Fabrizio Mondadori

The question, “Quid sit essentia creaturae,...” is raised by Suarez in his

Disputationes Metaphysicae ,1 and is answered by him as follows:

Principio statuendum est, essentiam creaturae, seu creaturam de se, et

priusquam a Deo fiat, nullum habere in se verum esse reale, et in hoc sensu,

praeciso esse existentiae, essentiam non esse rem aliquam, sed omnino esse

nihil (Disp. Met. 31, 2, 1).

The qualification “in hoc sensu” is crucial here: for it clearly implies

that for an essence - generally: a possibile 2 - to be “omnino...nihil” is just

for it to be devoid of a “verum esse reale”, either in, or else “outside”, the

divine intellect, and (hence) that, unlike Plato’s Forms or Ideas, possibilia

do not make up a realm of self-subsistent entities.3 In other words, before

their actualization possibilia are devoid of a “verum esse reale”, or, equiva-

lently, they lack an esse existentiae , and, in this sense, they qualify as


“omnino...nihil”.4 The claim that a possibile is “omnino... nihil”, however,

is ambiguous. It may mean that (a) no possibile has an esse existentiae (i.e.,

the “verum esse reale” Suarez speaks of); or it may mean that ( b) possibilia

lack any mode of being whatever - be it an esse existentiae , or an esse secun-

dum quid
such as e.g. an esse cognitum . And, plainly, (b) implies (a): but not


The question accordingly arises whether or not possibilia , devoid

though they are of a verum esse reale , have any other kind of esse, and, if so,

what such an esse consists in. This question, it should be noted, strictly con-

cerns what we might call the ‘reality’ (the ontological status) of possibilia :

not their possibility. We are asking, in effect, whether or not possibilia are

real (in some sense of “real”), and, if so, what their reality consists in. We

are not asking what makes a given possibile possible, i.e., what are the

grounds of its possibility. To see this more clearly, let us suppose that possi-

are ascribed a mode of being; that the latter is grounded in the divine

intellect; and, finally, that it consists in (say) the being-of-being-objects-of-

the-divine-intellect. We are still left with the question of what makes a(ny)

given possibile , not so much an object of the divine intellect, as a possible

object thereof. It need not be the divine intellect; nor need it be the divine

will; nor need it be the divine power. It may just qualify as such (viz. as pos-

sible) in and of itself, quite independently of God. Possibilia , accordingly,

although they may depend on God for their possible being , need not at all

depend on him for their being possible.

Further, it should be clear that, even if it be conceded that the second

of our two questions can intelligibly be asked only provided an affirmative

answer to the first question is given, we are still dealing with two quite dif-

ferent questions, and with two quite different traits (the possibility vis-à-vis

the reality) of possibilia. Even though, that is, it be conceded that (the pos-

sibility of) an answer to the second question requires that the first question

be given an affirmative answer, the fact that a(ny) given possibile has a pos-

sible being does not have to be appealed to - and plays no role whatso-

ever - in the answer to the question of what makes that possibile possible.


We should, in effect, be putting forward a perfectly consistent view, were

we to hold both that that question can be answered without assuming that

there are such things as possibilia , and that, if no such things “exist”, there

would be nothing to which “(intrinsically) possible” could truly apply. On

the other hand, we can answer the question of what grounds the reality (if

any) of possibilia without making any reference to the notion of possibility -

even though only that which qualifies as possible to begin with can intelligi-

bly be said to be endowed with reality.

  • St. Thomas. In what follows, I will mostly be concerned with the ques-

    tion of the reality of possibilia : and will now proceed to expound and discuss

    the answers to that question which not only provide the historical and con-

    ceptual background for, but, also, are directly or indirectly relevant to our

    understanding of, Leibniz’s views on the reality of the inhabitants of the so-

    called “pays des possibles”.6 The first such answer, which originates with St.

    Anselm, and has also been given by (among others) St. Thomas, Zumel, and

    William of Alnwick, is uncompromisingly negative. According to it, before

    their production possibilia (in particular, essences) are wholly devoid of esse ,

    so that talk of the reality (the esse) of essences can only be understood in

    terms of talk of the (absolute) reality of the divine essence. On this view, it is

    not to be said that essences depend on God for their reality; it is to be said,

    rather, that reference to their reality is really and ultimately reference to the

    reality of the ens realissimum , God: thus, according to St. Anselm,
  • ...antequam [omnia] fierent, et cum iam facta sunt…semper in ipso

    sunt, non quod sunt in seipsis, sed quod est idem ipse. ... in ipso... sunt ipsa


    prima essentia... (Monologion, c. 34; cf. also: “...omnis creata substantia

    tanto verius est in verbo, id est in intelligentia creatoris, quam in seipsa,

    quanto verius existit creatrix quam creata essentia”, Monol. , c. 36; “Hoc

    igitur modo... intelligi potest, si dicitur creatrix essentia universa fecisse de

    nihilo, ...; id est: quae prius nihil erant, nunc sunt aliquid”, Monol., c. 8).

    On St. Anselm’s view, then, before they are produced by God the

    essences of creatures (or the creatures themselves) are nothing other than

    the divine “creatrix essentia”: so that reference to any mode of being which

    those essences - or those creatures - may be claimed to possess before their

    production must be explained away in terms of reference to (the mode of

    being of) the divine creatrix essentia . 7 St. Thomas put forward a very simi-

    lar view: according to him,

    ...ex hoc ipso quod quidditati esse attribuitur, non solum esse sed ipsa

    quid ditas creari dicitur: quia antequam esse habeat, nihil est, nisi forte in

    intellectu creantis, ubi non est creatura, sed creatrix essentia (Quaestiones

    disp. de potentia
    q. 3, a. 5 ad 2um; cf. also, “Creatura in creatore est creatrix

    essentia, ut Anselmus dicit”, Quaestiones disp. de ventate q. 4, a. 7 ad

    l um ).

    The important claim here, I suggest, is not so much that a quiddity, be-

    fore its “creation”, i.e., before it is endowed with an esse existentiae , is “ni-

    hil”, as that, before its “creation”, it is nothing other than the divine crea-

    trix essentia :
    from which it follows that it is devoid of any esse and (there-

    fore) that it is indeed “nihil”. To say, in other words, that, before its “crea-

    tion”, a quiddity “nihil est, nisi forte in intellectu creantis” (which appears

    to suggest that it is something after all, albeit only “in intellectu creantis”) is

    just a misleading way of saying that talk of its reality is actually and ulti-

    mately talk of the (absolute) reality of the divine “creatrix essentia”.8 On


    St. Thomas’ view, then, before their “creation” quiddities (essences) have

    no esse whatsoever: the assertion that they have e.g. an esse objectivum is

    only intelligible provided it is taken to be an assertion about the esse of the

    divine creatrix essentia .9

    The same view is also put forth by St. Thomas in the following passage

    (a reply to the objection whereby “...Anselmus dicit... quod creatura in

    Deo est creatrix essentia. Sed creatrix essentia est tantum una. Ergo crea-

    tura in Deo est tantum una. Sed hoc modo creatur creatura a Deo secun-

    dum quod in ipso praeexistit. Ergo a Deo non est nisi una tantum crea-


    ...dicendum, quod creatura dicitur esse in Deo dupliciter. Uno modo

    sicut in causa gubernante et conservante esse creaturae; et sic praesupponi-

    tur esse creaturae distinctum a creatore ad hoc quod creatura in Deo esse

    dicatur. ...creatura hoc modo in Deo existens, non est creatrix essentia.

    Alio modo dicitur creatura esse in Deo sicut in virtute causae agentis, vel si-


    cut in cognoscente; et sic creatura in Deo est ipsa essentia divina,... Quamvis

    autem hoc modo creatura in Deo existens sit divina essentia, non tamen per

    istum modum est ibi una tantum creatura, sed multae. Nam essentia Dei est

    sufficiens medium ad cognoscendum diversas creaturas, et sufficiens virtus

    ad eas producendas (Quaest. disp. de potentia q. 3, a. 16 ad 24um - italics

    mine; see also q. 3, a. 15 in corp., as well as, “...in Deo nihil est diversum

    ab ipso; unde et creaturae, secundum hoc quod in Deo sunt, non sunt aliud

    a Deo: quia creaturae in Deo sunt causatrix essentia, ut dicit Anselmus, ...”,

    In Sent. I, d. 36, q. 1, a. 3 ad lum).

    The claim, accordingly, that creatures ( qua possible), or essences ( qua

    exemplifiable), are endowed with a mode of being is to be explained away

    in terms of the (misleading) claim that they “exist” in God, which claim, in

    turn, is to be understood in terms of the (correct) claim that the alleged esse

    of possible creatures (or of exemplifiable essences) in nothing other than

    the esse of the divine creatrix essentia. To put forward a view of this sort is,

    in effect, to maintain that for possible creatures - or for exemplifiable

    essences - to have an esse is, first, for the divine essence to be imitable in

    such-and-such ways, and, second, for God to have the power to bring it

    about that his essence is actually imitated in those ways (some, if not quite

    all, of them). Talk of the esse , or the reality, of possible creatures and

    essences accordingly gives way to talk of the (absolute) reality of the divine

    essence, and of its imitability as well. The conclusion plainly follows that

    possible creatures and essences cannot be ascribed any ontological status at

    all: or - equivalently - that possible creatures and essences are endowed

    with no more than the reality which divine ideas are endowed with.

    Now, according to St. Thomas, reference to the reality of a divine idea

    is ultimately reference to the reality of the divine essence (thought of as im-

    itable): reference to the reality of possible creatures and essences will, there-

    fore, also be reference to the reality of God’s essence.10 Talk of possible


    creatures, in other words, just is talk of respects in which the divine essence

    is imitable : to say that “there are” such things as possibilia is only a mislead-

    ing way of saying that the divine essence can be imitated in such-and-such

    respects, and that God has the power to turn (as it were) that “can” into an

    “is”. St. Thomas is very explicit about this: he contends, for example, that

    Ea...quae non sunt nec erunt nec fuerunt a Deo sciuntur quasi eius

    virtuti possibilia. Unde non cognoscit ea ut aliqualiter existentia in seipsis,

    sed ut existentia solum in potentia divina (Summa contra gentiles I, 66 —

    italics mine: it may be of some interest to consider here Arnauld’s remark

    to Leibniz, to which I shall return later, that “...tout ce que nous appelons

    substances possibles, purement possibles, ne peut être autre chose que la

    toute-puissance de Dieu”, LR, 98).

    For God to know a pure possible,11 then, is not so much for him to

    know an object of sorts which has a reality (an esse) of sorts, as for him to

    know how far his power extends - and each of the ways in which he could

    have exercised his power corresponds, as it were, to a way in which his

    essence is imitable. In particular, St. Thomas’ claim that pure possibles

    “sunt aliquo modo existentia” ( Quaest . disp. de veri tate q. 1, a. 8 ad lum) is

    not meant to suggest that pure possibles are somehow endowed with a

    mode of being: it means, rather, that for them to be “aliquo modo” is noth-

    ing other than for them to be in the divine power - and for them so to be is

    nothing other than for God to be such that he could have exercised his

    power in such-and-such ways. Ascriptions of reality to possibilia must ac-

    cordingly be explained away in terms of assertions concerning the extent of

    God’s power: to say that pure possibles “sunt in potentia... Dei” ( Summa

    I, q. 19, a. 9) is not to say that they have the mode of being


    which consists (for example) in the being-of-being-objects-of-the-divine-

    power; it is, rather, to say something about the way(s) in which God could

    have exercised his power.

    A view of this sort should not, of course, be taken to provide an answer

    to the question of what grounds the possibility of the possible; nor should it

    be taken to suggest that talk of (the notion of) possibility is to be under-

    stood in terms of talk of (the notion of) producibility. It should instead be

    taken to provide an answer to the quite different question of whether or

    not so-called possibilia have reality, and, if so, what grounds that reality. We

    have just seen how St. Thomas answer the latter question. Like all the

    schoolmen, he denies that possibilia make up a realm of entities whose exis-

    tence is independent of that of God. Such a denial, however, is consistent

    with two rather different views: (1) the view whereby possibilia have a real-

    ity which is bestowed on them by (and is formally distinct from the reality

    of) God; (2) the view whereby talk of the reality of possibilia reduces with-

    out remainder to talk of the reality of God (so that only God, i.e., the di-

    vine creatrix essentia , can correctly be said to have reality). St. Thomas, I

    have attempted to show, put forward (2).

  • Capreolus.
  • He has also been taken, however, for instance by Capreo-

    lus (see fn. 8), to put forth both (2) and a version of (1). Of these two views,

    Capreolus remarks, “secunda [= (2) above] ...est securior”; but, he adds,

    Non tamen alia via est erronea,..., nisi pro quanto videtur ponere quod

    essentia habeat aliquod esse, et non a Deo. Sed hoc non debet movere.

    Quia, sicut dicit Henricus, et bene, meo judicio, essentia habet duplex esse,

    scilicet esse essentiae, et esse exsistentiae; et quodlibet istorum habet a Deo;

    sed primum habet a Deo ut est causa exemplaris, dans per suum intelligere

    esse intelligibile et quidditativum cuilibet essentiae; ...esse intelligibile, esse

    quidditativum, cum non sit esse nisi secundum quid, non est per creatio-

    nem, ... ( Defensiones Theologiae..., cit., t. 2, p. 76a).

    I doubt very much that St. Thomas would have accepted Capreolus’

    view whereby an uncreated essence has an “esse intelligibile et quiddita-

    tivum” which is bestowed on it by God, and is distinct from the divine esse.

    Capreolus does not, of course, have in mind a real distinction here: he has

    in mind, however, a kind of distinction which makes it impossible to ex-

    plain away any reference to the reality of essences in terms of reference to

    the (absolute) reality of the divine creatrix essentia . The very notion of an

    eternal uncreated essence which is somehow distinct from the divine

    essence is quite foreign, I believe, to St. Thomas’ metaphysical theology.

    But it plays a fundamental role in Capreolus’ passage I have just cited, as


    well as in a passage where Capreolus takes up, and answers, the question of

    whether or not, before its creation, something (say a stone) has any kind of

    esse (this question is really a question concerning the meaning of “nihil” in

    “creatio ex nihilo”):

    ...lapis erat omnino nihil in genere exsistentium; nec erat ibi aliquid ul-

    tra tale nihil, exsistens in actu, et de quo posset dici, hoc est actu. Erat

    autem ultra nihileitatem, quae est carentia actualis exsistentiae, essentia in

    esse essentiae; quae, absolute considerata, ut natura vel quidditas, est sub-

    strahibilis nihileitati exsistentiae et aliquidditati exsistentiae,...Et ipsa, se-

    cundum se, semper est aliquid in genere essentiarum, et in esse intelligibili,

    et in potentia activa Creatoris, licet non in esse reali actuali,... Et cum dici-

    tur quod tunc lapis non est factus ex puro nihilo; dico quod non est factus

    ex puro nihilo in genere entium vel essentiarum, sed ex puro nihilo in

    genere exsistentium actu vel in potentia passiva extra Deum (Defensiones

    ..., cit., t. 2, p. 73a; see also pp. 73b, 74b).

