In his Will there be Free Will in Heaven? (Continuum, 2003) Simon Gaine makes a groundbreaking philosophical analysis of eschatological issues as treated by medieval philosophers, which he uses to address contemporary concerns. This unit will use Gaine’s texts to interrogate medieval thinkers' theories of the beatific vision. In particular it will examine the theories of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, which are diametrically opposed on major points. The unit will consider each thinkers’ view of the kind of freedom that is possible in heaven, where we will be without sin and without even the ability to sin. In order to provide a complete picture of the theories of human nature in relation to the beatific vision, the unit will also explore other aspects of each thinker’s theory of beatitude: whether we could attain beatitude by our natural resources alone without grace, whether all people of necessity have a desire for beatitude, and whether people could rightly seek annihilation to escape damnation.

Unit code: AP9122C

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Produce sophisticated readings of the selected primary texts that relate then to their purpose and context, and subject their implications to rigorous assessment.


Critically expound and evaluate the salient theories, terminology and arguments of the philosophers studied in the unit.


Analyse and critically interpret the topics studied within the wider framework of the Christian philosophical tradition, especially the philosophical outlooks of the great medieval religious orders.


Formulate hypotheses concerning the difficulties and trade-offs faced by the medieval accounts of the beatific vision and critically evaluate how they can be generalised to any account of the beatific vision.


Develop a research topic in a critical, rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner, in accord with the methodologies and conventions of advanced research in medieval philosophy.


This unit requires students to undertake self-directed, contextually-attuned study with the support of a supervisor in its first mode of delivery; in its second mode of delivery it is taught as a more standard teaching and tutorial mode.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Bos, Egbert P., ed. John Duns Scotus: Renewal of Philosophy: Acts of the Third Symposium Organized by the Dutch Society for Medieval Philosophy Medium Aevum, May 23 and 24, 1996. Elemeta. Schriften zur Philosophie und ihrer Problemgeschichte; band 72. Amsterdam: Rudolphi, 1998.
  • Celano, Anthony J. “The Concept of Worldly Beatitude in the Writings of Thomas Aquinas.” Journal of the History of Ideas 25. (1987): 215-26.
  • Gaine, Simon Francis. Will there Be Free Will in Heaven? Freedom, Impeccability and Beatitude London and New York: T. & T. Clark, 2003.
  • Hoye, William J. Actualitas omnium actuum: Man's Beatific Vision of God as Apprehended by Thomas Aquinas. Monographien zur philosophischen Forschung, 116. Hain: Meisenheim am Glan, 1975.
  • McCord Adams, Marilyn. “Duns Scotus on the Will as Rational Potency”. Via Scoti: Methodologica ad mentem Joannis Duns Scoti, (ed. by Leonardo Sileo). Rome: PAA-Edizioni Antonianum, (1995): 839-854.
  • Peter, Carl J. Participated Eternity in the Vision of God: A Study of the Opinion of Thomas Aquinas and his Commentators on the Duration of the Acts of Glory. Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1964.
  • Prentice, Robert P. “The Degree and Mode of Liberty in the Beatitude of the Blessed”. Deus et homo ad mentem I. Duns Scoti. Studia Scholastico-Scotistica 5. Rome: Societas Internationalis Scotistica, (1972): 327-42.
  • −−−. “The Voluntarism of Duns Scotus, as Seen in his Comparison of the Intellect and the Will.”Franciscan Studies 28. (1968): 63-103.
  • Ryan, John K., and Bernardine M. Bonansea., eds. John Duns Scotus, 1265-1965. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1965.
  • Wolter, Allan B. The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Option 1: 6000 word essay 90% Week 16
1000 word skeleton argument 10% Week 13

OR Option 2

7000 100.0

Option 2: 2000 word essay 40% Week 6 1–2 4000 word essay 50% Week 16 1-5 1000 word skeleton argument 10% Week 13 1-5

OR Option 1

7000 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 25 Jul, 2019

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:49 +1000