Schopenhauer on “Scholastic Philosophy”

Schopenhauer makes a good point in his “Critique of Kantian Philosophy,” which is an appendix to his great Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. He observes that “den dritten” service Kant performed for philosophy was “den völligen Umsturz der Scholastischen Philosophie, mit welchem Namen ich hier im Allgemeinen die ganze vom Kirchenvater Augustinus anfangende und dicht vor Kant schließende Periode bezeichnen möchte” (518). That’s an astonishing way of characterizing the history of Western thought (and Schopenhauer knows this, as we’ll see below), particularly today, when the history of ideas is so driven by accounts of rupture and radical transformation, not least at the origins of “modernity.” Whether the key figure is Descartes, Ockham, or Scotus, the landscape of philosophy is supposed to have changed radically with the dethroning of Aristotelian physics, the rise of experimental science, and the turn to the “subject” as the starting point for inquiry. (Whether the last of these has much to do with the first two is an open question for me.) And the rise of the modern isn’t the only apparently deep fissure in the period that Schopenhauer defines as “scholastic” — after all, the rise of scholasticism, in the 13th century, is often regarded as emerging from the church’s wracking confrontation with and eventual assimilation of the rediscovered Aristotle.

So what could Schopenhauer have in mind? He goes on to explain: “Denn der Hauptcharakter der Scholastik ist doch wohl der von Tennemann sehr richtig angegebene, die Vormundschaft der herrschenden Landesreligion über die Philosophie, welcher eigentlich nichts übrig blieb, als die ihr von jener vorgeschriebenen Hauptdogmen zu beweisen und auszuschmücken” (518). From Augustine to (say) Wolff, the great philosophers nearly all seek to confirm the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and in particular the existence and classical perfections of God. There is deep continuity in this respect among Augustine, Anselm, or Bonaventure, and Descartes, Locke, or Leibniz, in some ways more continuity than any of those philosophers share with a more unreconstructed Aristotelian such as Aquinas — but even then, there’s deep continuity between his thought and that of Augustine or Descartes as well. (As Lloyd Gerson points out in Aristotle and Other Platonists, Aquinas repeatedly rediscovers standard Neo-Platonist readings of Aristotle (e.g., that the God of Metaphysics Lamba thinks all possible creaturely forms in thinking himself), with an eye to demonstrating his compatibility with this or that element of Christian doctrine. The great exception in Aquinas’s case is epistemology, where he is much more of a “naturalist” and an empiricist than Augustine or Bonaventure.) Certainly some great early-modern philosophers don’t fit this bill — Spinoza, for instance, despite his deep theism (it’s the world he denies, not God), or even Hobbes, despite his efforts to maintain an appearance of Christian orthodoxy. But in general, the  “modern” philosophers attempt to integrate the insights of the new sciences with an old, Christian picture of the world as God’s creation.

As I said above, Schopenhauer of course grants the presence of discontinuity — he simply thinks it’s mostly superficial. “Die eigentlichen Scholastiker, bis Suarez,” he proposes,

gestehn dies unverhohlen: die folgenden Philosophen thun es mehr unbewußt, oder doch nicht eingeständlich. Man läßt die Scholastische Philosophie nur bis etwan hundert Jahre vor Cartesius gehn und dann mit diesem eine ganz neue Epoche des freien, von aller positiven Glaubenslehre unabhängigen Forschens anfangen; allein ein solches ist in der That dem Cartesius und seinen Nachfolgern nicht beizulegen, sondern nur ein Schein davon und allenfalls ein Streben danach. Cartesius war ein höchst ausgezeichneter Geist, und hat, wenn man seine Zeit berücksichtigt, sehr viel geleistet. Setzt man aber diese Rücksicht bei Seite, und mißt ihn nach der ihm nachgerühmten Befreiung des Denkens von allen Fesseln und Anhebung einer neuen Periode des unbefangenen eigenen Forschens; so muß man finden, daß er mit seiner des rechten Ernstes noch entbehrenden und daher so schnell und so schlecht sich wiedergebenden Skepsis, zwar die Miene macht, als ob er alle Fesseln früh eingeimpfter, der Zelt und der Nation angehörender Meinungen, mit einem Male abwerfen wollte, es aber bloß zum Schein auf einen Augenblick thut, um sie sogleich wieder aufzunehmen und desto fester zu halten; und eben so alle seine Nachfolger bis auf Kant (519-20).

As Etienne Gilson noted in his introduction to The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, despite his loud protests on behalf of the totally presuppositionless character of his philosophy, Descartes in fact develops (in his Principia Philosophiae, for instance) an account of the divine nature that’s deeply shaped by the church’s struggle to articulate the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (cf. e.g., PP I, 21).

This line of thought is of interest to me principally because I’m writing a dissertation that traces the continuity between the accounts of creation offered by Augustine, Bonaventure, and (esp. the late) Berkeley, and I’ve found that I have to deal with a deep, visceral aversion on the part of theologians to saying anything favorable about an “Enlightenment philosopher,” no matter how much continuity between his account of creation as divine language and the theology of Bonaventure I can put on the table. The fact is that Berkeley is engaged in an apologetic theological project that Augustine or Bonaventure would’ve recognized as their own, and that it’s this project that Kant more than anyone else sought to rule out of court and so banish from the world of intellectual inquiry. All “dogmatic” thinkers now find themselves in the trenches, allied against the “critical” turn…

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Bonaventure Scoops Malcolm

Norman Malcolm famously argued that Anselm developed two versions of the ontological argument for God’s existence in his Proslogion, the first of which (in P. 2) turns on the premise that existence (in re) is a perfection, so that the greatest possible being must exist both in re as well as in cogitatione (p. 44), and the second of which (in P. 3) turns on the premise that necessary existence is a perfection: “His first  ontological proof uses the principle that a thing is greater if it exists than if it does not exist. His second proof employs the different principle that a thing is greater if  it necessarily exists than if it does not necessarily exist” (p. 46). Malcolm interprets necessary existence as existence that doesn’t depend on others (in the way that fragile dishes depend on gentle handling — otherwise identical dishes that were unbreakable would be “superior” dishes) or that’s unlimited by outside constraints (in the way that an engine that could drive 100 mph with no fuel would be greater than a similarly fast engine that required fuel) (cf. p. 47). Malcolm takes it that the first proof falls prey to Kant’s criticism that existence isn’t a predicate (since otherwise it would be impossible to form a concept of anything that happened not to exist), but that the second doesn’t —  necessary existence really is a great-making property, and so belongs necessarily to the greatest possible being, whose existence must thus either be impossible or necessary (p. 49-50). 

Now Malcolm suggests that Anselm didn’t distinguish these proofs, and I don’t know of any evidence that he did. However, a passage from Bonaventure’s Quaestiones Disputatae de Mysterio Trinitatis makes me wonder if he distinguished them in something like Malcolm’s way. Bonaventure sketches three different proofs from Anselm, the first and third of which seem to me to correspond to the proof from necessary existence as a perfection, and the second of which corresponds to the proof from existence as a perfection. We’ll take the second first: 

Ens, quo nihil maius potest cogitari est talis naturae, quod non potest cogitari, nisi sit in re; quia, si est in cogitatione sola, iam ergo non est ens, quo nihil maius cogitari possit: ergo si tale ens cogitatur esse, necesse est, quod non posset cogitari non esse” (q. 1, a. 1, sec. 23; Quaracchi, v. 5, p. 47a).

Here, the proof turns on existence as a perfection which the greatest possible being must possess. It’s obviously drawn from Anselm’s first formulation of the proof, in Prologion 2:

Certe id quo maius cogitari nequit, non potest esse in solo intellectu. Si enim vel in solo intellectu est, potest cogitari esse et in re; quod maius est. Si ergo id quo maius cogitari non potest, est in solo intellectu: id ipsum quo maius cogitari non potest, est quo maius cogitari potest. Sed certe hoc esse non potest. Existit ergo procul dubio aliquid quo maius cogitari non valet, et in intellectu et in re.

