut intelligitur in primo instanti naturae — in quo praecise est ipsum — ipsum est perfectibile per b (sicut si res esset alia), sed quod non perficitur realiter per b, hoc est propter identitatem a et b ad aliquod totum, cui realiter primo sunt eadem, quod quidem totum primo producitur et in ipso toto ambae istae realitates producuntur; si tamen altera istarum sine altera produceretur, vere esset potentialis ad eam et vere esset imperfecta sine illa’.]

‘For “[x] to formally include [y]” is for [x] to include something [y] in its essential nature, and so if the definition of the including [x] were stipulated, it would include the definition [of y] or a part of the definition [of y]. But just as the definition of common goodness does not have [the definition] of wisdom in itself, then neither does infinite [goodness include] infinite [wisdom]. Therefore, there is some formal non-identity between wisdom and goodness, in as much as they would have distinct definitions if they were definable. However, a definition indicates not just a concept caused only by the mind, it also indicates the what-ness of the thing, so formal non-identity is real on the part of the thing. In this way then, I know that the mind which puts together the proposition “wisdom is formally non[-identical] to goodness” does not cause the truth of that proposition by putting it together. Rather, the terms of that proposition are found in the object itself, and the mind’s act of putting them together is true from the fact that they are put together in the thing itself’.

[Scotus, Ord., n. 193 (Vat. 4: 261.14-262.10): ‘quia “includere formaliter” est includere aliquid in ratione sua essentiali, ita quod si definitio includentis assignaretur, inclusum esset definitio vel pars definitionis; sicut autem definitio bonitatis in communi non habet in se sapientiam, ita nec infinita [bonitas] infinitam [sapientiam]: est igitur aliqua non-identitas formalis sapientiae et bonitatis, in quantum earum essent distinctae definitiones, si essent definibiles. Definitio autem non tantum indicat rationem causatam ab intellectu, sed quiditatem rei: est ergo non-identitas formalis ex parte rei, et intelligo sic, quod intellectus componens istam “sapiens non est formaliter bonitas”, non causat actu suo collativo veritatem huius compositionis, sed in obiecto invenit extrema, ex quorum compositione fit actus verus’.]

Monday, July 6, 2009

Scotus on how the divine essence and a personal property 'combine' to make a person (translation)

‘But how is it that the nature of a real relation [viz., a personal property such as sonship] does not have the same formal nature as the divine essence, but nevertheless the two do not constitute a composite together? The reason for this is that the nature of the one is perfectly the same as the nature of the other, for on account of the infinity of the one nature, whatever can be [compresent] with it is perfectly the same with it. Therefore, the perfection of this identity excludes any composition or quasi-composition, and that identity holds because of the infinity [of the divine essence]. Still, that infinity does not destroy the formal natures [of the things contained in it], so this one [viz., sonship] is formally distinct from that one [viz., the divine essence]’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 117 (Vat. 4: 69.6-13): ‘Qualiter autem stat quod ratio relationis [e.g., filiationis] in re non sit formaliter eadem rationi [divinae] essentiae et tamen in eodem concurrentes non constituunt compositum, — hoc ideo est, quia illa ratio est perfecte eadem illi: propter infinitatem enim unius rationis, quidquid potest esse cum ea, est perfecte idem sibi. Perfectio ergo identitatis excludit omnem compositionem et quasi-compositionem, quae identitas est propter infinitatem, — et tamen infinitas non tollit formales rationes quin haec formaliter non sit illa’.]

‘Now, [to say “deity is in the Father”] is true insofar as [deity or the divine essence] is a nature in the person, for that person has its “being” and “whatness” through that nature (for this belongs to a “whatness” insofar as it is a “whatness”), but this is not because the form informs the person, and this is true even in creatures. But [to say “fatherhood is in the Father”] is true insofar [fatherhood] is an individual form in the individual, but [again] not by informing it’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., nn. 121-122 (Vat. 4: 71.8-13): ‘Nam prima [viz., “deitas est in Patre”, cf. n. 120] est vera ut natura est in supposito, habente “esse” quiditativum ea (quia hoc convenit quiditati unde quiditas est), sed non propter hoc est forma informans suppositum, etiam in creaturis. Secunda [viz., “paternitas est in Patre”, cf. n. 120] est vera ut forma hypostatica est in hypostasi, – sed nec informat ipsam’.]

‘I concede that the relation [viz., a unique personal property like sonship] contributes to the actuality of the [divine] person, but it does not contribute actuality to the “whatness” [of that person], for the relation distinguishes that person “personally” rather than in terms of its “whatness”. However, the essence contributes actuality to the “whatness” [of the person], and by that “whatness”, it distinguishes [the person from other things with a different “whatness”]’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 127 (Vat. 4: 72.16-19): ‘Concedo relationem esse actum personalem, non actum quiditativum, – quia personaliter distinguit et non quiditative. Essentia autem est actus quiditativus et quiditative distinguens’.]

‘So although the “whatness” [in a person] is the form of that person just as much as its individual form is (as it also is in creatures), it is not an informing form. For in creatures, the “whatness” is a part [of a person], so to speak, but in a divine person it is [present] as one formal nature, as it were, formally concurring with another to [constitute] one simple thing that has within itself many formal natures’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 122 (Vat. 4: 71.13-17): ‘Tam enim quiditas quam forma hypostatica, etiam in creaturis, licet sit forma suppositi, non tamen est forma informans, sed ibi quasi pars, hic autem quasi una ratio formalis concurrens cum alia, formaliter, ad idem simplex sed habens in se plures rationes formales’.]

