Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scotus on the generic view, Ord. 1.5.2.un. nn. 126-128

Scotus, Ordinatio 1.5.2.un. nn. 126-128 [Vat. 4: 72-73].

(Note that when Scotus says 'relation' here, he means a personal property. Although Scotus is famous for toying with the idea that the personal properties might be absolute (monadic) properties, here he is sticking to the traditional claim that the personal properties are just the relations of being a father, being a son, and being a spirit.)
[n. 126] The second difficulty concerns how the the relation but not the essence could be a person distinguisher, since a relation does not have the nature of an act, and distinguishing is an act, according to Metaphysics 7.

[n. 127] I concede that the relation is a personal act, not a quidditative act, because it distinguishes personally and not quidditatively. However, the essence is a quidditative act and a quidditative distinguisher. The quidditative act is simply perfect, since it is infinite, but the personal act is not in this way formally infinite of itself.

[n. 128] If you say that "a distinguishing act is an act of that which does not distinguish", this is false unless that which does not distinguish is distinguished by a distinguishing act, just as in creatures. Humanity is distinguished in Socrates and Plato by a and b, and for this reason the distinguishing act – even individually – is an act of that which does not distinguish, because that distinguishing act distinguishes this nature, which does not [itself] distinguish. But this is not the case here, because the personal property does not distinguish the essence, nor does it contract or determine it.
According to Scotus, the divine essence establishes what kind of thing the persons are, while the personal properties establish which person each of the persons are. To explain this, he makes a distinction between quidditative acts and personal acts. The divine essence is a quidditative act, and the personal properties are personal acts.

A quidditative act occurs when something exemplifies a quidditative property. A quidditative property is a kind-maker in the sense that it is a property K which, if exemplified by some x, is sufficient for x to belong to K-kind. For example, the property being human is a property which, if exemplified by some x, is a sufficient condition for x to belong to human-kind (that is, it is sufficient for x to be human). Likewise, the divine essence is a quidditative property for the divine persons, so it is the property which, when exemplified by each divine person, makes each person divine.

Similarly, a personal act occurs when something exemplifies a personal property. In this context, a personal property is a person-maker in the sense that it is a property P which, if exemplified by some x, is sufficient for x to be person P. For example, the property being Socrates is a property which, if exemplified by some x, is sufficient for x to be the person Socrates. Likewise, in the trinitiy, the personal properties being a father, being a son, and being a spirit are personal properties, so they are the properties that, when exemplified individually, make each person a particular person – Father, Son, or Spirit.

But there is more to the story. Part of what it means to be a person is to be a particular person, and so part of the function of a personal act is to distinguish one person from another. How exactly does this work? It's tempting to think the personal properties are like individual properties, haecceities, in that they individuate quidditative properties. This would fit nicely with Scotus's position that in the natural world, quidditative properties are individuated by individual properties.

Consider Socrates and Plato. They each exemplify the quidditative property being human, and this is what makes them human. Yet even though they both exemplify the same quidditative property, they are not one and the same human. When we count Socrates and Plato, we count two humans. The property being human must be divided, as it were, so that it can be exemplified separately by Socrates and Plato, since if it were not divided for Socrates and Plato, there would only be one quidditative property shared between them, and then we'd only count one human, not two.

According to Scotus, individual properties divide or individuate quidditative properties by making them individual for those entities who exemplify them. For example, the property being Socrates individuates the property being human for Socrates, and the property being Plato individuates the property being human for Plato. At the end of the day, after the property being human has been individuated for Socrates and Plato, the tally reads two humans: one individuated in Socrates, and the other individuated in Plato.

As I said a moment ago, it is tempting to think the divine personal properties individuate the divine essence in this manner. Indeed, this would distinguish the divine persons from each other because it would make each of them a distinct divine person, just as individual properties make Socrates and Plato distinct humans.

But Scotus thinks the personal properties do not individuate the divine essence into separate exemplifications in each divine person. The Father, for example, does not exemplify one instance of deity, while the Son exemplifies another instance of deity. On the contrary, each divine person exemplifies one and the same divine essence. In the trinity, then, the personal properties do not distinguish or divide the divine essence in any way.

