Papers and Such
“Sine qua non Causes and Their Discontents,” Res Philosophica, forthcoming.
For theological reasons, medieval thinkers maintained that sacraments “effect what they figure,” that is, they are more than mere signs of grace; and yet, they also maintained that they are not proper causes of grace in the way fire is proper cause of heat. One way to reconcile these requirements is to explicate sacramental causation in terms of sine qua non causes, which were distinguished from accidental causes on the one hand, and from proper efficient causes on the other hand. This paper traces the development of this concept, as discussed in the context of the sacraments, from Scotus and Auriol, via Ockham and Peter of Ailly, to Gabriel Biel. It shows how the discussion, in its later stages, opened up concerns about occasionalism, offering thereby a case study of how particular theological issues led to metaphysical ones in the fourteenth and fifteenth century.
“They Tend into Nothing by Their Own Nature: Richard Rufus and an Anonymous De Generatione Commentary on the Principles of Corruptibility,” Early Thirteenth-Century English Franciscan Thought, ed. Lydia Schumacher, De Gruyter, 2021.
In this paper, I consider Richard Rufus’s account of generation and corruption. This is a fundamental metaphysical question in the Aristotelian framework. Given that there are things that are corruptible (such as trees and cats and the human body), and things that are incorruptible (such as the celestial bodies and angels), what is it that makes one one, and the other the other? In other words, what is the ultimate explanation (in Rufus’s terminology, the principle or principles) of corruptibility and incorruptibility? Do corruptible and incorruptible things have the same principles – the same fundamental metaphysical constitution – or are their principles different? Richard Rufus was among the first ones lecturing on Aristotle’s Metaphysics at the University of Paris. He addresses these questions in book 4 (Gamma), lectio 1, question 2 of his longer commentary on Aristotle's work (the Scriptum), which will provide the main textual basis of this paper. The other textual basis is an anonymous commentary on Aristotle’s On generation and corruption, found in Oxford, Corpus Christi ms. 119, whose treatment of these issues is remarkably similar to Rufus's. As I show, we can learn a great deal about Rufus's general metaphysical commitments by looking at this particular question, especially concerning his view of prime matter and his view of the qualities of the resurrected bodies.
(with Rega Wood) “Nec idem nec aliud: The Powers of the Soul and the Origins of the Formal Distinction,” Early Thirteenth-Century English Franciscan Thought, ed. Lydia Schumacher, De Gruyter, 2021.
“Perfect Subjects, Shields, and Retractions: Three Models of Impassibility,” Vivarium 59 (2021): 79–101.
According to theological consensus at least from the thirteenth century, at the End of Times our body will be resurrected and reunited with our soul. The resurrected body, although numerically identical to our present one, will be quite different: it will possess clarity, agility, subtility, and the inability to suffer. There are two reasons why impassibility presents a problem in the medieval framework. The first has to do with how to characterize impassibility more precisely; the second arises because at first it may seem that impassiblity is not metaphysically possible at all. I am going to look at three attempts to tackle these problems: those of Aquinas, Durand of St.-Pourçain, and Peter of Palude. As I hope to show, looking at how causal powers work on the New Earth may shed some light on how medieval thinkers thought they worked on the present one.
“Peter of Palude and the Fiery Furnace,” History of Philosophy Quarterly 37 (2020): 121–142.
According to most medieval thinkers, whenever something causally acts on another thing, God also acts with it. Durand of St.-Pourçain, an early fourteenth-century Dominican philosopher, disagrees. Instead, he maintains what has come to be called a 'mere conservationist' view, claiming that created causes alone are sufficient to bring about their effects. This paper is about a fourteenth-century objection to mere conservationism, which I will call the *Fiery Furnace objection*, as formulated by Durand's contemporary, Peter of Palude. In short, the Fiery Furnace objection shows that if we test our theories of divine concurrence against a case that involves a specific kind of miracles, then it turns out that mere conservationism is rather problematic. Although Peter of Palude is not usually regarded as an overwhelmingly original thinker, this paper calls attention to one of his more interesting controversies with his contemporary Dominican confriar, while also clarifies how some medieval thinkers understood the broadly speaking Aristotelian conviction that causes and effects must be necessarily related.
“Ockham on Divine Concurrence,” Saint Anselm Journal 15 (2019): 81–105.
The focus of this paper is Ockham’s stance on the question of divine concurrence—the question whether God is causally active in the causal happenings of the created world, and if so, what God’s causal activity amounts to and what place that leaves for created causes. As I show, Ockham, at least in this issue, is rather conservative: he agrees with the majority of medieval thinkers (including Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and others) that both God and created agents are causally active in the causal happenings of the world. Then I turn to some texts that may suggest otherwise; I argue that reading Ockham as either an occasionalist or a mere conservationist based on these texts originates from a misunderstanding of his main concern.
