Thursday 22 May 2008

Loveland on Auriol on Foreknowledge of the Sunrise

Jeff Loveland's article ‘Buffon, the Certainty of Sunrise, and the Probabilistic Reductio ad Absurdum’ (2001) contains a tantalizing reference to Auriol's take on foreknowledge of the sunrise in S I.30:

The authors Robert Holcot … and Peter de Rivo … – the latter perhaps influenced by Petrus Aureolus (Aureolus, 1312–20 [sic], pt. 1, p. 673) – were among those investigating the status of the assertion sol orietur cras – "the sun will rise tomorrow."  (p. 468)

Alas, if you follow this up in the 1596 edition, you'll find no such thing.  What's worse, the faulty reference doesn't look like a mere typo.  Here's something you will find on that page:

Quarta demum propositio est, quod relationi repugnat in communi ex sua ratione, quod sit res in natura existens.  Dicitur enim de ea, quod acquiritur, et oritur in fundamento sine sui mutatione, sola mutatione facta in termino.  Illud ergo non est res, quod acquiritur in subiecto nullo agente ipsum attingente; sed manifestum est, quod albo existente in oriente, si fiat aliud album in occidente, similitudo intelligitur in esse [inesse] albo, quod praeteriit in oriente, absque hoc, quod aliquod agens ipsum attingat, praeterquam intellectus, qui ipsum comparat ad album aliud, quod de novo producitur in occidente.  Non enim dealbans in occidente actionem suam protendit usque in oriens, et [ut] ibi similitudinem imprimit [imprimat], nec coelum, aut aliquid aliud potest impremere eam, nisi solus intellectus.  Ergo poni non potest, quod aliqua talis res fuerit acquista, et per consequens relationi ex sui natura repugnat habere existentiam in natura. (p. 673, col. 2, A–C)
(The variants are from Henninger's transcription of MS Borghese 329 – which wrongly has 'ullo' for 'nullo' – in his Relations, p. 154, n. 13.)

The context is the ontological status of relations, which Auriol takes to be mental constructs.  Here we find him defending his view with a thought experiment: if there is already a white thing in the east, and a white thing appears in the west, then the former acquires a similarity to the latter without any contact between the two.  (You might say that the pre-existing white thing undergoes a 'Cambridge change'.)

Now, someone could conceivably misconstrue this passage as having something to do with the sunrise.  But to do so he would have to read sola and solus as 'the sun' (rather than 'only') and oriens and occidens as 'rising' and 'setting' (rather than 'the east' and 'the west'); the former is indefensible, and the latter would make no sense in the context.

I hope this isn't the explanation – not just for academia's sake, but because I'd love to know what Auriol thinks about the necessity of the sunrise – but its ready availability would be a striking coincidence.

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