ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

403. Thomas Bradwardine, born about 1290, was one of the most distinguished scholars of Merton College{1} and Oxford University, where he was professor and procurator (1325). Subsequently he became chaplain to Edward III., accompanied the latter on his triumphal expedition to France in 1346, and became archbishop of Canterbury in the year of his death, 1349. Besides his great and noted work, De Causa Dei contra Pelagium et de Virtute Causarum, ad suos Mertonenses (between 1338 and 1346), Bradwardine also wrote treatises on Mathematics, commentaries on the Sentences, a Summa Theologica or Summa Scientiarum, etc.

Bradwardine was an able theologian and philosopher. Though influenced in a certain degree by the teachings of his two fellow-countrymen, Scotus and Ockam, he built up a system of theodicy and ethics which was largely original and which made a deep impression on the philosophers and theologians of his time. Pelagianism, which Bradwardine set himself to refute in certain forms it had taken in his day, brought up the important problem of human freedom and its relations with the Deity. The question had become just then a burning one (sciens inflammam terribilem manum mitto).{2} For the solution of it Bradwardine thought out a sort of Theistic determinism, the leading ideas of which are as follows

God is Infinite Intelligence and Will. The Free Will of God is sovereign arbiter of the essences and the existences of all contingent things (Duns Scotus, cf. 332); it is the norm of man's nature and of the morality of his acts. "Non est ratio nec ulla lex necessaria in Deo prior ejus voluntate."{3} It follows from this, concludes the English philosopher, that the Divine Will is the necessitating cause (necessitas antecedens) of all contingent activities, and therefore also of our volitions. Man is free only in the measure in which his act is independent of everything else except God: of the intellect and the conditions of sense-activity (libertas a necessitate naturali; Bradwardine refutes the psychological determinism of the Averroïsts); of external agencies and the influence of the heavenly bodies (libertas a necessitate fatali); and of all external violence (libertas a necessitate violenta). Freedom is thus reduced to spontaneous volition.{4}

Bradwardine's restrictions really eliminate genuine human freedom, and with it the whole scholastic system of ethics (304). They lead by another way to the Averroïstic view which he wished to avoid. In vain does he struggle to safeguard human responsibility and merit. His principles should force him to confess that God is the total cause of all cosmic evil and of all sin; but he repudiates such consequences and takes refuge in subterfuges.

Bradwardine's followers -- and they were numerous, especially in Paris where the Causa Dei was held in high repute -- were not slow to carry to its logical consequences the teaching of the "doctor profundus". This is especially true of Nicholas of Autrecourt, John of Mirecourt and John Wycliff. Among the opponents of Bradwardine were Peter Plaout and John de la Rive.{5}

{1} Founded at Maldon in 1264, transferred to Oxford in 1274.

{2} Bradwardine's Praefatio.

{3} Causa Dei, i., 22, P. 233 A.

{4} "Sufficiat homini ut sit liber respectu omnium citra Deum et tantum modo servus Dei, servus inquam spontaneus, non coactus" (ibid., iii., 9, p. 667 E.). "Nihil est in potestate nostra, nisi secundum quid tantummodo, scilicet subactiva, subexecutiva et subserviente necessario, necessitate scilicet naturaliter praecedente respectu voluntatis divinae: quod ideo dicitur in nostra potestate, quia cum volumus, illud facimus voluntarii, non inviti (p. 675 C.). The exposition above is according to HAHN. See below.

{5} D'ARGENTRÉ, op. cit., i., p. 328.

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