Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cornelisse on the Formal Distinction I

I've always been something of a sucker for the old, pre-vat II manuals. At first, as a new catholic, I appreciated the clarity and appearance of scientific rigour found in them and,faced by the maze of modern theology or perhaps "theologies" perhaps wished those days would return. Of course, at the time I was sympathetic to Thomism and indeed considered myself to be a budding Thomist. Now that my opinions have changed, I have no desire to return to the dark days of the neo-scholastic revival. Dark days in the sense that one can find Thomists such as Garrigou-Lagrange completely distorting and misunderstanding the thought of the Subtle Doctor (of course, it wasn't entirely his fault as the editions were so bad), or Spanish Dominicans claiming that all Catholics were required to give religious assent to every proposition from St. Thomas save where the Thomistic commentary tradition itself is unclear on the meaning of Thomas (Cf. Pelzer's article in one of the early issues of Franciscan Studies). Scotism was present, and even tolerated at this time, but apparently restricted to the Franciscan order. Once and a while I am asked what my beef with these neo-Thomists is, as after all I am sympathetic to their attempts to defend the Faith; essentially, it is the inability to admit any opinion other than that of Thomas Aquinas. The Church herself has only recommended Thomas, and can do little more; the issues on which the various scholastic schools disagree have generally not been settled by a formal determination of the Church; multiple opinions can still be held. Yet when one reads the work of certain theologians whom I have discussed elsewhere, whenever the name of Scotus is mentioned, all one finds is a reduction of his views to a transgression of some canon from a council or the Nicene creed (as if Scotus were just plain stuipid). All was not dark, however, for it is to neo-Scholasticism that we owe the relatively brief flourishing of the scholar-priests who edited and studied so much, laying the foundation for the historical-critical study of medieval philosophy and theology.

Rant aside, we come to the topic of this post, my latest acquisition of a manual from this period of neo-Scholasticism, which joins Perrone, Ott and Tanqueray on my shelves: Dorotheus Cornelisse OFM, Tractatus de Deo uno et trino, Quaracchi 1913. At this point I am not sure if this work constitutes a Scotist manual or not; he does quote quite a bit of Thomas without seeming to disagree with him, though he does criticize the Thomistae. On the analogy-univocity question, or rather the natural knowledge of God question, he endorsed the Dionysian three-fold way of which analogy was a subsection. Univocity did not come in for much comment, as in the Wadding edition prior to Scotus's discussion of this topic one finds the spurious phrase to the effect that Scotus only proposes univocity tentatively as it is against the common opinion. My interest now is on the formal distinction, and I will do a series of posts translating his section on it and commenting on its accuracy in the light of modern research.

A few things to note: We can see here the results of several hundred years of controversy between Thomists and Scotists, as the terminology is rather more developed than either of the founders. Scotus uses a variety of distinctions, but never classified them in such a manner. He does give brief definitions for what he thinks the formal distinction or real distinction is, but the modal distinction in particular was never spelled out by him in great detail (though the example used here are the same; the intensity of whiteness). We also see that the term Garriou was using to describe the formal distinction, the formal-actual distinction, probably comes from renaissance or 19th-century Scotism. Note also the denial that the formal distinction can be conceived of as a variety of real distinction, something disputed by the 14th century Scotists as well as contemporary scholars; a recurring theme in Scotism. Finally, note the absence of the influence of the Reportatio, with its notion of secundum quid distinction.

p. 183 ff (translation by me, and as usual done at great speed):