    Three points are worthy of notice here. First, unlike St. Thomas,

    Capreolus makes reference not just to an essence, “absolute considerata”,

    but also (and more significantly) to an essence in esse essentiae: so that,

    when it comes to essences, it is not just a question of consideratio , but also

    (and more significantly) of esse - a so-called esse essentiae. Second, Capreo-

    lus draws a distinction between, on the one hand, a “purum nihil” “in

    genere... essentiarum”, and, on the other, a “purum nihil” “in genere exsis-

    tentium”, and contends that e.g. a stone, before its creation, only qualifies

    as a “purum nihil” in the second of the two ways just described. In a word:

    before its creation a stone is an essence in esse essentiae. Finally, third, to

    claim that an essence is “substrahibilis nihileitati exsistentiae” is, I suggest,

    to claim that its being devoid of an esse exsistentiae is perfectly consistent

    with its being endowed with an (uncreated) esse essentiae. It plainly follows

    from these three points that, on Capreolus’ view, the answer to the ques-

    tion, “Quid sit essentia creaturae...”, cannot quite be that the “essentia

    creaturae” is nothing other than the divine creatrix essentia. The correct an-

    swer, according to Capreolus, is that an essence, before its creation, is en-

    dowed with an esse essentiae , and only counts as “nihil” in the sense that it

    lacks an esse exsistentiae: this, of course, we have seen, implies neither that

    the esse essentiae of an essence is a “verum esse reale” (it is, in fact, an esse

    secundum quid ),
    nor that it is independent of God (it is, in fact, dependent

    on the divine intellect).

    A view of this sort could hardly be taken to capture the spirit (and the

    letter) of St. Thomas’ answer to the question, “Quid sit essentia creatu-

    rae...”. It can, however, plausibly be taken to capture the letter - if not


    quite the spirit - of Henry of Ghent’s answer to that question (the notion

    of esse essentiae is, after all, Henry of Ghent’s). And it can also plausibly be

    taken to capture the spirit - if not quite the letter - of Duns Scotus’ answer

    to that question. Like Scotus, Capreolus ascribes to essences an esse intelli-

    , and takes the latter to be an esse purely secundum quid. Like Henry

    of Ghent, and unlike Scotus, he contends that essences are endowed with

    an esse essentiae : unlike Henry of Ghent, however, he does not regard such

    as esse as an esse reale. Like Scotus and Henry of Ghent, and unlike St.

    Thomas, he has no qualms with the idea of an eternal uncreated essence.

    Like Scotus, and unlike Henry of Ghent, he distinguishes (albeit only im-

    plicitly) between the notion of production, and that of creation, of essences:

    on his view, however, unlike on Scotus’, that distinction goes hand-in-hand

    with (and, in all likelihood, it is founded on) the distinction - Henry of

    Ghent’s - between esse essentiae and esse exsistentiae. Now Henry of

    Ghent’s answer to the question, “Quid sit essentia creaturae..”, although it

    has little or no hearing on our understanding of Leibniz’s own answer to it,

    is definitely relevant to an understanding of Scotus’ views on the reality of

    essences: let us tum, then, to a discussion of Henry’s views on that topic.

  • Henry of Ghent.
  • In Ord. I (d. 36, q.u.) Scotus raises - and gives a

    negative answer to - the question, “Utrum fundamentum relationis aeter-

    nae ad Deum ut cognoscentem habeat vere esse essentiae ex hoc quod est

    sub tali respectu”. The context in which the question is raised is this: God

    knows creatures (or their essences) ab aeterno; hence, qua known by him ab

    , creatures (or their essences) bear an eternal relation to God. They

    are, also, the “fundamentum” of that relation.12 Now the negative answer

    given by Scotus, as well as the arguments he puts forward in its favour, are

    meant by him to be in direct opposition to Henry of Ghent’s affirmative

    answer and (in particular) to Henry of Ghent’s contention that the “funda-

    mentum relationis aeternae ad Deum” possesses a so-called esse essentiae.

    Two questions arise here. First: why should such a “fundamentum” be as-

    cribed such an esse ? Second: what kind of esse is the es se essentiae ?

    In order to answer both questions we should distinguish, to begin with,

    between two senses of the notion of a res : “res a reor reris”, on the one

    hand, and “res a ratitudine”, on the other.13 Anything can be a res a reor


    reris : never mind whether it is a “res imaginaria” or a “res vera” (cf. fn. 13).

    Thus impossible or fictitious “things” such as chimeras, and possible ones

    as well, are correctly deemed to be res a reor reris. Only a proper subset of

    the set of res a reor reris , however, qualifies as the set of res a rettitudine :

    these are essences, and, according to Henry, what sets apart a “res vera”

    from a “res imaginaria” (which is a “purum non ens”)14 is not so much the

    fact that it is (or has) an essence, as the fact that it is endowed with an “esse

    proprium”15 or, in Henry’s own terminology, an esse essentiae . Now such

    an esse - rather than, say, an esse cognitum or an esse intelligibile - is, we

    shall presently see, precisely what makes an essence (be it exemplified or

    not) the object of a scientia realis , properly so-called: otherwise put, on

    Henry’s view a scientia only qualifies as realis provided its objects have an

    esse proprium , i.e., an esse essentiae ,16 Further, according to Henry an

    essence has - or may have - three kinds of esse: an esse rationis; an esse

    naturae ;
    and an esse essentiae. 17


    In order to qualify as the object of a scientia realis, it must, evidently,

    have some type of esse : else it would be a “purum non ens”. Now the esse

    in question cannot be an esse naturae : for an essence can be known quite

    independently of whether or not it is actually exemplified. Nor can it be an

    esse rationis : for the latter could hardly count as the esse of an essence

    purely qua essence, i.e., of an essence conceived of “absque omni condi-

    tione quam nata est habere in esse naturae vel rationis”.18 It must, therefore,

    be an esse essentiae. 19 We have now the answer to the first of the questions I

    have raised above: only essences which are endowed with an esse essentiae

    can, first, provide the divine scientia with its proper objects (each such ob-

    ject being an essence purely qua essence, not an essentia deminuta : see fn.

    19); and, second, qualify as the proper “fundamentum” of the eternal rela-

    tion which, as known by God, they bear to God. This is not to say, of

    course, that essences in esse essentiae make up a realm of self-subsistent


    In order to see why, we must now turn to a discussion of Henry’s con-

    ception of the divine scientia . The latter’s primary object is the divine

    essence purely sub ratione essentiae: this means that, in the first (as it were)

    and most fundamental stage God can only be said to know himself, and

    things other than himself only insofar as they are identical with the divine

    essence (as Henry puts it, “... Deus cognoscit alia a se ut sunt in sua essentia

    idem quod ipsa, et sic non ut alia”, Quodl. 9, q. 2, p. 27). God, however,

    also knows his essence sub ratione imitabilitatis , i.e., as imitable (by possible

    essences) in infinitely many respects. Now each respect of imitability - or,

    more generally, the divine essence sub ratione imitabilitatis - is not only an

    idea or exemplar, but, qua idea or exemplar, it plays, also, the role of a for-


    mal cause, whose effect (so to speak) is an ideatum/exemplatum: a possible

    essence, endowed with an esse essentiae , by which the divine essence is im-

    itable (there will of course be as many such essences as there are ideas).

    Otherwise put, God can only be said perfectly to know his own essence sub

    ratione imitabilitatis
    provided he also knows, at the same time, the objects,

    i.e., the essences, by which it is imitable: and it is precisely by thus knowing

    his essence - or by thinking of it as imitable - that he endows those objects

    with an esse essentiae (see fn. 20). For our present purposes, the most im-

    portant point in this account is Henry’s contention that the esse essentiae of

    essences is bestowed on them by God, or, more precisely, by his essence

    qua “forma exemplaris”: it follows from this, evidently, that such an esse

    must be deemed to be dependent on God.20 For, we have just seen, an

    essence in esse essentiae is an ideatum; an ideatum , in turn, is a productum ;21

    as such, the ideatum can only owe its esse (viz. its esse essentiae) to its pro-

    ducens ,
    viz. God - or the divine essence - thought of as a formal cause. It

    would be quite wrong, therefore, to ascribe to Henry the view whereby

    essences possess their esse essentiae independently of God:22 what kind of


    esse , however, is the esse essentiae? (I come now to the second of the two

    questions raised earlier).

    As I have remarked above, it is neither an esse naturae - or an esse exi-

    stentiae -
    nor an esse rationis (or an esse cognitum , or an esse intelligibile ,

    each of which qualifies as an esse rationis). Should we characterize it as an

    esse reale ? We probably should, for the following three reasons. First,

    essences in their esse essentiae are really distinct from God:23 and this cer-

    tainly suggests that such an esse , unlike the esse rationis of essences, is an esse

    reale .
    Second, the esse essentiae of an essence, unlike its esse rationis , could

    hardly be said entirely to consist in e.g. the being-of-being-known: Henry

    sharply distinguishes between “esse aliquid per essentiam”, on the one hand,

    and “esse cognitum”, on the other (see fn. 23). The former, unlike the latter,

    is not an esse secundum quid : it can, therefore, only be (something like) an

    esse reale . Finally, third, on Henry’s view essences in their esse essentiae bear

    a rea l relation to God,24 and, in this sense at least, their esse ess entiae counts

    as an esse reale (it could hardly be deemed to be an esse secundum quid).

    What is meant, however, by the claim that the esse essentiae of an

    essence is an esse reale ? In order to answer this question, a distinction must

    be drawn between two different (but complementary) points of view from

    which an essence can be considered: that of the divine intellect, and that of

    the essence taken in and of itself, i.e., not as an essentia intellecta , but as an

    essentia absoluta. 25 In the former case, it is endowed with at most an esse ra-

    tionis ,
    or an esse secundum quid : and, thus considered, it only has the (kind

    of) esse which consists in the being-of-being-known. In the latter case, on

    the other hand, an essence possesses the being-of-being-an-essence, i.e., the


    (kind of) being which pertains to it purely qua essence, rather than the be-

    ing which pertains to it qua intel lecta. 26 Such an esse intelligibly qualifies as

    an esse reale at least in this sense, that it is possessed by an essentia intel-

    , 27 not insofar as it is intellecta (this would make it an ens secundum

    quid ),
    but insofar as it is an essence.28

    It plainly follows from this that, on Henry’s view, a possible essence can-

    not be identified with the divine creatrix essentia : for, we have seen, although

    it only “exists” in the divine intellect, it is really distinct from God. Further,

    we have also seen, it is endowed with an esse proprium which is really distinct

    from (the esse of) God. And, if ascription to an essence of an esse rationis is

    ascription to it of a reality secundum quid , ascription to it of an esse reale is

    acription to it of an unqualified reality: never mind the fact that it possesses

    the latter entirely on account of its being the ideatum of the “corresponding”

    divine idea (the same is true of actually existing things: they are real tout

    , although their reality tout court is bestowed on them by God).

  • Duns Scotus.
  • As I have remarked earlier, Scotus rejects the view -

    Henry of Ghent’s - whereby essences, before they are actually exemplified,

    are endowed with (in particular) an esse essentiae. In fact, according to him

    “...lapis ab aeterno intellectus non est aliquid, sed nihil”.29 This does not


    mean that e.g. a stone (or the quiddity thereof) which is known by God ab

    is devoid of any esse, or any reality, whatsoever. On the contrary: al-

    though it lacks an esse essentiae (or an esse reale), it has what Scotus calls an

    esse intelligibile or an esse cognitum - the kind of esse he typically refers to

    as an esse deminutum . Further, on his view, unlike on the view of e.g. St.

    Thomas and Henry of Ghent, God has a “direct” knowledge of (the

    essences of) creatures: he knows them, that is, rather in seipso in seipsis ,

    than in seipso by means of respects - or relations - of imitability (thus Sco-

    tus points out that “...potest concedi quod sunt relationes aeternae in Deo

    ad cognita, sed non priores naturaliter ipsis cognitis in ratione obiectorum”,

    Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 31).

    More precisely, according to Scotus the “instant of eternity” in which

    God knows creatures (or essences, or quiddities) can be subdivided into at

    least three different so-called instants of nature, the first naturally (but not:

    temporally) prior to the second, the second naturally (but not: temporally)

    prior to the third. In the first instant of nature, God - Scotus holds - un-

    derstands (knows) his own essence “sub ratione mere absoluta”. In the sec-

    ond instant, “[Deus] ... producit lapidem in esse intelligibili et intelligit lapi-

    dem” (we are actually dealing with one and the same “act” here),30 and

    such a production is also the production of a relation which goes in one di-

    rection only, viz. from the stone (or its quiddity) to God. And, in the third

    instant, “...intellectus divinus... comparando se ad lapidem intellectum,

    potest causare in se relationem rationis” [ Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 32; see also

    Ord. I, d. 3 pars 2, q.u., n. 326). It follows from this, clearly, that the rela-

    tion which God bears to that which is known by him is “naturally” poste-

    rior to his knowledge of it, and (hence) that, contrary to what St. Thomas

    and Henry of Ghent had contended, such a knowledge is a direct knowl-

    edge of things (quiddities, creatures). For God to know them, we have just

    seen, is for God to produce them in esse intelligibile - and conversely. A

    certain amount of care must be exercised here, however. For the view

    whereby one and the same “act” is at play just is the view whereby it is pre-

    cisely by knowing things - quiddities, creatures - in themselves (and not, of

    course: in esse intelligibile) , or by exercising all at once his infinite power of

    thinking, that God produces things - quiddities, creatures - in esse intelligi-

    bile .
    Thus Scotus contends (for example) that


    ...Deus...in secundo [instanti]...intelligit omnia alia a se ut constituta

    naturaliter in quodam esse intelligibili per actum intelligendi divinum: et re-

    spectu rerum aliarum a se, ut habent esse intelligibile, est Deus causa natu-

    ralis per actum suum intelligendi (Lectura I, d. 3 pars 1, q. 3, n. 191; cf.

    also, “...intellectus divinus primo intelligit essentiam suam, et secundo lapi-

    dem, et sic producit lapidem in esse intelligibili”, Lectura I, d. 35, q.u., n.

    36 - italics mine; see also Rep. Par. I, d. 36, q. 2, n. 34).

    Scotus is not saying here that what God knows is a known quiddity, or

    an essentia intellecta . 31 Rather, his view is, first, that what God knows is an

    essence “absolute” (cf. Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30), and, second, that, by

    knowing an essence absolute , he produces it in esse intelligibile. 32 In other

    words, the essence which is known by him as something “absolute” acqui-

    res, by the very fact of being known by him (and at the same instant in

    which it is known by him), an esse intelligibile . It may well be wondered,

    however, why Scotus takes essences to be produced in esse intelligibile by

    the divine intellect, and, in particular, why he ascribes to them such an esse .

    The answer, I suggest, is to be found in Avicenna’s idea of a “duplex fluxus

    rerum a Deo”,33 as well as in Avicenna’s contention that “Omne...quod in-

    cipit esse, antequam sit, necesse est ut sit possibile in se”.34 As Scotus points

    out (in Ord. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 77), such a contention may be taken to imply,

    and had in fact been taken by Henry of Ghent to imply, that creation can-

    not be creation ex nihilo with respect both to the esse exsistentiae and to


    the esse essentiae . Scotus accepts Avicenna’s contention, but takes it to im-

    ply something quite different:

    Concedo...quod omne creabile prius erat possibile ex parte sui, sed

    ista possibilitas... non fundatur in aliquo esse simpliciter [= an esse essen-

    or an esse exsistentiae] sed in esse cognito (Ord. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 93; cf.

    also, “Ideo dico quod in creando Deus producit aliquid de nihilo simplici-

    ter [= non de aliquo secundum esse exsistentiae et esse essentiae], et tamen

    praesupponitur illud esse possibile et habere esse secundum quid”, Lectura

    II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 81).

    Note “et” in the second of the two passages just cited: it suggests, first,

    that nothing can be endowed with an esse exsistentiae - or be created - un-

    less it is possible in and of itself to begin with (or, in Scotus’ terminology,

    unless it is possible formaliter to begin with); and, second, that possession,

    on the part of e.g. an essence, of an esse secundum quid - for example, an

    esse cognitum - provides the ontological (but not the “formal”) foundation

    of its possibility. The question whether or not something qualifies as (logi-

    cally) possible - i.e., whether or not its constituents are mutually compossi-

    ble, i.e., whether or not they jointly involve a repugnantia - can only arise,

    that is, after those constituents have been produced in esse intelligibile - or

    in esse cognitum - by the divine intellect (“after” expresses here a natural,

    not a temporal, relation).35 Hence, I submit, Scotus’ claim that “...lapis,

    productus in esse intelligibili per intellectum divinum, est ex se for-

    maliter possibilis, et quasi principiative per intellectum divinum” ( Ord. I, d.

    43, q.u., n. 7). I take it that for a possibile to be possible, principiative , is for

    it to be endowed with an esse intelligibile by the divine intellect, and for it

    to be possible, formaliter , is for its “constituents” to be mutually compossi-

    ble in and of themselves, quite in dependently of God: the point of the dis-

    tinction is, of course, that, if possibilia had no esse intelligibile , “possible,


    formaliter ” would not be true of anything. This is precisely why an esse in-

    is needed (see fn. 35). What kind of esse , however, is the esse in-

    of e.g. essences?

    It is not an esse reale : specifically, from the claim that essences are pro-

    duced in esse intelligibile by the divine intellect, it follows neither that they

    are endowed with an esse reale (such as, for example, an esse essentiae ), nor

    that they exist “outside” God. According to Scotus,

    ...intellectum [divinum] esse necessario respectu alicuius obiecti non

    ponit illud obiectum esse aliquid in entitate reali aliud a primo obiecto
    , quia

    ‘esse cognitum ab intellectu divino’ non ponit illud esse in se, sed intellectui

    praesentatum vel in intellectu praesentialiter; ...intellectus [divinus] potest

    esse necessario aliorum intelligibilium... absque hoc quod habeant esse aliud

    ab esse divino
    (quatenus sunt sibi praesentia), ... (Ord. I, d. 8 pars 2, q.u., n.

    274 - italics mine).

    Four points here. First, we have seen earlier, it is by knowing a creature

    (or its essence) that the divine intellect bestows an esse intelligibile on it.

    Second, such an esse is not really distinct from the esse of God: but it is for-

    mally non-identical with it. Third, such an esse is not an esse reale , 36 and

    (hence) not an esse essentiae. Fourth, such a production is not a production

    of “things” ad extra: creatures, or their essences, before they are endowed

    with an esse simpliciter only “exist” as objects of, and in, the divine intel-

    lect, and they only possess therein an esse intelligibile , which is an esse

    merely secundum quid. Although it is only implicitly made in the passage I

    have just cited, the second point is explicitly made by Scotus when he as-

    serts that

    ...istud ‘esse secundum quid’ reducitur ad aliquod esse simpliciter,

    quod est esse ipsius intellectionis; sed istud ‘esse simpliciter’ non est forma-

    esse eius quod dicitur ‘esse secundum quid’, sed est eius terminative

    vel principiative, ... (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 46 - italics mine; see also Ord. I,

    d. 30, q. 1-2, n. 50; Rep. Par. I, d. 36, q. 2, n. 31).

    Now to contend that the esse simpliciter of a divine intellection is not

    “formaliter” - but only “terminative vel principiative” - the esse of that


    which has an esse secundum quid is to contend not only that the former and

    the latter (kind of) esse are formally non-identical, but, also, that the latter

    (kind of) esse is bestowed on essences by an act of the divine intellect. The

    divine intellect, that is, being the principle whereby essences are produced

    in esse intelligibile (hence, plainly, “principiative”), is also, from the per-

    spective - as it were - of the essences themselves, the “terminus” to which

    their esse intelligibile “reduces” - hence, plainly, “terminative”. (Scotus’

    claim is relevant here that, in the instant of nature in which the divine intel-

    lect produces e.g. a stone, or its essence, in esse intelligibile , intellectio

    divina terminat relationem ‘lapidis ut intelletti’ ad ipsam”, Ord. I, d. 35,

    q.u., n. 32).

    Since it is formally non-identical with the esse of the “corresponding”

    divine intellection, the esse intelligibile of an essence qualifies, indeed, as an

    esse of sorts: think of it as the kind of esse which entirely consists in the

    being-of-being-an-object-of-the-divine-intellect (more simply: the being-of-

    being-known). Such an esse cannot, of course, be an esse reale , or an esse es-

    sentiae .
    It is, in fact, an esse deminutum : this is just to say that an essence-

    qua -known (see fn. 31) is devoid of esse simpliciter , but endowed with the

    being-of-being-known. An essence-qua-known is, accordingly, as ens ratio-

    :37 but not quite the same kind of ens rationis a so-called intentio secunda

    is. For one thing, an intentio secunda is no more than a relation of reason:38

    what God produces in esse intelligibile in the second instant of nature, on

    the other hand, is not simply a relation, but its foundation as well. For an-

    other, unlike an intentio secunda an essence-qua-known can ( qua essence)

    also “exist” outside the divine intellect. Not, of course, that the esse

    of an essence-qua-known can “formally” be an esse reale : but,

    rather, that an essence, which, qua known, is an ens deminutum in the di-

    vine intellect, can also have an esse reale outside it.

    In order to see more clearly what is meant by the claim that an essence-

    qua - known is an ens deminutum , we must now turn to a brief discussion of

    Scotus’ objections to Henry of Ghent’s notion of esse essentiae. Two of


    them are especially relevant to our present purposes: and both of them are

    raised by Scotus in the course of answering the question, “Utrum funda-

    mentum relationis aeternae ad Deum...” ( Ord. I, d. 36, q.u.).39 According to

    Scotus, I have remarked earlier, creatures, or their essences, since they are

    known ab aeterno by God, bear to him an eternal relation: and, in order to

    qualify as the foundation of such a relation, they need to possess no more

    than an esse secundum quid - an esse intelligibile or an esse cognitum (i.e.,

    an esse deminutum : see fn. 12). Now the first of the two objections I have

    alluded to is put forth by Scotus in his reply to an objection he raises

    against the view I have just briefly described. It goes as follows:

    Dices, quomodo potest lapis ab aeterno intelligi, nisi habeat esse aeter-

    num? Videtur quod nullo modo, quia secundum illud esse, secundum quod

    est fundamentum relationis, si relatio est aeterna, et fundamentum eius: sed

    intelligitur lapis ab aeterno a Deo; igitur lapis fundat relationem intellecti a

    Deo ad intelligentem aeternaliter; igitur illud esse, secundum quod fundat

    relationem intellecti a Deo, est aeterna (Rep. Par. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 12).

    The “esse aeternum” Scotus speaks of here is, clearly, Henry of

    Ghent’s esse essentiae :40 and, equally clearly, the objection is raised from

    the point of view of Henry’s own views. Scotus replies,41

    ...concedo quod lapis secundum verissimum esse est intellectus aeterna-

    liter, ita quod respectu intellectionis accipitur secundum esse simpliciter, sed

    totum ut lapis intellectus est esse diminutum (Rep. Par. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 13).

    Scotus’ point is this: from the fact that (1) “...lapis secundum verissi-

    mum esse est intellectus aeternaliter”, or, equivalently, that “[lapis] co-

    gnoscitur a Deo sub ratione essentiae verae, non sub ratione essentiae

    deminutae” (see fn. 41), it follows in no wise that (2) the stone - or its


    essence - has thereby an esse aeternum , i.e., an esse essentiae. (Nor does it

    follow that the stone, or its essence, qua foundation of the relation it bears

    to God ab aeterno , has such an esse). For, in spite of its being endowed

    with an esse deminutum (so that (2) is false), it can be known ab aeterno by

    God “secundum verissimum esse” (so that (1) is true), because - Scotus re-

    marks - “...deminutum respectu deminuentis non est deminutum, sed re-

    spectu tertii, ad quod comparatur sub determinatione deminuente” ( Ord. I,

    d. 36, q.u., n. 33). Now e.g. “cognitum” - in “esse cognitum” - is said to

    express a so-called “determinatio deminuens”, since an object, qua known

    (that is: as it falls under the “determinatio” expressed by “known”), has an

    esse - the being-of-being-known - which is as it were deminished with re-

    spect to its esse simpliciter. It is indeed an esse: but it falls short of being an

    esse simpliciter , so that, compared to the latter, it can only qualify as an esse

    , 42 Not, of course, that what God knows when he knows e.g. a

    stone or its essence is an ens deminutum (or a “diminished” stone) - al-

    though, qua known by him, it is indeed an ens deminutum.

    Rather, what God knows is the “quiditas [lapidis] absolute” ( Lectura I,

    d. 36, q.u., n. 30); the object of his knowledge, in other words, is an ens

    , not an ens deminutum : but the esse of the stone-qua-known,

    compared to the esse simpliciter of the stone, counts as an esse deminutum ,

    i.e., as an esse merely secundum quid. 43 The contrast at play here is a con-

    trast between that which is known - for example, a stone simpliciter - and

    its ontological status: that which is known (for example, a stone simpliciter)

    has, qua known, an esse deminutum; and it is precisely qua known that it

    founds its eternal relation to God. It does not follow, plainly, that that

    which is known is an ens deminutum ; it follows, however, that the founda-

    tion of the eternal relation to God is indeed an ens deminutum (this implies

    in no way, of course, that that which God knows is an ens deminutum).

    The conclusion seems evident: in order to qualify as the foundation of

    the eternal relation it bears to God, an essence need not at all possess any-


    thing like an esse essentiae . An esse deminutum will do: it is not to be ob-

    jected here (we have just seen) that, since what God knows is an essence

    “sub ratione essentiae verae, non sub ratione essentiae deminutae” (cf. fn.

    41), an esse deminutum cannot be - or provide - the required foundation.

    For (we have also seen) the fact that such an esse is - or provides - such a

    foundation implies in no way that the objects of God’s knowledge are

    therefore entia deminuta , or essences “sub ratione essentiae deminutae”.

    On the contrary: the objects of God’s knowledge are essences “sub ratione

    essentiae verae”, and they only count as entia deminuta as a result (as it

    were) of their being known by God - i.e., as a result (as it were) of the fact

    that they fall under a “determinatio deminuens’’.44 In a word: the lapis intel-

    , and hence an ens deminutum (cf. fn. 31), founds its (eternal) relation

    to God, but it is the lapis simpliciter , not an ens deminutum , which is the

    object of God’s knowledge. This, I suggest, is what Scotus means when he

    asserts that the divine production of an essence in esse intelligibile is the

    production, not just of a relation, but also of its foundation “secundum esse

    deminutum... quod est esse secundum quid edam entis absoluti” ( Ord. I, d.

    36, q.u., n. 44: such an “ens absolutum” is, clearly, the “quiditas... abso-

    lute” of Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30).

    So much, then, for the first of the two objections I have alluded to ear-

    lier. The second objection, to a discussion of which I now turn, has the

    same moral as the first, viz. that it is perfectly pointless (or unnecessary) to

    ascribe to essences an esse essentiae . It essentially consists in the claim, first,

    that God knows ab aeterno both essences and existences; and, second, that,

    just as his eternal knowledge of existences does not require - in order to be

    possible - that things exist ab aeterno , so his eternal knowledge of essences

    does not require - in order to be possible - that essences be endowed ab

    with an esse essentiae . 45 It might still be insisted that essences, which


    are known by God ab aeterno , can only be - or provide - a proper founda-

    tion of the (eternal) relation they bear to God if they are ascribed an eternal

    esse essentiae - short of which they could hardly qualify as objects of (di-

    vine) knowledge. We have now come full circle: for this is precisely the

    view, or the objection, which Scotus disposes of by asserting that

    “...deminutum respectu deminuentis...”.

    Scotus has several other objections to Henry of Ghent’s contention that

    essences possess ab aeterno an esse reale - specifically, an esse essentiae .46

    They are not relevant to our present purposes, however: and, quite apart

    from that, the two objections I have discussed above are, I believe, the re-

    ally crucial ones. It should be noted, on the other hand, that, their differ-

    ences on the issue of esse essentiae notwithstanding, Henry of Ghent and

    Duns Scotus agree on two fairly important points. First, both of them main-

    tain that essences, before they acquire an esse exsistentiae , are endowed

    with an esse ( deminutum , according to Scotus; essentiae , according to

    Henry). Second, both of them reject St. Thomas’ contention that essences,

    before they acquire an esse exsistentiae , are nothing other than the divine

    creatrix essentia : for (we have seen) on Henry’s view the esse essentiae of

    essences is really distinct from the esse of God, and on Scotus’ view the esse

    of essences is formally non-identical with the esse of the divine


  • Leibniz.
  • This, then, is the context in which Leibniz’s views concern-

    ing the reality of the inhabitants of the “pays des possibles” can best be un-

    derstood and discussed: we may, in fact, not implausibly take Leibniz to

    have meant those views to provide an answer to the question, “Quid sit es-

    sentia creaturae...”. We have seen above how St. Anselm, St. Thomas,

    Capreolus, Henry of Ghent and Duns Scotus answer that question: which

    of those answers would Leibniz have accepted? Scotus’, I believe, rather

    than Capreolus’ or Henry of Ghent’s: definitely not St. Anselm’s and St.

    Thomas’; definitely not the view, that is, whereby talk of never-to-be-exem-

    plified essences (as well as of essences before they are actually exemplified)

    is just talk of the divine creatrix essentia; and talk of possibilia and their (al-

    leged) reality is to be understood, and explained away, in terms of talk of

    the divine power and its (absolute) reality.

    There is no doubt, I submit, and will presently attempt to show, that


    Leibniz ascribed a reality - specifically, a reality secundum quid; an esse co-

    gnitum -
    to possibilia (i.e., complete individual concepts or individual

    essences or complete divine ideas, as well as specific concepts or specific

    essences or specific divine ideas).47 There is no doubt, either, that he was

    well aware of the distinction, which I have drawn earlier, between the ques-

    tion of the reality, and the question of the possibility, of possibilia ; and that

    he took the reality (but not the possibility) of possibilia to depend on the di-

    vine intellect. There is a considerable amount of textual evidence in favour

    of the two claims I have just made: let us consider, to begin with, the tex-

    tual evidence in favour of the first of them.

    Leibniz contends, for example, that “…c’est...l’entendement divin qui

    fait la realité des verités éternelles” (T, § 184: the surrounding context

    makes it quite clear that the same applies, on his view, to possibilia as well).

    He should be taken to assert, first, that possibilia are endowed with reality,

    and, second, that the source of that reality is the divine intellect. This is not

    the (kind of) reality which is involved in Leibniz’s reference to “...possi-

    bilia, seu essentiam vel realitatem possibilem exprimentia” (GP VII, 303:

    Leibniz may well have in mind here something like Suarez’s idea of an es-

    sentia realis ) ;
    or to “...quantitas realitatis” (VE, 239; cf. also GP I, 225); or

    to “realitas obiectiva” (VE, 1107, 1108); or in his claim that “Perfectio...est

    realitas pura” ( Grua , 324). It is, rather, a mode of being:

    Dans la region des verités eternelles se trouvent tous les possibles... ces

    verités mêmes ne sont pas sans qu’il y ait un entendement qui en prenne


    connoissance; car elles ne subsisteroient point, s’l n’y avoit un entendement

    Divin, où elles se trouvent realisées, ... (T, § 189 - italics mine: the same

    clearly applies to the “possibles” themselves, i.e., specific essences - to

    which eternal truths owe their truth: see GP VI, 614; VE, 484 - and indivi-

    dual essences).

    That is: eternal truths, and their constituent essences, as well as individ-

    ual essences, have an esse (or a reality), which they acquire from the divine

    intellect: and for the latter to bestow on the former an esse (or a reality) is

    for it to take “cognizance” of them, that is, more precisely, it is for it to

    confer on them the being-of-being-cognized. (A similar view, it will be re-

    called, had been put forth by Scotus: the passage just cited also makes it

    quite clear that Leibniz would have rejected William of Alnwick’s view

    whereby “esse scitum sive cognitum in scientia Dei non est aliud quam

    scientia Dei” - see fn. 10).

    That eternal truths, and therefore their constituent essences, exist (in

    some sense of “exist”), Leibniz regarded as unquestionable:48 thus, in De

    rerum originatione radicali
    , the claim is made (among others) that

    ...oportet aeternas veritates existentiam habere in quodam subjecto...

    absolute necessario, id est in Deo, per quem haec, quae alioqui imaginaria fo-

    rent... realisentur (GP VII, 305 - italics mine; cf. also GP VI, 614; VE, 65-66).49

    The contrast which Leibniz draws here is not just a contrast between

    existing simpliciter , on the one hand, and being purely imaginary (i.e., not

    existing at all), on the other: for, on his view, eternal truths and their con-

    stituent essences exist in a different sense (or way) than the sense (or way)

    in which actual individual substances (are said to) exist. The latter exist

    simpliciter: not the former. The former are “realized” (i.e., endowed with a

    reality secundum quid) by the divine intellect without any intervention, as it

    were, of the divine will: not the latter, which should be deemed rather to be

    created, than to be realized, by God.50 (As Leibniz puts it, “... neque enim


    essentiae sed res creantur”, GP IV, 259).51 The contrast I have just alluded

    to, then, is more properly characterized as a contrast between, on the one

    hand, the purely imaginary and the real secundum quid , and, on the other,

    the real secundum quid and the real simpliciter , i.e., the result, so to say, of

    God’s production of “things” ad extra (so that we have yet another contrast

    here: between the divine intellect considered in and on itself, on the one

    hand, and the divine intellect taken together with the divine will, on the

    other - see the passages cited in fn. 51).

    The first of these two contrasts is explicitly drawn by Leibniz in a num-

    ber of texts: thus, for example, in De rerum originatione radicali he first as-

    serts that “...ut possibilitas est principium Essentiae, ita perfectio seu Es-

    sentiae gradus...principium Existentiae” ( GP VII, 304). He raises, next, an

    objection to the claim just cited: “...possibilitates seu essentiae ante vel

    praeter existentiam sunt imaginariae seu fictitiae, nulla ergo in ipsis quaeri

    potest ratio existendi” ( GP VII, 304). That is: before they are actualized/ex-

    emplified possibilities/essences have no esse whatsoever (recall St. Thomas’s

    contention, cited earlier, that “...ipsa quidditas creari dicitur; quia ante-

    quam esse habeat nihil est”, i.e., it is devoid of any esse whatever). Not ac-

    cording to Leibniz: who may now plausibly be taken to proceed to answer

    the question, “Quid sit essentia creaturae...”:

    Respondeo neque essentias istas, neque aeternas de ipsis veritates..., esse

    fictitias, sed existere in quadam... regione idearum, nempe in ipso Deo, es-


    sentiae omnis existentiaeque caeterorum fonte...cum per ipsum non tantum

    existentia, quae Mundus complectitur, sed et possibilia habeant realitatem

    VII, 305 - italics mine; cf. also, "... existituritionis essentiarum oportet

    esse radicem existentem a parte rei; alioqui nihil prorsus erit in Essentiis nisi

    animi figmentum”, VE, 1141; “Possibilitas metaphysica seu essentiarum fo-

    ret figmentum si non fundaretur in aliquo realiter existente,...nempre Deo”,

    G, 392-393; “Ipsa rerum possibilitas, cum actu non existunt, realitatem habet

    fundatam in divina existentia”, GP VI, 440 - italics mine).

    The passages just cited unequivocally show that, on Leibniz’s view,

    essences ( possibilia ) - whether or not they are ever exemplified (actualized)

    – are endowed with an esse (a reality) of sorts: they could, therefore, hardly

    be regarded as purely imaginary or “fictitious”. They also unequivocally

    show that, on his view, for a non-exemplified essence to “exist” is for God

    to bestow on it a reality which the essence possesses purely as an object of

    the divine intellect (and in the divine intellect: “...la nature essentielle des

    choses, sera l’objet de l’entendement,... Mais cet objet est interne, et se

    trouve dans l’entendement divin”).52 There are at least two other passages


    in which Leibniz explicitly puts forward the view whereby possibilia -

    whether they are ever actualized or not - must be deemed to be reai. In the

    first of them, he also puts forward the view whereby divine ideas are the ex-

    emplars which God looks at (so to say) in creating the world:

    Lorsque Dieu agit suivant sa sagesse, il se jegle sur les idées des possi-

    bles qui sont ses objets, mais qui n’ont aucune realité hors de luy avant leur

    creation actuelle (GP VI, 422; cf. also, “...toute idée distincte est par là

    même conforme avec son objet; et il n’y en a que de distinctes en Dieu: ou-

    tre que d’abord l’objet n’existe nulle part, et quand il existera, il sera formé

    sur cette idée”, T, § 192).

    Three points here. First, I take it that to claim that the “ideas of the

    possibles” - or the “possibles” themselves - have no reality “outside” God

    is not so much to claim that they have no reality at all, as to deny that they

    are self-subsistent entities and assert that they are indeed endowed with a

    reality - but only in God. Second, talk of the idea of a possible is just talk

    of the idea of what would (and, hence, could) be the case, if the idea itself

    were exemplified.53 Now, if the ideas we are dealing with are complete and

    specific divine ideas, the truth of “If such-and-such an idea were exempli-

    fied, it would be the case that...” requires in no way that a possibile (a pos-

    sible individual, a possible species) “exist” which “corresponds” to that

    idea: all that is required is that the antecedent contain, or entail, the conse-

    quent, or - equivalently - that what the consequent describes be contained

    in, or entailed by, the content of the relevant idea (this is just an application

    to counterfactuals of the inesse conception of truth). That counterfactual is

    true, then, iff what its consequent describes is indeed contained in - or does

    indeed follow from - the relevant idea: a divine idea, accordingly, may well

    be the idea of (say) a possible individual, without there being (in any sense

    of “be”) a possible individual which the idea is an idea of. Otherwise put,

    “of’, in “idea of a possible”, expresses a relation, not so much between a

    given idea and its (possible) ideatum , as between two sets of exemplifiable

    properties: the set whose constituents make up the original idea, and the set

    whose constituents are “consequences” of that idea - and, as such, are

    “contained” in it.

    Finally, third, to contend, as Leibniz does, that God, when he “acts ac-

    cording to his wisdom” (i.e., I take it, when he chooses a world to actualize


    and then actualizes it), “se regie sur les idées des possibles”, or, equiva-

    lentlt, that any given object (any given individual substance) is “formed ac-

    cording to the idea” God has of it, is to contend that a complete divine idea

    plays the role of an exemplar (the same applies, at a more abstract level, to

    specific divine ideas). More precisely, it is to contend that a proper subset

    of the set of all complete divine ideas - the latter set making up a so-called

    mundus intelligibilis - is the exemplary model God has employed in creat-

    ing our world. Each of the members of that set, then, is an exemplar whose

    exemplatum would be an individual substance, if that exemplar were actu-

    ally exemplified. Unlike on Henry of Ghent’s view, on this view there is no

    need for such things as possible exemplata. Exemplars - complete divine

    ideas - will do, since they are, or provide, “perfect” representations (see

    LR , 88) of what would be the case if they were exemplified: hence, I sub-

    mit, Leibniz’s claim that, in the “regio idearum”, “Il y a des representa-

    tions, non seulement de ce qui arrive, mais encor de tout ce qui est possi-

    ble” (T, § 414: cf. also, “Ces mondes sont tous icy, c’est à dire en idées”, T,

    § 414; and, “...possibilia ab aeterno sunt in ideis Divini Intellectus” GP VI,


    Further, Leibniz contends that “all possible essences” (i.e., all possible

    complete and specific divine ideas) must be regarded as “eternal and neces-

    sary” (T, § 335):54 “eternai”, since they “exist” ab aeterno in the divine in-

    tellect, or equivalently, since they “exist” in something (the divine intellect)

    which is itself eternal and which endows them ab aeterno with an esse or a

    reality; and “necessary”, since, first, they are independent of the divine will,

    and, second, the divine intellect only bestows reality on them - it does not

    make them what they are (see e.g. VE, 237), it merely represents them

    “comme elles sont dans les verités eternelles” (T, § 149). These “eternal

    and necessary” essences, Leibniz - like St. Augustine - also refers to as “ra-

    tiones aeternae”:

    ...Kestnerus...mihi objicit, si Deus rationes aeternas sequitur , aliquid

    datum iri prius Deo. Sed respondendum est, rationes aeternas esse in divino

    , nec ideo quicquam esse prius Deo, sed tantummodo divinam in-

    tellectionem esse natura priorem divina volitione (GP VII, 5 07 - italics



    Now a view of this sort, whereby divine ideas (or the so-called “rationes

    aeternae”) only “exist” in the divine intellect, and play therein the role of ex-

    emplars, should be traced back to St. Augustine: according to whom

    Sunt...ideae principales quaedam formae vel rationes rerum stabiles

    atque incommutabiles, quae ipsae formatae non sunt ac per hoc aeternae...,

    quae divina intelligentia continentur...secundum eas...formari dicitur

    omne quod oriri et interire potest et omne quod oritur et interit (De diver-

    sis quaestionibus 83,
    q. 46, n. 2; cf. also St. Augustine reference to “...divi-

    nis incommutabilibus aeternisque rationibus…”, De Genesi ad litteram V,


    St. Augustine’s claim that ideas “divina intelligentia continentur” in no

    way implies, of course, although it may well be taken to suggest, that ideas

    have reality in the “divine intelligence”: it is essentially (if not, perhaps, ex-

    clusively) meant to rule out the view whereby ideas are self-subsistent enti-

    ties. Whether or not they should be ascribed a reality in the “divine intelli-

    gence” - and, if so, what kind of reality - St. Augustine does not explicitly

    say (but cf. fn. 7). Leibniz, on the other hand, I have attempted to show,

    was quite explicit about this: such possibilia as divine ideas (or possible

    essences) do have a reality, albeit purely secundum quid , in the divine intel-

    lect. So do, according to him, such possibilia as possible individuate (I come

    now to the second of the two passages I have alluded to earlier). As we

    have already seen, possibilia of the latter kind are really not needed: the

    fact, however, that Leibniz was willing to ascribe to them a reality of sorts

    provides fairly conclusive (if only indirect) evidence for the claim that, in

    the texts I have cited above, Leibniz should be taken to ascribe a reality of

    sorts to possibilia of the former kind as well. For, plainly, the contention

    that possible individuals have reality in the divine intellect is likely to be re-

    garded as stronger and more questionable, from a purely ontological point

    of view, than the contention that divine ideas have reality therein: and, if

    the former are indeed ascribed a reality, it is not at all unlikely that the lat-

    ter should be ascribed a reality as well.

    The passage now. In a letter to Leibniz of 1686, Arnauld remarks that

    ...je n’ai aucune idée de ces substance purement possibles, c’est-à-dire

    que Dieu ne créera jamais. Et je suis fort porté à croire que ce sont de chi-


    mères que nous nous formons, et que tout ce que nous appelons substances

    possibles, purement possibles, ne peut être autre chose que la toute-puis-

    sance de Dieu (LR, 98).

    Arnauld’s view here is, first, that for “purely possible substances” to be

    “chimeras” is for them to be wholly devoid of reality; and, second, that if

    talk of such substances is to be intelligible at all, it must be reduced to, or

    be understood in terms of, talk of God’s omnipotence. Talk of a possible

    substance, then, is no more than a mere compendium loquendi: a concise (if

    misleading) way of saying that God could have exercised his power differ-

    ently than he actually has. Leibniz’s reply is as follows:

    Quant à la réalité des substances purement possibles, ..., vous dites,

    Monsieur, d’être fort porté à croire que ce sont des chimères, à quoi je ne

    m’oppose pas, si vous l’entendez, comme je crois, qu’ils n’ont point d ’autre

    réalité que celle qu’ils ont dans l’entendement divin et dans la puissance ac-

    tive de Dieu (LR, 120 - italics mine).

    Should we take Leibniz to agree with Arnauld that purely possible sub-

    stances are, indeed, “chimeras”? Not quite: for the sense in which they are

    chimeras according to him is not the sense in which they are chimeras ac-

    cording to Arnauld (one is slightly taken aback by Leibniz’s “comme je

    crois”: but let that pass). Two very different senses of the notion of a

    chimera are in fact at play here: for to assert that purely possible substances

    are chimeras may be to assert either that (1) they are devoid of esse sim-

    (which is perfectly consistent with their having an esse purely secun-

    dum quid ) ;
    or that (2) they are devoid of any esse whatever. Leibniz accepts

    (1) but rejects (2): Arnauld, on the other hand, accepts (2) - hence his

    claim that “...tout ce que nous appelons substances possibles, ..., ne peut

    être autre chose que la toute-puissance de Dieu”.

    This is precisely what Leibniz denies. For one thing, his assertion that

    purely possible substances are chimeras is a conditional assertion (cf. “si” in

    the passage just cited): accept the condition - as Leibniz evidently does -

    and the resulting view is that possibilia are chimeras only in sense (1) above

    – as the remark, “... n’ont point d’ autre réalité que celle qu’ils ont...” clearly

    shows. (It would evidently make little or no sense to make that remark, and

    then proceed to assert that possibilia have no reality whatsoever). For an-

    other, unlike Arnauld Leibniz makes reference both to the divine power

    and to the divine intellect. He means to deny, plainly, that a reduction with-

    out remainder of possibilia and their reality to God’s omnipotence is in fact

    possible - since possibilia also have reality in (i.e., acquire their reality from)

    the divine intellect. Far from being chimeras in Arnauld’s sense of “chime-


    ra”, then, possibilia must be conceded to “exist” in the divine intellect, and

    to have therein the reality which consists in the being-of-being-objects-


    To put forth a view of this sort is, plainly, to reject both St. Thomas’

    view whereby God knows never-to-be-realized possibilia “ut existentia

    solum in potentia divina” ( Summa contra gentiles I, 66 - italics mine); and

    the view - St. Anselm’s and St. Thomas’ - whereby talk of essences before

    they are exemplified, and of never-to-be-exemplified essences, is just talk of

    the divine creatrix essentia . It is, of course, also to contend that possibilia

    depend, for their reality, on the divine intellect. The question naturally

    arises at this point whether or not, according to Leibniz, the possibility of

    possibilia , and the truth (as contrasted with the reality) of eternal truths, de-

    pend on God - be it God’s will, or God’s power, or God’s intellect.57 His

    answer, we shall now see, was uncompromisingly negative: the possibility of

    possibilia and the truth of eternal truths depend neither on God’s will, nor

    on God’s power, nor on God’s intellect. Here is why: let us suppose, to be-

    gin with, that they indeed depend on the divine will and power. Then -

    Leibniz argues - the divine intellect, since it is not only “formally” distinct

    from (see GP I, 257), but, also, “naturally” prior to, the divine will and

    power, cannot be said to have the possible and the true as its “objects”:

    which means that it cannot be said to conceive of either of them - which

    means, in turn, that God could hardly be said to possess anything like an

    intellect. (This is plainly absurd: so is, therefore, the original supposition).

    Now, on Leibniz’s view the “natural” priority of the intellect comes of this,

    that God can only will, and exercise his power upon, that which his intel-

    lect “already” knows to be possible and true:58 the latter, then, must qualify

    as such independently of the divine will and power.


    They also qualify as such independently of the divine intellect: for, ac-

    cording to Leibniz, the exercise, on God’ part, of his infinite power of

    thinking must be deemed to take place according (and only according) to

    the principle of Contradiction, which (we shall presently see) is definitive

    both of the absolutely possible and of the absolutely necessary. It follows,

    clearly, that the possibility of the absolutely possible, and the truth of eter-

    nal truths (which are absolutely necessary truths), are independent of the

    divine intellect. This, I submit, is precisely the view Leibniz has in mind

    when he points out that

    ...les verités d’intelligence sont universelles, et...ce qui est vray là des-

    sus à l’ègard de nous l’est aussi pour les anges et pour Dieu. Ces verités

    eternelles sont le point fixe et immuable sur lequel tout roule (Grua, 379).

    The truths Leibniz refers to here as “verités d’intelligence” are, plainly,

    eternal truths: the latter are absolutely necessary truths,59 and, as such, their

    denial involves - explicitly or implicitly - a flouting of the principle of Con-

    tradiction.60 The conclusion seems evident: if God cannot but abide by

    those truths, it is most unlikely that he should be in a position not to abide

    by the principle of Contradiction. In fact, more precisely, since, on Leib-

    niz’s view, he cannot but abide by that principle,61 he cannot but abide by


    those truths. If this is so, however, God must also abide by the absolutely

    possible, since the latter is characterized in terms of the principle of Con-

    tradiction (according to Leibniz, "...idem [est] possibilitas quam non impli-

    cantia contradictionis” AA 6, 1, 514; “Possibile est quod non continet con-

    tradictorium seu A non- A ”, VE, 1962). The possibility of the absolutely

    possible, then, does not - and cannot - depend on the divine intellect. We

    have already seen that it is independent of the divine will and power: but to

    say that it is independent of the divine will, power, and intellect is to say,

    more simply, that it is independent of God, and (hence) that the question

    of what grounds it can (indeed, must) be answered without making any ref-

    erence to God.

    A certain amount of care must be exercised at this point: for, according

    to Leibniz (and, I believe, according to Scotus as well), the (kind of) inde-

    pendence at play here is an independence with respect to God’s actual exis-

    tence, not with respect to his possible existence (true, if God did not exist,

    he would be impossible: this implies in no way, however, that the supposi-

    tion that God does not exist and the supposition that he is impossible are

    equivalent). In other, and clearer, words: while it makes perfectly good

    sense to claim that e.g. a non-actual state of affairs s qualifies as absolutely

    possible quite independently of whether or not God exists, i.e., quite inde-

    pendently of whether or not s will ever obtain, it is by no means clear that it

    makes any sense to claim that s qualifies as (absolutely) possible quite inde-

    pendently of whether or not God is possible, i.e., quite independently of

    whether or not possible conditions exist which, had they been actual,

    would have brought s about. (The reason for making the latter claim is, of

    course, that the absolute possibility of s is entirely a matter of non-re-

    pugnantia terminorum ;
    hence, it might be thought, s must qualify as abso-

    lutely possible quite independently of whether or not God is possible. The

    reason for rejecting that claim, on the other hand, is that the fact that the

    absolute possibility of s is entirely a matter of non-repugnantia terminorum


    need not at all imply that it is an unrealizable possibility, i.e., a possibility

    which could not have been realized under any conditions whatsoever, or,

    equivalently, a possibility whose “object” is not a costituent of any possible


    Thus we may - and do - claim that the absolute possibility of s is en-

    tirely a matter of non-repugnantia terminorum , which is itself independent

    of whether or not God actually - or even possibly - exists (note that such a

    non-repugnantia should be said rather to make s absolutely possible, than to

    make it possible). This claim implies no more than that, if God did not ex-

    ist, or else if he were impossible, possibilia would be deprived of their onto-

    foundation (since the latter can only be provided by God), and,

    hence, that there would exist no possibilia at all, in any sense of “exist”. We

    may, however, be unwilling to claim that s would count as possible even if

    God were impossible, i.e., even if s could not have obtained under any con-

    ditions whatever. For, were we to make such a claim, we should in effect be

    making the wholly implausible claim that there are such things as unrealiz-

    able possibilities. An absolute possibility, of course, qualifies as such - viz.

    as absolute - in and of itself: but it may justly be wondered what we are

    talking about when we say of it that it is an unrealizable possibility.62

    Hence, I take it, the contention that the possibility of the (absolutely) possi-

    ble depends on the possibility of God: such a contention, however, means

    no more than that there are no such things as unrealizable possibilities

    (there is, of course, a weaker sense of “unrealizable” according to which a


    possibility can intelligibly be said to be unrealizable). Now, I suggest, Leib-

    niz has a view of this sort in mind when he points out to Bourguet that

    J’accorde que l’idée des possibles suppose necessairement celle [c’est à

    dire l’idée] de l’existence d’un être qui puisse produire le possible. Mais l’i-

    dée des possibles ne suppose point l’existence même de cet être, comme il

    semble que vous le prenés, Monsieur, en adjoutant: s’il n’y avoit point un

    tel être, rien ne seroit possible.
    Car il suffit qu’un être qui puisse produire la

    chose, soit possible, à fin que la chose soit possible,... Mais c’est ex alio ca-

    , que rien ne seroit possible si l’être necessaire n’existoit point. C’est

    parce que la realité des possibles et des verités eternelles doit être fondée

    dans quelque chose de réel et d’existant (GP III, 572).

    A number of points are worthy of notice here. First, Leibniz sharply

    distinguishes between “l’idée de l’existence d’un être qui...” and “l’exis-

    tence même de cet être”: this distinction, I submit, is equivalent to the dis-

    tinction between the possible existence of a being which can actualize a

    given possible, and the actual existence of that being. Second, talk of

    “l’idée des possibles” is not implausibly taken to be talk of the possibility of

    the possibles. Third, the contention that "...il suffit que..à fin que la chose

    soit possible” should be taken to rule out the existence of unrealizable pos-

    sibilities - Leibniz’s point being, then, that the existence of a possible

    cause63 is not so much what makes a possible possible, as what makes it re-

    This, of course, is perfectly consistent with the claim - Leibniz’s, as

    a matter of fact - that the absolutely possible qualifies as such in and of it-

    self64 (the emphasis is on “absolutely” here). Finally, fourth, Leibniz also


    sharply distinguishes between the question of the possibility, and the ques-

    tion of the reality, of possibilia , and explicitly suggests that the reality - but

    not the possibility - of possibilia depends on the (actual) existence of God

    (as we have seen, thin only means that, if God did not exist, possibilia

    would be devoid of reality, whereas, if God were impossible, not only

    would possibilia be devoid of reality, but, also, the very notion of possibility

    – or the “idea” thereof - would be unintelligible).

    By way of conclusion, I should like briefly to discuss Leibniz’s claim

    that “...nisi...Deus existeret, nihil possible foret” (GP VI, 440).65 The claim

    is clearly ambiguous: it may be taken to mean that (1) God is what makes

    the possible possible; or that (2) God is what bestows reality on possibilia ;

    or that (3) God both makes the possible possible and bestows reality on

    possibilia . We should opt for (2). For, we have seen earlier, according to

    Leibniz whether or not something (say, a state of affairs) qualifies as abso-

    lutely possible depends on whether or not it implies (involves) a contradic-

    tion - and whether or not it implies (involves) a contradiction entirely de-

    pends on the so-called rationes formales of its “constituents”. The (abso-

    lute) possibility of a possibile is, accordingly, independent of God, who, be-

    ing bound (we have also seen earlier) by the principle of Contradiction, can

    no more make the possible possible than he can flout that principle.

    “...nisi...Deus existeret, nihil possible foret” does not mean, then, that

    the possibility of possibilia depends on the divine intellect: it does not

    mean, either, that it depends on the divine will and power. Rather, it means

    that, if God did not exist, the claim that possibilia have reality and, hence,

    that there are (in some sense of “there are”) such things as possibilia would

    have to be dismissed as false: everything - be it an actually existing thing or

    a possibile - depends on God for its reality - be it a reality simpliciter or a

    reality merely secundum quid (see e.g. GP VI, 439). As Leibniz points out to

    Bourguet in the passage I have cited earlier, the reason why “rien ne seroit

    possible si l’être necessaire n’existoit point” is that “...la réalité des possi-


    bles...doit être fondée dans quelque chose de réel et d’existant”: this im-

    plies in no way, of course, nor does it suggest, that the possibility of the

    possibles must be so “founded”. (With obvious and minor modifications

    the same account applies to such conterfactuals as, “Si nulla esset substan-

    tia aeterna nullae forent aeternae veritates”, VE, 484).66

    Cf. also, “Utrum causabile, antequam causetur in actu, habeat verum esse reale a causa

    sua?” (Duns Scotus, Rep. Par. II, d. 1., q. 2); “Utrum esse essentiae creabilium quidditatum fuit

    aeternum” (Franciscus de Mayronis, Quodlibeta, q. 8); “An essentiae rerum fuerint ab aeterno,

    antequam a Deo producantur?” (Franciscus Zumel, In Primam D. Thomae Partem Commenta-

    Venetiis 1597, q. 10, a. 3, q.u.).
    The set of possibilia contains at least all possible essences (natures, quiddities), and all

    possible individuals. As we shall see in the main text, the question raised by Suarez stricdy con-

    cerns the ontological status of such possibilia as (possible) essences, and must be distinguished

    from the quite different question of what makes e.g. a possible essence possible.
    This view - Suarez’s and virtually all the schoolmen’s - goes back to St. Augustine: “Sin-

    gula [...] propriis sunt creata rationibus. Has autem rationes ubi esse arbitrandum est nisi in ipsa

    mente creatoris? Non enim extra se quidquam positum intuebatur, ut secundum id constitueret

    quod constituebat; nam hoc opinari sacrilegum est” (De diversis quaestionibus 83, q. 46, n. 2).
    This is also true of never-to-be-realized possibilia (in the case of which the qualification,

    “before their actualization”, makes, plainly, no sense).
    I take it that Suarez has in mind something like the distinction between (a) and (b) when

    he asserts both that an assence, before its production, lacks a “verum esse reale” and that a “pos-

    sible essence” “est ens revera possibile et capax realis existentiae, ideoque [...] sub ente reali ali-

    quo modo comprehendi[tur]” (Disp. Met. 31, 2, 10). Suarez partly relies here on Cajetanus’ view

    whereby “... ens reale dupliciter assumitur: uno modo ut distinguitur contra ens ab intellectu fa-

    bricatum; alio modo, ut distinguitur contra non existens actu” (commentary on St. Thomas’ De

    ente et essentia,
    c. IV, q. 6).
    LR, 109 (cf. also LR, 121: “pays des réalités possibles”). In GP VII, 305, reference is

    made to a “regio idearum”; in GP VI, 614, to a “Region des verités éternelles, ou des idées dont

    elles dependent”; in T, § 21, to a “Region immense des Verités [qui] contient toutes les possibili-

    tés”; in T, § 335, to a “region ideale des possibles”; in D II, 223, Leibniz remarks, “pulcherrima

    sunt multa Platonis dogmata [...]: ... esse in divina mente mundum intelligibilem, quem ego quo-

    que vocare soleo regionem idearum”. Leibniz tends to identify the “pays des possibles” - the “re-

    gio idearum” - with the divine intellect (see e.g. LR, 121; T, § 335; GP VI, 614). We should not

    take such an identification at face value. We should, rather, take it to be a (misleading) way of say-

    ing that the collection of possibilia is not a collection of self-subsistent entities: possibilia only have

    reality “in” God. Alternatively, we could take Leibniz to be identifying the “pays des possibles”

    with the “result” of the exercise, on God’s part, of his infinite faculty of thinking: such a “result”

    being of course the set of all that can be thought (or conceived) by an infinite intellect. Both alter-

    natives are textually justified: the first by the contention that “... lorsque Dieu agit suivant sa sa-

    gesse, il se regie sur les idées des possibles qui sont ses objets, mais qui n’ont aucune realité hors

    de luy avant leur creation actuelle” (GP VI, 422); the second by the contention that “... Deus haec

    [= ideae rerum] non volendo fecit, sed intelligendo, intellexit existendo” (A 6, 3, 122: a more

    complex view along the same lines is put forth by Leibniz in 7, § 189; cf. also, “Cum Deus calcu-

    lat et cogitationem exercet fit mundus”, VE, 62).
    I should point out, in this connexion, that William of Alnwick (among others) has taken

    St. Augustine to put forth a similar view with respect to divine ideas. According to St. Augustine,

    “Sunt [...] ideae principales quaedam formae vel rationes rerum stabiles atque incommutabiles,

    [...] quae divina intelligentia continentur” (De diversis quaestionibus 83, q. 46, n. 2). William of

    Alnwick’s interpretation is as follows: “...sola essentia divina est stabilis et incommutabilis; [...].

    Ideae ergo, secundum Augustinum, sunt sola essentia divina, quae omnia continet intelligentia”

    (Quaestione disputatae de esse intelligibili et de Quodlibet, ed. by A. Ledoux, Florence 1937, p.

    439). We should probably look askance at such an interpretation.
    According to J. Benes (“Valor ‘possibilium’ apud S. Thomam, Henricum Gandavensem,

    B. Iacobum de Viterbio’, Divus Thomas (Piac.) 29 (1926), p. 624), “nihil”, in St. Thomas’ passage

    have cited in the main text, should be understood in a quite different way: “Essentiae (naturae)

    absolute consideratae abstrahunt ab omni esse, tum esse existentiae tum esse in intellectu. Ergo

    nullum habent esse actuale, sunt nihil, in quantum nihil opponitur omni actualitati. Non sunt au-

    tem nihil, sed dicunt quamdam realitatem in quantum ipsis attribuimus diversas perfectiones, uti-

    que non in actuali ordine existentiae, sed in ordine ad esse, quatenus ipsae sunt natae ad esse, sci-

    licet quatenus sunt possibiles”. A similar interpretation had been but forward by Capreolus (who,

    we shall see, also put forth the interpretation I suggest in the main text): “Talis [...] natura [= na-

    tura secundum absolutam considerationem], antequam habeat esse in rerum natura, [...] est om-

    nino nihil, prout nihil opponitur enti quod dicit actum existendi extra causam suam; sed non erat

    nihil, prout opponitur enti quod dicit quidditatem vel naturam in se, vel dicit actum essendi in in-

    tellectu divino, vel in potentia productiva Dei” (Defensiones Theologiae Divi Thomae Aquinatis,

    Paban and Pègues eds., Turonibus 1900, t. 2, p. 74b). Both Capreolus and Benes rely on St.

