Friday, July 14, 2017

The Mother of All Genealogies

It is an exciting time for Scotism. The De ente of Peter Thomae is currently under peer review, Duba's volume is out, and now we have a very long essay from Trent Pomplun tracing the origin of the genealogy employed by most modern theologians, philosophers and even popes according to which Scotus' primary contribution was to be a critic of Thomas Aquinas, thereby ruining the world. Pomplun's article traces the tale back to the Lutheran historians of philosophy in the 16th century. The essay is "John Duns Scotus in the History of Medieval Philosophy from the Sixteenth Century to Etienne Gilson (+1878)," Bulletin de philosophie medievale 58 (2016), 355-445.

Here's the first line:

The Franciscan theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus (ca. 1266-1308) has been accused of many things over the years, not least among them formalism, nominalism, skepticism, fatalism, pantheism, voluntarism, individualism, modernism, Spinozism, Kantianism and radical Islamism.

And the last line:

In this, medievalists perpetuate the oldest myth in these histories of philosophy, and one unquestioned from Lambert Daneau to Etienne Gilson: that the conflict between Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus stands at the very center of history, in the middle age of the middle age (as it were), such that any writing about the historiography of the Middle Ages must somehow take as their beginning a departure from the Thomist synthesis, even if that synthesis is less an historical reality than an unfortunate illusion of perspective created by a very longstanding prejudice of the historia philosophiae philosophica.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Book on the Rise of Scotism

An important new tome has appeared from the hand of William Duba. Buy it here, for a suprisingly reasonable price.

Here is part of the publisher's blurb:

A rare survival provides unmatched access to the the medieval classroom. In the academic year 1330-31, the Franciscan theologian, William of Brienne, lectured on Peter Lombard’s Sentences and disputed with the other theologians at the University of Paris. The original, official notes of these lectures and disputes survives in a manuscript codex at the National Library of the Czech Republic, and they constitute the oldest known original record of an entire university course. An analysis of this manuscript reconstructs the daily reality of the University of Paris in the fourteenth century, delineating the pace and organization of instruction within the school and the debates between the schools. The transcription made during William’s lectures and the later modifications and additions reveal how the major vehicle for Scholastic thought, the written Sentences commentary, relates to fourteenth-century teaching. As a teacher and a scholar, William of Brienne was a dedicated follower of the philosophy and theology of John Duns Scotus (+1308). He constructed Scotist doctrine for his students and defended it from his peers. This book shows concretely how scholastic thinkers made, communicated, and debated ideas at the medieval universities. Appendices document the entire process with critical editions of William's academic debates (principia), his promotion speech, and a selection of his lectures and sources.​

Buy it now, I say.

It puts me in mind of this old gem...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

New Book on Analogy of Being

An interesting collection of essays on the analogy of being has been issued as an issue of the journal Archivio di Filosofia 84 (2016). It has wide coverage from the ancient world to the contemporary, and varies between systematic study and treatment of neglected figures. For a convenient table of contents, see the page of one of the authors.

Of course, like all modern scholarship on analogy, the volume suffers from complete blindness where the contribution of the Scotist tradition is concerned. The Thomists have successfully buried it with their narrative of Scotus' introduction of corruption and decline into philosophy, theology, social life, etc. Not that medieval Thomists seem to have bothered with it either. I have yet to find a Thomist responding to Peter Thomae's theory of analogy, though, to be fair, no one else did either (save, perhaps for Guillelmus Farinerii). It has been buried in manuscripts since the fourteenth century. Anyway, for a sketch of Peter's theory, which both incorporates the traditional Scotist theory as well as develops it, see this initial stab at interpretation on

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Discoverer of the Formalities

No one agrees about the origin of Scotus' formal distinction. Some say it is Bonaventure, others Henry of Ghent's intentional distinction, others put in the Franciscan thought after Bonaventure such as Olivi and Peter de Trabibus. One could also posit Aquinas as an origin, namely his discussion of rationes in his so-called Quaestio de attributis in  his Scriptum on the Sentences, itself influenced by Bonaventure. Finally, Bonetus in the 1340's famously attributes the origin to Aristotle.

Now we have a new contender:

While poking about in various manuscripts of Petrus Thomae's Quaestiones de modis distinctionum, I came across the following comment in the margin of question 7.

Hoc argumentum solvit egidius in de esse et essentia q. octava qui fuit inventor formalitatum (Munich, Bsb, Clm 26838, f. 34r, al. man.).

[For the Latin impaired: "Giles, who was the discoverer of the formalities, refutes this argument in his work on being and essence, question 8,"]

This is an annotation of the following argument:

Confirmatur, ista enim attributa sive formalitates ut distinctae, vel sunt aliquid et res vel nihil. Si sunt aliquid et res, propositum. Si nihil, ergo formalitates sunt nihileitates.

[It is confirmed, for those attributes or formalities as they are distinct are either something and a thing or nothing. If they are something and a thing, we have what we are trying to prove. If nothing, therefore the formalities are nothingnesses]. 

Egidius of course is Giles of Rome, who, depending on the decade, is either beloved or despised by Thomists. Thus we have a (quasi?) Thomist to add to the origin story of the formal distinction, which becomes less of a characteristically Scotist position but a tool made use of by a variety of scholastic thinkers.