Volume 19, Issue 2, 2022
Qui melius scit exponere, exponat!
Scotus's Metaphysical Case for the Formal Distinction
John Duns Scotus’s famous doctrine of the formal distinction has a twofold justification: a theological one, stemming from the necessity to express coherently the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and a metaphysical one, according to which formal distinction is a necessary condition of the abstraction of universal (objective) concepts from individuals. This paper is a detailed analysis of this latter argument, presented by Scotus in Questions on Metaphysics VII, q. 19. Scotus apparently demolishes the alternative theory of intentional distinction proposed by Henry of Ghent, but not without first attempting to defend it in as refined and powerful form as possible. Given that Henry’s notion of intentional distinction is substantially the same as later Thomits’s “distinctio rationis ratiocinatae”, this rises questions about the validity about the latter notion, both in the context of Scotism (such as in the thought of Bartolomeo Mastri) and in genereal.