Markus Vinzent's Blog

Friday, 14 October 2011

Meister Eckhart, Newly re-discovered Parisian Questions in English Translation

(Here the revised version of all four re-discovered Parisian Questions by Meister Eckhart, work in progress)

Meister Eckhart

New Parisian Questions

Translated, Introduced and Explicated


Markus Vinzent

1. Does omnipotence which is in God need to be considered as absolute power or as ordered power?

And it seems that it has [to be considered] as ordered power, because it needs to be considered as that which suits God to do and as that what He is able to do.

The counter-argument. Omnipotence refers to all things that do not entail the contrary, these are even more than what is ordered.
Here, it is shown first that there is a power in God. For power is defined as being ordered towards action. Action, however, is two-fold. On one hand, namely, is the form that corresponds to passive power, and the activity which corresponds to the active power.

And the latter is in God; first, because, while where there is intrinsic and extrinsic activity, there is power; in God the activity is intrinsic and extrinsic [...]; on the other hand, because according to Avicenna, power is first credited to human beings since they have the strength to overcome; God, however, cannot be subjected to something else; hence he is the very action.

But you ask: In which way is this power to be found in God?

The answer has to be: as that what is found in creatures, once the imperfection is removed <from them>, as ultimate perfection.

Again, I say that this power is really one, because it is said of all as one. Further, <divine> essence is principle of all emanations, and itself is one. Therefore, asf.

Second, one has to enquire, in which way that distinction, namely, between absolute and directed power, has to be understood.

If now things are attributed to God himself, such things belong to absolute power.

If, however, things are attributed to himself with regards to intellect and wisdom, they then belong to directed power.

Similarly, thirdly, one has to answer this question that the Master in The Sentences determines, based on the authority of the Saints, and he seems to say that they are both attributed <to God>.

Some, however, say that he is omnipotent from this that he is able to do whatever he wills out of himself and through himself.

The counter‑argument: This only explains the way in which power works. I, therefore, say, <God’s power> rather has to be attributed as absolute power according to <the fact> that it can extend itself to all things, which do not imply contradiction, because it is taken with regards to what is possible.

Likewise, the power of God would otherwise be limited, if it were attributed in a specific way.

Similarly, as knowledge is said of God who knows everything, because he knows everything, so also power. Why, however, does one not say that he wills everything?

I answer: He only wills that to which he applies his knowledge and/or power. And note that he is not called omnipotent because in him be the power for everything, but because he can do everything that is possible.

To this argument it must be said that out of absolute power God can make what is not decent now. If, nevertheless, these things were made, they would be decent and just.

But you may say: He cannot do except what he has foreseen. One has to reply that, if, of course, with regards to 'unless', it refers to action, then this is true, because what he does, he has foreseen. But if it refers to power, then it is wrong.

But you say: Augustine says in the Enchiridion that he is omnipotent because he can do whatever he wills”, not because he can do everything.

One has to reply that Augustine spoke of 'wills', because in ‘everything’ evil is included that God 'cannot' do. Therefore, he speaks like this. 

2. Is the essence of God more real than the property?

It seems that the essence (is more real), because it means infinite reality.

The counter‑argument: Everything acts through realising. A Father, however, generates through fatherhood, because through it <i.e. fatherhood> he is constituted in his being <Father>. Likewise, the Father does not make the Son alike in essence, because in number <according to his essence>, he is the same with the Son.

One has to admit that the question presupposes a real property and an essence as well. Some, however, say that property is the power to generate,

1) first, because power and act are of the same genus, and generating is a relation;

2) next, because acting of a subject, taken per se, is what it is, and the form through which it is, is that through which <it is>;

3) next, because the power to generate is notional, as it does not apply to everything;

4) next, because the Father does not communicate the power to generate when he produces the Son;

5) next, because he does not generate, insofar as he is God, because in this way the Son would have generated, therefore he generates insofar as <He is> Father.

The counter‑argument: Damascenus in his first book, chapter eight <writes>: 'Generating is the work of nature'. Therefore, nature is the principle. Likewise, the noblest act derives from the noblest power. Likewise, the likeness of the product lies in the essence. Therefore etc. It is not valid to say that this is only true in the univocal generation, <but> not in an identical one, because, indeed, it is valid in univocal ones on account of the unity of the form. This, however, is the greater unity, since it is a numerical unity. Likewise, the property cannot be the first term of the formal production, according to the fifth book of the Physics, nor, therefore, the principle; because also whiteness and foundation are always understood as <being> prior to the relation.

To the first of these, one has to say that the passive power and its act are of the same genus, because the <passive> power does not have by itself that it could be set by itself in a genus, but not the active power, which by itself can be set in a genus.

To the second, one has to say, what acts sometimes acts through a common form; because in man the sensitive nature is the principle to remember, which would not be in an animal,

it is appropriated from the Father.

To the third, one has to say, that the power is essential and communal to the Trinity, be it to elicit, if connected with due respect.

<To the forth …>

<To the fifth> that insofar as he is God, with due respect.

