Duns Scotus on goodness, justice, and what God can do.
There are a number of ways in which this position might be developed. One would be to argue that, once God has created animate creatures, God will have certain obligations towards these creatures. But being perfectly good, God will necessarily respect these obligations; and being omniscient, God will not be mistaken about these obligations. (A more sophisticated version of this position is defended by, among others, Richard Swinburne.)(3) Another way to develop the position has been defended by Thomas Morris.(4) Morris agrees that God's goodness entails that God cannot bring about morally bad actions. He argues, however, that we cannot construe this to mean that divine goodness consists in `God's acting always in accordance with universal principles'.(5) (Morris labels this the `duty model' of moral goodness.) He reasons:
If God is necessarily good, and part of what that goodness involves is given by the duty model, then it follows that God necessarily acts in accordance with moral principles. But if this is so, a quite modest libertarian principle will entail that God does not exemplify the kind of freedom requisite for being a moral agent with any duties at all. On this principle it will be logically impossible for any individual to have moral duties he necessarily satisfies.(6)
To avoid rejecting either this libertarian account of moral freedom or the claim that God is necessarily good, Morris proposes that the duty model of divine goodness be replaced by the claim that God acts in accordance with some of the moral principles which bind us, without his being bound by those principles as duties.(7) On this account, all of God's free actions would be supererogatory--the type of action which is good but not obligatory.(8) Vital to Morris's account is the further claim that God necessarily acts in accordance with the `principles which would express duties for a moral agent in his relevant circumstances'.(9) (Note that God on Morris's account is not a moral agent, even though he is a perfectly good agent, since according to Morris moral goodness entails the duty model of goodness.) By making this claim, Morris avoids the possibility of God's acting badly. Morris's account makes clear that the source of this impossibility is not anything external to God. Rather, the limits on God's power are caused internally, just in virtue of the kind of being God is.
In this paper, I will attempt to defend four claims.(10) Three of these relate directly to Scotus' doctrine of God: (1) that Scotus would agree with Morris in rejecting a duty model of divine goodness; (2) that Scotus would disagree with Morris's further claim that God necessarily acts in accordance with principles which would express duties for a moral agent in his relevant circumstances. We can put this in more Scotistic language as follows: Scotus holds that God does not necessarily act in accordance with right reason. I shall keep with this more Scotistic formulation in what follows. The first of these claims is fairly well known; not many commentators, however, have explored the second claim in any great detail. The second claim might look rather odd for, as we shall see, Scotus holds that right reason, in coming to its conclusions about the moral goodness or badness of actions, takes into account the presence or absence of a divine command. This might make it look as though Scotus holds that God cannot act against right reason. For anything he wants to do, he can issue a command to do it, and his action will thence be in accordance with right reason. But I shall argue that, according to Scotus, there are some morally bad actions whose moral badness is not affected by any putative divine command to perform such actions; and furthermore that some (though not all) of these actions could be commanded by God. If God were to issue a command to perform some morally bad action, God's action would seem to me to count as an instance of God's failing to act in accordance with right reason.
The third claim I shall make is: (3) that Scotus' first two claims need not entail the conclusion that God is not essentially good, provided we give a suitable account of God's goodness. Scotus is certainly not committed to the claim that God is capricious or (worse) cruel. And I will try to show that (3) can follow from (2) if we bear in mind Scotus' motivation for accepting the premise which entails (2).
The fourth claim, which is entailed by the way Scotus attacks the position that God necessarily acts in accordance with right reason, is: (4) that very few of the obligations binding human beings can be reliably known by natural reason. I am aware that my reading of Scotus will be a controversial reading: but I hope that my reasons for drawing the conclusions which I come to will be evident. I shall claim that Scotus' assertion of conclusions (2) and (4) is entailed by his espousal of a fairly dubious premise. I shall suggest that Scotus' conclusions are unacceptable, and that we are therefore free to reject the dubious premise on which they are based.
I . MORAL GOODNESS
Scotus argues that there is moral goodness or badness in actions and that these values are knowable by reason. To see how Scotus defends this claim, we need first of all to introduce his account of natural goodness. By `natural goodness' I mean the intrinsic value that any object or action has, irrespective of its moral value. According to Scotus we find one type of natural goodness when we talk of a thing's `being perfectly suited to or in complete harmony with something else--something which ought to have it or which it ought to have'.(11) An action can be good (i.e., naturally good) in this sense: i.e., in the sense of being the kind of thing which is in harmony with its agent. This harmony or appropriateness is discernible by reason:
[A judgment about appropriateness] therefore presupposes something certain...judged by the intellect [of the agent]: namely, the nature of the agent, and the power by which he acts, together with the essential notion of the act. If these three notions are given, no other knowledge is needed to judge whether or not this particular act is suited to this agent and this faculty.(12)
As this quotation makes clear, this discernment of the natural goodness of an action is something which, according to Scotus, can be known by reason, simply from an assessment of the nature of (a) the agent, (b) the relevant power or ability, and (c) the action. For reason to judge that an action is morally good as well as naturally good, we need to add two further considerations to these three: (a) the object of the action, (b) the circumstances surrounding the action--especially the end or goal of the action.(13) On this account, an action could have natural goodness while being morally bad. What I wish to emphasize in Scotus' account, however, is that considerations of appropriateness, of the type which Scotus outlines, are considerations that are discovered in things by the intellect, not imposed upon things by the will. This is true even of God's assessment of the moral goodness of actions:
Either this appropriateness stems from the nature of the terms or, if it must generally be traced back to the judgment of some intellect (since the intellect is the measure of suitability), this judgment will be that of the intellect which is the rule of the whole of nature, viz., the divine intellect. Indeed this intellect, just as it knows perfectly every being, so it knows perfectly the harmony or disagreement of one thing with another.(14)
Appropriateness is something discerned in things (or at least, in the abstract essences of things) by God's intellect: something which he makes a judgment about. It is not something which is determined by the divine will. I will return to this in a moment.
The content of the judgment of reason that an action has moral goodness is labelled `right reason'. Scotus claims that an action will be morally good if the action is elicited in accordance with the dictate of right reason:
The moral goodness of the act, then, consists mainly in its conformity with right reason--dictating fully just how all the circumstances should be that surround the act.... It is impossible that some act be given existence and right reason be present as its guide, without this conformity to right reason being also present in the act as a necessary consequence of the nature of the two related terms [i.e., the nature of the act and what right reason dictates of it], for a relation which is a necessary consequence of its terms has no cause of its own other than the cause of its terms.(15)
Scotus does not spell out clearly just how right reason comes to its conclusions. But he gives some examples. Bigamy is sometimes morally good. We can work this out by bearing in mind a number of good moral principles: (a) that it is good that there be a large number of people to worship God; (b) that the primary end of marriage is procreation; (c) that male and female bodies are of equal value, and thus that it is good for them to be shared on a one-to-one basis; (d) that a secondary end of marriage is the avoidance of fornication. These principles are ones which, according to Scotus, we can discern by considerations of appropriateness and harmony. In Scotus' bigamy example, there is a conflict of interests between these principles. But our reason--by discerning appropriateness and suitability--can arrange these principles in an order of importance (I have given the principles in the order which Scotus clearly presupposes). If (c)--the principle against bigamy--can only be preserved at the expense of (a)--the principle requiring a large number of people to worship God--then it would be good for (c) to be abandoned until such time as there is a large number of people to worship God. And this situation held in the time of the Old Testament Patriarchs. The abandonment of (c) entails the abandonment of (d). But it does not entail the abandonment of (b). Thus the primary end of marriage is still preserved.(16)
Thus far, I have deliberately ignored the role that divine commands might play in the ethical theory that I am beginning to sketch. In a recent article, Thomas Shannon has used Scotus' account of bigamy to argue that there are proportionalist elements in Scotus' ethical teaching.(17) As Ansgar Santogrossi rightly points out in his reply to Shannon,(18) however, Shannon has missed the point that a divine command to perform or refrain from some action can make a vital difference to the moral goodness or badness of the action: it is one of the elements that is taken into account by the intellect when determining whether or not some action is morally good. Thus, the moral goodness of some actions might be dependent on a divine command: and thus ultimately on the divine will. This is absolutely correct. But it does not entail very much. For example, it does not entail that all moral goodness is dependent on divine command; and, importantly, it does not entail that every action performed in accordance with a divine command will be morally good. In order to show that every action performed in accordance with a divine command is morally good, we would need to show that a divine command is a sufficient condition for the moral goodness of any action.
