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The extra-mental universal constitutes the common nature of the world (natura communis), whereas there is also a principle of individuation, namely “thisness” (hæcceitas). The common nature is common in that it is indifferent to its existence simultaneously in any number of individuals. But it has extra-mental existence only in the particular things in which it exists, and in them it is always contracted by the principle of hæcceitas. So the common nature humanity exists in both Socrates and Plato, although in Socrates it is made individual by Socrates’s hæcceitas and in Plato by Plato’s hæcceitas. The humanity-of-Socrates is individual and non-repeatable, as is the humanity-of-Plato; yet humanity itself is common and repeatable, and it is ontologically prior to any particular exemplification of it. And hence we may only venture to say on the basis of the totality of humankind what constitutes the human aspect of the common nature.
–Johannes Duns Scotus, Ordinatio lib. 2, d. 3, pars 1 (ca. 1300 CE)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”