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ALNWICKONTHE ORIGIN, NATURE, AND FUNCTION OF THE FORMAL DISTINCTION In treating Scotus' formal distinction, both medieval philosopher -theologians employing the distinction and modern day scholars engaged in the study of medieval philosophical history have come to diverse conclusions regarding its origin, nature, and function. Regarding the origin of the distinction, for example, scholars such as Fr. Gedeon Gal and Franz Pelster have not only indicated that the distinction is found in Scholastic literature prior to Duns Scotus, whose use of the distinction is so renowned, but have argued that the distinction can be seen in its rudiments in the writings of the British theologian Richard Rufus;1 whereas others, such as Bernard Jansen, have preferred to see a Continental origin within the writings of Peter John Olivi and St. Bonaventure.2As to the nature of the distinction, some who employed the distinction in the Middle Ages described the distinction as an intermediary distinction (distinctio media), terminology associated with the intentional distinction of Henry of Ghent, while others denied that the formal distinction should be so described and claimed instead that the distinction should be accounted a real distinction.3 Moreover, the most prominent twentieth century Scotist in the English-speaking world, Fr. Allan Wolter, has presented an interpretation of the Scotistic formal distinction as an intermediate distinction, one having much in common with Henry's intentional distinction and St. Thomas Aquinas' distinction of reason with a fundamentum in re, whereas Maurice Grajewski maintained, slightly earlier in the century, that the Scotistic distinction is best 1FKnZ Pelster, "Die älteste Abkürzung und Kritik vom Sentenzenkommentar des heiligen Bonaventura: Ein Werk des Richardus Rufus de Cornubia (Paris 1253-1255)," Gregorianum 17 (1936), 218-220; Gedeon Gal, "Viae ad exsistentiam Dei probabandam in doctrina Richardi Rufi, OFM," Franziskanische Studien 38 (1956), 182; 189. 2Bernhard Jansen, "Beiträge zur geschichtlichen Entwicklung der Distinctio formalis," Zeitschriftfür katholische Theologie 53 (1929), 317-344; 517-544. 3Sm the discussion below of the opposing views ofJames of Ascoli and William of Alnwick. 232TIMOTHY B. NOONE understood as a type of real distinction.4 Finally questions arise, within modern scholarship at least, as to the role and function of the formal distinction within the ambit of Scotus' thought. William of Alnwick's Determinatio 14 and its protracted discussion of the legitimacy and tenability of a distinctio media makes a welcome contribution to the interpretation of the formal distinction by providing some insight into how one of the earliest members of the Scotist school, albeit one of an independent cast of mind, understood intermediate distinction as well as its relation to the intentional and formal distinction.5 What I offer here is a sketch of Alnwick's treatment of the relationship between intentional distinction, distinctio media, and formal distinction. As we shall see, Alnwick's discussion of these topics not only provides glimpses of the contemporary debates within the burgeoning Scotistic school as to the nature of the formal distinction, but also provides material for reflection regarding what is distinctive about Scotus' version of the formal distinction. Determinatio 14 itself would seem, on a cursory examination, to belong more to the literature of medieval logic than to metaphysics 4AUan B. Wolter, "The Formal Distinction," and "The Realism of Scotus," in The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams (Ithaca/ London: Cornell University Press, 1990), 27-53. "The Formal Distinction" originally appeared in John Duns Scotus, 1265-1965, ed. John K. Ryan and Bernardine M. Bonansea, Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 3 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1965) 45-60; "The Realism of Scotus" originally appeared in The Journal of Philosophy 59 (1962), 725-736. Maurice J. Grajewski, The Formal Distinction of Duns Scotus: A Study in Metaphysics (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1944), 101. 5As is well known, Alnwick was an associate of John Duns Scotus in the early fourteenth century and took down, according to his own report, Scotus' lost Parisian Collatio on the virtues. Although he was licensed to teach theology at Paris, he taught at Oxford as regent before also teaching as master in Paris during the academic year 1317-1318. After teaching...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 231-245
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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