According to Scotus, there are indeed some actions the moral goodness of which is wholly dependent on a divine command. Scotus clearly holds that some actions which would otherwise be morally neutral become good or bad just because God has commanded them. For example, Eve's eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge was a morally bad action just because God had proscribed it.(19) Confessing one's sins to a priest is also like this: morally good just because God has commanded it.(20) I will show in section three below, however, that Scotus clearly holds that the goodness of some otherwise morally bad actions is not altered by any putative divine command to perform those actions; and in section four I will discuss whether according to Scotus there is any sense in which God could issue a command to perform some such morally bad action. Before discussing either of these rather thorny issues, we need to get clear on another aspect of the moral status of human actions in Scotus' theory: their justice. By getting clear on Scotus' account of justice, we will be in a position to see that Scotus' account of moral goodness and divine goodness does not entail a duty model of divine action. And this is the first of the four conclusions I wish to draw concerning Scotus' account of what God can do.
II. JUSTICE AND OBLIGATION
Is God's goodness best construed along the lines of a duty model? To begin with, a definition of `justice':
Justice properly speaking represents a habitual state of rectitude of will, and hence it inclines one in a quasi-natural manner to another or to oneself as quasi-other.(21)
As Scotus goes on to make clear, to claim that justice is quasinatural is to claim that it is rigidly binding on the will, it inclines the will deterministically to a certain action or goal.(22) In so far as this justice is in God, he will necessarily act in accordance with such justice; in fact, he will be necessarily bound by such justice.
Scotus argues that God is indeed just in this sense. God's nature is just in such a way that God cannot act against his nature. Scotus makes the point rather oddly, in terms of God's having certain duties to himself: There is no justice in the divine will except that which inclines him to render his own goodness what is its due.(23)
Scotus elsewhere calls this kind of justice `legal justice'. He argues that legal justice is in God just if it is the case that there is some law which is `antecedent to any decision of [God's] will'.(24) Scotus claims that there is such a law: `God should be loved'.(25) This law binds God prior to any decision of the divine will. We discover the reason for this in Scotus' discussion of law. Scotus defines `natural law' as follows:
What pertain to the law of nature are either practical principles known immediately from their terms or necessary conclusions which follow from such principles. In either case they possess necessary truth.(26)
In other words, a proposition of natural law will be necessarily true. Now, Scotus holds that the following proposition is necessarily true: `If God exists, he alone should be loved as God'.(27) Other principles which follow deductively from this one are also necessarily true: for example, Scotus holds that `no irreverence should be shown to God' follows deductively from `God alone should be loved as God', and thus that `no irreverence should be shown to God' is necessarily binding.(28) From this, Scotus thinks that it would be impossible for God ever to command a creature to hate him. Furthermore, God is bound by duties expressed in necessarily true propositions; and, since he is both good and omniscient, it would be impossible for him to hate himself.
This law exists prior to any decision of the divine will, and is binding on that will. The law is not, however, anything external to God. Rather, it simply follows from God's nature as the kind of thing he is. In this sense, the law is simply the expression of an internal constraint in God, preventing him from acting in certain ways. By this, I mean that the law--which follows from God's nature--makes it the case that it is a duty not to hate God, such that this duty is unalterable even by God. Presumably, Scotus would hold that God's goodness is such that it entails that God cannot fail but conform to this duty. This law has certain external results: for example, God will have a duty not to tell us not to conform to the duty of not hating him; and, as perfectly good, God will necessarily conform to his duty in this matter. This is a matter of logical necessity. For Scotus the proposition that God should be hated would be nonsensical and contradictory.
What is important about all of these cases is that God, or God's essence, is in some sense the object of all these actions. Let us label this group of actions `[actions.sub.1]'. We can offer a definition of `[action.sub.1]':
`[Action.sub.1]'= [sub.df] `A divine action which either has God as its object, or which has a creature as its object such that the action entails that the creature acts or should act in such a way that God is the object of the creature's action'.
The discussion thus far should make it clear that God does not have libertarian freedom with respect to any [action.sub.1]--except, of course, any [action.sub.1] which is morally indifferent.(29)
There is one further type of divine action which would count as an [action.sub.1], and that is God's telling the truth. Scotus holds that, as a result of God's goodness, God cannot lie.(30) Scotus discusses this in the context of an account of the sinfulness of perjury. When we swear, we claim God as a witness to the truth of what we swear. Perjury consists in swearing to something which we know to be untrue. In this case, we would be claiming God as a witness to what we know to be untrue. And this, Scotus argues, is an act of irreverence shown to God, the wrongness of which can be deduced from necessarily true principles of natural law: the act of perjury `is immediately opposed to that commandment of the first table [of the decalogue] "You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain"'.(31) The problem, for Scotus, is that God is entirely truthful; the irreverence consists in the claim that God is not so, which claim is implied by the perjury. Presumably, then, Scotus would argue that if God were to lie he would be showing some irreverence towards himself: and this not even God can do. I take it that if God cannot lie, then he cannot break his promises either. There is not, of course, a similar problem with our lying: with regard to justice, there is all the difference in the world, for Scotus, between a human person's lying and them committing perjury.
Scotus importantly, and puzzlingly, claims that there are no ethical precepts concerning creatures which are like this. We can put this fairly clearly by distinguishing another class of divine actions, which we can label `[actions.sub.2]'. An [action.sub.2] is any possible divine action which is not an [action.sub.1]:
`[Action.sub.2]' = [sub.df] `A divine action which neither has God as its object, nor which has a creature as its object such that the action entails that the creature acts or should act in such a way that God is the object of the creature's action'.
(Scotus' label for [action.sub.2] is `secondary act'.)(32) Scotus' claim is that natural law does not extend to any [action.sub.2]. The reason for this is that all the principles of natural law, according to Scotus, are either necessarily true propositions or deducible from necessarily true propositions. The relevant type of proposition here is a proposition concerning what ought to be done. But Scotus holds that there are no such propositions concerning [actions.sub.2] which are necessarily true. Therefore there can be no precepts concerning [actions.sub.2] which are necessarily binding: i.e., which are part of natural law. The basic reason is that, if there were any such propositions which were necessarily true, then they would bind God. But for two reasons Scotus does not think that God can be so bound: (a) God has libertarian freedom with regard to all of his [actions.sub.2]; (b) equality is required for duties to hold between persons; but the required equality does not obtain between God and creatures.
The first of these two is the `dubious premise' to which I referred in my introduction. Scotus' arguments here are essential for his position, and I will discuss them in some detail.
1. Briefly, Scotus seems to hold that if precepts regarding creatures are morally obligatory, then it will be the case that the nature of God and the nature of the creature will jointly entail that God acts in some specified way. But in this case, the nature of a creature is something like a partial cause of God's activity. And if this is true, God cannot be free in a libertarian sense with regard to at least some of his [actions.sub.2]--viz., all his good [actions.sub.2]--whose objects are actually existent creatures. And Scotus regards this as false. Put briefly, Scotus' argument is: (R) 1. God's will is free in a libertarian sense with regard to all [actions.sub.2].
2. Therefore there are no obligations prior to the divine will concerning God's [actions.sub.2].(33)
According to Scotus there are natures, known by the divine intellect, which are prior to the divine will. These natures are all possible natures. The divine will decides which of these natures to actualize. But a possible nature does not have any features which would entail that God has some duties towards the nature: God is not required to act in a specific way towards any instantiations of a possible nature. Thus, as Scotus puts it, God does not have practical knowledge of his creatures: he does not derive knowledge of how he ought to act from his creatures.(34) And the reason for this is that, if there were any features of the possible nature which entailed that God was required to act in some specific way towards any instantiations of the nature, God would fail to have libertarian freedom with regard to all his [actions.sub.2].
Furthermore, there can be no further necessitating causes for the action of the divine will (e.g. the divine nature), since on Scotus' account the divine nature could never limit God's action without reference to the nature of creatures: and thus (R) could be used indefinitely to disprove that the divine nature could ever limit the types of [action.sub.2] that God could do. This does not, of course, affect the obligation to love God: which obligation does not involve any consideration of the natures of creatures. Hence, God has a duty, in virtue of his own nature, to love himself. But he has no such duties with regard to his creatures.
2. The second type of argument is based on an account of justice which has its origins in Aristotle, though the way in which Scotus works out his own account will be rather unexpected to those of us who are more familiar with Aristotelian and Thomist accounts. In book five of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes justice into two types: general or legal justice,(35) and particular justice.(36) The former consists in the set of laws which preserve the common good, the latter in the good of the individual member of a community. Aristotle divides particular justice up into two further types: distributive justice,(37) and corrective justice.(38) Distributive justice has to do with the sharing out of a community's goods between its members, such that the share a person receives is proportional to the intrinsic worth of that person. Corrective justice has to do with the righting of wrongs perpetrated against one individual by another. In this case, the persons are treated as equals, and the sole concern is that the injured party receives back in equal measure what has been lost. Aquinas labels this type of justice `commutative justice', and offers the following summary of the differences between distributive and commutative justice:
The mean in distributive justice is not taken according to an equality between thing and thing, but according to a proportion between things and persons, in such a way that, just as one person exceeds another, so also the thing which is given to one person exceeds the thing given to the other.... In exchanges between persons [commutationibus] something is returned to some person because of something of his that has been received...and thus it is necessary that thing should be equal to thing, such that a person should return to its owner as much as he gains from that which belongs to someone else.(39)
Scotus applies these distinctions to his account of God's [actions.sub.2]. Commutative justice, on Scotus' account, holds only when there is some actual equality in status between the two parties (i.e. the two persons) concerned. Hence, since God and creatures are unequal, there can be no commutative justice between God and his creatures.(40) I am not sure why Scotus should think this. Aristotle seems to presuppose that there must be a fair degree of equality between the parties for any type of justice to hold. This is presumably why Aristotle thinks that there can be neither justice nor injustice in a master's treatment of his slave(41) (an example which Scotus twice uses as an analogy for the inequality between God and his creatures).(42) Scotus, as we shall see, allows that distributive justice can hold between unequals, while, oddly, denying that commutative justice can. But I think we can see what Scotus is getting at: because of the radical difference in ontological status between God and creatures, it is difficult to see how God could ever owe his creatures anything. Anything which he gives to creatures will be beyond what they deserve. Since this is the case, we cannot speak of God having a duty to act in any specified way towards his creatures.
In terms of commutative justice, Scotus argues that the only justice in God can be with respect to himself, since God is equal to none other than himself.(43) On this account, there will not be much difference between commutative justice and the legal justice mentioned above (i.e. Aristotle's general justice). Commutative justice only holds for God when legal justice does as well, i.e. commutative justice holds for God only when there is some law which binds God.
Clearly, if God has no duties with regard to his [actions.sub.2], all of his [actions.sub.2] will be supererogatory. Nevertheless, Scotus is prepared to argue that, even though God does not have a duty to bring about some specific type of [action.sub.2], we can still speak of God's [actions.sub.2] being just in a rather more limited sense. Scotus argues, as I have suggested, that the only precepts of natural law are those corresponding to necessarily true propositions, or to propositions which can be deduced from necessarily true propositions. Nevertheless, Scotus offers an extended sense of `natural law' which includes more than just these propositions:
Something may be said in an extended sense to belong to the law of nature it it is a practical truth that is in harmony with the principles and conclusions of the law of nature, in so far as it is immediately recognized by all to be in accordance with such a law.(44)
The other way in which things belong to the law of nature is because they are exceedingly in harmony with that law, even though they do not follow necessarily from those first practical principles known from their terms, principles which are necessarily grasped by any intellect understanding those terms. Now it is certain that all the precepts of the second table [of the decalogue: viz., commandments four to ten] also belong to the natural law in this way, since their rightness is very much in harmony with the first practical principles that are known of necessity.(45)
I will label this second type of principle `[principle.sub.2]', and the first type of principle `[principle.sub.1]'. We can spot that [principles.sub.2] fit in harmoniously with [principles.sub.1]. But a [principle.sub.2] is not `known of necessity', i.e. in this context, it is not necessarily true, or analytic.(46)
Scotus also argues that God can act in accordance with [principles.sub.2]. God's acting in accordance with [principles.sub.2] does not mean that he is acting justly in the sense of `justice' outlined in section two of this essay. Let us label this type of justice `[justice.sub.1]'. But when God acts in accordance with [principles.sub.2], his actions exhibit a certain type of justice: let us call it `[justice.sub.2]'. God exhibits [justice.sub.2] if he `makes one created thing correspond to another... because this created nature demands something suited to it'.(47)
As noted above, Scotus expressly claims that [justice.sub.2], unlike [justice.sub.1], is not part of the divine nature.(48) God can act in accordance with [justice.sub.2]--he can exhibit [justice.sub.2] in his [actions.sub.2]--but there is nothing about his nature which means that he necessarily does exhibit [justice.sub.2]. Nevertheless, Scotus claims that there is some feature of God's nature which entails that God has a certain inclination or tendency to act in accordance with [justice.sub.2]. The feature is [justice.sub.1), or something closely related to it. [Justice.sub.1] (or something closely related to it) does not incline God deterministically to act in accordance with [justice.sub.2]. But Scotus clearly thinks that God has a tendency to act in accordance with [justice.sub.2]. With reference to [justice.sub.1], Scotus claims:
It could be said that this single justice, which determinately inclines the divine will only to its first act [viz., loving God], modifies each of these secondary acts, though not in a necessary manner, as though it could not also modify the opposite of each.(49)
[Justice.sub.1] is the legal justice which I discussed above. Scotus sometimes calls [justice.sub.2] `distributive justice'. On Scotus' account, distributive justice can exist between parties which are not strictly equal, and it respects the essential perfections and natures of things. Scotus claims that distributive justice `could be present in God in an unqualified sense, because he could give natures their perfections according to their degree of excellence'.(50) Thus, Scotus allows that God can (but does not have to) exhibit [justice.sub.2]. Distributive justice is thus not in any sense binding on God. Again, the reason for this seems to be a presupposition on Scotus' part that for justice--any kind of justice--to be binding, the two parties must be equal.(51)
Scotus is not totally clear on the way in which [justice.sub.1] inclines the divine will with regard to actions in accordance with [justice.sub.2]. He states:
This act [viz., some [action.sub.2]] is modified by that first justice, because the act is in harmony with the will to which it is conformed as if the rectitude inclining it in this way were the first justice itself.(52)
This passage seems to imply that [actions.sub.2] exhibiting [justice.sub.2] are in harmony with the kind of thing the divine will is: and it is for this reason that we can talk of these actions as if they were the result of an inclination for which [justice.sub.1] is responsible. It is of course difficult to see how in fact [justice.sub.1] could affect God's [actions.sub.2] at all: by definition, [justice.sub.1] relates to [actions.sub.1]. But I think we can let this pass: the claim that [justice.sub.1] inclines God to act with [justice.sub.2] can be understood to entail a fairly loose connection between [justice.sub.1] and [justice.sub.2]. I doubt that it makes much difference to Scotus' account exactly what the mechanics of the influence of [justice.sub.1] on the divine will actually are.
Elsewhere, Scotus talks of God's generosity as acting as a non-determining influence on God's actions. Although God does not owe it to his nature to act well, there is a sense in which God can `owe' it to creatures, in virtue of his generosity, to act well:
God is no debtor in any unqualified sense save with respect to his own goodness, namely that he love it. But where creatures are concerned, he is debtor rather because of his generosity, in the sense that he gives creatures what their nature requires, which exigency in them is set down as something just, a kind of secondary object of this justice, as it were.(53)
Prima facie, this passage could provide evidence that Scotus would support something like the position espoused by Morris. But, as I shall make clear below, the premise of (R), and some claims which I shall make in the next section, will entail that Scotus rejects the position taken by Morris. That Scotus rejects the position taken by Morris will constitute the second of the four conclusions which I wish to draw in this paper.
