Scotus and Haecceitas, Aquinas and Esse

This study compares the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus on the issue of being and individuality. Its primary aim is to contrast Scotus’s individuating principle, haecceitas, with Aquinas’s actualizing principle, esse, attending both to their rather striking similarities as well as to their significant differences. The article’s conclusion is that, while Scotus’s crowning principle, haecceitas, is the unique entity internal to each thing, rendering the nature complete and singular as nature, Aquinas’s crowning principle, esse, actualizes the nature without individualizing it. This is not to imply that Scotus overlooked the importance of a thing’s being, any more than Aquinas overlooked the importance of a being’s singularity. It does mean, however, that the primal integrating focus and the resulting philosophical synthesis of these two seminal thinkers of the Middle Ages did significantly differ. The conclusion of the paper might be stated thus: what most distinguishes their respective philosophies is that, while Scotus’s primary concern was with the existing individual, Aquinas’s was with the existing individual
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DOI 10.5840/acpq200680129
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