Others say, that the essence and the property are the potentiality; more principally, however, they say it is the property. Their reason: Whatever is in the generated, has something else that responds in the generating. In the generated, however, are nature and relation. Therefore etc. More principally, however, it conveys property; because the producer likens the product and sets a distinction, and this he intends most. Therefore, the property is more principally.

The counter‑argument. They do not grasp the sense of the question, because the question is not with regards to the total aggregate, but to that power by which generation occurs. Likewise, the conclusion is false. The determination does not remove what has been signified, but restricts it to the kind of mode in which it is received. The power, however, means the absolute, therefore, to generate does not take away the signified, but only restricts it etc.

Likewise, the power to generate is neither a composite construct, nor one that is intransitive.

About the reason: The principle of generation is that which generates, and thus it is truly argued; but the question relates to the principle that makes the generation to occur.

To the second one has to say that with regards to the end of the generation, rather a distinction is intended, but the intention of the one who acts is primarily to communicate nature.

Others say that the power to generate is formally and intrinsically the essence; that is what I hold. Therefore, Damascenus, in the first book, chapter eight: 'the natural germination is the one according to substance etc.' And the master <Peter Lombard> in the first book, seventh distinction: 'its power is its nature'.

Second, it is shown that a property formally and in itself is not a principle, by which <something happens>. First, because in this way the Father likened the Son to him in fatherhood. Further, because the power is the foundation of relation by which the one who produces is related to the product, and this cannot be grounded in the production, as even in creatures (it cannot be grounded in the production), because it (the relation) is as such in the product, therefore, it is grounded in the power to produce.

Furthermore, because the power to generate is prior to the product, hence prior to the Son and, therefore, it is prior to the Father. Lastly, because the power to generate is a kind of quality, hence, intrinsically it is not a relation.

Thirdly, I say that a certain aspect follows this power, namely that the power to generate is the principle of generation. The principle, however, signifies the order which follows it (the principle). Hence, the aspect follows the power to generate. Accordingly, I understand the master who says that the essence insofar as it is fatherhood is the power to generate. That is true as consequence, not as form or intrinsically.

Furthermore it is argued: in the Son is the essence, therefore also the power. Similarly, that the Father gives everything to the Son; in this, he is not distinct.

On the first one has to say that the potentiality is common, action, however, is not. This is to deduce from the end of the second Analytics <of Aristotle>, because action is singular, the potentiality is universal and common. From which I say, it <the action> does not generate, because the intellect does not remain fruitful in the Son, like the will that remains, for it generates according to its fatherhood.

Or one has to say: that power, insofar as it denotes the aspect, is not in the Son, and, therefore, it cannot become actualized in the Son. And if it is argued that in this way the Son would not be omnipotent, one has to answer that he turns the ‘what’ into a ‘how’.

What relates to the second topic results from what has been said before.

Then, one has to say to the question that there is one act according to the thing, according to the mode of knowing, however, that it is rather to be taken towards the part of the substance. Because the relation is a measure from an entity, as the commentator of Metaphysics XII, note 20 says.

To this argument I partly agree, but the way it is argued is poor. Because the simply infinite is not, unless it is one, and this is the essence, as the Damascene says, because it contains supereminently everything. But infinity, in general, contains supereminently what is common to that genus, so that it is not inconvenient that such is multiplied, because they are of different sorts. From this one can derive our proposition.

Other problems are solved.

Nr. 3 Whether diversity is a real or an intellectual relation?

Though it seems that it is an intellectual one, because it is the opposite of identity.

The counter‑argument. It is between what is really extreme.

To begin with: What does the term 'diversity' mean? Because in the fifth (book of the) Metaphysics (it is said): Diverse is what is diverse from itself through being totally diverse, but when it differs not totally, it is mixed.

Second, how do we understand the term 'relation'?

Some say that is a habit of one’s nature that exists in the ground, and tends towards a real end, but that neither the end nor the ground are included in its nature. Because they say that

<1> certain categories only refer to the thing,

<2> certain (categories) to the thing with respect to its habit, as for example the six (categories),

<3> certain the respect as such, as for example relation.

If, however, the ground were included, it would predicate what (it is = being) which is against Boethius.

Furthermore: The ground is absolute. Hence, it is not something of a relation. And if one argues: ‘related to something else what makes something to what it is asf.’, one conceptualizes the ground.

In the same way is similarity the same quality of many.

With regards to the first one has to say that Aristotle On the Categories defines what is related, not the relation.

With regards to the second, that it is a substantial definition.

But others say that ground and end concur in the constitution of a relation. Namely as matter and form concur in a species, so also here.

Now, I prove it in the following way: A relation can neither be conceptualized nor exist without ground. Therefore it (the ground) belongs to the essence of relation.

But you may say: In this way one could only argue about the accident. One needs to say …

Furthermore, I argue as follows: Relation is an accident based on that something is, but that it is an accident derives from the ground.

Furthermore, there is a difference between a relation according to species and that other according to ground, as is obvious from (the difference between) equality and similarity.

Furthermore, relation as such from another one is not distinguished according to species, hence, the way as it is. But that it is such, it derives from the ground and the end.

