Sunday, March 21, 2010

Francis of Meyronnes on Kinds of Distinctions

Here is the Biographical note on Francis from the "Franciscan authors" website:

"Born in Meyronnes (Alpes de Haute-Provence). His family had close contacts with Charles I of Anjou (Count of the Provence). Became friar in the Digne convent (Provence province). Probably followed a lectorate course at the Paris studium (Fall 1304-July 1307), where he became acquainted with the theology of Scotus. After his lectorate studies, he taught the Sentences in various Franciscan studia of France and Italy, and for sometime was custodian of the Sisteron custody. Went up for his theology degree course and read the Sentences pro gradu magisterii at Paris 1320-21. The lengthy Sentences commentary deriving from these baccalaureate lecture have survived in various redactions. Francis completed the obligatory post-Sentential exercises (a.o. the Disputatio Collativa with Pierre Roger OSB (the future Clement VI), andquaestiones in which he defended mendicant rights and theological positions), and finished several other works (a.o. his commentaries on Augustine). In the summer of 1323, he became master of theology in Paris (with strong support of Pope John XXII and King Robert of Naples), where he proved himself to be an able and rather independent follower of Scotus, who differed from Scotus esp. in his speculations on the potentia absoluta of God. He defended, like Scotus, the distinctio formalis, the univocity of being, the haeccitas, the absolute predestination of Christ and the immaculate conception. During his regency, Francis also assisted Elz√©ar of Sabran at his deathbed (27 September 1323), and gave his funerary laudation. In Spring 1324, he was elected provincial minister of the Provence province, and went to the pontifical court at Avignon. At Avignon, he was active as a preacher (witness his Sermo de Indulgentiis and his Sermo de Eucharistia), and as a counsellor in the process against William of Ockham (cf. Mayronis’ Determinatio Paupertatis, which argues along the same lines as the position expressed by preacher-king Robert of Anjou). For his friend-protector Robert of Anjou, Francis wrote in this period several commentaries on Pseudo-Dyonisius and an additional series of Quaestiones. He also wrote a verdict on the Apocalypse commentary of Peter John Olivi in the context of the process against Olivi's works (Although I do not know about the whereabouts of that verdict, a lengthy reaction to it has just surfaced, namely the newly rediscovered Sexdequiloquium by John of Rupescissa/Jean de Roquetaillade). Later, Francis was sent on an ambassadorial mission in Gascoigne by pope John XXII. Francis of Mayronis died in Piacenza, between 1326 and 1328. He left behind a large literary legacy. Aside from hisSentences commentary, and several philosophical works (Treatises on Aristotelian logical, physical, and metaphysical issues), he composedQuodlibeta, Quaestiones super Pater Noster, a Tractatus de Octo Beatitudinibus, several ‘political’ and moral treatises (some of which defended a strong interpretation of papal plenitudo potestatis), and commentaries on, or rather florilegia of Augustine and Dionysius (not unlike Kilwardby?), such as the Flores ex Libris S. Augustini super Genesim. He also produced several series of sermons, at times on meditative, ascetical and contemplative issues (some are more and some less tied up with his high-brow speculative theology, but they became at the same time very popular exemplary sermon collections that can be found in many Franciscan libraries and that later also inspired the Observant preaching revival) and several Bible commentaries (he would have produced the so-called Annotationes postillarum in totam s.Scripturam; several MSS of his Apocalypse and Genesis commentaries have survived>>to be cont.)."

As many of you know, I have been studying the development of theories of identity and distinction in scholastic thought. Many of the thirteenth century theologians contain only a few remarks in the context of other more pressing issues. In the fourteenth century this changes, and there is a more detailed discussion of these issues, by the likes of Petrus Thomae, and as we shall see below, Francis of Meyronnes, known as the "master of the formalities" and possibly is to be identified with the "master of abstractions" who haunted 14th century english thought. Here below I have typed up some of his remarks on the different kinds of distinctions. Eventually I may translate PT's similar derivation (albeit into 7 modes of identity and distinction). If any analytical experts read this blog, I would appreciate recommendations from contemporary thought on these issues.

Franciscus de Mayronis, Conflatus, I d.8 a.2 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 43v):

"Secundo videndum est quot sunt modi distinctionum, quod fuit secundum declarandum. Ad quod dico quod sunt quatuor gradus distincionum non fabricati ab intellectu sive ab anima.

Prima est distinctio essentialis, eo modo quo distinguitur deus a creatura et ista proprie accipiendo est quando quidditas cum sua existentia est distincta ab alia quidditate cum sua existentia.

Secunda est realis eo modo quo est distinctio inter patrem et filium. Unde distinctio realis est illa que est inter rem et rem.

Tertia est formalis et ista est inter quidditatem et quidditatem; sic dicimus quod homo et asinus in potentia obiectiva distinguuntur et ista distinctio proprie est rationum distinctarum.

Quarta est distinctio non quidditatis et quidditatis sed quidditatis et modi intrinseci, sicut est inter quidditatem hominis et eius finitatem et quidditatem albedinis et eius remissionem et intensionem.

