Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What are Intrinsic Modes?

Instrinsic modes are another of Duns Scotus' controversial contributions to philosophy, and are perhaps as obscure a feature as one can find in his system.  For Scotus these modes operate sort of like differences, in the Porphyrian sense of the term (Porphyry's differences contract a genus into species, Scotus' modes separate different degrees of intensity). I will save further discussion of Scotus' idea of intrinsic modes for a later post.  In this post I am giving a handy summary from the pseudo-Franciscus de Mayronis' Tractatus Formalitatum.  This treatise has long been known to be by pseudo-Francis; generally, medieval thinkers don't mention themselves by name in their own works, as does this tractate.  It is also described as being 'ad mentem Francisci', another clue.  This treatise is distinct from the genuine Formalitates of Francis, which appears to be an extract from his Conflatus. Not to give away too much from a certain forthcoming article, but the theory of distinction found in this treatise is not even Francis', who holds to a four-fold division of identity and distinction, but that of Petrus Thomae (seven kinds of identity and corresponding distinction).  I have some fantasies ('theories' would imply there was some facts at work) about how this fusion took place, but I'll keep them to myself. Pseudo-Francis' description of an intrinsic mode is that which advenes on a quiddity or forme without altering the definition. He thinks that there are nine kinds of modes, and given what these are, it is clear that multiple modes can befall the same quiddity.

pseudo-Franciscus de Mayronis, Tractatus formalitatum, a.2 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 263vb):

Quantum ad primum punctum, videlicet quid sit modus intrinsecus, dico talem conclusionem affirmativam: 'modus intrinsecus est ille que adveniens alicui forme seu quidditati non variat eius formalem rationem'. Verbi gratia: signetur albedo, tunc certum est quod aliqius modus competit secundum magis et aliquis secundum minus. Dato quod Sorti competat albedo ut trium graduum, Plato ut quatuor, ibi esset diversa participatio albedinis; non tamen esset variatio in ista ratione formali, quoniam Sortes est vere albus et Plato est vere albus, licet Plato albior sit Sorte.

Hanc etiam conclusionem probo sic: nullum posterius potest variare esse sui prioris; sed modus intrinsecus est posterior eo cuius est modus, scilicet quidditate; igitur modus intrinsecus non potest variare esse sui prioris. Consequentia tenet. Maior nota et minor patet, quia modus est adiecens rei determinatio.


Quantum ad secundum punctum sciendum quod novem sunt genera modorum intrinsecorum, videlicet finitum et infinitum, actus et potentia, necessarium et contingens, existentia, realitas et hecceitas...


As far as the first point is concerned, namely what is an intrinsic mode, I give an affirmative proposition: 'an intrinsic mode is that which supervening on some form or quiddity does not alter the formal definition of that form or quiddity'. For example, let whiteness be designated/signified[?]. Then it is certain that some mode befalls it according to more and some mode which befalls it less. For with it given that whiteness befalls Socrates in the third grade, Plato in the fourth, there would be there diverse participations of whiteness; nevertheless there would not be any variation in its formal definition, since Socrates is truly white, although Plato is whiter than Socrates.

I also prove this conclusion thus: nothing posterior can alter the the being of its prior; but an intrinsic mode is posterior to that of which it is a mode, namely a quiddity; therefore an intrinsic mode is not able to alter the being of its prior.  The consequence holds. The major [premise] is known, the minor is clear because a mode is an adjacent determination of a thing.


According to the second point it should be known that there are nine genera of intrinsic modes, namely finite and infinite, act and potency, necessary and contingent, existence, reality and haecceity.


Lukáš Lička said...

Does it have something in common with the theory de intensione et remissione formarum (it was developed especially by natural philosophers)?

Lee Faber said...

I'm pretty sure it does. the language Scotus uses in the univocity discussion where intrinsic modes are discussed is quite similar to that employed when talking about intension and remission. The example scotus gives is whiteness and the different degrees of intensity that it has.

Lukáš Lička said...

And where does Scotus deal with these two doctrines (namely, intesio et remissio formarum and modus intrisecus)? I'm not expert concerning Scotus' work; could you recommend me some papers about his theory of ontology of qualities or accidental change?

Lee Faber said...

For Scotus the locus classicus for intension and remission is I Sent. d. 17 (in all versions: Lectura, Ordinatio, Reportatio). Intrinsic modes are only hinted at in a few places, such as Ord. I d. 8 q. 3-4, and d. 3 q. 1-2 (section 5, I think, on the concept of infinity).

As for literature, I don't think there is much, if any. Dumont is currently working on a book on Scotus, Wylton, and Burley on intensification and remission, and has a recent article on the topic in a book called "Philosophical debates at Paris in the fourteenth century". Wippel probably talks about this topic in his book on Godfrey of Fontaines (one of Scotus' primary targets). Annaliese Meier also wrote about this topic in several of her books on scholastic natural philosophy. On intrinsic modes I don't think there is much. Hannes Mohle has a recent book on francis of meyronnes that touches on Scotus, called "Formalitas und modus intrinsecus" that would be worth consulting. And there is probably some relevant material in Dumont's three univocity articles from Medieval Studies 1987-1991(?). You could also try keyword searching Tobias Hoffmann's Scotus bibliography as well, available on his website.

Lukáš Lička said...

Thank you very much; it's really useful for me. :)

gloria said...

This is a great post Lee Faber.