In this book Tobias Hoffmann studies the medieval free will debate during its liveliest period, from the 1220s to the 1320s, and clarifies its background in Aristotle, Augustine, and earlier medieval thinkers. Among the wide range of authors he examines are not only well-known thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham, but also a number of authors who were just as important in their time and deserve to be rediscovered today. To shed further light on their (...) theories of free will, Hoffmann also explores their competing philosophical explanations of the fall of the angels, that is, the hypothesis of an evil choice made by rational beings under optimal psychological conditions. As he shows, this test case imposed limits on tracing free choices to cognition. His book provides a comprehensive account of a debate that was central to medieval philosophy and continues to occupy philosophers today. (shrink)
From the early reception of Thomas Aquinas up to the present, many have interpreted his theory of liberum arbitrium to imply intellectual determinism: we do not control our choices, because we do not control the practical judgments that cause our choices. In this paper we argue instead that he rejects determinism in general and intellectual determinism in particular, which would effectively destroy liberum arbitrium as he conceives of it. We clarify that for Aquinas moral responsibility presupposes liberum arbitrium and thus (...) the ability to do otherwise, although the ability to do otherwise applies differently to praise and blame. His argument against intellectual determinism is not straightforward, but we construct it by analogy to his arguments against other deterministic threats. The non-determinism of the intellect’s causality with respect to the will results from his claims that practical reasoning is defeasible and that the reasons for actions are not contrastive reasons. (shrink)
Medieval authors generally agreed that we have the freedom to choose among alternative possibilities. But most medieval authors also thought that there are situations in which one cannot do otherwise, not even will otherwise. They also thought when willing necessarily, the will remains free. The questions, then, are what grounds the necessity or contingency of the will’s acts, and – since freedom is not defined by the ability to choose – what belongs to the essential character of freedom, the ratio (...) libertatis. This article studies medieval theories of freedom without choice from William of Auxerre to William of Ockham and their background in Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, and Bernard of Clairvaux. (shrink)
This book studies medieval theories of angelology insofar as they made groundbreaking contributions to medieval philosophy. -/- The discussion of angels, made famous by the humanist caricature of ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’, was nevertheless a crucial one in medieval philosophical debates. All scholastic masters pronounced themselves on angelology, if only in their Sentence commentaries. The questions concerning angelic cognition, speech, free decision, movement, etc. were springboards for profound philosophical discussions that have to do (...) with anthropology and metaphysics no less than with angelology. Angels qua separate substances were of central importance in medieval metaphysics (with questions on universal hylomorphism, the esse- essentia composition of creatures, and those regarding individuation of material and immaterial substances). The doctrine of angels has not been the subject of much study in the history of medieval thought, and the volume fills an important gap in the literature. The chapters offer a well-rounded, if not encyclopedic discussion in the chronological or doctrinal sense. They cover the history of debate from Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius until the later middle ages, but instead of an author-by-author approach, focus rather on seminal ideas with demonstrable relevance to “secular” and modern philosophical concerns. (shrink)
Some medieval authors defend free choice by arguing that, even though human choices are indeed caused by the practical judgment about what is best to do here and now, one is nevertheless able to freely influence that practical judgment’s formation. This paper examines Peter Auriol’s account of free choice, which is a quite elaborate version of this approach and which brings its theoretical problems into focus. I will argue in favor of Auriol’s basic theory, but I will also propose an (...) emendation to his theory in order to respond to some problems he leaves unresolved. (shrink)
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is the text which had the single greatest influence on Aquinas's ethical writings, and the historical and philosophical value of Aquinas's appropriation of this text provokes lively debate. In this volume of new essays, thirteen distinguished scholars explore how Aquinas receives, expands on and transforms Aristotle's insights about the attainability of happiness, the scope of moral virtue, the foundation of morality and the nature of pleasure. They examine Aquinas's commentary on the Ethics and his theological writings, above (...) all the Summa theologiae. Their essays show Aquinas to be a highly perceptive interpreter, but one who also brings certain presuppositions to the Ethics and alters key Aristotelian notions for his own purposes. The result is a rich and nuanced picture of Aquinas's relation to Aristotle that will be of interest to readers in moral philosophy, Aquinas studies, the history of theology and the history of philosophy. (shrink)
In the thought of Duns Scotus, the distinction of active potencies into will and nature takes on a fundamental systematic significance. It distinguishes free and self-determining causality from natural and necessary causality. The purpose of this article is to show to what extent this distinction underlies large parts of Duns Scotus’ moral psychology, ethics, metaphysics and Trinitarian theology.
This article gives a basic account of Aquinas’s theory of “synderesis” and conscience. Aquinas understands synderesis as an infallible moral awareness and conscience as the fallible judgment that applies a general moral conviction to a concrete case. The article also compares Aquinas’s and his contemporaries’ theories of whether erring conscience is morally binding, that is, whether to act in accord with erring conscience or against erring conscience is sinful.
The distinction of active potencies into will and nature is one of the most characteristic traits of Duns Scotus’s thought. Scotus distinguishes free and self-determining causality from natural and necessary causality. In this article I show how this distinction underlies large parts of his moral psychology, ethics, metaphysics, and Trinitarian theology.
This paper intends to show that Aquinas gives a non-deterministic account of free decision. Angelic sin is the eminent test case: ex hypothesi, angels are supremely intelligent and not subject to ignorance, passions, or negatively disposing habits. Nothing predetermines their choice; rather it ultimately depends on their freedom alone. All angels acted based upon reasons, but why certain angels acted for an inadequate reason whereas others for an adequate reason cannot be fully explained. Thomas's action theory allows him to explain (...) angelic choice as contingent and selfdetermined. The salient features of this explanation are transferable to human free decision. (shrink)
Most acts of the will have a complex structure, i.e. wanting A in relation to B . Duns Scotus makes the innovative claim that the will itself is responsible for the order of this complex structure. It does this by causing its own will-dependent relations, which he construes as a kind of mind-dependent relations . By means of these relations, the will can arrange the terms of its will-acts independently of any arrangement proposed by the intellect. This not only allows (...) the structure of one's will-act to diverge from the structure proposed by the intellect's final practical judgement; the structure of the will-act need not even have been considered by the intellect at all. One could, therefore, even will an inconceivable state of affairs. I argue that this theory, which scholars have virtually ignored, is fundamental to Scotus's account of divine, angelic, and human freedom, and that it follows necessarily from his voluntarist understanding of freedom. For Scotus, if the will could not structure its acts independently of the intellect, it would not be free. (shrink)
Would there be possibles if God did not exist? The interpretative impasse on this point has been mainly due to the failure to recognize an ambiguity in Scotus’s terminology. “Possibilia” are (1) the eidetic natures of things or (2) the possibility for a creature to exist. In this paper I argue that Scotus denies that God is responsible for giving things the possibility of existence. In this sense, possibles do not depend on God. Yet I also argue that according to (...) Scotus, only God can originate the eidetic natures of creatures, i.e., the natures of which possibility is predicated. If God did not exist, there would be no possibles, because there would be no eidetic natures and thus no subjects of which possibility could be affirmed. What leads Scotus to this view are not so much considerations pertaining to modal logic but rather epistemological concerns. (shrink)
Are there subjective or objective conditions under which human life is not worth living? Or does human life itself contain the conditions that make it worth living? To find answers to these questions, this paper explores Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Richard of Mediavilla, and John Duns Scotus, who discuss whether the damned in hell can, should, and do prefer non-existence over their existence in pain and moral evil. In light of Aristotle’s teaching that there is a certain pleasure inherent to life (...) itself, I shall argue that even a life that is in important respects painful and unpleasant is still worth living. (shrink)
According to Henry of Ghent, akrasia (incontinence or weakness of will) does not presuppose, but rather produces a cognitive defect. By tracing akratic actions and other evil actions to a corruption in the will rather than to a cognitive defect, Henry wants to safeguard their freedom. Though the will is able to reject what the intellect judges as best here and now, strength and freedom of the will increase to the degree that one adheres more firmly to the good. What (...) strengthens the will are the moral virtues, which are essentially virtues of the will. (shrink)
This chapter emphasizes Duns Scotus’s indebtedness to Henry of Ghent with respect to the major themes of his metaphysics: his univocal notion of being, his view of being qua being as the subject of metaphysics, his metaphysical proof of God's existence, and his notion of being as a quidditative rather than existential notion.
This chapter reviews major accounts of free decision of the second half of the thirteenth century, from St. Bonaventure to Duns Scotus. A clear divide between intellectualists and voluntarists is observable beginning in the early 1270s, when the question of whether free decision is founded upon reason or will becomes central. Intellectualists stress the causality of the object apprehended as good at the expense of the will’s self-determination, whereas the reverse emphasis can be observed among voluntarists.
