Scotus’s argument

Scotus: Take any thing A. if you are certain it is B but not certain it is a X, then B and X are distinct concepts. But we can be certain God exists without knowing if he is finite or infinite; and we can know something exists without knowing if it is a substance or accident. Therefore there is one concept of all being, whether finite or infinite; substance or accident; or even creator or creature (since you can know that there is something but be in doubt over whether it is created or not).

Thomas seems to agree with the minor premise, since he first proves that God exists and only later proves he is infinite; and he proves that God exists by starting with the existence of sensible things, which can only be shown to be creatures after the proof.

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1 Comment

  1. cd a said,

    May 20, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Problem with the minor premise. Only substances are properly said to exist. Consequently, if X exists, then X is a substance. (Accidents are said to exist by equivocation or analogy.)

    In other words, the minor premise might assume an univocal sense of being, which is precisely what is disputed.

    Or from another perspective, “the one concept of all being” in the conclusion might as well be an analogical or even merely equivocal concept of being (because the concept of being/existence at work in the minor premise is arguably analogical or even equivocal).

    Also, problem with the example of God and being infinite.

    There is the problem of the sense in which an essential attribute is said to be distinct from that of which it is an essential attribute. For example, man and rational are certainly distinct concepts, but can man be said to be wholly distinct from being rational? That is, one cannot have an adequate concept of man without including his being rational.

    Similarly, can one have an adequate concept of God (to the extent that one can have any adequate concept of God) without including His being infinite? While it is clear that Thomas would accept that the concepts of unmoved mover, first cause, necessary being, etc. are distinct from the concept of being infinite, it is not clear that Thomas would accept that an adequate concept of God could be distinct from the concept of being infinite.

    A related problem is that there are varying types of the concept of one and the same thing. The concept might be vague, merely nominal, approximate, adequate, etc. For example, the concept of man as an upright biped is different from the concept of man as rational animal.


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