It’s curious, and perhaps revealng, that Bonaventure presents the proofs out of order — I wonder if he brings this one out second because he regards it as the weaker of Anselm’s two formulations…

In any case, the first and third versions of the argument sketched by Bonaventure clearly turn on the premise that  necessary existence is a genuine perfection:

Deus est quo nihil maius cogitari potest; sed quod sic est, quod non potest cogitari non esse, verius est, quam quod cogitari potest non esse: ergo si Deus est quo nihil maius cogitari potest, Deus non poterit cogitari non esse (Ibid., sec. 22).

This draws on Anselm’s second formulation of the proof in Proslogion 3:

Quod utique sic vere est, ut nec cogitari possit non esse. Nam potest cogitari esse aliquid, quod non possit cogitari non esse; quod maius est quam quod non esse cogitari potest. Quare si id quo maius nequit cogitari, potest cogitari non esse: id ipsum quo maius cogitari nequit, non est id quo maius cogitari nequit; quod convenire non potest. Sic ergo vere est aliquid quo maius cogitari non potest, ut nec cogitari possit non esse.

After sketching Anselm’s two overt constructions of the ontological argument, Bonaventure offers a third derivation of the proof, from a later comment in the Proslogion about the criterion for ascribing properties to God:

“Tu solus es quidquid esse melius est quam not esse” (cf. P. 9); sed omne verum indubitabile melius est quam omne verum dubitabile; ergo Deo magis est attribuendum esse indubitabiliter quam dubitabiliter (Ibid., sec. 24).

In context, Anselm’s comment was about God’s being “iustus, verax, beatus, vel quidquid melius est esse quam non esse”: Bonaventure suggests that this criterion requires that God’s existence be regarded as “indubitable” rather than “doubtful.” Here again, it’s not that God has to possess existence outside the mind rather than only in the mind; it’s rather that God’s existence must be of the sort that the mind can’t coherently doubt it at all, because it is possible and (by definition) unconditioned by anything else.

That Bonaventure regards these as two different arguments is clear from the way he formulates and addresses objections to the indubitability of God’s existence. For instance, he considers Gaunilo’s argument that if Anselm proves anything, he proves too much, since the ontological argument can be reformulated to prove the existence of “an island, than which nothing greater can be thought,” which is only such if it exists in re as well as in cogitatione (Qu. Disp. de Myst. Trin. a. 1, q. 1, obj. 6; Quar., v. 5, p. 48b). Now this objection is clearly aimed at the argument of Proslogion 2, and Bonaventure defuses it by proposing that the idea of a island greater than which nothing can be thought is incoherent, since “insula dicit ens defectivum” (Ibid., ad 6, p. 50b). Maximal greatness isn’t repugnant to the concept of God in the same way as it is to the concept “island.” (Bonaventure clearly thinks that this argument works just as well as the next one, and I think he and Anselm have a point — but the point of this post is to show that Bonaventure already recognized two distinct arguments in Anselm, rather than just one.)

He immediately goes on to consider a different objection, this time to the second formulation of the ontological proof: how, the objector wonders, can you say that God’s non-existence cannot be thought? It’s obvious that I can assert his non-existence. And if you say that those assertions are false, then you’re not saying anything more than can be said for all necessary truths, many of which are plainly dubitable (Qu. Disp. de Myst. Trin. a. 1, q. 1, obj. 7; Quar., v. 5, p. 48b). (An extreme case is Fermat’s Last Theorem, which is apparently true, but known (rather than believed) to be so only by a few people in the world.) Bonaventure’s response to this objection is strikingly similar to Malcolm’s interpretation of Anselm’s second ontological argument: it’s not that we can’t form the thought, “Deus non est,” but rather that “ipsum adeo est evidens in se et certum cognoscenti, quod si recte considerare velit, non est aliquid, per quod possit ab hac veritate avelli. Est enim verum evidentissimum et praesentissimum, quod nulli deest loco, nulli tempori, nulli rei, nulli cogitationi; nec sic est de aliis veris creatis” (Ibid., ad 7; Quar. v. 5, p. 50b). The reason that God cannot coherently be thought not to exist, is that if he exists at all, he exists in such a way that his existence is totally unconditioned by anything else (so that “non est aliquid, per quod possit ab hac veritate avelli”), because that existence totally conditions everything else (“nulli deest loco, nulli tempori, nulli rei, nulli cogitationi; nec sic est de aliis veris creatis”).