    Thomas’ claim that “...hoc quod aliquid competit naturae secundum absolutam considerationem

    [i.e., a nature considered in and of itself, “prout abstrahit ab omni esse”], est ratio quare compe-

    tat naturae alicui secundum esse quod habet in singulari, et non e converso. [...] unde dato quod

    Socrates et Plato non essent, adhuc humanae naturae rationalitas competeret” (Quodlibet 8, q. 1,

    a. 1). The claim just cited cannot, however, be taken to suggest that a nature - “absolute conside-

    rata” - is endowed with reality: for, St. Thomas adds, “Similiter etiam intellectus divinus est ratio

    naturae absolute consideratae”. This suggests, rather, that the “absolute consideration” of a na-

    ture is made possible by the latter’s “existence” in the divine intellect, wherein, we know, it is

    nothing other than the divine creatrix essentia: all the more so, in fact given St. Thomas’ con-

    tention that “...uniuscuiusque naturae creatae prima consideratio est secundum quod est in intel-

    lectu divino; secunda vero consideratio est ipsius naturae absolute; [...]” (Quodl. 8, q. 1, a. 1). At

    play here, then, is not so much the question whether or not a nature - “absolute considerata” -

    has a reality, as the question of what makes it possible for a nature to be “considered” absolute.
    Thus, according to St. Thomas (according to Cajetanus), “...quoniam esse divinum est

    tantae excellentiae, ut omnes essendi modos [...] eminenter praehabeat, oportet ut esse naturale

    ipsius divinae essentiae sit non solum ordinis intelligibilis, [...] sed sit etiam esse obiectivum eiu-

    sdem respectu intellectus sui: [...] per hoc, nec essentia divina ut obiecta intellectui habet esse di-

    minutum; nec aliqua res, ut obiecta divino intellectui, habet esse diminutum. Et de essentia divina

    [...] manifeste sequitur: quia eius esse obiectivum est esse naturale ipsius Dei, propter eius emi-

    nentiam. De aliis vero sequitur ex eo, quod alia non aliter possunt obiici Deo, quam in obiecta es-

    sentia divina [...] consequenter esse obiectivum rerum respectu intellectus divini, non est esse rela-

    tivum, sed absolutum realissimum, scilicet esse Dei (In Summam Theologiae I, q. 15, a. 1, n.

    Cf., “...inquantum Deus cognoscit suam essentiam ut sic imitabilem a tali creatura, cogno-

    scit eam ut propriam rationem et ideam huius creaturae” (Summa Theologiae I, q. 15, a. 2);

    “...Deus secundum essentiam suam est similitudo omnium rerum. Unde idea in Deo nihil aliud

    est quam Dei essentia” (Summa Theologiae I, q. 15, a. 3 ad 3um; see also Summa contra gentiles I,

    54); “...essentia [divina] ...est idea rerum; non quidem ut est essentia, sed ut est intellecta” (Quae-

    stiones disp. de ventate q. 3, a. 2); “...rationes ideales rerum, quae sunt in Deo ab aeterno, non

    sunt aliud secundum rem ab ipso intellectu et essentia divina” (In Sent. I, d. 19, q. 5, a. 3); “...idea

    non nominat tantum essentiam, sed essentiam imitabilem: unde secundum quod est multiplex imi-

    tabilitas in essentia divina [...], est pluralitas idearum” (In Sent. I, d. 36, q. 2, a. 2 ad lum). The

    passages I have just cited should be taken to mean not only that nothing can be in God which is

    really distinct from him, but, also (and more significantly), that ideas and possibilia are devoid of

    any esse or reality. St. Thomas appears to put forth a similar view with respect to eternal truths:

    “...quia solus intellectus divinus est aeternus, in ipso solo veritas aeternitatem habet. Nec propter

    hoc sequitur quod aliquid aliud sit aeternum quam Deus: quia veritas intellectus divini est ipse

    Deus” (Summa Theologiae I, q. 16, a. 7). Talk of the reality of eternal truths, in other words, just

    is talk of the reality of God himself. As I have remarked earlier in the main text, St. Thomas’ view

    concerning the reality of essences has also been put forward by (among others) Zumel and Wil-

    liam of Alnwick. According to Zumel, “...creatis rebus creatae sunt rerum essentiae [...] solum

    ergo rerum essentiae et quidditates in intellectu Dei, vel in potentia activa Dei, fuerunt ab aeter-

    no” (In Primam, cit., p. 157a: the surrounding context makes it quite clear that to contend that es-

    sences “are” ab aeterno in the divine intellect is really to contend that they are nothing other than

    the divine creatrix essentia). According to William of Alnwick, “... sicut [...] res creata aut creabilis

    prout continetur in essentia divina perfectionaliter et eminenter non est aliud ab essentia divina, et

    prout continetur virtualiter in Deo non est aliud quam potentia Dei, sicut prout habet esse reprae-

    sentatum in essentia divina non est aliud quam essentia divina repraesentans et prout habet esse

    scitum sive cognitum in scientia Dei non est aliud quam scientia Dei” (Quaestiones disputatae, cit.,

    p. 16; see also pp. 67, 114).
    Pure possibles are never-to-be-realized possibles: “Ea [...] quae non sunt nec erunt nec

    fuerunt” (see the passage cited in the main text).
    Cf., “...creatura secundum suum ‘esse intelligibile’ est fundamentum respectus idealis”

    (Lettura I, d. 35, q.u., n. 40); “...res [...] fundat relationem idealem secundum esse deminutum

    quod habuit ab aetemo” ( Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 26). See also Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 36, 54.
    Cf., “Primus [...] conceptus communissimus [...], est conceptus quo concipitur res a reor

    reris dieta, quae continet sub se rem imaginariam quae est purum non ens, [...] et continet sub se

    rem veram quae est natura et essentia alicuius vel rei increatae vel creatae habentis ideam in mente

    divina et natae existere extra, in quo non consideratur ratio eius quod est esse aliquid per essen-

    tiam nisi ex respectu quodam ad rationem exemplarem in Deo. Res enim quaecunque sive exi-

    stens sive non existens, si habet esse in Deo secundum exemplarem rationem, non solum dicitur

    quod est res dieta a reor reris, sed etiam quod sit natura et essentia aliqua. Et ideo dicitur res a ra-

    titudine. Et haec res [...] est in sua essentia participatio quaedam divini esse, quod nondum est

    esse existentiae, sed quiditativum, ...” (Aurea Quodlibeta, Venetiis 1613, Quodl. 5, q. 2, t. 1, p. 229

    col. 1; note, incidentally, that the “esse... quiditativum” Henry of Ghent refers to here is what he

    usually calls esse essentiae).
    There can be no knowledge of a “res imaginaria”: “...illud non ens, quod non habet

    exemplar in Deo et propterea non est natum esse extra aliquid in rerum natura, quale [...] intendi-

    mus hoc nomine chimaera vel hircocervus, illud omnino non potest dici natura vel essentia aut res

    vel certitudo aliqua nata capi ab intellectu [...]. Unde et de tali non ente non potest esse scientia”

    (Aurea Quodlibeta, cit., Quodl. 3, q. 9, t. 1, p. 99 col. 2).
    The notion of esse proprium is Avicenna’s: “Unaquaeque [...] res habet certitudinem, qua

    est id quod est, sicut triangulus habet certitudinem qua est triangulus [...], et hoc est quod fortasse

    appellamus esse proprium” (Liber de philosophia prima I, c. 6). Thus characterized, an esse pro-

    need not at all be a mode of being: it was, however, so regarded by Henry, who took it to

    be an esse essentiae (see e.g. Summae questionum ordinariarum, Parisius 1520, a. 21, q. 4, fo. 1 21v).

    As we shall see later, on Henry’s view the divine essence, thought of as imitable, is the formal or

    exemplary cause of the esse essentiae of essences: this view he traces back to Avicenna’s conten-

    tion that “Animal [...] acceptum [...] per se est natura, de qua dicitur quod esse eius prius est

    quam esse naturale, [...] et hoc est cuius esse proprie dicitur divinum esse, quoniam causa sui esse

    ex hoc quod est animal est Dei intentione” (Liber de philosophia prima V, c. 1: see e.g. Aurea

    , cit., Quodl. 3, q. 9, t. 1, p. 99 col. 2).
    See Summae, cit., a. 24, q. 3, fo. 138v. (cf. in particular, “... dubitatio de re quacunque an

    sit in esse essentiae natura aliqua an non, debet determinari in principio cuiuslibet cognitionis

    scientialis”). Cf. also Scotus, Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 2.
    Cf., “... [quidditas et natura cuiuscunque rei] triplicem [...] habet intellectum verum, sicut

    et tres modos habet in esse. Unum enim habet esse naturae extra in rebus; alterum vero habet esse

    rationis; tertium vero habet esse essentiae. Animal enim acceptum cum accidentibus suis in singu

    -laribus est res naturalis; acceptum vero cum accidentibus suis in anima est res rationis; acceptum

    vero secundum se est esse essentiae, de qua dicitur quod esse eius est prius, quam esse eius natu-

    rae vel rationis” (Aurea Quodlibeta, cit., Quodl. 3, q. 9, t. 1, p. 99 col. 1-2).
    Aurea Quodlibeta, cit., Quodl. 3, q. 9, t. 1, col. 2.
    This is the line of argument Duns Scotus ascribes to Henry: “Contra istud [i.e.. Scotus’

    view whereby the “fundamentum relationis aeternae ad Deum ut cognoscentem” need not at all

    have an esse essentiae] obicitur quod fundamentum relationis, quando fundat relationem, est se-

    cundum illud esse secundum quod fundat, - aliter secundum illud esse non fundaret; sed lapis se-

    cundum verum esse essentiae fundat illam relationem aeternam ad Deum ut scientem, et hoc in

    aeternitate; ergo lapis est in aeternitate secundum illud esse. Probatio minoris: secundum illud

    esse fundat relationem ad Deum ut scientem, secundum quod esse eius ut obiectum cognoscitur a

    Deo; cognoscitur autem a Deo sub ratione essentiae verae [= sub ratione essentiae in esse essen-

    tiae], non sub ratione essentiae deminutae, ...” (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30; cf. also Rep. Par. II, d. 1.,

    q. 2, n. 12, as well as the following passages: “...essentiae [in esse essentiae] non videntur propter

    aliquid poni, nisi ut sint termini relationum idealium, quae aeternaliter sunt in Deo. [...] ponuntur

    istae entitates [=essentiae in esse essentiae] propter cognitionem Dei aeternam”, Ord. I, d. 36,

    q.u., n. 20, 22).
    Cf., “...ex perfectione divina provenit quod a ratione ideali in Deo fluit in esse essentiae

    [...] essentia creaturae...” (Summae, cit., a. 68, q. 5, fo. 230v.); “Est... autem participatio divini esse

    in essentia, esse essentiae, inquantum essentia illa exemplatum est divini esse secundum rationem

    causae formalis, quia per ipsum esse essentiae, ut per actum sibi proprium essentialem habet id

    quod res est ex ratione sui generis, quod sit ens, et natura, et essentia proprie dieta, non solum fig-

    mentum, ...” (Aurea Quodlibeta, cit., Quodl. 10, q. 8, t. 2, p. 160, col. 4); “Illa [...] ratio in divina

    essentia, secundum quam sua essentia est ratio qua cognoscit alia a se, nihil aliud est quam imita-

    bilitas qua ab aliis imitetur, quam vocamus ideam. Quae est talis ratio sive respectus in divina es-

    sentia, non ex se ut essentia est secundum se et absolute [= essentia sub ratione essentiae], [...]

    set ut est iam cognita et obiectum primum divini intellectus [...] Et quia, [...] scientia de rebus ex

    parte Dei est causa exemplaris rerum ut sint ad se aliquid per essentiam, ideo [...] propter creatu-

    ras plures specie differentes, ut sint aliquid per essentiam, necesse est ponere ideas plures in Deo,

    quibus in notitia sua habet praesentialiter, ut in mundo archetypo, singula praesentia ab aeterno,

    [...,] et hoc in esse suo quidditativo quod sunt per suam essentiam per divinam scientiam constitu-

    tam” (Quodlibet 9, q. 2, Macken ed., Leiden 1983, pp. 28-29, 34).
    Cf., “Quia [...] ideae in Deo causalitatem omnimodam habent super res quarum sunt for-

    mae in constituendo illas in esse essentiae [...] et hoc secundum rationem causae formalis exem-

    plaris, idcirco respectus ideae ad ideata [...] est penes genus relationis [...] quod est inter produ-

    centem et productum...” (Summae, cit., a. 68, q. 5, fo. 230v).
    According to Suarez, “...Scotus [...] impugnat Henricum, eo quod variis locis asseruit es-

    sentias rerum ex se habere quoddam esse essentiae, quod vocat esse reale, aeternum et improduc-

    tum, conveniens creaturis indipendenter a Deo, quodque in eis supponitur, non solum ante effì-

    cientiam, sed etiam ante scientiam Dei” (Disp. Met. 31, 2, 2). Actually, Scotus does not quite put

    things this way: he only ascribes to Henry the view whereby the esse essentiae of essences is an

    esse reale aeternum. Further, Henry holds neither that the esse essentiae of essences is independent

    of God, nor that it is “improductum”, nor that it pertains to essences “ante scientiam Dei” (see

    the passages cited in fn. 20 and fn. 21, as well as Aurea Quodlibeta, cit., Quodl. 3, q. 9, t. 1, p. 99

    col. 2, and Quodl. 8, q. 9, t. 2, p. 25 col. 3).
    Cf., “...Deus potest cognoscere creaturam dupliciter: uno modo [...] alio modo cogno-

    scendo de ipsa id quod ipsa habet esse in se ipsa, aliud a Deo, ...” (Quodl. 9, q. 2, cit., p. 27 - ita-

    lics mine). Note, also, that the ideata of ideas, i.e., of the “respectus [...] imitabilitatis in divina es-

    sentia” (Quodl. 9, q. 2, cit., p. 36), are also referred to by Henry as ideas (ibid., pp. 36-37), and are

    characterized by him as “rerum essentiae[e] in divina notitia ut quaedam obiecta cognita com-

    prehensa[e], quae secundum rem sunt aliae a divina natura, ...” (Summae, cit., a. 68, q. 5, fo. 231r-

    italics mine). Further, according to Henry “... huiusmodi rationes [= rationes ideales = ideae] in

    Deo non sunt nisi respectus quidam, quibus ipse ut forma exemplaris relative se habet ad essen-

    tias rerum extra, sicut ad quaedam exemplata relative se habentia ad Deum, in eo quod id quod

    sunt aliquid per essentiam, exemplata quaedam sunt. Cognoscens enim distincte unum relativo-

    rum, necessario simul cognoscit et aliud. Et est talis haec Dei cognitio in cognoscendo se secun-

    dum rationem formae exemplaris, a quo secundum rationem causae formalis habent esse aliquid

    per essentiam ipsa exemplata in esse suo cognito” (Quodl. 9, q. 2, cit., pp. 30-31).
    Cf., “...rationes ideales [...] sunt relationes ex hoc in Deo secundum rationem ad ipsas es-

    sentias creaturarum, quae ex hoc sunt aliquid secundum essentiam, quod respondent rationibus

    idealibus existentibus in Deo et ratione ipsius essentiae habent relationem realem ad Deum

    ( Quodlibet 9, q. 1, Macken ed., Leiden 1983, p. 8 - italics mine).
    For the notion of an essentia absoluta see Quodl. 2, q. 1, cit., t. 1, p. 46, col. 2, 3.
    Thus Henry contends, for example, that “...quoddam est esse rei quod habet essentialiter

    de se,
    et hoc appellatur esse essentiae, quoddam vero quod recipit ab alio, [...]. Primum esse habet

    creaturae essentialiter [i.e., purely qua essence], sed tamen participative, in quantum habet

    formale exemplar in Deo (Quodlibet 1, q. 9, Macken ed., Leiden 1979, p. 53 – italics mine). The

    italicized material clearly suggests that esse essentiae of an essence is an esse reale.
    Recall here Scotus’ view whereby “Idea est quiditas intellecta” (Lectura I, d. 35, q.u., n.

