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SCOTUS AND ANSELM ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD Duns Scotus's proof for the existence of God is one of the most sustained and subtle in the history of philosophy. It covers almost one hundred pages in the Vatican's critical edition1 and over forty pages in Wolter's translation.2 Yet, for all that, its basic structure is surprisingly simple. It is a categorical syllogism.8 This comes out perhaps most clearly only in his epilogue to the question, "Does an Infinite Being exist?" when he says, "I answer the question with the following argument: some triply prime entity exists in actuality among entities; and this triply prime [entity] is infinite; therefore, some infinite entity exists in actuality."4 Since this is Scotus's summary statement of his syllogism, a fuller version of it will be helpful: Minor: Some being is the primary efficient and final cause and the pre-eminent being in the universe. Major: The primary efficient and final cause and the pre-eminent being in the universe is infinite. Therefore, some being is infinite. That his argument is a syllogism is also evident from his claim that it is a kind of demonstratio; for, following Aristotle, Scotus partially defines a demonstratio as a syllogism.8 The syllogistic form of Scotus's argument also determines the structure of his text. He divides the body of his answer into two articles, the first of which supposedly establishes the truth of the 1 Ordinatio I dist 2 pars ? q. 1-2, in Ioannis Duns Scott Opera Omnia, ed. P. Carolo BaIiC1 (Civitas Vaticana: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950). 2 Duns Scotus, Philosophical Writings, ed. and tr. Allan Wolter (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1962), pp. 37-85. 8 I first argued for this position in "Duns Scotus's Proof for the Existence of God," Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference, Villanova University , Villanova, Pennsylvania, September 18, 1976. 4 Ordinatio loc. cit., ?. 147. 5 Reportata prol. q. ? ?. 4> in Johannes Duns Scotus: Opera Omnia, Vol. V.i, ed. Lucas Wadding (Lugduni: Laurentii Durand, 1639). 140A. P. MARTINICH first or minor premise and the second the second or major premise. It might appear that both the form and the content of Scotus's proof is unique to him. I think this is by and large true. The second premise especially is characteristic of Scotus, for whom a proof of the existence of God is not merely a proof of a primary mover, an efficient cause or a highest good as it is for St. Thomas but a proof of an infinite being.6 For a proof of some primary being is not a proof that it or anything else is infinite.7 Further, we conceive of God most perfectly when we conceive of Him as infinite, since infinity, unlike goodness, omnipotence or omniscience, is not a property of God, but his mode of being.8 Notwithstanding Scotus's originality, the influence of many philosophers, most prominently Aristotle, Avicenna and Henry of Ghent, is unmistakable. Yet one of the most important influences on Scotus's proof has not been noticed. Although there is an extensive literature dealing with Scotus's supposed use of Anselm's ontological argument,9 there is little on his use of the Monologion. In this paper I want to argue that Scotus's proof of his first or minor premise is a recasting of one of Anselm's proofs of the existence of God, not the famous ontological argument of the Proslogion, but the argument of the earlier Monologion. Scotus proves his first premise in three parts: Part 1: There is a primary efficient cause; there is a primary final cause; and there is a pre-eminent being. Part 2: There is at least one being that is a primary efficient and final cause and a pre-eminent being. Part 3: There is at most one being that is a primary efficient and final cause and a pre-eminent being. Similarly, Anselm in the first four chapters of the Monologion proves that one and only one nature has a three-fold primacy of goodness, • Ordinatio loc. cit., ?. 39. ' Ordinatio I dist. 3 pars 1 q. 1...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 139-152
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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