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Christ’s “Munus Triplex” at His Baptism

The Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ baptism evoke powerful Old Testament allusions which confront the reader with ears to hear with Christ’s munus triplex, as prophet, priest, and king. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares, “σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα,” as “καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ’ αὐτόν” (Lk. 3:22). (This analysis works with Mark or Matthew as well, but let’s just consider Luke for now.) What does this verse tell us about the identity of the Son, Jesus?

First, we might posit, with Darrell Bock, that the Father’s words evoke Isaiah’s Servant, particularly as imaged in Isaiah 42, and so evokes the Son’s office as prophet.[1] The Servant is the one upon whom God’s spirit rests (Isa 42:1 LXX) while in Isa 41:8, God addresses, “παῖς μου Ιακωβ ὃν…ἠγάπησα.”[2] In particular, the Spirit’s descent “ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν” at Jesus’ baptism is difficult to account for apart from an allusion to Isaiah. This Spirit-anointing also evokes Jesus’ later account of his prophetic vocation as the one sent to announce the “ἐνιαυτὸν κυρίου δεκτὸν”: at the opening of that manifesto of liberation, the prophet declares, “πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπ᾽ ἐμέ” (Lk 4:18-19 / Isa 61:1-2). Further confirmation that the Father’s words at the baptism ought to be read in terms of Isaiah 42 comes in Lk 9:35, at the Transfiguration, where the Father this time addresses Jesus as “ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος,” which much more clearly mirrors Isaiah 42:1 than does Luke 3:22.[3]

However, Jesus is not only a prophetic Son, but also a priestly Son: the Father’s words cannot be accounted for solely in terms of Isaiah, but equally evoke the Binding of Isaac from Genesis 22. As Leroy Huizenga has brilliantly argued,[4] the Father’s naming Jesus, “ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός” unmistakably evokes Isaac: in Genesis 22:2 (LXX), God commands Abraham to sacrifice “τὸν υἱόν σου τὸν ἀγαπητόν,” and this phrase occurs nowhere else in Scripture (whether LXX or MT). As Huizenga shows, the intertestamental period saw a flourishing of interpretations of Isaac as a willing martyr.[5] Pairing this reading with Gen 22:16-18[6], in which the trial of the Akedah is made the warrant (ἀνθ᾽ ὧν) for God’s promise of land, descendants, and blessings for all nations,[7] the Akedah can be read as an account of a substitutionary trial undertaken for the world’s salvation.[8]

Finally, the Father’s words to the Son evoke Psalm 2:7 (“υἱός μου εἶ σύ”), and so his office as the world’s true King.[9] In the Psalm, the one named “son” is the “βασιλεὺς” established on Zion (2:6), the “Χριστός” (anointed one) against whom the nations band together (2:2). The Book of Acts takes the Psalm as a paradigm for Jesus’ suffering and vindication: the apostolic Church prays Psalm 2 as a depiction of the warfare carried out by the Jewish and Roman authorities against Jesus, God’s persecuted and vindicated Son (4:25-26), while later in Acts, Paul offers Ps 2:7 as a prophecy of Jesus’ vindication by his Father in the resurrection (13:33).

[1] Darrell Bock. Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern. JSNT Supplements Series, 12. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, UK, 1987, p. 103.

[2] Is “the Servant” a consistent figure linked across the Book of Isaiah? After all, in Isa 53 the servant is anonymous, in Isaiah 42 he is identified with “Israel” (42:1), and with David in Isaiah 37:35. Fortunately, our thesis does not requires that either Isaiah (or his editors) or Luke conceived of every instance of “servant” in Isaiah as representing a single figure; but the Servant material that Luke uses – Isa 41-42 and Isa 53 – is clearly linked even in Isaiah, most notably by the Servant’s silence (Isa 42:2, Isa 53:7).

[3] Cf. Bock 1987: 103.

[4] Leroy Huizenga. The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew. Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 131. Brill: Boston, 2009.