    33): according to Henry, on the other hand, an idea - conceived of as an ideatum (cf. fn. 23) - is

    rather a quiditas taken in and of itself, than a “quiditas intellecta”. Note, however, that the notion

    of an essentia intellecta is ambiguous (see fn. 31 below).
    I am just restating here Jean Paulus’ claim that the esse essentiae of an essence is “un être

    propre de l’objet connu, non point en tant que connu, mais en tant qu’il est un objet
    (Henri de

    Gand: Essai sur les tendences de sa métaphysique,
    Paris 1938, p. 102 - cf. also p. 42). This is preci-

    sely what Henry has in mind in the passage I have cited in fn. 26.
    Rep. Par. I, d. 36, q. 1, n. 29. Cf. also, “Aliter [...] inest ista negatio ‘nihileitas’ homini in

    aeternitate, et chimaerae, et tamen non propter hoc est unum magis nihil altero” (Ord. I, d. 36,

    q.u., n. 62). Now the claim that, before they are exemplified, essences (or the things whereof they

    are essences) are “nihil” implies no more than that, before they are exemplified, they lack both an

    esse existentiae and an esse essentiae. Thus, Scotus contends, “...de nihilo (id est non de aliquo)

    secundum esse exsistentiae potest Deus creare, et per consequens de nihilo (id est non de aliquo)

    secundum esse essentiae, [...] Et tamen non potest aliquid creari, id est produci ad ‘esse’ simplici-

    ter de nihilo, id est nullo modo ente (nec simpliciter nec secundum quid)” (Ord. II, d. 1, q. 2, n.

    82, 83). Note, on the other hand, that the production of essences in esse intelligibile is a produc-

    tion “de simpliciter nihilo, id est non de aliquo secundum esse essentiae nec esse exsistentiae, nec

    secundum aliquod esse secundum quid” (Ord. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 84).
    Cf., “...si esse quidditativum intelligibile non est esse in re, sed tantum est intelligibile, igi-

    tur intelligere rem est ipsam producere in esse intelligibili” (Rep. Par. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 12). See also

    Lectura I, d. 35, q.u., n. 22; and Mastrius, Disputationes in XII Aristotelis Libros Metaphysicorum,

    Venetiis 1647, disp. 8, q. 1, a. 2, n. 258).
    The notion of an essentia intellecta is ambiguous, though: talk of such an essence may just

    be talk of an essence which is known by God and (hence) of an essence simpliciter, or it may be

    talk of an essence-qua-known, i.e., qua falling under the relatio deminuens which is expressed by

    “intellecta”. Only in the second case is the essentia intellecta an ens deminutum. (This is the di-

    stinction Scotus describes when he contends that “...ex hoc quod quiditas lapidis habet esse sub

    scientia Dei, habet esse suum deminutum, licet in comparatione ad scientiam Dei non deminuitur

    [that is: what God knows is a quiddity simpliciter, which - qua known by him: cf., “sub scientia

    Dei” - has an esse deminutum ]”; Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30).
    As we shall see later, this is precisely the point of Scotus’ contention that “...deminutum

    respectu deminuentis non est deminutum” (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 33).
    Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 11. Avicenna says: “... [Deus] intelligit suam essentiam esse princi-

    pium fluxus omnis intellecti in quantum est intellectum et causatum, sicut intellexit suam essen-

    tiam esse principium fluxus omnis entis in quantum est ens causatum” (Liber de philosophia prima

    VIII, c. 7). Scotus agrees: he points out, however, that “Non... dicit Avicenna illum fluxum ‘in

    esse intellecto’ esse fluxum in esse quiditativo, quia ‘esse intellectum’ est esse distinctum contra

    totum esse reale, tam quiditativum quam exsistentiae” (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 66). In other words,

    the “fluxus”, i.e., the production, of essences is a “fluxus” (production) of essences in esse intelli-

    , not in esse essentiae (or quiditativum).
    Liber de philosophia prima IV, c. 2.
    This implies in no way, of course, that the (logical) possibility of a possibile depends on

    the latter’s being produced in esse intelligibile by the divine intellect: it implies, at most, that, if no

    intellect (not even God’s) existed, possibilia would be devoid of any esse, so that “possible” could

    not intelligibly apply to anything. This is not to say, plainly, that (part of) what makes a possibile

    possible is the fact that it is endowed with an esse intelligibile. Nicolaus de Orbellis’ remark is

    especially relevant here, that (on Scotus’ view) “Est [...] contradictio reducenda ad intellectum di-

    vinum tamquam ad causam non contradictionis, sed partium possibilium” [Super Sententias com-

    pendium perutile
    I, d. 43). With obvious and minor modifications, the same applies to (the notion

    of) logical possibility: thus Frassen points out that “...cum [...] non repugnantia sit alicujus rei

    non repugnantia, necessario supponit conceptum rei, in quo illa non repugnantia fundetur: ergo

    ut creaturae possibiles dicantur habere non repugnantiam ad existendum, prius supponi debent

    habere aliquod esse: illud autem esse non possunt habere ab alio quam ab intellectu divino, ...”

    (Scotus Academicus I, Romae 1900, p. 37).
    Cf., “…istud esse [=esse secundum quid] non est esse reale, sed reducitur ad esse reale ali-

    cuius per se necessarii, ...” (Appendix A to Scotus, Opera Omnia, Vatican City 1950-, vol. VI, p.

    439); “...dico quod productio ista [= productio in esse intelligibili] est in esse alterius rationis ab

    omni esse simpliciter,...” (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 44); “...ens [...] deminutum, quod scilicet est ens co-

    gnitum, non habet esse realis exsistentiae” (Ord. I, d. 13, q.u., n. 34); “...obiectum in quantum habet

    ‘esse’ in intellectu, non habet ‘esse’ reale sed tantum intentionale” (Ord. I, d. 3 pars 1, q. 4, n. 260).
    Cf., “...ens rationis non est in aliquo, nisi ut tantum habens esse in intellectu, sicut cogni-

    tum in cognoscente, hoc autem esse est diminutum respectu esse existentiae realis” (In Sent. III,

    d. 8, n. 19).
    Cf., “...communiter [...] dicimus intentiones Logicas esse res rationis, et relationes rationis

    esse res rationis, et tamen ista non possunt esse extra intellectum” (Quodl., q. 3, n. 2); “...omnis

    intentio secunda est relatio rationis, non quaecumque, sed pertinens ad extremum actus intellec-

    tus componentis et dividentis, vel saltem conferentis unum ad alterum” (Ord. I, d. 23, q.u., n. 10).

    An essence-qua-known is, of course, a res rationis : this implies in no way, however, that it is, there-

    fore, an intentio secunda (“...omnis intentio secunda est ens rationis, et non e contra”, M. Hiber-

    nicus, commentary on Scotus’ Quaestiones Super Universalia Porphyrij, III, n. 18).
    The same objections are raised by Scotus in his answer to the question, “Utrum causabile,

    antequam causetur in actu, habeat verum esse reale a causa sua?” (Rep. Par. II, d. 1, q. 2).
    See Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30; Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 28.
    Scotus’ reply is also easily seen to be - and more easily understood if it is taken to be - a

    reply to the following argument in favour of the view that what founds the relation to God “ut co-

    gnoscens” is an ens which possesses an esse essentiae: “...secundum illud esse [lapis] fundat rela-

    tionem ad Deum scientem, secundum quod esse eius ut obiectum cognoscitur a Deo; cognoscitur

    autem a Deo sub ratione essentiae verae [=sub ratione essentiae in esse essentiae], non sub ra-

    tione essentiae deminutae” (Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30; see also Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 28, where

    Scotus raises against his own view the objection whereby “...Deus novit lapidem non secundum

    aliquam intentionem secundam et secundum aliquod esse intentionale, sed novit creaturam secun-

    dum esse suum essentiae; igitur cum fundat relationem idealem ab aeterno, ab aeterno lapis ha-

    buit esse essentiae”).
    Note that talk of e.g. esse cognitum is ambiguous: it may be talk of a mode of being; or it

    may be talk of the fact that the relevant object falls under the “determinatio deminuens” which is

    expressed by “cognitum”. The distinction is very clearly drawn by Poncius: “...advertendum est

    duplex posse considerari esse cognitum in re quae cognoscitur; unum, cuius ratio formalis habetur

    ab ipsa cognitione, [...] et potest vocari esse cognitum reduplicative, hoc est esse affectum cogni-

    tione; [...]. Alterum esse Cognitum est esse intentionale, quod habet res, quae cognoscitur, [...] et

    hoc esse cognitum vocatur a Scotistis esse diminutum” (Philosophiae ad mentem Scoti cursus inte-

    Lugduni 1662, p. 36a).
    Or, as Scotus puts it: “...esse lapidis ut comparatur ad intellectum, accipitur pro vero

    esse, tamen lapis intellectus comparatus ad esse, verum habet esse diminutum, ita quod esse lapi-

    dis in cognitione est esse diminutum lapidis” (Rep. Par. II, d. 1, q. 2, n. 13).
    Cf., “Sic in proposito intelligo quiditatem rosae, quando non est nec sua quiditas ponitur:

    quiditas rosae absolute est obiectum respectu cognitionis meae, et - ut comparatur ad relationem

    quam fundat - non deminuitur [this just means that what is known by me is the quiddity of the rose

    “absolute”, not a “diminished” rose]; sed tamen ut comparatur ad tertium sub deminuente [read:

    sub determinatione deminuente], est secundum quid” (Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 30). With obvious

    and minor modifications, the same applies to the divine intellect and the “objects” of its intellections.
    Cf., “...nunquam pluralites est ponenda sine necessitate: sed nulla necessitas est ponere

    [...] esse quiditativum [= esse essentiae] praecedens esse in effectu: quia ita determinate, et

    distincte novit Deus existentiam rerum, sicut essentias rerum, et ita ab aeterno existentiam huius

    pro tali terminatione, sicut essentiam sub esse quiditativo. Si igitur non sit necesse ponere existen-

    tias ab aeterno, igitur nec propter hoc erit necesse ponere essentias ab aeterno” (Rep. Par. II, d. 1,

    q- 2, n. 11; see also Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 20 - “...frustra ponitur res in isto esse [= esse essen-

    tiae] ...” - and n. 22 - “...frustra ponuntur istae entitates [=essentiae in esse essentiae]...”). The

    same objection is put forward by Scotus in Lectura I, d. 36, q.u., n. 24.
    See e.g. Ord. I, d. 36, q.u., n. 13, 18 (creation and annihilation become impossible if essen-

    ces are ascribed an esse essentiae); n. 17 (the divine production of essences in esse essentiae is not

    only eternai, but also a creation, properly so-called: hence creation is eternal, contrary to what

    Henry holds).
    A complete divine idea is an idea which, if exemplified at all, can only be exemplified by

    an individual substance: a specific divine idea, on the other hand, is an idea which, if exemplified

    at all, can only be exemplified by all, and only, the members of a given species. Note, also, that

    Leibniz took a complete individuai concept to be an individual essence (see e.g. VE, 186, 417,

    1709; GP, 345; and the claim that “...chaque substance exprime l’univers tout entier, et toute son

    essence individuelle ne consiste que dans cette expression de l’univers”, LBr 16 Bl 78); and a spe-

    cific - or “abstract” - concept, to be a specific essence: according to him, “...la notion d’une

    espèce n’enferme que des verités éternelles ou nécessaires, [...] Ainsi la notion de la sphère en gé-

    nérale est incomplete ou abstraite, c’est-à-dire qu’on n’y considère que l’essence de la sphère en

    général” (LR, 105, 106; see also LR, 129). In other words, the “abstract” concept of the “sphere

    in general” is nothing other than the concept of such an abstractum - or, as Leibniz sometimes

    says , formalitas (see e.g. VE, 1059) - as sphericity: and, plainly, the abstract concept of an F in ge-

    nerai (where “F” ranges over natural kinds, or species) will be the concept of such an abstractum,

    or of such a natura communis, as e.g. humanity, or equinity, or... As constituents of the “regio

    idearum”, such concepts, or the abstracta whereof they are concepts, cannot of course be thought

    of as the “result” of a process of abstraction on God’s part: for God’s knowledge is exclusively

    “intuitive” (NE IV.xvii.16). The following passage is also relevant here: “...in regione aeternarum

    veritatum sive in campo idearum a parte rei existente subsistunt Unitas, Circulus, Potentia, aequa-

    litas, calor, rosa, aliaeque realitates vel formae vel perfectiones, etiamsi nulla existerent entia singu-

    laria, nec cogitaretur de istis universalibus” (A 2, 1, 392).
    And not just on metaphysical, but also on theological, grounds: the existence of eternal

    truths is the starting point of one of Leibniz’s “proofs” of the existence of God (see e.g. VE, 66,

    484; GP VI, 614).
    Cf. also, “Duo igitur realisantur per solum divinum intellectum veritates aeternae omnes,

    et ex contingentibus respectivae” (VE, 1083 - italics mine); “Divina essentia est [...] regio aeterna-

    rum veritatum, ita ut per existentiam Dei veritates circa possibilia non-existentia realisentur, ...”

    (GM III, 586 - italics mine); and Leibniz’s reference to “...Dieu, en qui seul ces verités éternelles

    sont realisées” (GP VI, 582).
    True, Leibniz holds that “...habemus ultimam rationem, realitatis tam essentiarum quam

    existentiarum in uno, [...] cum per ipsum non tantum existentia, [...] sed et possibilia habeant rea-

    litatem” (GP VII, 305): this implies in no way, however, that (possible) essences and existences

    have the same (kind of) reality. The “realitas” Leibniz alludes to in the passage just cited is both

    the realitas simpliciter of existences and the realitas secundum quid of (possible) essences: and, on

    his view, God is the source - the “ratio” - of both kinds of reality (see also fn. 51).
    Same view in VE, 237. The distinction implicitly at play here is a distinction between “ex-

    ” (C, 534), on the one hand, and “realisare”/“realiser”, on the other; or, equivalently,

    between “productio”, on the one hand, and “realitas”, on the other (cf., “...in Deo et per Deum

    Essentiae sibi viam faciunt ad existendum, ita ut in Deo sit realitas essentiarum, seu aetemarum

    veritatum, et productio existentiarum, seu contingentium veritatum” (VE, 1142; earlier in the

    same text God is said to be the “fundus essentiarum, fons existentiarum”). Leibniz unequivocally

    denies that essences are created by God: according to him, “Dieu n’est point auteur des essences,

    entant qu’elles ne sont que des possibilités” (T, § 335): he is, on the other hand, their “author”

    insofar as they are exemplified by actually existing individual. More precisely, he brings it

    about that some essences are exemplified and, in this sense, he can intelligibly be said to be their

    “author”. The following passages are also relevant here: “Omnia originem habent a Deo, essentiae

    ab ejus intellectu, existentiae ab ejus voluntate” (VE, 2544: I take it that for an essence to have

    its “origin” from God is for it to be endowed with an esse secundum quid by the divine in-

    tellect); “...la nature ideale de la creature [...] est renfermée dans les verités eternelles qui sont

    dans l’entendement de Dieu, indipendamment de sa volonté” (T, § 20; cf. also GP IV, 259, 285);

    “Son entendement est la source des essences, et sa volonté est l’origine des existences’ (T, § 7);

    “...Theologicae veritati satisfacere licebit, dummodo pro rebus actualibus ipsis assumamus inte-

    gras [=completas] rerum possibilium notiones, sive ideas, quas in Divina mente esse ante omne

    decretum voluntatis... negari non potest” (VE, 46).
    T, § 20. The qualification “interne” is meant to rule out the view whereby essences exist

    (or have a reality) “outside” God. Cf. St. Augustine here: “...restat ut omnia ratione sint condita,

    nec eadem ratione homo quam equus; [...]. Has autem rationes ubi esse arbitrandum est nisi in

    ipsa mente creatoris? Non enim extra se quidquam positum intuebatur, ut secundum id constitue-

    ret quod constituebat” (De diversis quaestionibus 83 , q. 46, n. 2). St. Augustine also held that God

    has rationes - i.e., ideas - not just of species/kinds, but also of each of their members, i.e., of indi-

    viduals: “...quilibet homo una ratione, qua homo intelligitur, factus est. At ut populus fiat, quam-

    vis et ipsa una ratio, non tamen hominis ratio, sed hominum. Si igitur pars huius universi est Ne-

    bridius, sicut est, et omne universum partibus confit, non potuit universi conditor Deus rationem

    partium non habere” (Ep. 14, in Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, t. 33, col. 80). This - and, more ge-

    nerally, the question, raised by the schoolmen, whether or not God has ideas of individuate, and,

    if so, what kinds of ideas they are - may very well be the source of Leibniz’s theory of complete

    concepts (complete divine ideas): I have in mind, in particular, Leibniz’s claim that “[Deus] non

    po[test] constituere de individuo condendo nisi perspecta tota individui ejus conditione, seu, ut

    ego soleo loqui, notione completa prius considerata. Et vero alioqui de nondum perspecta judica-

    ret. Si decrevit condere aliquem hominem certis quibusdam praeditum qualitatibus, non ideo de-

    crevit condere Adamum, nam opus est restringentibus ad naturam individualem” (Grua, 345).

