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Duns Scotus's Parisian Question on the Formal Distinction

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The degree of realism that Duns Scotus understood his formal distinction to have implied is a matter of dispute going back to the fourteenth century. Both modern and medieval commentators alike have seen Scotus's later, Parisian treament of the formal distinction as less realist in the sense that it would deny any extra-mentally separate formalities or realities. This less realist reading depends in large part on a question known to scholars only in the highly corrupt edition of Luke Wadding, where it is printed as the first of the otherwise spurious Quaestiones miscellaneae de formalitatibus. The present study examines this question in detail. Cited by Scotus's contemporaries as the Quaestio logica Scoti, we establish that it was a special disputation held by Scotus at Paris in response to criticisms of his use of the formal distinction in God, identify its known manuscripts, and provide an analysis based upon a corrected text, showing in particular the total unreliability of the Wadding edition. Our analysis shows that the Logica Scoti does not absolutely prohibit an assertion of formalities as correlates of the formal distinction, even in the divine Person, so long as their non-identity is properly qualified. That is, the positing of formalities does not of itself entail an unqualified or absolute distinction.


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