Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the Forest of the Text

This post may be the most pedantic, obscure, and boring of all posts on this blog of arcana. Here I will ruminate upon a problem that has been perplexing me of late, as I draw near to completing my edition of Petrus Thomae’s Questiones de esse intelligibili. This is the matter of orthography of medieval texts. There are two schools, or extremes, on this issue, someone has taken every position in between them. On the one side we have the what me might call the purists, or perhaps their relativists; these scholars think that one should only edit a text that actually circulated, and do reproduce one manuscript exactly. One the other side we have the realist, or Platonic, school, which holds that we should repair the faulty manuscripts that have come down to us by comparing the readings they contain to those of other manuscripts. Of course, they are attempting to recreate the ideal form of the text, which is supposed to be that of the author. My own views, such as they are, are in the middle. I find medieval spellings (and general chaos) aesthetically pleasing comforting in an odd way, and the “standardized” or “classicized” or “modernized” editions come off as antiseptic, and too-clean for my taste. Not to mention, anti-medieval. The cold dead hands of the humanists refuse to stay in their Ciceronian coffins. With this in mind, observe the following quote from Rega Wood’s edition of Richard Rufus’ Physics-commentary (a highly controversial edition whose attribution to Richard Rufus is contested by all scholars of medieval Physics-commentaries).

Richard Rufus of Cornwall, In Physicam Aristotelis, ed. Wood, 76:
In the critical text itself, we do not reproduce the abbreviations, the punctuation, the capitalization, or the spelling. To do otherwise would be to make the edition inaccessible to modern students of philosophy and useful only to trained medievalists. Medieval spelling practice is never uniform and often unclear. So if we followed scribal practice, we might spell the same word differently on the same page, noting in the apparatus cases where the abbreviation employed made it imposible to determine what spelling was intended. Like manuscript abbreviation, capitalization, and punctuation, medieval spelling reflects scribal, rather than authorial, decisions. Retaining manuscript spelling would make it difficult for philosophers equipped with an ordinary Latin dictionary to get through the text; modernizing it makes the text accessible to people with minimal competence in Latin.
Now most of this is fair enough. It would be impossible to reproduce most of what she mentions, as no two manuscripts ever agree on such things. Such and edition would be unintelligible to everyone, medievalists included. I also take offense at the jab at medievalists. Sadly, we are mighty among historians, but to philosophers we are mere nichileitates. One might mention that medievalists are just about the only ones actually interested in medieval philosophy. But I digress. Wood’s comment that such phenomena represent scribal, not authorial, intention is difficult to swallow. After all, all medieval authors wrote in ... (wait for it...) medieval latin. And in the case of Thomas Aquinas we have autograph material, which does not follow classical orthography. The Leonine commission is currently re-editing all their previous editions and preserving the original spelling. But all Wood may mean is that the individual spelling on a particular folio (say, “ydea” followed two lines later by “idea”) is not the result of authorial intention. Fine. Let’s move on to the final remark. Wood thinks that the manuscript spelling would make it hard for philosophers with an ordinary latin dictionary to get through the text, while modernizing (that word again!) the text means that minimally competent people will be able to read it. I have two responses to this.

1. Is it really that hard? Does ydea/idea, preterea/praeterea, ydemptice/identice, nichil/nihil really cause hardship? The only areas it might be tricky are when you have words that could be adverbs or adjectives: “obiective” could be either “obiective” or “obiectivae”. But context surely could be your guide (otherwise, I suggest attendence at one of the yearly academic conferences devoted to the theme of “Text and Context: Interdisciplinary Textual Communities”).

2. Why should it be accessible to people who are only minimally competent at latin? I would think that someone who was actually interested in reading philosophy in latin would not remain minimally competent for long. And someone who did not care enough to polish their latin would probably just be mining the text for something to run through the logic machine. Furthermore, I for one would not want to read an article about a medieval argument by an author minimally competent at latin; what guarantee would there be that they had the argument right? So, in the end, I think editions, like philosophy, should offer a healthy amount of forbidding gloom to the casual wanderer; enough to tantalize with half-guessed wealth, but not given freely from the street corner.


So reverse your way of thinking, or you will be left deprived of God, like the people at festivals who by their gluttony stuff themselves with things which it is not lawful for those going in to the gods to take, thinking that these are more obviously real than the vision of the god for whom they ought to be celebrating the festival, and take no part in the rites within. Yes, in these our rites also the god, since he is not seen, creates disbelief in his existence in those who think that that alone is obviously real which they see only with the flesh; as if people who slept through their life thought the things in their dreams were real and obvious, but, if someone woke them up, disbelieved in what they saw with their eyes open and went to sleep again.

- Plotinus, Ennead V.5.11, trans. Armstrong

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

St Bonaventure, Univocity, and Analogy

L’être désigne dans les créatures une perfection que n’est pas analogique, mais qui est celle d’un genre; il faut donc dire que la matière se retrouve, au sens propre du mot, dans tous les êtres concrets. C’est là, nous a-t-il semblé, un des points importants de l’argumentation de saint Bonaventure et qui nous servira à l’opposer tout à l’heure à celle de saint Thomas. Dans la philosophie bonaventurienne, l’être est sans doute une notion analogique, mais c’est seulement lorsqu’on considère la communauté qu’elle désigne de Dieu à la créature. A l’intérieur du domaine des créatures, elle redevient une notion univoque.

"Being designates [for St Bonaventure] a perfection in creatures which is not analogical, but which belongs to a genus; one must then say that matter in the proper sense of the word is found in all concrete beings. This is, it seems to us, one of the most important points in St Bonaventure's argument by which we may compare it to that of St Thomas. In Bonaventurian philosophy, being is without doubt an analogical concept, but this is only when one considers the community between God and creature which it designates. Within the domain of creatures, it becomes a univocal concept."

--Aimé Forest, La Structure métaphysique du concret selon Saint Thomas d'Aquin, 118.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Another entry in the series on the fundamentals. As with my recent post on intuitive and abstractive cognition, it might be helpful to begin with a reminder of how Aquinas approaches the issue before seeing what Scotus adds.