[5] Huizenga compendiously documents inter-testamental readings of Isaac as martyr, as in Judith 8:24-27; Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum 18.5; 4 Maccabees 7:13-14 (p. 93-117).

[6] “καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν τῷ σπέρματί σου πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς ἀνθ᾽ ὧν ὑπήκουσας τῆς ἐμῆς φωνῆς.”

[7] That such a declarations do not mesh straightforwardly with the seemingly unconditional promise of Gen 12:3, or Abraham’s receipt of “δικαιοσύνην” in Gen 15:6 because “ἐπίστευσεν…τῷ θεῷ,” is an occasion for some dispute in the New Testament. St. James seems to resolve the problem by making Gen 15:6 a prophecy of Abraham’s faithfulness in the Akedah (James 2:21-23). St. Paul seems to have had a rather different solution – describing what that was, would unfortunately require a rather different paper.

[8] This “priestly” reading of Jesus as New Isaac appears elsewhere in the Gospels, notably in the Parable of the Vineyard, which describes the brutal murder of “τὸν υἱόν μου τὸν ἀγαπητόν” (Lk. 20:13), and in Gethesemane, where Jesus is arrested by a crowd “μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων” (Lk 22:52): as Huizenga observes, these are exactly the implements Abraham brings to slaughter Isaac – wood for the altar (22:9), and a “sword” for the slaying (22:10, LXX) (250-251).

[9] Cf. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke: Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 3. The Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1991, p. 69. Oddly enough, the Letter to the Hebrews 5:5 also links Ps 2:7 to Jesus’ identity as the Son; but here the link is made on the basis of his priestly work!

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Paul’s “Spiritual Body” and Ezekiel 37

Consider a possible echo of Scripture in a letter of Paul, namely, Ezekiel 37:1-14 in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. This connection occurred to me in my recent wrestling with Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s Cosmology and Self in Paul, which prompted me to ask, “If it’s not principally for Stoic reasons, why does Paul describe the resurrection body as a ‘σῶμα πνευματικόν’?” The answer that eventually occurred to me is that Paul’s description of the resurrection body is an allusion to Ezekiel 37:1-14, which is the subtext for the whole of 1 Cor 15:35-49. However, to my surprise, and despite no little effort, I’ve yet to track down any exegesis of this section which explicitly flags that dependence.
The link between these passages seems straightforward enough: Ezekiel 37 is the OT text par excellence for the trope of resurrection, which of course occurs there through the Spirit’s working in and through humanity: “δώσω πνεῦμά μου εἰς ὑμᾶς καὶ ζήσεσθε” (Ezek. 37:6, cf. also 37:10, 14). It’s no surprise that when Paul describes the resurrected body, he chooses “πνευματικός” as a summary term for the human being as revived, reordered, and reoriented by the LORD’s Spirit. (Cf. also Rom 8:11 for the same thought, if not under the same description, and cf. 1 Thess 4:8 for an allusion to Ezekiel 37:5 in reference to the gift of the Spirit to the baptized.) And his having Ezekiel 37 in mind would make sense of Paul’s use of “πνευματικόν” to denote, not composition out of “spirit” (pace Engberg-Pedersen) but rather transformation or direction by the Spirit, since that’s just what Ezekiel 37 describes (or so it seems to me).
Now, I know that Paul’s most explicit engagement with the OT in this section is with Genesis 2:7 (1 Cor 15:45) — my suggestion is that he’s reading Genesis 2 through Ezekiel 37. (The noisy echo of Genesis 2:7 (LXX) in Ezekiel 37:5 (LXX)  perhaps creates some exegetical pressure in that direction quite apart from Paul’s own interests.) Genesis 2:7 tells Paul that “ὁ θεὸς…ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν”; the last phrase is clearly on Paul’s mind in 1 Cor 15:45. But if Genesis 2 is all that Paul has in view in 1 Cor 15:45ff., then a couple of things are still puzzling:
1) Since the πνοὴν ζωῆς (which might be in part the basis for Paul’s saying of the second Adam, “[ἐγένετο] εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν”) is logically and temporally prior to the “ψυχὴν ζῶσαν,” why does he immediately insist that the “ψυχικόν” comes first, and then the “πνευματικόν”? (1 Cor 15:46) Perhaps it’s because he has in mind Ezekiel’s vision of Israel as “dead” in exile, already east of Eden (so to speak), to whom God promises, “ἐγὼ φέρω εἰς ὑμᾶς πνεῦμα ζωῆς” (Ezek 37:5). (Additionally, this verse, while still echoing Genesis 2:7, is verbally closer than Genesis to Paul’s formulation in 1 Cor 15:45.)
And 2) Genesis 2 alone doesn’t explain why it’s only at the resurrection that the second Adam becomes “πνευματικός.” Just before his discussion of Genesis 2:7, Paul writes, “σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν” (1 Cor 15:44), and it seems to me that he intends this same logic to apply in the following verse (“οὕτως καὶ”). Genesis 2:7 doesn’t include any indications of either death or resurrection, for the obvious reason that death is still in Adam’s future. But if Ezekiel 37 is on Paul’s mind as a kind of post-lapsum recapitulation of the creation narrative from Genesis 2, then Paul’s reasoning clear and cogent. (I’m beginning to wonder if Paul’s “γέγραπται” doesn’t encompass Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 37 (esp. v. 5) at once…)
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Unamuno’s Private Language Argument

