Volume 11, 1985
A Real Distinction in St. Thomas Aquinas?
20th Century Opponents and the Linguistic Turn
The objective of this study is to analyze the writing of three neo-scholastic writers of the twentieth century -- Marcel Chossat, Pedro Descoqs, and Francis Cunningham -- who happen to dispute the prevailing view of Thomists that St. Thomas Aquinas does indeed hold a doctrine of the
real distinction of essence and existence in created being. The approach utilized will be basically historical: we start with the year 1910, the year in which Marcel Chossat rekindled the ever-smoldering embers of the essence-existence controversy with his claim that Aquinas never held such a doctrine. In order to justify another treatment of what has been called “the endlessly rehashed question”, we try to show that the arguments put forth by the three thinkers in question an are based on considerable and weighty linguistic grounds which others in the debate have tended to dismiss. We conclude by saying that any discussion of the real distinction controversy must take a “linguistic turn” if it is to have any hope of being fruitful.