Happiness and the Willing Agent: The Ongoing Relevance of the Franciscan Tradition


Authors
Bonnie Kent
University of California, Irvine
Abstract
Contemporary philosophers who are concerned with the following three philosophical issues can learn much from Scotus: the defense of agent-causal accounts of the will; the search for common ground between ancient and Kantian ethics: and the co-existence of free will and the capacity for sin in heaven.1) Free Will and Agent Causation: According to Scotus, the will moves itself to act, but does not cause itself. Human actions are done for reasons determinedby the agent; they are not reducible to events.2) Reconciling Ancient and Kantian Ethics: Like Kant, Scotus thinks that creatures cannot be morally responsible for their actions if happiness is their solemotivation for choosing whatever they choose; Scotus distinguishes between motivations and ends, although less sharply than Kant does. For Scotus, thedesire for happiness includes the desire for self-perfection; thus happiness for Scotus is never reducible to hedonism, nor is happiness our sole motivation.Our freedom lies in the will’s ability to love good things according to the value they have in themselves, not according to the value that they have for us.3) Is Heaven a Problem? A familiar explanation of the problem of evil is that evil is permitted because free will is required for moral goodness; without free willthere would be no moral evil, but neither would there be any moral goodness, so the world is better than it would be if God had chosen not to create freecreatures. But if free will is such a great good, then we must retain the capacity to sin in heaven, or else heavenly existence is inferior to earthly existence.And, if we do retain the capacity to sin in heaven, then heaven is not essentially devoid of evil. Scotus would respond to this problem by stating that love, notfreedom, is the greatest good. Thus, his account of heaven is consistent with what it means to love God above all, for his own sake, and without the motivationof happiness or any other benefit.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Conference Proceedings  History of Philosophy  Philosophy and Religion
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ISBN(s) 0065-7638
DOI acpaproc20047821
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