Friday, June 4, 2010

Ockham Quodlibet I.2

In this question Ockham asks whether the relations of origin of the persons in God are distinct from the divine essence. Here we see him begrudgingly admitting Scotus' formal distinction in this case only, while rejecting it everywhere else in metaphysics or theology.

In a certain sense God's essence must be distinct from the relations of origin, and not merely notionally distinct, because it is the case that "the essence is three persons, and paternity is not three persons". But because of divine simplicity on the one hand and the separability criterion (presumably) on the other, it can't be a quote-unquote "real" distinction either. It has to be a formal distinction, though Ockham doesn't use the term until later on in the question when replying to objections. Logic simply requires the distinction here, but O. clearly isn't too happy about it, and he says "Nor do I posit any distinction or non-identity small or great other than" this one in God. But if we don't posit this one we get a straight contradiction.

This is a pretty big deal. The other interesting thing about this question is that we see Ockham trying to clear up a lot of difficulties using supposition theory, that is, the theory of reference in late mediaeval logic. This sort of logical analysis is, so far as I know, not to be found in Thomas or Bonaventure, or in Scotus either, and it shows both Ockham's devotion to logic-based solutions whenever possible and also his habitual use of contemporary developments in the art. Ockham himself was, of course, a great logician, and his Summa logicae one of the greatest books in the history of logic.

Anyway these supposition-based solutions are summed up in a catch-all sentence: "I say that all these paralogisms, whether affirmative or negative, are resolved by [accusing them of] the fallacy of the accident, such that in all the case some term is taken as supposing [supponens] for one absolute thing, which is [in fact] several relative things; and it suffices to apply [this point to all the arguments].


Anonymous said...

I have read in other (secondary) sources that Ockham believed the doctrine of the Trinity was logically contradictory and could be "accepted" (and not just "received") by faith alone. Is this the case, or was the source I came across incorrect?

Michael Sullivan said...

Sorry for the late response.

That does seem to express the thrust of Ockham's position, though whether he ever put it like that I don't know. If you can take a look at Marilyn Adam's book on Ockham, around pages 999-1005 or so.