Henry of Ghent on Real Relations and the Trinity: The Case for Numerical Sameness Without Identity

Recherches de Theologie Et Philosophie Medievales 79 (1):109-148 (2012)
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Abstract

I argue that there is a hitherto unrecognized connection between Henry of Ghent’s general theory of real relations and his Trinitarian theology, namely the notion of numerical sameness without identity. A real relation (relatio) is numerically the same thing (res) as its absolute (non-relative) foundation, without being identical to its foundation. This not only holds for creaturely real relations but also for the divine persons’ distinguishing real relations. A divine person who is constituted by a real relation (relatio) and the divine essence is numerically the same thing (res) as the divine essence without being identical to it. Further, I compare Mark Henninger’s and Jos Decorte’s interpretations of Henry’s general theory of real relations and show that Henninger’s is to be preferred and how it is consistent with my interpretation. I argue that the difficulty with Decorte’s interpretation stems, in part, from his misrepresentation of Henry’s Trinitarian theology. Subsequently, I fill in some missing pieces to Decorte’s presentation of Henry’s Trinitarian theology, and this in turn shows why Henninger’s interpretation in conjunction with mine is to be preferred.

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Scott M. Williams
University of North Carolina, Asheville

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