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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: September 2010

4 - Scotistic metaphysics and creation ex nihilo



In the High Middle Ages all the major theologians of the Christian West teach that God created our world ex nihilo, that is, that first there is God and no world, and then, by an act of divine will, there is a world which is, in some sense, at a distance from and therefore other than God. During the Age of Enlightenment the concept of the creation of the world modulates to a distant key, for we find philosophers propounding the thesis that the world is the product of an act not of the divine but of the human mind. It may seem bizarre to hold that each of us produces the world in which we live, and presumably therefore produces it on the side, without our even noticing that we are engaged in such a stupendous act. Nevertheless there are powerful arguments in support of the claim; I shall give prominence to doctrines of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, doctrines according to which certain features of the world, features which give rise to our perception of the world as objectively valid, are the product of our own mental powers.

A question therefore arises as to the relation between on the one hand the religious claim that God created the world and on the other hand the Enlightenment claim that we human beings are world-makers. The two claims may seem mutually incompatible.

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Creation and the God of Abraham
  • Online ISBN: 9780511778063
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Broadie, A., The Shadow of Scotus (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), Chapters 2 and 3.
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S. Anselmi Opera Omnia, ed. Schmitt, F. S., 6 vols. (Edinburgh: Nelson, 1940–1951), vol. i, p. 46, ll. 12–16 (my translation)
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