Suarez: On The Various Kinds of Distinctions

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by BayouHuguenot, May 29, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Suarez, Francisco. On The Various Kinds of Distinctions. Trans. Cyril Vollert, SJ. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2013.

    Real distinction: this is the most basic distinction between thing and thing.

    Mental distinction: it doesn’t formally intervene between the things designated. It is a distinction that exists in our minds (Suarez 18). We can divide the distinction in two

    A distinction of reasoning reason: it arises in our intellect as we reflect on things

    A distinction of reasoned reason: this has a stronger foundation in reality. This distinction pre-exists in reality prior to our reflecting on it. The whole reality of the object is not fully represented in our minds (19). This is sort of how we would reflect on God’s essence and attributes.

    Scotus on formal distinctions: there is an actual distinction in things that is neither a mental nor a real distinction (24). Scotus is saying something like there are aspects that are distinct from the actual thing by reason of the definition, yet also precede the mental reflection on it (26). Suarez likes what this view is trying to say, but he doesn’t like the name “formal distinction.” For example, in the Trinity “paternity” and “filiation” are not essentially distinct, yet they are formally distinct “in the objective notions of their relations” (27).

    Suarez now introduces his “modal distinction.” These modes are positive and modify the entitites (28).Suarez defines mode as “something affecting quantity and, as it were, ultimately determining its state and manner of existing, without adding to it a new proper entity, but merely modifying a pre-existing entity” (28). It obtains between quantity and inherence of quantity in a substance. There is a distinction between six inches and the inherence of six inches in a pen.

    When a mode inheres in an entity, it doesn’t add a new entity. Modes are “thinner” distinctions and they are always conjoined to the entity (32).

    This is all very technical, but there is a big theological payoff. In the Trinity the divine essence is not separable from the property of “paternity,” yet at the same time they aren’t the same thing nor are they two different things. Further, they aren’t mental distinctions, since they already have a reality prior to my mental reflecting on it.
     
  2. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    In the Trinity the divine essence is not separable from the property of “paternity,” yet at the same time they aren’t the same thing nor are they two different things. Further, they aren’t mental distinctions, since they already have a reality prior to my mental reflecting on it.[/QUOTE]
    So they are real distinctions? What’s left?
     
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    They are modal distinctions. A real distinction is a distinction between two entities (like this apple and this orange). A mental distinction is one we make when we can't comprehend the whole of it. Like between God's being and his simplicity. Technically, they are the same thing but for our limited capacity, we make a mental distinction between the two.
     
  4. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I've never been very comfortable with the term "modal distinctions." I know you're not trying to advocate modalism, but the term is too similar for comfort in my mind. I would rather simply say that the persons are distinct, and when asked, "in what way," say that human language cannot accurately describe how they are distinct, and yet are still one essence. Trying to get too precise here is dangerous. We know where the boundaries are for heresy (modalism and tri-theism), but we need to be equally careful about where the boundary for precision is.
     
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I get that, but if we take that fear of "modal" we will have to throw out guys like Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, which I don't think we are willing to do.
     
  6. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I hardly think we would have to "throw out" guys like Basil and Gregory of Nyssa just because we don't particularly like the word "modal." We can understand and explain their orthodoxy on the Trinity just fine, even if we were not to use the word. The main reason I don't like the word is that it seems to imply something that is not a distinction between different persons. Granted that the personal distinctions among the Trinitarian persons are not like those of human persons, they are still personal distinctions, and thus I would still prefer that language over the language of "modal." There are, of course, limitations and problems no matter what language we use, but on the whole, I think "personal distinctions" has a lesser chance of misunderstanding than "modal distinctions."
     
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    The problem is that "personal distinction" changes meaning depending on whose metaphysics is in play. Thomas didn't agree with the Cappadocians. They didn't really say it the same way as did Boethius. Anyone after Descartes means something completely different by person.
     
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Is the distinction between filiation and divine justice a personal distinction? It's hard to see how. This is why terms like modal distinction are necessary.
     
  9. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    As I said, no language is free of the need of qualification, nor is any language free of a degree of approximation. I think, though, that for the average person in the pew, "personal distinctions" will work better than "modal distinctions." Your quibble with the term might be an issue for those more philosophically inclined.
     
  10. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Jacob, filiation is generally seen as a personal property, whereas divine justice is an essential attribute. I don't see why that would pose any kind of problem for my position.
     
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I get that, but by person the average guy in the pew means something like an independent will and consciousness, which is not (indeed, cannot be) the view of what the church meant by 3 persons.
     
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Okay. I get what you are saying. Maybe this next question--which is one all of the Reformed scholastics wrestled with--will get at the problem: is the distinction between the persons (or the persons and the essence) a real distinction?

    The word "real" is slippery.

    Muller notes (PRRD III: 290-296) that the Reformed filtered their metaphysics through Suarez.
     
  13. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Think I'll wait for the movie on this one. . .
     
  14. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Of course doctrine must be explained. The three persons aren’t individuals or people, but as Berkhof would have it, “personal self-distinctions within the Divine essence.”

    Some food for thought. The divine will is one. That does not merely mean the three persons are perfectly united in will or they perfectly agree. Rather, it also means there is numerically one will. The same thing goes for consciousness. The reason being, will and consciousness are indexed to essence, not person; hence the incarnate Son has two, human and divine.

    Where things get tricky is, we must do justice to an ordering (or taxis) of the one divine will and consciousness. The triune God consciously willed the cross etc. But with reference to the economic Trinity wasn’t it uniquely the Son who was self-conscious that He himself was the Christ on the cross? And isn’t it no less true that within the immanent Trinity only the Son eternally willed, “I will go” as opposed to the Father or Holy Spirit? Again, there is only one will, for will is not a property of person but essence, but aren’t there personal self-distinctions in the divine essence? In other words, if we’re to maintain equal ultimacy in the unity and plurality of Trinity, I don’t see how we can avoid willed modes of operation etc.

    I’ve heard it said that the three persons don’t think in first person, but that would seem to place divine thoughts in an impersonal essence, either implying a fourth impersonal-person or else a denial of modes of subsistence.

    Thoughts?
     
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I understand why people say that. I'm not sure it holds up, since on the surface we hear both God the Father and Jesus using first person pronouns
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page