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Scotus on Human Emotions "You [God] are happy, indeed you are by nature happiness itself, because you are in possession of yourself." John Duns Scotus, De primo principio Transi. A. Wolter, 1983 Prop. XV. "He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions loves God, and so much the more in proportion as he more understands himself and his emotions." Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, Transi. R. H. M. Elwes, Dover, 1951 Scotus's moral philosophy has claimed the attention of modern scholars for several reasons. It is a locus classicus for the crucial distinction between appetition and volition. Its conception of free agency based on the principle of an autonomous will marks a major step forward in the history of freedom in western culture. It offers a bridge between medieval natural law theories and a modern universal moral law theory such as Kant's. Finally, it offers an original conception of why human beings ought to act morally. Modern research rarely mentions the topic of emotion in Scotus's theory.1 Recent studies of Scotus's moral psychology leave 'Among important recent studies are: Mary Elizabeth Ingham, CSJ, Ethics and Freedom (Lanham, Maryland: 1989); Marilyn McCord Adams, "Scotus and Ockham on the Connection of the Virtues, " in John Duns Scotus, L. Honnefelder, R. Wood, M. Dreyer (eds.) (Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1996) 499-522; William A. Frank, "Duns Scotus' Concept of Willing Freely: What Divine Freedom Beyond Choice Teaches Us, " in Franciscan Studies Vol. 42, Annual XX, 1982, 68-90; John Boler, "The Moral Psychology of Duns Scotus Some Preliminary Questions, " in Franciscan Studies Vol. 50, Annual XXVIII, 1990, 31-56; Allan B. Wolter, O.F.M., "Native Freedom of the Will as a Key to the Ethics of Scotus, " Deus et Homo ad mentem I. Duns Scott, Acta Tertii Congressus Scotistici Internationalis Vindebonae, Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 1970 (Romae: Societas Internationalis Scotistica, 1972) pp. 359-70; Allan B. Wolter, Scotus on the Will and Morality, (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1986) (=ABW), 3-123. I was unable to obtain Fidel Chauvet, Las passiones. Las ideas filosóficas de J. Duns Scoto. (Barcelona: B eltram, 1936) 325 Franciscan Studies, Vol. 56 (1998) 326Alan Perreiah the impression that a Scotistic account of a person's moral history would contain a review of prudential counsels, a record of free choices, an inventory of good or bad actions, and a complement of virtues or vices. The idea that a human person would have an emotional life associated with each of these factors is hardly noticed by modern scholars. Yet if all of the other conditions for assessing the moral worth of a life were satisfied, it would still make sense to ask: is the person's life enjoyable or is it miserable? This question makes clear that none of the factors that has claimed so much attention from scholars is sufficient apart from consideration of the emotional life of the agent. What explains the numbing silence on Scotus's concept of emotion? Perhaps, Scotus's own views on related topics is partly responsible . Emotions or passions are accidental qualities that involve at one level transmutation of the body of a human being. As such they may be thought not to deserve as much study as those qualities that relate to the soul and are positively essential to moral improvement, such as native freedom, conformity of an action to right reason, or the cultivation of virtue. Again, emotions are part of the order of nature; so they could be explained by natural causes apart from moral theory. The passions, at least those of the sensible appetite, are trained on particulars whereas reason is directed toward the universal . Thus, in order of priority they seem to merit less attention. Again, the passions are known to distort perception as well as rational thought, and within moral experience they remain subordinated factors that often must be constrained. Finally, emotions seem to have no place in assessing the goodness or badness of a moral act. Any of these reasons or all of them together might be taken as a premise for minimizing the role of emotions in Scotus's moral psychology. But is this practice justifiable...


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