Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thomas of Sutton on the Real Distinction

One of the difficulties that arises when discussing Scotus' formal distinction is just what kind of distinction it is supposed to be. Is it midway between a distinction of reason and a real distinction, or a version of a real distinction? This is complicated by some terminological differences between Scotus' Oxford and Parisian accounts. A necessary first step is figuring out what a real distinction is. Big surprise, there is no standard scholastic account of what a real distinction is. Nothing explicit in Aquinas, save for the bit in De ente et essentia that to conceive of an essence apart from an existence is sufficient for their being really distinct in reality. Giles of Rome works this into a theory in which a real distinction obtains between entities that are separable (more on this later). Thomas of Sutton (died after 1319), whose texts I give below, thought that a real distinction was one that existed subjectively in the thing under consideration apart from the consideration of an intellect. This probably reflects the context of his Quodlibeta, which contain a great deal of polemic against Henry of Ghent; the passage at the end of the post is from a discussion of the distinction of divine attributes, an area of dispute that really exploded after Henry's Quodlibet V q. 1, disputed in 1280. Scotus employs both senses of the real distinction (the Aegidian and the Suttonian) in the Ordinatio, though only the Suttonian makes an appearance in his discussion of the formal distinction of divine attributes. Anyway, here is the beginnings of a list:

1. Distinctio ex natura rei (everyone, including Aquinas and Scotus, use this one without defining it)
2. Distinctio realiter:
a. separability criterion (Giles of Rome)
b. in subject prior to intellective operations (Thomas of Sutton)

Note that this is just from the Aquinas' followers, Dominican and Augustinian. I'll post more later on the Franciscans.

Thomas de Suttona, Quodlibet III q. 1 (ed. Schmaus 342):

"Unde haec est differentia inter distinctionem realem et distinctionem secundum rationem quod illa, quae distinguuntur realiter, habent in se subiective suam realem distinctionem, sicut patet de albedine et dulcedine in lacte. Sed illa, quae distinguuntur secundum rationem in aliqua re, non habent in illa re tamquam in subiecto suam distinctionem secundum rationem, sed solum tamquam in obiecto. Illa autem distinctio secundum rationem est in intellectu distinguente ut in subiecto et per comparationem ad intellectum, in quo est distinctio realis. Sed distinctio secundum rationem dicitur per comparationem ad obiectum, circa quod ratiocinatur."


Whence this is the difference between a real distinction and a distinction according to reason: that those things, which are really distinguished, have subjectively in themselves their own real distinction, just as is clear regarding whiteness and sweetness in milk. But those things, which are distinguished according to reason in some thing, do not have in that thing just as in a subject their own distinction according to reason, but only as in an object. That distinction according to reason is in the intellect distinguishing as in a subject and by comparison to the intellect, in which there is a real distinction. But a distinction according to reason is said by comparison to an object around which reasons.

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