Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Duns Scotus: Will, Free and Natural

IN PRIOR POSTINGS WE discussed Duns Scotus's teaching on the will and the intellect in man as formal, yet-objectively based distinctions in the human soul. This led us to focus on Scotus's famous distinctio formalis a parte rei which is so central to the entire corpus of his thought. We have also seen how Scotus, while holding the Augustinian and Franciscan notion of the primacy of the will and therefore rejecting intellectualism, eschewed any extreme notion of voluntarism, adopting in its stead a moderate voluntarism. Given this understanding of Scotus's doctrine of intellect and will, we can now approach Scotus's notion of how the will and the intellect interact. But first we should explore in greater detail the interaction of the "natural will" and the "free will" in Scotus's teaching.

In reviewing Scotus's teaching on the interaction of will and intellect, it is important to recall his concept of a "natural will" and "free will," which is how the Franciscan master divides the human will. The will he characterizes as "free will" (voluntas libera) is the will that is able to select in conformity with the affection of justice (affectio justitiae) and the will which is able to chose that which is good in itself, the bonum in se. This should be distinguished from the "natural will" (voluntas naturalis), which is necessarily and not freely moved by natural affection, by the affection of convenience (affectio commodi), which seeks one's own good, the bonum sibi.*

Duns Scotus teaching before Franciscans and Dominicans

With respect to the will, it is hard to understate its importance in the Scotist system. It is particularly difficult to understate the concept of freedom of the will, the will's self-determination, the will's self-movement, its relation to practical reason, and the importance of this concept in the Scotist understanding of the moral act.

In her book The Harmony of Goodness: Mutuality and Moral Living According to John Duns Soctus, Mary Beth Ingham summarizes Scotus's position:

In his discussion of the will's freedom, Scotus places himself within the tradition of medieval thinkers who defined rational freedom in light of the will's capacity for reasoning and choosing. Scotus remains faithful to the Franciscan position on the will as autonomous cause of the act of choice, and inserts the more recent reflection upon freedom within the Anselmian context [that a will is most free when it acts rightly]. His discussion unites [practical] reason and willing within the will and distinguishes it as a free cause from the intellect. In this, he presents his own understanding of [the Augustinian] liberum arbitrium as a single power within the will and as synonymous with the will.

Ingham, 27.

Man's free will, a created free will, participates as it were in God's absolutely free will, and so man's free will is grounded in God's free will. It reflects in a creaturely way God's free will, and in fact is meant to imitate God's free will, in particular in its causal, creative, redemptive, and loving aspects. Moreover, free will also exhibits a sort of lasting, continual dynamism, a firmitas, a constancy or steadfastness. Thus free will is not arbitrary in the sense of fickle, capricious, unstable, unreliable. Quite the contrary, the free will is free to chose, but once it chooses it is steadfast, reliable, trustworthy, and solid. We shall see, moreover, that the free will is not a recipe for self-definition or radical autonomy in some sort of Kantian or Sartrean sense; rather, Scotus will tie the free will into a partnership with practical reason and the natural moral law. Its greatest and highest act is to love the Other for the Other's sake.

With regard to his doctrine on will, perhaps Scotus's most significant emphasis is the self-determination of the will. It is the will's self-determination that makes it free. It is its self-determination which gives it priority over the intellect, for the intellect acts necessarily, naturally, and, in fact, acts under the direction of the self-determining will. Ingham, 37. Scotus distinguishes between natural powers and free powers, and the intellect (as well as the "natural will") he puts in the former category, while the free will he places in the latter, superior, more noble category. When one sees a pipe, the intellect recognizes it as a pipe, and nothing one can do can force the intellect not to accept the pipe as a pipe. It is impossible--unless one is insane--to see the pipe as anything other than a pipe. One cannot say with Magritte when seeing an actual pipe, "ceci n'est pas une pipe." The will does not have this necessary component to it. When confronting an object it can will or decide not to will, or it can will and not will to pursue it. Contrary to the intellect which has truth "forced" upon it so to speak, the freevwill cannot have choice forced upon it. It is self-determinative: it causes its own act, choice.

We have discussed in prior postings the two affections of the will, the affectio commodi (the affection to one's advantage) and the affectio justitiae (the affection towards justice). This Anselmian distinction was borrowed by Scotus and incorporated into his moral thinking. These affections are tied to the two appetites of the will. Duplex est appetitus in voluntate," says Blessed Duns Scotus in his Ordinatio IV, d. 49, q. 10, n. 2, scilicet naturalis et liber." Two appetites are there in the will, namely, the natural and the free.** The natural will is driven by this natural appetite. The free will is driven by the free appetite. So what is the natural appetite? What is the free appetite? How do they related to the affections? How do they relate to themselves?

For help in answering these questions, we might turn to Scotus's Ordinatio IV, d. 49, q. 10, n. 2:

There is a double appetite in the will, namely the natural and the free. I only call "natural" the will's power taken absolutely, but not anything added on to the will. For just as any nature whatever has a natural inclination to its own perfection, so has the intellectual nature, i.e., the will, has a natural inclination to its own perfection. The free appetite, which is to wish freely, is something else. I say of the first appetite that it is not some act elicited by the will, but only a certain inclination.

Ordinatio IV, d. 49, q. 10, n. 2 (trans. by Cruz González-Ayesta, 376-77).

Both the free will and the natural will involve intellectual appetites. However, the natural will works off a natural intellectual appetite which tends or inclines towards one's own benefit, and so does not involve any freely-elicited act. It is tied to what is useful, and the desire that drives it is concupiscent. The natural will is only improperly, or by courtesy, called will. In a strict sense it is not will, if will is defined as free will. This is why elsewhere Scotus can say that "the natural will is not a will, nor is natural volition volition." The free will, on the other hand, is freely elicited: it is entirely unbound from nature's inclinations which govern the natural will. In fact, it can chose to act against the natural will, and this it does when it follows the affection of justice.
The natural will as tending necessarily to the object willed has no elicited act in its regard. It is only a certain inclination in such a nature towards the perfection most appropriate to it. This inclination necessarily exists in nature, even though an act in conformity with such an inclination and nature may not be necessarily elicited. For no act is elicited except by the free will, whether it be conformed or natural or whether it be difformed or against nature. And no matter how much it wills the opposite of that to which it is inclined, that inclination necessarily remains as long as the nature remains.
Ordinatio II, d. 39, q. 2, n. 24 (trans., Cruz González-Ayesta, 378-79). The free will is not driven by a concupiscent desire of wanting, coveting something for one's own sake, but by friendship, by love, which desiring something for the sake of another.

Since the natural will works of of inclinations, the natural will is passive, unlike the free will which is active. But as Cruz González-Ayesta clarifies, there are not really two wills in man, though one can distinguish between the natural and free will:

[The] natural and free will are not two different powers, but rather the same power considered under two different perspectives. Scotus calls the active power to will, nill, or not will, "free will," and the inclination of this same power to receive its own perfections "natural will."
Cruz González-Ayesta, 379 (citing to Ordinatio, III, d. 17, a. un., n. 18).

Scotus insists that that part of the will that is free, really is free, and he resists with great resolve any effort to find something outside the will that determines it, that makes it necessarily to chose something other than what it itself chooses. To Scotus, "free" means that the will is "capable of self-determination between contraries, a capacity that does not disappear when the will is compared to the last end or highest good." Cruz González-Ayesta, 375.

Unlike the Thomistic view of things, Scotus views the free will is not ordered willy nilly to the good (though the intellect may misapprehend what is good). The most that Scotus is willing to concede is that--when faced with the highest good, namely God, the will cannot not will the highest good. Similarly, when faced with the highest evil, rejection of God, the will cannot will the highest evil. However, even then the will has freedom enough to will or decide not to will, to abstain: neque velle neque nolle. Quodlibet, q. 16, n. 5. With respect to all other goods and evil in between the boundaries of absolute good and absolute evil, the will is free to will (velle) or not to will (nolle) regardless of the good or evil involved. There is no compulsion external to the will. The will is compelled by the will's choice. It can even reject happiness, which is a topic we will save for another day.***

The difference between the natural appetite (and natural will) and the free appetite (and free will) is one involving a formal, not real distinction. The distinction is between the will as an intellectual appetite and the will as an active power. Cruz González-Ayesta, 385. The entire moral question stems from the struggle or tension between these two affections, these two appetites, and the battle between the natural will and the free will. If the two wills are properly aligned, there is no tension; however, if, under any given circumstance, there is improper alignment, then the moral act requires that the free will be exercised against the natural will, and so the affectio commodi must give way to the affectio justitiae, and the natural will is "vetoed" so to speak, or overpowered, by the free will.

