Sunday, September 19, 2010

Paasch on haecceity

I put J.T. Paasch (Blog: Boring Things - "nothing but fun") on my visiting list some time ago. But then it was not updated for some time and I neglected to visit, and so missed a fine series of posts about Scotus and 'haecceity'. List below.

This is something to return to. I have been struggling with Scotus' account of haecceity for years. The standard place is the six questions in Distinction III of book II of his Ordinatio (Opera omnia, ed. C. Balic and others (Rome, 1950-), vol. 7, p. 458ff). There is a very similar discussion in the earlier questions on the Metaphysics (Quaestiones super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis, Libri VI–IX, edited by G. Etzkorn, R. Andrews, G. Gál and others, Opera Philosophica 4 (St. Bonaventure, N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute Press, 1997).

Scotus' argument, as far as I can make it out, is that there exists an identity less than numerical identity (minor unitate numerali). This is the identity of a species, the one of "man is one species, giraffe is another". But a species is essentially repeatable. If you can have one man, you can have another man, another individual of the same species.

But the same is not true of individual identity. We cannot repeat Socrates as we can repeat man. One of Scotus' targets here is the theory of Porphyry, that an individual is defined by a collection of differentia. We start with the most general genus, i.e. being of some kind, then descend to living being, then animal, then rational animal. As we get more specific, the number of features required to define the species increases. Finally we get to the most specific species, namely the individual - descendentibus nobis per divisionem a generalissimus ad specialissima iubet Plato quiescere. Scotus rightly argues against this. Being individualised can't be like being the most highly specified species at the bottom of the tree of being. Being a species is essentially to be divisible into further species. "... the nature of the most specific species is not of itself this, just as something divisible is not from its nature of itself this, so that it is of itself repugnant to it to be divided into parts, because then it could not receive something through which formally such division would belong to it".

It is not clear what Scotus' haecceity is - he practically defines it as what it is not. Paasch is concerned with the question of whether a haecceity really can be unrepeatable. More later.

Thursday, August 26, 2010. "Are Scotus's haecceities really unrepeatable?"
Friday, August 20, 2010 "What makes a haecceity unrepeatable?"
Saturday, August 14, 2010 "What are haecceities?"
Saturday, August 7, 2010 "Scotus: haecceities must be some positive entity"
Friday, July 30, 2010 "Individuation is a question of the formal cause"

Meanwhile, I see that according to his Facebook page, Paasch is working on a PhD in philosophy and theology at Oxford, when he is not working as a bartender, introducing his favorite customers to excellent vintage cocktails he has dug out of old cocktail books. Well then! Mine's an Old Fashioned please.

Since I went on the wagon I'm
certain drink is a major crime,
For when you lay off the liquor
You feel so much slicker -
Well that is, most of the time.
But there are moments sooner or later,
When it's tough, I've got to say, not to say, "Waiter
Make it another old fashioned please".

My favourite drink. More information on Wikipedia.


Unknown said...

Ah, the old fashioned. What a fantastic concoction. My preference these days is one with a dry rye whiskey and old fashioned aromatic bitters.

Edward Ockham said...

Is that 'fantastic' in the modern sense of 'awesomely good', or in the sense of somewhat mythical or made-up?

I am far from understanding the American varieties of whisky. Your recipe sounds great.

Unknown said...

That's fantastic in the modern sense of awesomely good!

Yeah, I would be very happy with a good, low-peat scotch in the old fashioned (I haven't made up my mind about a peaty old fashioned yet), but I'm back in the States these days, and it's harder to come by a good scotch than a good american whiskey.

Edward Ockham said...

Oh dear. I had a nice Laphraiog for my birthday lunch yesterday. (I never can remember how to pronounce it - I am sure it's La-Froyg, but the waiter looked very puzzled).

Not in an old-fashioned, though.