So what do the personal properties distinguish, if not instances of quidditative properties? In the case of the divine persons, there are only two options: the divine essence and the personal properties. We'd already seen that Scotus rules out the divine essence: the personal properties do not individuate the divine essence. That leaves only the personal properties. In other words, the only thing the personal properties can distinguish are themselves.

For Scotus, one personal property is distinct from another personal property because there is something intrinsic to it that prevents it from being compatible with any other personal property. In Scotus's terminology, the properties are repugnant to each other, for they each include something in their definition that prevents them from being compatible with any other personal property.

In Scotus's picture of the divine persons then, a personal act can only be an act that distinguishes one personal property from another. If Scotus thinks the personal properties do not distinguish or individuate the divine essence, it follows straightforwarldy that they cannot distinguish the divine essence. The only other thing they can distinguish in the trinity are the personal properties, so they simply distinguish themselves: one personal property is not any other personal property.

All this makes for a puzzling picture. In the natural order, individual properties individuate quidditative properties into distinct instances of those quidditative properties. Socrates' and Plato's personal properties, for example, individuate the property being human into two instances of being human – that is, the personal properties makes two humans. Consequently, there is a one-to-one correspondance between the number of individual properties and the number of instances for quidditative properties. For Socrates and Plato, there are two personal properties, and there are two instances of humanity.

If there were no one-to-one correspondance, that is, if quidditative properties were not individuated, it would be difficult to count how many humans there are. The reason is that the only things we count two of are those things that individually belong to each of the two things – those things there are two of. If something is shared between two things, then there's not two of those, there's only one, so we'd only count one shared thing.

Consider Socrates and Plato again. If we want to count two humans, we need two instances of humanity, not one shared instance. If there were only one shared humanity, the only things there'd be two of are Socrates' and Plato's personal properties, and then we could only count two personal properties. We could not count two humanities because there wouldn't be two of those, there'd only be one.

Scotus's picture of the trinity seems to lead to the same point. If the personal properties do not individuate the divine essence for the divine persons, then what are we counting? On Scotus's view, the divine essence is numerically one, it is not multiplied or divided for each person. If we try to count three somethings there, it seems that all we could count are personal properties. If you asked quid tres?, it appears that we should only say three personal properties.

6 comments:

Scott Williams said...

Interestingly, Henry says that the conjunction of a personal property and the divine essence counts as one divine person. So, a divine person, like a human person, minimally has two properties, an essence and a personal property. So, to say there are 'three' personal properties is true, but these are not three 'things', as you report, for Scotus as well, there is only one divine substance/essence. So, it is sort of an intriguing question: if a divine person just is the conjunction of two properties, does one personal property explain other personal properties (i.e. opposed relations), or does the essence explain one, two or three personal properties? It would seem you must also consider both properties (essence, PP) together.

Scott Williams said...

Funny, what you say about quidditative act(s) and personal acts echoes what I said early about Henry's acct. of the divine essence considered simpliciter in the persons, and the personal/principiative order.

What will be interesting to see is how Scotus says the divine essence is not multiplied. I'd imagine (for Henry) it has something to do with features (intellect and will) of the divine essence by which the Father performs notional acts AND that the property produced is a relation, not a 'thing'. The Socrates/Plato example indicates there are two things (two substances which are 'being human').

JT Paasch said...

1. As for the fact that you have to consider both properties (E and PP) together to get three persons, yeah, that's the strategy. But I'm not sure it solves the problem. If the three PPs share the same E, why should I count three persons? There's just three PPs there and one E. To count three persons, I'd have to include the E separately under each PP. But why would I do that? After all, it's not separate in each person.

To put it another way, why should I count E + PP as one person? Why should I include E with one of the PPs and say that's a person? Why not just include two of the PPs (but no E) and say that's a person instead?

You've indicated the right answer here. It has to do with the relation of E and PP. When we put E and PP together (say, when I count them as a person), they have to be related in some way. That relation is the crucial bit. Why should or why would E + PP join in such a way as to make a person? Why would a person not just be a heap or pile of E and PP?


2. As for how the divine essence isn't multiplied, yeah, I'm wondering how Scotus is going to do that too. So far, I suspect his answer is the infinity of the divine essence. It has suffucient causal oomph to swallow up, as it were, the personal properties without being divided. Common natures in the natural order don't have that kind of causal oomph.


All this talk about E and PP makes me have to go bad, but it also makes me feel very happy about that.

Scott Williams said...

The question as to why E + 1 PP counts as a 'person' is a good one. In the human case, a person acc. to Boethius is a single substance of a rational nature, and with Richard we add an 'incommunicable' feature. In God, we are driven to say there is a single substance, but is this communicable or incommunicable? The E is communicable b/c it is shared, but not communicable as with Plato and Socrates, i.e. 2 humanities; rather, it is 'shared' by more than one person. So, if the essence isn't repeated in multiple divine persons (i.e. 2 or 3 divinities), it must be in persons who can't be repeated (i.e. incommunicable PP's). So, PP is a real incommunicable property of a substance. In the creaturely case, there is only one such PP of a substance; but in the divine case, there are three PP's b/c of the perfection of the divine essence--which means the divine powers are fully actual, both operationally and notionally. In creatures, notional productions are weak (i.e. qualities that inhere in the substance, rather than some sort of identity with the substance itself); in fact, only the human intellect produces a word (a quality), and the human will is unable to produce anything (odd, huh?). I don't quite understand Henry's claim here, but I've gotta sort it out soon enough.

So why does one PP and E suffice for a person? If a person is =df. a rational nature of a substance with an incommunicable property, then what suffices for a person is one PP and the E. It doesn't matter that the E supposites thrice for three persons. The concern here is how to explain the E counting twice (or more)--and it clearly seems that it can be counted more than once b/c of the diverse order of origin. But this explains that there are three and how there are three, but not whether the essence itself is different (numerically distinct) in each divine person. But the thing to keep in mind, apparently, is the two orders: principiative and simpliciter. The former explains why there are three, and the latter explains how the same numerically identical essence suppotes for three persons.

Perhaps the real question here is this: are the divine persons just epiphenomena of the PP & E?

Sorry for rambling; time for lunch.

Scott Williams said...

"I'd have to include the E separately under each PP."

Remember that 'separately' here must be a technical meaning, b/c it is much easier to think of Plato's substance, and then Socrate's substance. This sort of consideration has to be re-worked, this 'separate' consideration. It seems the tools to do this have to do with the definition of a person, that a PP is a relation and not a thing, and the E is a thing. If a PP were constituted absolutely, then would it be a thing as well, and so there would be two things? And so, you could say E is a communicable thing, and the PP is an incommunicable thing, and then be tricked into thinking the E has three occurrences, by analogy to counting 3 humanities when counting Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. But this doesn't work (for Henry), b/c the PP is not an absolute thing added to another absolute thing; rather, the PP just is a mode of the one E; and so the one E has three real modes, being Father, being Son, and being Holy Spirit. So, this clearly shows that Henry (and Scotus?) prefer the psychological model of one 'person' analogous to a single person, rather than a social view. The social view would seem to talk about the divine essence and not the divine substance. DE allows talk of three instances of the one essence, but divine substance assuredly couldn't be multiplied and cohere with the 'one God' criterion.

JT Paasch said...

1. Scott, I like the way you're writing these days. Nice and clear, nice and technical, and to the point. Awesome.

2. Your explanations are extremely helpful. This site should be a little resource site for students of medieval trinitarian theology in Henry and Scotus.

3. All of these things you say are right, but they aren't the cause of why E + PP are grouped as one countable entity. The things you say here are rather the effects of that.

For example, I'm not wondering here why E + PP count as a person. The features of E and the features of PP together satisfy the list of features required for something to be a person. But, the features of E and the features of PP can only be grouped together in that list if E and PP are joined by a unity-making relation in the first place.

Once we have that unity-making relation between E and PP, then all the features of E and all the features of PP can be grouped together, and those combined features satisfy various lists of required features for various things (e.g., it satisfies the list of required features for something to be a person, for something to be a per se unity, for something to be a causal agent, for something to be a thinker and a lover, etc.).

But the first requirement is that E and PP are joined together tightly enough that I can group the features of E with the features of PP and not do so arbitrarily. And that unity-making relation is what I'm after here. Why should I count E and PP together in the first place?

I'm going to make a new post to continue this discussion. I've got a little example in my brain that might get at the issue.