Notes on the critical edition of Scotus's Questions on Porphyry's Isagoge

I hope it will be evident that these comments are not offered in a spirit of captious criticism. The achievement of the editors in putting together this edition is solid and admirable, and I in no way wish to disparage the editors or the edition. Having worked through the text very carefully and with a critical eye, I have come to have great respect for the editors' judgment, and I venture to differ from them here and there only with great reluctance and a certain sense of temerity. So I offer these notes primarily as aids to other readers of the text. In text editing, as in medicine, it is often useful to have a second opinion.

General comments

The editors' use of mention quotes is haphazard throughout. For example, on p. 189:



Circa capitulum 'De proprio' quaeritur utrum proprium sit universale.

If mention quotes belong around the first 'proprium', they also belong around the second. This kind of inconsistency in the use of mention quotes is pervasive, and it can sometimes confuse the reader. At q. 29, n. 25, the stray mention quotes make the passage unintelligible. The edition reads:

Ad aliud de ratione aequivocorum, dico quod 'aequivocum' in utroque sensu est univocum significans aliquid et non tantum vox; tamen nihil est commune significatis nisi tantum vox.

This sounds like a reply to an argument that distinguished senses of 'aequivocum', but it is actually a reply to the following argument:

Item, "aequivoca sunt quorum nomen solum commune est." Igitur si rationale sit aequivocum illis [sc. Intelligentiis] et nobis, sequitur quod tantum sit commune secundum nomen; sed nos sumus intelligentes secundum rem; igitur ipsae tantum secundum nomen. [n. 18]

(I note in passing that there are no mention quotes for 'rationale' here, though there are for 'irrationale' in the preceding paragraph where the use is exactly parallel.) So Scotus's point in the reply has nothing to do with the word 'aequivocum'. Rather, he is saying that an equivocal term is, in each of its senses, univocal and has a signification; it is not a mere empty noise, as the argument suggests it must be a mere empty noise as applied to the Intelligences. So the mention quotes around 'aequivocum' in the reply are wrong.

Specific passages

q. 3, n. 12 [13.14]

For the view that the subject of logic is the syllogism, the editors cite Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. But the cited text from Aquinas's Exposition on the Posterior Analytics I, lect. 20, actually rehearses the view -- for which the editors at n. 7 correctly cite the prologue of that same work -- that logic concerns the products of all three acts of reason: "Considerat enim logica sicut subiecta syllogismum et enuntiationem et praedicamentum, aut aliquid huiusmodi."


qq. 7-8, n. 15 [37.13-14]

The edition reads:

Propter hoc ad rationem suppositam ad oppositum quaestionis dicendum quod universale praedicatur univoce de istis quinque [sc. universalibus].

This is puzzling. The wording suggests that Scotus is giving a reply to the argument put forward in favor of the opposite view on the question. But the opposite view is the one Scotus himself takes, and why would he counter an argument in favor of his own view? He might do so, of course, in order to show that such an argument fails, but only if he then goes on to give a better argument for his conclusion. But there is no argument in qq. 7-8 for the position Scotus takes, other than the one given above, to which this statement would supposedly constitute a reply.

Two of the collated manuscripts read et rationem supra positam instead of ad rationem suppositam. That reading makes good sense of the passage: "On account of this [presumably, the arguments of nn. 13-14] and the argument given above in favor of the opposite view . . ."


q. 12, n. 12 [57.3-5]

The question is whether there are exactly five universals. One of the views Scotus canvases is that one can derive the sufficiency of Porphyry's five from the fact that Porphyry is speaking of universals as they are capable of being ordered within a genus. One of Scotus's objections to this view reads, in the edition, as follows:

Item, si non datur diversitas inter hunc librum et librum Topicorum, tunc differentia magis esset ibi numeranda quam hic, cum magis habeat rationem praedicabilis quam ordinabilis.

I don't see how to make sense of this: "If the discrepancy between this book and the Topics is not admitted, then difference ought to be listed in the Topics rather than here, since difference has the character of what can be predicated rather than the character of what can be ordered." The discrepancy between the Isagoge and the Topics is precisely the fact that the two works list different universals, so it seems odd to say that if that discrepancy is not admitted (allowed? acknowledged?), one of the universals belongs in the Topics rather than in the Isagoge.

My suggestion is that we read with one manuscript (the gist of which is supported by a handful of others) and substitute the following:

Item, si per hoc detur diversitas . . .

Then the sense is clear: "If this is the way we're meant to explain the discrepancy between the Isagoge and the Topics, that explanation would have the false implication that difference would be found in the latter rather than in the former."


q. 21, n. 21 [136.8]

The marginal number appears to be placed two lines above its correct position.

q. 23, n. 1 [145.8-11]

The question is whether the division of difference into difference in general, difference taken properly, and difference taken more properly is appropriate. The first argument that the division is inappropriate begins, according to the edition, like this:

Quia non est divisio generis in species, genus enim aeque proprie dicitur de speciebus; nec totius in partes integrales, quia 'totum' non praedicatur de talibus partibus -- divisim hic praedicatur de dividentibus.

First, one must drop the quotation marks around 'totum'. Scotus's claim is not that 'whole' is not predicated of integral parts -- which is not true anyway, since an item can be an integral part with respect to some whole and at the same time a whole with respect to its own integral parts -- but that a whole is not predicated of its integral parts. With this correction made, however, it is hard to make sense of the part after the dash. What is the subject of 'praedicatur'? Presumably it's 'totum', but then what does it mean to say that "in this case the whole is predicated dividedly of the items in the division"?

