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Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy$

Martin Pickavé and Lisa Shapiro

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199579914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579914.001.0001

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John Duns Scotus on the Passions of the Will

John Duns Scotus on the Passions of the Will

(p.53) John Duns Scotus on the Passions of the Will
Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

Ian Drummond

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Medieval philosophers usually explained the passions of the soul in terms of a bodily change, John Duns Scotus rejects this view and explains the passions in terms of the inclinations of appetitive powers as such, regardless of whether they have a material aspect. The will therefore, even though it is a purely spiritual and immaterial power, can be the proper subject of emotions such as joy and sadness; these passions are ultimately voluntary, argues Scotus, because the inclinations of the will are due to its own free acts of volition. However, if the will is naturally inclined as the rational appetite to the good of the whole human being, some passions of the will seem not to be traceable to any free act. It is thus not clear whether Scotus can reconcile the traditional conception of the will as the rational appetite with his account of its free self-determination

Keywords:   emotions, passions, will, inclination, John Duns Scotus, passions, rational appetite, freedom, self-determination

Medieval philosophers generally described the emotions as passions of the soul; however, they often disagreed about exactly how such passions come to be in the soul.1 The term ‘passion’ implies that the subject of a passion has in some way been acted upon by an external agent: one might say, for example, that anger is a passion because it is caused in me by whatever I am angry about, whereas I myself am the cause of whatever action I then take. Some philosophers held that for a subject to be passive requires some material element, and so, since the soul by itself is immaterial, the passions of the soul must involve the material body. Thomas Aquinas, for example, argues that an emotion such as anger is not just accompanied by bodily motion and change (such as quickening of the pulse or, in Aristotelian terms, boiling of the blood around the heart),2 but is partially constituted by it. On this account, since the will is an immaterial power that can act without any bodily change, it is not subject to passions.

In this paper, I examine the very different view of John Duns Scotus, who argues that the will can indeed be the subject of passions.3 Those passions that do involve bodily change, he claims, are passions not of the soul as such, but of the body and soul together. Strictly speaking, therefore, the passions of the soul belong only to the purely immaterial powers of the soul, namely the rational powers, which are the intellect and the rational appetite; or to be more precise, since we have passions not insofar as we think and know but insofar as we desire, they belong only to the rational appetite, that is, the will. One indication that Scotus holds this view is that, according to him, the (p.54) moral virtues that moderate the passions are habits of the will; and since a habit and the passions that it moderates must belong to the same power, the passions that moral virtues moderate must be in the will. Moreover, while scholastic philosophers generally agree that it is in the nature of any appetitive power to be inclined to objects that benefit it and disinclined to those that harm it, Scotus argues further that although an appetite actively seeks the objects that suit it, it is nevertheless passive with respect to the pleasure and pain that result from its inclinations. This way of explaining how passions are caused does not appeal to any material component, but applies equally to the immaterial rational appetite, which can thus receive as passions the emotions of joy, sadness, anger, and so on. Nonetheless, since emotions are evidently not under the control of their subject, to allow that the will can receive extrinsically caused passions seems to represent a limitation on the will’s free self-determination. Scotus addresses this objection by arguing that the inclinations of the will result from the will’s own free acts of volition; the passions that follow from these inclinations are therefore still under the power of the will itself, even if only indirectly. Yet he also seems to concede that some passions in the will do not result from its own free volition but from merely natural inclinations, in particular, its inclination as the rational appetite to happiness. I conclude by suggesting that the will’s inclination to happiness could be explained in such a way that it does not conflict with Scotus’s account of how the passions of the will are voluntary, but at the cost of calling into question the very nature of the will as an appetitive power.

1. Does the will have passions?

The possibility of passions in the will might seem uncontroversial within the context of scholastic philosophy. There is first of all the authority of Augustine, who, as Scotus notes, says that sadness is in the rational part of the soul in the same way that pain is in the sensitive part.4 As well, it seems possible to distinguish the emotions that one might have as a result of a rational decision from whatever physical pleasure or pain accompanies it, one might, for example, experience mental delight in accomplishing a task, even if the work involved in it is unpleasant or painful. It seems then that the joy that we feel in achieving what we choose (or the sadness when we fail) should pertain to the will rather than to any of the other powers of the soul that receive their own pleasures and pains. Moreover, emotions like joy and sadness come and go, whereas the (p.55) subject that receives them persists; it is thus natural, at least in scholastic terms, to treat them as accidental qualities that can inhere or not inhere in their subject. Scotus argues further that the emotions can be nothing other than passions, since a power can have only three kinds of accidental quality: operations, habits, and passions. The emotions are not operations of the will—that is, they are not elicited acts of willing—for if they were they would be produced by the will itself and it would be directly within the will’s power to have them or not.5 Nor are they habits, which are dispositional qualities that once acquired tend to persist in their subject, whereas joy and sadness generally cease once the object that they are about is no longer present.6 The only possibility left is that the emotions are accidental qualities that have as their active cause something external to the subject that receives them. In other words, they must be passions.

Nevertheless, not all medieval philosophers accept that the passions of the soul occur in the will. Most notably, Aquinas holds that a passion involves not just the reception of a quality, but also the removal of the opposite quality; and since there must be a material subject that persists through the loss of an accidental quality and the reception of another, passions can occur only in material subjects. They therefore can occur in the soul only accidentally, that is, insofar as it is joined to a body that is able to undergo material change.7 The sensitive appetites can thus have passions, since their acts are partially constituted by a change in the body. Anger, for example, follows upon the apprehension of an obstacle to attaining a desire: the appetitive power is moved by the apprehension of such an object to its proper act, and this act is necessarily accompanied by a bodily change, namely, heating of the blood in the heart.8 The will, on the other hand, is a purely immaterial power: its acts do not necessarily involve a change in any bodily organ and so no material change is required for it to have an act of willing. It follows for Aquinas that since the passions are defined as necessarily involving material (p.56) change, the will does not have passions. It does nonetheless have some emotions that can occur without any bodily change, such as love and joy, which Aquinas refers to as affections [affectiones] (see, for instance, ST I–II.22.3 ad 1). But just as passions of the soul in the strict sense are nothing more than the acts of the sensitive appetites, so such affections of the will are nothing more than acts of volition.9

Scotus rejects this restriction of the passions of the soul to the sensitive appetites. He is motivated first of all by a theological commitment to the possibility of supernatural beatitude, which consists in the direct knowledge of God and the beatific love of God that is thus possible. As the attainment by the will of the object that is most proper to it, the love of God is the highest and most perfect act of which a rational being is capable. Strictly speaking, however, this act does not by itself constitute the complete perfection of a rational being; complete rational perfection is rather the enjoyment [fruitio] of God, which is the act of loving God together with the joy [gaudium] that follows from it.10 Since joy follows from the act of loving God, it must be something distinct from that act. Moreover, this joy must be possible for us when we are no longer joined to a material body, as well as for the angels, who are purely spiritual beings; the passion of joy therefore cannot be a passion of the body, but must be a passion of the immaterial, rational part of the soul.11

Scotus also argues more generally on the basis of what precisely counts as a passion of the soul. Although he agrees with Aquinas that passions do occur in the sensitive appetites, Scotus denies that such passions belong to the soul as such. This is precisely because they are passions of the composite of soul and body, whereas strictly speaking, according to Scotus, a passion of the soul is one that can be received regardless of any change in the body.12 Thus, if there are passions of the soul at all, they can be received only in a rational power of the soul, which can act without any bodily change; and since he agrees with Aquinas that the passions of the soul occur only in appetites, the passions of the rational soul pertain only to the rational appetite, that is, to the will.13

(p.57) Another reason for holding that passions can occur in the will arises from the role of the moral virtues in moderating the passions. This moderating role is at the core of the Aristotelian conception of the moral virtues: someone who has the virtue of courage, for example, will feel fear as much as is appropriate to the circumstances, whereas a coward who lacks that virtue might be too afraid to act rightly. Medieval philosophers generally explain this function of the moral virtues in terms of the kind of thing a moral virtue is, namely a habit.14 A habit or disposition is, in scholastic terms, an accidental quality that inheres in a power.15 It is not part of the nature of its subject, but is normally acquired as a result of repeated action.16 A skill like speaking a language, for example, is an intellectual habit that is acquired by practice: by repeatedly trying to speak a language, one gradually becomes fluent, and a speaker who has acquired fluency no longer has difficulty forming sentences, but does so with ease. Likewise, an agent who is disposed by moral virtue to acting rightly does so easily and without hesitation, whereas someone without virtue might still act rightly, but with difficulty or reluctance; a coward, for example, might force himself to do what he judges to be right even though he fears to do it. A moral virtue is thus a ‘second nature’ in the sense that it alters the total disposition of its subject: all other circumstances being equal, a virtuous agent will experience different passions from those that a vicious or indifferent agent would experience.

The moderating role of the moral virtues illuminates the difference between the positions of Aquinas and Scotus. Since the moral virtues are habits, and a habit is nothing more than a dispositional quality of a power that partially accounts for the passions that the power receives, the moral virtues and the passions that they moderate must belong to the same subject. For Aquinas, this shows that the moral virtues belong to the sensitive appetites. Temperance, for example, which causes us to feel desire only for what we ought and to the degree we ought, belongs to the so-called concupiscible appetite, whereas courage, which causes us to feel fear only to the degree that is right, belongs to the so-called irascible appetite. Both of these appetites are, in Aquinas’s view, powers of the whole embodied human being, that is, of the composite of soul and body.17 Scotus, on the other hand, holds that the proper subject of all the moral (p.58) virtues is the will.18 Rather than looking to the role of moral virtue as the moderator of the passions, he looks first to what sort of subject can have habits. Since a moral virtue is a habit—that is, an accidental quality that gives its subject a stable disposition that is otherwise lacking—the most appropriate subject of the moral virtues will be a power that by itself is lacking a stable disposition. For Scotus, the power that is most in need of habituation is the will, precisely because the will is a free power.

The nature of human freedom is a central question for medieval philosophers, and especially so for Scotus. Medieval philosophers generally agree that to be free implies at the very least that we have our acts within our own power. If we are free, we are not externally necessitated to our acts, but are ourselves the cause of our own acts. Moreover, to act freely, we must have the power of reason, for if not, we would not act with knowledge, and if we did not act with knowledge, our acts would not proceed from choice, but would occur either by chance or by natural necessity. Either way, we could not be held responsible for them, and would not be any better than brute animals, who lack reason and so are not capable of choice.19 It might seem then that our freedom to choose our actions is ultimately derived from the power of the intellect to deliberate about action, and that the will, by which we make choices and which directs the lower powers in accordance with its choices, is determined to its act by the conclusion of the intellect’s practical deliberation. On this view, the will is indeed the power by which we act freely, but its freedom is grounded ultimately in the fact that the intellect, as a power for knowing any object whatsoever, is not naturally determined to any particular object; or, as Aquinas puts it, the subject [subiectum] of freedom is the will, but the cause of freedom [causa libertatis] is reason, that is, the intellect (ST I–II.17.1).

Scotus rejects this position and argues that positing the intellect as the cause of freedom ultimately fails to show that our acts are under our own power. This is because the intellect does not have the power to refrain from knowing an object that is present to it, but will necessarily act as long as it is not impeded. Thus, although the intellect is capable of knowing opposites (and so of having opposite acts), it does not act freely, but determinately; in this respect it is like any merely natural power.20 Any indeterminacy in what it knows in a given set of circumstances, or in what it concludes from its deliberation, must result from the act of a higher power that can direct it to consider (p.59) something else. That higher power is the will, which is radically different from all other powers of the soul—and indeed, from all other created natures whatsoever—in being undetermined by any external cause; rather, the will freely determines itself to its act.21

Because the will is free in this way, it must also, argues Scotus, be the subject of the moral virtues. As a freely self-determining power, the will is not determined by nature to act in one way rather than another. Thus, in order to have any stable inclination, it needs something over and above its nature; this something more is exactly what a habit is.22 Moreover, since the moral virtues are defined by Aristotle as habits of choice (Nicomachean Ethics II 6), and since a habit that inclines a power to certain acts must belong to the power that elicits those acts, the habits that incline an agent in its acts of choice must therefore belong to the power by which we choose, which is the will.23 The moral virtues therefore can be habits of no other power than the will.

Since the will is the subject of moral virtues, it can also, according to Scotus, be the subject of passions. Scotus agrees with Aquinas that passions and the virtues that moderate them must belong to the same subject, but reverses his argument: whereas Aquinas argues that the moral virtues are in the sensitive appetites because that is where the passions of the soul occur, Scotus has an independent reason for holding that the moral virtues are in the will, namely, because they are habits of choice. He thus concludes instead that the passions that are moderated by the moral virtues are in the will. This does not imply that the will and its virtues have no influence over the passions of the sensitive appetites. By repeatedly commanding a sensitive appetite, the will causes it to develop its own habit, by which it is inclined to what the will would command; the passions that it receives are thus partially determined, though indirectly, by the will. The habits left in the sensitive appetites as a result of their being directed by the will are not, however, habits of choice, which pertains to the will alone, and therefore are not moral virtues in the strict sense.24 Similarly, insofar as the virtues in the will incline the will to rightly ordering the subordinate powers, the sensitive appetites will tend to acquire habits that moderate the lower passions in a way that accords with right reason. The only passions that the moral virtues directly moderate, however, are the passions of the will.

(p.60) 2. How are passions of the will possible?

Since Scotus holds that the will is a subject of passions in its own right, he needs to explain how this is possible in such a way that there is no need to appeal to any material component in the passions. He provides such an explanation by showing that, far from being identical with acts of the sensitive appetites (as Aquinas holds), the passions are qualities that are distinct from the acts of their subject, and can be caused in any appetitive power by an object towards which that power is inclined or disinclined. On the basis of such an account of appetites in general, there is no reason to hold that a passion of the soul must be accompanied by a change in the body: the rational appetite of the will, no less than the sensitive appetites, can be the subject of passions, not merely accidentally, but in itself and in the strict sense of what a passion is.

Scotus’s account depends on the idea that the passions of an appetitive power can be explained in terms of inclinations. He therefore begins with an analysis of inclinations in general. This analysis relies in turn on his even more general account of how active and passive powers interact. An active power and a passive power can be considered insofar as they are mutually implied. In the process of heating, for example, there is something that heats and something that is heated: a given thing, insofar as it can be heated, is apt to be heated by some other thing, insofar as it can heat. Put more abstractly, that which has a passive principle is as such proportionate to and inclined to that which has the corresponding active principle, from which it can receive the form to which it is in passive potency.25 Despite this mutual implication, however, the passive and active powers must each have some absolute, non-relative nature in themselves in virtue of which they can interact: the passive power to be heated, for example, is a property of the heatable thing in itself, regardless of whether anything ever actually heats it. So in general, an active principle and a passive principle, even though that of which they are the joint principles comes about only when they are brought into mutual relation, are in themselves not relative but absolute, since they must exist prior to the relation of which they are the terms.26 Only when they are actually brought together does something that is passive in a certain respect receive from something that is active in the corresponding respect the accidental quality that it is in potency to receive.27 In the example of heating, the thing that can be heated (p.61) becomes hot (that is, receives the accidental quality of heat) only in the presence of something that can heat. Although the two things must be present to each other for heating to occur—that is, they must enter into a relation—the relation between them is not the cause of the heating. The cause is rather the two things in themselves: one has the active power to heat and the other has the passive power to be heated, so when they are brought together, heating naturally occurs.

Scotus uses this general explanation in terms of active and passive principles to explain the passions of the sensitive appetites. However, he begins not with the appetitive powers, but with the cognitive powers of sensation that the sensitive appetites presuppose. Any cognitive power has a proper object in relation to which it is brought from potency to act; an animal that is able to see, for example, actually sees when some visible object is present to its power of sight. Scotus holds moreover that an act with respect to a better object is itself a better and more perfect act: the intellect is more perfected by universal truth than by sensible truth, or more oddly, the power of sight is more perfected when it sees a beautiful object than when it sees an object that is not beautiful.28 Insofar as a beautiful object is perfective of the power of sight, by allowing for a ‘better’ act of seeing than is the act of seeing an ugly object, the power of sight will be inclined towards it, and away from an opposite ugly object. This relation of a power to an extrinsic object is named according to whether that object is perfective of the power or corruptive:

It can be said in the matter at hand that ‘this absolute’ [that is, a power], such as sight, is inclined to something visible as some extrinsic perfective thing (namely, what is perfectly white or beautiful), and conversely to the contrary visible thing as something corruptive—or rather it is not inclined, but disinclined. And thus the relation that terminates the relation of the inclining [term] to the inclined [term] is called suitability, and the other [relation] is called unsuitability.29

(p.62) Scotus emphasizes, however, that the inclination of a power to a suitable object is not explained by the relation of suitability or unsuitability between them. Rather, there is suitability or unsuitability because of the natures of the object and power in themselves, which are sufficient to explain why the power is inclined to the object: the object is active in a certain respect, and the power is passive in a proportionate and complementary respect. The power is thus inclined to the object.30

Scotus uses this account of the inclination of a sensory power to a perceptible object to explain the occurrence of passions. Just as heat is an accidental quality that is caused in something that can be heated by something that can heat, so a passion is an accidental quality that is caused in a power of the soul by an external object. To put it in Scotus’s technical language, when a passive principle of inclination and the active principle to which it is inclined are brought together, the former receives from the latter the accidental quality that it is in passive potency to receive. Since the passive inclination of a power is explained in terms of its perfectibility by a suitable object, the accident that the power receives when a suitable object is present is a perfection of the power (just as the accidental quality of heat is a kind of perfection of a body, at least with respect to its capacity for being heated). This accidental perfection of a sense power is nothing other than the sensitive pleasure [delectatio] that we experience in virtue of the power being joined with a perfective object to which it is inclined.31 And since the sensory power is the passive cause in inclination, the pleasure that it receives as an accidental quality is called a passion.32

It is crucial to Scotus’s argument that the proper subject of a passion is an appetitive power. It might appear at this point that the power that is inclined to a perfective object, and which is thus the subject of pleasure and pain, is the cognitive power of apprehension. The power of sight, for example, is naturally inclined to a visible object as that which brings sight from potency to its proper act of seeing; what is inclined thus seems to be sight insofar as it is a power of apprehension. According to Scotus, however, a sensory power is inclined, not in virtue of the power of apprehension, but in virtue of the associated sensitive appetite. The proper subject of the passion that results is therefore not the cognitive power, but the sensitive appetite. His argument for (p.63) this is based on the way in which an object must first be made present for an inclination to occur:

But if it is asked upon what this form is impressed, as onto something perfectible that is inclined, in which case it is called pleasure, or onto something perfectible that is inclined the opposite way, in which case it is called pain—that is, whether it is impressed upon the sensitive apprehensive power or upon its appetite—it seems rather [that it is impressed] upon the appetite. For we can distinguish the power by which the soul can apprehend a given thing and that by which it is inclined to a given thing insofar as it is an external perfective [object]; and this inclination is naturally terminated only by a preceding apprehension. And so just as we attribute apprehending to the sensory power in itself, so it seems that to be thus inclined—that is, such that the termination of that inclination follows upon the apprehension—pertains to the sensitive appetite. We posit an appetite because of nothing other than such a termination and the pleasure that follows upon apprehension.33

As noted above, Scotus explains inclination in terms of the interaction of a passive and an active cause, which must first be present to each other for inclination to happen at all.34 The object to which a power is inclined must therefore first have been made present to that power, and this making present, or bringing near [approximatio], is precisely what happens when an object is apprehended by sense: ‘sensation in general is as it were the bringing of something active [agens] near to something passive [passivum].’35 The power that is inclined by an object cannot therefore be the cognitive power itself, which is what makes the active cause of inclination present in the first place. Scotus therefore concludes that there is a distinction between a cognitive power, by which an animal apprehends an object, and the associated appetite, by which it is inclined to the apprehended object (or disinclined if the object is unsuitable). Since pleasure and pain are what result from the inclination of a sensitive power to an object that is presented to it by the apprehensive power, the proper subject of the passions is not the cognitive power of sensation but rather the associated sensitive appetite. (p.64) Moreover, since a sensitive appetite is, according to Scotus, an active power, its passions must be distinct from its proper act (which is simply to seek or tend towards whatever is perfective of it).36 The active cause of its act is the appetite itself, whereas the active cause of its passion is an external object. Scotus thus differs from Aquinas, who identifies the passions of the soul with the acts of the sensitive appetites; as well, he provides an analysis of Aristotle’s assertion in the last book of the Nicomachean Ethics (X 4, 1174b20–33) that pleasure is the completion or perfection that follows upon and is something over and above the activity itself.

Although Scotus gives this account of passions of the soul primarily in terms of the sensitive appetites, it is sufficiently general to apply to all appetites that presuppose cognition, including the will. It makes no reference to any material component, but relies instead on a general conception of an appetite as precisely the sort of power by which any being endowed with cognitive powers is inclined to its own perfection. Thus, it does not matter that the will is a purely immaterial power: as the rational appetite, the will can receive passions in exactly the same way as the sensitive appetites do, that is, as a result of the presence of a perfective or corruptive object.37 Likewise, the object must be present to the will in the way that is appropriate to it: just as a sensible object can cause pain or pleasure in a sensitive appetite only if it is apprehended by the corresponding cognitive power of sensory apprehension, so an intelligible object can cause a passion in the will only if it is first apprehended by the intellect.38 The passions of the will are those that are appropriate to an intellectual appetite: not pleasure and pain, but joy and sadness, which, like the pleasure and pain of the sensitive appetites, are brought about in the will because of the presence of a suitable or unsuitable object.39

Through his analysis of the emotions as passions of the will, Scotus addresses several worries. If the emotions of joy and sadness belonged to the sensitive appetites (or to any of the non-rational powers of the soul), they would not properly be passions of the soul, but rather of the composite of soul and body, and would be in no way different from the passions we share with brute animals. If they were passions of the intellect, (p.65) they would be passions in only the broadest sense, in which any accidental quality is a passion; that is, they could be nothing other than cognitions, and there would be no account of what makes them something other than acts of knowing. What makes them the passions of joy and sadness is that they occur in the appetitive power of the rational soul. Finally, if the emotions of the will were not passions of the will they could only be acts of the will. But the acts of the will are freely elicited and are directly under our own control and since it is not within our power to cease to be sad just by willing it, joy and sadness cannot be free acts, but must rather be passions.40 By explaining the emotions in terms of the active and passive principles of inclination—the will being that which is passively inclined—Scotus provides a metaphysical grounding for a fact that is readily available to us by introspection: that joy and sadness, and emotions in general, even those that pertain to us as free rational beings, are not under our direct control.

3. Passions of the will and the freedom of the will

Despite the parallel that Scotus establishes between the sensitive appetites and the rational appetite, such that they all are capable of receiving passions simply insofar as they are appetites, there is still an apparent problem with applying this account to the free will. The sensitive appetites are inclined or disinclined to certain objects by nature, and will necessarily receive pleasure or pain in the presence of a suitable or unsuitable object. The will, on the other hand, is free: it is determined neither extrinsically nor by its own nature, but freely determines itself. It is true that Scotus usually discusses the self-determination of the will only in terms of its acts: nothing other than the will itself is the active cause of its own acts of willing. But just as allowing that the will could be determined to its act by the object presented by the intellect would impose a limitation on the will’s free self-determination, so too, Scotus suggests, would admitting that the passions that the will suffers are necessary and not within the will’s control: if a passion is necessarily received in the will and it is not a freely elicited act of the will, then it is an accidental determination of the will that is not under the will’s own power, and therefore seems to be incompatible with the will’s freedom.41 How then can the will be a freely self-determining power but also be able to receive passions?

Scotus’s answer is that an inclination of the will follows from a freely elicited act of the will, and that the passions of the will are therefore ultimately due to a free act. In this respect, the passions of the will differ from those of the sensitive appetites. A sensitive appetite is of a fixed nature: it naturally and determinately tends towards (p.66) some objects and away from others when they are present to it according to whether they are perfective of it or corruptive. The will, on the other hand, freely determines itself to its act of willing. It is self-determining in the further sense that the suitability of an object to the will follows from an act of willing [velle] that object, and the unsuitability of an object follows from an act of willing against it, or ‘nilling’ it [nolle] (Ord. III, d. 15, n. 47, V 9, 498). Although the will remains in its very essence a free power that is not naturally necessitated but determines itself, nevertheless when it is actually willing something it places itself under the necessity of the present such that it is necessary that when I will something I am in fact willing that and not its opposite:

The will is not necessitated absolutely by the object; however, among those things that are shown to it, there can be a necessity of the consequence, as in ‘if I am willing, I am willing’. And thus if there is a nolition of some object and that nilled [object] comes about, it seems to follow necessarily by a necessity of the consequence that sadness can come to be in the will.42

The will never loses its essential freedom to determine itself, but when it is in fact willing or nilling some object, it is not further determinable, and so at that moment it is not formally free.43 Moreover, by eliciting an act of willing or nilling, the will puts itself into a certain state with respect to the object of that act: the object is now suitable to it, and the will is inclined towards it. In this way, it is possible for the will to suffer passions: given that the will has an act of willing with regard to an object, the passion of joy is necessarily produced in the will if that object is present; conversely, if the will nills some object, the will is now disinclined to it, such that if that nilled object continues to be present, the passion of sadness is necessarily produced in the will. Yet the possibility of receiving passions does not represent a natural limitation of the will’s freedom, since the will always retains the power to will otherwise than it does. By eliciting a different act of volition, the will can change its own inclinations and thus cease to have whatever pleasure or sadness it previously received.

With this account of how passions can occur in the will, Scotus seems to have the resources to develop a taxonomy of human emotions.44 If joy and sadness are considered as the most general passions of the will, more specific emotions can be derived (p.67) according to the circumstances of the acts of volition from which they follow.45 Scotus partially develops such a taxonomy in terms of the scholastic distinction between the concupiscible and irascible appetites. Aquinas concedes that the will can be considered as irascible insofar as it wills to resist evil and concupiscible insofar as it desires good, but denies that these different acts constitute a distinction within the will.46 Scotus likewise allows that the will has concupiscible and irascible ‘appetites’ that are not distinguished as powers, but only according to how the will reacts to different kinds of objects.47 The concupiscible appetite of the will is basically the will considered without qualification, which when presented with an object, finds it either suitable or unsuitable and either pursues it or avoids it (Ord. III, d. 34, n. 35, V 10, 193). Insofar as it is concupiscible, the will receives the passion of sadness at the presence of a nilled object. The will also receives sadness insofar as it is irascible, but in a different way: it regards a nilled object as ‘offensive’ but rather than avoiding it, it rejects it as an obstacle to attaining a desirable object (ibid. nn. 3637, 194–195). This way of explaining the sadness of the will insofar as it is an irascible appetite amounts to an account of the passion of anger.48

It seems possible to extend this account of the various passions of the will according to other specifying circumstances, such as the way an object is apprehended by the intellect. The general account of joy and sadness assumes an object that is presented in an unqualified sense, but it could also be qualified as in the future; it is still present to the will as an object presented by the intellect, so if it is nilled there is sadness, but since the nolition regards a future object, sadness thus qualified seems to be a description of fear (see Ord. III, d. 34, n. 39, V 10, 196–197). It seems then that Scotus could give a taxonomical account of all the various emotions proper to a rational being as specifications of the basic passions of joy and sadness.

4. Are all the passions of the will voluntary?

Having given his general account of how a freely self-determining power can receive passions, Scotus goes on to concede that this is not the only way in which the passions of the will can be explained. But in so doing, he seems to raise a new problem. According to the account outlined above, the passions of the will are ultimately under (p.68) the control of the will because the inclinations that make them possible arise directly from acts of volition by which the will freely determines itself. But if the will has any inclinations that do not follow from the will’s own free acts, then it seems that the will is thus also subject to passions that are not even indirectly under its own control; and as Scotus himself notes, to receive passions by natural necessity seems to be contrary to the freedom of the will.49 Moreover, if the passions of the will are not traceable to some free act, they are merely natural occurrences for which we will not be morally responsible; yet one of Scotus’s motivations for distinguishing the passions of the rational part of the soul is to distinguish those for which we are responsible and for which there can thus be merit or demerit.50 Scotus will thus need to show that regardless of the particular inclination that explains a given passion of the will, that inclination is ultimately a voluntary one.

Scotus distinguishes three ways in which passions can be caused in the absence of an occurrent freely elicited act of the will.51 According to the first way, passions can be caused in the will as a result of what he calls ‘conditional nilling’ [nolle condicionatum]. In this case, there is some object that an agent would nill if not for the particular circumstances that impel the agent to will it instead. Scotus illustrates the point with Aristotle’s example of a merchant on a ship who throws his goods overboard in order to save his own life:

This volition would be expressed absolutely by ‘I will’, and the conditional nolition by ‘I would nill if I could do otherwise’. Such a conditional nolition seems to suffice for causing sadness about such a nilled [object] coming to pass (as when [the merchant] jettisons the goods with sadness), nor in that case does the opposite willing cause joy as much as the conditional willing causes sadness.52

According to Scotus’s general account of the passions of the will, if an agent wills something and is not prevented from attaining the object that is willed, then he should have the passion of joy; yet in this case the merchant still feels sad even though he does in fact achieve what he freely wills, namely, to jettison the goods. However, although he in fact chooses to jettison them, he would choose otherwise if he could keep them without drowning. Though he succeeds in bringing about what he actually wills, the conditional willing against it appears to be sufficient for sadness to occur.

(p.69) In the second way, passions can occur in the will as a result of its natural appetite for perfection. Insofar as the will has an essential nature, it is a natural potency, and is therefore naturally inclined as the rational appetite to its proper perfection, which is happiness [beatitudo].53 But if the will owes this inclination to its nature, then some passions can be generated in the will without any prior free act of the will: since the will is naturally inclined towards happiness, the apprehension of perfect happiness by the intellect is sufficient for joy to be caused in the will without any elicited act of willing happiness. Conversely, the will cannot feel joy at misery (the opposite of happiness), but in its presence the will necessarily suffers sadness without any elicited act of nilling misery (Ord. III, d. 15, nn. 5253, V 9, 501–502).

In the third way, some passions are brought about in the will that are reflections of passions in the sensitive appetites. Because of the ‘natural connection’ of the higher rational appetite with the lower sensitive appetites, an object that is unsuitable to a sensitive appetite will also be unsuitable to the will, as long as it has been apprehended by the intellect (since for an object to be proportionate to the rational appetite it must be apprehended by the rational power of cognition), and likewise an object suitable to a sensitive appetite will also be suitable to the will.54 An object that is pleasant to a sensitive appetite can thus bring about a ‘surreptitious pleasure’ [delectatio subrepticia] in the will even before the will elicits any act with regard to that object.55 The will can thus suffer along with the sensitive appetite (that is, it can receive passions that in some way mirror the passions in the sensitive appetite) even if it does not act with it (that is, even if it does not elicit a free act).

The case of conditional nilling might be solved by explaining it in terms of a prior free act of the will. It is clear that there cannot be an ongoing act of willing to keep the goods, for then there would be two simultaneous but contrary acts of the will, both to keep the goods and not keep them (by jettisoning them), and that is impossible. But although what the merchant actually wills at the moment of throwing the goods overboard is in fact achieved, there must have been a prior act of willing some end towards which the goods were ordered, such as money to buy food and shelter. In that case, he would already be inclined to keeping them for the sake of an end that is distinct from the end for the sake of which he now throws them overboard (namely, surviving (p.70) the storm). Scotus could then claim that such a prior volition is enough to have instilled a habit in the will that disposes the agent against losing the goods. This would explain why the merchant is sad even though he accomplishes what he actually wills: jettisoning the goods is unsuitable to the will because it goes directly against the will’s prior habitual inclination to preserving them.56 Nevertheless, this prior inclination was itself caused by a free act of willing to sell the goods. The case of conditional nilling can thus be explained in such a way that it preserves the freedom of the will with respect to its own inclinations.

The other two cases present greater difficulties. The surreptitious passions, Scotus might argue, are at most only accidentally in the will because of its natural connection with the sensitive appetites. The sensitive appetites from which the surreptitious passions originate are powers of the human being taken as a whole. The perfection of a sensitive appetite is therefore a partial perfection of the whole human being, and what is perfective of a sensitive appetite is also perfective of the whole human being. Moreover, since the governing appetite of the whole human being is the rational appetite, then whatever is perfective of a sensitive appetite is also, in a qualified sense, perfective of the rational appetite, or will.57 The will thus naturally feels pleasure along with the sensitive appetites, even without eliciting an act of volition. Scotus suggests, however, that these surreptitious passions are not really passions of the will at all, but only ‘pre-passions’ [propassiones].58 Even if the will naturally takes pleasure in some object that is pleasant to a lower appetite, the will is still able to approve or reject the appetible object and the pleasure that it produces; it is only the passion that follows (p.71) upon the will’s act of approving or rejecting for which we are morally responsible.59 This answer, however, does not show that all the passions that occur in the will must follow from a free act. Even if a pre-passion does not follow from an act of the will, Scotus has nevertheless allowed that it is an accidental quality that is caused in the will by an extrinsic object that has been apprehended intellectually and to which the will is inclined or disinclined. The so-called pre-passions of the will thus fit Scotus’s own general account of an appetitive passion in the strict sense.

Whether or not Scotus can fully account for the pre-passions, there still remain the passions that follow from the will’s natural appetite for beatitude. Scotus makes it very clear that this appetite follows from the very essence of the will and is nothing other than an inclination to its proper perfection; if it did not have this inclination it would not be the will, just as any nature cannot fail to be inclined to the perfection that is natural to it.60 Insofar as the will has this inclination that arises not from an elicited act of volition, but from the nature of the will as the rational appetite, it seems that there will be some passions that occur in the will that cannot be traced to any free act: we cannot help but feel joy when we know beatitude and sadness when we know misery.

One might conclude that the will’s power of free self-determination here reaches its limit. Even if the will is absolutely free with respect to all its acts, it is perhaps not free with respect to the passion that it experiences in the face of its ultimate end of beatitude, by which it would be completely perfected and to which it is apparently inclined by nature. On the other hand, one might contend that even joy in the presence of beatitude is a voluntary passion. For unlike the sensitive appetites, which are naturally and determinately inclined to whatever is perfective of them, the will gives itself its inclinations by freely willing its objects, thus making them suitable to itself. Scotus seems to suggest that this account applies even to the ultimate end of beatitude: although it is naturally suitable to the will, it is actually suitable only because of a free act by which the will accepts beatitude and consents to it.61 This act of ‘accepting and consenting to’ an object [actus voluntatis acceptantis et complacentis sibi in illo] is an act of willing an object in itself as an end.62 The will’s appetite for its proper perfection in (p.72) beatitude seems therefore to be not a merely natural inclination that follows directly from the essence of the rational appetite, but instead the result of a freely elicited act of the will.63 According to this explanation, even the passions that result from the will’s appetite for its ultimate end would conform to Scotus’s general account of how all the passions of the will are ultimately voluntary.

5. Conclusion

Scotus’s account of how the free will is able to receive passions depends on a subtle redefinition of what a passion is and how it comes about. He shows first that the passions can be explained without reference to material embodiment, but arise from the nature of appetitive powers in general; in this way, he allows for the joy, sadness and other emotions that pertain to us as rational beings to be passions in the strict sense as much as are the passions that pertain to us only insofar as we are like brute animals. Second, he shows that to receive passions is compatible with the freedom of the will by arguing that the inclinations of the will from which the passions result are themselves the result of free acts of volition. In this way he avoids having to claim that the will is completely immune from external influences and does not have passions at all. This solution, however, puts unexpected pressure on Scotus’s broader moral psychology. It is clear from his treatments of the nature of the will and of how moral responsibility and evil action are possible that he considers the will to be constituted not just by its freedom, but also by a natural inclination to its own perfection; yet his account of how the will’s passions are ultimately voluntary seems to lead to the conclusion that the will’s ‘natural’ appetite for beatitude is not essential to it, but must instead be a consequence of some free act by which the will gives itself even its most fundamental inclination. There is thus a tension between Scotus’s attempt to preserve the picture of the will as the rational appetite and his commitment to the will’s radical freedom.

(p.73) Bibliography

Primary texts

Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, ed. L. Bywater (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894).

—— Categoriae, ed. L. Minio-Paluello (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949).

—— De anima, ed. W. D. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956).

—— Rhetorica, ed. W. D. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959).

—— The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).

Augustinus, De civitate Dei, ed. B. Dombart and A. Kalb, Corpus Christianorum, series latina vols. 47/48 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1955).

John Duns Scotus, Opera omnia, ed. Luke Wadding, 12 vols. (Lyon: Laurentius Durand, 1639; reprinted Hildesheim: Olms, 1968).

—— Opera omnia, ed. Carolus Balić et al. (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950–).

—— Opera philosophica, 5 vols. ed. Girard Etzkorn et al. (St. Bonaventure, NY: The Franciscan Institute, 1999–2006).

—— The Examined Report of the Paris Lecture. Reportatio I-A, ed. and trans. Allan B. Wolter and Oleg V. Bychkov, 2 vols. (St. Bonaventure: The Franciscan Institute, 2004–2008).

Thomas Aquinas, Opera omnia, ed. Leonina (Rome: Commissio Leonina, 1888–).

—— Quaestiones disputatae, ed. P. Bazzi et al., 2 vols. (Turin: Marietti, 1953).

Secondary literature

Olivier Boulnois, ‘Duns Scot: existe-t-il des passions de la volonté?’, in Bernard Besnier, Pierre-François Moreau, and Laurence Renault (eds.), Les Passions antiques et médiévales: Théories et critiques des passions (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2003), 281–295.

Umberto Galeazzi, ‘Le passioni secondo Tommaso d’Aquino: De veritate q. 26’, Aquinas, 47 (2004), 547–570.

Bonnie Kent, ‘Rethinking Moral Dispositions: Scotus on the Virtues’, in Williams (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, 352–376.

—— ‘Happiness and the Willing Agent: The Ongoing Relevance of the Franciscan Tradition’, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 78 (2004), 59–70.

—— ‘Habits and Virtues’, in Brian Davies (ed.), Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: Critical Essays (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 223–244.

—— ‘Virtue Theory’, in Robert Pasnau and Christina Van Dyke (eds.), The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), vol. 1, 493–505.

Peter King, ‘Duns Scotus on the Reality of Self-Change’, in Mary Louise Gill and James G. Lennox (eds.), Self-Motion: From Aristotle to Newton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 227–290.

—— ‘Aquinas on the Passions’, in Scott MacDonald and Eleonore Stump (eds.), Aquinas’s Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 101–132.

(p.74) Peter King, ‘Duns Scotus on Possibilities, Powers, and the Possible’, in Thomas Buchheim, Corneille H. Kneepkens, and Kuno Lorenz (eds.), Potentialität und Possibilität: Modalaussagen in der Geschichte der Metaphysik (Stuttgart: Fromann-Holzboog, 2001), 175–199.

—— ‘Emotions in Medieval Thought’, in Peter Goldie (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 167–187.

—— ‘Scotus’s Rejection of Anselm: the Two-Wills Theory’ in Ludger Honnefelder et al. (eds.), Johannes Duns Scotus: Die philosophischen Perspecktiven seines Werkes/Investigations into his Philosophy: Proceedings of ‘The Quadruple Congress’ on John Duns Scotus, Part 3 (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2010), 359–378.

—— ‘Aquinas on the Emotions’, in Brian Davies and Eleonore Stump (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) 209–226.

Simo Knuuttila, Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004).

—— ‘Emotion’, in Robert Pasnau and Christina Van Dyke (eds.), The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), vol. 1, 428–440.

Odon Lottin, ‘Les mouvements premiers de l’appétit sensitif de Pierre Lombard à Saint Thomas d’Aquin’, in id., Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles, vol. 2 (Louvain: Abbaye du Mont César, 1948), 493–589.

Robert Miner, Thomas Aquinas on the Passions: A Study of Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae 22–48 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Dominik Perler, ‘Duns Scotus über Schmerz und Traurigkeit’, in Ludger Honnefelder et al. (eds.), Johannes Duns Scotus: Die philosophischen Perspecktiven seines Werkes/Investigations into his Philosophy: Proceedings of ‘The Quadruple Congress’ on John Duns Scotus, Part 3 (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2010), 443–462.

Alan Perreiah, ‘Scotus on Human Emotions’, Franciscan Studies, 56 (1998), 325–345.

Martin Pickavé, ‘Thomas von Aquin: Emotionen als Leidenschaften der Seele’, in Hilge Landweer and Ursula Renz (eds.), Klassische Emotionstheorien: Von Platon bis Wittgenstein (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 187–204.

Thomas Williams (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

—— ‘Introduction: The Life and Works of John Duns the Scot’, in id. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, 1–14. [A partially revised version of this publication can be found at http://shell.cas.usf.edu/~thomasw/dunsscotus/works.html]

—— ‘From Metaethics to Action Theory’, in id. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, 332–351.

Allan B. Wolter, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986).

—— ‘Duns Scotus on the Will as a Rational Potency’, in id., The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus, ed. by Marilyn McCord Adams (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 163–180.


(1) For general surveys of medieval theories of the emotions, see Knuuttila, Emotions, chs. 34; King, ‘Emotions’; and Knuuttila, ‘Emotion’.

(2) See Aristotle, De anima I 1, 403a29–b1.

(3) There have been several recent discussions of Duns Scotus’s account of the passions of the will. Olivier Boulnois (‘Passions de la volonté’), emphasizes the Augustinian origins of Scotus’s theory and its connections with his broader account of morality. Simo Knuuttila (Emotions, 265–274), summarizes Scotus’s account and discusses its reception by William of Ockham and others. Dominik Perler (‘Duns Scotus über Schmerz’), focuses, as this paper will, on the way in which Scotus tries to reconcile the passions of the will with the freedom of the will.

(4) Duns Scotus, Ordinatio III, d. 15, n. 25, V 9, 485: ‘Praemittenda est auctoritas Augustini XIV De civitate cap. 15, ubi dicit quod “dolor carnis tantummodo est offensio animae ex carne et quaedam ab eius passione dissensio, sicut animi dolor, qui tristitia nuncupatur, dissensio eius est ab iis rebus quae nobis nolentibus accidunt”. Ex his patet distinctio inter dolorem proprie dictum, qui inest animae a carne et primo secundum partem sensitivam, et inter tristitiam proprie dictam, quae inest animae secundum se et inest animae primo secundum partem intellectivam.’ See Augustine, De civitate Dei XIV, 14. The three versions of Scotus’s Sentences commentaries are referred to as Lectura [Lect.], Ordinatio [Ord.] and Reportationes Parisienses [Rep.]. Unless otherwise noted, English translations of Scotus’s quotations are mine. For information on Scotus’s career and textual issues, see Williams, ‘Introduction’.

(5) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 48, V 9, 499: ‘Non est etiam passio ista in voluntate a se ipsa effective, quia tunc esset immediate in potestate voluntatis, sicut volitio et nolitio sunt in potestate voluntatis. Sed hoc est falsum.’

(6) As will become clear, the medieval passions of the soul are always explained in terms of an appetitive power and an object to which it is related in a certain way; they are thus essentially intentional. A non-intentional mood (cheerfulness or anxiety, for example), which might now be treated as an emotional state, would thus not count in scholastic terms as a passion of the soul, unless it could be characterized as somehow oriented towards an object. See King, ‘Aquinas on the Passions’, 109–110.

(7) ST I–II.22.1: ‘Dicitur pati proprie, quando aliquid recipitur cum alterius abiectione. [ … ] passio autem cum abiectione non est nisi secundum transmutationem corporalem, unde passio proprie dicta non potest competere animae nisi per accidens, inquantum scilicet compositum patitur.’ See also Quaestiones disputatae de veritate [QDV], q. 26, a.1. Aquinas does allow that there is a broad sense of the term ‘passion’ to mean any quality that is received in a subject; the act or operation of any power, for example, is an accident received in that power, and is in this sense a passion, but not in the strict sense of involving the removal of an opposite quality, which requires a material substrate. See ST I–II.22.1 ad 1: ‘Anima autem, etsi non sit composita ex materia et forma, habet tamen aliquid potentialitatis, secundum quam convenit sibi recipere et pati, secundum quod intelligere pati est.’

(8) ST I.20.1 ad 1: ‘Semper actum appetitus sensitivi concomitatur aliqua transmutatio corporis, et maxime circa cor, quod est primum principium motus in animali.’ See also QDV q. 26, a. 8, ST I–II.22.2 ad 3; 24.2 ad 2. For general accounts of Aquinas’s theory of the passions of the soul, see King, ‘Aquinas on the Passions’; and ‘Aquinas on the Emotions’. For more detailed discussion, see Galeazzi, ‘Le passioni’; Pickavé, ‘Thomas von Aquin’; and Miner, Thomas Aquinas.

(9) See ST I.20.1 ad 1: ‘Actus appetitus sensitivi, inquantum habent transmutationem corporalem annexam, passiones dicuntur, non autem actus voluntatis. Amor igitur et gaudium et delectatio, secundum quod significant actus appetitus sensitivi, passiones sunt, non autem secundum quod significant actus appetitus intellectivi.’ See also Pickavé, ‘Thomas von Aquin’, 191–192.

(10) For Scotus’s account of enjoyment as an accidental unity of an act and a passion of the will, see Ord. I, d. 1, pars 2, q. 1, nn. 69–72, V 2, 51–55, and Rep. IA, d. 1, pars 2, q. 2, nn. 79–82, vol. 1, 109.

(11) It must also be possible for the fallen angels to be punished, and they should be sad about it, since otherwise it would not be a punishment. Scotus ingeniously explains how God makes it impossible for them to freely cease willing against their punishment, such that they remain perpetually sad; see Ord. IV, d. 44, q. 2, Wadding 10, 124–148, esp §§ 11–16, 137–138.

(12) Ord. IV, d. 49, q. 7, §5, Wadding 10, 495: ‘Dicendum est quod sunt passiones quaedam, quae insunt cum mutatione et alteratione partis sensitivae, et non fiunt sine immutatione organi, et illae sunt totius coniuncti; aliae sunt passiones tantum spirituales, et illae possunt sine omni mutatione, quae est in organo, fieri, et tales sunt animae.’

(13) Exactly why Scotus holds that passions are proper to appetitive powers only and not to cognitive powers will be explained in Section 2 below.

(14) The idea that moral virtues are habits has its origin in Aristotle’s definition of virtue as ‘a state (or habit [hexis])] concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical reason would determine it’ (Nicomachean Ethics II 6, 1106b36–1107a2, trans. W. D. Ross, rev. J. O. Urmson).

(15) Note that the sense of habit that applies to the moral virtues is not the Aristotelian category of habit, but one of the supposed four main species that fall under the category of quality. See Aristotle’s Categories 8, 8b25–9a13; also Aquinas’s discussion in ST I–II.49, and Scotus’s Questions on the Categories, qq. 30–36, OPh I, 473–508.

(16) Scholastic philosophers hold that there are also virtues that are not acquired naturally by practice, but are infused supernaturally by God; see Kent, ‘Virtue Theory’.

(17) See Quaestiones disputatae de virtutibus in communi [De virt. in com.], a. 4. An exception is the virtue of justice, which Aquinas attributes to the will; see ibid. a. 5. On Aquinas’s theory of the moral virtues, see Kent, ‘Habits and Virtues’.

(18) Scotus’s argument that the moral virtues are all habits of the will can be found in Ord. III, d. 33, V 10, 141–175, Wolter 318–346 as well as in the commentaries on the same distinction in the Lectura and Reportatio. For a concise account of Scotus’s theory of the moral virtues, see Kent, ‘Rethinking Moral Dispositions’.

(19) Aristotle articulates this basic point about the association of responsibility for one’s actions with rational choice in Nicomachean Ethics III 1–3.

(20) See, for instance, Questions on the Metaphysics, IX, q. 15, n. 36, OPh IV, 684: ‘Intellectus et voluntas possunt comparari ad actus proprios quos eliciunt, vel ad actus aliarum potentiarum inferiorum in quibus quandam causalitatem habent: intellectus ostendendo et dirigendo, voluntas inclinando et imperando. Prima comparatio est essentialior, patet. Et sic intellectus cadit sub natura. Est enim ex se determinatus ad intelligendum, et non habet in potestate sua intelligere et non intelligere sive circa complexa, ubi potest habere contrarios actus, non habet etiam illos in potestate sua: assentire et dissentire.’

(21) See also Scotus’s explanation of the difference between natural powers and free powers in his Questions on the Metaphysics, IX q. 15, nn. 2125, OPh IV, 680–681, Wolter 150–151. For discussion see Wolter, ‘Duns Scotus on the Will’.

(22) Lect. III, d. 33, n. 43, V 21, 280: ‘Voluntas ex se determinatur effective—ut ipsa est actus primus—ad actum secundum, indifferenter se habens ad hoc vel oppositum; et ideo ut determinate inclinetur, requiritur ut per exercitium actus acquirat maiorem inclinationem ad unam partem, quod est habere habitum.’

(23) See Ord. III, d. 33, n. 44, V 10, 162: ‘Potest voluntas ex rectis electionibus (cum sit aeque indeterminata et determinabilis sicut intellectus) generare in se ipsa habitum inclinantem ad recte eligendum – et hic habitus erit virtus, quia propriissime habitus electivus inclinat ad agendum sicut generatur ex rectis electionibus.’

(24) Ord. III, d. 33, n. 45, V 10, 163: ‘[Voluntas] potest derelinquere ex imperiis rectis aliquem habitum in appetitu sensitivo, inclinantem ad hoc ut appetitus sensitivus delectabiliter moveatur ad similia ex imperio voluntatis. Et iste habitus derelictus, licet non sit proprie virtus, quia non habitus electivus nec inclinans ad electiones, potest tamen concedi aliquo modo esse virtus, quia inclinat ad illa quae sunt rectae rationi consona.’

(25) Scotus’s most detailed and systematic account of active and passive principles can be found in his Questions on the Metaphysics, IX; see especially question 5 on whether a potency is essentially absolute or relative (OPh IV, 559–573). See also section 3 of King, ‘Duns Scotus on Possibilities’.

(26) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 38, V 9, 492: ‘Generaliter potentia activa et passiva sunt idem naturae absolutae (puta: calidum aliquod potentiae calefactivae et aliquod potentiae calefactibili), et super ista absoluta fundantur quaedam relationes, secundum quod “hoc passivum” inclinatur ad “hoc activum” ut ab ipso recipiat formam ad quam est in potentia passiva.’

(27) Ibid: ‘Quando ipsa sic proportionata vel inclinata approximatur, ibi est aliqua relatio approximationis, scilicet mutuae, ad quam sequitur “passivum recipere formam ab activo” (non tamen quod huius actionis relatio in activo vel passionis in passivo vel inclinatio praecedens approximationem, sive relatio approximationis activi et passivi, sint causae talis formae, sed relationes istae erunt causae “sine quibus non”).’ Note that Scotus here describes a passive power as having an inclination to an active cause in a way that is prior to its entering into a relation with the object to which it is inclined. Further on, however, when he explains how an appetite can receive passions, it may be that he suggests a different sense of ‘inclination’, whereby it is something that occurs once an appetite and an object suitable to it are brought into proximity (see below).

(28) See Rep. IV, d. 49, q. 7, §4, Wadding 11, 909: ‘Omnis potentia quae habet aliquod primum obiectum adaequatum potest per se in quodlibet contentum sub illo obiecto ex natura sua. Sed primum obiectum intellectus humani est ens vel verum in communi ut non limitatur ad sensibilia; igitur impossibile est quod quietetur nisi in optimo, sicut apparet de visu, qui habet omne visibile pro obiecto, non quietatur nisi in pulcherrimo.’

(29) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 38, V 9, 492-493: ‘Potest dici in proposito quod “hoc absolutum”, ut visus, inclinatur ad aliquod visibile ut perfectivum extrinsecum (puta ad album perfectum sive pulchrum), et e converso ad contrarium visibile ut corruptivum; vel non inclinatur, sed declinatur, et tunc relatio terminans relationem inclinantis ad inclinatum dicitur “convenientia” et alia vocatur “disconvenientia”.’ Scotus’s definition of suitability as a ‘relation that terminates a relation’ is somewhat unclear. Perhaps what he means is that suitability is only an abstraction from the actual inclination of a power to an object; it would thus be only a relation of reason that we add to the real relation that occurs when an object inclines a power. See ibid. n. 42, 495: ‘Abstrahimus quasdam rationes generales ab absolutis distinctis, quibus convenit istos effectus causare, et ab illis quibus convenit effective causare delectationem et dolorem abstrahimus rationes convenientiae et disconvenientiae.’

(30) See Ord. III, d. 15 n. 38, V 9, 493: ‘Nec est alia ratio quare visus inclinatur tali inclinatione in album nisi quia visus est tale passivum et album est tale activum sicut non est alia ratio quare materia inclinatur ad formam ut ad perfectionem intrinsecam nisi quia materia est talis entitas absoluta et forma talis.’

(31) See Ord. III, d. 15, nn. 3839, V 9, 493: ‘Hunc autem respectum fundatum in istis absolutis sequitur approximatio, quae tunc est maximum quando album in se praesens videtur vel percipitur a visu. Hanc approximationem sequitur quod inclinatum recipiat—ab illo perfectivo ad quod inclinatur—aliquam perfectionem; et haec perfectio est delectatio.’

(32) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 39, V 9, 493–494: ‘Quia non manet [delectatio] nisi in praesentia causae agentis, dicitur “passio”.’ ‘Manet’ (as found in some manuscripts) seems a better reading than ‘movet’ (the reading in the Vatican edition): pleasure results when the sensory power is actualized by the presence of a perfective object, so it should remain only as long as the object is present. The text in the Wadding edition, on the other hand, makes only the obvious point that pleasure is called a passion insofar as it is not in the capacity of its subject to have it or not: ‘et haec perfectio est delectatio, quae quia non est in potestate passivi in praesentia agentis, dicitur esse passio’ (§9, Wadding 7, 332).

(33) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 43, V 9, 494–495: ‘Quod si quaeratur cui imprimitur ista forma, ut perfectibili inclinato, quae dicitur “delectatio”, vel ut perfectibili contra-inclinato, quae dicitur “dolor”, an scilicet potentiae sensitivae apprehensivae vel appetitui eius,—videtur magis quod appetitui, quia possumus distinguere potentiam qua anima potest hoc apprehendere et qua inclinatur in hoc ut perfectivum extrinsecum, quae inclinatio nata est terminari apprehensione tantum praecedente; et ita sicut sensui per se attribuimus apprehendere, ita videtur quod sic inclinari, ita scilicet quod terminatio illius inclinationis sequatur ad apprehensionem, conveniat appetitui sensitivo: propter nihil aliud ponimus appetitum nisi propter talem terminationem et propter delectationem consequentem apprehensionem.’

(34) Scotus seems to be subtly shifting the sense of inclination. In the general terms with which he begins, inclination is nothing other than the proportionality of a passive cause to the corresponding active cause, whereas when he speaks about sensitive appetites, he speaks of the inclination of a sensory power as the occurrence of a specific kind of principiation from which results a principiatum, which in this case is the pleasure.

(35) The context (Scotus is explicating a passage from John Damascene) makes it clear that what is active is the object and what is passive is the appetitive power. Ord. III, d. 15, n. 44, V 9, 496: ‘“Passio est motus virtutis appetitivae sensibilis, in imaginatione boni vel mali.” [ … ] illud quod est “bonum” vel “malum” ponitur ibi ut absolutum; quod autem est “conveniens” vel “disconveniens”, est causa huius passionis; et “imaginatio”, id est sensatio in communi, est quasi approximatio agentis ad passivum.’

(36) Though a sensitive appetite is not self-determining, it is nevertheless self-moving. Ord. I, d. 17, n. 76, V 5, 177: ‘Ille [sc. appetitus sensitivus] habet rationem principii aliquo modo, licet non active libere.’ On tending [tendere] as the proper act of a sensitive appetite, see Ord. II, d. 29, n. 12, V 8, 309–310. Scotus discusses self-motion in general in his Questions on the Metaphysics, IX (OPh III and IV); for a thorough analysis, see King, ‘Reality of Self-Change’.

(37) See Ord. III, d. 15, n. 47, V 9, 498: ‘Appetitui quidem sensitivo est aliquod absolutum ex natura sua conveniens (ut perfectivum extrinsecum) et aliquod disconveniens (ut corruptivum extrinsecum); et quantum ad hoc similiter in voluntate.’

(38) Scotus does not make this point explicitly when he observes the parallel between the sensitive and rational appetites, but it is a basic tenet of scholastic moral psychology that the proper object of the will is one that is presented by the intellect. See also Section 4 below on how the sensitive passions must be apprehended by the intellect if they are to affect the will.

(39) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 47, V 9, 498: ‘Sequitur approximatio huius obiecti, videlicet apprehensio quod volitum vel nolitum habet esse; et ex hoc ultimo videtur sequi in voluntate passio ab obiecto ipso sic praesente, gaudium scilicet et tristitia.’

(40) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 48, V 9, 499: ‘Non est etiam passio ista in voluntate a se ipsa effective, quia tunc esset immediate in potestate voluntatis, sicut volitio et nolitio sunt in potestate voluntatis. Sed hoc est falsum: nolens enim, si nolitum eveniat, non videtur habere in potestate sua tristitiam; si esset etiam a voluntate ut a causa activa, esset eius operatio, sicut “velle” quod est ab ea et in ea.’

(41) See Ord. III, d. 15, n. 49, V 9, 499–500: ‘Tunc obiectum necessario agit in voluntatem imprimendo istam passionem (quod videtur esse contra libertatem voluntatis).’

(42) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 49, V 9, 500: ‘Voluntas non necessitatur simpliciter ab obiecto, tamen inter ea quae sunt sibi ostensa potest esse necessitas consequentiae, sicut “si volo, volo”; et ita si stat nolitio alicuius obiecti et nolitum illud eveniat, videtur necessario sequi necessitate consequentiae tristitiam posse fieri in voluntate.’

(43) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 50, V 9, 500: ‘Voluntas ut voluntas libera est, sed ut nolens non est formaliter libera quia habet formam determinatam ad unum, quae est ipsa nolitio.’ There has been considerable discussion in recent decades (set in motion mainly by Wolter, Duns Scotus on the Will) on Scotus’s theory of the free self-determination of the will and its centrality to his entire ethical theory. For references and a general assessment of the significance of Scotus’s ethics, see Kent, ‘Happiness’.

(44) In Ord. III, d. 34, nn. 3550, V 10, 193–201, Scotus discusses the acts of the concupiscible and irascible appetites, and mentions in passing emotions such as fear and anger. Although he does not explicitly describe them in the way that I suggest here, I think that this is a plausible way of filling out his remarks. Scotus has no single systematic discussion of all the emotions together; for a survey of texts where he discusses the various phenomena of the soul that could be considered emotions, see Perreiah, ‘Scotus on Human Emotions’.

