I regarded my Lord Christ as a man of surpassing wisdom whom no one else could equal. . . . I did recognize in Christ a complete human being -- not merely a human body, or a soul with a body but no mind -- but I thought that this human being was to be preferred to others, not as the Person of Truth, but because of some great excellence of his human nature and his more complete participation in wisdom. (...) . . . I must admit that it was only some time later that I learned how Catholic truth is distinguished from Photinian falsity: the Word was made.. (shrink)
When I was first invited to present a paper at the conference out of which this volume grew, I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about. Anselm, who had been my constant companion for the previous three years or so, has a peculiar fascination with the art of painting. It is a favorite source of analogies for him, some of them illuminating but others noticeably strained. His most famous use of painting as an analogy, in the widely anthologized and (...) overstudied passage that contains his so-called ontological argument, is so grossly misleading and inept for Anselm’s purposes that one can account for its presence only by assuming that Anselm 1 just had to get something about painting in there somehow. Being a philosopher, and therefore ill-equipped to deal with anything concrete, I had not said anything in print about this strange preoccupation. But then the conference came along, and with it a mandate to talk about sacred objects. And that mandate offered me this chance to chew over Anselm’s painting fetish a bit and figure out why these objects – these in particular – are his favorite metaphors, put to service for a variety of theological and philosophical purposes. (shrink)
(This is a slightly fuller version of the paper than appeared in Anglican Theological Review.) So Moses having giving us an intimation of God, and the three Persons altogether in that Bara Elohim, before, gives us first notice of this Person, the Holy Ghost, in particular, because he applies to us the Mercies of the Father, and the Merits of the Son, and moves upon the face of the waters, and actuates, and fecundates our soules, and generates that knowledge, and (...) that comfort, which we have in the knowledge of God. – John Donne, Sermon preached at St Paul’s upon Whitsunday, 1629 Introduction: The place of the Holy Spirit in Anselm’s work.. (shrink)
John Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308) was one of the most important and influential philosophertheologians of the High Middle Ages. His brilliantly complex and nuanced thought, which earned him the nickname "the Subtle Doctor," left a mark on discussions of such disparate topics as the semantics of religious language, the problem of universals, divine illumination, and the nature of human freedom. This essay first lays out what is known about Scotus's life and the dating of his works. It then offers an overview (...) of some of his key positions in four main areas of philosophy: natural theology, metaphysics, the theory of knowledge, and ethics and moral psychology. (shrink)
’m not really sure what they were after when they asked me to talk to you about Augustine and the Platonists. Maybe they wanted me to talk about some specific Platonists, and the elements of Augustine’s views that he adopts or adapts. And no doubt I should at least mention a couple of names. There’s Plato himself, of course (428-348 BC). The thing is, it’s pretty clear that Augustine had never read Plato directly, whether in Greek (which Augustine couldn’t actually (...) handle very well) or in Latin translation. The best he could do was to read what other people said about what Scotus said. Then there were two followers of Plato whose work Augustine did read in Latin translation: Plotinus (204-270) and his student Porphyry (233-305). He probably read them in the translation of Marius Victorinus, who is discussed in Book 8 of the Confessions. There’s a lot of debate, though, about exactly what he read and exactly how it influenced him. I have a somewhat non-standard view about this. I call it the “Who cares what Augustine read?” view. My view is that even though Augustine read Plotinus and Porphyry rather than Plato, his version of Platonism is actually much closer to Plato himself than it is to Plotinus and Porphyry. So knowing the details of Plotinus and Porphyry doesn’t really matter much for understanding Augustine, because Augustine’s kind of Platonism doesn’t really depend on those details. In spirit, it’s much closer to the real Plato, because it adopts the overall outlook of Plato without a lot of the additions and complications of later Platonists. And that’s why I’m going to start with a story. I’m going to use this story to get across what I think is the essence of this Platonic outlook. Then I’ll show you how various Platonists put the insights that this story encapsulates to work in three different aspects of philosophy. After I’ve laid all that out, I’ll talk about how Augustine transforms this Platonic picture in the light of his Christian faith.. (shrink)
Thomas Williams Note: This is a preprint of my introduction to the forthcoming translation by Margaret Atkins of Thomas Aquinas’s Disputed Questions on the Virtues (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). The basic procedure was simple. The topic would be announced in advance so that everyone could prepare an arsenal of clever arguments. When the faculty and students had gathered, the professor would offer a brief introduction and state his thesis. All morning long an appointed graduate student would take (...) objections from the audience and defend the professor’s thesis against those objections. (And if the graduate student began to flounder, the professor was allowed to help him out.) A secretary would take shorthand notes. The next day the group would reassemble. This time it would be the professor’s job to summarise the arguments on both sides and give his own response to the question at issue. The whole thing would be written up, either in a rough-and-tumble version deriving from the secretary’s notes or in a more carefully crafted and edited version prepared by the professor himself. Records of such academic exercises have come down to us under the title ‘disputed questions’. (shrink)