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Scotus on generation without matter

From the Reportatio

‘Insofor as it implies production, generation as such does not require matter or quasi-matter, and where it happens without matter, generation is said to be perfect and without any imperfection. Therefore, this is how it has to be ascribed to God, for in no way can generation be conceived without imperfection if it is understood to presuppose matter’.

[Scotus, Rep. 1.5.2.un., n. 74 (Wolter, 279): ‘generatio ut importat productionem, quae ut sic non requirit materiam nec quasi materiam et ut sic dicit perfectionem sine imperfectione; ergo ut sic habet attribui Deo. Sed nullo modo concipitur sine imperfectione ut intelligitur praesupponere materiam’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘The reason that a “generated creature” is not [produced] from nothing is that something in it (such as matter) pre-exists. Therefore, . . . if the form of something were to pre-exist and the matter were newly added to it so that it were informed by the pre-existent form, that very product would not be [produced] from nothing, for something in it pre-existed [the production] . . . . Therefore, if someone [like Henry] were to say that the Son is not [produced] from nothing “because his essence existed in the Father prior in the order of origin”, and if [they said that] the essence is the matter, so to speak, in the Son’s generation, then how much more would it be the case that the Son is not [produced] from nothing if the [divine] essence that “exists in the Father prior in origin” is a quasi-form shared with the Son?’

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 103 (Vat. 4: 64.3-13): ‘quia “creatura genita” non est de nihilo, quia aliquid eius praeexsistit, ut materia. Ergo . . . si forma alicuius praeexsisteret et materia de novo adveniret et informaretur illa forma iam praeexsistente, ipsum productum non esset de nihilo, quia aliquid eius praeexstitisset . . . . Ergo si Filius non diceretur esse de nihilo “quia essentia eius secundum ordinem originis praefuit in Patre”, et hoc si illa essentia esset quasi-materia generationis Fili, multo magis nec Filius erit de nihilo si illa essentia “prius origine exsistens in Patre” sit quasi-forma communicata Filio’.]

From the Reportatio

‘It is impossible for the numerically same [lump of] matter to remain under the form of the generator and the generated [at the same time], whatever sort of thing the generator or the generated is, for the same [lump of] matter cannot be simultaneously perfected by two ultimate forms which give complete being to the matter. Nevertheless, the same form can give being to many [lumps of] matter simultaneously, or to one [lump of] matter to which it did not give being before. This is clear in growth, for where the form of food has corrupted into flesh, the [already existing] form of the flesh newly perfects the matter of the food, because the [body’s] flesh converts the food into flesh and perfects the matter of the food insofar as it is flesh pre-existing in the food’.

[Scotus, Rep. 1.5.2.un., n. 80 (Wolter, 282): ‘impossibile est eandem materiam numero manere sub forma generantis et geniti, quodcumque sit generans vel genitum, quia non potest eadem materia simul perfici duabus formis ultimis quae dant esse completum materiae; potest tamen eadem forma dare esse pluribus materiis simul, sive uni materiae cui non dabat prius. Patet in augmentatione ubi, corrupta forma alimenti in carnem, forma carnis de novo perficit materiam alimenti, quia caro convertit alimentum in carnem et perficit materiam alimenti ut carnem praeexsistentem in alimento’.]

From the Lectura

‘This can also be shown with an example. If something were to grow in itself without anything being added to it (as it happens in rarefaction), here the form of the growable thing would be changed and it would receive some new perfection. But suppose that there is some growth that occurs by something more being added to it, and that the soul (which havs the capacity and power to perfect the whole organic body) only perfects one part (like the heart) [first], and afterwards when other parts of the body are added to it, the soul — without any change to itself — perfects those other organic parts without being perfected in some other way. Similarly, the divine essence is supremely perfect in the first instant of nature, and afterwards the relations spring forth and come onto it, as it were, and then the essence makes itself intimate to them, giving them every perfection that they have and making them God by deity. For this reason, in no way does the essence have a passive capacity to be perfected by them’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 105 (Vat. 16: 451.10-21): ‘Hoc etiam declaratur in exemplo: si alquid augmentetur in se sine alio adveniente, ut est in rarefactione, ibi forma rei augmentabilis mutatur et recipit novam perfectionem. Sed ponamus quod augmentatio fiat aliquo extra adveniente, isto modo, quod anima habens potentiam et virtutem perficiendi totum corpus organicum tantum perficiat unam partem, ut cor, et quod postea aliae partes corporis addantur, tunc anima — sine ulla mutatione sui — absque hoc quod aliunde perficitur perficit alias partes organicas. — Sic essentia divina, in primo signo naturae est perfectissima; postea, quasi superveniant relationes pullulantes, essentia intimat se eis, dans eis quidquid perfectionis habent et quod sint Deus deitate, — et ideo nullo modo habet potentiam passivam ut perficiatur eis’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘An example of this can be taken from creatures, by postulating a certain counterpossible situation. [We know that] growth happens when food [that’s been eaten] comes to be corrupted in the body, and its matter receives the form of flesh, and [thereby being new flesh added to the body], in this way it becomes informed by the soul. Here we are supposing that the same matter which remains throughout is apt to receive another part of the [soul’s] form (just as it is thought to happen in rarefaction), so the matter remains one, though it was first informed [by the form of food], but is now informed by a new form. This is formally a real change, because the matter goes from being deprived of to having a form. Now let’s look at this from the side of the soul. Suppose that the same soul perfects first one part of the body (such as the heart), and then later, when another part of the organic body which is perfectible by the soul is added to it [such as some food that is converted into flesh], the soul perfects that newly added part. In this case, the soul is not changed by this because it is not first deprived of and then comes to have a form. Deprivation is a lack in something that is naturally apt to receive, but [in our example here], the soul is first not-informing [the acquired part] and afterwards it is informing [it], and the soul is not apt to receive something, but rather to give’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 133 (Vat. 4: 76.1-15): ‘Exemplum istius potest accipi in creaturis, ponendo ibi quaedam “per impossibile”. Augmentatio modo fit per hoc quod alimentum adveniens corpori corrumpitur, et materia eius recipit formam carnis, et sic informatur ab anima. Ponatur quod eadem materia manens nata sit recipere aliam partem formae (sicut ponitur in rarefactione), materia manet una, quae prius fuit formata et nunc nova forma formatur, — ipsa tamen formaliter est vere mutata, quia de privatione transit ad formam. — Ponamus, ex alia parte, quod anima eadem perficeret primo unam partem corporis (ut cor), postea adveniret alia pars corporis organici, perfectibilis ab anima, anima perficeret illam partem advenientem de novo, — et ipsa tamen non mutaretur, quia non esset in ea primo privatio et postmodum forma. Privatio enim est carentia, in apto nato recipere; anima autem primo non-informans et postea informans non est nata aliquid recipere sed dare’.]

