Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Jeremiah Hackett


In this dissertation, I shall defend the thesis that Question 1, Article 53 of his Summa represents an unexpected epistemic sensitivity in the teachings of Henry of Ghent. By this, I mean that his discussion of the persons in the Trinity hints at an awareness of certain epistemic consequences or assumptions at play in the metaphysical use of terms like person, substance, universal, and so on. This acknowledgement is unique and original among his contemporaries.

My argument establishes Henry’s position in context with the traditions he inherited by demonstrating the ways in which it is related to the problem of individuation, how it is distinct from the positions held by his contemporaries, and why it represents the epistemic shift that scholars like Jorge J.E. Gracia attribute to the University system of the Late 13th and Early 14th Centuries. I situate Henry’s discussion of divine personhood in the context of his teachings on relation to show the difference between his treatment of a purely metaphysical issue and one which he takes to require linguistic and logical considerations. I then offer a careful exegesis and analysis of the text at hand, working through his consideration of the term ‘persona’ as it operates in comparison with seven other similar terms. I argue that the epistemic implications of this exercise become an integral part of the framework for the remainder of the article.

Yes, this is a metaphysical account of personhood, insofar as it is an attempt to define the real nature of the subject in question. But, Henry initiates this inquiry by way of asking how the term ‘persona’ applies. For example, he considers whether it is a term of first or second intention, whether it applies to the actual individual or the universal concept, and so on. These are epistemic questions. Prior to this study, a discussion of the persons in the Trinity may not have seemed an obvious, or even helpful, place to look for Henry’s theory of universals. Yet, here it is. And no one that I know of prior to Henry began this way, or, if they did they did not make this explicit in their metaphysical analyses. That alone is interesting enough to merit the following study.

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Philosophy Commons