Iste distinctiones sunt essentialiter ordinate quia maxima est essentialis et ideo que essentialiter distinguuntur omnibus aliis distinctionibus distnguuntur. Secunda post essentialem maior est realis. Post illam est tertia, scilicet quidditativa vel formalis. Quarta est minor omnibus, scilicet quidditatis et modi intrinseci. Nam minor est distinctio ubi statur intra eadem rationem specificam et formalem quam ubi est exitus. Non est autem exitus a ratione formali per modum eius, quia ad rationem formalem et non ad aliam reducitur quia modus adveniens non variat rationem formalem."


Second we must ask how many kinds of distinctions there are, which was the second thing to be discussed. To which I say there are four grades of distinctions not fabricated by the intellect or the soul. The first is an essential distinction, in the way in which God is distinguished from a creature, and that taken properly is when a quiddity with its existence is distinct from another quiddity and its existence. The second is real, in the way in which there is a distinction between a father and a son. Whence a real distinction is that which is between thing and thing. The third is formal, and that is between a quiddity and a quiddity. So we say that man and ass are distinguished in objective potency, and that distinction is properly of distinct definitions (rationes). The fourth is a distinction not of quiddity and quiddity but of quiddity and intrinsic mode, just as there between the quiddity of a man and his finitude, and the quiddity of whiteness and its intention and remission [ie. degrees of intensity]. These distinctions are essentially ordered, because the essential distinction is maximal, and therefore those things which are essentially distinguished are distinguished in all modes of distinctions. The second greatest after the essential distinction is the real distinction. After that is the third, namely the quidditative or formal distinction. The fourth is less than all, namely of quiddity and intrinsic mode. For a distinction is less when one remains within the same specific and formal definition than when one is outside it. But there is no departure from the formal definition through its mode, because it is reduced to the formal definition and not to another[?], because an advening[adveniens] mode does not vary the formal definition.


AT said...

It seems distinction is one end of an analogy - how analogous things differ or are diverse. The other end is how analogous things are the same. I don't know if there is a word for this

Lee Faber said...

I don't think that word is analogy, which is a property of terms or concepts. Note that at the beginning of the passage Francis says he is enumerating the four modes of distinctions that are not fabricated by the mind, ie obtain or are present in things themselves prior to any cognitive operations.

I have no idea what "analogous things" means.

Michael Sullivan said...

I'm not sure I grasp how the series of distinctions goes from maximally to minimally distinct here. (1) and (3) are *both* quidditative distinctions, but in different ways, right? The series seems to go like this:

1) Quidditatively distinct existing individuals

2) Quidditatively identical, numerically distinct existing individuals

3) Distinct Quiddities, abstracting from existence

4) Distinct modes in identical quiddities - relation to existence?

So (1) and (2) are both about kinds of distinctions between existing things, and their order makes sense. But (3) is about forms in the abstract, and it's unclear to me how "asinity" and "humanity" are less distinct than this man and this ass. With (4), on the other hand, it doesn't seem clear whether he's talking about the quiddity as it exists under a particular mode, or whether it's an abstract distinction between a quiddity and the variety of modes it can fall under.

So at first glance I'm not totally convinced by his schema. Any thoughts?

Lee Faber said...

Well, its' just a snippet from a lengthy question, so perhaps I should read the rest before I reply, but h ere goes.

So (1) is between distinct quiddities with different existences. (2) between same quiddities, different existences. (3) between two different quiddities, but only in potency. But two quiddities in potency to existence would seem to be less distinct than two real beings, wouldn't they? maybe not. but they only differ by their quidditative rationes here, not as thing and thing. (4) I think is just taking the distinction between quiddity and mode within one quiddity. That is ,the grade of distinction there is between a quiddity and its intrinsic mode, or between the quiddity and each of its modes if there are more than one (since he uses the example of whiteness and its intensity, i suppose there would have to be several as whiteness is also finite).

But he doesn't give much of an argument, to be sure. aren't you least little bit scandalized that he interprets the formal distinction as a real distinction? Our thomist friends should be howling, and in fact they did in the 14th cen.; this is one of the issues that he gets in trouble over with pierre roger, who disturbes the "pax" between the schools by attakcing the formal distinction.

Michael Sullivan said...

The snippet seems to imply a pretty strong essence/existence distinction, no? What do you think about that?

aren't you least little bit scandalized that he interprets the formal distinction as a real distinction?

It's not clear to me that (3) is the Scotistic formal distinction, even though it's a distinction he calls formal. Asinity and humanity are not distinct the way that Socrateity and humanity are, but rather the former are distinct in some stronger way. Socrateity and humanity are formalities predicated in quid in one and the same thing, whereas asinity and humanity can never quidditatively belong to the same thing.

Lee Faber said...

Oh, I've always accepted that existence isn't part of a given quidditative ratio, and fell rather comfortable with Avicennian style talk of existence 'acruing' to essence or whatever. it's taking them as res or physical entities, or talk of essences being actualized yet remaining potential principles that i find bewildering and am inclined to reject. Also, i don't buy the argument that because something can be conceived with out its existence therefore it is really distinct from it ex natura rei.

regarding the formal distinction i would have to agree. I'll keep reading and report back if anything interesting turns up.