(45) The idea that pleasure and pain—or, in Scotus’s discussion of the will, joy and sadness—are the most general passions of the soul, all the other passions being species that fall under these two, can perhaps be traced to Aristotle’s remark that the passions are all accompanied by pleasure or pain (see Rhetoric II 1, 1378a20–22).

(46) See ST I.82.5, esp. ad 3. The irascible and concupiscible appetites that are distinct powers are sensitive appetites that pertain to the whole embodied human being; see ST I.59.4 and 81.2. See also De virt. in com., a. 4.

(47) Ord. III, d. 34, n. 48, V 10, 200: ‘Non tamen est tanta distinctio istorum in voluntate quanta in appetitu sensitivo, quia voluntas non est organica. Nec oportet dicere quod alterum istorum sit vis et altera potentia, nec e converso, sed sicut ratio distinguitur in portionem superiorem et inferiorem per comparationem ad diversa obiecta et simpliciter est eadem potentia.’

(48) Scotus does not state explicitly that anger is simply sadness of the will insofar as it is irascible, but see Ord. III, d. 34, n. 46, V 10, 198, for a hint that he has this in mind: ‘Apparet autem quod isti dolores irascibilis et concupiscibilis non sunt idem dolor, quia si offeratur sub ratione impossibilis “repellere illud offendens”, maior tristitia est in concupiscibili, et tamen non erit proprie ira.’

(49) See the text in n. 41 above.

(50) In addition to the Aristotelian notion that an agent is praiseworthy or blameworthy according to the way in which he or she feels passions (see Nicomachean Ethics II 5, 1105b34–1106a1), there is also a theological reason to hold that passions are ultimately voluntary, since Christ is supposed to have merited in suffering for us, and merit is attributed only to that for which we are responsible; see Ord. III, d. 15, nn. 1415, V 9, 481–482.

(51) For clarity of presentation, I have reversed the order in which Scotus presents the three other ways in which passions get into the will.

(52) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 58, V 9, 504: ‘Haec volitio absolute exprimeretur per “volo”, nolitio condicionata per “nollem si possem aliud”. Talis nolitio condicionata videtur sufficere ad tristandum de sic nolito eveniente (sicut ille tristando eicit merces), nec ibi velle oppositum facit tantum gaudium sicut nolle condicionatum tristitiam.’ The example of the merchant at sea is taken from Nicomachean Ethics III 1, 1110a8–11.

(53) Ord. IV, d. 49, qq. 9–10, §3, Wadding 10, 506: ‘De illo appetitu naturali, patet quod voluntas necessario et perpetuo et summe appetit beatitudinem, et hoc in particulari. Quod de necessitate, patet, quia natura non potest remanere natura, quin inclinetur ad suam perfectionem.’

(54) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 51, V 9, 501: ‘Videtur dubium: [ … ] si obiectum est disconveniens appetitui sensitivo et sibi triste, et per hoc sit sufficienter disconveniens voluntati, dum tamen ostendatur sibi per intellectum propter colligantiam voluntatis cum appetitu sensitivo.’ See Ord. III, d. 34, n. 48, V 10, 199: ‘Voluntati aliquid est primo delectabile: puta bonum, vel quod est ei conveniens secundum se, vel etiam quod est ei conveniens secundum appetitum sensitivum (siquidem voluntas nata est condelectari appetitui sensitivo, cui coniungitur in eodem supposito).’

(55) Ord. III, d. 15, n. 55, V 9, 503: ‘Illa connexio voluntatis cum appetitu sensitivo, dum tamen appetibile intelligatur et per intellectum possit praesentari voluntati, sufficit ad hoc ut “conveniens appetitui sensitivo” sit conveniens voluntati, et “disconveniens” disconveniens et triste: sic enim ponitur aliqua delectatio subrepticia praecedere in voluntate omnem actum liberum voluntatis.’

(56) When he summarizes the various ways in which the will can suffer passions, Scotus restates the case of conditional nilling in terms of habitual inclination. Ord. III, d. 15, n. 60, V 9, 505: ‘Videtur de quadruplici “disconveniente voluntati” esse tristari proprie: [ … ] alio modo, de habitualiter nolito et actu condicionaliter, licet tamen absolute volito contra inclinationem habitualem.’ In his discussion of the role of the moral virtues in causing acts of volition, he considers whether they incline the will in the same way as acts of volition and nolition do, such that what is suitable according to habit is pleasant (that is, joy is produced in the will) and what is unsuitable is painful (that is, sadness is produced); see Ord. I, d. 17, pars 1, esp. nn. 4652 and 87–91, V 5, 156–159 and 181–184.

(57) Scotus observes that as the ‘principal’ and ‘highest’ appetite of a human being qua human, the will is naturally inclined to the good of the person; see Ord. III, d. 15, n. 66, V 9, 509: ‘Sed voluntas, cum sit appetitus principalis personae, summe naturaliter inclinatur ad bonum commodum et appetit illud, quia quando sunt multa in eodem, superius dicitur principale inter illa illius suppositi (sicut cum multae sunt cognitivae hominis ut homo, ita supremus appetitus hominis dicetur appetitus hominis ut homo).’ But since a human being includes all the subordinate appetites, the will is also naturally inclined to what is good for those lower appetites.

(58) See Ord. III, d. 15, n. 141, V 9, 534: ‘Si non tantum patiebatur voluntas subrepticie motu praeveniente consensum, qualis passio convenit ei ut natura (et potest dici “propassio”), sed etiam patiebatur motu sequente nolle libere elicitum, tunc intelligendum est propassionem esse ut distinguitur a passione illa quae obruit rationem.’ Cf. ibid. n. 116, 526. According to Stoic doctrine, the propassiones (or propatheiai) are only the first movements of the soul, whereas the passions of a rational soul are properly speaking only those that follow from the soul’s consent to these first movements. The propassiones were much discussed by early Christian writers and by medieval scholastic philosophers (Scotus’s own discussion arises from the text of the Sentences on which he is commenting, where Peter Lombard cites St Jerome). On discussions in early Christian literature and among medieval authors, see Knuuttila, Emotions, 111–195; on scholastic debates in particular, see Lottin, ‘Les mouvements premiers’.

(59) In Scotus’s example, an unmarried woman who is raped and feels bodily pleasure that ‘creeps up’ into the will does not sin, since she does not voluntarily consent to that pleasure. Ord. III, d. 15, n. 57, V 9, 503: ‘Hoc modo dicitur quod virgo corrupta violenter, licet condelectetur in voluntate delectatione appetitus sensitivi, non tamen peccaret, quia et delectatio et delectabile posset esse nolitum quantum ad omnem actum elicitum voluntatis.’

(60) Ord. IV, d. 49, qq. 9–10, §3, Wadding 10, 506: ‘Natura non potest remanere natura quin inclinetur ad suam perfectionem, quia si tollas illam inclinationem, tollis naturam; sed appetitus naturalis non est nisi inclinatio talis.’

(61) See Ord. III, d. 15, n. 47, V 9, 498: ‘Iste appetitus [sc. sensitivus] naturaliter se habet ad obiectum; [ … ] non sic obiectum comparatum ad voluntatem, quae libera est, licet aliquod ex natura sui sit conveniens voluntati, puta ultima finis, cum sit ultimate conveniens sibi per actum voluntatis acceptantis et complacentis sibi in illo.’

(62) Scotus distinguishes between efficacious volition and simple volition, which are both free acts of the will. An efficacious volition is an act of choice which requires the prior deliberation of the practical intellect, and is ordered to an end; it can have only objects that are judged by the intellect as possible to attain as means to an end. A simple volition is an act of willing the end itself, which can be even an end that is impossible to attain. Scotus sometimes refers to simple volition as complacentia; see Ord. III, d. 33, n. 55, V 10, 167; Ord. IV, d. 49, qq. 9–10, §12, Wadding 10, 539.

(63) Scotus suggests another argument when he remarks that the desire for what is good for someone must presuppose the love of that person in himself or herself (Ord. III, d. 15, n. 66, V 9, 508–509: ‘Affectio commodi, quae est concupiscentiae, praesupponit affectionem amicitiae et iustitiae, quia omnis concupiscens alicui bonum prius vult illi bene in se quam illi concupiscit aliquid’). Likewise one must have a prior act of loving oneself (that is, one must will oneself as a per se good) in order to will what is good for oneself (ibid.: ‘[Voluntas] summe naturaliter bonum personae, cuius est tamquam eius quod diligitur amore amicitiae, in quo fundatur omnis amor concupiscentiae’). On the constitution of the will by two basic ‘affections’, one for one’s own good and the other for what is good in itself, see Williams, ‘From Metaethics to Action Theory’, 345–349; and King, ‘Scotus’s Rejection of Anselm’.