• The scholastic concept of 'tempus' not only has little or nothing to do with the idea of temporality in general, but is even inappropriate or inadequate when used to express the normal duration of things. Taken in its strict Aristotelian sense ('numerus motus secundum prius et posterius'), to which almost all the scholastic masters adhere, time is not directly the measure of things (i.e. of their substantial being), but of their movements (their operations). Indeed, the problem of determining an appropriate measure for the duration of the being of sublunar substances becomes the subject of a lengthy debate from the second half of the 13th century onwards. Up to Aquinas there is an attempt to obviate the problem by affirming that time is the measure of the being of generable and corruptible substances, not 'secundum se', but 'secundum accidens', since the fact of potentially being in movement is a property of such substances. This model, however, is not very convincing, since in this way the duration of secondary acts (time as the measure of movements, and hence of operations) would thus also become the measure, albeit accidental, of the duration of the primary act (the substantial being of each substance). • So, between the end of the 13th and the first decades of the 14th century, two alternative models were elaborated, both taken from the field of angelology. One adduces the concept of 'aevum'; that is, it applies the measure proper to the duration of the substantial being of separate substances to the duration of the substantial being of generable and corruptible things. The other adduces the indivisible instant of 'discrete' time; that is, it also applies to the duration of sublunar substances a measure which was initially attributed only to angels (in this case, to their operations, which are indivisible and devoid of intrinsic succession). The first model can be found in, for example, Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus, John of Naples and John Baconthorpe; the second was initially affirmed by Dominican masters such as Hervaeus of Nédellec (Natalis) and Durandus of St Pourçain, but has its own duration up to the Disputationes Metaphysicae by Francisco Suárez. • The evolution of this debate reveals elements that are not easily reconcilable with the thesis of a close correspondence between the transformations of the concept of time on the level of material culture and those proper to a philosophical-scientific context: a) in the first place, no matter how surprising it may seem, for most scholastic masters, 'time' does not express the duration of being of sublunar entities; b) in the second place – and in this case, too, contrary to a common notion which is still widespread – the way in which scholastic masters between the 13th and 14th century understand the ontology of duration has little to do with the contingency or precariousness of things of this world. The Aristotelian concept of time (which itself originates in a context that postulates the eternity of the world) is substituted by many Scholastic masters with concepts borrowed from angelology that express, even more emphatically, the permanence and stability of substantial being; c) precisely this recourse to forms of duration borrowed from theology shows that, at least in philosophical discussions, the 14th century witnessed not so much a secularization as a 'theologization' of the concepts of time and duration; d) finally, the debate itself has its own longue durée, which coincides on the whole not so much with general, or material, history as with the vicissitudes of the assimilation / rejection of Aristotelianism between the late Middle Ages and the modern era. Not by chance, such discussions continued up to Suárez (and Descartes), even leading some historians to glimpse in the scholastic concept of 'aevum' the conceptual form closest to Newton’s notion of absolute time.

The Duration of Being. A Scholastic Debate (and Its Own Duration)

PORRO, Pasquale
2008

Abstract

• The scholastic concept of 'tempus' not only has little or nothing to do with the idea of temporality in general, but is even inappropriate or inadequate when used to express the normal duration of things. Taken in its strict Aristotelian sense ('numerus motus secundum prius et posterius'), to which almost all the scholastic masters adhere, time is not directly the measure of things (i.e. of their substantial being), but of their movements (their operations). Indeed, the problem of determining an appropriate measure for the duration of the being of sublunar substances becomes the subject of a lengthy debate from the second half of the 13th century onwards. Up to Aquinas there is an attempt to obviate the problem by affirming that time is the measure of the being of generable and corruptible substances, not 'secundum se', but 'secundum accidens', since the fact of potentially being in movement is a property of such substances. This model, however, is not very convincing, since in this way the duration of secondary acts (time as the measure of movements, and hence of operations) would thus also become the measure, albeit accidental, of the duration of the primary act (the substantial being of each substance). • So, between the end of the 13th and the first decades of the 14th century, two alternative models were elaborated, both taken from the field of angelology. One adduces the concept of 'aevum'; that is, it applies the measure proper to the duration of the substantial being of separate substances to the duration of the substantial being of generable and corruptible things. The other adduces the indivisible instant of 'discrete' time; that is, it also applies to the duration of sublunar substances a measure which was initially attributed only to angels (in this case, to their operations, which are indivisible and devoid of intrinsic succession). The first model can be found in, for example, Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus, John of Naples and John Baconthorpe; the second was initially affirmed by Dominican masters such as Hervaeus of Nédellec (Natalis) and Durandus of St Pourçain, but has its own duration up to the Disputationes Metaphysicae by Francisco Suárez. • The evolution of this debate reveals elements that are not easily reconcilable with the thesis of a close correspondence between the transformations of the concept of time on the level of material culture and those proper to a philosophical-scientific context: a) in the first place, no matter how surprising it may seem, for most scholastic masters, 'time' does not express the duration of being of sublunar entities; b) in the second place – and in this case, too, contrary to a common notion which is still widespread – the way in which scholastic masters between the 13th and 14th century understand the ontology of duration has little to do with the contingency or precariousness of things of this world. The Aristotelian concept of time (which itself originates in a context that postulates the eternity of the world) is substituted by many Scholastic masters with concepts borrowed from angelology that express, even more emphatically, the permanence and stability of substantial being; c) precisely this recourse to forms of duration borrowed from theology shows that, at least in philosophical discussions, the 14th century witnessed not so much a secularization as a 'theologization' of the concepts of time and duration; d) finally, the debate itself has its own longue durée, which coincides on the whole not so much with general, or material, history as with the vicissitudes of the assimilation / rejection of Aristotelianism between the late Middle Ages and the modern era. Not by chance, such discussions continued up to Suárez (and Descartes), even leading some historians to glimpse in the scholastic concept of 'aevum' the conceptual form closest to Newton’s notion of absolute time.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/19254
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