Isagoge: Chapter 14 — Of Community and Difference of Accident and Difference

Accident and difference, compare and contrast:

To difference and accident it is common to be predicated of many things, but it is common (to the former) with inseparable accidents to be present always and with every one, for biped is always present to man, and likewise blackness to all crows. Still they differ in that difference indeed comprehends but is not comprehended by species; for rational comprehends divinity and man, but accidents after a certain manner comprehend from their being in many things, yet in a certain manner are comprehended from the subjects not being the recipients of one accident, but of many. Besides, difference indeed does not admit of intension and remission, but accidents accept the more and less; moreover contrary differences cannot be mingled, but contrary accidents may sometimes be mingled. So many then are the points common and peculiar to difference and the others.

What it comes down to is, the difference has a special relationship to the species of which it is the difference, and to any sub-species of that species, whereas accidents do not, generally speaking. Further, the difference is an all-or-nothing kind of thing; a thing has it or doesn’t, either the thing is this kind of thing or it isn’t. Accidents can generally come and go, and can be had to a greater or lesser degree, and can be commingled: a crow that is spattered with white paint is both black and white at the same time, and an albino crow (if such things exist) is white and not black, but remains a crow.

(Only three more chapters to go, and we can get back to St. Thomas!)

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