|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: 'Ab uno disce omnes'
Author(s): VOS, Antonie
Volume: 60 Issue: 2 Date: 1999
The premodern history of the European university can be divided into two triads of three centuries: the medieval university and the ‘medieval’ university of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During these last three centuries Europe’s Christian university was a ‘confessional’ university: the catholic, Lutheran, reformed and Anglican university and the dissenter university of New England. The reformed university of these centuries offered a distinctive way of systematic thought. A specific doctrine of God was connected with a distinct ontology and this combination constituted the theoretical framework of its philosophy and theology. What are the main distinctive features of this scholastic way of thought (I) and can a specific traditionhistorical background be identified (II)?
I– The key concept of this systematic way of thought is God’s free knowledge (scientia libera). This free knowledgeis here understood to be God’s knowledge of future states of affairs – see section 7 for the main lines of Turrettini’s doctrine of God. This free knowledge of future states of affairs is also called definite (definita), because future states of affairs are definite on the basis of God’s certain will. Thus God’s free knowledge is partly based on divine will, but the other pillar of God’s free knowledge is that divine knowledge which is structurally prior to an act of divine will: God’s ‘natural’ knowledge (scientia naturalis or scientia necessaria). This natural or necessary knowledge of God encompasses all possible states of affairs. This structure turning around the notion of scientia libera is vital for understanding Western thought, because Aristotelianism and latin Averroism, Thomism and nominalism do not dispose of this notion of scientia libera.
Such a free knowledge doctrine of God is married to a specific type of ontology, namely a contingency ontology– see section 8. This type of ontology centres on the notion of fundamental possibility. All possible states of affairs enjoy the status of possibility (status possibilitatis). This status of possibility is constituted by logical possibility(the logicum possibile). Turrettini joins Duns Scotus in defining the logicum possibile: If a state of affairs is possible, then it is not inconsistent that it obtains. Therefore, the twin concept of fundamental possibility is logical IMpossibility: What is logically impossible, is inconsistent and self-contradictory, because it includes contradictory predicates.
This approach leads to the central ontological notion of synchronic contingency. Turrettini’s key term is even almost the same as this modern invention to name this crucial device: simultas potentiae. When is an event contingent in this sense?
An event e is synchronically contingent at time t, if e is the case at time t – therefore eis possible – while it is possible too that e is not the case at the same time t. Because of the simultaneity of the possibility of the opposite, reality is not necessary. It is open. Thus, the tool of implicative necessity (the necessitas consequentiae) is essential to Turrettini’s methodology. It does not only govern his doctrine of God, but also his theory of true freedom of the human will.
II – In contrast to traditional descriptions of reformed scholasticism, Turrettini’s theology is a theology of will and radical contingency in general and a theology of freedom and grace in particular. I have already indicated that Turrettini followed Scotism in vital respects and Duns Scotus stood on the shoulders of Henry of Ghent (section 6) and of Bonaventure (section 4). The ontological infrastructure was delivered by Duns Scotus’ way of thinking structured by synchronic contingency, but the basics of this type of doctrine of God’s knowledge are already conspicuous in the so-called Summa fratris Aleandri (section 3). Thomas Aquinas substantially borrowing from Aristotle consciously deviates from this tradition built on the legacy of Augustine and Anselm, the Victorines and Alexander of Hales (section 5, compare section 3) by ignoring the new theory of divine knowledge put forward by John of La Rochelle. This new approach develops a new relationship between God’s notitia simplex and notitia visionis on the one hand and his potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata on the other hand.