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DISTINCTIONS IN THE METAPHYSICS OF HENRY OF GHENT By ROLAND J. TESKE The intentional distinction is commonly and rightly recognized as one of the hallmarks of the metaphysics of Henry of Ghent. Raymond Macken, for example, says, "Comme l'on sait, la distinction intentionnelle est une théorie bien caractéristique de Henri de Gand."1 He adds that it bears the influence of Avicenna and contributes to the view of John Duns Scotus. On the contrary , he notes, "La distinction réelle est une doctrine tout aussi charactéristique de S. Thomas."2 Certainly the real distinction between essence and existence in creatures is characteristic of the metaphysics of St. Thomas, but Henry too has real distinctions in his metaphysics. However, what Henry means by a real distinction is something quite different from what St. Thomas and his followers mean by a real distinction. So too, it is not really helpful to say that Henry considers the intentional distinction "comme une sorte de distinction intermédiaire entre la distinction réelle et la distinction de pure raison," unless one is clear about what a real distinction and a purely rational distinction are in the thought of the philosopher in question.3 It is also commonly recognized, as Macken notes, that "Henri, dans ses questions consacrées à cette distinction intentionelle entre l'essence et l'existence , n'attaquait pas en premier lieu Thomas d'Aquin, mais bien Gilles de Rome, ou plutôt, qu'il répondait à ses attaques."4 Macken even goes so far as to claim that "la distinction intentionnelle est donc une sorte de distinction réelle," although he admits that "elle a donc un certain lien avec la distinction de raison."5 Others interpret Henry's position on the distinction between essence and existence in creatures as close to that of St. Thomas. José Gómez Caffarena, for example, cites several statements of Henry in which he seems to say that there is a real distinction between essence and existence in creatures: 1 R. Macken, "Les diverses applications de la distinction intentionelle chez Henri de Gand," Sprache und Erkenntnis im Mittelalter, ed. Jan P. Beckmann et al. (Berlin, 1981), 769-76, here 769. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid., 770, where Macken quotes Henry to that effect. "Baptizetur ergo ille modus médius et detur ei nomen, et si non competenter possit appellari differentia secundum intentionem, ut omnino sit differre intentione et ratione, detur ei aliud nomen" (Quodlibet X, q. 7 [1518 edition], fol. 418rQ). 4 Macken. "Les diverses applications." 770. 228TRADITIO I understand that every creature differs in existence and in the intellect, because it has existence distinct from essence in the nature of the thing, and the intellect grasps them as distinct and that only God differs in understanding only, that is, when one apprehends his essence under one concept, but his existence under another.6 And Henry adds: "And in that way the essence of a creature and its existence differ really (re) in some way."7 Gómez Caffarena concludes: Me parece en consecuencia que no es en la realidad de la distinción de esencia y existencia donde hay que buscar la diferencia más profunda entre Enrique de Gante y Santo Tomás, aunque el Doctor Solemne se mostró tan celoso impugnador del antiguo bachiller de Angélico.8 Gómez Caffarena suggests, "Hay entre Santo Tomás y Enrique una diferencia de Metafísica fundamental, la consistencia especial dada por Enrique al ser de esencia."9 The being of essence, as opposed to the being of existence, as we shall see, is the being of a thing (res) that is more than a mere figment of the mind. It is a thing in this sense in which Henry speaks of a real distinction (secundum rem). A thing in this sense, however, is not something actually existing, but only an essence existing in the mind. A further complication arises because, as Jean Paulus points out, Henry distinguishes the level of metaphysics, which considers primarily essences, from that of physics, which considers really existing things.10 Separability and inseparability are, as we shall see, tied to the various sorts of distinctions, and they...


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