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.

Provoust on Thomas' rejection of even intramundane univocity

"The whole effort of Thomas tended towards theology.  And metaphysics is for him only a program given by some definitions of science (in the commentary on Boethius' De Trinitate above all), and by his commentary on Aristotle.  But he never develops a proper metaphysics.  We can say still more:  he did not give metaphysics the status of a rigorous science, but only [a science] in the broad sense.  A rigorous science is founded on univocal concepts.  But, as Thomas stresses, being is not univocal.  Metaphysics does not function except with analogous terms:  it is therefore a science only in a broad, supple sense."

Géry Prouvost, “Quand commence l’ontothéologie? Aristote, Thomas d’Aquin et Duns Scot,” Revue thomiste 95 (1995): 101 (85-108).

Prouvost on the retrojections of Heidegger

"The confession [of Heidegger] is patent:  we cannot find directly the bond between ontology and theology in the works of Aristotle.  This bond is produced by the interpreter (Heidegger), from an indirect point of view:  it is deduced from the terminal stage of metaphysics in the philosophy of Hegel, and [then] projected back onto [(reporté sur)] the original stage of metaphysics in Aristotle, which Hegel is felt to have brought to full flower [(accomplir)]."

     Géry Prouvost, “Quand commence l’ontothéologie? Aristote, Thomas d’Aquin et Duns Scot,” Revue thomiste 95 (1995):  89 (85-108).

Hütter on the indispensability of the TEACHING of the Church, or DOCTRINE

"the inner light of faith cannot deliver the truth without a corresponding external catechesis--the one as objective as the other--a linguistically configured and propositionally structured 'form of teaching' [(τύπος διδαχῆς, forma doctrinae, Rom 6:17)] by way of which the things hoped for are received as well as passed on.  This indispensable external catechetical side of the faith is not simply a speculative theological stipulation based on the composite nature of the human being.  It is, on the contrary, central to the apostle Paul's understanding of faith. . . ."
"Christians are given over to the First Truth by way of the forma doctrinae, the standard of teaching, and the infused inchoatio of eternal life, faith, takes its concrete form as an act of fidelity, a deep commitment (obsequium religiosum) to the Church's teaching, to the doctrina catholicae fidei. . . . Hence, faith is not what it came to be in the wake of liberal Protestantism and a Catholic modernism eager to adopt such a notion, that is, faith as an existential, pre-conceptual act of trust, primordially and ineffably enacted in the depths of the religious subject and only subsequently expressed and confessed in community and in categories and expressions relative to the age, culture, and society in which they are made. . . . [T]he substance [(ὑπόστασις)] of things hoped for is only to be had, is only accessible, in and through the Church's living faith, which passes on publicly--for all to hear and to have--the 'form of teaching,' the typos didaches, to which one needs to be given over in baptism in order to receive in turn this new substance inwardly, the principle of the new life (the inchoatio vitae aeternae) that gives rise to the light of faith, an inner illumination which is the source of that certitude to which the intellect has to assent."
"'In embryo--and thus according to the 'substance'--there is already present in us the things that are hoped for:  a whole true life' ([Spe salvi] §7).  That this hope is not to be misunderstood as a romantic flirtation with a mode of religious enthusiasm Paul also adamantly maintains.  The hope that does not disappoint has its exterior objective correspondence in the 'form of teaching' to which we are given over at baptism.  And the profound insight that the warrant for the truth of this faith is neither subjective sincerity or piety, nor a successful philosophical argument, but the authority of the apostolic Church, is well and alive in the first generation after the apostle Paul.  Either Paul . . . or one of his own very close disciples . . . characterized in 1 Timothy 3:15 the household of God as 'the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.'"

Reinhard Hütter, "'In hope he believed against hope' (Rom 4:18): faith and hope, two Pauline motifs as interpreted by Aquinas: a re-lecture of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical letter Spe salvi," Nova et vetera: the English edition of the international theological journal 7, no. 4 (Fall 2009): 848, 851-853, and 866 (839-867).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hütter on Christianity as the religious aspect of modernity

"modern Christianity . . . has increasingly defined itself by way of the project of modernity and its characteristic hopes, in short, has come to see itself almost exclusively as the religious aspect of modernity and consequently has become oblivious and even resentful of the faith that comes from the apostles."

Reinhard Hütter, "'In hope he believed against hope' (Rom 4:18):  faith and hope, two Pauline motifs as interpreted by Aquinas:  a re-lecture of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical letter Spe salvi," Nova et vetera:  the English edition of the international theological journal 7, no. 4 (Fall 2009):  841 (839-867).  The "characteristic hopes" of modernity are, at best, hopes in the lower case:  "the hope against which Abraham believes in [H]ope is the kind of ordinary hope we can find in all human beings to a smaller or lesser degree" (855, italics mine; Hütter cites fruitfully Aquinas (n. 26) and Chrysostom (n. 27) on "Christian hope in contrast to what we might want to call 'ordinary hope'").

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Prouvost on Heidegger

“If there is an ontotheological aspect of metaphysics, this is in a secondary sense [(manière)], by virtue of a concession only [(p. 97, par. 5 ff.)]. Why?  Because Thomas Aquinas rightly rejects the dimorphic interpretation of being that leads to a single ontotheological science. Theology occupies an even higher rank than ontology. It is not a part of ontotheological reflection, but its principle and end. . . .
“being qua being is the most common object of thought, which is why it is at the same time the proper subject of metaphysics and the proper object of the human intellect [(intellectus, not ratio)]. But the knowledge of God in himself goes way beyond the powers of our intellect. God is the cause of being qua being, not an instance [(partie)] of it. Because he is the principle of all things, without participating in any way in [(sans être rien de)] that which he causes (Thomas rejects the idea of a causa sui), he is the principle before all things, and we can conceive of him only relatively or negatively. The theological resolution [(resolutio secundum esse, not mere rationem; “an analysis according to the act of being,” not mere “concepts”)] leads us beyond the limits of our intellect. This is why analogy is so important for Thomas, and why our ontological reflection stops short of [(s’arrête à)] theology. The first reflection (that on being in general) stops short of the point at which [(s’arrête là où)] the second (that on God as the principle of being) begins. In this sense, Heidegger was right in his analysis of the Prologue to the commentary on the Metaphysics: metaphysics is not a single science. The rational analysis of terms is not the return to the intelligible principle. But it is also why Heidegger was wrong in his general definition of ontotheology, for this [(cela)] shows precisely that metaphysics is not an ontotheology.
“Thus, the birth of metaphysics is not the equivalent of the discovery of a first mover. The latter can be attained by another rational science, in a physical reflection. Metaphysics begins with the consideration of the abstract entity, [an entity] in matter, but capable of being separated from it; and it stops short of the point at which separated, divine esse begins, because this esse is the cause and the principle of everything that it is capable of reflecting upon. God remains outside of metaphysics.
“This is why metaphysics cannot allow for an ontological proof. An ontological proof implies that the esse (the existence) of God is arrived at via his ratio (his concept). But God is not included in our ratio of being [(l’étant)]; he is its principle.  The contemplation of the principle as such does not belong to metaphysics.
"There cannot be a Platonic synthesis.  There are [only] two different sciences, which must not be confounded, even if the second continues the first."

Géry Prouvost, “Quand commence l’ontothéologie? Aristote, Thomas d’Aquin et Duns Scot,” Revue thomiste 95 (1995): 99-101 (85-108).  The (Neo-)Platonic or Avicennian synthesis ignores the Christian distinction, "the [radical] difference between mathematical abstraction and absolute divine separation", "l'étant séparé" and "la divinité séparée", creation (however purely intelligible) and Creator.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let the earth bring forth vegetation

"the voice which was then heard and that first command became, as it were, a law of nature and remained in the earth, giving it the power to produce and bear fruit for all succeeding time. . . ."
"Reflect, I beg you, that in consequence of this short word and a command so brief, the earth, chilled and barren, was incessantly in travail and stirred up to productiveness. . . ."
"That command, which even yet is inherent in the earth, impels it in the course of each year to exert all the power it has for the generation of herbs, seeds, and trees.  For, as tops, from the first impulse given to them, produce successive whirls when they are spun, so also the order of nature, having received its beginning from that first command continues to all time thereafter. . . ."
"Consider the word of God moving through all creation, having begun at that time, active up to the present, and efficacious until the end, even to the consummation of the world. . . .
"This command remains in the earth and the earth does not cease serving the Creator. . . ."
"the soul of brute beasts did not emerge after having been hidden in the earth, but it was called into existence at the time of the command. . . ."

St. Basil the Great on Gen 1:11, On the Hexaemeron 5.1, 2, 10; 9.2-3, trans. Sister Agnes Clare Way, C.D.P. (FC 46, 67, 69, 82, 136-138).