III. Boethius, Pseudo-Dionysius, Eriugena, Anselm and Abelard


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BOETHIUS 480-524 

----One of the last thoroughly educated Romans...read Greek!  Ambition to translate Plato and Aristotle into Latin and show that they're not incompatible.  Only gets to translate a bit of Aristotle, the only Aristotle available to the early Middle Ages.  Great work is The Consolation of Philosophy, written in prison..charged with treason by Emperor Theodoric the Ostrogoth...to this day the issue is cloudy...executed.

-----Not a remarkably innovative philosopher, though a clearer expression of the free will/foreknowledge/eternity issue than found in Augustine.  Nothing with which Augustine would disagree.  Consolation interesting in that no specifically Christian elements --had been argued that he's not a Christian, but theological works show he was.  He's just doing philosophy.  Consolation enormously influential.  Any educated medieval person knows it.

Note that there may be more in these notes than we get to in class.

The Consolation of Philosophy (page numbers refer to Loeb edition, not your text book.)

I. The Problem (pp.131,135) Why do bad things happen to good people?

II. The philosopher (allegiance is to the truth and objective values) in politics...Augustine, Thomas More (p.147)

III. Divine governance

A. God rules all except human actions (161)

B. The argument from design (167)

IV. The nature of fortune (177)

V. Happiness...False

A. Not to be found in mutable goods (197) 

B. Down the list

1. Stuff
2. Power (Nero, 215)
3. Fame (the mob, 255...The universe is really big, 217.  That this is a recent discovery is yet another of those modern myths.)
4. Pleasure (sickness, 257)

VI. Happiness...True 

A. Maybe there isn't any?  (275)

B. Innate knowledge because recognition of imperfect implies a perfect standard by which we measure.  There is an ultimate good (277)

C. Ultimate Good = God : Two arguments (He gives more but these are the most easily apprehended)

1. a. God is source of all
 b. Nothing exists which is not either God or made by Him.
 c. Therefore He does not receive goodness from outside of Him as something added to   His essence.
 d. God is good, therefore goodness just is His essence.

2.  There cannot be two absolutely perfect beings.  A perfect being must possess all possible  perfections in the highest degree.  If there were two genuinely different perfect beings  each would have to have some property which the other lacked.  But then neither would  possess all the possible perfections and both would be limited in some way.

D. Recap: God made the world (301), God is highest good, Evil is nothing (305)

-----But all of this only makes the problem worse!!! Not only do bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people, but the wicked are permitted to harm the good!!! (313)----

I. Evil is weak...evil people can't really achieve happiness, which is what they're after.  They pursue the wrong goals, either through (325)

A. Ignorance...think stuff etc. will make them happy.  Or through...

B. Lack of self-control...but then you are a slave to your own passions.

C. People just don't deliberately aim to do evil per se since it doesn't exist.

II. Moreover, Virtue inevitably achieves its reward, while vice receives its punishment. (331)
The Logic of Morality.  Good arrives at happiness...that's what it means to behave well.  Evil is when you act in such a way as to harm yourself and others...evil people end up destroying themselves. (335)

Why do bad things happen to good people?

He's talking about "fortune" meaning the harms and goods of earthly life.

Boethius had earlier presented his reasons for believing in a designing God who made the world.  So the question is, how can one explain the apparent injustice in a God-made universe?

III.  And yet...and yet...If both good and bad things happen to good people, and both good and bad things happen to bad people, is there really any difference between divine governance and pure chance? (353)

IV. The Answer

A. God's providence is non-negotiable. (So he's not addressing the problem of evil in the sense of thinking that evil provides evidence against the existence of God. It's just that he wants to know why God would permit bad things to happen to good people.)

B. We can't expect to understand everything.

C. All fortune is good.

1. Good things happen to good people: just reward.   Bad things happen to good people, it's a test, a wake-up call etc.

2. Bad things happen to bad people: just punishment.  Good things...a spur to change, a lesson to the rest of us (good fortune isn't all that important), etc.

3. It's up to us to make good use of whatever befalls!!! (379) 

In saying it's "up to us" he means that it's our free will that can make the best of what looked to be bad fortune, and vice versa. 

So free will is super important, raising the question of... 


Review of Augustine --

1. If someone knows I will do x tomorrow, then I do x tomorrow by necessity.

2. Something done by necessity is not done freely.

Both 1 & 2 are true. Does it follow that if someone knows I will do x tomorrow, I do not do x freely?

No, because "necessity" in 1 means something different from "necessity" in 2. In 1 the necessity is a conditional or logical necessity. The term "knows" entails that what is known is actually the case, so if someone knows that I will do x tomorrow, it follows necessarily that I will do x tomorrow. In 2, the necessity that conflicts with freedom is a compelling necessity, like the natural necessity of the stone falling when it is thrown up.

Knowledge -- given that it is by definition TRUE belief -- entails that a foreknown event "must" happen, but the knowledge does not force or compel the event.

I. Boethius says that that's okay, but there is a further problem.(395-419)

A. One can say that mere knowledge does not entail compulsion, but that's not enough to answer the question.

How can God know the future?

B. It seems to be the case that only something which happens through the sort of necessity which entails compulsion can be foreknown (A).  

    1. Boethius thinks human beings can foreknow that the sun will rise tomorrow because we know enough about how the physical world works to be able to predict it. It's because we know what is going on in the present         and we grasp the laws of nature that we can foreknow that the sun will rise tomorrow. 

    2. But what that means is that we can foreknow the sun will rise tomorrow because the sun IS COMPELLED to rise tomorrow by the physical events that precede it. It is naturally necessitated to rise tomorrow. 

    3. If event X is foreknown, that shows that event X is naturally necessitated (i.e. determined).    

    4. But if our future choices are naturally necessitated, that means that they are determined, and hence not free.

II. The solution

A. It is right to say that only  necessary/compelled events can be foreknown by us.  We have to judge of the future by what's going on in the present.  Not so for God.

God knows things in a different way than we do because He is eternal.

B. Eternity (H 135) (423; the classic definition), The ‘highest peak' (427)

C. But note:  Is Boethius an isotemporalist who says that God sees the future as it actually exists?  Or is he a presentist who says that God sees all of time AS IF it were present, when in fact the future hasn't happened yet?  

    1. Not perfectly clear from the text. 

    2. If he's an isotemporalist, you might think that he's going to say that God knows what I choose tomorrow because I choose it tomorrow and He sees it. But NO!!!

D. Boethius does NOT want to say that it is our future choices which cause God's knowledge.  That would mean that we have some impact on God, and for Boethius that conflicts with God's absolute sovereignty and omnipotence. (If we said that our choices cause God's knowledge, that would be turning the arrow of causation upside down)

E. He ends up saying that God knows the future by knowing Himself.

    1. This allows the possibilitiy of the presentist reading (137).  

    2.  In any case, God knows that I will choose X tomorrow because He knows that He will cause or that He is causing (assuming He is robustly eternal and time is isotemporal) me to choose X tomorrow.

F. Can we be free if God is the ultimate cause of our choices...yes, so long as we're understanding freedom in the compatibilist sense (136). Necessity = acting from one's own nature, Free=voluntary...pursuing one's own desires.

G. Advantage is that it preserves



PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS  (early 6th century)

I. Background: The eastern part. of the Roman Empire, the Greek-speaking, so-called "Byzantine" Empire, was not overrun by Germanic invaders and will hold together as an empire for centuries...until it falls to the Muslims.  The eastern theologians tended to follow the pagan neoplatonists like Plotinus more closely than Augustine had.  They will emphasize ideas of emanation and (simultaneously) divine immanence and transcendence.  This can come perilously close to pantheism: all this stuff we see around us IS God.  (My own view is that Weinberg makes too much of the distinction between emanation and creation.)

II. Who is the real Dionysius?  Dionysius the Areopagite mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as a Greek converted by St. Paul when he preached in Athens.  In the text of Paul's sermon he praises the Athenians for their devotion to an "unknown God".  If you were neo-platonically-minded you could read this as referring to a God who transcends human cognitive abilities. So this emphasizes transcendence.  Paul also says that it is in God that we "live and move and have our being."  This underlines divine immanence. So here in the Bible we have two key ideas which the eastern thinkers will emphasize.  Moreover this Dionysius was supposed to have come to France as a missionary.  St. Denis, the patron saint of France.  When he speaks, people listen.  This insures that the intellectualized mysticism favored by the eastern theologians will be treated with respect.  (We'll see in a bit how his thought became part of the main-stream in the Latin west.)

---How we can talk about God -----

I. The problem.

A. We are limited and God is limitless.

B. Plotinus.-- Just shut up!

C. Have to speak of God since Scripture does...we are told to pray using positive terms.

II. The via affirmativa

A. Scripture: God is good, life, being...even light, wind, lion.....it is legitimate to use these terms of God in a positive way...

B. ...because He is the cause of all these things.

1. So what? The ginger snaps example. Just because I make great ginger snaps, that wouldn't be a reason to call me a ginger snap.

2. Participation: the effect reflects and shares in the being of the cause.  God's immanence.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  Pantheism?

3. But, of course, this is far from adequate.

III. The via negativa.  

A. God so far transcends human concepts that we need to recognize that all the words we use fall short.  We are addressing an unknown God.  

B. So we should say that God is not-light, not-lion...He is even not-good, not-being.  

C.This way is superior to the via affirmativa.  But of course we might lose sight of God altogether.  We might think that not-good=evil, or not-being=nothing.  Au contraire!

IV. The via superlativa.  

A. God is both immanent and transcendent.  We need to combine the via affirmative and the via negativa.  

B. What we're saying is that God is these things, only to an infinite and incomprehensible degree. Super-good, super-wise, super-being...positive grammatically, but negative in meaning. But note that the negation comes from the excess, the infinite, the superabundance, NOT from an absolute difference. (Read p. 142)

----fun fact: Foreshadowing of the Hegelian doctrine of thesis, antithesis, synthesis which would play a major role in the thought of Karl Marx----

V. Pursuing this upward path is not an academic exercise, or merely an epistemic point.  To "speak" or think of God is to know Him, and to know Him is to approach Him.  Via means not just ‘way' but ‘road' or ‘path.'  God emanates into the multiplicity of creation and we seek to return to him...to behold the mysteries of heavenly Truth which "outshine all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness." (p. 143)


SCOTUS ERIUGENA (mid-ninth century)

------ Background: Irish.  Wrote in France at the court of Charles the Bald, Charlemagne's grandson.  As I said, there's not a heck of a lot of intellectual activity between Boethius and Eriugena.  In the 9th century Charlemagne, because of his interest in learning and letters, encourages education.  Starts a school.  It's the Carolingian renaissance.  Philosophically Eriugena is the brightest...the only star in a dark sky.  He reads Greek, and it's his job to translate the works of Dionysius the Areopagite and other eastern theologians which the Byzantine emperor had sent as a gift to Charles the Bald's father.  Eriugena hugely influential as a translator because everybody has to take the Ps.-D seriously.  Exciting as a philosopher.  Constructs this marvelous system trying to synthesize Ps.D with Augustine.  He's accused of pantheism.  In the 13th century some of the powers that be wanted to burn his books.  They were being read by, among others, the Albigensians.  Of course, his work survived and continues to impress.  It prefigures Hegel.  There's a story that after Charles the Bald died Eriugena returned to Ireland where his students, infuriated because they couldn't understand his philosophy, stabbed him to death with their pens...probably apocryphal.

The Four Divisions of Nature

I. That which creates and is not created.

God as the transcendent source of all.  Source of all natures and forms.  To be knowable must have a form. Therefore... Unknowable, even to Himself.  Correctly termed "Nothing".  Negation of every inferior, every limitation.  Creation "ex nihilo" means creation "out of" God.  God creates Himself when He makes things.  He comes to have a nature through creating.  Analogy with Human Intellect (H p. 151).  Sartre!

II. That which creates and is created

Second Person of Trinity?  Divine Ideas?  Ambivalent
 (Note how boundaries get blurred.  In the end, of course, everything is in God and God is in everything....talk about blurry!)

III. That which does not create and is created.

Creatures.  Angels down to inanimate things.

A. Monism (The universe is one sort of thing) and Idealism (the one sort of thing is mind-stuff); the whole universe is ideas, it's mind-stuff from top to bottom.

1. versus dualism, which says that there are two kinds of things in the world, material and immaterial (Aristotle, Plotinus?...Descartes...)  

2. For Eriugena there can't be any "matter" in Aristotle's sense. 

a. What makes something material?  

    1. It's composed of matter and form.  The form consists in the qualities that make the thing what it is.  These qualities exist in an underlying substrate...prime matter.  

    2. Qualities are intelligible, but matter is "below" understanding. It is absolutely unintelligible. That means not just unintelligible to us, but unknowable by anyone.

b.  God creates by thinking.  There can't be anything unintelligible. So there is no prime matter, so there is nothing material, if "material" means as opposed to form, quality, what's intelligible.

3. Corporeal things are combinations of qualities...which are ideas...everything is ideas...God's ideas multiplied in time and space.

4. It may be (Eriugena sometimes talks this way) that corporeal things are produced by God through those who experience them.

B. God is the essence of all things (H p. 150).  Real immanence.  (Note what's happening.  It seems like everything is God...or vice versa.)

C. True essences of things are incomprehensible (H p. 148).  What can we know...?

1. sensible qualities?  These don't give us the essence of the thing.

2. definitions perceptible by reason?  But that's just a reflection of the Idea in the mind of God.

3. Idea is not really separate from God.  It is a manifestation of God...God spelling Himself out.

4. God in Himself is Unknowable.

IV. That which does not create and is not created.

God as the transcendent goal.

A. Circular motion; apparently paradoxical.  God is both immanent and transcendent...He is beyond our understanding and you just have to keep all the balls in the air at once to even begin to approach Him.

B. Your true essence is God, nevertheless you are an individual and individuality is preserved even in heaven.

C. Paradox even in heaven: the closer you get to God, the farther you realize you are from Him. (And the fires of Hell are really just the light of heaven, only those who are wicked suffer, while those who are good bask! )


I. Background: The Vikings put an end to the Carolingian Renaissance.  By the 11th century schools are becoming more numerous in monasteries and learning is on the upswing again...this is the real beginning of the Renaissance...from now on education and culture just keep expanding.  Early in the 11th century find intellectuals just compiling biblical texts...by the end of the century the idea that we should use reason to examine faith is becoming popular, and Anselm is the premier figure.  Father of analytic philosophy?  Certainly amazing originality of approach...careful analysis of terms.

II. Anselm

A. Eadmer's biography

B. Born in Aosta.  Goes to study at the Benedictine monastery at Bec.  His teacher at Bec is Lanfranc who goes to be the Archbishop of Canterbury when William the Conqueror takes over in England.  When Lanfranc dies the Pope appoints Anselm to be the archbishop.  Anselm says, "Please don't" claims he won't be a good archbishop...no political savvy...he's absolutely right.  Pope appoints him anyway.  By this time William Rufus (the Conqueror's son) is king.  He and Anselm constantly at odds over the respective powers of the church and the state, Anselm keeps getting exiled [later in the century one of the most dramatic events in church/state controversies occurs in Canterbury] Anselm dies peacefully in bed in 1109.

III.  Credo ut intelligam

A. Most significant contributions to philosophy...

1. The "ontological" argument to prove the existence of God. The one proof that proves EVERYTHING we want to say about God.

2. An argument to show that the Judeo-Christian God must become incarnate.  With the latter he goes well beyond what most philosophers will allow...Can you really prove Christianity through reason?

3. Free will -- reconciling libertarian freedom with claims that God is the cause of all that has ontological status and knows future free choices.

B.  Regarding the proofs for God and the Incarnation, many commentators have argued that Anselm is not really trying to prove anything.  Does Anselm start with truths of faith as given and go on to explore them, or does he think the truth of faith can be proven to any open-minded, rational person?  "Credo ut intelligam."  I'd say the latter. 

The Ontological Argument

I. History

A. The Monologion; extended proof for existence and nature of God...wants one simple argument.

B. It's driving him nuts, distracting him even at mass...a trick of the devil's?  He's going to forget it when...illumination!

II. The Proof (H. p.162-163)

1. God is TTWNGCBC: That than which no greater can be conceived. (definition)

2. TTW exists in the understanding (in intellectu) 

a. we can think of it, it's a coherent concept. 

b. TTW is a possible being. Not like a round square.

c. TTW ‘exists' in a way at least as an idea. (Note that X as an object of thought and X existing extra-mentally are both, in some sense, X.)

3. It is better to exist in the understanding and in reality (in re) than just to exist in the understanding alone. 

a. relative independence.

b. principle of plenitude (The more there is "to you" the better sort of a thing you are.).

4.  If TTW existed only in the understanding and not in reality it would not be TTW.

(This is a Reductio ad absurdum. Show that the negation of what you're trying to prove leads to absurdity, so the affirmation must be correct.)

5. Therefore, TTW must exist in reality as well as in the mind.  God exists!

III. Criticisms

1. Gaunilo #1: You can't think TTW.  Premise #2 is false 

Response: Yes you can.  There is a difference between understanding TTW and comprehending TTW.  We can get some glimpse of what God is like through his reflections here.  Gaunilo, you are a Christian and must have some clue of what it is you're worshiping.  In any case, all we need to drive the argument is that you understand the words enough that you can tell what won't fit the bill.  (H. p.177)

2. Gaunilo #2, the Lost Island.  (Gaunilo is using a Reductio ad absurdum...If the argument worked it would lead to absurd conclusions).  We can take the basic argument and plug in "Lost Island"...LI is TITW... And we'd end up proving the existence of Lost Island.  But we know it doesn't exist. (H. p.175)

Response: The logic only works for TTW (H. p.177) But why?