In Anselm on Freedom Katherin Rogers investigates Anselm's attempt to provide room for genuine creaturely freedom in a world in which a perfect being is altogether sovereign. She begins with two chapters of general background. Chapter 1, "Anselm's Classical Theism," reads like a grab bag of brief essays on Anselm's account of the divine nature, the relationship between Creator and creature, theological semantics, the problem of evil, and the relationship between God and the moral order. Chapter 2, "The Augustinian Legacy," (...) is devoted to an exposition of Augustine's account of freedom and the fall. (shrink)
A good place to start in assessing a theory of truth is to ask whether the theory under discussion is consistent with Aristotle’s commonsensical definition of truth from Metaphysics 4: “What is false says of that which is that it is not, or of that which is not that it is; and what is true says of that which is that it is, or of that which is not that it is not.”1 Philosophers of a realist bent will be delighted (...) to see that Anselm unambiguously adopts the Aristotelian commonplace. A statement is true, he says, “when it signifies that what‐is is.”2 But the theory of truth that Anselm builds on this observation is one that would surely have confounded Aristotle. For no matter what the topic, Anselm’s thinking always eagerly returns to God; and the unchallenged centrality of God in Anselm’s philosophical explorations is nowhere more in evidence than in his account of truth. Indeed, we see in the student’s opening question in De veritate that the entire discussion has God as its origin and its aim: “Since we believe that God is truth, and we say that truth is in many other things, I would like to know whether, wherever truth is said to be, we must acknowledge that God is that truth.”3 The student then reminds Anselm that in the Monologion he had argued from the truth of statements to an eternal Supreme Truth. Does this not commit Anselm (the student seems to be asking) to holding that God himself is somehow the truth of true statements? But what definition of truth could make sense of such an odd claim? Anselm is happy to take up the challenge of showing that his description of God as “Supreme Truth” is no mere metaphor, but the expression of the deepest insight into the nature of truth. An account of truth is just theology under a different name. This first distinctive characteristic of Anselm’s theory, the centrality of God as Supreme Truth, helps account for a second distinctive characteristic: its strong insistence on the unity of truth. All truth either is God or somehow reflects God; thus, one simple being provides the.... (shrink)
The philosophical problem of describing God arises at the intersection of two different areas of inquiry. The word ‘describing’ makes it clear that the issue is in part a logical one – in the broad medieval sense of ‘logic,’ which includes semantics, the philosophy of language, and even some aspects of the theory of cognition. It is the problem, first, of forming an understanding of some extramental object and, second, of conveying that understanding by means of verbal signs. But the (...) word ‘God’ also indicates that the logical problems involved in description are exacerbated, or perhaps that new problems arise, because of the nature of the extramental object that we are seeking to describe. Given the enormous ingenuity with which logical problems were debated in the Middle Ages, it is not surprising that the problem of describing God would be worked out in detail – and that many thinkers would lose sight of the specifically theological context in which the problem was ostensibly set. We see here a familiar phenomenon. Once philosophers (even scholastic philosophers) have fully domesticated a problem, discussions of the problem seldom lay bare the practical urgency that alone made the question worth pursuing in the first place; it becomes a technical question, answerable by technical means. Yet, though it is not always in evidence, the practical upshot of the issue is never entirely forgotten, as John Duns Scotus reminds us in his curt dismissal of the view that we can at best say of God what he is not: “We do not have supreme love for negations” (Ordinatio I.3.1.1–2 n. 10). Attempts to resolve the problem of describing God are ultimately efforts to “save the appearances”: to accommodate within a philosophically defensible framework both the data of what are taken to be divinely revealed texts and the linguistic practices of believers. The appearances to be saved of course differ somewhat from one religious tradition to another. The Christian tradition, for example, faces distinctive problems that arise in understanding and describing.... (shrink)
So Moses having giving us an intimation of God, and the three Persons altogether in that Bara Elohim, before, gives us first notice of this Person, the Holy Ghost, in particular, because he applies to us the Mercies of the Father, and the Merits of the Son, and moves upon the face of the waters, and actuates, and fecundates our soules, and generates that knowledge, and that comfort, which we have in the knowledge of God.