‘In each of these cases, there is a real production of some product, but in the first case, there is a change, and in the second case, there is not’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 134 (Vat. 4: 76.16-17): ‘In utroqe extremorum istorum vere esset productio alicuius producti, sed in primo mutatio, in secundo non’.]
‘A more apt example can be seen if we suppose that the matter of the animated heart could remain the same and be shared with diverse forms — say, that of a hand and a foot — so that by the [hypothetical] active power of the animated heart, it would produce those composites [namely, the hand and the foot] from its matter that it shares with them and their forms. Here there would be a true production of the composite wholes, and they would have the same matter, though this would happen through a change in the matter. Now let’s look at this from the side of the soul. Let’s suppose that the soul [which first exists in and so animates the heart] is unlimited with respect to its actuality as a form, such that it could be shared with many things, so that by the power of that soul in the heart, it could share itself with a hand and a foot which the animated heart produces. If that happened, there would here be a true production of many things that are consubstantial in their form, without any change in that form’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 135 (Vat. 4: 76.18-77.4): ‘Aptius videtur exemplum, si ponamus materiam cordis animati posse eandem communicari diversis formis — puta manus et pedis — et hoc virtute activa cordis animati, producentis composita ista ex materia sua communicata et ex formis istis, hic vere esset productio totorum habentium eandem materiam, et esset cum mutatione illius materiae; sed si, ex alia parte, ponamus animam — propter sui illimitationem in ratione actus et formae — posse communicari multis et virtute animae in corde ipsam communicari manui et pedi, productis a corde animato, hic vere esset productio multorum consbustantialium in forma, absque mutatione illius formae’.]

‘In each example, it is proposed that some being is produced which is subsistent by itself (rather than proposing that some parts are produced that belong to the same thing, because to be a part is an imperfection). These cases being posed, the second case in each example (which is about a form being shared with the product) perfectly represents production in God, while the first case in each example (which is about matter being shared) does not. Let’s modify this example even further, namely by supposing that although the soul is in the heart and the hand and the foot, it is not an informing form (for being a component of a composite is an imperfection), but is rather a whole form which is those subsistent things [viz., the heart, the hand, and the foot] and which animates them. Similarly, deity is understood to be shared with the relational subsistences (assuming that the persons are relative subsistences) not like quasi matter, but rather as a form, and not by informing them but rather as that by which each relation or the relative subsistent is God’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 136 (Vat. 4: 77.5-16): ‘In utroque exemplo ponantur producta esse per se subsistentia, non partes eisdem, quia esse partem est imperfectionis. Hoc posito, secundus modus in utroque exemplo, qui est de communicatione formae ipsi producto, perfecte repraesentat productionem in Deo, non primus, qui est de communicatione materiae, — et hoc, adhuc addendo in positione, quod anima in corde et manu et pede non sit forma informans, quia componibilitas includit imperfectionem, sed sit forma totalis qua illa subsistentia sint et animata sint: ita quod intelligitur deitas non communicari quasi-materia, sed relationibus subsistentibus — si personae ponantur relativae — communicatur deitas per modum formae, non informantis sed qua relatio vel relativum subsistens est Deus’.] [See also, Rep. 1.5.2.un., nn. 77-79 (Wolter, 280-281).]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scotus on change vs. production (translation)

From the Lectura

‘Generation in creatures includes both change and production. For a [creaturely] generator has imperfect power, so it requires not only another cause in the same genus, but also a cause in another genus, and for this reason, it does not produce the whole composite [from nothing]. Rather, it presupposes [a lump of] matter, and then it produces the form by transforming that matter.

Thus, change and production have different end-points, for the end-point of change is the form introduced in the matter, but the proper end-point of production is the whole composite (hence the Philosopher speaks of the end-point of generation in various ways, for in Physics II [193b12-18] he postulates that the form is the end-point of generation, and in [Metaphysics] VII [1033b16-18] he says that the composite is primarily generated).

From this, it is clear that the nature of production is separable from the nature of change — by removing the imperfection of the agent — without contradiction, for production is that by which a thing acquires being. Now, it is incidental to a thing which is produced [by a creature] — and so which acquires its being through that production — that it is changed [in this process]. This is evident in creation, where the whole is truly produced without any preceding change. Whence, where there is perfect active power, a thing can acquire all of its being without a change.

Therefore, production is separable from change, for there are distinct formal end-points in generation: the proper start- and end-points of change are being deprived of a form and having a form, but the end-point of a production is the whole composite itself. For an agent with perfect power can act, and there will then be a production, but not a change. Whence in creation, because something is produced by a perfect production, there is a production but not a generation’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 91 (Vat. 16: 444.23-445.18): ‘generatio in creaturis includit mutationem et productionem. Quia generans est imperfectae virtutis, ideo non solum requirit aliam causam eiusdem generis, sed causam alterius generis causae, et ideo non producit totum compositum, sed praesupponit materiam, et tunc producit formam transmutando materiam. Et ideo alios terminos habet formaliter mutatio et productio, nam terminus mutationis est ipsa forma inducta in materia, sed terminus proprius productionis est totum compositum (et secundum hoc, Philosophus variis modis loquitur de termino generationis, nam in II Physicorum [193b12-18] ponit quod forma est terminus generationis, — et in VII [Metaphysicae, 1033b16-18], quod compositum primo generetur): ex quo patet quod ratio productionis separabilis est a ratione mutationis — amota imperfectione agentis — sine contradictione, nam productio est qua res capit esse. Nunc autem accidit rei quae producitur — et quae esse capit per productionem — quod mutetur, sicut patet in creatione, ubi vere producitur totum sine mutatione praecedente; unde ubi est perfecta virtus activa, ibi potest res capere totum esse sine mutatione. Productio igitur separabilis est a mutatione, tum quia habent terminos formaliter distinctos in generatione, nam termini proprie mutationis sunt privatio et forma, sed terminus productionis est ipsum totum compositum, — tum quia agens perfectae virtutis potest agere, et ibi erit tunc productio, sed non mutatio; unde in creatione, quia producitur aliquid a perfecto producente, est productio et non generatio’.]

‘Therefore, by laying aside the imperfections in generation (namely, the presupposition of matter, which is required on account of the agent’s imperfection), generation is transfered to the divine case. For this reason, generation that’s transfered to the divine case only includes production, but not change, and so in no way in divinity is there a subject or matter or quasi-matter, since there is no change nor quasi-change in God’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 92 (Vat. 16: 445.19-25): ‘Auferendo igitur illud quod est imperfectionis in generatione (scilicet praesuppositio materiae, quae requiritur propter imperfectionem agentis), transfertur generatio ad divina. Et ideo generatio tantum transfertur ad divina prout includit productionem, et non mutationem, — et ideo nullo modo in divinis est subiectum aut materia nec quasi-materia, cum ibi non sit mutatio nec quasi-mutatio’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘There are two things said to be in generation in creatures: change and production. And of these, there formal natures are different, and they are separable from each other without contradiction’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 94 (Vat. 4: 60.16-18): ‘Generatio in creatura duo dicit, mutationem et productionem, et istorum formales rationes aliae sunt et sine contradictione separabiles ad invicem’.]

‘For production formally belongs to its product, and it is incidental to it that it comes about by changing some part of the composite, as is clear in creation [where the production occurs without presupposing a part such as matter to change]. Change is formally the act which the “changeable” thing comes to have after being deprived of it, but change occurs along with production in creatures because of the imperfection of [creaturely] productive power, for it is not [powerful enough] to give the end-point of production all of its being. Rather, some part of it is presupposed, and then changed to another part of it, and in this way the producer produces a composite. Therefore, change and production can be separated without contradiction, and they really are separated in cases where there is perfect productive power’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 95 (Vat. 4: 60.19-61.7): ‘Production enim est formaliter ipsius producti, et accidit sibi quod fiat cum mutatione alicuius partis compositi, ut patet in creatione; mutatio formaliter est actus “mutabilis” qui de privatione transit. Concomitatur autem mutatio productionem in creaturis propter imperfectionem potentiae productivae, quae non potest dare totale esse termino productionis, sed aliquid eius praesuppositum transmutatur ad aliam partem ipsius et sic producit compositum. Ergo sine contradictione possunt separari, et realiter separantur comparando ad potentiam productivam perfectem’.]

‘This is apparent in creation, where because of the perfection of the productive power [of the creator], something is first placed in all of its being, and this is the true nature of production, in which the end-point of the production acquires its being through the production. But there is not here [viz., in the case of creation ex nihilo] a change, insofar as change is said to be some substratum that ‘exists now in a way that it did not before’, from Physics VI [234b5-7, 10-13]. For in creation, there is not some substratum’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 96 (Vat. 4: 61.8-13): ‘Hoc etiam apparet in creatione, ubi propter perfectionem potentiae productivae ponentis primo in esse totum, vere est ratio productionis, in quantum per eam terminus productus accipit esse, — sed non est ibi ratio mutationis, in quantum mutatio dicit aliquid substratum “aliter nunc se habere quam prius”, ex VI Physicorum [234b5-7, 10-13]. In creatione enim non est aliquid substratum’.]