In the passage quoted, then, the claim is not that God is not essentially generous, but that the term `debtor' is being used metaphorically. Thus, the claim that God is a debtor in virtue of his generosity does not mean that God fails to have libertarian freedom with regard to [actions.sub.2]. As the discussion in this section has made clear, God is not in any sense bound to `give his creatures what their nature requires'. He does not have a duty to exhibit [justice.sub.2] in his [actions.sub.2]. One divine [action.sub.2] is the issuing of commands to human beings to perform or refrain from various types of inter-creaturely action. In the next section, I will argue for the claim that there are some morally bad actions whose moral status qua good or bad is not altered by any putative divine command to perform those actions: though, as I hope to show in section four, the moral status qua just or unjust of these actions is indeed altered by a divine command to perform the action. (The way in which Scotus might distinguish between `good' and `just' will I hope become apparent.) I will also argue in section four that it is indeed possible for God to command such actions: and thus that it is not necessarily the case that all God's [actions.sub.2] exhibit [justice.sub.2].
III. MORALLY BAD ACTIONS AND (PUTATIVE) DIVINE COMMANDS
In this section, I hope to show that a divine command to perform some action is not in every case a sufficient condition for the moral goodness of that action. I will discuss three types of action, considered by Scotus--murder, lying, and adultery--which according to Scotus would fail to count as morally good even if those types of action were commanded by God. Before discussing these examples, I will look at different discussions Scotus gives of the moral goodness of actions falling under the commands of the decalogue. In one very important passage, Scotus argues as follows:
All sins which concern the decalogue are not only formally bad because they are prohibited, but also are prohibited because they are bad [mala], since the opposite of each [precept] is bad by natural law, and a human being can see by natural reason that each of the commands is to be observed.(54)
This passage is clearly about both tables of the decalogue; and looks as though Scotus is claiming that the goodness of the actions commanded holds independently of God's command to perform them: indeed, the goodness of the actions is being offered as a reason why God commands them. Nevertheless, the passage does not claim explicitly that a divine command is in every case a sufficient reason of the goodness of an action. I will indicate in a moment why I do not think that Scotus held that a divine command is in every case a sufficient reason for the goodness of an action. Taken in conjunction with the claims that God could command the opposite with regard at least to some of the commandments (i.e. the second table), and that God's issuing such a commandment would not in every case be a sufficient reason for the goodness of an action, this passage looks as though it makes the point that God could act contrary to right reason. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Scotus elsewhere argues against the position that the commands of the second table of the decalogue are good independent of any divine command. The position against which Scotus argues seems to be the same as that which in the passage quoted above he accepts:
For all the things that are commanded [in the decalogue] have a formal goodness whereby they are essentially ordered to man's ultimate end, so that through them man is directed towards his end. Similarly all the things prohibited there have a formal evil which turns one from the ultimate end. Hence, those things which are commanded are good not merely because they are commanded, but commanded because they are good. Likewise, what is prohibited there is not evil merely because it is prohibited, but forbidden because it is evil.(55)
He refutes this position by discussing the obligation not to kill. Scotus asks the following question:
Granted that all the circumstances are the same in regard to this act of killing a man except in the circumstances of its being prohibited in one case and not prohibited in another, could God cause that ace which is circumstantially the same, but performed by different individuals, to be prohibited and illicit in one case and not prohibited but licit in the other?(56)
The answer is Yes; and Scotus gives God's command to sacrifice Isaac as his example. In this case, Scotus reasons, if God were to revoke the obligation not to murder, murder would become licit.(57) Now, granted that this position is taken as a way of refuting the view that actions commanded in the second table of the decalogue are good prior to any divine command, the passage looks as though Scotus is claiming that a divine command is sufficient to make the action good. This would rob the claim made in the first passage quoted in this section--viz., that the commands of the decalogue are commanded because they are good--of any explanatory force. Indeed one way of reconciling these two seemingly opposed passages would be to claim that the earlier passage is (contingently) true but lacks any explanatory force. God could issue commands corresponding to ethical claims which, abstracting from any putative divine commands, would still be good; or he could, if he chose, issue commands corresponding to ethical claims which would, were it not for the divine command, be bad. Thus, a divine command would be a sufficient, but not a necessary, condition for moral goodness.
But there is another way of reconciling the two passages, which is confirmed by other ethical claims which Scotus makes, and which also conforms to a distinction which, I shall argue, can be clearly found in Scotus' ethics. If we look at the refutation of the claim that the precepts of the decalogue are commanded because they are good, one or two odd features emerge. The first is that Scotus' reply does not explicitly claim that a divine command would make the action good; Scotus simply claims that it is sufficient to make the action licit. And I think that Scotus fairly consistently makes a distinction between what is good and what is licit or just, as we shall see. Secondly, the reason given for the (rejected) claim that the precepts of the decalogue are commanded because they are good is that they all pertain necessarily to the attainment of a human being's ultimate end--viz., loving God. In this case, all of the commandments would be good in just the same way as Scotus holds the commandments of the first table of the decalogue to be good: i.e. such that God himself is obliged not to dispense from them. And Scotus clearly does not think that the commandments of the second table are good in this sense. He elsewhere makes it clear that he does not regard observing the commandments of the second table as necessary for a human being to achieve his or her ultimate goal.(58) But Scotus, in the very first passage in this section, is perhaps using `good' in a slightly different sense, meaning the same thing as `exhibit [justice.sub.2]',(59) or, `be in accordance with a [principle.sub.2'. The first passage would thus mean that the precepts of the second table are commanded just because they are in accordance with [justice.sub.2]. And this use of `good', I would suggest, is in fact Scotus' standard usage of the term. This claim can be tested in the discussions of practical cases which follow. At any rate, our two passages would thus be perfectly reconciled by the acknowledgement that `good' is being used equivocally. In this case, God's command to Abraham was in fact not sufficient to make Abraham's action good (in the sense of `exhibit [justice.sub.2]'). And, as I shall show, the same is true for some other moral claims as well.
Thus, I take it that we here have prima facie evidence that, at least in some passages, Scotus holds that a divine command to perform some action is not sufficient to make that action good (in the sense of `exhibit [justice.sub.2]'). This evidence can be strengthened somewhat if we examine two further passages which more or less clearly argue that a divine command is not sufficient to make an action good. Let me start with what appears to me to be the clearest discussion: that of lying. Scotus holds that lies, or at least lies involving an intention to deceive, are morally bad:
To lie by its very nature implies an intention which is bad, because it is an intention to deceive, and although some acts which do not include a bad intention could be good by reason of some good circumstance, nevertheless an act that includes a bad intention could never be good [bonus], because it formally includes bad will; and so it is in the present case.(60)
This is the third of three alternative accounts Scotus gives as to the sinfulness of lying.(61) The first two accounts are provided with refutations; the third one is not. Hence, as Wolter puts it, `since he explains rather than criticizes this third view, Scotus seems to credit it with probability and adopt it as his own'.(62) Lying with an intention to deceive, then, is always morally bad. No further added circumstance could make lying good. A fortiori, then, a divine command to lie could not make the action morally good if the action still involved an intention to deceive. The moral, or at least legal, status of the action would not, however, remain entirely unchanged. If a divine command could not make the action good, it would nevertheless make it licit:
It could become licit to speak what is false if the precept of not deceiving one's neighbour were revoked.(63)
It is important to bear in mind that the context of this last quotation makes it quite clear that this is an instance in which the legal status of an action is changed without any other feature of the action (for example, its status as morally good or bad) being changed.(64) Scotus makes it quite clear that the act would still be a result of an intention to deceive. Scotus' claim is that an act issuing from an intention to deceive could be made licit by God: and, as noted, Scotus thinks that under no circumstances could an act issuing from an intention to deceive be good.
This discussion would be completely in line with the claim, which we have seen Scotus makes on some occasions, that the precepts of the second table of the decalogue are commanded because they are good: and it would make it quite clear that a divine command is not itself necessarily sufficient to bring about the moral goodness of some action. I have another example, which seems to me to be more ambiguous: Scotus' discussion of adultery. It is possible that Scotus holds that the moral status qua good or bad of adultery is also left unaffected by any putative divine command:
It does not seem that the sort of combinations signified by such names [as `theft' or `adultery'] could possibly be good.(65)
Adultery is here grouped with theft. But there is a significant difference between the two cases. `Theft' is defined as `not just the taking of this thing, but the illegal appropriation of what belongs to another against his will or that of any higher owner'.(66) Since God is the highest owner of everything that exists, a divine command to take something that belongs to someone else would presumably be sufficient to make the action good. And at any rate, the divine command would be sufficient to exclude the action from the category of theft as defined by Scotus. Adultery does not seem to be quite the same as this. Scotus defines it as `not just the natural act of copulation, but also the impropriety that it is not done with one's spouse'.(67) On Scotus' account no action thus described could be good. Now, adultery is not defined so as to entail that acts of copulation with someone else's spouse fail to count as adultery if they are commanded by God. And, since any action that is correctly described as adultery is morally bad, I think we can infer that a divine command would not be sufficient to render an otherwise morally bad action morally good.
I have arranged my two examples in an order of increasing dubiousness: I am fairly sure of the lying case, but a little less sure about the adultery example. I am less sure still of the initial example of murder, since as noted the context makes interpretation difficult. So I will stick with the case of lying, which Scotus does seem to regard as something like an instance of what later ethicists will call an `intrinsically evil act'. Granted this, if it were possible for God to issue a command to lie, what would it enable us to conclude about the goodness or justice of God's action? Clearly, since God has no duties with regard to any of his [actions.sub.2], and since issuing a command to lie is plainly an [action.sub.2], God in issuing a command to lie is not failing in any of his duties. So we could not say that he was acting morally badly. But I think that we could make the slightly weaker claim that God would be failing to act in accordance with right reason. After all, since we are obliged to obey God, a direct result of a divine command to lie would be an obligation on our part to act in a way which is morally bad. And it seems to me that imposing such an obligation would certainly count as a morally bad action for any moral agent.
We can tighten up the account with one further clarification. Under the circumstances outlined, I have argued that a divine command to lie would be a command to perform a morally bad action. Where does human right reason fit in with this? In other words, if we were to obey the putative divine command, would we be acting in accordance with right reason? Scotus does not discuss this. If my original characterization of right reason as a sufficient condition for moral goodness is correct, then it would seem that, if we were to obey God, we would be failing to act in accordance with right reason so understood. In this sense, we would be obliged not to act in accordance with right reason. On the other hand, if right reason is understood differently, as about what we ought to do (rather than what it is morally good to do), then of course, since we ought to obey God, lying would be in accordance with right reason if God were to command us to lie. The problem only arises, of course, since Scotus does not hold that a divine command is necessarily sufficient to make an action good. In the next section, I will discuss the way in which divine commands do make some ethical difference to the action.
IV. WHAT GOD DOES: AND WHAT HE CAN DO
In point of fact, according to Scotus, God always acts in accordance with right reason. The main text is one cited by Wolter:
Whatever God has made, you know that he has made it with right reason.(68)
Acting `with right reason' is consistently defined by Scotus as acting in accordance with the reason's discernment of the objective values which exist in things.(69) Furthermore, Scotus' odd claim that the divine will acts towards creatures as if it were inclined by [justice.sub.1] is just another way of claiming that God's [actions.sub.2] respect the intrinsic values of things: thus, his [actions.sub.2] exhibit [justice.sub.2]:
God is said to be just to a creature in a second way, from the way he makes one created thing correspond to another, ...because this created nature requires something suited to it.(70)
And this amounts to much the same claim as the claim that God acts in accordance with right reason.
The question I now wish to address is this: is it necessarily the case that God acts with right reason? I am going to argue that the premise of (R), when coupled with the claims made in section three above, will entail a negative response to this question. In a number of places, Scotus makes it clear that God has libertarian freedom with regard to all his [actions.sub.2]. For example:
[God's] will tends to nothing other than himself except contingently.(71) There is nothing in the divine will that inclines it specifically to any secondary object in such a way that it would be impossible for it justly to incline towards its opposite. For without contradiction the will could will the opposite.(72)
The kind of possibility involved here is clearly (broadly) logical possibility: it is logically possible for a being with all those attributes which God possesses to bring about any [action.sub.2].
The premise of (R) can be used to pick out the difference between Scotus' position and that defended by Morris. Morris argues that God necessarily acts in a way which is in accordance with duties which bind us. Thus, Morris denies that God has libertarian freedom with regard to these actions, and he therefore would not accept the premise of (R).(73) Scotus, however, thinks that God has libertarian freedom with regard to all his [actions.sub.2]. I am not sure whether or not this claim alone would warrant an inference to the claim that it is possible for God to fail to act in accordance with right reason, but I am sure that we can draw this inference if we couple it with the claim that one possible divine [action.sub.2] is the issuing of a command to perform some morally bad action, the moral badness of which is not altered simply in virtue of the divine command. For in this case God would be issuing a command to perform some action which his right reason could discern to be morally bad for his creatures to perform.
Scotus' position on divine libertarian freedom with regard to all [actions.sub.2] does seem to involve just this claim. Thus, God can elicit any [action.sub.2]; and some [actions.sub.2] are actions which are not in accordance with right reason. In case there is any doubt that God could command some morally bad action, we should note that Scotus draws our attention to God's commandment to Abraham to kill Isaac, and notes that the prohibition on lying could similarly be revoked-and lying is one of those actions which would not be made morally good even by a divine command, as I argued in the previous section.(74) That some action would fail to be in accordance with right reason does not in every case prevent God from eliciting that action. Thus, the big difference between Morris's position and Scotus' position is that the former entails that God necessarily act in accordance with moral goodness, while the latter does not. And this is the second conclusion which I hope to establish in this paper.
We might wonder why Scotus should hold that God has libertarian freedom with regard to all his [actions.sub.2]. Since the duty model of divine goodness, as I showed above, can be rejected without a commitment to the premise of (R), and since the premise of (R) when coupled with some other Scotist claims entails further conclusions beyond the mere rejection of a duty model of divine goodness, Scotus' commitment to this premise is not intended merely to entail a rejection of the duty model of divine goodness. In fact, Scotus' commitment to the premise of (R) is probably a result of Scotus' desire to see all divine [actions.sub.2] as good in virtue of their generosity: what God gives us is always freely and generously given. I do not want to explore this feature of Scotus' account in any detail here,(75) because I am interested in what Scotus' commitment to the premise of (R) might itself entail, irrespective of Scotus' motivations for accepting the premise of (R) in the first place. Nevertheless, Scotus' motivation for accepting this premise enables us to see why his position does not entail that God is not essentially good: the third of the four conclusions which I hope to draw in this paper. Scotus could argue that any kind of moral goodness-not, for example, just that entailed by a duty model-presupposes that the agent has libertarian freedom. Thus, God is essentially good only if he has libertarian freedom. Scotus could add that considerations of divine generosity mean that God never does fail to act in accordance with right reason. Scotus could give an account of goodness which could allow that some agent is essentially good only if (a) it has libertarian freedom, and (b) as a matter of contingent fact it never acts badly. We might want to add more about divine goodness, but a commitment to these two claims would mark the weakest possible account that could be given of an (essentially?) morally good agent. God satisfies (b), since he never fails in his obligations with regard to [actions.sub.1]. On this account of goodness, it is not necessary for an agent to count as (essentially) good for it to satisfy anything like the following condition: an agent is essentially good only if it never acts in a way which would be bad for a moral agent in its relevant circumstances. Hence, in order to count as essentially good, it is not necessary that God act in accordance with [justice.sub.2], or in accordance with right reason.
Scotus has a further way of spelling out his account of divine goodness. (c) Basically, he argues that whatever God does is just. To claim that God could act unjustly would be incongruous:
Without contradiction the divine will could will the opposite [with regard to any secondary object], and thus it could justly will such; otherwise it could will something by its absolute power and not do so justly, which seems incongruous.(76)
Although Scotus does not spell this out, he must be committed to the further claim that God has the just power to set up laws which place us under obligations, such that any law which God sets up will be automatically just. As he puts it,
Whenever the law and its rectitude are in the power of the agent, so that the law is right [recta] only because it has been established, then the agent can freely order things otherwise than the right law [which he has established] dictates and can still act in an orderly manner, because he can establish another right or just law according to which he may act in an orderly manner ....
Hence I say that many things can be done in an orderly manner; and many things that do not include a contradiction other than those that conform to present laws can occur in an ordained way when the rectitude of such a law--according to which one acts rightly and in an orderly manner--lies in the power of the agent himself. And therefore such an agent can act otherwise, so that he establishes another upright law, which, if it were set up by God, would be right, because no law is right except in so far as the divine will accepts it as established.(77)
This claim would seem to warrant the further claim that any action which a human being elicits will be just if it is in accordance with some divine command. Thus, a divine command to perform an action will entail that the action is just: even if the action will be morally bad even granted the divine command. It is in this sense that a divine command has a necessary effect on the moral status of an action elicited in accordance with it.
The sense of `just' here is clearly not that related to [justice.sub.2]. God can justly command that we perform some action even if that action is morally bad. By doing so, I take it that God would be failing to exhibit justice2. `Just' and its cognates are being used here merely as a kind of general description of any action commanded or deemed licit by God. The same is true of the term `right' and its cognates. Whatever God decides can be given the labels `right' and `just'. (Above, I discussed some passages in which Scotus makes much the same points with regard to the description of some action as `licit'.)
V. CAN WE KNOW WHAT WE SHOULD DO?
These claims might well seem to be fairly destructive of our ability to reason ethically. But the way in which Scotus works them out means that they are not so. Rather like Morris, Scotus thinks that although there are no duties which bind God with regard to any [action.sub.2], we can nevertheless claim that God does in fact act in accordance with rules which we could infer from observation of the absolute moral values in actions. This means, first, that we can know the content of the moral law which God in fact wills without any reference to divine commands. But it also means, secondly, that we cannot know, simply by natural reason (without reference to any divine revelation or illumination), that God wills the moral law which he in fact wills. And this is the fourth conclusion which I hope to draw.
I will discuss the second point first. That God has chosen to act in accordance with right reason is, on Scotus' account, a contingent matter. Hence, we cannot know it in the same way as we might know the necessary truth that God should be loved. In fact, we cannot know from empirical data, either, that God has decided to act in accordance with right reason. With reference to the second table of the decalogue, Scotus claims that the precepts were binding even before the fall of Adam, and notes:
All were bound by these precepts,which were either prescribed interiorly in the heart of everyone or perhaps passed down from parents to their children by some teaching given exteriorly by God.(78)
Even when human beings had all of their faculties unimpaired, the precepts of the second table of the decalogue had to be revealed by God in some sense or another in order to be binding.
Allan Wolter argues against the following claim, made by Quinton with reference to Scotus: `Things are good because God wills them and not vice versa, so moral truth is not accessible to natural reason'.(79) If I am right, Quinton's claim is nearly correct, and incorrect only on a point of detail. The detail is that the moral goodness or badness of at least some actions is accessible to human reason--since the moral goodness or badness of some actions (e.g. lying) is known independently of any divine command. Thus at least some good behaviour is accessible to reason, but very few obligations follow from truths about the moral goodness or badness of any action. Just or right behaviour (in Scotus' sense of `just' or `right', i.e. to mean `obligatory/prescribed behaviour') is not in every case accessible to reason, since in at least some cases the justice of an action is not only independent of the goodness or badness of that action, but wholly dependent on a divine command. Apart from divine. revelation, we cannot know how we should behave, because apart from divine revelation we cannot know what decisions God has contingently come to with regard to how we should behave.
Thus, I would disagree with the claim (italicized by me in the following quotation) urged by Wolter:
Scotus maintains...that while the second table [of the decalogue] represents what is `valde consonans' with natural law, certain aspects of the second table of the decalogue can be dispensed with according to right reason, when their observation would entail more harm than good. But God could obviously not dispense from all its precepts at once, for this would be equivalent to creating man in one way and obligating him in an entirely different fashion, something contrary to what he `owes to human nature in virtue of his generosity'.(80)
In disagreeing with the italicized clause, I am effectively disagreeing with the claim that God cannot fail but act in accordance with right reason. Wolter holds that God cannot fail but act in accordance with right reason. For example, he claims `Even the sorts of dispensations Scotus sees God making ... are always in accordance with right reason'.(81) Central to Wolter's argument is the passage cited on p. 16 above, in which Scotus claims that God is a `debtor in virtue of his generosity' in his [actions.sub.2].(82) I have attempted to argue that it is not the case that Scotus is committed to God's necessarily acting in accordance with right reason, on the grounds that if this were the case, then Scotus would be committed to a claim the opposite of which is entailed by his insistence on God's failing to have practical knowledge of his creatures. I have further argued that there is no evidence at all in the texts to support the claim that God necessarily acts in accordance with right reason. Of course, as I pointed out above, this does not affect Scotus' claim, emphasized by Wolter, that Scotus' God is good in his dealings with his creatures in virtue of his generosity.
Let me return to the first point: that God has in fact decided to act in accordance with right reason. I am sure that Scotus thinks this to be the case and I have dealt with it in section four of this article. But I can find one passage which seems to offer a differing account. When I discussed the example of the command to sacrifice Isaac, above, I noted that this would perhaps be an instance of God commanding an action which he knows to be morally bad. Scotus claims that the precepts of the second table of the decalogue (including the command `thou shalt not kill') are `very much in harmony with the first natural precepts which are known of necessity';(83) and that they are necessarily morally good (in the sense outlined on pp. 19-20 above). The claim that God acts with right reason is thus confirmed by the following claim of Scotus: `in every state all these commandments [viz. the decalogue] have been observed and should be observed'.(84) Scotus goes on to claim that the Israelites' despoiling the Egyptians can be explained such that the act is morally good.(85) He makes, however, no such claim in the case of the command to sacrifice Isaac. Clearly, the command to kill was not in fact observed by Abraham. But it is le-ss clear how Scotus thinks that the command not to kill `should be observed', granted a divine command to kill.
Scotus holds that God is bound neither by external nor by internal constraints in his actions towards creatures. Scotus' basic argument for both these claims turns on his claim that God has libertarian freedom with regard to all his [actions.sub.2]. Granted this premise, Scotus' position is coherent and sensible. But the premiss entails a conclusion which is unacceptable, i.e. that God could act in a way which failed to be in accordance with right reason. Furthermore, there seems to be no compelling independent reason to accept the premise. It is certainly not required by Christian orthodoxy, and there do not seem to be any philosophically compelling reasons for accepting it either. For this reason, we should reject Scotus' account of God's contingent action and the ethical theory which it grounds.(86) (1) Thus, for example, Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism, revised edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 156; Thomas Morris and Christopher Menzel have, however, disputed this claim: see their `Absolute creation', American Philosophical Quarterly 23 (1986), 353-62.
(2) Though Scotus would disagree with this claim: see William A. Frank, `Duns Scotus on Autonomous Freedom and Divine Co-Causality', Medieval Philosophy and Theology 2 (1992), 142-64, and the texts discussed therein.
(3) Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism, pp. 184-209.
(4) Thomas v. Morris, `Duty and Divine Goodness', American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984), 261-68.
(5) Ibid., p. 261. (6) Ibid., p. 261.
(7) Ibid., pp. 265-66.
(8) Ibid., p. 267.
(9) Ibid., p. 266.
(10) I refer to the following works of Scoots: Lectura (= Lect.); Ordinatio (= Ord.); Reportata Parisiensia (= Rep.); Quodlibetal Questions (= Quod.). Most of the texts used can be found in Allan B. Wolter Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality (Washington, D.C: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986): hereafter W. This work contains both the Latin text and an English translation, on facing pages. When quoting in English from passages in this book, I shall give the page references for both the Latin pages and the English pages. On the whole, I quote in Wolter's translation: I have made a few changes which it does not seem necessary to note. Since W contains critical editions of questions which are not elsewhere edited, I shall, whenever quoting from a text which appears in W, give only an exact reference to W. Only when quoting passages which do not appear in W do I refer to other available editions. I have decided, nevertheless, to note the works from which Wolter has excerpted the relevant texts, so that the specialist reader can see at a glance that there is no evidence (on the basis of the texts which I quote) that Scotus' opinions underwent any significant alteration between the Lectura and the end of his life. (We might find evidence that Scotus' terminology is not always as rigid as we might like.)
(11) Quod. 18, in W, p. 210/211.