A venerable story in the history of medieval philosophy has it that the eleventh century saw a debate between certain 'dialecticians', who exalted the role of reason and disdained theological authority, and 'anti-dialecticians', who carefully limited—or even rejected—the application of dialectical reasoning to Christian doctrine. A number of authors have called into question certain details of this story, but in..
The secondary literature on Saint Augustine is enormous. The annual bibliography of new work on Saint Augustine in the Revue des études augustiniennes runs anywhere from 75 to 100 pages, which means that a mere list—not a discussion, just a list—of everything written on Augustine in the last ten years would fill two good‐sized books. No one could read all this material, most of which is utterly without value anyway. The present essay is a guide to the essentials; it covers (...) what anyone beginning to study Augustine seriously should read and what any librarian should take care to acquire. Given that goal and intended audience, I have limited myself to considering books written in English in the last ten years that have been widely read or (in the case of more recent books) seem likely to be of enduring value. Given the nature of this journal, I have also concentrated on philosophical books and excluded those whose focus is primarily biographical, bibliographical, historical, or theological. I consider the selected books under four headings: general surveys, specialized studies, editions and commentaries, and translations. (shrink)
"From time to time some of my friends startle me by referring to the Atonement itself as a revolting heresy," wrote Austin Farrer, "invented by the twelfth century and exploded by the twentieth. Yet the word is in the Bible." (1) Farrer is referring to Romans 5:11 in the Authorized Version: "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Here the word 'atonement'--literally, the state of being "at one"--translates the Greek (...) katallagê, which means "reconciliation." The doctrine of the Atonement, then, is in its essentials the claim that the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ effects a reconciliation between God and human beings, who had been--and apart from Christ's gracious action would have remained--estranged on account of human sin. And that doctrine, far from being a twelfth-century innovation, is a prominent theme of the Pauline epistles and a matter of theological consensus from the earliest days of Christian thought. (shrink)
Imagine that someone has just finished giving a talk on some historical figure in philosophy — say, Aristotle. Someone in the audience raises her hand and says, “But you’ve got Aristotle wrong. His actual view is . . .” and then she offers some textual evidence or what have you for the claim that the lecturer has Aristotle wrong.
As I write these words, I can see on my shelves an attractively bound set of sixteen volumes, each bearing on its spine the words “J. Duns Scotus Opera Omnia.” One would be tempted to assume that these are The Complete Works of John Duns Scotus. Unfortunately, in medieval philosophy things are rarely so simple. Some of the works included in this set are not by Scotus at all, but were once attributed to him. Some of Scotus’s genuine works, including (...) his early Lectura on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, are not included. And what this set presents as Book 1 of Scotus’s late (and very important) Reportatio is actually not the Reportatio at all, but another work whose authenticity and authority are vigorously disputed. And there are further problems. The attractive modern binding belies the age of the edition itself. Open up any of the books, and what you will see is a photographic reprint of an edition first published in 1639. That edition (known as the Wadding edition, after its editor) is not a critical edition, made by weighing all the manuscript evidence according to established principles of textual scholarship in order to determine, with as much precision and certainty as possible, exactly what Scotus said or wrote. In many cases the editor simply looked at the one or two manuscripts he had handy and transcribed what he found there, sometimes without much attention to whether the resulting text even made good sense. Sadly, for much of Scotus’s work this faulty edition is the best one we have. So one has to use it: but one has to use it with great care. The pitfalls of the Wadding edition illustrate a general feature of the study of medieval philosophy: the gap that separates the authentic words of the medieval thinker one wishes to study from the Latin words one sees on the pages of a printed edition — and further still from the English words one sees in a translation. The aim of this essay is to make clear both the nature and the size of that gap, not in order to dismay prospective students of medieval philosophy, but in order to explain the hazards in such a way that students can equip themselves properly to meet them. I will begin by discussing in a general way the channels of 1 transmission by which medieval philosophy has made its way down to us. I then turn to three specific cases by which I illustrate some of those general points as they apply to texts of different sorts and from different periods. Along the way I draw attention to the kinds of errors that are liable to be introduced at the various stages of transmission between a medieval lecturer’s spoken words and the text of a modern critical edition, and I outline the tools and techniques that the careful historian of medieval philosophy will use in order to minimize such errors, especially where no critical edition is available. In the second half of the essay I turn to problems of translation. I provide an example that shows how a reader can sometimes detect errors in a translation even without checking the Latin text, and another to illustrate how translations sometimes reflect controversial views about how a text is to be interpreted. I then conclude with a look at the translation of particular terms, discussing a number of standard translations that are apt to be misleading, and giving some idea of the range of translation of certain key terms.. (shrink)
Aquinas opens the second part of the ST by arguing, in a series of careful steps, that there is one and only one ultimate end for all human actions. The placement of this argument is no accident, since the notion of an end is of fundamental importance not only in Aquinas’s theory of human action but in his accounts of practical reasoning, law, and the virtues. Yet the interpretation of Aquinas’s argument in ST 1a2ae, q.1, is a matter of considerable (...) controversy. I shall first follow the argument through its successive steps and then briefly consider three possible ways of understanding Aquinas’s claim that all human actions have exactly one ultimate end. Aquinas first argues that every human action is for the sake of some end. That is, every human action is purposive in some way; it is done for the sake of attaining some goal or realizing some desired state of affairs. To the obvious objection that we do things all the time without any purpose at all, Aquinas replies by distinguishing between a human action (actus humanus) and an action of a human being (actio hominis). Human actions, properly so called, are those that proceed from human beings in virtue of their distinguishing power, which is to be in control of their own actions (dominus suorum actuum) through reason and will. Anything else that a human being does can be called the action of a human being, but not (in the proper sense) a human action. Human actions, then, are those that are willed on the basis of rational deliberation. And since “the object of the will is an end and a good, it follows that all human actions are for the sake of an end.”1 What, precisely, is meant by the “end” of a human action? Aquinas tells us in a. 2 that an end is something cognized as good. It must be something cognized because otherwise we just have “natural appetite,” the sort of built-in directedness by which heavy objects are moved.. (shrink)
It is somewhat misleading to think of the Franciscans as forming a “school” in ethics, since there was a fair bit of diversity among Franciscans. Nonetheless, one can identify certain characteristic tendencies of Franciscan moral thought, and certain “celebrity” Franciscans whose views in ethics and moral psychology are particularly noteworthy. I shall first offer an overview of the general character of Franciscan moral thought in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries and then turn to a more detailed examination of (...) the thought of John Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308) and William Ockham (c. 1288-1347) on three central matters of debate: the nature of the virtues, the relationship between intellect and will, and the relationship between moral requirements and the divine will. (shrink)
International health research in malaria-endemic settings may include screening for sickle cell disease, given the relationship between this important genetic condition and resistance to malaria, generating questions about whether and how findings should be disclosed. The literature on disclosing genetic findings in the context of research highlights the role of community consultation in understanding and balancing ethically important issues from participants’ perspectives, including social forms of benefit and harm, and the influence of access to care. To inform research practice locally, (...) and contribute to policy more widely, this study aimed to explore the views of local residents in Kilifi County in coastal Kenya on how researchers should manage study-generated information on sickle cell disease and carrier status. (shrink)
(2013). The “Difficult Patient” Conundrum in Sickle Cell Disease in Kenya: Complex Sociopolitical Problems Need Wide Multidimensional Solutions. The American Journal of Bioethics: Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 20-22. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2013.767960.
