Human Action in Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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This book has its proximate origin during a 2009–2010 sabbatical at the Thomas-Institut, University of Cologne, which was funded by an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers. I owe special gratitude to Andreas Speer...
A Note on the Texts
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For Thomas Aquinas, when possible I cite the incomplete Leonine edition of his Opera Omnia (Rome: Commisio Leonina, 1884–). The reader will see in the notes “Leonine,” with the volume and page numbers. Since the Leonine edition of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae has been reprinted and sometimes improved in a variety...
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This book covers the basic theories of actions that are developed by Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. These three figures are arguably the three most significant philosophers and theologians of the central period in the development of Scholastic thought. Thomas Aquinas, along with his teacher Albert the Great...
1. Causes of the Act
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Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham all discuss the relationship between cognition and willing in the context of how a human act is caused. In this context, a cause is something that plays an explanatory role in the effect’s production and is in some...
2. Practical Reason
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Different views on the relation of the intellect and will to some extent affect descriptions of the role that practical reasoning plays in the production of an act, which involves disagreement over a host of problematic questions. For instance, what is the relation of a conclusion to an action? Can the conclusion of a practical syllogism be the...
3. The Stages of the Act
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Thomas, Scotus, and Ockham’s views of the relationship between practical reason and the will in the production of an act are partially expressed in their descriptions of an act’s stages. They each follow a basically Aristotelian structure according to which human acts have three major components: willing the end, deliberating concerning the...
4. Evaluation and Specification of the Act
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Thomas, Scotus, and Ockham all evaluate an act in terms of its object, end, and circumstances, although these three figures differ in their understanding and application of these terms. Their language has roots in ancient philosophy and the patristic tradition, and also in a particularly medieval interest in individual acts. In particular, the increasing...
5. Indifferent, Good, and Meritorious Acts
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Medieval discussions of how acts are characterized are ultimately ordered to considerations about how such acts should be evaluated. Thomas, Scotus, and Ockham not only have different ways of understanding an act’s object and circumstances, but they also disagree about the different kinds of goodness and badness indicated by these...
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No one theme or historical narrative fully accounts for all the differences between the theories of action that are developed by Thomas, Scotus, and Ockham. Any one grand theory that would account for the differences would neglect the individual genius of each thinker and the particular historical circumstances in which that thinker worked. Many differences can be explained in terms of their individual propensities...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014