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Aquinas on Divine Ideas: Scotus's Evaluation In our effort to honor the outstanding scholarship of Prof. Girard Etzkorn, I thought it would be both fitting and interesting to examine Scotus's assessment of St. Thomas's position on divine ideas and to do so with at least occasional reference to the recent controversy between several leading interpreters of St. Thomas's thought: Professor James Ross,1 Fr. Lawrence Dewan,2 Fr. Armand Maurer,3 and most recently Mgr. John Wippel.4 Although the substance of the controversy is probably well known to many readers, I shall summarize the gist of the controversy for the benefit of those who are not aware of it. Professor Ross claims that Aquinas's use of St. Augustine's language regarding divine ideas needs to be carefully understood in reference to Thomas's own "Aristotelian commitments", for Aquinas's position actually is that the divine essence is the only object of divine understanding (and hence there is really only one sufficient likeness or divine idea) and that possibility ad extra depends on God's ability to make things and the divine will, not on having a multitude of blueprints of possible things and kinds in the divine mind.5 Ross's critics (Dewan, Maurer, and Wippel) have differed considerably in their own approaches, but all have emphasized that more weight needs to be given than Ross allows to Aquinas's use of Augustinian language in talking of many ideas and that Aquinas does not, in their view, have the content of possibles or Carnes Ross, "Aquinas's Exemplarism; Aquinas's Voluntarism, " The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly (hereafter cited as A.C.P.Q.), 64 (1990) 171-198 and "Response to Maurer and Dewan," A.C.P.Q., 65 (1991) 235-243. 2Lawrence Dewan, "St. Thomas, James Ross, and Exemplarism: A Reply," A.CP.Q., 65(1991)221-234. 3Armand Maurer, "James Ross on the Divine Ideas: A Reply," A.C.P.Q., 65 (1991) 213-220. 4John F. Wippel, Thomas Aquinas on the Divine Ideas (Toronto: The Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1993) and the earlier article that seems to have been the occasion of the entire controversy. See also "The Reality of Non-existing Possibles according to Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, and Godfrey of Fontaines," The Review of Metaphysics, 34 (1981): 729-758. 5Ross, "Aquinas's Exemplarism," 173-176, especially 175; 190-191. Ross's phrase 'one sufficing likeness' comes from Aquinas, Summa theologiae, cura et studio Instituti Studiorum Medievalium Ottaviensis (Ottawa: Commissio Piana ex aedibus Harpell's Press Co-Operative, 1953), I 14 12 in corp., 104a. Hereafter the Summa theologiae will be cited simply as STand the Ottawa edition as 'editio Ottaviensis'. 307 Franciscan StudiesVol. 56 (1998) 308Timothy B. Noone God's awareness of possibles depend on the disposition of the divine will. Although I shall return to this recent controversy as a point of comparison, the substance ofmy remarks will consist in analyzing Duns Scotus's interpretation and critique of St. Thomas's theory of divine ideas. In delineating Scotus's evaluation of Aquinas's position, I shall focus our attention, in the main, upon one particular text, In I Sent. (Reportatio Parisiensis examinata I-A) d. 36 q. 1-4, which is distinctive for its comprehensive approach to the problem of divine ideas, in contrast to the narrower focus of the Lectura and Ordinatio, and for the fact that it is cited as the preferred text by William Alnwick, an early Scotist, in his presentation of Scotus's theory of divine ideas.6 In the Reportatio Parisiensis I-?, Scotus asks four questions which he treats in pairs: 1) whether something else other than God and his divine essence is in the divine understanding as an object that it understands per se; 2) whether, for the divine mind to understand things other than itself through simple understanding, there must exist distinct relations for knowing distinctive intelligibles; 3) whether God has distinct ideas for anything other than Himself that may be distinctly conceived; and 4) whether God has an infinite number of ideas. Since Scotus treats these questions in pairs, the following presentation will be divided into two parts corresponding...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 307-324
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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