God Proof of Ioannes Duns ScotusJune 27, 2021
Before Duns Scotus, the most important God arguments we have seen in the history of medieval philosophy are the God arguments of Anselmus (ontological) and Thomas Aquinas (cosmological). Thomas Aquinas, starting from the effects of God’s existence, tried to reach Him, who is the cause of these effects; He basically shaped his proof on this understanding.
Duns Scotus also agrees with Thomas Aquinas on this starting point. However, Duns Scotus criticizes Thomas Aquinas’ preference for the sensible area, where the effects are visible, and the phenomena that are the subject of sense experience. Duns Scotus resorted to another way to prove God, who is an Active Being who shows his influence on the physical world (Maurer, 1982: 223; Aspell: 274) and preferred a metaphysical truth to prove the existence of an active cause. He uses the following expression in his opus Oxoniense: “Some entities are producible.” The advantage of starting from such a starting point is that it is absolutely necessary. Every existence is produced/created in some way. However, the fact that each produced being is produced by another is also determined by the sense experience itself. In other words, each being has another cause in terms of productivity, and this cause is a produced being. This situation goes back to a first cause just like Aristotle’s “first mover” (Aspell, 1999: 274-275).
This state of being produced describes the relationship of a series of essentially interdependent beings, and in Duns Scotus’ view such a point of departure is neither audible nor empirical. This point is a metaphysical truth, a truth about some beings. However, the overall picture of the effect produced by this sequence certainly cannot be the starting point for an entire sequence. First of all, this effect must exist outside of the sequence and certainly really exist. If it didn’t really exist, then this effect will become a possible part in that series and it will be necessary to look for an effective cause.
To put it another way, beings must be produced either by themselves, out of nothing, or by something. According to Duns Scotus, it is unthinkable for any being to produce itself. The same is true of being produced by nothingness. Therefore, the existent must be produced by something else that is itself a producer. From this point of view, it can be said that there is a first effective cause and that is God himself. The most important point of this proof, as we have seen in other proofs, is the idea that it is not possible for the order formed by the cause to exist in an infinite series.
For Duns Scotus, who emphasizes the importance of the physical world at every opportunity in his mentality, as we have seen above, the proof of the existence of God takes place in an a posteriori (after-experiment, excluded from the experiment) manner. “For him, the judgment that God exists is a synthetic judgment, not an analytical one. That is, man does not have an innate idea that God exists. Man can reach the existence of God only by examining God’s effects on earth and by moving from these effects to causes. Otherwise, it is not possible for the mind to move from causes to effects. This first being, which is the main subject of the mind, that is, God himself, is a causeless being. That is, although it is the cause of all effects on earth, it has no cause itself. It is its own cause. A being with these properties is also infinite, immaterial or a purely formal cause. There is also such a first cause actually; It is a necessary being. Moreover, beyond all these qualities, such a being, namely God, is active, pure reason, pure will. God does everything by his free will; the world is the spontaneous result of His free act.” (Çotuksöken & Babur, 1989: 298).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook