Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ockham Quodlibet I.3

This question asks whether in God paternity is distinct from the Father. Ockham notes, "This question is not about names but about the reality." That is, logically speaking of course the abstract property "paternity" is distinguished from the concrete suppositum of whom it is predicated; but is there any distinction in reality?

Ockham notes that every distinction is either real or formal or rational. In the first case one of the two distinct things can exist apart from the other; in the third case the two distinct things are distinct only in the mind. In the second case, you have a formal distinction when you have things such that something is the same as one of the distinct things and not the other, as in: the Son is the essence and is not the Father, therefore the Father and the essence are formally distinct.

[An aside: recall that in Quod. I.2 Ockham made it clear that the accepts the formal distinction only for distinguishing the persons from the essence in God and nowhere else. Generally then he accepts only two kinds of distinction, real and rational. This is why they call it his razor! Compare with more luxurious accounts of distinctions. For instance, the Scotist Petrus Thomae in his own Quodlibet, q.7, gives a very different classification of distinctions. First there are distinctions of reason, founded only on a mental act, and then there are distinctions not dependent on a mental act, real distinctions. But real distinctions can be broken down into 1) Essential distinctions, between essence and essence, which can be known by separability in actual existence or by essential dependence, since nothing is dependent on itself; 2) Distinctions between thing and thing, rather than between essence and essence, which can be known e.g. by causal dependence; 3) Distinctions between reality and reality, known by whether one can be abstracted without the other; 4) Distinctions between thing and reality - the difference is that a thing has a reality belonging to it, while a reality must have a thing of which it is; 5) Distinctions between formality and formality, with multiple ways to recognize is; 6) Distinctions between formality and thing, known by the lack of adequation between the two, since one thing can have many formalities but not vice versa, or by the fact that the thing is principle and the formality something pertaining to it. Petrus Thomae has at least one other way of formulating the distinction tree, but you get the idea. Even though Scotus also recognizes the principle of parsimony, it's not called Scotus' razor for a reason.]

Anyway, Ockham says that you can't think as though the Father were constituted from the coinciding of the divine essence and active generation. There's not some property of paternity which makes the Father himself; rather the Father just is paternity in God. The Father can't be constituted by paternity, because he just is paternity, and nothing can constitute itself. Similarly the Son just is filiation in God, etc. There is a legitimate formal distinction between the Father and the divine essence and a real distinction between the Father and the Son. But those are all the distinctions there are in God which don't arise from our own thinking about him.

4 comments:

Lee Faber said...

Actually, I've heard that Ockham's razor was called "Scotus' rule" in the 14th c.

Paradoxicon said...

So, Ockham taught that paternity is formally distinct from the divine essence, and that the Father just is paternity? Is this because he thought Scotus's view doubled the "constitutive contribution" of the divine essence to the persons?

Michael Sullivan said...

So, Ockham taught that paternity is formally distinct from the divine essence, and that the Father just is paternity?

That's right.

Is this because he thought Scotus's view doubled the "constitutive contribution" of the divine essence to the persons?

I don't know what that means.

Paradoxicon said...

Sorry...I guess that was a little unclear. What I meant was: did Ockham deny that the Father was constituted by 'both' the divine essence and the property of paternity because he believed that they weren't robustly distinct enough to be constituents (emphasis on the plural)?

In other words, for Ockham, are you saying that "the Father is God" and "the Father is paternity" are simply one and the same thing?