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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.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Jobs created by every billion dollars of U.S. government defense spending:
Artists tend to have twice as many sexual partners as noncreative people.
Swiss retailer Migros cut off ties with a collectible-creamer company following the distribution of 2,000 creamers whose lids bore images of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. “You cannot put Pol Pot or a terrorist on a milk creamer,” said a Migros spokesman.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”