Saturday, January 19, 2008

Predestination II: On the Possibility of Predestination

Here is a second installment on predestination, from the Ordinatio. Note that twice he refers to his treatment of synchronic contingency in the preceding distinction, which is a much much longer treatment of related issues. I won't translate it due to its length and the fact that Vos already has an English translation out there with commentary (though, being from Kluwer, it is prohibitively expensive for a measly translation), and there is an extensive body of literature on this topic in Scotus. enjoy

Distinction 40, single question: Whether the Predestined can be Damned [VI 309-12]

Concerning distinction forty I ask whether the predestined can be damned.

That he cannot:

Everything past is of absolute necessity, because – according to the Philosopher in VI Ethics – “God is deprived of this alone, to make ungenerated those things which are made”; but the predestination of this one having been predestinated has passed into the past, because God predestined him from eternity; therefore it is of absolute necessity. Therefore God is not able not to predestine, and consequently that one cannot be condemned.

Furthermore, if the predestined can be damned, this would not be unless by his own act; therefore through an actof the created will the act of the divine will could be impeded, which is impossible.


If not, then there would not be any care taken by anyone about the observence of the precepts and counsels, because howsoever one acted, he would be saved if he was predestined – and howsoever one acted, if he was foreknown he would be damned. Therefore the entire divine law would be posited in vain!

[To the question...Scotus’s own opinion]

To that question. “Predestination” properly means [dicit] an act of divine will, namely an ordering of the election of some intellectual or rational creature by the divine will to grace and glory, although it can be understood for the act of the intellect accompanying that election. Therefore just as it is said in general about the liberty and contingency of the divine will with respect to any special secondary object, so it must said in respect of this secondary object, that is ‘to will this one to grace and glory’.

And from this I say (on account of those things which are said in the preceding question [i.e. regarding synchronic contingency, which the vatican editors have placed in an appendex due to the marginal notation in MS A that the Liber Scoti is blank]) that God contingently predestines that one whom predestined, and is able not to predestine – not both at the same time nor successively, but each dividedly, in the instant of eternity.

In a similar manner I say to the question in itself that that one who is predestined, is able to be damned: for not, on account of his predestination, is his will confirmed – and so he is able to sin, and so for the same reason to remain in sin finally and so justly to be damned; but just as he can be damned, so he is able not to be predestined.

As far as the logic of the current question, one must distinguish between composition and division: and in the sense of composition per se, an extreme is man or the predestined person, under that determination ‘predestinated’, - and that sense is false; and in the sense also of division are two categories, and are enunciated of some person able to be beatified in one category ‘to be predestined’ and in another, ‘to be damned’, - and those two are true of the same subject. Neither are they true because they cam be opposted at the same time, nor also because one can suceed the other (because both are in eternity), but it is true at the same time insofar as the divine volition is considered as prior naturally in the process [transitu] over that object which is ‘the glory of that man’; it is not naturally repugnant to itself in that prior to be of the opposite object, rather it can equally be of the oppoiste, although not simultaneously of both.

[II. To the principal arguments]

To the first argument I say that it proceeds from a false imagination, the understanding of this imagination aids for understanding the truth of the proposed quesiton. For if per impossibile we would understand God still not to have determined his will to the other part, but to quasi deliberate whetehr wh should will to predestine that one or not, our intellect would well seize that he would predestine or not predestine him contingently, just as appears in an act of our will; but because we always recurr to the act of divine will as if it is past, therefore it is as if we do not conceive liberty in that will to the act as if it is now posited by the will. But that imagination is false: for that ‘now’ of eternity, in which there is that act, is alwasy present; and so it must be understood about the divine will or his volition as it is of this object, just as if per impossible now God would begin to have to will in that ‘now’ – and so freely God is able to will what he wills in the ‘now’ of eternity, just as if his will was determinaed to nothing.

Then I say to the form of the argument that predestination of this sort does not pass into the past. For although it coexists with the past, which has passed away, nevetheless it itself has not passed away – but the other has passed away, which coexisted with it. Hence, just as was said in distinction 9, words of diverse tenses said of God – inasmuch as most truly they are suited to him – do not signify parts of time measuring that act, but they co-signify the ‘now’ of eternity quasi measruing that act, insoffar as coexisting to those many parts; and therefore it is the same for God to predestine and to have predestined, and to be about to predestine, and so one is contingent just like the other, because nothing except the ‘now’ of eternity measuring that act, - which neither is present nor past nor future, but coexists with all those.

To the second I say that the created will cannot impded the ordering of the divine will, for ‘to impede’ would not be unless the proposition of the divine will would remain and the opposite come about by another will; but this is impossible, because just as the created will can merit damnation, so also it can concomitantly follow that the divine will does not preorder him to glory. Hence it was said in the preceding distinction (in the solution of the first argument to the second question) that God cannot be mistaken, because his intellection with respect to another cannot stand with the opposite of it; so also his will cannot be impeded, because an ordering of it cannot stand with the opposite of that which he ordained.


Unknown said...

1. God knows all things, including those who will be saved (THE ELECT). 2. God's foreknowledge does not destroy, but includes, free will. 3. God desires all men to be saved. 4. Jesus died to redeem all men. 5. God provides sufficient grace for all men to be saved. 6. Man, in the exercise of his free will, can accept or reject grace. 7. Those who accept grace are saved, or born-again. 8. Those who are born-again can fall away or fall into sin. 9. Not everyone who is saved will persevere in grace. 10. Those who do persevere are God's elect. 11. Those who do not persevere, or who never accepted grace, are the reprobate. 12. Since we can always reject God in this life, we have no absolute assurance that we will persevere. 13. We can have a moral assurance of salvation if we maintain faith and keep God's commandments (1 John 2:1-6; 3:19-23; 5:1-3,13).


1. Predestination is not predetermination :

"Predestination is nothing else than the foreknowledge and foreordaining of those gracious gifts which make certain the salvation of all who are saved." (St. Augustine, Persever 14:35)

Predestination is God's decree of the happiness of the elect. God's infallible foreknowledge (and thus predestination also) includes free will. God's foreknowledge cannot force upon man unavoidable coercion, for the simple reason that it is at bottom nothing else than the eternal vision of the future historical actuality. God foresees the free activity of a man precisely as that individual is willing to shape it, predestination is not predetermination of the human will.

2. Election is a consequence of God's foreknowledge :

By definition, the ELECT are those whom God infallibly foresees will be saved (Rom 8:28-30). By this definition, it is impossible for the elect to be lost, precisely because God foreknows who will not be lost. But since election depends on God's infallible foreknowledge, we simply have no way of knowing whether or not we are in that category -- God knows with certainty His elect, but we do not. The elect are predestined in the sense that God knows them, and enables them by grace, to be saved.

3. Free will can resist and reject God's grace :

"You stiff-necked always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). The angels possessed grace and perfectly intact intellect, and yet many of them freely sinned and rejected God. Adam and Eve possessed grace and a perfectly intact nature, and yet they freely sinned. How much more so is it possible for the born-again Christian, who possesses grace but also a wounded nature and a darkened intellect, to sin also. Paul mentions sins which keep a man from the Kingdom of God: fornication, adultery, homosexuality, theft, greed, and so on (1 Cor 6:9-10).

When Jesus was expressly asked what one must do to gain eternal life, he answered, "keep the commandments," and went on to list the moral commandments of the Decalogue (Matt 19:16-21). Revelation describes those whose lot is the burning pool of fire and sulfur, the second death: "cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste" and so on (Rev 21:8). Aren't born-again Christians capable of these sins? And if they die in these sins, how can they possibly inherit heaven? If Adam and Eve could fall from grace, surely we can fall from grace as well. Surely we can harden our hearts and resist the Holy Spirit.

4. We cannot confuse Election with being "Born Again" :

The set of those who are "born again" (in Catholic and historic Christian understanding those who have been regenerated "of water and Spirit" in the Sacrament of Baptism -- John 3:3,5; Acts 2:38) is not necessarily co-extensive with the set of those who will persevere and gain eternal life. Born-again Christians can and (sadly) do fall away. Otherwise free will and (mortal) sin are merely fictitious for a Christian during this life of testing and pilgrimage. Otherwise all the language in Scripture of persevering to the end in order to be saved (cf. Matt 10:22; 24:13; Phil 2:12-13) makes no sense.


Lee Faber said...

How does this relate to the post on Scotus? Other than the same general theme, are you for or against, or what?

Edward Ockham said...

Greetings. Do excuse me for an off-topic comment (this has nothing to do with predestination) but I just noticed the blog & have a question. Background: I have just finished a translation of QQ 2, 5-8 and 12 of Scotus' questions on the Perihermeneias, and will shortly be publishing it on the net together with an 'edition' compiled from 3 pre-wadding sources (didn't use the recent Andrews 2004 for copyright reasons). This as far as I know is the first English translation of these questions, and my introduction will be one of the very few discussions of this work.

I didn't get very far into this when I realised the question of attribution loomed large. I came to this work originally from looking at the work of the13th and 14th century 'modist' logicians, and found the Scotus commentary by accident, realised much of the content of the work overlapped considerably with Modist work of the same period. Then (not being Scotist student) I found that many of the logical works attributed to Scotus are now known not to be by him, and were in fact by other modist logicians. I have skimmed over work on the attribution problem and even from this it appears there are a number of questions. E.g. style of the Perihermenias questions seems very different to 'mature Scotus', content and philosophical position does not seem to fit very well &c &c. On the other hand there seem strong reasons to attribute this work to Scotus.

But now the question – are there any works which look at the attribution problem in more detail? I'm aware of Andrews work (though haven't obtained it yet), an excellent book by Antonie Vos, and a handful of papers. However, these don't really look at the texts I have been studying and translating.

Any thoughts gratefully received. I can be contacted at

d3uckner AT

or on my own blog.