Aquinas discusses the transcendentals in, for instance, De veritate I.1. According to him, the transcendentals are properties of being, or rather concepts about being, which are not contained in the concept of being as such but automatically follow upon it. They add nothing essential to the notion of being, because as soon as essential content is added to being you get something which falls under a genus and belongs to one of the ten categories. (God, of course, is not in a genus and does not belong to a category because his essence is not something other than his existence.) Rather they express non-essential aspects of being which serve either to delimit one being from another or to express how beings are ordered without saying anything about their essence. Such notions are the transcendental concepts unus (one), res (thing), aliquid (something), verum (true), and bonum (good). These concepts add to being the notions of unity, of being in oneself, of being as against other things, or being ordered to the intellect, and of being ordered to the will. All of these are simply different ways of apprehending being which are not contained directly in the notion of being itself, and so they are each coextensive with being and distinct from being only secundum rationem, only in our way of thinking about it and not because of any real difference between them.

Now, Scotus also accepts the "coextensive transcendentals", and, like Aquinas, he affirms that the transcendentals are things belonging to being prior to its division into the ten categories or most general genera. But in addition to being and its coextensive properties he recognizes two other classes of transcendentals. The key text is in the Ordinatio I D.8 p.1 q.3. Here he says that even prior to its division into the ten categories being is divided between finite and infinite, and the transcendentals are prior to this division as well. So whatever belongs to being as indifferent to being finitely or infinitely is a transcendental. This includes:

1) The disjunctive transcendentals. That is, Scotus recognizes an indefinite number of disjuncts, of which "either member of the disjunct is transcendental, for neither one determines its determinable to a certain genus." Every being must belong to one or the other member, and both are transcendental. Examples are the disjuncts finite-infinite, potential-actual, possible-necessary, posterior-prior, dependent-independent, etc. So: not everything is infinite, since only God is infinite, and not everything is finite, since God is not finite, but everything is either finite or infinite, and so falls within the disjunct finite-infinite. Belonging to "finite-infinite" does not indicate belonging to a determinate genus; but neither does belonging to either member: "finite" does not indicate belonging to a given genus, since being finite applies to member of every genus.

In addition to the disjunctive transcendentals, the other kind of transcendental property, that is, properties which are indifferent to being finite or infinite, are:

2) The pure perfections. If I recall correctly St Anselm defines the pure perfections as whatever it is better to have than not to have, but Scotus' notion of a pure perfection as whatever does not imply limitation is probably better. So, quantity, say, or materiality, or location, are all out, because each of these imply being finite. But (to take an example that Scotus uses) wisdom is a pure perfection and so a transcendental. It can be either finite or infinite. As finite, say in Socrates, wisdom is an accidental quality inhering in the soul and so belongs to a genus, but wisdom is capable of being infinite, in which case it is not a quality, not an accident, and is really identical with God. (It should be obvious how this way of looking at things does some of the same job that analogy does in Aquinas.) Similarly for life, which in finite things is an operation, but when infinite is really identical with God. Finite wisdom and finite love are really distinct and are separable in man, but not in God, and so forth.

The pure perfections are transcendentals that, unlike the others, do not belong to every being or to being as such, since some things do not have certain pure perfections: ants are not wise and do not love. But they still count as transcendental because they do not belong to a genus and can exist in either a finite way or in an infinite way, or even simply in an infinite way: there may be pure perfections which only exist in God and in no creature. Unlike for Aquinas, therefore, for Scotus a transcendental is not necessarily coextensive with being, does not automatically follow upon the notion of being, and is not merely notionally distinct from being. Different properties which in themselves are transcendental may either a) not exist in a given being, b) exist as really distinct in a given being, or c) exist as really identical but formally distinct (as wisdom and love do in God). Similarly, for the disjunctive transcendentals, for each disjunct the greater or infinite member must exist but the lesser or finite member need not, while the existence of the lesser or finite member implies the existence of the greater. (Bonaventure uses a consideration much like this to prove God's existence in the Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity.)

The study of the transcendentals is thus the study of a) what applies to all being as such; b) what applies only to God; and c) what applies to creatures in relation to God. In other words the science of the transcendentals is both the science of being qua being and the science of the noblest being and the science of the causes and principles of beings as such. That is, of course, how Aristotle defines metaphysics. So in the prologue to his Very Subtle Questions on the Metaphysics of Aristotle Scotus says that metaphysics, as a universal science which studies being as prior to falling into particular genera, is the science of the transcendentals.

"The theory of the transcendentals is not simply an important section of Scotus' metaphysics. It is his metaphysics."

-Allan Wolter, The Transcendentals and their Function in the Metaphysics of Duns Scotus, 184.
(for an excerpt see here.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review of a New Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

Here are some brief thoughts on the following new title:

Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, ed. Lagerlund, 2 vols., Springer 2011. $679.00 (!)

First things first. There is no index or table of contents. This makes the two volumes rather unwieldy and irritating. But, to assuage academic pride, perhaps, they do contain a list of contributors and the departments where they teach. Also, they have modeled the bibliographic entries on the sciences, which is rather ludicrous for medieval authors. In every entry you get items like this: "Francis of Mayronnes (1965)..." or "Thomas Aquinas (1887)...." Enough said.

Regarding the contents, these expensive volumes appear to be an improvement of the Noone/Gracia Blackwell volume, because in addition to author-entries we get thematic entries as well (and cutting edge ones, such as "intentionality" and "philosophical psychology"). And unlike the recent Pasnau volumes, Scotism has been given some representation. We get an article on Scotus by Thomas Williams, as well as articles on William of Alnwick, John of Reading, Walter Chatton, and Francis of Meyronnes. So they got the main figures of English Scotism (but not the French; no Hugo de novo castro). They did not, however, treat such an obvious character as Antonius Andreas (despite the fact that Marek Gensler was a contributor, who has written numerous articles on Antonius). I suppose I shouldn't expect that Spanish Scotism would be represented (in addition to Antonius, this would include Petrus Thomae, Petrus de Navarra, probably Ioannes de Bassolis, Francesc Eixemenis, Aufredo Gonteri). Of course, every obscure nominalist and thomist author was represented, including several that I, lover of bibliography though I am, had never heard of before.

So as is usual with such volumes, contemporary interest and expertise shape the contents. Furthermore, such interest and expertise is in turn shaped by what has been rescued from the manuscripts.

Arabic and Jewish philosophy also receive a lot of attention, which will be the sections useful to me as I am not a specialist in those fields and these articles can serve as gateways to these other thinkers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mediaeval and Modern Logics II

Lest anyone should think that my last post implies that we Scotists can find nothing good in modern philosophy (rather than that we simply regard it as metaphysically inadequate), I offer a corrective text:

Unfortunately there are still neo-scholastic logicians - though happily their number is decreasing - who are convinced that their logic is genuinely scholastic and that it cannot be surpassed by anything that modern logic has to offer. They look askance at the latter's formalism. They are suspicious of its symbolic form. They are afraid of repeating the Cartesian experiment of mixing mathematical thinking with philosophical speculation. Their coldness and openly hostile attitude are not without reason, since modern logic has made its most striking development not only in the hands of mathematicians, but also in the shadow of Positivism. Curiously enough, they seem to share with Kant the firm belief that logic has not progressed since the time of Aristotle. Yet the history of their own tradition should dispel this illusion, for the history of scholastic logic alone gives ample proof of a decided advance beyond the Stagirite's logic . . .

For those who have more than a passing acquaintance with modern logic, it is an accepted fact that this logic has made tremendous strides forward. It is likewise a fact - and one which current research continues to confirm - that these new developments have deviated far less from the logic of the 13th and 14th centuries than from that of our neo-scholastic textbooks . . .

Among the elements shared in varying degrees by genuinely scholastic logic and modern logic, there is one in particular that brings them in close proximity and facilitates a comparison. It is the character of formality, conserved in a much purer form in scholastic logic than in its neo-scholastic counterpart.

- Philotheus Boehner, Medieval Logic: An Outline of Its Development from 1250 to c.1400, Introduction

Boehner proceeds in a useful manner, showing where modern developments are good, useful, and compatible with mediaeval philosophy properly understood, as well as recognizing where the modern systems are allied or bound up with bad elements. He also shows how a "manualist" attitude to philosophy, presenting Thomism as a closed system, an alternative to modern philosophy, doesn't do justice either to the scholastic or to the modern philosophical tradition. This can help us to see how to read both. Vos doesn't really do this, as I recall, his attitude instead being "Scotus is great! All he needs to read modern philosophy!" A more judicious and less breathless approach would recognize that much in modern logic is good but that not much in modern metaphysics is and that these two need to be carefully disentwined to make their respective strengths and weaknesses clear.

Mediaeval and Modern Logics I

Nevertheless, it is still a medieval world of thought we meet in Duns Scotus’ oeuvre, expressed with the help of scholastic tools, invented and elaborated on in Latin based semantics and logic. However, this world of thought does not depend essentially on these scholastic tools. We may pile up a list of famous names from modern logic and philosophy who have established theories Duns Scotus’ philosophy is definitely in need of: Cantor – Frege, Russell and Beth – Lewis, Kanger and Hintikka – Kripke and Plantinga – Wittgenstein, Ryle and Austin. We can also compose a list of crucial theories: the theory of sets and, in particular, the theory of infinite sets (Cantor), the theory of logical connectives and the logic of quantifiers (Frege, Beth), the logic of relation and identity (Russell, Whitehead). In general, modern standard logic is an excellent tool to translate, to extrapolate and to defend Scotian theories in combination with the ‘linguistic turn’ (Wittgenstein, Ryle, Austin). Moreover, modal logic (Lewis, Kanger, Hintikka) and the ontology of possible worlds (Kripke, Plantinga) are crucial theories to discuss adequately Duns Scotus’ ontology and philosophical and theological doctrines of God.

-Antoine Vos, The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus, 8.

I really wish that Vos made clear somewhere in his book exactly which theories by these guys Scotus' philosophy is "definitely in need of." He doesn't, so far as I recall, and so I'm left very dubious. In fact I've long suspected that set theory and its use in the foundation of modern logic has had an almost completely pernicious effect on modern philosophy, emphatically including the so-called "linguistic turn" and possible world theorizing. The common element in all of these seems to me to be a systematic conflating of the logical with the ontological order, to the detriment of the latter. When contemporary philosophy lays down at its very beginning a set of premises making it difficult if not impossible to distinguish between ens realis and ens rationis, it guarantees a failed metaphysics.

My own opinion is that, if mediaeval philosophy can take useful supplements from modern thought, these are more likely to come through the phenomenological than through the linguistic-analytical traditions. (This is what St Edith Stein tried to do, though I haven't studied her very thoroughly yet and can't say how successful she was.) One has to acknowledge, though, that philosophers today attempting to "encounter" mediaeval philosophy through the lens of either tradition are much more likely to spoil and ruin it than to enhance it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Intuitive and Abstractive Cognition

This post is meant to belong to the series Fundamenta Scoti, all of which so far have been by Faber, so it seems to be my turn. The subject of intuitive and abstractive cognition didn't appear on Faber's original list, but it's an important and influential part of Scotus' thought, so here it is.

To begin with, let's briefly recall how thinking works in Aquinas, whose epistemology is probably the scholastic one most familiar to any readers coming here. For Aquinas it goes, roughly speaking, like this: first the senses receive sense impressions. From these sense impressions the mind forms phantasms, reproductions or representations of the sense-data in the imaginative power. Out of the phantasms the intellect abstracts universal intelligible content, forming intelligible species, which are always and necessarily universal. Understanding consists in the apprehension of these intelligible species. When we want to understand something about individuals, what we do is take our understanding of the universal intelligible content and apply it back, in a kind of reflex action, upon the individual phantasms, which always and necessarily represent singulars, understanding that this universal is the intelligible content of this singular. (For Aquinas anything not universal in the singular material object is matter, which is intrinsically unintelligible.)

For Scotus things are different. Besides what is abstracted as a universal there is an irreducible singularity to a form, a haecceitas or thisness which makes the thing not only "such-and-such" a thing but also "this" thing. Since the principle of individuation is formal, not material, it is also intelligible, which means that, contrary to Aquinas, it is not the case that all intellection is of universals.

In addition to this Scotus recognizes a kind of cognition which Aquinas either does not or else doesn't flesh out very fully. In addition to abstractive cognition there is also a kind of cognition he calls intuitive, which is related to abstractive roughly as vision is to imagination, and indeed Scotus calls intuitive cognition a kind of intellectual "vision". Abstractive cognition abstracts from actual existence, and its object can be considered regardless of whether it is real or imaginary or hypothetical or past or distant; intuitive cognition is the kind of knowledge we have of something as existing and present to us in its actual existence. Key texts in which Scotus considers this distinction are found in Ordinatio Book II Dist. 3 P.2 Q.2, and in Questions on the Metaphysics Book VII Q.15. Here's a snippet from the latter:

There is a double intellection; one quidditative which abstracts from existence; the other, which is called “vision,” is of the existent as existent. The first, although it is generally of the universal, can be primarily of the singular . . . For the singular of itself is not determined to existence, because is abstracts from it just as the universal does. The second intellection is of both together, i.e. of the singular insofar as it is existing. And in this way . . . it does not include some accident but only existence, which does not pertain to the individual’s formula, neither insofar as it is a quiddity, nor insofar as the singular participates in this quiddity.

