Divisibility, Communicability, and Predicability in Duns Scotus’s Theories of the Common Nature
Cross, Richard (Oriel College Oxford University)
Medieval Philosophy and Theology 11 (2003)
As is well-known, Duns Scotus adopts a moderately realist stance on the being of the common natures of categorial entities—substances and accidents. He believes that such natures have extramental being, such that, though real, each nature—e.g. humanity, redness, and so on—in itself lacks numerical unity. Scotus holds, too, that the divine nature is not like this: it is numerically singular, really the same in each exemplification of it. Scotus thus accepts a version of a more extreme realism in the case of the divine nature. Here, I intend to show how Scotus distinguishes these two cases and, more generally, how he understands them. In addition, my investigation also has ramifications for Scotus’s account of individuation.
I shall first of all give an account of three crucial terms in Scotus’s theory: predicability, divisibility, and communicability. While Scotus’s use of this terminology is not always consistent, a reasonably clear overall theory will emerge. Secondly, I shall look more closely at Scotus’s use of certain identity claims in the context of his theory of common natures, by way of showing that he has good reason to hold that the more extreme form of realism that he accepts in the case of the divine nature is not logically incoherent. In the third section, I shall show how Scotus argues for the existence of these different sorts of natures in the cases, respectively, of creatures and of God.