Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prouvost on Duns Scotus

"Scotus criticizes another axiom of Thomas:  esse simpliciter est proprius effectus Dei.  God alone gives esse to particular beings; creatures can only prepare for this divine gift by effecting composition.  But for Scotus this is false, because every efficient cause that effects a composite [(composé)] entity causes at the same time its existence:  it can therefore be the efficient cause of the esse of such a composite entity.  A composite entity can be caused by an agent though God gives no being to said composite entity [(sans que Dieu donne l'être à cet étant composé)].  And reciprocally, one cannot constrain God in any way:  he is absolutely free, which implies that by right, in his absolute power, he is not obliged to give [(il pourrait ne pas donner)] being to a composite nevertheless already produced by its cause:  it would [then] be necessary to say that this composite both is and is not.  In order to avoid these absurdities, it is necessary to recognize that to produce the composite and to give it being are two faces of the same act.
"Duns Scotus therefore rejects the traces of Neo-Platonism still present in the interpretation of Thomas, for whom absolute being (esse simpliciter) is the effect proper to God, and the [act of] being (esse), the term proper to creation.  This is why God alone can create, give being to something.  Because God is subsistent esse, he can give participated esse to entities that share in ens commune [(aux étants communs)] (to entia).  Community in being [(La communauté de l'étant)] is at the same time the principle of causal participation in it [(sa participation causale)].  It accounts for the fact that God transcends what he has created [(le créé)].  The principle of universality is, at the same time, the principle of causality.
"For Scotus, it is very different and very simple.  In the order of predication, community in being extends to everything, God included.  God is included in the concept of being, which is first in the order of predication [(pp. 101 ff.)].  God is not anterior to this concept of being because there is nothing anterior to it in this order.  He merits precisely the name 'first being'.  But in the order of perfection, God is anterior to creatures.  The two orders are coherent because in the order of causality and perfection, God is understood as an ens primum, cause of all the rest (creatures), but in the order of predication he is included in being, which is at once the first object of the human intellect and that of metaphysics.  Within being, predicative object of metaphysics, there is a relation of causality between the first term, God, and the second term, the creature.
"In Thomas the two orders were coordinated:  the divine, understood as ipsum esse, was at the same time a principle of community and causality.  For Scotus, one order is subordinated to the other:  the primacy of virtuality or causality is included in being and subordinated to the primacy of predication.  This has consequences in [the following] three domains:  the status of the first concept, the universality of being, [and] the inclusion of God in a concept."

"'This is why transcendental metaphysics [(Metaphysica transcendens)] is anterior to divine science [(scientia divina)], and, thus, there will be four speculative sciences:  the one, transcendental [(transcendens)], and the three others, special' [(Duns Scotus, In metaphysicam I, q 1, §47 (ed. Vivès VII, 36 a))].  Thus, theology, [a] special science, is posterior to metaphysics, [the] transcendental science.  We are far from the priority given by Thomas to the principle of the common esse.  Here we have the first division of metaphysics into the two modern sciences, ontology as metaphysica generalis, and theology as metaphysica specialis.  The first science is independant of the second, and the second is subordinated to the first.  [And] this is precisely and truly what Heidegger calls an ontotheology in the second sense [(cf. p. 87 pars. 5-6)]."

Géry Prouvost, “Quand commence l’ontothéologie? Aristote, Thomas d’Aquin et Duns Scot,” Revue thomiste 95 (1995): 102-103, 105-106 (85-108).  Prouvost concludes the article with a distinction between the sense in which Duns Scotus is the father of ontotheology and the sense in which Henry of Ghent is.

No comments: