Duns Scotus and William of Ockham univocity of Non Being

Duns Scotus102 was influenced by Henry of Ghent to such a degree that Gilson states that it is hardly possible to read Duns Scotus 'without having [Ghent's] writings at hand'.103 The other great influence on Scotus was that of Avicenna.104 From the latter Scotus inherited his notion of being,105 his definition of essence,106 and even of possibility with regard to these essences.107 From the former Scotus was to inherit the view that the infinity of God was a positive perfection, that matter was also positive, and that the human being had a plurality of forms. Furthermore, the model of analogy Scotus criticised was Ghent's.108 Scotus also conceived the divine knowledge in terms of moments, a conception that Ghent, following Avicenna's Neoplatonism, had also employed. As Marrone says, 'Duns adopted, nearly lock, stock and barrel, this vision of reality and ontological densities'.109

For Scotus of the Lectura, there were two atemporal moments (instants of nature) in the divine knowledge. For Scotus of the Ordinatio, which was written later, these two moments were each subdivided. For the Lectura the first moment consisted in God giving cognitive being to what the divine gaze knew as creatable. In the second moment God gives the creatable object esse existentiae by an act of will.110 In the Ordinatio the first logical subdivision of the first moment is the divine production of intelligible being. God understands His own essence absolutely, or in itself. The second logical subdivision finds the intelligible object possible in itself. The order of these two is only logical, it is not temporal.111 In the second moment, itself subdivided, God's intellect compares its own intellection to whatever intelligible is understood. This causes in itself a relation of reason. The second subdivision is the divine reflection on this relation of reason, which causes the relation to be known. And so all knowledge is virtually contained within God's knowledge of his own essence.112

These possible creatures do not, contra Henry of Ghent, possess esse essentiae, for the simple reason that for Scotus to have this type of being is to have a real being. An essence, for Scotus, was a great deal more than nothing. This was a result of the univocity of being, which itself stems from his formal distinction that simultaneously initiates a new logical modality of possibility (this is discussed below).113 Were the possible creatures essences, then God would depend upon them as eternal objects for his knowledge. Instead Scotus insists that they are nothing: 'lapis ab aeterno intellectus non est aliquid, sed nihil'.114 They do, as nothing, retain a type of diminished being (esse diminutum), that of esse objectivum, which they have only in being known in the divine intellect.115 This type of being cannot be thought of as positive. Yet we can agree with Cronin when he says that possible essences 'possess within divine intellection, as objects standing over against the divine knowing subject, the being which is proper to each's intelligible essence'.116 Gilson appears to concur when he says that 'the divine ideas are God's secundum quid, that is, relatively and comparatively. In other words each of them is in God, but it is not God qua God . . . [for] there is an essence of ideas qua ideas . . . they cannot [then] purely and simply be God'.117

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment