Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scotistic Abstractions

Here's a quote I've been meaning to post for a while, on different kinds of abstractions. The most interesting bit here is probably that of "ultimate abstraction," which we encountered a year or so ago when I posted that bit on Petrus Thomae from his Quaestio de distinctione praedicamentorum. So here it is: Reportatio IA d.5 pt. I q.1 n.16-20 [ed. and tran. Wolter 264]

"I say that abstractions are multiple; for one is the abstraction of an accident from its subject, another is the abstraction of the quiddit from a supposit.

Also, abstraction is from every thing of another kind[generis].

Also in relatives there is a double abstraction, that of an accident from its subject, and secondly of a relation from its foundation.

But then the ultimate abstraction is when a formal reason is considered precisely according to itself without anything else which is not included per se in its formal notion, as humanity is only humanity itself.

Proof: an adjective is never predicated as identical[with its subject], or never can it be predicated by an identical predication, because the way an adjective signifies is as 'informing', 'added to', and 'denominating' a nature or noun. Therefore if a predicate is predicated identically and not formally, it is predicated in a manner opposed to the very way it conceptualizes, and therefore it follows that such a proposition is false, because subject and predicate are taken under opposed conceptions. But that is not the case here when it is said: 'God is generating,' because 'God' is not taken in the sense of its ultimate abstraction, and therefore something is predicated of it that is not included in its per se formal notion."

On a related note, in his quodlibetal discussion in which he attacks Scotus' formal distinction, Hervaeus Natalis takes this notion of ultimate abstraction to be purely mind dependent. I think he misses the point, which is not spelled out here in this passage, that this ultimate abstraction is singling out a common nature; while the act of singling out is indeed an act of reason, the nature itself exists as such with less than numerical unity independent of the mind.

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