The Grammar of Being

The Farlex Grammar Book

Complete English Grammar Rules

Get Instant Access

In the philosophical sphere, modernity used to be characterized by the turn to the subject, the dominance of epistemology, and the guaranteeing of secure knowledge by the following of a reliable method. Today, following tendencies beginning early in the twentieth century with the work of Etienne Gilson, and climaxing in the rigorous scholarship of Marion, Courtine, and Boulnois, we have become aware of the way in which both the Cartesian and the Kantian moves depended upon shifts within Latin scholasticism, to such an extent that one can now validly say that both thinkers remained to a degree "scholastics" (Boulnois 1995; Burrell 1986; Courtine 1990; Gilson 1952; Marion 1982).

In particular, it can be seen that Descartes and Kant did not simply transfer allegiance for objectively critical reasons from an unwarranted claim to know being as it really is to an attempt to define true knowledge and even being in terms of the unequivocally graspable and internally consistent. Rather, a prior change in the understanding of being, a prior reorientation of ontology, was necessary in order to make possible the move from ontology to epistemology. As long as the Greco-Arab and then Western Catholic synthesis of Aristotle with neo-Platonism remained in place, a turn toward epistemology could have possessed no critical obviousness. Within this synthesis, every abstraction of properties - such as "being" or "truth" or "good" or "entity" - from the real, was still concerned with their instance as universal elements within the real (as opposed to logical abstractions), while even the act of abstraction was regarded as an elevation toward that greater actuality and perfection which characterized a more purely spiritual apprehension. The working assumption was that the finite occurrence of being (as of truth, goodness, substance, etc.) restricts infinite being in which it participates. Hence when knowledge grasps finitude in its relatively universal aspects, it does not simply mirror finitude, but rather fulfills its nature in achieving an elevation of its reality (Boulnois 1990: 308-14).

To conceive, by contrast, of knowledge as a mirroring, or as "representation," requires that one think of the abstraction that is clearly involved in all understanding in an entirely different fashion. To abstract must involve not an elevation, but rather a kind of mimetic doubling. It is now regarded as a demand of rigor that one keep a "transcendental" universality strictly distinct from "transcendent" height and spirituality, and logical abstraction from spiritual ascesis. This is what Duns Scotus achieves by reading Pseudo-Dionysius and Augustine in his own fashion. For Scotus, Being and other transcendental terms now imply no freight of perfective elevation. Instead, finite creatures, like the infinite Creator, scarcely "are," as opposed to "not being" in a punctilear fashion - they are "the same" in quid as regards existing which belongs to them as an essential property, just as substance and accident, genus, species, and individuality all exist in the same fashion, in quid. Only in quale, as regards specific differences of a qualitative kind, including the difference between finite and infinite, and the differences between the transcendentals (Ordinatio, I d 8 q 3 nn 112-15), is there no univocity, but rather, it seems, something like pure equivocity. This provides a very complex and notoriously subtle picture, but put briefly: as regards the pure logical essence of esse, there is univocity between all its instances; as regards ultimate differentiating qualitative properties there is equivocal diversity; thus although esse is univocal in quid, in the fully determined quiddative instance there is always something existentially present that is over and above pure uni-vocity, and appears indeed to be entirely "different." Nevertheless, because differences are instantiated only in things that are, Scotus declares that uncreated being and the ten genera of finitude are all included "essentially" within being as univocal and as a quasi-genus. Moreover, even the specific differences of finitude, the property of infinitude, and the passiones or transcendentals are "virtually" included within being as univocal.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Self Help Affirmations

Self Help Affirmations

The big book of affirmations from personal development authors. An affirmation is something you say to yourself. Everybody uses them on purpose or accidentally. You get up in the morning, leap out of bed and proclaim,

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment