Duns Scotus's Lost Island

As is well known Aquinas opposes the forced baptism of Jewish children because it would constitute a violation of “natural justice” (ST III, 68, 10 c). I knew that Duns Scotus encourages forced baptism, arguing that, while private persons such as the parents may not do so, a public person, in the form of a prince, under whose dominion the parents live, has a higher obligation to God and hence the prince has a duty to override the parental rights (… per consequens non solum licet, sed debet Princeps auferre parvulos a dominio parentum volentium eos educare contra cultum Dei, qui est supremus et honestissimus dominus, et debet eos applicare cultui divino, In Sent. IV, d. 4, q. 9, ed. Vivès, t. 16, p. 487b) (I wasn’t able to consult at this time the critical edition of these questions, which was published by the Scotist Commission in 2010).

With this position Scotus runs into difficulty with the view that, based on Rom. 9,27 (“… reliquiæ salvæ fient”) and Psalm 59,12 (“ne occidas eos, nequando obliviscantur populi mei.”), there should be a continued Jewish presence, even within a Christian society (see for instance Augustine, De civitate Dei, 18,46, ed. CCSL 48, pp. 644-645). Scotus himself recognizes this because, after quoting Rom. 9,27 he writes: “ideo Judaeos non oportet cogere totaliter ad Baptismus scipiendum et relinquendum legem suam” (ed. Vivès, t. 16, p. 489b).

At this point Scotus comes up with the outlandish idea of placing a small group of Jews on an island, allowing them to practice their faith.

“Et si dicas, quod visa destructione Antichristi, illi qui sibi adhaeserant, convertentur, dico pro tam paucis, et sic tarde convertendis, non oporteret tot Judaeos, in tot partibus mundi, tantis temporibus sustinere in lege sua persistere, quia finalis fructus de eis Ecclesiae est, et erit modicus. Unde sufficeret aliquos paucos in aliqua insula sequestratos permitti legem suam servare, de quibus tandem illa prophetia Isaeiae impleretur.” (ed. Vives, t. 16, p. 489b).

The Princeps Thomistarum, Johannes Capreolus, naturally discusses these views in his Defensiones theologiae. He rejects Scotus’ view on the role of the prince, arguing that “baptizari et credere non pertinet ad ius humanum vel civile, sed ad naturale vel divinum.” (ed. Paban/Pègues, t. 6, p. 119a).

He quotes exetensively from Petrus de Palude and concludes: “nec Imperator nec Papa debet filios infidelium ipsis invitis baptizare, quamdiu pueri ex jure divino vel naturali subsunt curae parentum. Et principalis ratio est: quia Deus prohibet ne infideles, aut eorum filii ante usum rationis, cogantur ad suscipiendum fidel vel baptismum. Sed specialis ratio est de parvulus: quia, hoc faciendo, fieret injuria parentibus, et contra jus naturale.” (ed. cit. 121b).

What about the outlandish idea of an island for Jews?

“Quinto, dicitur quod, quia divina praescientia et revelatio prophetica habet Judaeos per Antichristum fore pervertendos, et ad praedicationem Eliae convertendos, hoc solum debet sufficere ad propositum, quod scilicet non sunt cogendi in totum ad fidem, quia hoc esset frustra niti contra divinum praescientiam et revelationem; et, eadem ratione, neque in partem; et sic reclusio et sequaestratio illorum in quadam insula parum valeret.” (122a).

It would be interesting to know whether Scotus changed his mind and whether other Thomists responded to Scotus’ idea. So far as I know Cajetan does not mention this idea in his commentary on ST III, 68, 10.

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Jörgen Vijgen

DR. JÖRGEN VIJGEN holds academic appointments in Medieval and Thomistic Philosophy at several institutions in the Netherlands. His dissertation, “The status of Eucharistic accidents ‘sine subiecto’: An Historical Trajectory up to Thomas Aquinas and selected reactions,” was written under the direction of Fr. Walter Senner, O.P. at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy and published in 2013 by Akademie Verlag (now De Gruyter) in Berlin, Germany.

Aquinas's use of the lex parsimoniae

We all know that Ockham's razor wasn't really Ockham's razor. He got the shaving device second hand from his predecessors, among them, Aquinas.

Below are some instances of Aquinas's use of it, which I have shamelessly lifted from Schütz's Lexikon. Schütz lists them in the entry for fieri (and you'll see why). I came across them last week and I thought it would be handy to gather them here for anyone who is interested in the topic.

Three things to note: (1) Of the instances from the Contra gentiles and the Summa theologiae below (which are all the instances save one), almost all are found in objections. The only one that isn't from an objection is the one from CG, I, 42 (the first one). (2) The instance from the commentary on the Physics (the last one) is used in explicating Aristotle's argument. (3) I made minor changes to the wording and punctuation of the second and last ones since I noticed discrepancies with the Leonine text.

Don't cut yourself!


quod sufficienter fit uno posito, melius est per unum fieri, quam per multa (CG, I, 42)  

quod potest sufficienter fieri per unum, superfluum est si per multa fiat (CG, III, 70)

quod potest compleri per pauciora principia, non fit per plura (ST, I, a. 2, arg. 2)

quod potest sufficienter fieri per unum, superfluum est, quod fiat per multa (ST, I, q. 108, a. 3, arg. 2)

quod sufficienter potest fieri per unum, non oportet, quod per aliquid aliud inducatur (ST, II-II, q. 22, q. 1, arg. 1)

quod potest fieri per unum, superfluum est plura ponere (ST, II-II, q. 45, a. 2, arg. 3)

quod potest fieri per unum, superflue fit per multos (ST, III, q. 82, a. 2, arg. 2)

Quod potest fieri per pauciora, superfluum est si fiat per plura (In Physic., I, l. 11, n. 14)

Save the unicorn!

This has almost nothing to do with Aquinas. But I invite you to consider my defense of the unicorn and examine your conscience. Perhaps unicorns would be an appropriate topic for a synod of bishops in Rome. I wonder what Walter Kasper thinks about them.

Godoy's Philosophical Works?

Does anyone know who might have plagiarized Pedro de Godoy's philosophical works.  Echard merely writes, "Opera ejus philosophica alii usurparunt, et inverecundi plagiarii sub proprio nomine typis ediderunt."  He mentions Calavieri's Galeria de'Pontefici Domenicani, p. 699, which is available on Google and does not explain in any more detail how to find the text itself or who might have published it.

German Theology and Philosophy vs Scholastic

After reading selections from The Pope Emeritus's interview on Vatican II, it occurred to me that twentieth-century German theology and its antecedents in some ways seem to share the same faults as medieval German thought (with the exception of St. Albert.)  I was reminded of this text from De Wulf's Philosophy and Civilization in the Middle Ages:

"Endowmentof the personal worth of the individual with metaphysical support; devotion to clear ideas and their correct expression; moderation in doctrine and observance of a just mean between extremes;  the combination of experience and deduction,-these are the characteristics, or, if you will, the tendencies, of the scholastic philosophy as it was elaborated by Neo-Latins and Anglo-Celts.    But,  in the Neo-Platonic group of German thinkers in the thirteenth century,  all of this is replaced by very different characteristics,­ fascination for monism and pantheism; mystic communion of the soul with Deity;  craving for extreme deduction; predilection for the study of Being, and of its descending steps;  aversion to clarified intellectualism;  delight in examples and metaphors, which are misleading and equivocal; and above ail the want of balanced equilibrium, in exaggerating certain aspects and doctrines regardless of all else."

For interview selections, see