• François Loiret

Recension de Volonté et infini chez Duns Scot par Luca Parisoli.

The Medieval Review 04.03.10

Loiret, Francois. Volonté et Infini chez Duns Scot. Pp. 504. ISBN: $43.00 2-84174-297-0.

Reviewed by: Luca Parisoli Université Paris X lm.parisoli@online.fr

This first work by Francois Loiret is a very interesting approach to Scotist voluntarism, colored by the intention to stress the notion of infinity to understand Scotist metaphysics. It is a new contribution in French to voluntarist interpretation of Scotus' thought--after my book La philosophie normative de Duns Scot (Roma 2001): I was interested in deontic (moral, political, legal) analysis, Loiret is interested in the foundation of a positive approach to voluntarism by the idea of infinity. I agree with Loiret's defense of a positive approach to voluntarism: in this strategy, he makes reference to Thomas Williams' papers. I agree with him that Scotist voluntarism is completely different from an apology of arbitrariness and blind exercise of power--in my opinion, voluntarism is an excellent theory of normative thought. I found completely sound the author's idea that in Scotus the crucial distinction is not between intellect and will, but between nature (the kingdom of necessity) and will (the kingdom of contingence) (229), and that intellect has a different function in relation to his action placed in nature or placed in volition. In this way, I think that his work is an important piece for a new understanding of voluntaristic tradition, which is worthy to see into without any thomistic glasses (Loiret argues that to give too much importance to recta ratio in Scotus is misleading (147): with the more sensible respect in face of the partisans of this interpretation contrasted by Loiret, I found his arguments sound and persuasive). I believe that only a religious conception of divine love can stop any stretching of voluntarism meaning into injustice and arbitrary. So, the position of Loiret is also prima facie, but I think that this idea of love is a metaphysical one, in that the idea of love--not only in Scotus, but in Franciscan tradition too--is more important than every intellectual notion; I say theology is a practical (moral) science, not a speculative one. And a practical judgement is a judgement inspired and formed by love. I suspect that there is in Loiret some sympathy for the thesis of a strong separation between theoretical judgement and moral judgement: I think that in Scotus' thought there is a supremacy of moral judgement over theoretical judgement, because Divine love is the first reality at all, and human love is the first reality of our actual world. So, it is true that there is a (analytical) difference between a theoretical proposition and a practical proposition, but Scotus is a partisan, I believe, of a soft separation of ontology and morals. For him, the passage is not from ontology to morals--as it is in the scheme of naturalistic fallacy (see G.E. Moore's analysis)--, but from morals to ontology. If you know completely Divine love, you know every (actual and possible) reality: the knowledge of the Blessed is different from the knowledge of the man in our actual world. So, it is true that for Scotus a theoretical judgement is not identical to a moral judgement, but the sphere of love is the groundwork of the knowledge of every reality. So, if is true that God is actual infinity, surely it is true, but it is more important to stress that God is first of all love, and love is the first reality. And, maybe, another different nuance between my understanding of Scotus' voluntarism and the understanding proposed by Loiret is that I will stress strongly that for Scotus God is a fact of our experience, and it is quite impossible to conceive a metaphysics separated from the fact that God is: the relation of faith and philosophy is not at all a problem, they are the one same thing (in Muslim tradition, this also the position of Al-Ghazali). I am not sure that Loiret may subscribe to my reading of Scotus' works, a reading that is also defended by Orlando Todisco--a Franciscan brother who is studying and defending Scotus' voluntarism with sound and strong arguments published in a lot of papers (see Miscellanea Franciscana or Antonianum) and some books. Loiret sees in Scotus' work a sound anticipation of contemporary reflection about the notion of actual infinity in the context of debates about the foundation of mathematics. But this is not a matter of priority of mathematical reasoning, for the author the ontological reasoning about actual infinity is a strong premise which is the same space of the possibility of mathematical analysis. I guess that historians of mathematical philosophy can stress that Scholasticism was a source of inspiration for Cantor (in Loiret's book, pp. 404-407), Duns Scotus, but also John of Ripa, O.F.M., or John Major, another Scotist thinker. It is quite right to protest against any reductionist strategy, against any effort to reduce ontology to mathematics. But I think that a more analytical approach to Scotist text is necessary to debate with contemporary philosophers of mathematics: it is a matter of philosophical taste, but the references by Loiret to Continental philosophy about the actual infinity do not seem to be the best way to stress that Scotus' ontological analysis is the best foundation of the mathematical notion of actual infinity. So, God is surely an actual infinity, says Loiret (39), but this idea is quite trivial in Christian thought, at least in one of the meanings of "actual infinity." Maybe this is the same "actual infinity" of Nicholas of Cusa, so maybe there is a strong common element between thinkers explaining transcendental God, but it is necessary to stress more and more the practical value of free-will and contingence. I guess that the metaphysical approach of Loiret, and his constant attention to "actual infinity" ought to be connected with a more traditional attention to moral sphere of ontological experience.

