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.

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