Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Pico and Henry of Ghent
Amos Edelheit, "Pico della Mirandola and Henry of Ghent" in A Companion to Henry of Ghent
370 Pico's admiration towards scholastic philosophy is evident in his writings.
372 It is important to see that for Pico scholastic philosophy represents a stage in the development of philosophicl trdition... This should be regarded as part of Pico's positive attitude towards scholasticism.
Pico completely disregards the chronological sequence
373 Pico had in his library Henry's Summa theologica, his Quodlibeta, and another unknown work which was ascribed to Henry, Improbatio quorundam actorum
The 900 Theses and the Apology are, on the one hand, the loci classici for a discussion of the relation between Pico and the scholastic philosophy, since they contain plenty of references to scholastic authorities. But on the other hand, these texts, which belong to Pico's Roman period, contain some essential methodological difficulties for modern scholars: with regard to the Theses, we simply do not have any explicit evidence (beyond the notion of concordia, a certain harmony between all philosophical schools) concerning Pico's general aim in collecting and presenting these theses.
374 identifying Pico's sources and the way he used them (citing or paraphrasing his sources, his accuracy in working with his sources, etc.) can give us some important details regarding the 'reception' of scholastic philosophers, and in our case, of Henry of Ghent, in the Renaissance. It is not impossible that in some of these details we shall find out some indications of a specific influence.
Theses according to Henry
1. There is a light which is superior to the light of faith, by which the theologians see the truth of theological science.
2. Paternity is the principle of producing in the father.
3. Processions are divided in divine matters between the intellect and the will.
4. This proposition should not be confirmed: 'The father is the essence of the son'.
5. Demons and sinful souls suffer from fire, in as much as it is hot, [that is] by a suffering of the same kind as that which bodies suffer.
6. Operations of angels are measured by determined time.
7. Angels understand through a scientific habit which is natural to them.
8. Irascible and concupiscent [powers] are divided in the same wy in both the superior and the inferior appetite.
9. Having some specific and definable reality is common to both fictions and non-fictions.
10. Friendship is a virtue.
11. Formally, the approval of some creature is respect.
12. With respect to this, it is necessary for mutuality of a real relation that a foundation would be set with regard to another [foundation] out of its own nature, just as with regard to its own perfection.
13. Relation is not really distinguishable from a foundation.
375 Thesis 1 is basically present in Henry's Summa, art. VI, q.1, where the medieval master claims that in theology there are matters held by belief through faith, but the divine light helps the faith. In the comparison between the philosopher and the theologian in art. VII, q.1, the theologian is described as someone who considers first singular matters which were held by belief through the light of faith, and then intelligible matters through the light which is beyond and above the infused light of natural reason. The spiritual man mentioned in art. VII, q. 13, whose intellect is enlightened by superior light, is also close to Pico's theologians. The more general epistemological problem is dealt by Henry in rt. I, q.2, which is focused on the problem whether man can know anything without divine illumination. Neglecting the possibility of knowing pure matters naturally, i.e. only through created intellectual faculties, Henry contends that every act of knowing involves the influence of the first intelligible entity who is the first agent in any intellectual and cognitive act, just like the presence of the first mover in any movement. This divine influence assists man in every act of understanding. This view is more radical than Pico's thesis (which reflects a more traditional and accepted view regarding theology) and includes every science, not only theology, and thus, for instance, makes it impossible to distinguish between theology and philosophy. One the other hand, Pico's thesis is focused on a specific distinction between a superior divine light and a 'common' light of faith.
379 Pico's thesis  does show an understanding of Henry's view on this issue, and includes an interesting term, processiones, which I could not locate in Henry's discussion of this point. Henry mentions potencies and actions or operations in God, not processions in divine matters. This term might reflect another discussion of Henry or an intermediate source used by Pico, or even Pico's own interpretation and understanding of Henry's opinion.
380 [Thesis 4] reflects his own elaborated synthesis, rather thn a direct fragmentary citation; it shows a good good understanding of some of the more technical, abstract, and complicated issues dealt by the Parisian master.
Thesis 5... Henry points out that we need some explanation for the fact that a spiritual entity can suffer from corporeal fire... The only possibly solution, contends Henry, is that God supernaturally imprinted a common faculty in the nature of angelic and human spirits, through which they can suffer from corporeal fire... Pico's thesis accurately reflects Henry's opinion.
381 [Henry on the angel]
382 the fact that angelic operations are measured in determined time is not emphasized in Henry's discussions mentioned above, it is only implied... Pico's thesis seems to reflect in this case his careful reading and interpretation of the Parisian master, in which his discussion of the angelic nature and operations (without emphasizing the aspect of time) and the discussion of angelic thoughts, their measures, and separated quantity of time (without mentioning angelic operations) are joined together. This can be found in Quodlibet XIII, q.7.
383 thesis 7 can be found in Quodlibet V, q.14, where Henry claims that separated intellect as an intellect does not have its own proper natural operation except naturally understanding singular intelligibles. Some lines later in the same question Henry says that an angel or a separated intellect understands through his own natural cognition, through which he understands things in their proper nature, not as a word or concept, and in this way an angel was born for understanding. In fact, it is impossible for the angelic intellect, being informed by intelligible species, not to understand. Further on in the question we have more or less the same formulation that we find in Pico's thesis.