(12) Quod. 18, in W, pp. 212/213-214/215.
(13) See Ord. 1.17, in W, p. 206/207; Ord. 1.48, in W, p. 236/237; Ord. 2.40, in W, p. 226/227; Quod. 18, in W, pp. 214/215-216/217.
(14) Quod. 18, in W, pp. 210/211-212/213.
(15) Ord. 1.17, in W, p. 206/207; Wolter's Latin text should read, `Principaliter ergo conformitas actus ad rationem rectam--plene dictantem de circumstantiis omnibus debitis istius actus--est bonitas moralis actus.... Impossibile enim est aliquem actuary pond in esse et rationem rectam pond in esse, quin ex natura extremorum sequatur in actu talis conformitas ad rationem rectam; relatio autem consequens extrema necessario, non habet causam propriam aliam ab extremis': see Ord. 126.96.36.199-2, n. 63, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others (Vatican City: vatican Press, 1950-), V, 164. compare also: `The moral goodness of an act consists in its having all that the agent's right reason declares must pertain to the act or the agent in acting': Quod. 18, in W, p. 210/211. On the relationship between right reason and prudence according to Scotus, see Stephen S. Dumont, `The Necessary connection of Moral virtue to Prudence According to John Duns Scotus', Recherches de Theologie Ancienne et Medievale 55 (1988), 184-206; and w, pp. 87-88.
(16) Ord. 4.33.1, in W, pp. 290/291-292/293.
(17) Thomas Shannon, `Method in Ethics: A Scotistic Contribution', Theological Studies 54 (1993), 272-93.
(18) Ansgar Santogrossi, `Scotus's Method in Ethics: Not to Play God--a Reply to Thomas Shannon', Theological Studies 55 (1994), 314-29. For other accounts on the relationship between the divine will and ethics in Scotus' thought, see Marilyn McCord Adams, `Duns Scotus on the Goodness of God', Faith and Philosophy 4 (1987), 486-505; B. M. Bonansea, `The Divine Will and Its Bearing on the Moral Law and Man's Predestination', in Bonansea, Man and His Approach to God in John Duns Scotus (Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1983) 187-224; Etienne Gilson, Jean Duns Scot. Introduction a ses positions fondamentales Etudes de philosophic medievale, 42 (Paris: Vrin, 1952), 603-24; Robert Prentice, `The Contingent Element Governing the Natural Law on the Last Seven Precepts of the Decalogue according to Duns Scotus', Antonianum 42 (1967), 258-92. On Scotus' ethics in general see, in addition to the excellent introductions in W, Mary Elizabeth Ingham, Ethics and Freedom. An Historical-Critical Investigation of Scotist Ethical Thought (Lanham, Md; University Press of America, 1989).
(19) Lect. 2.21-22.1-2, n. 29, Opera Omnia, edited by c. Balic and others, XIX 206. I quote this passage, and a further related passage, in note 54 below.
(20) Ord. 4.17, in w, pp. 262/263-265/266.
(21) `Iustitia proprie <est> rectitwdo voluntatis habituatae, et per consequens, quasi naturaliter inclinans ad alterum vel ad se quasi ad alterum'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 246/247. (I use angle brackets to denote my (non-critical) alterations to scotus' Latin.)
(22) `Deterministically', since the context makes it clear that the relevant contrast is with something which would incline the will merely contingently (23) `Nullam iustitiam habet <divina voluntas> nisi ad reddendum bonitati suae illud quad condecet eam'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 246/247.
(24) `Prior determinatione voluntatis suae'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 240/241.
(25) Ord. 4.46, in W, pp. 240/241 and 252/253.
(26) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 270/271; see also Ord. 4.17, in W, p. 262/263.
(27) `Si est Deus, est amandus ut Deus solus'; Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 276/277. See also Ord. prol. 5.1-2, nn. 336-37, 339, 344, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, I, 219-21, 224-25. scotus has a clearly delineated account of logical possibility (see Lect. 1.39.1-5, nn. 49-50, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, XVII, 494); and I take it that scotus is relying on an account of logical necessity in both of the passages just quoted. Thus, we might claim that the proposition `If God exists, he alone should be loved as God' is analytically true. I shall use the term `necessary' in this strict sense throughout this article.
(28) See Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 276/277.
(29) See also Ord. prol. 5.1-2, nn. 329-31, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, I, 214-17.
(30) Ord. 3.39, in W, p. 504/505.
(31) Having discussed two different forms of perjury, scotus notes: `Utroque autem modo fit irreverentiam immediate Deo contra illud praeceptum primae tabulae: "Non accipies nomen Dei tui in vanum"'; Ord. 3.39, in W, p. 504/505.
(32) See for example Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 248/249. Scotus' label for [action.sub.1] is `first act'; see Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 246/247. The context here makes it clear that `first act' has this (somewhat eccentric) use in this question.
(33) Scotus has a rather unwieldy argument for this which, if we add in a couple of required steps omitted in Scotus' rather enthymematic way of arguing, runs as follows:
(P1) If there are obligations prior to the divine will concerning God's [actions.sub.2], then these obligations are infallibly knowable by the divine intellect.
(P2) If there are obligations concerning God's [actions.sub.2] infallibly knowable by the divine intellect, then either (a) necessarily the divine will wills these obligations; or (b) it is not the case that necessarily the divine will wills these obligations.
(P3) If ((P2)(a)), then the divine will is not free in a libertarian sense with regard to all [actions.sub.2].
(P4) God's will is free in a libertarian sense with regard to all [actions.sub.2]. (C1) Not ((P2)(a)) (from (P3) and (P4)).
(P5) If ((P2)(b)), then the divine will could will against the dictate of divine reason.
(P6) The dictate of divine reason is necessarily good.
(P7) What wills against the necessarily good dictate of reason wills unjustly.
(C2) If ((P2)(b)), then the divine will could will unjustly (from (P5), (P6), and (P7)). (P8) God's will cannot will unjustly.
(C3) Not ((P2)(b)) (from (C2) and (P8))
(C4) Therefore there are no obligations concerning God's [actions.sub.2] infallibly knowable by the divine intellect (from (P2), (C1), and (C3)).
(C5) Therefore there are no obligations prior to the divine will concerning God's [actions.sub.2] (from (P1) and (C4)).
(`Quidquid cognoscit <Deus> ante actuary voluntatis, necessario cognoscit et naturaliter, ita quad non sit ibi contingentia ad opposita. In Deo non est scientia practica, quia si ante actuary voluntatis intellectus apprehenderet aliquid esse operandum aut producendum, voluntas igitur vult hoc necessario aut non. Si necessario, igitur necessitatur ad producendum illud; si non necessario vult, igitur vult contra dictamen intellectus, et tune esset mala, cum illud dictamen non posses esse nisi rectum.... Unde quando intellectus divinus apprehendit "hoc esse faciendum" ante voluntatis actuary, apprehendit <talem propositionem> ut neutram'; Lect. 1.39, nn. 43-44, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, XVII, 492-93; see also Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 274/275.) (P4) is the premise of (R), (C5) the conclusion of (R). The crucial premise (P4), which in the Lectura passage Scotus expresses as the divine will's having `contingency to opposites', is consistently defended by Scotus. I have used the word `obligation', both in my statement of Scotus' argument, and in much of what follows. What I mean to pick out when denying that God has obligations is that God has no duties such as could be expressed by an ought-proposition (`debet' and its cognates), or by a Latin gerund. I am aware that the medievals sometimes used the word in a rather more limited sense, to refer merely to those duties prescribed by positive law.
(34) See also Ord. prol. 5.1-2, nn. 333, 339, 344, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, I, 218, 221, 224-25.
(35) Nic. Eth. 5.1, 1129b11-1130a13; 5.2, 1130b10, 21-25.
(36) Nic. Eth. 5.2, 1130a33-1130b7.
(37) Nic. Eth. 5.2, 1130b30-34; 5.3, 1131a10-1131b24.
(38) Nic. Eth. 5.2, 1130b34-1131a9; 5.4, 1131b25-1132b18.
(39) Summa Theologiae 2-2.61.2, edited by Petrus Caramello, 3 vols. (Turin and Rome: Marietti, 1952-56), 11, 300.