In addition to the familiar kind of cognition in which the intellect abstracts a universal from the phantasm, here Scotus argues that there is another way for our minds to encounter things, a direct and immediate “act of simple awareness in which some object is grasped . . . as present and existing here and now.” (The quote is from Allan Wolter.) The fact that we apprehend our own mental acts and memories has been cited as evidence that our minds grasp singulars not only in their common natures but also qua singulars, even if not in their very singularity. This distinction between these two kinds of cognitions makes this possible, although it may require some elucidation.

I cannot apprehend my thoughts or my memories (or take mental cognizance of any of my experiences) only as thoughts or memories in general, but only as my thought which I am thinking now, or my experience which was given to me then and there. Grasping my thought in this way is different from grasping the absolute nature of thought; knowing my thoughts involves knowing of their actual existence, even if in this particular thought of mine which I consider I can find nothing to distinguish it from every other thought. Thinking about the nature of thought in general (as when I think about logic) and considering the particular train of thought I am engaged in now are examples of “a double intellection; one quidditative which abstracts from existence; the other, which is called ‘vision,’ is of the existent as existent.” An analogy can be drawn between these two cognitions and the two faculties of sense and imagination; both sense and imagination involve the presentation of images to the awareness but imagination can take place without the presence or existence of its object: it is “abstractive”; while sensation only happens when an existent object is present to act upon the sense-faculty to directly produce the sense act: it is “intuitive.” Now just as the imagination presents singular images abstracted from existence, so the intellect in the type of thinking Aristotelians are most familiar with considers concepts whose objects may either exist or not. These abstractive concepts, Scotus points out, are usually but not always universals: I can think about the rage of Achilles as well as the serenity of Socrates, even if the one probably never existed and the other did, for both Achilles and his rage are intelligible as individuals whether they ever actually were or not. And when I think of Achilles and Socrates I don’t primarily think “man” and then add some determining difference to distinguish them, but first I think of the individuals, under whom “Greek” and “man” and “ancient” are included (though only one of whom perhaps also includes “wise”).

On the other hand, just as sensations only occur when the sense-object is existing, present and acting on the sense-organ, so Scotus argues that there must be an analogous intellectual activity which is so moved. One reason to think this is because of an argument Scotus advanced at the beginning of the Question, that the intellect as the superior power must know whatever the inferior sense power does. Superior power or not, however, according to the accepted maxim whatever is in the intellect (at least as regards material objects) was first in the senses, and here the intellect shares some of the defects of the sense. The intellect, like the sense powers, perceives the singular as singular without apprehending the singularity precisely speaking. Socrates and Achilles can both then be understood as individuals having the same quiddity, and as either existing or not existing, “for the singular of itself is not determined to existence, because it abstracts from it just as the universal does.” Only Socrates, however (presuming Achilles to be a non-existing fictional character), can be both seen and understood as “this singular insofar as it is existing.” This intellectual grasp however is only sufficient for the intellect to know the existence of something as a “this”; for the knowledge of quiddities, either of the essential nature or the quiddities of the accidents, pertains to abstraction, and the sense is not moved by the singularity which contains the quiddities per se.

(By the way, . Much of the difficulty for other philosophers on this issue and on the intelligibility of singulars in general came from the traditional Aristotelian axiom that while sense was concerned with particulars, the understanding pertained to universals. Some non-Christian philosophers took this to mean that the intellect was as unconcerned with particulars as the senses were with universals, to the extent that even God does not know individuals, a doctrine which seems to contain traces of the platonic tendency against which Scotus has been fighting from the beginning. While none of Scotus’ Christian opponents could follow the implications of the axiom so interpreted to such extremes, they still had difficulties in grappling with it. In the passage just cited Scotus shows that the axiom can be interpreted to mean that the intellect can do something the senses cannot, without meaning that sense has a domain of its own from which the intellect is excluded, thus eliminating the difficulty. See Sebastian Day, Intuitive Cognition: A Key to the Later Scholastics, 59-60.)

In men, intuitive intellectual cognition, since it never acts without the sense in considering material things, is subject to the limitations of sense in a way that an intellect not hampered by such restrictions would not be. Scotus writes:

The intellect immediately receptive of the action of the object can be moved by singularity; not however that which is receptive through the mediacy of a natural action. Only the first is [true of] the angelic intellect which sees immediately the material singular. The second is [true of] our intellect, on which nature acts only through the mediacy of something begotten in the sense, which can be called a material natural action, with respect to that which is intelligible, operative on the intellect.

God, on the other hand, has no need for universal concepts. This is because God knows everything he knows by an immediate intuitive cognition. Not having to rely on intermediary senses and images to think with, he has no need to abstract anything from them. Our minds, however, are limited in what they can grasp intuitively and must rely on abstraction for the rest, which as it turns out is not wholly adequate.

Scotus' theory of how we think about sensible things seems to go something like this.. The sense faculty apprehends the substance as a “simul totum,” as a unified conglomeration of attributes, colors and noises and shapes and smells, etc., and alongside this activity the intellect has an intuitive grasp of the fact that the sense is perceiving this “simul totum,” this existing acting something. From the phantasm of the attribute-conglomeration the intellect removes accidents one by one until it grasps the nature underlying them: my mind understands that this short white bald Greek-speaking something is a man, to whom the accidents short and white as so forth belong. “And thus,” Scotus continues, “the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of the reflection is something confused and in the middle it is distinct.” I take it that the terminus a quo is the confused conglomeration in the phantasm. The nature stands in the middle and is understood distinctly because it is the primary principle of assimilable action in the substance. But the mind can penetrate no further before becoming entangled in the accidents. Socrates acts on my mind to the extent that I understand not only the common nature humanity but also the fact that this something acting on me (known by intuitive cognition) is this man (known by abstractive cognition). I can therefore name him not only by species but as an individual. But when I attempt to go on and grasp what makes Socrates himself and no one else, all I have to fall back on are his characteristics of being short, bald, ugly, wise—-none of which are unable to be true of other men, either singly or all together. Even though Socrateity does not form an accidental unity with humanity, I only understand him in a quasi-accidental way, as the (an) individual man with these accidental, non-unique attributes. Thus the terminus ad quem remains confused as well. I know that containing the humanity and supporting all the accidents of Socrates is Socrateity, but I do not ever reach a concept of Socrateity which actually picks him out of all other possible men. “And without such a concept we never conceive the singular distinctly.”

