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Saturday, February 13, 2021


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I am honoured to be invited to reply.

First of all, I think Gilson provides a distorted notion of Scotism. Scotus most certainly does not think that completeness is identical to, or implies, existence. The essence-existece identity thesis in Scotus means that in an existing being, to exist is to actually have one's essence. But there also are potential essnces, exactly as fully determined (down to the individual difference) as actual essences -- except that they don't exist. They just aren't there at all, they are pure nothing. No esse essentiae or whatever.

However, and here Scotus's position starts to be really interesting, although they are pure nothing, they are knowable. Why they are knowable? Because they are actually known by God. How come they are known by God although they are not there? Because God's intellect does not depend on its object but vice versa. Therefore, God's intellect does not presuppose the intelligibility, let alone existence, of its objects, but "produces" their intelligibility (their existence is a matter not of his intellect but will). But by making the possible essences intelligible (which also involves making them possible, in the first place) does not involve imparting them any real ontological status: it just makes it possible for them to be known.

So, I heartily agree with you and with Scotus that there are fully-determined possibilia, barring that that commits me to any sort of metaphysical possibilism. I am, like Scotus, a metaphysical actualist (possibilia have no ontological status) but semantic possibilist (we can refer to the possibilia). I even believe that possibilia must be fully determined, because underdetermined objects are impossible.

What is controversial is, whether according to Aquinas there are fully determined possibilia. There are interpretations that ascribe to him the position that there are only specific possibilia, because individuality is connected to the actus essendi. I don't think Aquinas either clearly teaches or clearly rejects this, but I regard it as an incoherent position, for the reason given above.

And I am honored to receive your reply!

There are two issues here, one historical-exegetical, the other systematic. I am of course primarily interested in the latter.

You seem to be implying that the distinguished Gilson has utterly failed to understand Scotus. That sounds unlikely, but I am inclined to defer to your historical expertise. Let me read the paper you sent me, and then we can discuss the systematic issues.

"For if an actually existing individual essence exists in virtue of being completely determinate, then there cannot be any distinction in reality between that complete essence and its existence."

But either those determinations that constitute being completely determinate exist or not. But they cannot not exist, otherwise, they cannot constitute anything, much less being completely determinate. So they exist. But if they exist, then it is in virtue of existing that they constitute being completely determinate, and so the individual here exists in virtue of existence. At least this how the issue seems to me.

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