Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality

Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality

Selected & Translated with an Introduction by Alan B. Wolter
Edited by William A. Frank
Copyright Date: 1997
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    Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality
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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2046-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface to This Edition
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    William A. Frank
  4. Preface to the Original Edition
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    • I General Remarks
      (pp. 3-30)

      The dual primary purpose of editing these texts was to present a sufficient number of John Duns Scotus’ ethical writings to enable historians of medieval philosophy, first of all, to correct some common misconceptions as to his theory of morality, and secondly to perceive its inner coherence. If this were accomplished, then I would hope—as my secondary aim—that they and others interested in ethical theory might better appreciate the value of his more interesting insights and see their relevance for contemporary ethical issues. Before turning to a brief analysis of the particular items, then, it seems well to...

    • II. Notes on the Specific Selections
        (pp. 31-39)

        The four selections in this part are meant to express Scotus’ conception of how the will and intellect interact. The will, insofar as it is a rational faculty according to Aristotle (selection 2), always works “with reason” and hence needs “practical knowledge” as the proper basis for practice or praxis (selection 1). Of the two faculties, it is the will alone that has the power to command, as Scotus points out in Ordinatio IV, dist. 14, q. 2, n. 5 (Wadding reprint ed. XVIII, p. 52; Codex A, f. 230rv), cited above under general remarks, n. 4. Selection 3 shows...

        (pp. 39-46)

        Following St. Anselm of Canterbury Scotus accepts the fact that the will has a twofold inclination or bias, one described by Aristotle and Plato before him as “natural” in the sense that it inclines one to seek whatever perfects the nature of the agent, either as concretized in this individual or as conserving the species to which it belongs. This inclination towards self-perfection or self-actualization Anselm refers to as an “affection for the advantageous,” or affectio commodi. In virtue of this natural inclination, will can be called an “intellective” or “rational appetite,” i.e., an appetite guided in its quest for...

        (pp. 47-54)

        In the selection “What sort of thing is moral goodness?” Scotus comes closest to giving us a definition, describing moral goodness as a kind of moral beauty or comeliness. In terms of the Aristotelian categories, he refers to it here and in the second selection as an “accident,” and among the “accidents,” it is not something absolute, like quantity or quality, but rather falls into the category of “relation.” Like beauty, it “is not some absolute quality,” but rather a harmonious interrelationship of many items (the faculty of the will, the object it seeks, the conditions under which it does...

        (pp. 54-57)

        This question occurs not in the explicit treatise on God in the first book of the Sentences, but in the last portion of Bk. IV, where the “Master” (Peter Lombard) deals with the “four last things”—death, judgment, hell, and heaven. As Scotus says at the beginning:

        Because the forty-sixth distinction treats of how both justice and the mercy of God concur in the punishment of evildoers, therefore four questions are raised here: first, whether there is justice in God; second, whether there is mercy in God; third, whether in God justice is distinct from mercy; and fourth, whether in...

        (pp. 57-75)

        Scotus has a short but excellent treatment of natural law and divine positive law in Ordinatio IV, dist. 17, where he discusses the sacrament of penance and the reason why there is an obligation to confess a person’s serious sins orally to a priest.

        Here, as in the following selection, he distinguishes between what belongs properly to the law of nature and what can be called “natural law” only in a secondary or extended sense. To be a law of nature in the proper sense, the proposition expressing such must be either (1) self-evident or analytic, i.e., known from an...

        (pp. 75-89)

        Scotus begins his treatment of the virtues (theological, intellectual, and moral) with dist. 23 of Bk. III and concludes with the question on the connection of the virtues in dist. 36. Because some codices of the Ordinatio end with dist. 14, Balić first believed that this was as far as Scotus had come in his final revision of his commentary on the Sentences, even though the most important Codex A extends to dist. 40. Lottin was able to prove by a detailed analysis of the various manuscripts of dist. 36 that Codex A was indeed a revision of Scotus’ earlier...

        (pp. 89-98)

        In Bk. III, dists. 27 to 29, Scotus raises three questions in regard to the supernatural or infused virtue of charity. The first concerns the love of God; the second, love of neighbor; and the third, love of self. Much of what he has to say, especially in the first and longest of the three, is of philosophical interest, because it concerns the love of God insofar as it is a moral virtue and is enjoined on man by natural law in the strictest sense. The question reads: “Is there some theological virtue inclining one to love God above all?”...

      • PART VIII: SIN
        (pp. 98-124)

        At the end of Bk. II of the Sentences, Peter Lombard raises the question: Is the power to sin in man and the devil from God? This occasioned a discussion of the present question among the scholastics, beginning with the Summa fratris Alexandri IIaIIae, n. 8, and continued in the Sentence commentaries of Bonaventure (art. 1, q. 1), St. Thomas (q. 1, art. 1), and a great many others. It was a favorite question because it allowed the young bachelor of theology to introduce a number of distinctions based on the positive and negative aspects of what was meant by...

  6. Texts in Translation
    • PART I The Will and Intellect
      (pp. 127-152)

      Is a science called speculative or practical because of its end?

      We must first consider the generally accepted fact that practical knowledge extends to practice, because knowledge that remains within the intellect alone is theoretical knowledge.

      Also note that praxis or practice is [1] an act of some power or faculty other than intellect, that [2] naturally follows an act of knowledge or intellection, and [3] is suited by nature to be elicited in accord with correct knowledge if it is to be right.

      To begin with, praxis or practice is the act of some faculty other than intellect, because...

    • PART II The Will and Its Inclinations
      (pp. 153-166)

      According to Anselm, two affections may be assigned to the will, namely, the affection for justice and the affection for the advantageous. He treats of these extensively in The Fall of the Devil, ch. 14, and The Harmony of God’s Foreknowledge, Grace, and Predestination, ch. 19. The affection for justice is nobler than the affection for the advantageous, understanding by “justice” not only acquired or infused justice, but also innate justice, which is the will’s congenital liberty by reason of which it is able to will some good not oriented to self. According to the affection for what is advantageous,...

    • PART III Moral Goodness
      (pp. 167-182)

      One could say that just as beauty is not some absolute quality in a beautiful body, but a combination of all that is in harmony with such a body (such as size, figure, and color), and a combination of all aspects (that pertain to all that is agreeable to such a body and are in harmony with one another), so the moral goodness of an act is a kind of decor it has, including a combination of due proportion to all to which it should be proportioned (such as the potency, the object, the end, the time, the place, and...

    • PART IV God and the Moral Law
      (pp. 183-194)

      Because the forty-sixth distinction [of Bk. IV] treats of how both justice and the mercy of God concur in the punishment of the evildoers, therefore four questions are raised here: first, whether there is justice in God; second, whether there is mercy in God; third, whether in God justice is distinct from mercy; and fourth, whether in his punishment of evildoers justice and mercy concur on God’s part.

      To the first question it is argued that there is no justice in God:

      [Arg. 1] According to Bk. V of the Ethics, ch. 6, there is no justice where lord and...

    • PART V The Moral Law in General
      (pp. 195-222)

      By what precept is one obliged to confess sins to a priest?

      As for the sort of obligation involved here we could find no precept obliging one to confession were it not of natural law, or divine or ecclesiastical positive law.

      [Re natural law] Now, a practical truth of natural law is either one whose truth value can be ascertained from its terms (in which case it is a principle of natural law, even as in theoretical matters a principle is known from its terms) or else one that follows from the knowledge of such truths (in which case it...

    • PART VI The Intellectual and Moral Virtues
      (pp. 223-274)

      Regarding the thirty-second and thirty-third distinctions [of Bk. III] I ask: Are the moral virtues in the will as their subject?

      For the negative:

      In Bk. I of the Ethics, the Philosopher says that they are in the irrational part of the soul and the Commentator explains that they are in that which is intermediate between the vegetative and the rational parts; but this is not the will but rather the sense appetite.

      Furthermore, in Bk. III of the Ethics the Philosopher places fortitude and temperance in the appetite of the sensitive portion of the soul.

      Also, look up the...

    • PART VII The Love of God, Self, and Neighbor
      (pp. 275-292)

      Regarding dist. 17 [of Bk. III] I ask: Is there some theological virtue inclining one to love God above all?

      For the negative:

      [1] If there were such, it would be a certain kind of friendship, which is clear from its corresponding act, which is to love. But according to the Philosopher in VIII Ethics, ch. 7, there is no friendship towards God because God excels beyond any proportion, and such an excess prohibits any friendship towards him, because friendship is among equals in some sense.

      [2] Also, no virtue moves one to an act that is impossible, but it...

    • PART VIII Sin
      (pp. 293-330)

      In connection with the forty-fourth distinction [of Bk. II] I ask: “Is the power to sin from God?”

      According to Anselm in Freedom of Choice, ch. 1: “To be able to sin is not liberty or any part of liberty”; therefore, insofar as free choice is from God, it is not the power to sin. But the ability to sin is not from God for any reason other than that free choice comes from God. Therefore, the ability or power to sin is in no way from God.

      To the contrary: the Master cites authorities in the text affirming that...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 331-336)
  8. Topical Index
    (pp. 337-340)