Besides the way we encounter sensible objects, however, Scotus' account of intuitive cognition has widespread implications ranging from how we know our own acts to the nature of the beatific vision.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Anti-Razor

Dr Feser fairly recently had a post about Ockham's razor, and perhaps it was remembering this that made me sit up when I came across the "anti-razor", formulated in the Scotist work (anonymous, despite the title) Logica Campsale Anglicj, valde utilis et realis contra Ockham, that is, The Logic of the Englishman Campsall, very useful and realist, against Ockham. It goes like this:

Whenever some affirmative proposition is verified about things, if one thing does not suffice to verify such such a proposition, one must posit two, and if two do not suffice, three, and so on to infinity.

In his preface to the critical edition to Ockham's Quodlibeta Septem, Joseph Wey notes that the same principle was formulated by Walter of Chatton. I translate from p. *35:

It may be useful to note here that Chatton also frequently employs a limiting principle or rule . . . which can be called a certain "anti-razor" or complement of the principle of parsimony, namely 'When a proposition is verified about things, if two things do not suffice to verify the proposition, one must posit a third.' Ockham does not accept this rule, but rather vehemently opposes it.

Gideon Gal discusses the authorship of pseudo-Campsall's anti-Ockhamist logic in the preface to the critical edition of Ockham's Summa Logicae. There's a funny remark in there which seems to imply that the logical debates in early 14th-century Franciscan England were damaging to fraternal charity. The Campsall-logic can't have been by John of Rodington, he says on *60-*61:

Furthermore, John of Rodington, who as they say was a very holy man, did not adhere so faithfully to the doctrine of the Subtle Doctor nor so bitterly opposed the doctrine of the Inceptor as the author of the Logic against Ockham. If anyone were to say that the author is John of Reading, we could well believe him . . . It seems to us that some of the things he said and wrote are very similar to those which William Ockham found vain and ridiculous and rebuked in the Summa Logicae . . . this can easily explain the acrimony of the author against Ockham, especially if their contention took place in a single academic community [coram scholaribus communibus].

Gal goes on to discuss the anti-razor as well as the case for and against Walter of Chatton and the anti-Ockham being one and the same.

In any case, as the editor of the anti-Ockham notes, the anti-razor has been independently formulated by a modern author, K. Menger, in "A Counterpart of Ockham's Razor in Pure and Applied Mathematics: Ontological Uses," Synthese 12 (1960), 415:

. . . what is needed is a counterpart to the Law of Parsimony - so to speak, a law against Miserliness - stipulating that entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy and, more generally, that it is vain to try to do with fewer what requires more.

The benefit, such as it is, of the Ockhamist metaphysics is that it's clean and tidy, wiping all the conceptual barnacles and encrustments off the mental slate. The main critique of the formalizantes must always be that its wild and florid growth produces a profusion of pseudo-entities multiplying out of control. The goal of metaphysics, however, is not to produce either an invigoratingly pure and arid conceptual desert, nor an exciting and exotic conceptual rainforest, but to understand reality as it is. So metaphysics will have to do with the right amount of entities, neither more nor less than necessity demands.

If Faber and I ever get around to producing for public consumption an edition or translation or modern rewriting of the Diologus curiosus inter Dunxsistam et Okamistam, "A Curious Dialogue between a Scotist and an Ockhamist," no doubt the anti-razor will resurface.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Not to constantly bash Thomists... but they deserve it so I will anyway. When did "analogicity" become a useful word to describle analogy? I saw it in Stephen Hipp's (u. of st. thomas) essay in the Scotus Quadruple Conference proceedings and now in the title of steven Long's (ave maria u.) talk at the Fordham... conference. Seriously, this is but more evidence that there is nothing left to say about Aquinas and analogy that hasn't been said a hundred times each decade since the death of Thomas.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bad News

So here are some rather sad stats. I was looking at the "cluster map" down on the sidebar, and it turns out we have had 12 visitors from Pakistan, but only 7 from the Vatican. So apparently we're not making much of a difference after all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Death Documents of Petrus Thomae

A slow day, so here are the final historical records of Petrus Thomae. He was busted for fortune-telling and necromancy, and thrown into the papal prison at Noves, south of Avignon, where he died ca. 1340.

From Brady's article, "the Later Years of Petrus Thomae," p.255-6:

Item, cum dilectus magister Fulco laborasset pluribus diebus et mensibus
scribendo processus et scripturas inquisitionis factae contra fratem Petrum
Thomae poenitentiarium, Garinum de Layto Pisiensem, sortilegos et nigromaticos,
Bertrandum de Narbona falsarium et relegatum..., solvimus eidem magister
Fulconi pro salario suo et scripturis ac labore V florenos auri.

p. 57:

Oct. 13 [1340]. Eadem die idem dominus Guillermos Bos de bonis quondam fratris
Petri Hispani, condemnati et mortui in carceribus Novarum, per ipsum receptis
camerae praedictae assignavit: 8 flor. auri, 14 den. Tur. gross., 7 regali auri,
2 sol., 5 den., Iulhat. arg.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Walter of Bruges on Intelligible and Virtual Being

The following is a quote from Walter of Bruges, a figure so obscure he failed to make it into our co-blogger Michael’s dissertation (even though he has a fairly large question on spiritual matter that contains discussion of Avicebron’s views). But Michael will undoubtably try to convince us that 450 pages is long enough for a dissertation. I don’t know about you, but I would have read a 500 page dissertation. Anyway, Walter of Bruge was a Franciscan who lectured at Paris during the 1260’s. The quote is from the question on spiritual matter and contains some talk of intelligible being, hence my posting of it here (it turns out blogs are also a handy way to store information one might otherwise lose).

I Sent. d. 8 a. 5 (ed. Longpre, Archives, d'histoire doctrinale et lit.... 1932 p.272)

Ad quartum dic quod anima recipit duos modos accidentium: nam recipit accidentia intentionalia, ut similitudines vel species quibus cognoscit eas et recipit etiam accidentia realia, ut virtutes et vitia. Prima non habent contrarietatem in anima, quia sunt ibi tantum secundum intentionem, non secundum naturam suam, et ideo non distinguunt eam nec dant animae esse, sed recipiunt in ea esse intelligibile; et haec non sunt in anima ut in subiecto vel materia simpliciter, sed ut in loco, quia anima conservat ea in esse intelligibili, sicut locus conservat locatum; et sic considerantur ut media intelligendi res quarum sunt similitudines; tamen in quantum huiusmodi similitudines animam scientem reddunt et quoad hoc perficiunt, etiam possunt dici esse in anima ut in subiecto et distinguere eam ab anima ignorante et dare animae esse scientificum. Alia vero accidentia, scilicet vitia et virtutes, simpliciter sunt in anima ut in subiecto et distinguunt eam et dant ei esse virtuale, nec sunt in ea ut in loco, sed vere ut in subiecto.

To the fourth say that the soul receives two kinds of accidents: for it receives intentional accidents, as likenesses or species by which it knows them and it receives also real accidents, as the virtues and vices. The first kind do not have contrariety in the soul, because they are there only according to intention, not according to their nature, and therefore they do not distinguish it nor give being to the soul, but they receive in it intelligibile being, and these are not in the soul as in a subject or matter simply, but as in a place, because the soul conserves them in intelligible being, just as place conserves the located; and so they are considered as means of understanding the things of which they are the likenesses; nevertheless insofar as likenesses of this kind make the soul knowing and perfect it with respect to this, they also can be said to be in the soul as in a subject and to distinguish it from a soul not-knowing, and to give to the soul the ability to be scientific. But the other accidents, namely the vices and virtues, simply are in the soul as in a subject and distinguish it and give virtual being to it, nor are they in it as in a place, but truly as in a subject.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Around the Net

The following is a quote from a First Things essay by Edward Oakes, SJ on Newman's idea of a university:

Precisely as a science that is obedient to a supervenient revelation and yet must use reason to reach its conclusions, theology is inherently volatile, and within it a legitimate pluralism must be recognized. Thus, theologians are bound to disagree about reason’s proper role in submitting to revelation, and differing positions on that initial point will legitimately generate different schools of thought. One is no less Catholic if one agrees with Duns Scotus on the univocity of being over against Thomas Aquinas’ preference for the analogy of being, despite the fact that a large majority of theologians competent to have an opinion on the matter prefer Thomas over the Scot. Nor is one less faithful to revelation if one prefers Plato over Aristotle—or at least we must say this: If one wants to argue Aristotle’s precedence over Plato, this position will have to be decided on strictly philosophical, not theological, grounds—a point on which the medieval theologians were all agreed.

Oakes is a Balthasarian, I believe, so such statements as admitting that one is no less catholic if one sides with Scotus is probably not so remarkable as it would be if he were a straight-laced Thomist. Many are the real-time conversations in which Thomists have tried to convince me that the Church requires us all to be Thomists (surely an odd appeal to authority from a group that regularly attacks nearly all non-Thomists for not respecting the faith-reason distinction). But it is a rather remarkable statement given the current climate in post-modern theology, in which the "narrative" of "univocalist ontology" generally relegates Scotus to the category of monster.

Regarding said narratives, the beef some of us have with them is that they don't deal with arguments. What is actually interesting about Scotus is that he makes good and interesting arguments. It's not about system-building (though there is a system), or reconciling authorities, or building a giant mosaic of the fathers, but about arguments. Revelation supplies the data, the cold hard facts that can't be ignored, and reason supplies arguments. That is the appeal I, and I suspect my co-blogger Michael, finds in Scotus. And this is also the source of our irritation with some species of modern theology: they deal with vague notions of how general ontologies and onto-theologies somehow "lead" to other nasty conclusions like the holocaust or abortion, and quote nary an argument on the way.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Leibniz: Theorist of Spiritual Matter?

From a letter of Leibniz to Johann Bernoulli (Philosophical Essays, p. 169-70):

"You rightly judge that the passive is never actually separated from the active in creatures. What God could have done, I don't venture to say. The passive alone and the vacuum seem, at least, incompatible with his wisdom, even if they aren't incompatible with his power. Neither is it certain that there are intelligences completely separated from bodies except for God. Many Church Fathers have also inclined to the contrary, attributing bodies to angels."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Formal Distinction

The Formal Distinction, of course, is not a “fundamental position” in the sense employed by the other posts in this series. It is a tool rather than a doctrine, though it does have its own set of arguments designed to show its necessity. It is fundamental in the sense that it is part of Scotus’ solution to a variety of problems in both theology (relation of personal properties, divine attributes, and so on, to the divine essence) and philosophy (the relation of being to the other transcendentals, discussions of universals and particulars). Consequently, prior to examining these issues we must lay out what Scotus thinks the formal distinction is.

It is well-known that there were three sorts of distinctions developed by the scholastics. The first is the distinction of reason, or logical distinction; this is a distinction generated by the intellect, is not based on anything outside the intellect in the world; though the scholastics use it a great deal, they don’t have much to say on its nature. It posits the least degree of distinction in the entities to be distinguished, a difference only in thought. In later scholasticism, in reaction to Scotus, it was differentiated into a distinction of reason-reasoning and reason-reasoned but this desperate Thomist move need not concern us here.

There is also the real distinction, which was also used by everyone but very little was done to define it. Aquinas posited this between essence and existence, for example, though he arrived at it by arguing from a distinction concepts (see De ente), and never bothered to define it. After Aquinas, it became common to distinguish this distinction from the rational distinction by what is today called the “separability criterion”; according to this, two things are really distinct if they are separable and one can exist without the other (for example, the body and soul). I don’t know who first used this criterion; generally Giles of Rome is blamed by those Thomists particularly obsessed with detailing the precise stages of decline away from Aquinas. It is also found in Godfrey of Fontaines, Scotus and later fourteenth-century philosophy (note that I have made no great search for it). This is not the only version of the real distinction, however, for Thomas of Sutton interprets it as having distinct beings (res) in act, as well as any distinction not caused by the intellect.

There were also various versions of what is often called a “middle distinction” a distinction supposed to be half-way between the mind and reality. Generally, most theologians in the thirteenth-century used them, and often attacked other versions of them for violating the principle of excluded middle. A classic example can be found in Bonaventure, and Aquinas employed one early in his career as well. For Aquinas, this was the celebrated distinction in the mind with a fundamentum in re, in which entities were potentially distinct in the world but rendered actually distinct by the “completive” action of the intellect (ratio completiva). This distinction was somewhat popular, adopted by even non-thomists such as Henry of Ghent, who also authored a “middle-distinction” which he called an “intentional distinction” .

Anyway, the point of all this is to make it clear that while there are “general” notions or theories of distinction with common terms to describe them, often individual authors have their own ideosynchratic theories. So one has to be careful not to simply quote Scotus and then view him refuted by Thomas of Sutton simply because the latter rejects a “real distinction”

Turning to Scotus, we find that he also employes the rational and real distinctions, as well as the formal. It is a matter of dispute whether the formal distinction is a middle distinction or a real distinction. I myself am on the real distinction side, as will become clear, but the topic was disputed during the medieval period, and still disputed today. The contemporary form of the dispute is whether Scotus changed his mind at Paris and mitigated the reality of the distinction, or did not. However, a great deal seems to hang not on what Scotus actually said but in what order he is thought to have said it. That is, different conclusions about the distinction are often reached by holding a different chronology of Scotus’ works. Most of the “Scotus changed his mind” crowd hold to Balic’s (the father of the modern Vatican critical edition) claim that the Ordinatio is the last work of Scotus, and should be the ultimate and final arbiter of any apparent contradictions, and is equivalent to the Summa of Aquinas. This then leaves the chronology as Lectura-Reportatio-Ordinatio. The opposition has a different view, which runs Lectura-Ordinatio-Reportatio+further additions to primative text of Ordinatio. I will say no more about this controversy, and the interested reader can consult Hoffmann’s bibliography (see the sidebar) under the names: Hester Gelber, Marilyn Adams, Michael Jordan, Richard Cross, Stephen D. Dumont.

The obvious division based on differences in terminology is between the Ordinatio/Lectura and the Reportatio. A common observation that appears to be true is that at Oxford Scotus spoke of entities, formalitates that were distinct, while at Paris he focused rather on the distinction itself rather than on what was being distinguished (though, as is apparent from the Quaestio de formalitatibus and other passages of the Reportatio, the formalitates are still present).

The basic division of distinctions for Scotus is between those caused by the mind and those independent of the mind. Distinctions independent of the mind he calls distinctions ex natura rei. This includes the real distinction, which he calls a distinctio realis-actualis and devotes little space to the examination of it, and the formal distinction. The real distinction is distinguished from the formal distinction by real separability. Items distinguished by a real distinction can exist independently of each other, while for the formal distinction this is not the case; they are inseparably united.


Ordinatio II d. 1 q. 4-5 (ed. Vat. VII, 101-103):

“...nihil est idem realiter alicui, sine quo potest esse realiter absque contradictione... Hanc etiam propositionem ‘illa sunt distincta realiter quorum unum potest manere sine altero’, negaret protervus. Ista autem negata, perit tota doctrina Philosophi VII Topicorum...”

... nothing is really the same as something, without which it can really be without contradiction... a reckless person might deny this proposition also, ‘those things are really distinct of which one can remain without the other’. With that denied, however, the doctrine of Aristotle in VII Topics is destroyed.

Ordinatio II d. 3 pars 1 q. 2 (ed. Vat. VII, 198):

“Accipio igitur quod nihil potest concludi ‘distinctum ab alio’ nisi vel propter separationem actualem, vel potentialem, vel propter proportionem istorum ad aliqua alia quorum alterum est ab alterio separabile.”

I hold therefore that nothing can be distinct from another unless either because of actual separation, or potential, or because of the proportion of those things to some other of each one is separable from the other.

Ordinatio I d. 2 pars 2 q. 1-4 (ed. Vat. II, 355):

“Sed numquid haec distinctio dicetur realis? Respondeo: non est realis actualis, intelligendo sicut communiter dicitur, ‘differentia realis actualis’ illa quae est differentia rerum et in actu... et sicut non est realis actualis, ita non est realis potentialis...”

But should this distinction be called real? I answer: it is not real-actual, meaning by this as is commonly held a real-actual difference, that which is a difference of things and in act... and just as it is not real-actual, so it is not real-potential.

ibid. (350):

“Et intelligo sic ‘realiter’, quod nullo modo per actum intellectus considerantis, immo quod talis entitas esset ibi si nullus intellectus esset considerans; et sic esse ibi, si nullus intellectus consideraret, dico ‘esse ante omnem actum intellectus’.”

And I interpret the term ‘really’ as in no way by the act of the intellect considering, indeed that such an entity would be there if no intellect would be considering. And so to be there, if no intellect would consider I call ‘to be before every act of the intellect’.

Quaestiones super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis IV q. 2, edited by Robert Andrews et al. (St. Bonaventure, N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute, 1997), 354-355:

Ideo quaelibet potest dici pars perfectionis, non tamen realiter differens quod sit alia natura, sed alia perfectio realis – alietate, inquam, non causata ab intellectu, nec tamen tanta quantum intelligimus cum dicimus ‘diversae res’; sed differentia reali minori, si vocetur differentia realis omnis non causata ab intellectu... Exemplum huius aliquale in continuo, in quo sunt multae partes; ista multitudo est realis, sic quod non causata a ratione. Non tamen tanta quantam hic intelligimus ‘diversae res’, sed minor realis, quia multitudo non simpliciter diversorum in uno tamen toto contentorum.”

Therefore whatever can be called a part of perfection, nevertheless no really differens as it is another nature, but another real perfection – by an otherness, I say, not caused by the intellect, nor of the kind that we understand when we say ‘diverse things’; but by a real-minor difference, if a real difference be called every difference not caused by the intellect... An example of this is of the continuum, in which there are many parts; that multitude is real, such that it is not caused by reason. Nevertheless we do not here understand ‘diverse things’ but a minor-real, because a multitude not simply of diverse things contained in one total.

Quaestiones super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis VII q. 19 (Opera Philosophica IV, 370):

“Alia est opinio... Sed realis differentia ponitur habere gradus. Est enim maxima naturarum et suppositorum; media naturarum in uno supposito; minima diversarum perfectionum sive rationum perfectionalium unitive contentarum in una natura.”

There is another opinion... but a real difference is posited to have grades. For it is most of all of natures and supposits; medium of natures in one supposit; least of all of diverse perfections or perfectinal definitions unitively contained in one nature.

As for their correlatives, real and formal identity, Scotus sees the highest form of identity as being formal identity. This the identity of sharing the same definition. The second highest is real identity.


Ordinatio I d. 2 pars 2 q. 1-4 (ed. Vat. II, 356):

“...possumus invenire in unitate multos gradus – primo, minima est aggregationis; in secundo gradu est unitas ordinis, quae aliquid addit supra aggregationem; in tertio est unitas per accidens, ubi ultra ordinem est informatio, licet accidentalis, unius ab altero eorum quae sunt sic unum; in quarto est per se unitas compositi ex principiis essentialibus per se actu et per se potentia; in quinto est unitas simplicitatis, quae est vere identitas (quidquid enim est ibi, est realiter idem cuilibet, et non tantum est unum illi unitate unionis, sicut in aliis modis) – ita, adhuc ultra, non omnis identitas est formalis. Voco autem identitatem formalem, ubi illud quod dicitur sic idem, includit illud cui sic est idem, in ratione sua formali quiditativa et per se primo modo.”

We can find many grades in unity: first, the least is that of aggregation. In the second grade is unity of order, which adds [order] over aggregation. The third is accidental unity, where beyond order there is [an] informing, although it is accidental, of one from another which are thus one. In the fourth is the per se unity of a composite [composed] from essential principles per se in act and per se in potency. In the fifth is unity of simplicity, which is truly identity (for whatever is there is really the same to any other, and not only is it one by the unity of that union, as is the case in the other modes); so still beyond this [real unity of simplicity], not every identity is formal. I call however formal identity where that which is said to be the same includes that to which it is the same in its formal-quidditative definition per say in the first mode [of per se predication; this means to predicate a definition or part of a definition].

Here we find that real identity is equivalent to simplicity, which is “true”identity. Beyond this however is formal identity. consequently, simplicity/real identity is compatibile with formal non identity (= formal distinction).

An argument based on intuitive cognition that was to prove influential shows how Scotus arrives at the formal distinction; this also illustrates his practice of referring to entities that are formally distinct:

Ordinatio I d. 8 q. 4 (ed. Vat. IV, 257):

“Praeterea, intellectus intuitivus nullam habet distinctionem in obiecto nisi secundum quod exsistens est, quia sicut non cognoscit aliquod obiectum nisi ut exsistens, ita non cognoscit aliqua distincta formaliter in obiecto nisi ut exsistens est. Cum ergo intellectus divinus non cognoscat essentiam suam nisi intellectione intuitiva, quaecumque distinctio ponatur ibi in obiecto – sive sit distinctiorum obiectorum formalium, sive ut rationum causatarum per actum intellectus – sequitur quod ista distinctio erit in obiecto ut actu exsistens est: et ita si ista est obiectorum formalium distinctorum in obiecto, erunt ista distincta formaliter (et tunc sequitur propositum, quod talis distinctio obiectorum formalium praecedit actum intellectus), si autem sit rationum causatarum per actum intelligendi, ergo intellectus divinus causabit aliquam intellectionem in essentia ‘ut relationem rationis’, ut est exsistens, quod videtur absurdum.”

Furthermore, an intuitive understanding has no distinction in an object except according as it is existning, because just as it does not know some object save as existing, so it does not know something to be formally distinct in the object unless as it is existing. Since therefore the divine intellect does not know its essence except by an intuitive intellection, whatever distinction is posited there in the object – whether it is of distinct formal objects or as definitions caused by the act of the intellect – it follows that that distinction will be in the object as it is existing in act; and so if that is of formally distinct objects in the object, they will be formally distinct (and then the matter at hand follows, that such a distinction of formal objets precedes the act of the intellect), if however it is of definitions caused by the act of understanding, therefore the divine intellect will cause some intellection in the essence, as a relation of reason, as it is existing, which seems absurd.

To boil this down:

1.intuitive cognition, which is cognition of the object as present, causes no distinction in the object being cognized.

2. Since the divine intellect knows the divine essence by intuitive cognition, any distinction (whether of diverse formal objects or definitions caused by the intellect) posited in the divine essence will be in the essence as it is existing in act.

3. If the distinction is of distinct formal objects, then Scotus has what he is trying to prove, a formal distinction.

4. If it is of definitions caused by the act of understanding, then the divine intellect will cause intellection in the essence, which is absurd.

At Paris the basic organization of distinctions is into distinctions that are simpliciter, that is, absolute or unqualified, or secundum quid. Under the secundum quid distinction falls both the formal distinction and another distinction called adequate non-identity (for situations in which one of the distinguenda exceeds the other). The difference between the two classes of distinctions is in a series of four conditions. All four are required for a distinctio simpliciter, while only the first three are required for a distinction secundum quid.

Reportatio I-A d. 33 q. 2 (ed. Wolter-Bychkov II, 328):

“ hoc quod aliqua simpliciter distinguantur, quattuor requiruntur condiciones. Prima est quod sit aliquorum in actu et non in potentia tantum, — quomodo distinguuntur ea quae sunt in potentia in materia et non simpliciter, quia non sunt in actu. Secunda est quod est eorum quae habent esse formale et non tantum virtuale, — ut effectus sunt in sua causa virtualiter et non formaliter. Tertia condicio est quod est eorum quae non habent esse confusum (ut extrema in medio et miscibilia in mixto), sed eorum quae habent esse distinctum propriis actualibus. Quarta condicio, quae sola est completiva distinctionis perfectae, est non-identitas...”

For this that something is distinguished simpliciter, for conditions are required. The first is that it is of things in act and not in potentcy only, in the way in which those things are distinguished which are in potency in matter and not simpliciter, because they are not in act. The second is that it is of those which have formal being and not only virtual, as an effect is in its cause virtually and not formally. The third condition is that it is of those which do not have confused beng, as the extremes in a medium and mixable in the mixted, but of those which have distinct being by their own actuals(?). The fourth condition, which alone completes perfect distinction, is non identity.

The terminology of this distinction appears to come from discussions of fallacies, especially the fallacious move from secundum quid to simpliciter. This is a common fallacy treated by numerous medieval logicians. The ‘secundum quid’ is a determinatio deminuens, a determination that once applied diminishes the reality of what it is applied to.

To sum up:

There are basically two versions of the formal distinction, corresponding to Scotus’ Oxford and Parisian periods. In the Oxford version entities are formally distinct if they are found in a third thing inseparably united but really identical. This distinction obtains apart from any cognitive activity on the part of God or creatures, even when the subject of the distinction is God. At Paris Scotus is more interested in discussing the reality of the distinction itself, which he says is a diminished distinction, not a fully distinct or fully actual distinction. He sets out a series of conditions for an unqualified distinction, and if the last is not met there is only a qualified distinction present (the other features of the Oxford account, such as obtaining prior to the operation of the intellect, hold true of Paris as well).