“Peter of Palude on Divine Concurrence: An Edition of His In Sent. II, d.1, q.4,” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales 83 (2016): 49–92.
The present text contains a critical edition of Peter of Palude’s question of divine concurrence, found in his Sentences commentary, book II, d. 1, q. 4. The question concerns whether God is immediately active in every action of a creature, and if yes, how we should understand this divine concurrence. Peter, just as elsewhere in his commentary, considers at length the opinions of other thinkers and develops his own answer as a response to theirs. Although as a result of his extensive borrowing, Peter’s text might not be regarded as immensely original, it provides an interesting case study of the Dominican reaction against Durand in the early 1300’s.
“Descartes és a középkori látásmagyarázatok,” in Perspektíva és érzékelés a kora újkorban, ed. Tamas Pavlovits and Daniel Schmal (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 2015), 51–65.
Descartes Optikája egyike ama ritka helynek, ahol a szerző explicit módon tárgyalja és kritizálja a középkori látásmagyarázatokat. E dolgozat fő motivációját az adja, hogy e kritika néhol meglepően inadekvátnak tűnik: Descartes mintha vagy egyáltalán nem ismerné, vagy szándékosan félreértené elődeit. Dolgozatomban amellett szeretnék érvelni, hogy ez voltaképpen nem igaz; a kritika inadekvátsága valójában a species és az okság fogalmában végbemenő változások eredménye. Amellett szeretnék érvelni, hogy míg a középkori species-elmélet a látás megfelelő oksági magyarázatát nyújtja az okság bizonyos, az általam vizsgált középkori szerzők által elfogadott ‘hatóokság’ értelmében, e magyarázat értelmetlenné válik, mihelyst e hatóokságot karteziánus módon értelmezzük, és a descartes-i mechanika okságfogalmára cseréljük.
“Scientific Method in John Buridan,” Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 17, ed. Alice Choyke and Daniel Ziemann (Budapest: CEU Press, 2011), 23–40.
While some authors reproach medieval science for its over-rationality, others argue that modern science emerged precisely because of the refutation of over-empiricism that had characterized its medieval antecedent. The present paper picks out only one specific aspect of this cluster of problems, together with one specific author, that is, the meaning and role of ‘experiment’ in the treatise on vacuum in the Physics commentary of John Buridan. In the first section I present an overview and a possible categorization of Buridan’s experiments, which shows that these experiments were in certain respects remarkably different from those that are regarded as experiments today. In the second section I examine how these experiments relate to Buridan’s theory of science, and argue that his methodological practice is strongly dependent on his methodological theory.
“Aquinas and Buridan on the Possibility of Scientific Knowledge,” In Thomas Aquinas and Thomism Today, ed. Bulcsú K. Hoppál (Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2010), 163–174.
This paper examines a specific but basic problem of Aristotelian natural philosophy, which arises if we consider the following three propositions, stated as necessary requirements towards knowledge in the proper sense (quoted now from Aristotle): (1) The object of knowledge is of necessity and of the universal. (2) The soul never thinks without an image. (3) We understand something when we know its causes. In the following, I deal only with the first two, that is, with the possible reconciliation of the empiricist and the universalistic claim. After outlining the solution of Thomas Aquinas and some criticism of it in the 14th century, I shall call attention to John Buridan, who – despite his apparent Nominalism – in certain respects, turns out to be surprisingly Thomistic.
Drafts, Talks, Work in progress
“14th-Century Problems of Celestial Matter” (in progress)
'’Durand of St.-Pourçain and Some Contemporaries on Whether God Can Recreate Numerically the Same Individual’’ (in progress, with Adam Wood)
“Medieval Problems of Causation and Divine Concurrence.”
A somewhat long and somewhat messy dissertation where I explore three debates connected to medieval theories of causation and divine concurrence.
Free Will and the Rebel Angels in Medieval Philosophy, by Tobias Hoffmann, CUP, 2020, Faith and Philosophy, forthcoming.
Pére Dagui, Tractatus de differentia. The Medieval Review, 2020.
On Evil, Providence, and Freedom: A New Reading of Molina, by Mark B. Wiebe, Northern Illinois University Press, 2017, Journal of Analytic Theology 6 (2018): 799–805.
Aristotle in Aquinas’s Theology, ed. Gilles Emery and Matthew Levering, OUP 2015, Themelios 41 (2016), 545–547.
“Borbély Gábor és a középkori filozófia” [Gabor Borbely, Medieval Philosophy], Magyar Filozófiai Szemle 54 (2010): 157–160.