Divine Providence in Medieval Philosophical Theology 1250-1350

Tutkimustuotos: OpinnäyteVäitöskirjaMonografia


This dissertation is a historical and a philosophical study concerning the doctrine of divine providence, as it was understood in Latin academic theology in 13th and 14th centuries. The method of the study is systematic analysis. The aim of the study is to understand the meaning and the doctrinal value of divine providence for some of the most important authors in the era, and analyse philosophical and theological problems that these authors considered important. The dissertation consists of four chapters. In the first chapter, the historical background of the Christian idea of a provident God is traced from Plato and Aristotle and the Hellenistic schools of philosophy to the late ancient Christian authors Augustine and Boethius. Particular attention is paid to the nascent Platonic and Aristotelian traditions of understanding providence. In the second and third chapters, the ideas that a number of medieval authors held on providence are analysed. Some of the most important authors in chapters 2 and 3 include Thomas Aquinas, Siger of Brabant, Matthew of Aquasparta, Peter Auriol, Robert Holkot and Thomas Bradwardine. The fourth chapter focuses on a relatively unknown 13th century work Liber de bona fortuna, attributed to Aristotle. Liber de bona fortuna, consisting of Latin translations of chapters found originally in Aristotle’s Ethica Eudemia and Magna Moralia, asks whether good fortune ought to be attributed to nature, intellect or god. A number of medieval authors, including e.g. Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus and Peter Auriol, became highly interested in Liber de bona fortuna. They provided original explanations of the phenomenon of good fortune, ranging from Henry of Ghent’s providential model to Giles of Rome’s naturalistic and Peter Auriol’s psychologizing explanations.

This study shows that the central philosophical questions regarding providence, considered important in the ancient era, were inherited and adopted in medieval theology. These questions include most importantly 1. Whether divine providence is reconcilable with freedom of the will and contingency in general; 2. Whether divine providence is concerned with all particular beings, or exclusively with species of beings; and 3. Does divine providence cause its effects immediately or through the mediation of a chain of secondary causes. A special theme regarding the first question is how divine providence may be reconciled with evil and sinful actions committed by rational agents. I argue that two different strategies of treating these questions may be distinguished in the philosophical thought of the 13th and 14th centuries. According to the accidental strategy of reconciling divine providence and evil, evil results accidentally from God’s good providential plan. While evil is not part of divine providence qua evil, it comes under the influence of providence by receiving a just punishment. In contrast, the instrumental strategy of reconciling divine providence and evil treats evil as an instrument used by God for advancing his good plan for the creation. While evil remains evil considered from the created perspective, considered from the divine perspective it has an instrumental function. It is noted that while some authors display a clear preference for one of these strategies, other authors employ them side by side.
Painoksen ISBN978-951-51-3912-2
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-51-3913-9
TilaJulkaistu - 2017
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG4 Tohtorinväitöskirja (monografia)


  • 614 Teologia
  • 611 Filosofia

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