Certain traits of the magnanimous man of the Nicomachean Ethics seem incompatible with gratitude and humility. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas are the first commentators of the Latin West who had access to the integral portrayal of magnanimity in the Nicomachean Ethics. Surprisingly, they welcomed the Aristotelian ideal of magnanimity without reservations. The paper summarizes Aristotle’s account of magnanimity, discusses briefly the transformation of this notion in Stoicism and early scholasticism, and analyzes Albert’s and Thomas’s interpretation of Aristotle. Thomas (...) is found to be a more faithful and ingenious interpreter than Albert. He addresses and solves a number of philosophical problems of Aristotle’s account that still puzzle contemporary interpreters. (shrink)
This article examines different medieval explanations of the causes of moral goodness, principally the end of the agent and the object of the action. Special attention is given to Thomas Aquinas, who considers the end (that which is willed) to be not only the origin of moral goodness, but also its main criterion. Peter Abelard, whose ethics I argue to be non-subjectivist, had developed a similar theory, though the vocabulary he uses is not very refined. By contrast, for Albert and (...) Duns Scotus, the end is accidental to the moral act. The importance of this study is to shed light on the subjective and objective criteria by which to evaluate the morality of actions. (shrink)
This article examines Aquinas’s theory of free choice and moral responsibility throughout his De malo and provides a careful analysis of question 6 “on human choice.” We argue that Aquinas here proposes an account of free choice as incompatible with determinism. We also show briefly that Aquinas’s account of the fall of the angels in the De malo confirms our interpretation.
Leibniz’s first essay, his dissertation on the principle of individuality, is mainly dedicated to a critique of Duns Scotus’s explanation of individuation. Leibniz’s critique of Scotus and the historical antecedents of the German philosopher’s position have not been studied before. The paper examines Scotus’s and Leibniz’s views on individuation and sheds some light on the doctrinal genealogy that leads up to Leibniz’s position. I argue that Leibniz’s view and his critique of Scotus depend upon William of Ockham and Francis Suárez. (...) Ockham, Suárez, and Leibniz posit that individuals are such by themselves or by their entire entity, rather than by an entity that is only a part of their being (as Scotus’s ‘haecceity’). Furthermore, all three take issue with Scotus’s view for the same reason, i.e. because they reject the formal distinction, a key assumption in Scotus’s account of individuation. (shrink)
The article studies the reception of Aristotle’s treatments of voluntariness and decision (EN 3.1–5) in the first three Latin commentaries (two by Albert the Great, one by Thomas Aquinas) that are based on the integral text of the Nicomachean Ethics. In particular, my goal is to examine how Albert’s and Thomas’s non-Aristotelian concepts of the will as a faculty distinct from reason influences their explanations of the Aristotelian account. It is argued that the Dominican commentators emphasize the idea of freedom (...) more than Aristotle did. (shrink)
Angelology gives Duns Scotus the occasion to test his action theory or to expand on it to accommodate the special case of angelic sin: freedom and determinism; synchronic continency; the will as a “comparative power” (assuming quasi-cognitive functions); the distinction between the two affections of the will (commodi and iustitiae).
Duns Scotus vigorously defends an idea foreign to Greek philosophers, namely that the individual has a higher ontological dignity than the species. He develops this view in two contexts: the problem of the principle of individuation and the discussion of divine ideas of individuals. This article focuses on the latter, in which Scotus critiques Aquinas, whom he mistakenly interprets as denying that there are divine ideas of individuals, as well as Henry of Ghent, who repeatedly rejects this hypothesis. In connection (...) with the claim that God has distinct ideas for each individual, Scotus argues that the intentio naturae concerns not merely the species, but also individu-als. Contrary to Greek thought, therefore, Scotus holds that the purpose of individuals is not merely to guarantee the eternity of the species; rather, they have an intrinsic value. (shrink)
This article studies Walter Chatton 's account of the connection of the virtues and its relation to the teaching of Henry of Ghent and John Duns Scotus. Chatton 's position with regard to the connection of temperance, fortitude, and justice is influenced by Henry and yet importantly different from him. Chatton 's teaching on the connection between prudence and the moral virtues closely follows Scotus's view. Both Franciscans frame this problem in terms of the connection between intellect and will. They (...) both deny that having prudence implies possessing the moral virtues on account of the freedom of the will. Furthermore, they deny that prudence presupposes the moral virtues, because they consider it impossible that the will induce the intellect to err. (shrink)
This volume contains fourteen papers on Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian medieval accounts of weakness of will, many of which have not yet been the object of scholarly writing. The papers give insight into a variety of accounts of practical rationality that were directly or indirectly influential on modern thinkers. The temporal framework of the volume exceeds the Middle Ages on both ends by including Aristotle and authors from the Renaissance and the Reformation.
The paper investigates Aquinas’s explanation of how the incontinent can make moral progress. The incontinent cannot be healed by moral instruction, because they already know what is best, but fail to act accordingly. Their moral knowledge has to be interiorized. Thus by attaining prudence and the moral virtues, moral knowledge becomes practically effective knowledge. Yet these virtues are no remedy for the incontinent, who are still struggling to attain them. By reason and will they can resist individual acts of incontinence, (...) but in order to resist incontinence consistently, they need the assistance of grace. (shrink)