1734 – Latin Manuscript – Early Metaphysics – Age of Enlightenment

Early Latin Manuscript
Age of Enlightenment

Popular Philosophies of
John Duns of Scotland
“The Subtle Doctor


[Spain], 1734. Early manuscript on metaphysics, by Franciscan teacher D. Michael Albalate, drawing largely from the fourteenth century philosophies of the famous John Duns Scotus, and also mentioning Aristotle. Somewhat of a heading begins a chapter with the name “V.I.R. Dominguez,” possibly from this point drawing from a local Spanish philosopher. All text is in Latin. Quarto. 267 pages including index, elegant initials and decorative embellishments, a few hand coloured. Author’s manuscript inscription to a rather imperial-styled decorative first leaf. Vellum binding, two string catches to front, though lacking the matching ends for closure. Leafs with impressed lines for and wide margins. Volume measures approximately 16 x 21 x 2 cm. Indication of moisture and minor loss to binding at verso, otherwise in very good condition, a beautifully preserved and fascinating eighteenth century manuscript in a neat hand.

In his introduction, Albalate addresses his “carissimi discipuli [dearest dsiciples];” he refers to “nostra schola [our school]” and “nostra academia [our academy],” which reveals that he was a professor or lecturer. He concludes by giving praise to St Francis [Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order], which reveals that he was a Franciscan, and the religious associations he makes to the science of exisitence and so forth, affirms it. He also gives due praise to Scotus, also a Franciscan, whose work he largely supports and teaches.

Albalate may be a relative of Padre Fray Miguel de Albalate of Aragon, founder of the Franciscan mission in Cumana, Venezuela, who was killed there in 1683.

An eighteenth century Franciscan teacher’s one-off scholarly journal containing his lectures on metaphysics, examines the doctrines and theorem of the great high-medieval Franciscan philosopher-theologian John Duns Scotus, respectfully referred to in the present work by his scholastic accolade “Subtilis Doctor [the subtle doctor]”.

John Duns (c. 1266 – 8 November 1308), commonly called Duns Scotus, is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, and an influencer of secular and religious civilians alike. The doctrines for which he is best known are the “univocity of being”, that existence is the most abstract concept we have, applicable to everything that exists; the “formal distinction”, a way of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing; and the idea of “haecceity”, the property supposed to be in each individual thing that makes it an individual. Scotus also developed a complex argument for the existence of God, and argued for the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Duns Scotus was given the scholastic accolade Doctor Subtilis (“the Subtle Doctor”) for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought. He was a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian. In 1993, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

The teachings in the present volume are divided into four parts:
•   Questio Unica de Proaemialibus Metaphisicae [Questions on the Metaphysics Advantage]
•   De natura entis, de eius proprietatibus etstatibus [Natural Entities, its qualites and character]
•   De praedicamentis [A discourse]
•   De post praedicamentis [Conclusion]

All four of Scotus’ most praised concepts are discussed, including, in the first section, “univocity of being” after the heading “Distinctio Prima de Antepraedicamentis – Questio Prima de Univocis.” The important notion of “transcendental apperception” is taught in a section headed “Quaestoa… de unitate transcendentali” [The question of transcendental unity – also known as transcendental apperception]. He also seems to be addressing Scotus’ doctrine of “formal distinction” in a section heade “An ens transcendat formaliter inferiorum difas” [Being an inferior transcendant form]. The third of Scotus’ most significant philosophies also appears, that of “haecceity”, as seen in the second section titled above, as well as a heading “Quaestoa… an existentia Creaturae distinguatur ab eius esentia realiter” [Is the existence of a creature distinguished by its essense in reality].

“Univocity of being” is the idea that words describing the properties of God mean the same thing as when they apply to people or things. It is associated with the doctrines of the Scholastic theologian John Duns Scotus. In medieval disputes over the nature of God, many theologians and philosophers, such as Thomas Aquinas, held that when one says that “God is good” and that “man is good”, man’s goodness is only analogous to, i.e. similar to but distinct from, God’s goodness. John Duns Scotus, while not denying the analogy of being “à la St. Thomas”, nonetheless holds to a univocal concept of being. It is important to note that Scotus does not believe in a “univocity of being”, but rather to a common concept of being that is proper to both God and man, though in two radically distinct modes: infinite in God, finite in man.

In scholastic metaphysics, a “formal distinction” is a distinction intermediate between what is merely conceptual, and what is fully real or mind-independent. It was made by some realist philosophers of the Scholastic period in the thirteenth century, and particularly by Duns Scotus. Scotus argued for a formal distinction (distinctio formalis a parte rei), which holds between entities which are inseparable and indistinct in reality, but whose definitions are not identical. For example, the personal properties of the Trinity are formally distinct from the Divine essence. Similarly, the distinction between the ‘thisness’ or haecceity of a thing and its existence is intermediate between a real and a conceptual distinction. There is also a formal distinction between the divine attributes and the powers of the soul.

“Transcendental apperception” is the uniting and building of coherent consciousness out of different elementary inner experiences (differing in both time and topic, but all belonging to self-consciousness). E.g. the experience of “passing of time” relies on this transcendental unity of apperception, according to Kant.

“Haecceity” from the Latin haecceitas, which translates as “thisness” is a term from medieval scholastic philosophy, first coined by followers of Duns Scotus to denote a concept that he seems to have originated: the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing. Haecceity is a person’s or object’s thisness, the individualising difference between the concept “a man” and the concept “Socrates” (i.e., a specific person). Haecceity is a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle’s Greek to ti esti or “the what (it) is.”

The text covers numerous related subjects such as our existence, substance, and relations. Following are a small sampling of some of the headings, together with a rough attempt at conceptual translation.

Distinto quid et quotuplex sitens reale – Question essentia entis realis inquirit
[Investigation of the essence of existence]

Quaestoanens sit genus Deo et Creaturis
[Questions concering the form of God and Creation]

Quaeston 2A contrariurum argumentis ocurrit
[Questions on occuring contradictory arguments]

Quaeston 3A de posibilitate logica rerum
[Question of possible logical reasoning]

Quaeston 5A roboratur asumptum argumentorum solutione
[Reinforcement of assumed arguments solved]

Quaestio ultima radicem et causam fu turitionis stabilit
[Question of the root and the cause of establishing… ]

In closing, the teacher imparts the advice: “Stude quasi semper viviturus, Vive quasi cras moriturus” [Devote nearly all to survival, live as if you will die tomorrow.]



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