Divine Will, Human Choice; notes 3 (Scotus)


Duns Scotus and Late Medieval Perspectives on Contingency

Initial proposition: there remains in the creature an act of potency to be otherwise (143). Scotus isn’t concerned with multiple actualities but potencies (151).  Even when I will A, I logically have the potency to will -A, even if I can’t do both at the same time. This is in actu primo.

While Scotus doesn’t represent a break with the tradition, there are differences with Aquinas.  While both “identified the divine will as intervening between the necessary or simply divine knowledge of all possibility and the visionary divine knowledge of all actualit” (157), Scotus does not agree with Aquinas that the intellect performs the ordering function of the will (159).  Freedom of willing depends “on the absence of anything causally prior to the will.”

Moreover, Scotus grounds “contingency and God’s certain knowledge of it in God’s omnicausality and knowledge of his will” (163). Aquinas, to put it simply, says God knows possibilia by his own contemplation of his essence.  Scotus says they are produced as intelligible in a non-temporal moment or instant of the operation of the divine intellect” (163).

Scotus’s Moments in God

Muller quotes Gelber’s It Could Have Been Otherwise to show what Scotus would have meant by the above paragraph.  I’m going to put it in bullet-format to make it clearer.  Remember, these are non-temporal moments (think of the order of the decrees in the infra/supra debate).

  1. God’s intellect produces intelligible beings.
  2. God’s intellect identifies possible beings.
  3. God chooses among the various compossibilities.

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