Can't really conceive of TITW...i.e., for it premise #2 would be false.

a. If you think of it as a real islandy type of island then the superlative makes no sense.  Different islands are good for different things, and no earthly island is perfect...e.g. immutable etc.  

b. If you think of it as possessing great-making properties which are impossible for an island to possess, omnipotence, omniscience...you get God.

3. Aquinas: You can't move from the sphere of understanding to sphere of being, conceptual to actual, from concept to knowledge of existence.  Perhaps the argument forces us to think "exists" when we think "God", but the fact that we must think x doesn't make it so. (Note that Aquinas believes that all of your natural knowledge begins with your senses.)

Response: Well...yes you can move from concept to existence...There are no round squares...there is no universe without God.

4. Kant: existence is not a predicate. (He's working with a different version of the ontological argument.) It doesn't add anything to the concept of a thing.  Premise #3 is false.

Response: Well...existence is (or can be) a predicate..  

a.  "The unicorn is a mythical beast," versus "The unicorn exists in reality."  The statements say something different.  If the second were true, wouldn't it add something to our knowledge of unicorns? 

b. Especially if you pack in some neoplatonic assumptions.  What has more existence is greater.  X as the object of a human idea has a sort of existence...a very minimal, dependent sort of existence.  Really existing things are greater.  Unicorn in intellectu has a sort of existence as the object of an idea.  Unicorn in re would be better just in that it has more being.

CUR DEUS HOMO: "Why God became man"

I. Attempt to prove the Incarnation (define) through "necessary reasons."  He really intends it as a proof to convince any rational theist of the truth of Christianity.  At the end his interlocutor, Boso (!), says that the argument should convince the Jews and the Muslims. (And he did, too. Roger of Sicily.)

II. Underlying assumptions: He's writing for theists, Jews, Muslims.

A. There is a God (TTW).  Being the best, the very standard for the good, God does the best.  If something is the best then God does it...and vice versa.

B. Human beings were made for happiness (empirical).  

    1. We all desire it.  

    2. A perfectly good God would not have made us with this longing if it were never to be satisfied.

C. We've become corrupted by sin (empirical).  In our present condition we don't deserve happiness, and we are not capable of it.  We need to be changed, somehow cleansed of this sin, saved, in order to achieve happiness.

III. The Question: If God is omnipotent, why doesn't He just say, "Poof!  You're saved!"?  Instead He goes through all this weird rigmarole.  He debases Himself.  Surely the Incarnation is inconsistent with Divine Dignity!

IV. We could just say, "It's a mystery!" but Anselm prefers to show why it had to be this way.  Why this way is best.  N.b. It's not like each step will be indubitable and force the stubborn sceptic to believe.  Each step will be plausible.  Reasonable hypothesis.  There's good reason to believe this and no better reason to the contrary.

V. The Argument

A. It's important to appreciate the enormity of sin.  

1. Impossible hypothetical: What if the whole world would be destroyed if you didn't disobey God? You still ought to obey God.

2. Therefore sin is this huge thing!

B. Sin "robs" God.  

1. We all owe God a debt.  (Not that God is harmed or suffers...but we owe it nonetheless.)

2. [Rogers] If you don't like the debt language -- maybe it sounds too much like a banking transaction -- you can talk about "estrangement".  ("Atonement" really does mean "at-one-ment".) However...

3. The debt language is scriptural, Christ is the ransom for us, etc., and it captures that intersection between the mundane and the transcendent which is central to Christianity.

C. Can't He just forgive it without this Incarnation business?  ("Simple forgiveness") Well...would that be the best?

1. It would be unjust.  The sinful are treated just the way the sinless would have been treated...it's like there's no difference between being good and being bad.

    a. But aren't WE suppose to "simply" forgive? Yes, but....

    b. God is uniquely situated as the standard for value such that He can't be unjust.

2. Organic relationship between being good and being happy. (Aristotelian flourishing) Being sinful entails being unhappy and God can't just undo the entailment and say, even though you're a mess, here be happy! Need some kind of process to "fix" the human being.

3. Simple forgiveness gives humankind less credit. Wouldn't it be better if things could be set right?  If the debt could be repaid?  (Analogy with you and your folks' car.) Emphasis on human dignity ties in with Anselm's indeterminism.  -- You'd WANT to repay and would be sad if you couldn't.

-- Therefore, the debt ought to be paid.

D. Only man owes the debt...but it is so enormous that only God could pay it.  Q.E.D. There must be a God-man.

1. Supreme act of obedience...allowing himself to be unjustly killed.  

    All the rest of us "owe" God our deaths -- the wages of sin is death. 

    "He came to pay a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay."

2. But He's just one man. How can He pay the debt for all of us? We are a unity of which He is a member -- biological family.

E. We have to freely accept the saving work of Christ.


I. Libertarianism

A. Open Options

B. Self-causation (aseity)

C. But God is free without open options.

D. It's the aseity part that counts.  God exists absolutely a se, but for a created agent to choose "from itself" options are going to be necessary.

II. Anselm's definition of  "freedom":  The ability to keep justice. "Justice" = rightness of will kept for its own sake. "Rightness of will" = willing what God wills that you should will, so willing rightly is willing in accordance with the standard for value.

--All motivation is the desire for some "benefit", something that one supposes will make one happy--

A. An animal can will rightly, that is it can will as God would have it will.

B. What it cannot do is step back and examine its own desires and choose to will rightly.  So the dog can be a good dog, wanting what God wants it to want, but it cannot choose to be a good dog.  No open options.

C. It's different with human beings.  We can step back and choose that our desires and choices should be in accordance with God's will.

---Distinction between first- and second-order desires.

First Order: Basic desires for this or that.

Second Order:  Desires ABOUT what one's desires should be.

D. Justice is this "second-order" desire that our desires and choices be in accord with the will of God.  (It's a desire about desires.)

E. The human being has open options in that he can choose just any old benefits, including inappropriate benefits, or he can choose to limit his desires and choices to those benefits which he knows/believes to be in accordance with the will of God.

F. He makes this choice between justice and mere benefit on his own, and so he's got the required aseity...which he wouldn't have if he possessed only one sort of desire and had to choose in accordance with it.

III. Freedom and omnipotence: If God is the cause of every THING how can He not be the cause of human free choices?

--The non-negotiable premises --

A. God is the cause of all that has ontological status.

B. God does not cause sin.  (It's logically impossible that God should cause sin, since to sin is to will what God wills that you should not will.)

C. Sin happens -- So we know that there are choices that are not caused by God.

[Thomas Aquinas -- God doesn't cause the evil of sin, since the evil is just nothing...a lack or an absence. But then nobody causes the evil of sin. Thomas does say that God causes the choice for sin as the primary cause and the human agent causes it as a secondary cause. Anselm wants to say that God does not cause the choice!]


D. All that has any ontological status in the choice to sin is caused by God...the faculty of the will, and its competing desires for "mere" benefit and for justice.

E.  A free choice is when the agent, torn between A and B, perwills (wills "through" to intention -- action-guiding plan) one to the point that the other ceases to be a viable option.

    1. The "choice" just is the point at which one ceases to be viable.

    2. All that the created agent contributes is the "winning out" of one desire over another,...

    3. ...and this isn't really a new "thing" in the process.  It is a "thin" event, like one runner passing another in a race. The "passing" isn't some new thing.

-- So God causes all that EXISTS, but He does not cause all that HAPPENS. 

IV. Freedom and Grace

--Grace is absolutely necessary and absolutely unmerited--

A. At the fall mankind lost the desire for justice.  Now all we have is the excessive, chaotic desire for benefits without knowing or wanting that our desires should be in accord with God's will.

B. Since we don't even know what justice is we can't possibly come to want it on our own.

C.  With grace God restores the knowledge of and desire for justice.

D. However, it is resistible in this sense: having received it we could throw it away again by choosing mere benefit, so we have the option to keep it or throw it away.

E. The input for freedom is just that we can hang onto the grace given by God.  It's not much, but it's ours!

V. Freedom and Foreknowledge

--Same old problem:  If God knows that you will choose x tomorrow, then it is necessary that you choose x tomorrow--

A. Libertarian cannot say God knows the future by knowing His own intentions. (Contrary to Boethius, who is a compatibilist.)

B. ISOTEMPORALISM!!! Consciously and consistently!  All times are ACTUALLY present to God. And God's point of view is the one that captures reality, so all time is really real!

1. God knows what you will choose because He sees you choosing it in the (real, isotemporal) present.

2. True, your choice is necessary in a sense, but it's conditional necessity, not the necessity of compulsion.

a. Your choice is not determined (you have open options and aseity)...

b. ...and the necessity comes from YOU.  You're the one that makes it necessary that you choose x, by choosing x. 

c. Surely that sort of necessity could not possibly conflict with freedom. If it did then no one could ever be free since, by choosing X at time t (including the present) you make it conditionally necessary that you choose X     at time t.

VI. Remaining difficulties...these just have to be accepted

A. We have a sort of effect on God.  What God knows and does is in some sense "up to" us. (In CUR DEUS HOMO we said that God "had to" become incarnate!)

--But note that we do not act causally upon God. We do not exert any force or power against Him. He knows and does BY HIS OWN CAUSING.

B. Things happen in the universe which are not what God wills to have happen. Of course God can fit them into an overall good plan, but it's not entirely His plan, in that there are other causes at work in the world.

C. Is human freedom really that valuable? Yes! We are really made in the image of God in having a tiny bit of independence.

D. We would limit divine omnipotence if we said God couldn't make a free created agent. And we'd limit His goodness if we said He didn't want to.

ABELARD (1079-1142)

------ Abelard and Heloise--------

------- Continues notion that we must reason about what we believe.  Gives the enterprise a more Aristotelian spin, which is interesting in that there's very little original Aristotle available...a little bit of Aristotelian logic translated by Boethius.

-------The problem of UNIVERSALS---------

We've already run into the problem with Plato and Aristotle (H169)

I. Universal terms, "dog", "blue", "human being"....We use a single term to name all of the members of a kind.  The big question is, to what does that term really refer?  (We're going to focus on genera and species since that's what the medievals are most interested in.)

II. A very practical issue.  Hotly debated today.  Relevant to many, many areas of human endeavor, e.g. science and ethics.  Science inevitably talks in universal terms.  So what is it talking about.  (For example, when we do science are we imposing human categories on the world, and hence creating reality rather than discovering it?)

III. The big questions:

A. Is the universal one or many?  We use one word to refer to all the individuals...is this because there is a single nature they all share?

1.  If there is this one nature, how is it that things are different and distinct.  How can there be many?

2. But if they don't all share a nature, why do we call them all by the same name?  In what sense, e.g. are all the dogs members of the canine species, if there isn't really one species?

B. Where is it?  If there is a universal nature which really exists, somehow, where is it?

1. If it's only in all these different things how can it be one and how can they be said to share the same nature?

2. If it has some sort of existence outside of the individuals, where is it?  What is it? How do individuals have it?

C. How do we know the universal? Apparently we are confronted only by individuals.  And yet we seem to know the universal.  What is it that we know and how do we know it?

IV. The four main positions.  A superficial account to be filled in and qualified when looking at individual thinkers.

A. Nominalism: The universal is a mere flatus vocis.  We use a single term to name these individuals, but there is no unity between these individuals.  The only universal thing is the name itself.  There is nothing corresponding to the unified term.  No single nature, no dogness in which the dogs share.  When I say "the species, dog" I am really talking about a lot of individuals...all those dogs.  But then if there is nothing that these individuals share, what is it that makes us give them all the same name...or is it just arbitrary?

B. Conceptualism: There is no universal "thing" in the world corresponding to the universal term.  However, we do form concepts in our minds which we apply to all the individuals, and the concept may be universal.  "The species, dog" refers not only to individual dogs, but also to my concept.  But again, how do we come up with this concept?  If it doesn't reflect something in the world, is it just false?

C. Moderate Realism: We have a universal concept which we apply to individuals and there is something -- a real nature or essence -- in the individuals themselves which makes it correct for us to apply this concept. ("Realism" because the universal has some sort of real, i.e. extra mental, existence.)  There is no one, universal substance (really existing "thing") which they all share, or which transcends them, but nonetheless when we construct our universal concept it reflects something which is genuinely in the individuals.  But if there's no one  "thing" in the world to which our concept corresponds, how can it accurately reflect the world? 

--Aristotle is usually labelled a moderate realist. The form is in the things and our knowledge comes from abstraction after observing the things.

D. Extreme (exaggerated) realism: There is some real thing which individuals of a kind share to be what they are.  It is one and does not merely exist "scattered" through the individuals.  It is really a unified thing.  Where is it?  What is it? If all the individuals are "one" how do we get all these distinct individuals?

Examples --

1. Plato, Plotinus. World of the Forms, there is ONE catness in which all the cats participate in order to be what they are.  We have to know that form to grasp what the thing is.

2. Exemplarism: Anselm and Augustine.  There are Divine Ideas in the mind of God of how things will be, including e.g. genera and species.  There is, e.g. an idea of horse.  Individual horses participate in (i.e. they reflect and share in) this Idea.  The universal is the DI as it is reflected in the particular things.

a.  Does it transcend the individuals...well, yes and no.

b.  Is it one or many?  Well, kind of both.  (Mirror analogy...you can talk about many reflections, but you can talk just as correctly about one thing reflected many times.) 

c.  We get our understanding of the form of a natural kind through observation (?).

 3. William of Champeaux -- there is ONE nature, but it is IN THE INDIVIDUALS.

Why Abelard is not an extreme realist.

I. The universal is what is ‘predicated of many.'  All of these students are human.  To what does the term ‘human' refer?  Is there a single‘human nature' which we all share?

II. Extreme realism says that the universal refers to some one actually existing thing.  So the question is, how is one thing predicable of many?  How can many be said to be one thing?  For Augustine...similar to Plato... the answer is that the many each have their own reflection of the one Examplar, the Divine Idea.  This is not the brand of extreme realism that Abelard is attacking.

III. Universal refers to one ‘material essence.' William of Champeaux.  For all the members of a species there is one underlying ‘material essence' which they all share.  Individuals are distinguished by their particular accidents (qualities which could be removed, at least in intellectu, and the really real nature of the thing would remain.)  As if one made different things out of the same lump of wax. (H 186)

IV. This can't be right. The problem is that this means that all the members of the species really boil down to the same thing.  (insert illos)

...and all species boil down to the same genera.  "Socrates is an ass."

...and everything boils down to the same thing.

...which is nonsense!

William of Champeaux attempts other positions [...which we may or may not have time to look at.]

V.  The universal refers to the entire collection of individuals.  Thus ‘man' refers to the entire collection of human beings.  That can't be right because the universal must be predicable of each individual member of the kind.

A. There's no sense at all in which we can say that each individual is the whole collection.

B. Not a relationship of part to whole...then anything made up of parts would be universal.

VI. The universal refers to single individuals, in that they ‘agree' with others of the same kind.  But ‘agree' here, if it is to describe the relationship of the universal to the individuals, must mean ‘is predicable of.'  But the individual isn't predicable of many.  If we say that the universal ‘man' refers to the individual then we'd be saying that for example, ‘man' just is Socrates.  And so when we say that Plato is a man, we're basically saying that Plato is Socrates.  Nonsense.

VII. The anti-realist conclusion (H 191) ‘things can not be called universals, taken either singly or collectively, because they are not predicated of many, it remains to ascribe universality of this sort to words alone.'

Nominalism?  Well, actually conceptualism.

---------- What Abelard does think. (Nominalist, conceptualist...some even call him a moderate realist.)---------

Key questions:

1. To what does the universal actually refer? (What thing/s does it name?)

2. Why do we give many individuals the same name?

3. What is a universal concept?  How do we get it?

4. How can we talk about non-existent things?  To what does the name of the rose refer, if all the roses are destroyed?

A. Universality applies only to words and concepts.  There is no one thing which the universal names and which the individuals share (192).  (Conceptualism)

B. What does the universal actually refer to?  What does it name?  Only the individuals.

C. Then why give all these things the same name?  They are the same, not in sharing some unified and existent essence, but in being what they are.  (H. p.193).  Many men are the same, not by virtue of sharing some thing called humanity, but in virtue of being human.  (E.g. Two men could be the same in virtue of not being cats, but we wouldn't say they shared not-catness. They could be the same because they are walking without our positing some thing, walkingness,  that they share.) Members of a species possess common properties which make them what they are.  E.g. we possess rationality and animality...

D. What do we understand when we think about the universal...e.g. man?  We do have a concept, "human being" which is common to all human beings but which doesn't pick out any individual human being.

E. How do we get this concept?  Abstraction.

1. We learn through our senses...get images of members of a species.

2. construct a "confused image" (not just visual) by ignoring the distinguishing characteristics...confused only in that it doesn't apply only to this or that discrete individual, but to any and all. (The lion p.195).

3. But isn't the concept "empty" because it is of something that doesn't really exist... "human being" per se, "dog" per se.  Well, we'd be making a mistake if we thought that there was an extra mental thing corresponding to the concept.  But as long as we understand that the concept merely reflects something about the individuals, but that all that really exists are individuals, we're safe.

4. This explains how we can use a term with meaning even if there are no individuals to which the term refers.  A puzzle: suppose all the roses were destroyed?  And then we said, truly,  "There are no more roses."  To what would the name of the rose refer?  Well, it wouldn't actually name anything, since there are no more roses, but it would still signify (have meaning) since we'd have our concept "rose."

VIII. Problems

A. (Weinberg p.87) Abelard seems to be saying that when we are confronted with individuals, we are able to focus on their essential characteristics and set aside their accidental (inessential) ones.  But how can we make sense of this distinction if we don't allow that things have essences?  (E.g. why is being rational more important that being featherless?  Why isn't hair color terribly important?)

B. Abelard believes in Divine exemplars of  things. (H p.195-196). There's a "pure" nature which human beings, because we learn through senses, cannot grasp?  How can he make sense of this?


I. Sin: Consent to act in contempt of God.


A. Having a vice -- If we did not have to do battle against ourselves we would gain no reward.  (p.203)

B. Not the desiring or wanting to sin (Translator uses term "will" which might be misleading)

1.  We can sin without exactly being tempted...the servant who kills his master.(p.203)..it isn't that the servant wants to kill his master at all, it's just that that's the only way he can avoid getting killed.  (Self-defense?...certainly later medievals wouldn't have seen it as unjust.) ?

2.  You can want without consenting, resist temptation. (p.205...as with having a vice).

C. Actually doing the deed? No, that doesn't add to the sin.

1. Some say this because doing the deed gives you pleasure and, they say, the pleasure is or at least increases the sin -- but that can't be right because....

a. Then delight in lawful act would involve sin which it surely doesn't, seeing that the lawful act is often commanded.  Can't even do it without pleasure (pp.206-207).

b. Delight w/out consent can't be sin (the monk!)  (p.207)

2. Do a deed in ignorance ...e.g. incest (p.208).

3. Same deed can be sinful or not depending on intention (p.209), e.g. hanging.

4. If by accident you can't carry out the good deed (or the bad deed) it doesn't' detract from or add to merit.(p.213) (Rogers: can you be sure you would have gone through with it?  So doesn't doing the deed contribute something...if only to the status of the consent?)

------So virtue and vice are all in the intention-------

II. A disquieting corollary: If it's intentions that count, could you deliberately disobey God, and yet do what was virtuous because you had good intentions?  (p.209) What do we say about the men who were healed and told not to proclaim the deed?  God didn't really intend to be obeyed.  (It is ultimately up to our own reason to decide which divine commands to obey and which not?)  Perelandra

III. Punishment: "We punish deeds rather than faults." (p.211)

A. Only God can punish in accord with guilt (intentions are not publicly observable).

B. Punishment in society is a matter of "expediency". (H 212)

1. Justification is deterrence.

2. The more socially harmful the more we punish.

IV. Subjectivism?

A. If it's intentions that count does that mean that so long as I believe it's good to do something...not matter what it is...it's good for me to do it?

B. No. (p.214) An intention is good if what is intended really will be pleasing to God, not just if the actor intends to do what he believes erroneously will be pleasing to God.  (Then we can't say that goodness is only in the intention, can we?  Earlier examples about ignorance?    Doesn't teleology have to come back in here?)

V. Interesting parallel to Kant...perhaps a more consistent theory of punishment?


BOETHIUS; The Consolation of Philosophy

--- What's the problem?

--- Where won't we find happiness?  How do we know that there is a true happiness/ an ultimate good? How do we know that this ultimate good = God (2 arguments)?

--- What does Boethius mean when he says that ‘All fortune is good,'? (4 possibilities: good things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, etc.)

--- Why is Boethius not fully satisfied with Augustine's answer to the problem of freedom and foreknowledge? (Why isn't it adequate to point out that to know x is not to cause x?)   How does Boethius solve the problem?  What are the two possible interpretations of Boethius' concept of eternity? (isotemporalist and presentist.)  According to Boethius, if God does not know the future by seeing it actually happen, how does He know it?  How can we be free if God is the ultimate cause of our choices?


--- Why is there a problem with how we talk about God?  According to the Ps.-D, how should we talk about God?  Give the three ways, in order, and explain what each means and why each is appropriate.


--- List and describe the four divisions of nature. (Be alert to how the distinctions between the divisions become blurred as you begin to analyze what each actually consists in.)

--- What is Eriugena's argument for idealism?  How does idealism entail the immanence of God?  Why, according to Eriugena, are the true essences of things incomprehensible?


The Ontological Arugument

Explain the Ontological argument. (List premises in order and be able to explain what each one means and to show how Anselm defends each.)

Criticisms:  Gaunilo     - I can't conceive of God

                                   - Lost Island

                  Aquinas     - You can't move from the conceptual to the actual.

                   Kant        - Existence is not a predicate.

Be able to explain the criticisms and suggest how Anselm might respond.

Cur deus homo

Why must God have become a man?

1.) Three underlying assumptions.  Given these assumptions, God has got to do something!

2.) The enormity of the debt of sin.

3.) Why can't God just forgive the debt? (2 reasons)

4.) The debt ought to be paid.  It is so large only God can pay it, but it is man that owes the debt. "He came to pay a debt He did not owe, because we owed a  debt we could not pay".  QED a God-Man.

5.) Debt is paid by Christ's perfect obedience.

6.) We have to choose to commit ourselves to that payment as our salvation.  A role for human freedom.

Free Will

Libertarianism: Open Options and Aseity (self-causation)

God is free without choosing between open options.

Created agents require open options to have aseity.

Freedom: Ability to keep justice.

Justice: Rightness of will kept for it's own sake.

Rightness of will: Willing in accord with the will of God.

Therefore Justice is a second order desire. (Explain the relationship between justice and benefit).

