Sunday, January 3, 2010

Scotus on the Creation Problem

As I explained in the last post, Scotus argues against Henry of Ghent: the divine essence is not like 'materials' that the Son is made from. It's more like a shared form. Still, that leaves the question that Henry was grappling with: what about the Creation problem? Wouldn't the Son be created if he were not produced without any 'pre-existing materials'?

To that, Scotus says that the Son is not created. In order for something to be created, Scotus says it must be produced with at least one pre-existing ingredient. But that doesn’t have to be some kind of material. It could be a form, or any other sort of constituent. What matters is simply that it is a pre-existing ingredient, so to speak.

So as Scotus sees it, we don’t need to say that the Son is produced with materials in order to avoid the Creation Problem. All we need to say is that the Son is produced with some sort of pre-existing ingredient. And of course, the divine essence is a pre-existing ingredient in the Son, because it already exists in the Father.

But it’s not like a lump of matter or any other sort of material. We don’t need to appeal to materials to solve the Creation Problem.

What’s interesting here is that Scotus accuses Henry of being incoherent. Scotus doesn’t say to Henry, “you’re a heretic,” or anything like that. There’s nothing religious about this. This is purely philosophical. Scotus rejects Henry’s view simply on philosophical grounds.

This is amazing to me. You would think that one of the first things people would say to Henry is that he is heretical. God is not material in any way. But that wasn’t the case. Henry garnered a healthy group of followers. So these scholastic Christians didn’t see Henry as a heretic or a nutjob. Henry’s view seemed to many as perfectly sane.

So this tells me that we need to be very careful about our pre-conceived ideas of medieval philosophy. We need to be careful about thinking of medieval philosophy as an era of superstition, or the Dark Ages, or everybody just bowing to the Pope. There was some really imaginative philosophical thinking going on here.

But again, this is all stuff that we’re just learning about. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff here in the medieval period, and we’re only just starting to learn about it.

No comments: