Friday, June 1, 2007

At last

I finally figured out something yesterday that has been bugging me for several months, to wit, why Scotus says there is a real distinction between trinitarian persons (especially given his separability criterion for real distinctions). Surprisingly, I found that it is not all that controversial, as Thomas of Sutton, Henry of Ghent, Godfrey of Fontaines, and I think Thomas as well, all say the same thing. The trick is how to explain it with respect to the intellect and will, which are the principles of processions. For some scholastics (definitely Ockham, but I think he's close to Godfrey and Thomas of Sutton) the divine attributes (here we're interested in the will and intellect) are only distinct by a distinction of reason. Or, there's only one divine attribute that itself is indistinct. But they all want to say that the persons are really distinct, because they all think that real relations are present in the Trinity, and these real relations are opposed (this serves to differentiate the persons from each other). But they also all want to explain the real distinction between relations by means of their initial indistinct or distinct by reason divine attributes of will and intellect. And here they fall under Scotus's criticism, that all this amounts to explaining some more distinct by something less distinct, which he thinks is fallacious (I'm still trying to figure out why).
There are naturally other factors playing in as well, for they all tend to place priority in either the principles of procession or the persons as terms, but neither both together, and so, according to Scotus, they run into problems such as being required to admit an infinity of divine persons. More later. I still haven't gotten to Scotus's own solution.


Michael Sullivan said...

You can't see why the more distinct can't be explained qua distinction be the less distinct? How could it be?

Lee Faber said...

It's not obviously problematic, as Godfrey, Thomas of S. didn't catch it. or simply didn't formulate it that way.

And Scotus may still have the same problem. He thinks the persons are really distinct from each other as well, but intellect and will, generation and spiration are only formally distinct from each other. the only way out (w/o yet finishing the question) would have to be the formal distinction's grounding in the real.