It is logically impossible that God should cause sin on Anselm's account. Explain.

How can it be that all that exists comes from God, and yet our choices genuinely come from ourselves?

Grace is necessary and unmerited. What does grace consist in?  What role does human free will play?

How is it that God can know today what you will choose tomorrow? Isotemporalism.  Why are some classical theists like Augustine and Aquinas unhappy with this conclusion?



What is problem of universals?  What are the key questions?

What are the four main positions on the question of universals?

        What view did Plato hold? Aristotle? Augustine and Anselm?

William of Champeaux's extreme realism.  The universal term refers to a ‘material essence', individuals are distinguished by their accidental properties.

Why does Abelard reject William of Champeaux's exaggerated realism?

What is Abelard's position on universals?

  a) What things do universals name?

  b) Why do we give one name to the different individuals?

  c) What are "universal concepts"? (Don't forget abstraction.) Are they somehow false, "empty"?

  d) Suppose all the roses had been destroyed.  In the sentence, "There are no more roses", what does the term "rose" refer to?  What does it signify?


What is sin?

a) Why isn't temptation sin? (1 reason)

b) Why isn't enjoying the deed sin? (2 reasons)

c) Why isn't actually doing the deed sin? (3 reasons)

 Could it ever be right to disobey God? (I mean, according to Abelard!)  Explain.

Why do we punish? (Why should human law with respect to punishment concern itself more with "economy" than with justice?)

The danger of subjectivism.  How does Abelard try to escape?


Boethius  Handout  The Consolation of Philosophy (Excerpts)

  (Text in italics is not direct quotation from Boethius)

---------The basic problem: Why do bad things happen to good people?---------

What is true happiness?  The worldly goods offered by fortune?

If happiness is the highest good of a rational nature, and that cannot be the highest good which can in any way be taken away–because clearly that which cannot be taken away is higher–then surely the instability of fortune cannot aspire to the attainment of happiness.  Again, he who is borne up on this fallible happiness must either know or not know that it is changeable.  If he does not know, can his state truly be a happy one in such blind ignorance?  If he does know, he must fear that he may lose that which he knows can be lost, and his continual fear will prevent him being happy.

Could it be that there is no perfect happiness?

And in this I think we first have to inquire whether any good of this kind, as you have just defined it, can exist in the world, lest we are deceived by an empty imagining going beyond the truth of the reality before us.  But that there exists this thing, as it were a kind of fount of all goods, cannot be denied.  For everything which is called imperfect is held to be imperfect because of some diminution of what is perfect.  Hence it happens that if in any class something seems to be imperfect, there must also be something perfect of that class; for if we take away perfection altogether, it cannot even be imagined how that which is held to be imperfect can exist.

The ultimate good (perfect happiness) equals God.  (2 arguments)

First:  God neither receives goodness from outside, nor possesses it in such a way that it is different from His nature.  For if you thought it was received from outside, you could think that which gave it more excellent than that which received it; but we most rightly confess that he is the most excellent of all things.  But if it is by nature that it is in him, but it is essentially different, then since we are speaking of God the Author of all things, let him imagine who can who it was joined these two different natures.

Second:  ...two highest goods different from one another cannot exist.  For it is clear that when two goods are different, the one is not the other; and therefore neither could be perfect, since the one is lacking from the other; but it is obvious that what is not perfect is not the highest; and therefore in no way can those highest goods be different from one another.  But we have concluded that both God and happiness are the highest good, so that that must be the highest happiness which is the highest divinity.

-----------------But then isn't the basic problem intensified?-----------------

But this itself is the very greatest cause of my grief, that, although there does exist a good ruler of the universe, evil can exist at all and even pass unpunished.

God is in charge and all fortune can be put to good use.  For it is placed in your own hands, what kind of fortune you prefer to shape for yourselves; for all fortune that seems adverse, if it does not exercise or correct, punishes.

---------But can we really be free if God foreknows what we will choose?-----------

For if God foresees all and cannot in any way be mistaken, then that must necessarily happen which in his providence he foresees will be.  And therefore if he foreknows from all eternity not only the deeds of men but even their plans and desires, there will be no free will; for it will be impossible for there to be any deed at all or any desire whatever except that which divine providence, which cannot be mistaken, perceives before hand.  For if they can be turned aside into a different way from that foreseen, then there will no longer be firm foreknowledge of the future, but rather uncertain opinion, which I judge impious to believe of God.

Isn't it a sufficient solution to say that knowledge that something is going to happen does not constitute any sort of causal necessity for its happening?  No.

But foreknowledge, you will say, although it does not constitute a necessity for future things, of their happening, yet it is a sign that they will necessarily come to be.  In this way, then, even had there been no foreknowledge, it would be agreed that the outcome of future things is necessary; for every sign only points to what is, but does not cause to be what it signifies.

The above is false, because it fails to take into account the manner of divine foreknowledge.

Now that God is eternal is the common judgement of all who live by reason.  Therefore let us consider, what is eternity; for this makes plain to us both the divine nature and the divine knowledge.  Eternity, then, is the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of boundless life,...Whatever therefore comprehends and possesses at once the whole fullness of boundless life, and is such that neither is anything future lacking from it, nor has anything past flowed away, that is rightly held to be eternal, and that must necessarily both always be present to itself, possessing itself in the present, and hold as present the infinity of moving time...Since then every judgement comprehends those things subject to it according to its own nature, and God has an always eternal and present nature, then his knowledge too, surpassing all movement of time, is permanent in the simplicity of his present, and embracing all the infinite spaces of the future and the past, considers them in his simple act of knowledge as though they were now going on.  So if you should wish to consider his foreknowledge, by which he discerns all things, you will more rightly judge it to be not foreknowledge as it were of the future but knowledge of a never-passing instant.  And therefore it is called not prevision but providence, because set far from the lowest of things it looks forward on all things as though from the highest peak of the world.