Background: There is general consensus internationally that unfair distribution of the benefits of research is exploitative and should be avoided or reduced. However, what constitutes fair benefits, and the exact nature of the benefits and their mode of provision can be strongly contested. Empirical studies have the potential to contribute viewpoints and experiences to debates and guidelines, but few have been conducted. We conducted a study to support the development of guidelines on benefits and payments for studies conducted by the (...) KEMRI-Wellcome Trust programme in Kilifi, Kenya. Methods: Following an initial broad based survey of cash, health services and other items being offered during research by all programme studies (n = 38 studies), interviews were held with research managers (n = 9), and with research staff involved in 8 purposively selected case studies (n = 30 interviewees). Interviews explored how these ‘benefits’ were selected and communicated, experiences with their administration, and recommendations for future guidelines. Data fed into a consultative workshop attended by 48 research staff and health managers, which was facilitated by an external ethicist.FindingsThe most commonly provided benefits were medical care (for example free care, and strengthened quality of care), and lunch or snacks. Most cash given to participants was reimbursement of transport costs (for example to meet appointments or facilitate use of services when unexpectedly sick), but these payments were often described by research participants as benefits. Challenges included: tensions within households and communities resulting from lack of clarity and agreement on who is eligible for benefits; suspicion regarding motivation for their provision; and confusion caused by differences between studies in types and levels of benefits. Conclusions: Research staff differed in their views on how benefits should be approached. Echoing elements of international benefit sharing and ancillary care debates, some research staff saw research as based on goodwill and partnership, and aimed to avoid costs to participants and a commercial relationship; while others sought to maximise participant benefits given the relative wealth of the institution and the multiple community needs. An emerging middle position was to strengthen collateral or indirect medical benefits to communities through collaborations with the Ministry of Health to support sustainability. (shrink)
Anselm had a particular interest in the art of painting. He saw a close analogy between physical beauty and rational beauty. Both can be represented—physical beauty by paintings, rational beauty through discourse—and Anselm was especially attentive to the possibility of misrepresentation. Deceptive rhetorical coloring can mislead; unworthy discourse can obscure the truth’s inherent beauty. Yet even when discourse does justice to the beauty it is intended to represent, Anselm places strict limits on the appeal to beauty. For beauty by itself (...) is not reliably persuasive. To one who is already persuaded, however, an appreciation of the rational beauty of the truth strengthens understanding, giving the believer a first-hand feel for the truth that is unmediated by argument. Just as Anselm says Credo ut intelligam, I believe in order that I might understand, so too he could say Credo ut mirer, I believe in order that I might be awe-struck. (shrink)
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the outstanding Christian philosopher and theologian of the eleventh century. He is best known for the celebrated “ontological argument” for the existence of God in chapter two of the Proslogion, but his contributions to philosophical theology (and indeed to philosophy more generally) go well beyond the ontological argument. In what follows I examine Anselm's theistic proofs, his conception of the divine nature, and his account of human freedom, sin, and redemption.
Father Williams explains how the conscience is formed through our training and experiences and informed by the Holy Spirit, making it an essential tool for daily living. He uses familiar and surprising characters to illustrate the positive choices conscience can direct--and the disaster that results when a conscience is undeveloped or ignored. Questions he tackles include "Is it more important to be smart or good?""Is there a morally right thing to do in every situation?" and "Is the Christian moral life (...) an exciting adventure, or a necessary burden?" Rich, provocative, and practical for everyday decision making, KNOWING RIGHT FROM WRONG is a must-read for all who hunger for personal holiness. (shrink)
Ranging from his early treatises, the ’Monologion’ (a work written to show his monks how to meditate on the divine essence) and the ’Proslogion’ (best known for its advancement of the so-called ontological argument for the existence of God), to his three philosophical dialogues on metaphysical topics such as the relationship between freedom and sin, and late treatises on the Incarnation and salvation, this collection of Anselm’s essential writings will be of interest to students of the history of philosophy and (...) theology as well as to anyone interested in examining what Anselm calls "the reason of faith." (publisher). (shrink)
In her volume on Aquinas for Routledge’s “Arguments of the Philosophers” series, Eleonore Stumps aims at an interpretation of Aquinas that is historically faithful but also responsive to the concerns of contemporary philosophers. I assess her success in attaining this twofold aim by examining in detail Stump’s overview of Aquinas’s metaphysics, which engages with contemporary debates over constitution and identity, and her interpretation of Aquinas’s account of justice, which brings Aquinas into dialogue with Annette Baier and Thomas Nagel. I conclude (...) with a brief evaluation of the merits of Stump’s twofold aim. (shrink)
I shall confine my attention to the one Scotist doctrine that seems to be singled out as especially worrisome, the doctrine of univocity. In the first part of the paper I argue that the doctrine of univocity is true. So even if the doctrine has unwelcome consequences, we ought to affirm it anyway; it is not the job of the theologian or philosopher to shrink from uncomfortable truths. In the second part I argue further that the doctrine of univocity is (...) salutary. That is, it does not have the deplorable consequences that have been attributed to it. It should be noted that by “consequences” I mean logical consequences. What historical consequences the doctrine may have had are beside the point: if people have been led astray by false inferences from the doctrine of univocity, the proper remedy is to correct their inferences, not to reject univocity. (shrink)
Each volume in this series of companions to major philosophers contains specially commissioned essays by an international team of scholars, together with a substantial bibliography, and will serve as a reference work for students and non-specialists. One aim of the series is to dispel the intimidation such readers often feel when faced with the work of a difficult and challenging thinker. John Duns Scotus (1265/6-1308) was (along with Aquinas and Ockham) one of the three principal figures in medieval philosophy and (...) theology, with an influence on modern thought arguably even greater than that of Aquinas. The essays in this volume systematically survey the full range of Scotus' thought. They take care to explain the technical details of his writing in lucid terms and demonstrate the relevance of his work to contemporary philosophical debate. New readers will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to Scotus currently available. (shrink)
Every reader creates a personal version of what is read....This is often the very opposite of what might at first blush be expected: but on consideration it is exactly the way in which a writer of genius should — we perhaps suddenly realise — respond. It is, in short, creative rather than passively parallel, and a matter of unobtrusive decisive omissions followed by the flow of new matter, of demarcation rather than of imitation.
