PDF Attending to presence: A study of John Duns Scotus account of sense cognition

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Thomas traces the operation of non-intelligent causes to the operation of God as the intelligent orderer of natural operations. Now every created thing stands to God in a way similar to that in which your paper stands to you. However, there is another thing at stake here, and it has to do with a danger posed by the strong theory of divine transcendence that St. Thomas articulates. The danger is that God will be so remote from us that all divine names become equally appropriate or inappropriate.

This deteriorates into a type of agnosticism that threatens any order in the divine names. For instance, if all we meant by 'God is good' is that God is a cause of good, then we would be completely in the dark about what God is like in Himself -- even to the point of wondering whether our use of the term 'good' in ordinary circumstances has anything at all to do with God's goodness. In question 6 St.


Thomas will argue that God is good in Himself through His essence and hence the standard of all good things. So here, when he argues that God has every perfection, he is in part aiming to show that there is a similarity between created perfections, including created goodness in general, and God's perfection. This will become clearer as we go on, and especially in question 13 on the divine names. Thomas to discuss goodness here, since goodness seems to be the sort of 'positive' attribute one would expect to find in the via affirmationis rather than here in the midst of the via remotionis.

However, the connection was made in the introductions to question 3 and question 4 which, unfortunately, you will not find on the New Advent website -- bad move, not printing the introductions, since they are crucial to understanding the structure of the Summa.

In those introductions St. Thomas says tersely: "So, first of all, we will inquire into His simplicity, by which composition is excluded from Him question 3.

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And because among corporeal things the simple ones are imperfect and mere parts, we will inquire, second, into His perfection questions Curiously, though, in the Summa Contra Gentiles goodness is the first divine attribute discussed in the via affirmationis. Perhaps it's important to remember that the Summa Contra Gentiles has natural theology as its central task, and so a strict order is mandatory, whereas the project of the Summa Theologiae gives St.

Thomas a bit more freedom about how to order his discussion of God's nature. He keeps the same basic structure, since he still needs to make relevant points about God's transcendence and perfection in order to come to a deeper understanding of Sacred Scripture. But in this instance, the discussion of divine perfection, which could have been taken as simply the culmination of the via remotionis -- i.

You can't have the one without the other. From this it follows immediately that nothing is wholly evil, i. The conceptual difference is that good adds to being the notion of desirability. In ad 1, St.

Selected Bibliography on the Ontology of John Duns Scotus

Thomas teases out this difference by pointing out that something has being absolutely speaking simply by virtue of being something rather than nothing or by virtue of being actual rather than merely potential, whereas something is good absolutely speaking only by virtue of being perfect in its kind. In technical language, something has being in an unqualified way in virtue of its first act or first i. Notice that there is a qualified sense in which a substance with goodness in an unqualified sense has more being or actuality than one which lacks goodness in an unqualified sense. It is in this sense that we can characterize God as the "fullness of being.

Remember Plotinus's characterization of God. First of all, St. Thomas makes the plausible claim that the being or nature of a thing is the first thing that our minds grasp with respect to it, and it is this being or nature that "is signified by the spoken term.

Dr. Joshua Blander on John Duns Scotus on Identity and Distinction - trinities 065

Something that is absolute non-being cannot be good, even though what is a being in potentiality can be desired and hence can be good "not by predication but by causality. Finally, non-being can sometimes be a good, but only incidentally per accidens. That is, non-being is not intended in itself and for its own sake, but only for the sake of gaining some good or removing some evil.

The third article argues that every being is good. Objections 3 and 4 are the interesting ones here. Primary matter is being in potentiality and hence good only in potentiality, but it is good at least in this sense. Mathematical entities, according to St. Thomas, do not exist in their own right but instead are separate from other things only conceptually, i. Thomas next addresses the question of the causal role of good. The objections argue that good has the character of a formal cause because of its connection with beautiful or of an efficient cause because of good's tendency to diffuse itself and also because of the role it plays in efficient causality.

First of all, it comes as no surprise that St.


Thomas gives a central role to the final cause, even among non-intelligent agents. After all, this notion is intimately connected with the natures, tendencies and dispositions of all agents, including natural agents. This is just Aristotelianism of the sort articulated in Physics 2.

So the good-to-be-realized is the first thing in the order of causing. That is, the good sets in motion the action of the efficient cause. By the same token, the good-to-be-realized is the last thing in the order of being caused or being realized. The first few questions highlight the contrast between the beatific vision of God and both a ordinary human knowledge that originates in the senses and b natural angelic knowledge.

In this way, the questions provide us with an overview of St. Thomas's account of sensory and intellective cognition. Thomas is adamant both that a God's essence is in itself the most intelligible object, since each thing is knowable to the extent that it is actual and God is pure actuality, and that b a created intellect, whether human or angelic is, under the proper conditions, capable of seeing God. The latter he simply takes to be an article of the Faith, though one that is undergirded by our natural desire for fulfillment and our natural desire to know the first cause of things.

Thomas's view of the natural cognition had by men and angels and an account of what must be added to the human and angelic intellects in order for them to see God "face-to-face" in the beatific vision. All intellection on the part of an intelligent creature involves the union of known and knower or, more specifically, the presence, in some mode, of the known in the knower. Every instance of cognition requires both a a cognitive power sufficient to grasp the object in at least some way and b the union of the cognizer via the cognitive power with the object cognized.

In the case of sensation, it is the material entities themselves that are causes of the alterations of the sensory organs that constitute the sensory act. Thomas thinks that the per se objects of the sensory powers are colors, sounds, smells, sounds and "feels," whereas their per accidens but non-inferential objects are things like substances as such, causes as such, etc. In the case of the intellective power, the intellect is both active and passive.

It is able to take the data delivered by the senses and to fashion from it a mode of cognition that is general or universal and not tied to the here and now. In technical terms, the intellect as active active or agent intellect "forms" or "shapes" the intellect as passive passive or possible intellect in a way characteristic of an act of understanding the object in question.

The passive intellect is like primary matter waiting to be fashioned by an agent, viz.

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Hence, in both cases the union of cognizer and what is cognized is effected by a formal configuration of the cognitive power. Since these formal determinations are distinct from God, we can call them "created formal determinations" or "created likenesses. That is impossible. Rather, the union is accomplished by the impression of a likeness Latin species on the cognitive power which is receptive in the manner of matter , and it is by means of such a likeness that we are in cognitive contact -- more specifically, cognitive union -- with the object. Thomas's Aristotelian argument that intellection unlike sensation is not in itself the operation of a material power, though it presupposes the operation of those material powers that are the senses.

In particular, there cannot be any "likeness" of such things that exactly parallels the likenesses of material objects.

This is one reason why we have to proceed by way of negation in our knowledge of God and angels. In the case of our own soul, we at least have a grasp of our own intellective and sensory operations insofar as they are directed toward material substances.

Mental Representation in Medieval Philosophy

As we learn in a. What exactly does this mean? First skip ahead and take a look at q. He must be, so to speak, united to Himself as an intelligible object. But since God is immaterial, He can be literally united to Himself with His own esse. As St. Thomas puts it, He is His own intelligible species, so that in God the divine essence and act of understanding is the same as the intelligible species.