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“In Harmony with Reason”: John Duns Scotus’s Theo-aesth/ethics

Oleg Bychkov
  • St. Bonaventure University
Published Online: 2014-11-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opth-2014-0005


Over the past two decades, the debate has intensified over the nature of John Duns Scotus’s (meta) ethics: is it a purely voluntarist “divine command” ethics or is it still based on rational principles? The former side is exemplified by Thomas Williams and the latter by Allan Wolter. Scotus claims that even the divine commandments that are not based on natural law are still somehow “in harmony with reason.” But what does this mean? Richard Cross in a recent study claims that God’s reasons for establishing certain moral norms are “aesthetic.” However, he fails to show clearly what is “aesthetic” about these reasons or why God’s will would follow “aesthetic” principles in legislating moral norms. This article clarifies both points, first, by painting an up-to-date picture of what constitutes “aesthetic” principles, and second, by providing a more accurate model of the way the human volitional faculty operates and addressing the problem of the “freedom of the will” from a present-day point of view.

Keywords: Duns Scotus; aesthetics; beauty; ethics; will; freedom; determinism; divine command; neurobiology


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About the article

Received: 2014-08-19

Accepted: 2014-10-14

Published Online: 2014-11-14

Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opth-2014-0005. Export Citation

©2014 Oleg Bychkov. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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