(40) Ord. 446, in W, pp. 242/243 and 252/253.
(41) Nic. Eth. 5.6, 1134b9-10.
(42) Ord. 4.46, in W, pp. 238/239 and 242/243.
(43) Ord. 4.46, in W, pp. 246/247 and 252/253. (44) Ord. 4.17, in W, p. 262/263.
(45) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 278/279.
(46) In section five I will argue that what scotus means by this is that we can know for certain that [principles.sub.2] are exceedingly in harmony with [principles.sub.1]; but that we cannot be certain that [principles.sub.2] are binding.
(47) Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 248/249.
(48) See the text cited above at note 23.
(49) `Potest dici quod ista unica iustitia, quae non inclinat determinate nisi ad primum actuary, modificat actus secundarios, licet nullum eorum necessario, quin posses modificare oppositum'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 248/249.
(50) `Secunda iustitia potest esse hic simpliciter, quia simpliciter dare potest naturis perfectiones eis secundum gradus perficientes'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 242/243. I have corrected an obvious syntactical error in Wolter's text on the basis of Assisi, Biblioteca Communale, MS i 37, fo. [270.sub.rb].
(51) Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 252/253
(52) Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 248/249.
(53) `Non simpliciter est debitor <Deus> nisi bonitati suae, ut diligat eam; creaturis autem est debitor ex liberalitate qua, ut communicet eis quad natura sua exigit, ,quae exigentia in eis ponitur quoddam iustum, ,quasi secundarium obiectum illius iustitiae'; Ord. 4.46, in W, pp. 252/253-254/255.
(54) Rep. 2.22, n. 3, Opera Omnia, Wadding-Vives edition, 26 vols. (Paris Vives, 1891-95), XXIII, 104b. The best manuscript of the Ordinatio (Assist, MS 137) does not include any of distinctions fifteen to twenty-six of book two. But Scotus argues similarly in the Lectura: `The precept "You shall love the Lord your God" etc.--and the other precepts of the decalogue--is a greater good [than], and these [precepts] are better than, "You shall not eat of the tree of life" [sic: Scotus means the tree of the knowledge of good and evil], because this command is good only because it is commanded, whereas the good of the decalogue is formally good from itself'; Lect. 2.21-22. 1-2, n. 29, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, XIX, 206. By claiming in the first passage that the action is `bad' according to natural law, I take it that Scotus means that we can by natural reason see the moral badness of the action--while remaining neutral on the question of the obligation to refrain from the action (a question which I deal with in the next section).
(55) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 272/273. Scotus argues similarly in Lect. 3.37.1, edited in C. Balic, Les commentaires de Jean Duns Scot sur les quatre livres des Sentences. Etude historique et critique, Bibliotheque de la Revue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique, I (Louvain: Bureaux de la Revue [d'Histoire Ecclesiastique], 1927), 343. There is no parallel passage in the Reportata Parisiensia.
(56) `Quaero ergo an stantibus omnibus circumstantiis eisdem in isto actu "occidere hominem", ista circumstantia sofa variata per prohibitum et non prohibitum, possit Deus facere quad iste actus, qui cum eisdem circumstantiis aliis aliquando est prohibitus et illicitus, alias esset non prohibitus sed licitus?'; Ord. 3.37, in W, pp. 272/273-274/275; I have corrected a syntactical error in Wolter's text on the basis of Assisi, MS 137, fo. [179.sup.vb]
(57) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 274/275; see also Ord. 3.38, in W, p. 484/485.
(58) Ord. 3.37, in W, 282/283-284/285.
(59) [Justice.sub.2], it will be recalled, is not a properly divine attribute, but a quality which can (presumably) inhere in created entities as (60) `Mentiri ex ratione sua dicit intentionem malam, quia intentionem decipiendi; licet igitur aliqui actus qui non includentes intentionem malam possint aliquando esse bond ex aliqua circumstantia bona, tamen actus includens secum intentionem malam, numquam potest esse bonus, quia includit formaliter malum velle; ita est in proposito'; Ord. 3.38, in W, p. 486/487; I have corrected a syntactical error in Wolter's text on the basis of Assisi, MS 137, fo. [180.sup.vb].
(61) Since scotus usually defines `sin' in terms of keeping God's commands (Lect. 2.34-37.1-5, nn. 57 and 63, Opera Omnia, edited by C. Balic and others, XIX, 338 and 341), scotus must mean `badness', and not `sinfulness' here; after all, he is quite clear that the prohibition of lying pertains to the second table of the decalogue, and not the first (Ord. 3.38, in w, p. 488/489; Ord. 3.39, in w, p. 510/511).
(62) W, p. 108.
(63) `Potest fieri licitum proferre orationem creditam esse falsam, si praeceptum revocetur, quod videtur esse de non decipiendo proximum'; Ord. 3.38, in w, p. 484/485.
(64) Shannon's discussion of Scotus on lying is deeply misleading. Shannon claims, on the basis of the last passage quoted, `Scotus argues that circumstances can remove the badness which an act has per se by reason of its object' (p. 286). But Scotus makes no such claim, and makes instead a claim that is directly contradictory to Shannon's: see the last hut one passage quotation.
(65) `Talia tota non videntur quod possint esse bona, quae scilicet importata per talia nomina'; Ord. 3.38, in w, p. 486/487.
(66) `"Furtum" non tantum est impositum ad significandum acceptionem huius red, sed ad significandum contretactionem huius rei alienae contra voluntatem eius et cuiuscumque domini superioris'; Ord 3.38, in w, p. 486/487; I have corrected a mistake in Wolter's text on the basis of Assisi, MS 137, fo. [180.sup.vb].
(67) Ord. 3.38, in W, p. 486/487. Note that in his quotation of this definition, Shannon has mixed up (perhaps through homoioteleuton) the definition of `adultery' with that of `theft': Scotus does not hold that `adultery' signifies `"not just the undertaking of this thing, but also the legal appropriation of what belongs to another against his will or that of any higher owner"' (Shannon, p. 287). Needless to say, this muddle confuses the distinction I am drawing between theft and adultery.
(68) `Quidquid Deus fecit, hoc scias, Deum cum recta ratione fecisse'; Rep. 1A.44.2 (Vienna, cod. palatinus 1453, f. [122.sup.va]), cited in w, p. 19. Wolter's translation, which I assume in what follows, relies on the supposition that `cum recta ratione' qualifies `fecisse'; an equally plausible translation would be, `Whatever God has made, you know that God has made something exhibiting right reason'. But `with right reason, refers to a moral property, not a natural property: and moral properties are properties only of actions, not of things or states of affairs. For this reason, I regard Wolter's translation as preferable.
(69) see, for example, Quod. 18, in w, p. 210/211; I have discussed this point above.
(70) `Secundo modo iustum dicitur in creatura esse ex correspondentia unius creati ad aliquid...quia ista natura creata hoc exigit tamquam sibi correspondens'; Ord 4.46, in w, p. 248/249. Wolter's translation here is required by the context.
(71) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 274/275; see also the passage cited at note 33 above.
(72) Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 246/247.
(73) On Morris's account, this admission is not harmful, since on Morris's account (and in contrast to a duty-ethic account) God's action does not require freedom to count as in some sense good.
(74) Ord. 3.38, in W, p. 484/485.
(75) On this aspect of Scotus' account, see Adams, `Duns Scotus on the Goodness of God', pp. 489-97, and the texts cited there. (76) `Sicut sine contradictione potest oppositum velle, ita potest iuste velle; alioquin posses velle absolute et non iuste, quad est inconveniens'; Ord. 4.46, in W, p. 246/247.
(77) Ord. 1.44, in W, p. 256/257.
(78) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 286/287.
(79) A. Quinton, `British Philosophy', in P. Edwards (ed.), The [Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London Collier-Macmillan, 1965), 1, 369-96 (p. 373), quoted in w, P 3
(80) W, p. 24.
(81) W, p. 26.
(82) See W, p. 19 for Wolter's discussion of this passage.
(83) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 278/279.
(84) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 286/287.
(85) Ord. 3.37, in W, p. 286/287.
(86) I would like to thank Lawrence Moonan, Richard Schniertshauer, and Richard Swinburne, for providing detailed comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
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|Publication:||The Journal of Theological Studies|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1997|
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