Heavenly "Freedom" in Fourteenth-Century Voluntarism

In Sonja Schierbaum & Jörn Müller (eds.), Varieties of Voluntarism in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 199-216 (2024)
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According to standard late medieval Christian thought, humans in heaven are unable to sin, having been “confirmed” in their goodness; and, nevertheless, are more free than humans are in the present life. The rise of voluntarist conceptions of the will in the late thirteenth century made it increasingly difficult to hold onto both claims. Peter Olivi suggested that the impeccability of the blessed was dependent upon a special activity of God upon their wills and argued that this external constraint upon their wills did not eliminate their freedom. Later voluntarists largely agreed with Olivi in attributing the confirmation of the blessed to be dependent upon God’s activity in some way, but disputed the means by which and the extent to which the wills of those in heaven could be said to retain their freedom. This paper will examine various attempts made to either harmonize these two claims or else to soften the blow of rejecting one of them; among the authors surveyed will be Peter John Olivi, John Duns Scotus, Henry of Harclay, William of Ockham, Walter Chatton, and Margurite Porete.

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Eric W. Hagedorn
St. Norbert College


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