Here the apparatus comes to the rescue. There is good manuscript support for 'divisum' instead of 'divisim', and with 'divisum' the argument makes sense: "in this case the divided item [difference] is predicated of the [three] items in the division." So now we have an intelligible argument:

So for the last two clauses quoted above, read instead:

quia totum non praedicatur de talibus partibus -- divisum hic praedicatur de dividentibus.

q. 24, n. 3 [150.1-5]

The question is whether "Old Socrates differs from young Socrates" is true. The third argument for the negative reads like this:

Item, si sequitur 'Socrates senex differt a se puero, igitur Socrates senex et Socrates puer differunt, igitur Socrates senex et Socrates puer sunt multa', et ultra, 'igitur Socrates et Socrates sunt multa', et ultra, 'igitur Socrates senex et Socrates puer sunt, igitur Socrates senex est'.

There is very good manuscript support for omitting 'si' in the first line, and the argument reads better without it. With 'si', we have to read Scotus as saying that if the first two inferences are legitimate, then the third one is, and so forth. But that's an odd line of argument to take, since no one is claiming that the first two inferences are valid. The question is simply whether the antecedent in the first inference is true, and the objector's point is that it is not, because by a legitimate chain of inferences -- beginning with the inference that old Socrates and young Socrates differ -- we can derive the false claim that old Socrates exists. (In fact, in the very next sentence, the objector says "Consequens falsum, igitur primum antecedens." Strictly speaking, with 'si' in place, the first antecedent would have to be the claim that everything within the opening set of quotation marks represents a valid inference, and the consequent would be the claim everything within the final set of quotation marks represents a valid inference. Clearly that can't be what Scotus means.) 'si' should be omitted.

q. 26, n. 5 [161.14-18]

The question is whether difference can be defined. One argument for the negative answer is that if it could, there would have to be a difference of difference, since definitions involve stating a difference; but that would produce an infinite regress. Scotus's reply runs as follows:

Ad primum concedo quod differentiae non est differentia respectu cuius differentia habet rationem differentiae. Sed potest habere differentiam respectu cuius ipsum sit species, sicut hoc quod est 'praedicari in quale' per quod constuitur differentia in sua specie, sicut homo per rationale.

The first 'sicut' in the second sentence can at least be construed intelligibly, but it carries a hint of 'for example' that is out of place here. Scotus's view is not that being predicated in quale is the sort of thing that would do nicely as a difference by which difference is constituted as a species of universal. It's that being predicated in quale is in fact the very difference that does the trick. So 'scilicet' would make better sense here. It is found in only one manuscript, but it seems a much better reading than 'sicut'.

q. 27, n. 7 [165.2-8]

Scotus is distinguishing between ultimate difference and intermediate difference, and he is arguing that the definition 'differentia praedicatur de pluribus differentibus specie in eo quod quale' applies to intermediate difference:

Haec definitio convenit differentiae intermediae universaliter, et est vera definitio, quia ponuntur ibi genus et differentia ipsius differentiae, quia differentia species est respectu universalis, sicut dictum est de genere quod universale descendit in ipsam per differentias additas, quia illae per se dividunt universale et contrahunt ipsum ad differentiam.

'quod universale descendit in ipsam' must be wrong: if we read "as was said concerning genus that the universal descends into it," the 'it' has to be 'genus', and 'ipsam' is the wrong gender. (It is just barely possibly that 'ipsam' could be 'a species', but that would be awkward even by Scotus's standards.) One alternative is to read 'ipsum', as three manuscripts do. A better one is to read 'quia' for 'quod', as six manuscripts do (and presumably put a comma just after the preceding 'genere'). Thus: "difference is a species with respect to universal, just as we said genus is; for universal descends into difference through added differences . . ."

q. 30, n. 3 [189.15-190.2]

Here is a case of confusing punctuation. The edition reads:

Secunda pars [minoris, sc. quod proprium non est ad aliquid] probatur, quia proprium non refertur ad illud cuius est; nam nullum accidens refertur ad suum subiectum, quia tunc omne accidens esset relativum. -- Similiter, illud cuius est proprium, est naturaliter prius proprio; relativum est simul naturá cum correlativo, nec ad aliam intentionem refertur, ut patet inductive, sicut argutum est supra de differentia.

The punctuation obscures the fact that Scotus is offering two arguments for the claim that proprium is not related: (1) it is not related to that to which it belongs, and (2) it is not related to some other intention. There are two subarguments for (1): (1a) no accident is related to its subject, and (1b) proprium is naturally posterior to that to which it belongs, whereas a relative is naturally simultaneous with its correlative. The editors' punctuation makes (2) subordinate to (1b) and makes a bigger break between (1a) and (1b) than between (1) and (2). A better punctuation would go like this:

Secunda pars probatur: Quia proprium non refertur ad illud cuius est, nam nullum accidens refertur ad suum subiectum, quia tunc omne accidens esset relativum. Similiter, illud cuius est proprium est naturaliter prius proprio; relativum est simul naturá cum correlativo. Nec ad aliam . . .

q. 31, heading [195.2-3]

In the heading the editors give the question as "Utrum definition proprii quarto modo dicta sit conveienter data." 'dicta' would have to modify 'definitio', but it is not the definition that is said in multiple ways; it is proprium that is said in multiple ways, and there is a definition corresponding to each way of saying it. So 'dicti', modifying 'proprii', is what we should expect. And the manuscripts almost without exception have 'dicti' in their statement of the question, a reading followed by the editors (see line 4). So I take 'dicta' in the editorial heading to be there by inadvertence.

q. 32, n. 9 [201.2]

Read 'haec' (with five of the collated manuscripts) for 'hoc'. 'hoc' is very hard to construe, and it can be explained by attraction to the 'hoc' in the previous sentence. That previous 'hoc' makes sense if one supplies 'est' afterwards (as some of the manuscripts do), but supplying 'est' with this 'hoc' makes nonsense, and I don't see any other way to make sense of it.