In his Del Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida, published in 1912, Miguel de Unamuno takes aim in passing at a particular picture of “interiority” familiar in modern philosophy at least from Descartes on, and he does so in a way that strikingly anticipates Wittgenstein’s “private language argument.” He writes, for instance, ““Preguntarle a uno por su yo, es como preguntarle por su cuerpo. Y cuenta que al hablar del yo, hablo del yo concreto y personal; no del yo de Fichte, sino de Fichte mismo, del hombre Fichte” (6). The Cartesian — and later Fichtean — exploration of the “I” as a being apart from the embodied person is a mere abstraction; there is no “I” but the person who can say “I.” He defends this position, as Wittgenstein will, by reflecting on language: “Pensar es hablar consigo mismo, y hablamos cada uno consigo mismo gracias a haber tenido que hablar los unos con los otros…El pensamiento es lenguaje interior, y el lenguaje interior brota del exterior” (15). The thought of the naked “I” is the thought of a world apart, in which the self holds court with itself, freed from all commerce with the objective world in which its body immerses it. But this is an illusion: the privileged language in which we express our “mental states” (e.g., “I am pain,” a statement which, if true, must be known incorrigibly and on no basis) is in fact just a special case of the language in which we converse with others, and indeed depends on it. (The word “pain” must have a public meaning, applicable to others, if I am to apply it to myself.)

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Anselm’s Unbelievers

To what end did Anselm write his Cur Deus Homo, and what convictions are presupposed in its ideal reader? The answers to these questions are intertwined. Cur Deus Homo is aimed at assuring Christian believers of the reasonableness of their faith, but the believers it addresses have clearly been touched by the doubts of “unbelievers,” who repeatedly voice their objections through the dutiful Boso (e.g., 1.1, 265). What do these “unbelievers” believe? Well, they’re monotheists, to start, who accept “that the rational creation was created righteous, and was so created for the purpose of being happy in the fact of God’s delighted approval?” (1.9, p. 277) They also seem clearly to accept the view that humanity has sinned against God (1.10, 282). However, they maintain, against the church, that God could have saved humanity “through the agency of some other person, angelic or human, or simply by willing it” (1.1, p. 265). They also “object that we are inflicting injury and insult on God when we assert that he descended into a woman’s womb” (1.3, 268).