‘To the case at hand. Since no imperfection should be postulated in God, but rather only total perfection, and since change is said to be imperfect in its very nature, for it pertains to potentiality, in virtue of which something is changeable — and accordingly the active power in the changer is also said to be imperfect, for an imperfect changer necessarily requires a concurrent cause in order to produce something (for there [in God] htere is no imperfection, nor any sort of passive power, nor even any imperfect active power, but only the highest perfection) — in no way is generation in God postulated with the character of change or quasi-change. Rather, generation is postulated in God only insofar as it is production, that is, insofar as something acquires being from it. Thus, generation occurs without matter in God — and for this reason, matter nor quasi-matter is attributed to generation in God, but only the end-point, and this is either the total or primary (i.e., the adequate) end-point, namely that which is primarily produced in being, or it is the formal end-point, according to which the primary end-point formally acquires being’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 97 (Vat. 4: 61.14-62.10): ‘Ad propositum. Cum in divinis nihil ponendum sit imperfectionis, sed totum perfectionis, et mutatio de ratione sui dicit imperfectionem, quia potentialitatem, et hoc in mutabili, — et concomitanter etiam dicit imperfectionem potentiae activae in mutante, quia talis requirit necessario causam concausantem ad hoc ut producat (non autem fit ibi aliqua imperfectio, nec qualis est potentiae passivae, nec etiam aliqua imperfectio potentiae activae, sed summa perfectio), — nullo modo ponetur ibi generatio sub ratione mutationis nec quasi-mutationis, sed tantum generatio ut est productio, in quantum scilicet aliquid per eam capit esse, ponetur in divinis. Et ideo generatio ut est in divinis, est sine materia, — et ideo generationis ut est in divinis non assignabitur materia nec quasi-materia, sed tantum terminus: et hoc vel totalis sicut primus, id est adaequatus — qui scilicet primo producitur in esse — vel terminus formalis, secundum quem terminus primus formalis accipit esse’.]

From the Reportatio

‘The difference between generation, production, and change is clear, for change is an act [that happens to] something which is changeable by itself, so its start- and end-points are “not such” and “such”. Whence, that which now exists in different way than it did before is said to be changeable. But generation is not an act [that happens to] something changeable, but rather is, by itself, the way to [acquire] a form, just as perishing is the way [to become] deprived [of a form]. Thus, the start- and end-points of generation are “existence” and “not existing”, that is, [to have a substantial] form and [to be] deprived [of a substantial form]. Production, however, is the way not to exist or not to exist, nor the way to acquire or be deprived of a form, but rather the way for [something] to be generated or produced. So production has for its end-point not a form but rather the whole composite’.

[Scotus, Rep. 1.5.2.un., n. 75 (Wolter, 279-280): ‘Quod autem sit differentia inter generationem, productionem et mutationem, patet; quia mutatio est actus per se mutabilis et termini sunt non tale et tale. Unde illud dicitur mutabile quod se habet aliter nunc quam prius. Generatio autem non est actus mutabilis, sed est per se via ad formam, sicut corruptio ad privationem, et ita termini eius sunt esse et non esse, id est forma et privatio. Productio autem est via non ad esse vel non esse sive ad formam et privationem, sed ad genitum vel productum, ita quod habet pro per se termino non formam sed compositum’.]

Monday, June 22, 2009

Scotus on 'Filius est de substantia Patris' (translation)

From the Lectura

‘I say that the Son is truly begotten and he is from the substance of the Father. Now, the doctor who holds the aforementioned opinion [viz., Henry] says that the Master [Peter Lombard] concedes that the Son is from the substance of the Father according to a causality of origin. And certainly, if he [Peter] were to say this, he would not say enough, for creatures are also from the substance of the Father according to a causality of origin. Whence, the Master does not only speak of a cause of origin, nor does he only speak of consubstantiality, for in that way it could be said that the Father is from the Son. But the preposition “from” here indicates both origin and consubstantiality, just as one ancient doctor said. Whence, the preposition “from” here indicates consubstantiality along with origin, and in this way the Son is not created by the Father, nor is the Father from the Son’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 93 (Vat. 16: 446.1-12): ‘dico quod vere Filius generatur et est de substantia Patris. Nam doctor tenens priorem opinonem, dicit quod Magister concedit quod Filius sit de substantia Patris secundum causalitatem originis, — et certe, si hoc diceret, non sufficienter diceret, quia sic creatura est de substantia Patris secundum causalitatem originis. Unde nec dicit solam causam originantem, nec solam consubstantialitatem, quia sic posset dici quod Pater esset de Filio, sed praepositio “de” in proposito notat originationem et consubstantialitatem, sicut unus antiquus doctor dicit; unde notat in proposito consubstantialitatem cum origine, et sic nec est creatura de Patre nec Pater de Filio’. The editors say that the ‘antiquus doctor’ mentioned here is Alexander of Hales, Summa, I, n. 300 (I 433b).]

‘Whence, it should be known that these Latin prepositions “a” and “ab” [which mean “from”] signify the circumstances of an originating cause, like when we talk about “the light from [a] the sun” and “the brightness from [ab] the flame”. But this Latin preposition “ex” [which also means “from”] denotes the circumstances of a material cause, as when we talk about how a “man is [composed] from [ex] a body and a soul”. The Latin preposition “de” [which also means “from”] denotes the circumstances of an efficient cause, but this is not generally the case, for we do not say that a “house is from [de] a builder”. Whence, the preposition “de” does not universally identify the circumstances of an agent cause in the way that “a” or “ab” do. Rather, [in the case at hand] it denotes the circumstances of an agent cause with a consubstantiality of origin. In this way, the Master [Peter Lombard] meant to say that the Son is from [de] the substance of the Father, as it is clear from his exposition of his meaning in this distinction’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 94 (Vat. 16: 446.13-23): ‘Unde sciendum est quod istae praepositiones “a” et “ab” significant circumstantiam causae originantis, sicut cum dicitur “lumen est a sole” et “splendor ab igne”; haec autem praepositio “ex” denotat circumstantiam causae materialis, sicut “homo est ex corpore et anima”; haec autem praepositio “de” denotat circumstantiam causae efficientis, sed non in generali, quia non dicimus quod “domus est de aedificatore”: unde non dicit circumstantiam causae agentis in universali, sicut “a” vel “ab”, sed denotat circumstantiam causae agentis cum consubstantialitate originis, — et sic intendit Magister quod Filius est de substantia Patris, sicut patet intuenti expositionem suam in ista distinctione’. For the reference to Peter Lombard here, the editors point to his Sent. 1.5, c. 1, n. 64 (I 49); c. 2, n. 66 (I 50).]