[T]his affection for justice, which is the first checkrein on the affection for the beneficial, inasmuch as we need not actually seek that towards which the latter affection inclines us, nor must we week it above all else (namely, to the extent to which we are inclined by this affection for the advantageous); this affection for what is just, I say, is the liberty innate to the will, since it represents the first checkrein on this affection for the advantageous.

Ordinatio, II, d. 6, q. 2, n. 49 (trans. Wolter, 469-71).

While the affectio justitiae is a "checkrein" on the affectio commodi, that is not its only function. It has a more significant function in the grand scheme of things. As Cruz González-Ayesta explains:
[I]t is worthwhile to note that the regulative function of the affection for justice over the affection for the beneficial is neither its only nor its main function. Thanks to the affectio iustitiae, one's reason for acting becomes not the perfection one can achieve but the intrinsic goodness of that particular action. In as much as the will pursues the good in itself, moral perfection is achieved although not directly intended.
Cruz González-Ayesta, 391.

In closing this posting, it might be mentioned that the Scotist emphasis on the freedom of the will and its self-determination represents a radical break from the Aristotelian/Thomist teleological view:

The distinctive character of freedom [in Scotus] is seen in the fact that the will is to be understood as the efficient cause of free actions. The distinctive character of freedom is seen in the fact that the will is not aimed at naturally impressed ends that are themselves to be understood as final causes, as Aristotelian-Thomistic naturalism would have it; instead the will can determine itself to action in complete independence from any final cause as coprinciple. This last point implies a thoroughgoing break with a foundational principle of Aristotelian physics and metaphysics . . . . It is his break with this fundamental principle and the teleological interpretation of voluntary action implied by it that permits Scotus to conceive the will as a power for free self-determination.

This Scotist doctrine goes hand in hand with a thoroughgoing critique of the concept of final causality, which is so important in Aristotelian-Thomistic ethics. . . . In an uncharacteristically harsh tone Scotus criticizes the appeal to final causes as a flight into fantasy [fugiendo finguntur viae mirabiles]. Against the backdrop of this altered understanding of what sorts of cause can legitimately come up for discussion, Scotus develops an interpretation of the will that conceives it in sharp distinction to the Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of rational appetite. Here lies the root of Scotus's denaturalized conception of the will.

Hannes Möhle, "Scotus's Theory of Natural Law," The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus (Thomas Williams, ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 324-25.

Summary of Duns Scotus's Teaching on Free and Natural Will
(adapted from "Duns Scotus on the Will: A Summary of Two Key Distinctions," by Scott M. Sullivan)
(Click on image Enlarge)
*It should be noted that the "free will" that Scotus distinguishes from the "natural will" is still part of man's "nature," though in some ways it also transcends it. But it is important to note that the exercise of free will, while a noble faculty in man, is not part of the supernatural calling of man in response to God's grace. Wolter, 40. It should also be noted that the free will (if exercised in accordance with right reason) and the natural will (if properly moderated) both seek good, only in different ways. "Where the affection for justice inclines us to love God for the beautiful and good being he is in himself, the affection for the advantageous inclines us to seek him as our greatest good, because by union with him through knowledge and love, our nature as "capax Dei" is perfected in the highest way." Wolter, 40.
**The Scotist notion of "natural will" and "free will" are different categories from the Thomist notions of voluntas ut natura and voluntas ut voluntas. Cruz González-Ayesta, "Scotus' Interpretation of the Difference Between voluntas ut natura and voluntas ut voluntas," Franciscan Studies 66 (2008), 374 & n. 8. Since Scotus denaturalizes the free will, he also severs from the free will any teleological notion of nature tending towards its own good (voluntas ut natura) and selecting the means (voluntas ut voluntas). As Scotus says in Lectura I, d. 10, n. 24: "Operating by way of nature and operating by way of freedom, however, are ways that have grounds which differ by their very nature." Natural will and free will, in Scotus's view, involve two entirely different worlds, two different ways of acting or operation. Cruz González-Ayesta, 374-75.
***Not only did Scotus sever nature and its telos from free will, he also severed happiness from it. "Hence, when [the will] is shown happiness, it can refrain from acting at all." Ordinatio, IV, d. 49, q. 10, n. 10. On these two counts alone, this obviously makes his ethical theory non-Aristotelian and non-Thomist, as these eudaimonistic theories place much importance on happiness.

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