Virtues of the Will: The Transformation of Ethics in the Late Thirteenth Century
In Virtues of the Will, Bonnie Kent traces late thirteenth-century debates about the freedom of the will, moral weakness, and other issues that helped change the course of Western ethics. She argues that one cannot understand the controversies of the period or see Duns Scotus in perspective without paying due attention to his immediate predecessors: the influential secular master Henry of Ghent, Walter of Bruges, William de la Mare, Peter Olivi, and other Franciscans. Seemingly radical doctrines in Scotus often turn out to be moderate in comparison to other near-contemporary views, and striking Scotistic innovations often turn out to be something approaching commonplaces of Franciscan thought.
This study presents the controversies of the period less as a reaction by theologians against philosophy than as genuine philosophical debates about problems raised by Aristotle's thought. And it presents Scotus's teachings less as a break with tradition than as a reasonably natural response to issues debated by his predecessors. The overall aim is to recover part of a late thirteenth-century dialogue about the will and morality.
By explaining in a clear, accessible style the sometimes complex issues debated during this period, Virtues of the Will helps readers understand not only the historical and doctrinal context but also the more enduring philosophical problems posed by Aristotle's teachings.
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Aristotle among the Christians
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