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DUNS SCOTUS AND THE EXPERIENCE OF HUMAN FREEDOM JOSEPH M. lNCANDELA Saint Mary's College Notre Dame, Indiana DUNS SCOTUS writes in his commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, " the proof [of the indeterminacy of the will] is a posteriori, for the person who wills experiences [experitur] that he could have nilled or not willed what he did...." 1 Again, in the Ordinatio, Scotus says, In regard to any object, then, the will is able not to will or nill it, and can suspend itself from eliciting any act in particular with regard to this or that. And this is something anyone can experience in himself [hoc potest quilibet experiri in seipso] when someone proffers some good. Even if it is presented as something to be considered and willed, one can turn away from it and not elicit any act in its regard....2 The significance of these statements for this paper lies in two directions : ( 1) They may hold the key to Scotus's fundamental 1 Duns Scotus, Quaestiones in Metaphysicam IX, q. 15, a. 2: "Ad secundum, a posteriori probatur. Experitur enim qui vult se posse non velle sive none, iuxta quod de libertate voluntatis alibi diffusius habetur." Though Scotus's commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics is an early work, it remains a significant source for the Subtle Doctor's thought on the will and human freedom. I draw the English translation and the Latin text from Anan B. Wolter, trans. & ed., Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1986), pp. 152-153. 2 Ordinatio IV, suppl. dist. 49, qq. 9-10; Wolter, Duns Scotus, pp. 194-195: "Unde quodlibet obiectum potest voluntas non velle nee none, et a quolibet actu in particulari potest se suspendere circa hoc vel illud. Et hoc potest quilibet experiri in seipso, cum quis offert sibi aliquod bonum, etiam se ostenderet sibi bonum ut bonum considerandum et volendum, potest se ab hoc avertere, et nullum actum voluntatis circa illum elicere...." That this appeal to experience also appears in the Ordinatio shows an important continuity in Scotus's thought about the will from his early to his later work. 229 230 JOSEPH M. INCANDELA divergence from Aquinas, who could never have used such language about the will.3 It has become something of a philosophical commonplace to assert that what separated Aquinas's and Scotus's accounts of human freedom was the relative superiority Aquinas assigned to the intellect and Scotus assigned to the will.4 All this is quite true, but it does not get to the basic disagreement, the two fundamentally different ways of thinking about human freedom that they present. Perhaps the above passages can provide insight sufficient to overcome this shortcoming. (2) Scotus's statements about the experience of the will's indeterminate freedom also take us, as they rightly should, to Scotus's own writings . In recent years, at least three quite different interpretations of what the Subtle Doctor really thought about human freedom have appeared. While no medieval figure enjoys a universal consensus (especially Aquinas), when it comes to Scotus on human freedom, rarely have scholars dragged one man's corpus in so many contrary directions. Perhaps employing the experience of freedom as a heuristic can bring some kind of order to these disparate interpretations-or perhaps, at the very least, show that such order could only be an external imposition and, therefore, that fundamental tensions lie at the heart of Scotus's thinking about the liberty proper to viatores. This paper has three sections. In the first, I present what has for some time been the most popular reading of Scotus on human freedom-the libertarian interpretation. In light of this reading, I next briefly attempt to show what it would mean to experience 3 Aquinas does occasionally appeal to experience to make his arguments, though not the experience of the will's activity. See Summa Theologiae I.81.3; I.84.7; I-II.112.5. 4 See, for example, Lawrence D. Roberts, " A Comparison of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas on Human Freedom of Choice,'' in Homo et Mundus: Acta Quinta Congressus Scotistici Internationalis, 1981 (Rome: Societas Internationalis Scotistica...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 229-256
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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