    Now plainly, the claim, “...alioqui de nondum perspecta judicaret”, is meant to explain why

    “[Deus] non po[test] constituere...”, i.e., more precisely, why God must be said to have (com-

    plete) ideas of individuate: and, I believe, the context in which such an explanation is best under-

    stood is provided by St. Augustine’s view whereby “...quis audeat dicere Deum irrationabiliter

    omnia condidisse? Quod si recte dici [...] non potest, restat ut omnia ratione sint condita” (De di-

    versis quaestionibus 83
    , q. 46, n. 2; cf. also Scotus’ view whereby “...Deus omnia causat vel cau-

    sare potest, - non irrationabiliter, ergo rationabiliter; ergo habet rationem secundum quam for-

    mat. Non autem eandem omnium, - ergo singula propriis rationibus format; [...] ergo omne for-

    mabile potest formare secundum rationem propriam sibi, [...] tale ponitur idea”, Ord. I, d. 36,

    q.u., n. 39). I take it that the (impossible) case in which “Deus de nondum perspecta judicaret” is

    a case in which he would (be said to) act “irrationabiliter”.
    Cf., “...in notione perfecta substantiae individualis in puro possibilitatis statu a Deo consi-

    deratae, ante omne existendum decreti actuale, jam inest quicquid ei eventurum est si existat”

    (VE, 485: “si existat” should be taken to mean “if it - i.e., the concept - were exemplified”).
    So is, he contends in a letter to Burnett of 1707, the idea of this world thought of as possi-

    ble (GP III, 315). Both contentions should be understood in the context of Leibniz’s assertion,

    “Je ne voudrois pas dire [...] avec Monsieur Poiret et quelques Cartesiens que les idées des choses

    viennent de la volonté de Dieu. Elles viennent de son entendement, autant qu’elles ne referment

    que la possibilité” (Grua, 502-503): and, “insofar as they only involve possibility”, they should be

    deemed to be necessary (since, we shall see, according to Leibniz the possibility of the possibile -

    and, in particular, of an idea - is independent of the divine will and of the divine intellect).
    Note that, according to Leibniz, God is no more the “cause” of ideas (or of essences)

    than he is the “cause” of his own intellect (see VE, 238; T, § 380): ideas, therefore, could hardly

    be said to have been “formed”. Further, we have seen in the main text, on Leibniz's view ideas

    only have reality in the divine intellect and can, therefore, correctly be said to be “contained” in it

    (as its “objects”).
    To claim, on the other hand, that possibilia have reality in the “active power of God” is to

    claim that they have the being-of-being-objects-of-the-divine-power (the distinction between the

    mode of being I have just described and the mode of being I have described in the passage foot-

    noted parallels the distinction between “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” possibility).
    As I have already pointed out, Leibniz was well aware of the distinction between the que-

    stion of the possibility (truth), and the question of the reality, of possibilia (eternal truths): thus, as

    concerns eternal truths, in the Monadologie he first raises (and answers) the question of their rea-

    lity (see §§ 43-45), and then raises (and answers) the question of their truth (see § 46).
    Cf., “...si la verité même ne depend que de la volonté de Dieu et non pas de la nature des

    choses, et l’entendement estant necessairement avant la volonté (je parie de prioritate naturae, non

    temporis), l’entendement de Dieu sera avant la verité des choses et par consequent n’aura pas la

    verité pour objet” (GP IV, 285 - with obvious and minor modifications, the same line of argu-

    ment applies to the possibility of the possible); “...les objets de l’entendement ne sauroient aller

    au-déla du possible, qui en un sense est seul intelligible” (T, § 225); “...la puissance de Dieu [...]

    s’étend [...] à tout ce qui n’implique aucune contradiction” (T, § 227: this clearly suggests that

    the possibility of the possible is independent of - and in some sense precedes - the divine power);

    “...voluntas Dei supponit rei volendae intellectum; intellectus hic involvit rei intellectae possibili-

    tatem. Ergo voluntas supponit rei volendae possibilitatem” (GP I, 256); “Possibile est [...] exi-

    stere, etiam illud quod Deus non vult existere, quia posset existere sua natura, si Deus id existere

    vellet. At Deus non potest velle ut existat. Fateor, manet tamen possibile sua natura, etsi non sit

    possibile respectu divinae voluntatis. Quia sua natura possibile definivimus, quod in se non impli-

    cat contradictionem” (VE, 277: note “in se” here). See also GP VI, 559; VE, 2545.
    Note that “eternal”, in “eternal truths”, is ambiguous: it may mean (1) (absolutely) neces-

    sary (see e.g. A 2, 1, 246; VE, 65, 457, 482, 1173; GP VI, 61; T, disc. § 2 - “...les verités eternelles

    [...] sont absolument nécessaires”); or it may mean (2) “known by God ab aeterno”. A truth

    which is eternal in sense (1) of “eternal” is, of course, also eternal in sense (2) of “eternal”: but

    not conversely. (The fact, then, that eternal truths “exist” in an eternal intellect could hardly be

    taken to explain why an eternal truth qualifies as eternal in sense (1) of “eternal”: see Suarez here,

    Disp. Met. 31, 12, 40).
    Cf., “Manifestum [...] est omnes propositiones necessarias sive aeternae veritatis esse vir-

    tualiter identicas, quippe quae ex solis ideis sive definitionibus [...] demonstrari [...] possunt, ita

    ut appareat oppositum implicare contradictionem, ...” (VE, 1173-1174; see also GP I, 253; VE,

    455, 456, 1969, 1972).
    Cf., “cela ne me satisfait pas. Ce qui implique contradiction est impossible, car ce n’est

    rien dire” (A 6, 3, 236): “cela” is Descartes’ view whereby “je n’ose pas dire, que Dieu ne peut

    faire une montagne sans vallèe, ou que 1. et 2. ne fassent pas 3. mais qu’il m’a donné une âme,

    faite en sorte, que je ne puis pas le concevoir autrement” (Leibniz cites Clerselier’s translation of

    the original Latin, for which see Adam and Tannery, eds., Oeuvres de Descartes, V, 224). Cf. also,

    “...principia logica et metaphysica sunt communia divinis et humanis, [...]. Tale principium meta-

    physicum est: non posse idem simul esse et non esse; ...” (Grua, 20; see also 238, 471). The two

    passages I have just cited unequivocally suggest that, on Leibniz’s view, God cannot but think ac-

    cording to the principle of Contradiction: or, more generally, that no intellect (not even God’s)

    can conceive of an absolute impossibility, i.e., an impossibility which explicitly or implicitly invol-

    ves a denial of the principle of Contradiction (see GP IV, 360; VE, 1078). The same view had

    been put forth by (among others) St. Thomas and Duns Scotus: “Illud [...] quod non cadit in in-

    tellectum non potest cadere in voluntatem. Sed ea quae sunt secundum se impossibilia non cadunt

    in intellectum, cum sibi ipsis repugnent [...]. In divinam ergo voluntatem non possunt cadere quae

    secundum se sunt impossibilia” (Summa contra gentiles I, 84; see also Summa Theologiae I, q. 19,

    a. 3, and Quodlibet 9, q. 1, a.u.); “...in cuius cognitione vel cogitatione includitur contradictio, il-

    lud dicitur non cogitabile, quia tunc sunt duo cogitabilia opposita nullo modo faciendo unum co-

    gitabile, quia neutrum determinat alterum” (Ord. I, d. 2 pars 1, q. 1-2, n. 137).
    Poncius considers a similar objection to his view that “...esse diminutum non producitur

    per actum divini intellectus” (Philosophiae, cit., p. 903b): “Obiicies tertio: si Deus repugnaret, re-

    pugnaret etiam creatura possibilis: ergo creatura possibilis habet esse suum a Deo. Respondeo di-

    stinguendo antecedens: ex defectu influxus ullius in esse possibili, nego - ex eo quod si Deus re-

    pugnaret, non esset aliqua causa, quae posset dare creaturae esse simpliciter, et consequenter non

    haberet esse possibile, concedo antecedens; et distinguo consequens: quatenus non esset possibilis

    nisi Deus esset [read: esset possibilis], concedo consequentiam - quatenus Deus communicaret

    ipsi esse possibile per influxum aliquem realem, aut intentionalem, nego consequentiam” (Philoso-

    , cit., p. 904a-b). I take Poncius to put forth here the following view: if God were impossible,

    it would be impossible for a(ny) given “possible creature” c to be actualized, so that, if by “possi-

    ble” be meant “actualizable”, c would indeed not be possible (or, as Poncius says: “...creatura

    [...] non haberet esse possibile”). Actualizable or no, however, c would still possess an esse possi-

    i.e., it would still count as possible, since it has its esse possibile in and of itself (“... [creatura]

    habet [...] esse [possibile] a seipsa formaliter et necessario”, Philosophiae, cit., p. 904b), and

    (hence) independently of whether or not God is infact possible. If God were impossible, c could

    not, of course, be actualized under any conditions whatsoever: but this, according to Poncius, lea-

    ves its esse possibile unscathed. On this view, then, the notion of an unrealizable possibility is a

    perfectly intelligible one - so is, consequently, that of a possibile which is not a constituent of any

    possible world (note, however, that, on Poncius’ view, a world may be possible without being ac-

    tualizable, since it has its esse possibile in and of itself).
    And not, mind you: actual - thus consider Leibniz’s claim that “...quand on parle de la

    possibilité d’une chose, il ne s’agit pas des causes [viz. actual causes] qui peuvent faire ou empè-

    cher qu’elle existe actuellement: [...] lorsqu’on demande si une chose est possible ou necessaire, et

    qu’on y fait entrer la consideration de ce que Dieu veut ou choisit, on change de question. Car

    Dieu choisit parmi les possibles, ...” (T, § 235). See also LR, 116.
    The view I have ascribed to Leibniz in the main text should also be ascribed to Scotus:

    according to whom “...illa potentia [= potentia logica] est modus [...] compositionis factus ab in-

    tellectu, causatus ex habitudine terminorum illius compositionis, scilicet quod non repugnant. Et

    licet communiter correspondeat sibi in re aliqua potentia realis, tamen haec non est per se de ra-

    tione huius potentiae: et sic possibile fuisset mundum fore ante eius creationem, si tunc fuisset in-

    tellectus formans hanc compositionem, Mundus erit, - licet tunc nec fuisset potentia passiva ad

    esse mundi, nec etiam activa, posito hoc per impossibile; ...”. The logically possible, then, qualifies

    as such independently of whether or not a “potentia realis” actually exists (or will actually exist)

    which can bring it about, and hence, in particular, of whether or not God actually exists. The pas-

    sage continues as follows: “...dum tamen sine contradictione posset potentia fore ad hoc activa”

    (Quaest. subtilissimae in Metaph. Arist. IX q. 2, n. 3 - italics mine). Note the shift from talk of a

    “potentia” which actually exists to talk of a “potentia” which could exist: Scotus’ point, I believe,

    is that the fact that, first, a given combination of “terms” involves no repugnantia (and “corresponds”,

    therefore, to a logical possibility), and, second, that such a non-repugnantia is entirely a

    matter of the rationes formales of the “terms”, should in no way be taken to imply that there are

    such things as unrealizable possibilities. This point strictly concerns the notion of possibility: not

    that of logical possibility (which counts as such, viz. as logical, in and of itself). Scotus may well

    have a view of this sort in mind when he asserts that “...si oculus esset in tenebris, et impossibile

    esset illud opacum causans tenebras amoveri, impossibile esset talem oculum videre, - non qui-

    dem ex repugnantia intrinseca terminorum, quae est oculi ad videre, sed ex repugnantia alicuius

    extrinseci ad alterum extremorum, scilicet illius opaci ad videre” (In Sent. II, d. 7, q.u., n. 17; cf.

    also In Sent. IV, d. 11, q. 2, n. 8).
    See also, “...sans Dieu, non seulement il n’y auroit rien d’existant, mais il n’y auroit rien

    de possible” (T, § 184); “...sans luy il n’y auroit rien de réel dans les possibilités, et non seulement

    rien d’existant, mais encor rien de possible” (GP VI, 614).
    As we have seen earlier in the main text, according to Leibniz the truth, but not the rea-

    lity, of eternal truths is independent of God: the claim cited in the main text qualifies, therefore,

    as false if it is taken to mean that, if God did not exist, eternal truths would not be true; it quali-

    fies as true, on the other hand, if it is taken to mean that, if God did not exist, eternal truths

    would have no reality. I should note in passing that the claim in question bears a striking simila-

    rity to St. Thomas’ claim that “...si nullus intellectus esset aeternus, nulla veritas esset aeterna"

    (Summa Theologiae I, q. 16, a. 7): the agreement, however, is purely verbal. Unlike St. Thomas

    (but cf. Summa contra gentiles II, 25), Leibniz would have accepted Scotus’ view whereby “...si

    poneretur, per impossibile, quod Deus non esset, et quod triangulus esset, adhuc habere tres an-

    gulos resolveretur ut in naturam trianguli,...” (Rep. Par. I, prol. III, quaestiunc. 4, n. 17); as well

    as Suarez’s view whereby “...si per impossibile nulla esset [...] causa, nihilominus illa enunciatio

    [=‘Omne animal est sensibile’] vera esset” (Disp. Met. 31, 12, 45); as well as Cajetanus’ view whe-

    reby “Nihil [...] minus remaneret scientia mea de trianguli passionibus et rosa, etc., si omnia an-

    nihilarentur me solo remanente, quam si remaneret prima causa aut corpus coeleste etc.” (Com-

    mentarium in Post. Analyt. Arist., c. VI, V); as well as Soncinas’ view whereby “Si per impossibile

    Deus non esset, et nulla causa agens, hominem esse animal esset verum,...” (Quaestiones meta-

    physicales acutissimae
    V, q. 10).

    Fabrizio Mondadori . :

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