From the Ordinatio

‘The word “from” here does not indicate an efficient or originating cause alone, for if it did, creatures would be from the substance of God. Nor does it indicate consubstantiality alone, for then the Father would be from the substance of the Son. Rather, it indicates origination and consubstantiality at the same time. That is, insofar as the term “substance” is combined with the preposition “from”, it indicates consubstantiality, such that the Son has the same substance and quasi-form as the Father, from whom he is originated. And insofar as the term “substance” is combined with “of the Father”, it indicates the [Son’s] originating principle. Thus, the whole statement “the Son is from the substance of the Father” has this sense: the Son is originated from the Father such that he is consubstantial with him’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 99 (Vat. 4: 62.15-63.4): ‘Ubi per ly “de” non notatur tantum efficientia vel originatio, quia si tantum efficientia, tunc creaturae essent de substantia Dei, — nec notatur per illud “de” tantum consubstantialitas, quia tunc Pater esset de substantia Filii, — sed notatur simul originatio et consubstantialitas: ut scilicet in casuali huius praepositionis “de” notetur consubstantialitas, sic quod Filius habet eandem substantiam et quasi-formam cum Patre, de quo est originaliter, — et per illud quod in genitivo construitur cum isto casuali, notetur principium originans; ita quod totalis intellectus huius sermonis “Filius est de substantia Patris” est iste: Filius est originatus a Patre ut consubstantialis ei’.]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scotus on how the Son is not created but is still a Son (translation)

From the Lectura

‘I say that the Son is not [produced] from nothing, even though he is not [produced] from the substance of the Father as from matter. The Son is [produced] from the substance of the Father as from a consubstantial-formal principle of the originator and the originated, and this most truly preserves that the Son is not produced from nothing, and it does so more truly than if the Son were generated from quasi-matter. Here’s an example from creatures: if a flame were to generate a flame without presupposing any matter, and assuming that there were no pre-existing matter such that it produces the matter in the other flame and shares its form with it, the produced flame would more truly not be produced from nothing than in the way of being produced that presupposes matter, for the flame is more truly a being by the form than it is by matter. In this way, the Son is not [produced] from nothing, because he is from the substance of the Father as from the formal end-point of production, for the Father shares the whole [divine substance or essence] as the [formal] end-point of [the Son’s production]. Thus, although the Son is not [produced] from matter, nor does [his production] presuppose anything with the character of matter, he is still not produced from nothing’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 96 (Vat. 16: 447.9-21): ‘dico quod Filius non est de nihilo, licet non sit de substantia Patris quasi de materia, — quia Filius est de substantia Patris sicut de principio consubstantiali-formali originanti et originato, et hoc salvat verissime Filium non esse de nihilo, et verius quam si Filius generaretur quasi ex materia. Exemplum in creaturis: si ignis generaret ignem ita quod non praesupponeret materiam — nec praeexsisteret materia — sed produceret materiam et communicaret formam, verius esset ignis tunc non de nihilo quam modo quando praesupponit materiam, et eo verius quo forma est verius ens quam materia. Sic Filius non est de nihilo, quia est de substantia Patris ut de termino formali, quia Pater communicat totum ut terminus; et ideo Filius, licet non sit ex materia nec praesupponat aliquid in ratione materiae, non tamen est de nihilo’.]

‘This consubstantiality is sufficient [to give the Son] his character of ‘being a Son’ for the nature of fatherhood in creatures does not come from the fact that fathers share matter, but rather because they share [their formal] end-point. Whence, when a cow generates, it proffers semen, and if it then were to produce and proffer from itself a cow, it would truly be a father. Whence, if the cow were able to proffer a cow just as it can proffer semen, on account of that produced end-point it would be called a “father” even if it did nothing else. Whence, even if this kind of an immediate production were delayed, a cow would still be produced from its semen. Therefore, a cow is not a “father” because he shares his matter in a generation, but rather moreso because of the form and the [primary] end-point that he produces. So also in God, the Father is not a Father because he produces the Son from quasi matter, but rather because he shares the whole [divine substance or essence with the Son] as [the formal] end-point of production’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.2.un., n. 97 (Vat. 16: 447.22-448.8): ‘Et sufficit haec consubstantialitas ad rationem “Filii”, quia ratio paternitatis in creaturis non est quia materiam communicat, sed propter terminum communicatum. Unde quando bos generat, decidit semen, — et si tunc produceret et decideret a se bovem, vere pater esset: unde bos si posset, decideret bovem sicut semen, et propter istum terminum productum dicitur esse “pater” et si nihil aliud operaretur; unde si moreretur statim, adhuc ex semine producitur bos. Non igitur est bos “pater” propter communicationem materiae generationis, sed magis propter formam et terminum quem producit. Ita Pater in divinis non erit Pater quia producit Filium quasi ex materia, sed quia communicat totum ut terminus’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘But to understand the affirmative claim that “the Son is from the substance of the Father” in the aforesaid way [namely, such that the Son is originated from the Father and is consubstantial with him], I say that this understanding truly preserves the fact that the Son is not [produced] from nothing, and it even truly preserves that the Son is “from” in the way that’s required for sonship’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 102 (Vat. 4: 63.18-64.2): ‘Ad intellectum autem istius affirmativae qua dicitur “Filius est de substantia Patris”, secundum intellectum praedictum [viz., totalis intellectus huius sermonis “Filius est de substantia Patris” est iste: quod Filius est originatus a Patre ut consubstantialis ei], dico quod intellectus ille vere salvat quod Filius non sit de nihilo, — vere etiam salvat quod Filius est “de” sicut requiritur ad filiationem’.]