On the first of these, one has to say: The thing is said with regards to habit and is different from others as one thing from another, because a thing is differentiated according to the ten categories. Therefore, relation is not some other category. And if one says: one thing accords to several categories as, for example, obviously in the case of knowing, one has to add that a single one in relation to several accords to (several) categories. Because knowing entails two real (aspects), quality and the aspect of reality. Hence, I say: relation is different from these six, because a new relation cannot exist on a new ground, but exists in those six categories, as becomes obvious from the categories of ‘where’ and of ‘habit’. And this is what the commentator notes with regards to Metaphysics V, paragraph 28.

Second, the difference exists, because relation sets the thing in an unspecified way towards something, but those six (categories) specify the habit of a thing to something else.

Third, the difference exists, because relation imports more intrinsically a certain aspect, because relation is by nature of the ground in it, and surfaces from the nature of the ground. The other six, indeed, do not do such.

On the second, one has to say that something is substantially predicated.

On the third, one has to say that it (quality) makes (the species) like matter. Because such species is constituted by both, but its definition is not compound, because that relation does not add to the ground and the relation is according to itself.

Hence, one has to reply to the proposition that diversity taken improperly with regards to similarity etc., then it is a real one. But if it is taken as opposite to identity, it is an intellectual one, the reason being that it is immediately based on substance:

Indeed, because there is no recourse to substance, then because being at presupposes being in, then because the Philosopher in On the Categories grounds all relations on accident, then because otherwise there was no accident. Indeed, relation as a term and concept can be grounded in substance. And in this way, diversity is a non-essential relation.

But against these: Nowhere, the philosopher distinguishes between ‘being said’ and ‘being’. Likewise, I say that such a distinction can easily be found between relatives, but not in relation.

Thus, it is false that a real relation cannot be grounded in substance. Because a relation really sets something else and has a distinct end. And such is God’s relation to the creature.

Further, the white Socrates concurs according to the species with the white Plato, therefore they are similar. Thus, Socrates also concurs with Plato in substance, and in this they are the same of substantial similarity.

Further, if a relation is grounded in matter, it would have a substrate. On this more in due course.

Then, I say that diversity is a real relation because it exists in a thing and is followed by a thing out of the nature of this thing.

Further: three things are required for a relation, namely

<1> that each of the extremes is somehow a thing. Therefore, between something and nothing there is no real relation. Hence, Simplicius: ‘The being of relation is not solitary, it is of one as end, and of the other as ground’. Therefore by both of them reality is given. In addition, the ground is substantial, the end formal. Therefore, the relation between a substance and a form that does not exist, is not a real one.

<2> Second, it is required that each of the extremes is something supposedly different, because it is ordered towards something else, and this other is formal. Therefore the relation of identity is not a real one.

<3> Third, the condition is that it is a consequence out of the nature of the thing and does not follow an intellectual order.

But these three belong to the relation of diversity. Therefore asf.

To the arguments of the opponent that ‘relation is not grounded in substance, because it does not depend’, one has to say that, if one accepts dependence, meaning coexistence, then it belongs to relation, if not, then is like effect to cause, because as such there were no real relation in God.

On the second where it is said: ‘something is in’, like something superior in something inferior, in another way like form in substance. And so concede …

On the other (argument) about the intention of the Philosopher one has to say that the Philosopher said that (the relation) is grounded on three, because first he has introduced the mode of power, or (second) the mode of quantity as mode of numbers – and so, substance, to establish relation, introduces the mode of quantity – or (third) quality.

On the other one has to say that what it derives from its own nature that is an accident.

On the fifth argument one has to say that identity is a substantial sameness with oneself, but different is the identity between two substances.

Nr. 4 Whether the rational difference is prior to the difference in a thing?

As it seems, yes, because the attributes differ according to reason.

The counter-argument: The thing is prior than the ratio.

First on this, what is a real difference? What has been said of a thing. The thing, however, is distinct in the way being is [distinct]. Therefore the thing can appropriately be called an absolute entity.

In another way: What is called a relation is grounded in an absolute thing. In this way [one has also to think] about the difference.

In one way, the intellect is called ratio, in another way conceptualizing is called ratio, but also a thing is called something that is conceived. Because the thing, in order [to be] according to itself, is understood in a primary understanding, an understanding that is grounded in the intellect, for the ascertaining of being.

However, for the ascertaining of signifying, it [the understanding] is grounded in the thing that it signifies. So it is also accordingly with the second intentions.

And so is ratio grounded in the intellect, not in a way that there would be a different ratio in a thing, but solely compared with the act of the ratio. Hence, to differ according to the ratio is to differ according to the act of the ratio. As the act of the ratio is directed towards the conceived thing, in which it is not, it makes this particular thing to be.

Following this, I answer the question that the difference according to the thing is prior. Because one cannot admit a part-difference, as the difference is what a being suffers. Being, however is entirely either outside of a soul, or in a soul. I prove the proposition as follows: As the thing is prior to the ratio, so also the real difference. Likewise the cause is prior to its effect.

Similarly, out of a thing’s nature, the real difference exists before any intellectual act, but the rational difference follows the rational act. Hence, all what follows from this.

Similarly, in …

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