Review of GIORGIO PINI, Categories and Logic in Duns Scotus: An Interpretation of Aristotle's Categories in the Late Thirteenth Century. Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, Bd. 77. Leiden - Boston - Köln: Brill, 2002. viii + 225 pp. ISBN 90-04-12329-6.
Scotus's doctrine of categories is based on the assumption that there are two ways of considering categories. First, metaphysics studies categories as types of beings. Second, logic studies categories insofar as our intellect understands them and attributes some properties to them. Since two different disciplines study categories in two different ways, there is no simple answer to the classical question: What is a category? If the question is asked from a metaphysical point of view, Scotus thinks that the correct answer is that a category is a type of being insofar as it is understood. Since Scotus also thinks that a thing considered as understood is a concept, it follows that in logic categories are concepts, and precisely the basic univocal concepts representing things in the extra-mental world. (19)
In this book Pini is interested in the logical consideration of the categories, and therefore in Scotus's treatment of Aristotle's Categories 'as a logical work, dealing not with extramental things but with the way we represent extramental things' (18).
In Chapter One Pini considers thirteenth-century discussions of the logical consideration of the categories both before and after the introduction of the doctrine that logic is the science of second intentions. Just what second intentions are is a somewhat difficult matter. They are concepts, certainly, and it is easy enough to list a few concepts that were generally agreed to be second intentions: genus, species, definition, proposition, and syllogism. But that gives only the extension of the notion of second intention. What is its intension? That is, what is about a concept that qualifies it as a second intention? On this point there were two main views. In Chapter Two Pini discusses the first view, which was that of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas held that second intentions (he calls them just 'intentions', or sometimes 'secunda intellecta') are concepts 'consequent to or dependent on the way we understand extramental things' (48). They represent, not extramental things, but the intellect's mode of understanding extramental things. In Chapter Three Pini discusses the second view, which was developed by Henry of Ghent, Simon of Faversham, and Radulphus Brito. According to these thinkers, second intentions do represent extramental things, or real properties of extramental things.
I shall illustrate the difference using the example of the concept species. Let us say I understand a horse. On Aquinas's view, I first form the concept horse; that concept just is the essence of horse insofar as it is understood. Then my intellect reflects on the concept horse and compares it to extramental horses, noting that the concept applies equally well to all of them. In this way I form the concept of a mental object that applies equally well to a plurality of extramental things: the concept species (51-3). On Simon of Faversham's view, I form the concept species not by noting a feature of the concept horse, but by noting a feature of the nature of horses: namely, that that nature is repeatable in numerically different individuals. Actually, Simon says that the nature is 'predicable' of the individuals that exemplify it; but he makes it clear that predication is not, as one might think, a relation between concepts or other mental items, but one that holds between extramental things (78-80).
In Chapter Four Pini examines Scotus's three treatments of second intentions: one in the early logical works, one in the Sentences commentaries (both Lectura and Ordinatio; Pini does not examine the Reportatio), and one in the Questions on the Metaphysics. Pini regards Scotus's views as a development of Aquinas's. According to Scotus, 'the intellect is moved to cause a second intention when it considers an essence as a universal' (108), and '[b]eing universal is only the mode in which our intellect understands its object, not a property of the object itself' (109). Thus, he sides with Aquinas against those who held that second intentions represent real properties of extramental things. He goes beyond Aquinas in holding that a second intention is a rational relation as understood. Let us return to the second intention species. On Scotus's view, the intellect, by an act of comparison, establishes a rational relation between the nature of horse as understood and particular horses as understood (not, as Aquinas had held, between the nature of horse as understood and particular extramental horses). This is a rational relation because it obtains between purely mental entities, items-as-understood. The intellect can then reflect on that relation: that is, it can make that relation itself the object of thought. That relation-as-understood is the second intention species.
In Chapter Five Pini takes up Scotus's discussion of the logical consideration of the categories. Logic considers categories not as essences -- that is the metaphysical consideration --
but as the most universal univocal concepts by which our intellect understands the extramental essences. . . . According to Scotus's doctrine of intentions, it could be said that categories are studied in logic [because] the intellect establishes a rational relation between a type of being as understood and all the things belonging to that kind as they are conceived by the intellect. This relation is that of being a common genus. (143)
Metaphysically, the various categories are irreducibly distinct from each other -- substance has no feature in common with quality, for example. But logically, the intellect can understand them all under a common concept. In Chapter Six, Pini shows how Scotus applies his understanding of the logical consideration of the categories in interpreting the Categories as a work of logic dealing with the way we know the most general genera of beings -- sometimes by ignoring questions that Scotus regarded as properly metaphysical and therefore as out of place in a logical work.
Pini's aims in this book are modest. He disclaims any intention of providing 'a general assessment of Duns Scotus's contribution to logic' and focuses instead 'on a specific question, namely why Aristotle's Categories were considered a logical work and, consequently, how logic was thought to deal with categories' (vii). His treatment even of this narrow question is almost entirely historical rather than philosophical. That is, there is a good deal of sound exegetical work, but little attempt to explain what was at stake philosophically in these seemingly arcane discussions. Pini rarely evaluates arguments or explains why one theory succeeds where another fails, and he does not seem especially attentive to the philosophical payoff to be derived from Scotus's logical views. The unphilosophical character of his treatment is especially marked in Chapter Five, where Pini notes several ways in which Scotus undermines the parallelism or isomorphism between semantics and ontology that many of his predecessors had defended. He does not, however, give the impression that there is anything of broader philosophical significance about these arguments, and only the very few readers who know Scotus's metaphysics well will have any idea that Scotus puts this systematic decoupling of semantics and ontology to very good use in his non-logical writings. Granted, an account of the broader philosophical payoff of Scotus's logical views arguably belongs to the general assessment that Pini is explicitly not trying to provide in this book. Within the limits he has set himself, Pini has done a good job of shedding light on Scotus's unjustly neglected logical writings and showing how they address problems raised by a number of his predecessors and contemporaries.