, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 557-575
Date: 24 Dec 2010

Love, Power and Consistency: Scotus’ Doctrines of God’s Power, Contingent Creation, Induction and Natural Law

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Abstract

I first examine John Duns Scotus’ view of contingency, pure possibility, and created possibilities, and his version of the celebrated distinction between ordained and absolute power. Scotus’ views on ethical natural law and his account of induction are characterised, and their dependence on the preceding doctrines detailed. I argue that there is an inconsistency in his treatments of the problem of induction and ethical natural law. Both proceed with God’s contingently willed creation of a given order of laws, which can be revoked and replaced with a new order of laws. In the case of ethical natural law God promulgated the Decalogue, for example; in the case of nature, there are physical laws that can be known by induction. Scotus exalts the freedom of God and the mutability of ethical natural law in order to explain exceptions to it disclosed by revelation (for example, the Old Testament command to Abraham to kill Isaac). Yet he treats ethical natural laws as (mostly) not universal and immutable. In contrast, he holds that we can arrive at knowledge of the universal and immutable laws of nature, except for those regularities that result from free will. Finally, I present several ways of characterising this tension between Scotus’ doctrines.