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BEINGANDONE: THE DOCTRINE OF THE CONVERTIBLE TRANSCENDENTALES IN DUNS SCOTUS In the prologue of his commentary on the Metaphysics, Duns Scotus explains the name "metaphysics" as transcendens scientia, that is, the science that is concerned with the transcendentia. ' This explanation is indicative of the prominent place Scotus ascribes to the doctrine of the transcendentals, which was formulated for the first time in the Summa de bono of Philip the Chancellor that is datable about 1225. The connection between the object of first philosophy and the transcendentals is not in itself new,2 although the identity posed by Scotus is more radical than in his predecessors. Yet it is no exaggeration to say that Scotus's philosophy marks a new phase in the history of the doctrine of the transcendentia. Scotus understands the concept "transcendental" differently than his predecessors did. To thinkers of the thirteenth century, transcendental properties are communissima. "Being," "one," "true" and "good" "transcend" the Aristotelian categories because they are not limited to one of them but are common to all things. According to Scotus, however, it is not necessary that a transcendental as transcendental be predicated of every being; it is not essential to the concept transcendens that it has many inferiors. In his Ordinatio he determines the concept negatively: "what is not contained under any genus" or "what remains indifferent to finite and infinite."3 This definition makes possible a vast extension ofthe transcendental domain; the most important innovation is formed by the so-called disjunctive transcendentals, which are convertible with being not separately but as pairs. The fact 'Quaestiones subtilissimae super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis, prol. n. 18: "Et hanc scientiam vocamus metaphysicam, quae dicitur a 'meta', quod est 'trans', et 'ycos', 'scientia', quasi transcendens scientia, quia est de transcendentibus." 2See Albert the Great, Metaphysica I, tract. 1, c. 2 (Opera omnia XVI1I ed. B. Geyer, 5, 13-14), who uses the phrase prima et transcendentia in his analysis of the subject matter of metaphysics. For Thomas Aquinas's doctrine, see J.A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case ofThomasAquinas (London/New York 1966) 113-1 58. ^Ordinatio I, d. 8, p. 1, q. 3, n. 1 13-14 (ed. Vaticana IV, 206). 47 Franciscan Studies Vol. 56 (1998) 48Jan A. Aertsen that the transcendental properties are not necessarily identical with the communissima is, I suspect, the reason why the expression transcendentia, which occurs only sporadically in thinkers like Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and Henry of Ghent, gains the upperhand in Scotism and becomes the usual term. About Scotus's doctrine of the transcendentals, in contrast to that of other medieval thinkers, we are well informed by Allan B. Wolter's pioneering study, The Transcendentals and Their Function in the Metaphysics ofDuns Scotus (1946). Yet there are aspects of his doctrine that have thus far received little attention in scholarly literature. One of them is Scotus's treatment of the transcendentals "one," "true" and "good," which as such are convertible with being. In my contribution I want to show that with respect to the traditional transcendentals, too, Scotus breaks new ground and approaches critically the views of his thirteenth-century predecessors. Because he discusses most extensively the relation between being and one, I focus on this discussion. I. THE QUAESTIO ABOUT BEING AND ONE Scotus deals with being and one in his commentary (in the form of quaestiones) on book IV of Aristotle's Metaphysics, the usual place for medieval reflections on this theme. The second question of book IV is a fascinating but difficult text, because it presupposes a thorough knowledge of the history of thought—Aristotle, the Arabic heritage, and thirteenth-century authors—and of the philosophical problems inherent in the doctrine of the transcendentals. Moreover, the quaestio exhibits a complex structure that makes it less than easy for the reader to follow the line of argumentation. Some parts of the second question are worked out at length while others are scarcely more than rough sketches. There is external and internal evidence that Scotus had the habit of later returning to a base text to make corrections, refinements, and additions. At the end of the present question there is a long Additio...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 47-64
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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