Nevertheless, the notion of actual infinity gives to Loiret a sound means to show the specificity of Scotus' notion of will; from the pages of Introduction (see especially p. 21), Loiret stresses the Scotist "positive affirmation of will,"producing a "not-subjective will" and a rejection of the "willing of willing." Against modern philosophy, as also Orlando Todisco stresses (see his recent book Lo stupore della ragione, Padova 2003), for Scotus contingence is the first reality, and there is no submission of men to necessity. Infinity, freedom, and contingence are finally linked to Revelation (39), and the Divine love is the foundation of every moral and practical sphere. Loiret stresses that the being-actual-infinity is not the foundation of an objective set of moral values, in that only Divine love is this foundation: I believe that it is quite sound. But Divine love, as Todisco stresses (Lo stupore della ragione cit.), is the most important thing in human experience and in every created reality; in this meaning, the expression that "Divine love is actual infinity" is perplexing because it is an issue of Divine will. Maybe this is true in one meaning at least, but even if the denotation of this thesis is right, I feel that its connotation is too much reductive. At pp. 95-96, Loiret analyzes the idea of "firmitas" as an essential element of the idea of "love": it is a good indication, and it will be more fitting if one makes a reference to the Christian notion of metaphysical person. Loiret has the intention to study the notion of person in Scotus, and his book of 504 pages is a big one, but a "warmer" connotation of Divine love demands a reference to the persons, Divine and human.

His idea (41-42) that God's Omnipotence is a quality permitting the inclusion of contradiction in the will, and this is the rationality of will (also the past is not-necessary, it is full of "not-realised possibilities" (481)) is really important: in this meaning, it will be useful to Loiret (251-252) a reference to philosophical defense of paraconsistent logic, I say Lorenzo Pena, Richard Routley, or Graham Priest. The Divine will is rational not in a Pickwickian meaning, but in a proper meaning, even if there are true contradictions in Divine will: the matter is that a rational logic, as Pena, Routley, Priest and others stress, accepts the existence of true contradictions. In my opinion, the paraconsistent logical system by Pena is perhaps the best way to understand Scotus' philosophical construction.My wish for Loiret's analysis is only an open affirmation of the superiority of thepractical sphere, as the Franciscan roots of Scotist philosophy may have operatedin his subtilis analysis.

For this reasons I am not able to understand really the final reference to Hans Jonas about Omnipotence (480) and the general idea of Loiret to pose a difference between the power-potentia of real possibilities (so Divine Omnipotence) and the power-potestas of lawgiver (in French, pouvoir vs puissance, in Italian, potere vs potenza). I prefer the interpretation by Eugenio Randi, criticized by Loiret, and I have tried myself to show that God's Omnipotence as Lawgiver is an essential part of the idea of power of Scotus. But I believe that this omnipotent Lawgiver makes justice in that He is pushed by will, not by mere intellect: there are lots of interpreters whofound this thesis unsound, so this is a matter of philosophy of law, or as I prefer to say about Scotus, it is a matter of philosophy of normativity (moral, legal, political). Loiret thinks that Landry's error (Landry is the author of a pamphlet against Scotus, rich of classical unfair charges against him), isa confusion between Macht and Gewalt (in Max Scheler's terminology); I believe that Landry's error is a completely unsound understanding of the nature of a norm (moral, legal, political).

The final bibliography is selected in one sense, but also lacking in another sense: concerning the subject, one may wonder that no reference is made to Simo Knuuttila's or Alain de Vos' works, concerning the theory of modalities, especially the new meaning of contingence and necessity. It is also a matter of dates of publications, but I'd be happy to see a reference to my La philosophie normative de Duns Scot (Roma 2001): the English reader can also see a paper of mine, The Anthropology of Freedom and the Nature of Human Person, published in The Personalist Forum (2001), concerning the notion of person and the idea of political freedom in the Franciscan school. It is a lack of precision to ignore the recent critical edition of the Quaestiones subtilissimae in metaphysicam Aristotelis published by St. Bonaventure University group. But Loiret's choices are sufficient to strengthen the matter of his sound analysis of Scotus' thought: I think that the community of scholars may hope for new contributions from this French chercheur to the philosophical debate. It will be very useful.


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