I. Exponitur terminologia thomistica [footnote to Billuart, Summa summae]
1. Distinction is a lacking of identity.
2. One is real, the other is of reason. The real is "a parte rei independenter ab intellectu'. Of reason or logical is held between those things which are 'not distinct a parte rei, but in concept alone.'
3. The real is greater or lesser: the greater is 'betwen perfect beings', between thing and thing. The lesser or modal is between thing and its mode, for example, between Peter and his standing, or between two modes, for example between sitting and standing.
4. Distinction of reason can be of the reasoning reason [rationis rationcinantis] ='without a foundation in the thing', or of a reasoned reason [rationis rationcinatae] = 'with a foundation in the thing', which in the vulgur is known as virtual. An example of the first is between cicero and cicero [don't ask me what this is, the latin is ciceronem et ciceronem], the second between the justice and mercy of God. This virtual distinction is assigned a double foundation: 1. eminence of a thing identifying many perfections really distinct in lower things to itself and 2. imperfection of our intellect.
5. The virtual distinction is subdivided: one is through the mode of excluding or excluded, and therefore is called also 'exclusive precision' or sometimes a 'greater virtual' distinction: for example, animality and rationality in man; for one does not include the other and vice versa, and they can be really separated in diverse subjects, suppose in a brute and in man. The other is through the mode of including and included, and is called therfore a distinction 'widely precise' or also a 'minor virtual' distinction. This obtains when one concept implicitly is contained in another, for example between the transcendental concepts: being, things, one, something, true, good, or between humanity and rationality or animality in man. According to this, these distinctions are also called 'explicit and implicit' or 'inclusive precision'.
II. Terminologia scotistica [sources referenced here are Scotus' "opus oxienses" and various treatises on the controversies between Thomas and Scotus from the 17th s. on]
1. Distinction is the negation of identity.
2. One distinction is of reason or logic alone, the other is a parte rei. Of reason is that which only has actual being [esse actuale] by the operation of some intellect; a parte rei is what is present without any operation of the intellect [adest etiam secluso omni negotio omnis intellectus].
3. Distinction a parte rei is subdivided. 1. real, between thing and thing, which can obtain in multiple ways: between thing and thing specifically diverse = specific real distinction; between thing and thing only numerically diverse=real numerical distinction; between subject and common accident as between a wall and whiteness; between relation and its foundation as between paternity and generation. 2. Another is formal: between those things of which the defintion or essence is not the same or of which one does not enter into the definition of the other (for example, proper accidents do not enter into the definition of the subject), which are diverse things or that do not have the place of the real distinction [??qui sint res diversae seu quin locum habeat distinctio realis]. 3. The other is modal = between the form of some grade, which is not really in the same subect at the same time, but nevertheless is distinguished a parte rei: for example, in the wall between the grade of this whiteness, in man between knowledge of this grade, in the human soul between the soul or substantial principal of life and the rationality of it. It should be noted here that the modal distinction is easily reduced to the real or formal, according as it is used in an accidental or proper sense. We will not treat about the formal distinction.
III. Distinctio scotistica seu formalis a parte rei
1. Therefore the formal distinction a parte rei obtains between those formalities of which the quiddity or ratio significata by a strict definition, 'before every act of this intellect' or a parte rei, is not the same. These are formalities and it is said 'a parte rei' on account of the reason now given, or also for the sake of brevity alone; but the distinctio formalis a parte rei is never called real, because they are two and under contrary divisions of distinctions a parte rei, which is their genus; just as man never philosophically is called a beast or vice versa, although each is an animal.
2. Formality is said from form; but this is aken in multiple senses: 1. for one part of the composite, i.e. the soul, which is called informing, which the Scotists also call partial with respect to the following; 2 for the form of the whole, i.e. for the total nature in abstract as is humanity; this thefore is called total; 3. for an accidental form as whiteness, knowledge 4. for whatever intelleligible reason (I do not say, understood [intellecta]) which in some object a parte rei is truly present and consequently can be known in it by the intellect and abstracted. The formal distinction is treated concerning these intelligible reasons, either they are substantial or accidental.
3. Three conditions are required for this distinction: a) that those formalities are present actually or formally, i.e. explicitly in themselves ant not only virtually or in a sead, in a root or implicity; as for example, a son is conceived in his parents. B) that those formalities are called something positive; for between being and non being is rather posited a real distinction, or as is sometimes said, non-identity. C) that the formalities mean something proper to the thing; for it is formally the same with another formality, i.e. the wisdom and knowledge of God.
4. The formal distinction is subdivided into mutual and non mutual; that is between those things of which neither in its own formal objective ratio formally includes the other, i.e. between wisdom and goodness; the other is between those things of which one does include the other, but not in turn, i.e. humanity includes rationality, but rationality does not include in its own formal concept humamity, although it supposes it.

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