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Document Details :
Title: Geven om de ander - The Object of Generosity
Subtitle: Scotus' visie op God's liefde, verkiezing en menswording als moment in de geschiedenis van het volheidsbeginsel - Duns Scoutus' View on Divine Love, Predestination and Incarnation as an Important Passage in the History of the Principle of Plenitude
Author(s): DEN BOK, Nico
Volume: 60 Issue: 1 Date: 1999
The source of all being cannot be envious. This is one of the basic ideas of Ancient philosophy and one of the central aspects of what A. Lovejoy has called the principle of plenitude. We may ask what kind of being is supposed to originate because of that most original generosity. This article presents some answers to this question – highlights in the history of the ideas from Ancient to Medieval thought – in order to give a close-up of the last one.
In Ancient philosophy ‘the other’ generously brought into being is the cosmos emanating from the One or Good. This emanation is as full or complete as it can be (Plotinus). The patres could not accept this ‘layered’ conception of the communication of being unless the crucial difference between God and world was taken into account. They looked for the other on two levels: (1) the Son generated by the Father, the ‘fountain of the godhead’ and the ultimate source of all being, and (2) the universe created by God and culminating in man made in God’s image. Moreover, the communication of being was increasingly considered as a communication not just of goodness (which can be egocentric and ultimately lonely), but of love (which cannot but tend to the other, calling for response). The fulfilment of this communication – the optimal realisation of the principle of plenitude – was located (1) in the relations of the divine persons (Augustine, Richard of St.Victor, Bonaventure) or (2) in the creation and glorification of non-divine persons (Abelard).
There also seems to be (3) a unique ‘in between’: Jesus Christ, God made man, supreme divine selfcommunication in a created being. The well-known Scotian notion of the absolute predestination of Christ claims that God, because of his (supreme) love, wants to be (supremely) loved. Out of this love, which is God’s most original motive, God (the Son) was incarnated. So Scotus assumes that the incarnation – human nature taken into the unity of person with the divine nature – is the culmination of divine goodness communicating itself. Plenitude is attained in and through Christ.
Thus the question is raised where the other as the final object of supreme generosity can be found: in the Trinity, in Jesus, or in creation (man)? The differences in view appear to depend on the respective analyses of the precise nature of the other required for the full communication of love (non-egocentric goodness). These analyses can be focussed on the concept of person (‘persona’, in relation to ‘substantia’ or ‘natura’). In this concept various aspects appear to be involved: independence, incommunicability (individuality), mindgiftedness (‘rationalitas’), being-a-subject, and (non-) necessary existence.
The body of this article is committed to the question whether Christ, or Christ’s human nature, can be the other intended by God’s love. I analyze Scotus’ christological concept of person (‘persona’, in relation to ‘natura’). I will show, first, that in order to be able to respond to divine love the other has to be an individual, non-necessarily existing subject which is capable of knowing and willing (in willing freedom of choice must be involved). Second, I will investigate Scotus’ conception by asking, whether or not these aspects can, or cannot, be identified with various aspects involved in the specific constitution of person and nature in Christ. This investigation is grouped in two sets of issues: (a) independence and some presuppositions of loving in response, and (b) the (non-)neces-sity of the incarnation.
My conclusion is that the other – a being having the aspects just mentioned – cannot be found inChrist (unless it be divine, but then there is no genuine responseto divine love). Moreover, since I think, like Scotus, that the other cannot be found in God (a divine person) either, the other must be located in creation. Consequently, the incarnation must be God’s well-chosen selfcommunication tothat human other: as an non-necessary offer of love capable of fulfilling man by calling for his non-necessary response. In this way the perspective of plenitude is not cancelled, but the communication of being motivated by generosity cannot fully be realised unless both divine and human freedom are involved.