Utrum inhaerentia sit de essentia accidentis. Francis of marchia and the debate on the nature of accidents

Vivarium 44 (1):96-150 (2006)
Abstract
This paper attempts to provide a general reconstruction of Francis of Marchia's doctrine of accidental being. The paper is divided into two parts. (1) In the first part, I begin by reconstructing the debate on the nature of accidents held before Marchia, showing that such a debate is characterised by a progressive shift concerning the way to understand accidents. While the first Aristotelian interpreters regard accidents especially as inhering modes of being of substances, the majority of theologians and philosophers in the second half of the thirteenth century regard accidents as absolute beings. For them, the problem is no longer to explain if and, if so, how accidents can be distinct from substances, but how accidents and substances can make some one thing. Metaphysically, their primary focus is on explaining what the ontological status of inherence is. Although it is especially the consideration of the Eucharistic case that induces this change, I point out that many philosophers and theologians find in Aristotle's texts the philosophical support for taking this step. (2) In the second part, I focus more closely on Marchia's doctrine, arguing that Marchia's position is a slightly revised version of Scotus's. Unlike Aquinas and Bonaventure, Marchia explains Aristotle's metaphysics of accidents by way of the metaphysics of the Eucharist and not vice versa. So, in order to explain the philosophical consistency of this miraculous case, Marchia maintains that one does not need to modify the notion of inherence by distinguishing actual from potential inherence and including the latter in the accident's essence; rather it is necessary to take the case of the Eucharist seriously and, on this basis, to remove inherence totally from an accident's essence. In conclusion, the Eucharist shows that accidents are absolute beings to which actual inherence pertains contingently, potential inherence necessarily. But like Scotus's, Marchia's doctrine faces some difficulties that remain unresolved.
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