Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Scot, not Sot
Ten facts about Scotus Eriugena.
1) Once told Charles the Bald that the difference between a scottus (i.e. an Irishman) and a sottus (a drunk) was 'the table'.
2) Translated and wrote a commentary on the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
3) Was condemned at the Council of Langres (859AD) as an author of Pultes Scotorum ('Irish porridge').
4) In his masterwork, Periphyseon, argues that anything which 'through the excellence of its nature' transcends our faculties inhabits a state of non-existence; as a form of 'nothingness through excellence' God is said 'not to be'.
5) God is 'nihil per excellentiam' where mere matter is 'nihil per privationem', a comparable but vastly inferior form of non-existence, in the Augustinian tradition whereby matter considered in itself has no existence independently of God.
6) All things return to their source, and all creation is finally absorbed back into God; hell is the condition of beings that cannot let go of their earthly existence.
7) Appears to collapse the difference between God and creation in a panthestic fashion that prefigures Spinoza.
8) Looked like he meant business on the old Irish five-pound note.
9) Was not Duns Scotus. That's a different Scotus entirely.
10) And was almost certainly not stabbed to death by Oxford students' quills for being a pantheistical heretic, though it makes a nice story.