It should be obvious enough that these unbelievers described here at neither atheists (who of course were rather hard to turn up in this period), nor Christian heretics, nor even the stray Lithuanian animist, but rather Jews and Muslims. The latter group especially would’ve been apt to be on Anselm’s mind as he wrote Cur Deus Homo, which he completed in 1098, two years into the first Crusade. (It’s all the more telling that Anselm dedicated this work to Pope Urban II, of Dieu le veut fame.) This only become fully clear at the work’s end, when Boso comments, “You prove that it is a matter of necessity for God to become man, and you do so in such a way that…you [provide] something which would satisfy not only Jews, but even pagans” (2.22, p. 355).) Applied to contemporaries, of course “pagani” or “paynim” is simply the medieval Christian’s most ordinary way of referring to Muslims. And interestingly, Anselm’s biographer Eadmer reports that Anselm got to know some Muslim mercenaries of the Duke of Sicily who were besieging nearby Capua in 1098, as he was finishing Cur Deus Homo (cf. Vita Anselmi 111-12, apud Asiedu, “Anselm and the Unbelievers,” p. 547).

The point of the work, on this reading, is to equip Christians to understand how the theological commitments they share with Muslims and Jews require the Incarnation. After they’ve elaborated the plight of sinful humanity, Boso wonders, “How then will man be saved, if he does not himself pay what he owes, and is bound not to be saved if he does not pay?” (1.25, 313). And to this, Anselm responds, “You ought to demand an answer now from those people, on whose behalf you are speaking, who do not believe that Christ is necessary for the salvation of mankind” (1.25, 313). The punchline of the first part of the Cur Deus Homo is that you can’t accept the createdness and sinfulness of humanity and not also accept that there is a Jesus-shaped hole in the biblical story.

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“In him we live and move and have our being”

“In him we live and move and have our being…”

Acts 17:28 is Berkeley’s favorite biblical gloss for his philosophy of immaterialism. But, as he noticed early on as well, it was equally a favorite of so straightforwardly pantheist (or acosmist) a thinker as Spinoza. In his notebooks, he wrote, “Spinosa (vid. Præf. Opera Posthum.) will have God to be “omnium rerum causa immanens,” and to countenance this produces that of St. Paul, “in Him we live,” &c. Now this of St. Paul may be explained by my doctrine as well as Spinosa’s, or Locke’s, or Hobbs’s, or Raphson’s, &c.” (52). It’s not insignificant that this conflict between the pantheist Spinoza and the Christian Berkeley seems to reprise the original conflict implicit in St. Paul’s offering that line as a gloss on the doctrine of the Stoic Aratus. The Christian doctrine of creation does seem to be drawn naturally toward pantheist turns of phrase, even as it struggles to differentiate itself from them. Why?

Stephen Daniel is interesting on this. He suggests that, for Berkeley, “God is not a subject or self but rather the discursive domain in terms of which we are initially able to speak about minds, ideas, and their relations…God is the semantic matrix of reality, the place or space in which all things (including minds and ideas) have identities and are originally differentiated” (“B’s Pantheistic Discourse,” 180). To say that the world is “in God” is to say that God means in and through the world – the entire order of being, as significant, stands to the LORD as signifier.

But this equally gives us some things to say about the difference between body and mind for Berkeley. Daniel goes on to observe that Berkeley says that sensibles “exist,” meaning that it “is thought as having a determinate identity by some mind,” while minds “subsist,” meaning “that they are the particular patterns of association by means of which things in the world are identified as having meanings” (187). (Cf. PHK 90, Dialogues 212, 235-6.) A mind, then, isn’t some radically distinct kind of substance from the beings (ideas) it perceives, but rather is the transcendent act of ordering those ideas; the mind is the world viewed as active, as willing and understanding, rather than willed and understood.

What does the LORD do, then, in creating? He crafts a discourse, whose moments – which is to say, creatures such as trees and stars and quarks – are legible to us only by virtue of their standing in a set of grammatical relations to every other moment. And where are we in that discourse? Daniel suggests that, for Berkeley, we “are expressions of the syntactic alignments in terms of which relations in nature are identified” (188-9). This brings to mind an interesting comment by David Hart in The Beauty of the Infinite, where he suggests, “All creation declares God’s glory, and so should be understood not simply according to a logic of substances, but first as a free and flowing succession of semeia, within which ‘substances’ are constituted as the relative stability of the ‘notes’ or ‘moments’ that whole discourse (the Logos) calls forth” (209). (Hart’s comment points the way to a richer ontology than Berkeley seems to be interested in, wherein impersonal creatures might have a place as well…)

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