‘I explain the first point [viz., that the Son is not produced from nothing] like this: a “generated creature” is not [produced] from nothing because something in it (such as matter) pre-exists. Therefore, since the form is something in the composite and it is something in it that’s more perfect than its matter, if the form of something were to pre-exist and the matter were newly added to it so that it were informed by the pre-existent form, that very product would not be [produced] from nothing, for something in it pre-existed, and in fact something in it that’s more perfect than the matter which is normally pre-exists. Therefore, if the Son were not said to be [produced] from nothing “because his essence existed in the Father prior in the order of origin”, and if the essence were the quasi-matter in the Son’s generation, then how much more would the Son not be [produced] from nothing if the essence that ‘exists in the Father prior in origin’ were a quasi-form shared with the Son?’

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 103 (Vat. 4: 64.3-13): ‘Primum declaro, quia “creatura genita” non est de nihilo, quia aliquid eius praeexsistit, ut materia. Ergo cum forma sit aliquid compositi et aliquid eius perfectius quam materia, si forma alicuius praeexsisteret et materia de novo adveniret et informaretur illa forma iam praeexsistente, ipsum productum non esset de nihilo, quia aliquid eius praeexstitisset, immo aliquid eius perfectius quam materia quae praeexsistit communiter. Ergo si Filius non diceretur esse de nihilo “quia essentia eius secundum ordinem originis praefuit in Patre”, et hoc si illa essentia esset quasi-materia generationis Fili, multo magis nec Filius erit de nihilo si illa essentia “prius origine exsistens in Patre” sit quasi-forma communicata Filio’.]

‘I explain the second point as follows, namely that in this way the term “from” suffices to preserve the nature of sonship, for in animated thing,s where there is paternity and filiation, we see that he who is the generator by his act is formally called the “father”. Or at least the act of proffering semen, and if he were a perfect agent, such that at the moment when he proffered his semen, he could instantly proffer his offspring, he would truly be a father even more perfectly than in the way where the entirety of all the intermediate changes is required. But here, in this act of proffering semen, that which was his substance (or in some way was something that belonged to him) is not matter, but rather is the quasi formal end-point, shared [with] or produced [in the product] by that act, just as there would be an offspring if it were instantly proffered from the Father. Therefore, because something of the substance of the generator is the end-point of his action, by which he is a father, this truly preserves the fact that the product is similar in nature and “comes to exist from his [father’s] substance”, so also this term “de” is truly enough to preserve the nature of being a father and a son, and because what “he proffered as an end-point” is the matter of a further change, this applies to the term “from” as it belongs to a father and a son’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 104 (Vat. 4: 64.14-65.9): ‘Secundum declaro sic, scilicet quod istud “de” sufficiat ad rationem filiationis, quia in animatis, ubi est paternitas et filiatio, videamus quis sit ille actus per quem generans dicitur formaliter “pater”. Ille utique est actus decidendi semen, et si esset perfectum agens, ita quod nunc, quando decidit semen, posset immediate decidere prolem, vere esset pater, et multo perfectius quam modo sit, ubi requiruntur tot mutationes intermediae; sed nunc, in isto actu decidendi semen, illud quod erat substantia eius, vel aliquo modo aliquid eius, non est materia, sed est quasi terminus formalis, communicatus sive productus per istum actum, sicut esset proles si immediate decideretur a patre; ergo quod aliquid substantiae generantis sit terminus actionis suae, qua est pater, hoc vere salvat productum simile in natura “esse de substantia eius”, sic ut ipsum “de” vere sufficit ad rationem patris et filii, — et quod illud “decisum ut terminus” sit materia sequentium transmutationum, hoc accidit ipsi “de” ut convenit patri et filio’.]

‘Therefore, the eternal Father, not by proffering some part of himself but rather by sharing his whole essence, such that it is the formal end-point of that production, he most truly produces a Son from himself, in the way in which the term “from” pertains to a father and a son. And although the essence would be here as “that from which” as from quasi-matter, the term “from” does not make something have the character of a father, just as neither in creatures if the generator had his semen both for the formal end-point and for the material of his action, he would not be “father” insofar as his semen were the material subject of his action but rather insofar as it were the end-point of that action, just like how if a created father were to instantly proffer a son from himself, he would truly be a father, because that which would be proffered from him would be the end-point of his action, but it would not be matter in any way’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.2.un., n. 105 (Vat. 4: 65.10-20): ‘Ergo Pater aeternus, non decidendo aliquid sui sed totam essentiam sui communicando, et hoc ut formalem terminum illius productionis, verissime producit Filium de se, eo modo quo esse “de” pertinet ad patrem et filium; et licet esset ibi essentia “de qua” sicut de quasi-materia, illud “de” non faceret aliquid ad rationem patris, — sicut nec in creaturis si generans haberet semen suum et pro termino formali et pro materia suae actionis, non esset “pater” in quantum semen suum esset materia subiecta suae actioni sed in quantum esset terminus illius actionis, quemadmodum et si pater creatus immediate decideret a se filium, vere esset pater, quia illud quod esset de ipso, esset terminus actionis, nullo autem modo materia’.]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scotus on the formal end-point of production (translation)

From the Lectura

‘I say that in creatures, there is something that is produced, and that’s the primary end-point of production — it is the whole composite that is primarily produced or generated, just as the Philosopher proves in Metaphysics VII [1033b16-18]. Similarly, there is something that’s formally in the product which is produced, and this is the formal nature under which the production ends. This is the formal end-point of production, and it is the form of the product. So in one sense, the form truly ends the production . . . . the form truly is an end-point of production, even though the primary and adequate end-point is the composite itself’.

[Scotus, Lect. 1.5.1.un., nn. 27-28 (Vat. 16: 420.8-22): ‘dico quod in creaturis est aliquid quod producitur, quod est primus terminus productionis, — et est totum compositum quod primo producitur et generatur, sicut probatur VII Metaphysicae; similiter, est aliquid formale in producto quod producitur, quod est formalis ratio sub qua terminat productionem, et est formalis terminus productionis, et haec est forma producti. Et quod sic forma uno modo vere terminat productionem . . . . forma vere est terminus productionis, sed tamen terminus primus adaequatus est ipsum compositum’.]

From the Ordinatio

‘I say that a production has the product for its primary end-point, and I call this “primary end-point” here an adequate end-point. In this way, the Philosopher says in Metaphysics VII [1033b16-18] that the whole composite is what is primarily produced or generated, for it is what primarily gets its existence from the production, and this is adequate [for there to be a production]. Nevertheless, the form in the composite is the formal end-point of generation, but this is not an incidental end-point, as is apparent from the Philosopher’s comment in Physics II [193b12-18] where he proves that a form is a nature: “generation is natural because it is the way into nature, but since it is the way into form, etc.” That argument would mean nothing if the form were only an incidental end-point of generation’.

[Scotus, Ord. 1.5.1.un., nn. 27-29 (Vat. 4: 25.13-26.9): ‘dico quod productio habet productum pro termino suo primo, et dico hic “primum terminum” terminum adaequatum; et hoc modo dicit Philosophus VII Metaphysicae quod compositum primo generatur, quia est quod primo habet esse per productionem, hoc est adaequatum. In composito tamen forma est formalis terminus generationis, non autem terminus per accidens, sicut apparet per Philosophum II Physicorum, ubi probat formam esse naturam per hoc quod “generatio est naturalis quia est via in naturam, est autem via in formam, ergo etc.”, — quae ratio nulla esset si forma tantum esset terminus per accidens generationis’.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Avicenna on the emanation of the universe

Here's a translation I did of Avicenna's Metaphysics (Al-Shifa) book 9, chapter 4. That's the place Avicenna describes the emanation of the universe from God. It's a facing page translation, with the critical Latin text.

Avicenna, Meta. 9.4

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Lots of people know of Aristotle's and Aquinas's theories that matter is the substratum of change, that it is 'pure potentiality', that it cannot exist without form, and so forth. Henry of Ghent, Scotus, and Ockham have a very different view of matter.

Roughly speaking, matter is the basic stuff that all material substances are ultimately composed of. For instance, although animals are composed of organic tissue, tissue is composed of cells, and so forth, at rock bottom there’s a fundamental kind of stuff that all material substances are ultimately made from. This basic stuff is called ‘matter’, and the earth is filled with it.

Matter is not, as we might imagine today, just another name for atoms or quarks or whatever other sort of particle we think is the fundamental building block of material bodies. Matter cannot be broken down into fundamental ‘particles’ or indivisible parts. It’s more like an amorphous kind of stuff that can always be divided into smaller and smaller parts, similar to the way that a line can always be divided into shorter segments.

But matter is ‘amorphous’ in the sense that it does not have any form itself — it is not, that is, itself a composite of matter and form. Rather, matter is a purely receptive sort of material that can be made into different kinds of material substances.

This is not to say that matter is a ‘bare substrate’, as it were, that has no features of its own. On the contrary, matter is real stuff; it has parts (as I’ve already indicated), and it exists in space. Ockham even thinks matter is extended in three dimensions. (Scotus denies that matter is extended, but he still thinks it exists in particular places, perhaps similar to the way that electrons have no dimensions but still exist here or there.)

Further matter has specific features. It is the foundation for relations, and it has the capacity to take on substantial forms. More precisely, there is a discrete power that exists in matter to receive each different kind of substantial form. So there is a power p1 to receive the form of fire, a power p2 to receive the form of water, and so forth for every substantial form that matter can receive. (Matter has no powers to receive accidental forms.)

Nor is matter just ‘pure potentiality’ — i.e., a mere abstraction of the potential in material substances to be transformed into different substances. Henry, Scotus, and Ockham all believe that God could create a lump of matter without any forms, so matter is at least the sort of thing that in principle can exist all by itself.

Aquinas denies all this, I think. He explicitly says that matter cannot exist without form, and even God cannot create matter all by itself, without a form. Matter does not have any features of its own except that it is a 'pure potentiality'. (I don't know if Aquinas thinks matter has parts or exists in places. I wouldn't think so, but I don't know.)

Still, it’s difficult to imagine what a lump of matter is like, even on the views of Henry, Scotus, and Ockham. As I’ve already hinted, the best we can do is imagine an amorphous blob. But even that’s not quite right, and there’s a reason for this. Medieval Aristotelians believe that we can only know things through their forms, so we cannot imagine something that doesn’t have some particular form.

But just because we can’t imagine it does not mean that it’s not there. As our authors see it, matter must exist because we see material substances coming to be and passing away all the time, and given the hypothesis that change requires a recipient, there must be something there that gains and loses the forms that constitute those material substances.

(Besides, say Henry, Scotus, and Ockham, God isn't limited to knowledge by forms, and he has a proper 'idea' of matter -- and that means that matter has a nature; i.e., it has essential properties that define just like every other kind of entity.)