To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The tendency in our political moment for fascists to appropriate medieval symbols and stories for their own ends was preceded by the same phenomenon in the middle of the twentieth century. Then, as now, thinkers of various kinds challenged the Nazi mischaracterization of the Middle Ages, with some thinkers going even further, finding in the medieval world potential solutions to problems that plague modernity. Hannah Arendt was one of those thinkers. Her engagement with the Middle Ages was profound, stemming from her dissertation on St Augustine, to her sustained discussion of both Augustine and John Duns Scotus in her final work, The Life of the Mind. Arendt’s appropriation of these thinkers was political in the early part of her career, in which Augustine provided her with a framework for a political community based on the shared experience of loving one’s neighbor, a vision she articulated in her dissertation, Love and Saint Augustine, but that also appeared at key moments as a potential solution to the problems discussed in The Origins of Totalitarianism. Later in her career, Arendt’s writings on medieval thinkers turned more phenomenological, as she explored those aspects of the human condition that underpinned her earlier political work. For Arendt, Augustine, and especially Duns Scotus, provided a robust understanding of free will, which is necessary for political activity and the creation of new forms of living together. Ultimately, Arendt beliefs, especially about race, make it impossible to uncritically adopt her positions in our own moment. And yet, her thoughts about the Middle Ages can still provide us important ways to think about our present crises.
John Duns Scotus is the most important medieval theologian after Thomas Aquinas. This chapter considers his views on theology and philosophy, faith and reason, univocity of being, divine freedom and contingency, the Trinity, reasons for the Incarnation and Mariology.
The will is the key component of Duns Scotus’s moral theory, both because Duns Scotus held (quite uncontroversially) that we are morally responsible only for our free choices and their outcomes and because (more controversially) he thought that most principles detailing what is morally good and what is morally bad depends on God’s free decisions. The key, then, question is how we know contingent practical principles. This essay offers an account of our knowledge of such principles that is (a) consistent with what Duns Scotus says about the relationship of the moral law to the divine will and to human nature, (b) consistent with what he says more generally about our knowledge of contingent truths, and (c) consistent with his actual argumentative practice in dealing with contingent practical principles. The examination of Duns Scotus’s argumentative practice uncovers a third, hitherto unnoticed, sense of ‘natural law’. This essay suggests that the core unifying sense of ‘natural law’ for Duns Scotus is precisely the epistemic status of the precepts of natural law as non-inferentially evident.
This essay considers Duns Scotus’s arguments against the so-called semantic analogy—the view according to which a term can signify two or more things according to relations of priority and posteriority. It argues that this view was commonly adopted in Paris but was rejected by a group of late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century English thinkers, which included Duns Scotus. Since supporters of semantic analogy held that ‘being’ was the foremost example of a term signifying according to priority and posteriority, the implications of this debate on metaphysics are profound. This essay's conclusion is that Duns Scotus’s rejection of semantic analogy should be considered as preliminary to his famous claim that being is a univocal concept.
This essay focuses on the notion of the created agents’ will not in relation to God’s causality but in order to refine our understanding of what Duns Scotus meant by ‘freedom’. Unlike most of his predecessors, Duns Scotus considered a “synchronic” power for opposites as fundamental to human free will and set out to give a detailed account of the metaphysical makeup of the power through which we possess free will. The author of this essay, however, argues that this cannot be the full story, because Duns Scotus also maintained that freedom is compatible with necessity. To get a clearer picture of Duns Scotus’s overall understanding of freedom, this essay begins by focusing on how Scotus engaged with Anselm of Canterbury’s definition of freedom. After addressing the exact nature of the power for opposites that Duns Scotus frequently associated with freedom, this essay turns to the “formal concept” (ratio formalis) of freedom and how it is common to God and creatures. The conclusion is that freedom is for Duns Scotus fundamentally a power for self-determination rather than a power for opposites.
Like any good Aristotelian, Duns Scotus held that human beings share this feature with a large section of the created world. This essay provides an in-depth presentation and assessment of some crucial aspects of Duns Scotus’s contribution to the later medieval debate on hyomorphism, including his views on the existence and nature of prime matter, the plurality of substantial forms in a material substance, and the nature of animate substances.
This essay focuses on a concept that plays a central role in Duns Scotus’s metaphysics—essential order. It starts by considering Duns Scotus’s presentation of essential order in the De primo principio, where essential order is said to obtain between two beings, x and y, where x is essentially prior to y and y is essentially posterior to x. But Duns Scotus makes use of essential order in several other contexts as well, including his hylomorphism, chemistry, action theory, metaethics, and even ecclesiology. In these other contexts, the notion of essential order is not clearly defined, and it is not always obvious how its deployment is supposed to map onto the canonical definition of essential order offered in the De primo principio. This essay takes a step toward this systematization by analyzing Duns Scotus’s use of essential orders outside of the De primo principio, letting the De primo principio discussion both inform and be informed by these other contexts.
This essay focuses on the way the first cause’s action relates to the action of created causes, with a particular focus on the action of created wills. Since medieval thinkers considered God an active causal source of all existents, they believed that God must in some way actively cause the actions of created causes, including the acts of the will. Duns Scotus’s thought on this matter is particularly interesting because, as is widely recognized, he was committed to a robust understanding of the created will’s freedom. This essay argues that Duns Scotus struggled to figure out how God could be involved in causing the operation of such a spontaneously and autonomously operating cause. He wrestled with two different theories, and ultimately could not make up his mind. This essay reconstructs Duns Scotus’s analysis of competing positions while tracking the developments in his thought.
This essay examines Duns Scotus’s celebrated modal argument for the existence of a first cause in the light of his most extensive discussion of modality: namely, the account of the senses of ‘potency’ in his questions on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book IX, qq. 1–2. The author holds that it is possible to give two alternative reconstructions of Duns Scotus’s argument for the existence of a first cause depending on which of two alternative interpretations is given to the term ‘potency’. First, ‘potency’ can be taken as what is metaphysically possible. In this interpretation, the potential is co-extensive with ‘being’. Second, ‘potency’ can be taken to mean what is opposed to the actual. In this second interpretation, being in potency is a kind of non-being. The conclusion is that, contrary to what might first appear, it is the second interpretation of ‘potency’ that should be preferred if we want Duns Scotus’s argument for the existence of a first cause to work.
This essay shows that Duns Scotus firmly believed in the dignities (plural) of human nature—both the natural human dignity celebrated by Aristotle, who maintained that the material world was made for the sake of rational animals, and the supernatural dignities paid to humankind by God in the Incarnation and to particular human beings by predestining them to glory. When it comes to identifying more concretely the features in which such dignities consist, Duns Scotus’s metaphysical views—about essential powers and about what is essential to powers—combine with his theological conviction that, when it comes to patterns of Divine concurrence with or obstruction of natural powers, God has different policies for different states of human history—to complicate his method.
This essay focuses on the notion of “object of the intellect.” It argues that the distinction between “natural object of inclination” (obiectum naturale inclinabile) and “natural reachable object” (obiectum naturale attingibile) is at the basis of a fundamental reorientation in the doctrine of the first adequate object of the intellect in Duns Scotus’s later works. In the absence of any direct intellectual intuition of the soul and its potencies in this life, natural reason has no epistemic access to the first adequate object of the intellect except by way of abstraction of the per se objects it attains effectively. This insight induces Duns Scotus to revise his criticism of the position that he ascribes to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, namely that the “quiddity of material things” is the first adequate object of the intellect. Although Duns Scotus claims consistently that this position cannot be maintained by a theologian, he comes to accept it in his later works as correctly expressing the philosopher’s view of the first adequate object of the intellect in this life.
This essay holds that there is room in Duns Scotus’s thought not only for things related to one another by a relation of dependence but also for analogous concepts, namely concepts that capture those real relations in the way they represent things in the world. Duns Scotus’s statements on the analogy of being, however, are fragmentary. They were reworked into a coherent theory by three Franciscans in Barcelona during the 1320s, namely, Aufredo Gonteri, Peter of Navarre, and Peter Thomae, who proposed three different ways to balance the analogy of being with the rival thesis of univocity and offered an early example of how Duns Scotus’s thought could be developed in different directions.
This essay reconsiders Duns Scotus's life in light of recent advancements in textual criticism and the considerable amount of information about the medieval educational system that has become available in the last couple of decades. As a result, it sheds new light on several aspects that had so far perplexed interpreters, including Duns Scotus’s possible stay in Cambridge, the way he commented on the Sentences in Oxford and Paris, and the precise dates of his Paris regency.
John Duns Scotus is commonly recognized as one of the most original thinkers of medieval philosophy. His influence on subsequent philosophers and theologians is enormous and extends well beyond the limits of the Middle Ages. His thought, however, might be intimidating for the non-initiated, because of the sheer number of topics he touched on and the difficulty of his style. The eleven essays collected here, especially written for this volume by some of the leading scholars in the field, take the reader through various topics, including Duns Scotus's intellectual environment, his argument for the existence of God, and his conceptions of modality, order, causality, freedom, and human nature. This volume provides a reliable point of entrance to the thought of Duns Scotus while giving a snapshot of some of the best research that is now being done on this difficult but intellectually rewarding thinker.
This chapter is a study in the critical deconstruction of one of the most popular theoretical paradigms in modern international law and its basic ideological impact on international law as a discipline. The paradigm in question is voluntarist positivism, and the general thrust of its ideological impact on the discipline of international law, I am going to argue, has been to encourage within it the rise and spread of what one might call a theoretical culture of bad faith – a mix of false consciousness, self-censorship, and a “crooked attitude towards truth and knowledge”– particularly, in what concerns international law’s relationship with natural law and Christian theology.
The last two sentences use a lot of notoriously ambivalent concepts. For the prevention of doubt, let me explain briefly how I understand them in these pages.
This chapter deals with the question of how the established order of salvation, expressed in terms of the processus iustificationis, can be reliable without in some sense being necessary – and hence violating the divine freedom. This debate became increasingly important in late thirteenth-century theology, and was generally framed in terms of a dialectic between the ‘two powers’ of God. God’s ordained power designated the realm of the actual which, though reliable and grounded in God’s promises, was contingent. God’s absolute power referred to a world of possibilities which subverted the established order of salvation – such as God’s ability to accept someone without a created habit of grace. The chapter opens by considering how medieval theology used the notion of God’s ordained power (potentia ordinata) to explore the self-limitation of God, simultaneously establishing the provisionality and reliability of the established order of salvation. It then moves on to consider criticisms of the logical necessity of certain aspects of this established order, particularly those developed by Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and representatives of the via moderna,such as Gabriel Biel.
Chapter 23 considers the range of Catholic positions that were represented during the Council of Trent’s debates on justification. Although some representatives are best considered as independent theologians, not specifically committed to one of the leading schools of theology of this period, it is clear that many of those present aligned themselves with one of three schools: the early Dominican school (based mainly on the works of Thomas Aquinas), the early Franciscan school (based mainly on the works of Bonaventure), and the later Franciscan school (based mainly on the works of Duns Scotus). This chapter considers the basic position of each of these schools of thought in relation to the questions being discussed. Although some earlier accounts of the Tridentine discussions of justification suggest that there was a distinct Augustinian school of theology represented, the evidence does not support this view.
The concept of merit plays an important role in the medieval discussion of justification. Although it was widely considered to be unacceptable to allow that human beings could be said to earn or deserve their justification, in the strict sense of the terms, the concept of merit was developed extensively to allow a strict concept of merit (usually referred to as ‘condign merit’) to be distinguished from a weaker sense of merit (usually referred to as ‘congruous merit’). The chapter opens by considering how Augustine’s concept of merit was complexified during the Middle Ages, and the reason for this process. Particularly within Franciscan schools of theology, there was a widespread recognition of a gradation of forms of merit, including the notion of merit as a self-imposed divine obligation. This chapter explores these divergences, and notes the growing tendency on the part of writers such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham to adopt voluntarist rather that intellectualist approaches to merit, locating the ground of merit in God’s decision to accept certain actions as meritorious. The chapter concludes by noting the continuity between these later medieval lines of thought and those associated with the Reformation – such as John Calvin’s understanding of the grounds of the merit of Christ, on which human salvation was held to be contingent.
During the Middle Ages, the justification of humanity increasingly came to be linked with an explicitly sacramental economy of salvation, with a particular emphasis upon the sacramenta mortuorum (baptism and penance) as the divinely ordained means of establishing and restoring justification. This chapter considers this development, which forged an increasingly robust link between the practice of justification and the institution of the church. Although the possibility of extra-sacramental justification was recognised, the normative account of the initiation and restoration of justification was now firmly linked with the sacramental ministry of the church. This chapter explores the development of this move, and considers its implications. In closing, it turns to deal with some trends in Renaissance biblical scholarship which opened up new and important questions in relation to the theory and practice of justification, such as the revision of the accepted words of Christ on beginning his ministry from ‘Do penance, for the kingdom of God is at hand’ to ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand’.
Chapter 24 examines the records of the Tridentine discussions of justification which took place over the period 22–28 June 1546. These discussions indicate how the basic agenda was set, and how a number of approaches were explored, before the final structure of the Decree on Justification was developed. These discussions are of major importance in interpreting the final Decree on Justification, as they often indicate why a particular form of words was adopted in preference to another. Perhaps the most important of these is the revised version of the eighth chapter of the draft decree that was drawn up for discussion on 11 December 1546, concerning the formal cause of justification. The original wording recognised that there was una (‘one’) such cause. This was considered to allow that other formal causess might also be countenanced, and so was replaced by unica (‘single’, ‘sole’ or ‘one and only’).
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.