Duns Scotus on Autonomous Freedom and Divine Co-Causality

Duns Scotus on Autonomous Freedom and Divine Co-Causality

Frank, William A.

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 2 (1992)


John Duns Scotus teaches that God is an immediate, efficient cause of created volitions. He comes to this conclusion as an outcome of his logically prior commitments to the absolute contingency of God’s relationship to the world and to the doctrine of God’s certain, determinate foreknowledge of future, contingent events. On a first consideration, the doctrine of God’s immediate causality would seem to imply determinism of the created will. If that were so, then this determinism would conflict with what is generally taken to be a hallmark of Scotistic thought, namely, the radically indeterminist freedom of the created will.

In what follows we shall first establish the fact and rationale of Scotus’s teaching on God’s immediate causality of created volitions. Second, we shall examine how Scotus understands this immediate causality so as to avoid the entailment of determinism, which he accomplishes through a remarkable application of his theory of partial, essentially ordered co-causes. In the third part we shall attend to two recent interpretations of Scotus that, contrary to our thesis, accept the entailment of determinism of created wills.

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