The Relation of Analogy

When Scotus speaks of analogy, as Boulnois concludes, this seems to reduce either to the equivocal, or to degrees of "intensity" upon a quantitative model

(Boulnois 1999b: 290-1). Though, indeed, Scotus allows that an infinite degree transcends the quantitative, this excess is once again conceived in an equivocal fashion, while the model of intensive ascent itself remains quantitative in its paradigm, as is shown by Scotus' insistence that the idea of "more good" does not - contra Augustine - affect our grasp of the meaning of "good" (Ordinatio I d 3 358-60).

The position of the analogical, as a third position or medium between identity and difference, whereby something can be like something else in its very unlikeness according to an ineffable co-belonging, is rejected by Scotus because it does not seem to be rationally thinkable (Duns Scotus, In Elench. q 15 para [8] (22a-23a); In Praed. q 4 para [5] (446b-447a) and para [6]; 447a; Boulnois 1999a, 1999b: 246-7). What remains is a semantic world sundered between the univocal and the equivocal.

Since finite being is now regarded as possessing in essence "being" in its own right (even though it still requires an infinite cause), when the mind abstracts being from finitude, it undergoes no elevation, but only isolates something formally empty, something that is already a transcendentally a priori category and no longer transcendental in the usual medieval sense of a metaphysically universal category which applies to all beings as such, with or without material instantiation. For this reason, it now represents something that is simply "there," without overtones of valuation, although it also represents something that must be invoked in any act of representation, and is in this new sense "transcendental." Scotus here echoes the Avicennian view that the subject of metaphysics is being and not the first principle (as Averroes held), for "Being" can now be regarded as transcendentally prior to and also as "common to" both God and creatures (Boulnois 1999b: 327-405, 457-93). In one sense, this inaugurates onto-theology, and so is "modern" and not "postmodern." But in another sense, Scotus opens up the possibility of considering being without God, and as more fundamental (supposedly) than the alternative of finite versus infinite, or temporal versus eternal. And this space is as much occupied by Heidegger, Derrida, and Deleuze as it was by Hegel. Here, Scotus' proto-modernity involves also the "post-modern."

Something similar applies to the Scotist impact upon theology. As a "protomodern" thinker, Scotus' contributions had implications for the alliance between theology and the "metaphysical" (in the broad sense, not meaning onto-theology). For within the former discourse of participated-in perfections, there was a ready continuity between reason and revelation: reason itself was drawn upwards by divine light, while, inversely, revelation involved the conjunction of radiant being and further illuminated mind. Here, as we have seen, to rise to the Good, before as well as within faith, was to rise to God. But once the perceived relationship between the transcendentals has undergone the shift described above, to abstract to the Good tells us nothing concerning the divine nature. To know the latter, we wait far more upon a positive revelation of something that has for us the impact of a contingent fact rather than a metaphysical necessity.

One can interpret the latter outcome as modern misfortune: the loss of an integrally conceptual and mystical path. Already before Scotus the business of "naming God" was beginning to change; it was gradually losing the accompanying element of existential transformation of the one naming. With Scotus, the mystical dimension is lost, and it is declared that the way of denial, or via negativa, only removes finite imperfections from a positively known quality, and does not introduce us to a mysterious yet palpable darkness (Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, I d 8 q 3 n 49, and nn 70-86). This shift in the mystical component then delivers theology over to the ineffable authority of the church hierarchy, and, later, alternatively, to that of scripture (Tavard 1959). Yet one can also read Duns Scotus as offering a theological anticipation of postmodernity: by foreclosing the scope of theological speculation, he demoted intellect in general and opened up theology as the pure discourse of charity. Thus, we receive the loving will of God, and respond to this with our answering will (Duns Scotus, Ordinatio I dist 8 pars I Q 4; Boulnois 1999b).

In the end, though, it becomes illogical to uphold the "postmodern" Scotus while denouncing the "modern" Scotus, and this applies both in philosophy and theology. If one cannot countenance Scotist onto-theology, one must also question a "pure" philosophy concerned with a nondivine being, since this is ultimately grounded in univocity and the refusal of analogy in any sense consistent with the Dionysian naming of God. In this way, Heidegger comes into question. Likewise, if one is wary of the Scotist separation of abstraction from elevation, or, rather, his particular refusal of the mystical, one must be wary also of his semivoluntarism. For the very same sundering, applied by Duns Scotus to Augustine's discourse on the Trinity, ensures that one must interpret the divine intellect and divine will as univocally similar in character to the human intellect and will. Will is regarded as a movement of pure spontaneity outside the het-eronomy of the laws of motion (a movement is always from another, according to Aristotle) and independent of the recognitions of the intellect (Boulnois 1999b:107-14; Scotus/Wolter 1975: 5 a 3). If the intellect now simply "represents" a neutral being, without evaluation, then, concomitantly, "will" begins its career of the pure positing of values without foundation. This is the co-inauguration of pure piety and pure irresponsibility.

The issue, then, should not be anything to do with a contrast between the modern and the postmodern. It is rather that both represent "a certain Middle Ages" (with roots which reach back before Duns Scotus to his Franciscan forebears and Avicenna) within which our culture still mostly lies, and whose assumptions we might at least wish to re-examine.

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