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’.]

3 comments:

Reality said...

JT,

thank you for such an intelligent Blog. I just started reading the older posts and the title of this post touches on an answer I've been searching for - amongst Patristic and medieval authors, the question being, 'Can a divine person exist separate from the divine essense ?'. Since Scotus appears to indicate that the relation of sonship combined with the Divine essense makes a Divine person, it would appear(unless I'm totally mis-reading him) since the Divine essence is an integral constituent of the divine Son, if uncombined, the Divine Son would cease to exist as a divine person (like removing hydrogen from water, the water effected would cease to exist as water) If I've understood Scotus correctly, was this person constitution concept similar amoung the rest of the medievals and Patristics? or would the different authors be so divided on the answer that it is worthless to attempt getting a unified answer??

It's ashame that divine simplicity played such a strong underlying force amongst all these writers. For example Scotus explanation which you translated indicates his strong denial of components in the Son, "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]." .

Since Scotus identifies the Sonship relation with the Divine essense, it looks to me like he ad-hoced his way into Modalism since - if 'the nature of Sonship = Divine essense' is a model for each person of the trinity, then the nature of Father-hood and nature of spirit-hood equal the Divine essense so that NS=D, NF=D and NSP=D therefore NS=NF, NS=NSP and NF=NSP. Please set me straight where I'm off. Thanx

JT Paasch said...

Hi Reality,

You're post is very interesting. I'm not going to say much about it, as I'd like to give anyone else who cares to read this blog the opportunity to mull over your thoughts, but I do want to make two comments of my own.

1. First, regarding the question of whether patristic or medieval authors thought a divine person could exist without the divine essence, here's my opinion. Anytime before the late 4th century, I think it would be difficult to say either way (it would depend on which patristic writer you are reading). But after that, I think that most 'orthodox' writers will say that no divine person can exist without the divine essence. But, of course, the most interesting ideas are the ones that come from those writing before this agreement is reached!

2.Regarding divine simplicity, I think that in a certain sense, Scotus might be sympathetic to your concern here. Scotus labels the relationship between the divine essence and a personal property as 'perfect identity', but he does not mean to imply that they are 'identical' in the sense that we talk about 'identity' in analytic philosophy circles today. On the contrary, I believe that Scotus uses the label 'perfect identity' to refer to a very tight kind of unification. In other words, for Scotus, 'perfect identity' is not a kind of identity, but rather a kind of unity. (For instance, Scotus maintains that perfect identity does not imply transitivity or the sharing of properties, and surely that means it cannot be what we mean by identity; rather, it must be a kind of unity.)

Reality said...

I’m afraid I am going to have to call a spade – “a spade” here.
“the nature of the one is perfectly the same as the nature of the other” ????
“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] ???.
If as you point out, “for Scotus, 'perfect identity' is not a kind of identity, but rather a kind of unity” it seems that “there are no components - but there are” sums up Scotus real belief, he Never should have used the word ‘Identity’ at all in this context when he meant ‘unity’. It almost appears like he was attempting to mis-lead, to pay lip service to Simplicity while actually believing something different, doesn’t it? Perhaps you can redeem his reputation by pointing out his clarification of meaning in the same discourse . of course, that would mean his dis-avowal of simplicity.
While I’d like to give Scotus the benefit of the doubt because I do not know whether within the fuller context he redeems himself; from just the information that you have presented it appears as though Scotus, at least on this issue, appears to have had a bad case of Wall Street Lawyer Syndrome, you know, failure to say what one means and meaning what one says. I can’t think of stronger terms to imply numerical sameness of Identity w/o composition than what he used above.