Notwithstanding considerable disagreement over certain details, writers on Plato’s theory of recollection are broadly in agreement regarding some of the main features. Setting aside for the moment those who doubt that Plato ever held any considered doctrine so well‐developed as to constitute a theory of recollection at all, we can find a substantial scholarly consensus in favor of the following account: In the Phaedo Plato argues that all human beings recollect the Forms. Such recollection is meant to account for the (...) formation of (at least certain) abstract concepts under which we classify particulars. Since all human beings engage in such conceptual thought to some degree, all human beings recollect; people could not even hold pre‐philosophical true opinions concerning such things as the good and the equal if they had not at least dimly recollected the Good or the Equal. Recollection is therefore not the exclusive prerogative of philosophers, although philosophers are the only ones who proceed beyond the initial shadowy recollection of the Forms and fully recover their knowledge.1 I have specified that this is the consensus about the Phaedo, since most scholars find a different doctrine in the Meno. Ackrill, Gallop, Gulley, and Bluck, for example, hold that the Meno is concerned with the knowledge of propositions and the Phaedo with the formation of concepts.2 Bostock finds that the Meno does not, but the Phaedo does, implicate recollection in.. (shrink)
rectitude of will for the sake of that rectitude itself.” From the point of view of contemporary metaphysics, this is one of the most unhelpful definitions imaginable. Does such freedom require alternative possibilities, for example? Is it compatible with causal determination? Is the exercise of such freedom a necessary and sufficient condition for moral responsibility? The definition sheds no light on these questions.
In “Lies and the Vices of Deception,” J. L. A. Garcia argues that lying is always immoral, since it always involves a motivation contrary to the proper discharge of a morally determinative role. I argue that Garcia fails to show (i) that anyone who fails in the sub-role of information-giver thereby fails in a morally determinative role, (ii) that the sub-role of information-giver is precisely that of “informing another truthfully,” (iii) that lying deviates from the motivation characteristic of someone with (...) the virtue of truthfulness, and (iv) that lies always undermine the well-being of the person to whom they are told. (shrink)
Scotus is notorious for occasionally making statements that, on their face at least, smack of voluntarism, but there has been a lively debate about whether Scotus is really a voluntarist after all. Now the debate is not over whether Scotus lays great emphasis on the role of the divine will with respect to the moral law. No one could sensibly deny that he does, and if such an emphasis constitutes voluntarism, then no one could sensibly deny that Scotus is a (...) voluntarist. As I am using the word, however, voluntarism is the view that (i) the goodness of almost all things, as well as the rightness of almost all acts, depends wholly on the divine will and (ii) what God wills with respect to those things and those acts is not in turn to be explained by reference to the divine intellect, human nature, or anything else. This is the view that Scotus’s critics decry and his defenders disclaim. Thus, his critics have seized on these passages and accused Scotus of believing that the moral law depends simply on “the arbitrary will of God.” His most sympathetic interpreters, however, have devoted great ingenuity to showing that Scotus did not mean anything unpalatable by these statements.1 What the critics and defenders apparently have in common is the view that voluntarism is an implausible and even discreditable doctrine. Interpreters who read Scotus as a voluntarist intend thereby to damn his moral views; interpreters sympathetic to his moral views feel compelled to mitigate his voluntarism. I wish to argue for a different approach. I agree with his defenders that Scotus’s moral philosophy ought to be taken seriously. But I think the best way to take any philosopher’s view seriously is to let him speak for himself, not to decide in advance that he must not have held a view that we find implausible. Let me suggest an analogy that will make my position clearer. Very nearly everyone finds immaterialism implausible. (shrink)
B. Russell, Foundations of logic 1903-05, The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 4, Edited by Urquhart, A. with the assistance of Lewis, A. C. London and New York:Routledge, 1994, Hi+ 743 pp. £100.