Michael Sullivan said...


the recent critical edition is really the one to use. According to the editors, discrepancies between the Scotist logical works and the more mature positions are do to the fact the the logical commentaries are among the earliest, if not the earliest, of Scotus' works and his positions were not all worked out when he wrote them.

I don't know the texts you're using and so can't comment. But unless (or even if) you're looking at manuscripts yourself I'd say you need to get hold of v.2 of the Opera philosophica.

Michael Sullivan said...

By the way, Faber, good post. Awesome passage.

Edward Ockham said...

Michael -

Thanks for those comments. The sources I was using were Reynaldus de Novimagio (1479 edition), Ibernicus 1500 and Boccadifuoco 1586. All correspond fairly closely.

You are quite right I need to reference the critical edition (Andrews 2004) but would you believe none of the London University libraries has a copy of this. I will need to resort to interlibrary loan or preferably buy a copy but that might be painful in all senses.

Andrews' view as you say is that the logical works are early, probably around the mid 1290's.

The difficulty with this is how well they engage with the philosophical work going on in Paris in that period. This seems difficult to explain if Scotus was living in the branchy-between-towers place at the time. Unless of course there was a thriving community of modistae in Oxford then. Or Scotus had access to the manuscripts that were being written at the same period in Paris - my knowledge of how works were copied in transmitted in that pre-internet age is not good!

Also it is difficult to see how Scotus' style could change so radically in the 5-6 years between the logical works, and the Ordinatio. (I was using the famous discussion of individuation in book II, distinction III as a comparison).

But you are right to recommened V2 of the critical edition (V1 also has a useful essay, and that is available via UCL library).

Best, William of Ocham.

Lee Faber said...

You might also look at Pini's book on the categories for discussion or bibliography.

Incidentally, I don't think there is a copyright problem if you're doing a translation, just as long as you cite the text you're using. If you're pressed for one, Peter King had scanned it in on his website at one point. even there, I think you can copyright the apparatus, but the text is public domain.

Michael Sullivan said...


are you the w Ockham whose comments I read so often on Maverick Philosopher? If so, it's really an honor to see you here!

My understanding is that Scotus' logical works are deeply engaged with contemporary English logicians, even more than Continental ones, and that the parallels are rarely recognized mostly because the English logical tradition of the time is still little known.

I'm also given to understand that at the time contemporary positions frequently traveled quicker by word of mouth than by manuscript, due to scholars' phenomenal memory and their tendency to move about fairly frequently; so that it's very possible that Scotus knew what was being discussed in Paris within a short amount of time, much sooner than the written works would have been disseminated. I forget whether I've read about this somewhere or if it's straight from the horse's mouth (my dissertation is being directed by Dr Noone, who's now the head of the Scotus Commission, and he loves to talk about this phenomenon).

My sympathies about getting a copy of the Opera Philosophica. Faber and I bought ours back when we worked for a specialty bookstore that got us huge discounts.

Lee Faber said...

michael, you're understanding is wrong. the whole reason for positing a parisian stay for Scotus in the 1290's is his intimate knowledge of Parisian logical discussions (that and Gonsalvus says he knows him from long experience). I suspect the ability of scholars to travel around etc. cuts against the early Parisian thesis.

Noone is the head of the Scotus project; the Commissio Scotistica is based in Rome under Hechich.

Edward Ockham said...

Yes indeed I am the Ockham from Maverick Philosopher! Honoured that you are honoured!

The knowledge of terminology showed in the Questions is difficult to explain if Scotus attended, as it were, a medieval powerpoint presentation by a visiting scholar.

I didn't know about the posited stay in Paris, or Gonsalvus. As I say, I am not Scotus scholar and came at this from a different direction. Would be grateful for any references!

I came across this because I was researching the 'omnis homo est animal' question (is it true when no men exist?). There is a reasonably well-known list of primary sources on this, most of the writers being modists. Scotus never was on the list. I only found it by accident when compiling a list of commentaries and questions on the Perihermaneias.

If Scotus wasn't the author of this work, then it is merely another item on a list of sources for the 'omnis homo' question. If he is the author, it raises interesting problems about how his answer to the question affects his later work. (He is on the side of those who say 'omnis homo est animal' is true when no man exists. Buridan and Ockham, by contrast, are on the other side - though this simplifies the issue somewhat).

Lee, I have a comment on your William of Alnwick post - it was in December, not sure if you are alerted to comments on out of date posts.

Best - William

Edward Ockham said...

>> don't think there is a copyright problem if you're doing a translation, just as long as you cite the text you're using.

Not with the translation, but my site is parallel Latin-English only. The critical edition is clearly copyright.

Ideally, I will use my Latin 'edition', noting discrepances with the Bonaventura.

Certainly there is a large chunk of Volume I on King's site, which I have a personal copy of, but I am dubious of the legality of this (though again, given the difficulty of obtaining the paper one, can't see why anyone minds).

Perhaps I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Calvin ruined laughter, I think. Serious fellow, he. Anyone who says God predestined infants to Hell on account of some imagined "total depravity" lives by certain selective biblical texts which don't live in him. ...continue