Medieval Problems of Secondary Causation and Divine Concurrence

Zita Veronika Toth, Fordham University


Do things in the world exercise causal powers? Are the manifestations of these powers necessary? What if one also wants to maintain that there is an omnipotent agent (God) who created and maintains this world? In my dissertation I present various solutions to this clus- ter of problems as they appeared in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, centered around three debates. Overall, there is an historical, a systematic, and a methodological upshot of the dissertation. On the historical side, I shed some light on some medieval figures and what they thought about causation and divine concurrence. I mention some interpretational debates in the individual chapters, and I also treat some authors (Durand of St.-Pourçain, Peter of Palude, Peter Auriol, Gabriel Biel) whose accounts of divine concurrence have not received much attention lately. The problem of divine concurrence is just one aspect of the more general problem of causation (which is arguably one of the most important one in medieval metaphysics); nevertheless, it highlights an important and often overlooked diffi- culty that results from combining Aristotelianism with classical theism. On the systematic side, I show that although the focus of the debate and the employed conceptual apparatus shifted, concurrentists remained occupied with avoiding both occasionalism and mere con- servationism. As it turns out, the question of divine concurrence is also strongly intertwined with such seemingly unrelated issues as the nature of contingency, divine foreknowledge, or the demonstrability of the causal relation. Finally, on the methodological side, I show that although we can learn a great deal about such contemporary philosophical problems as causation, causal powers, and divine action in the world by looking at the medieval dis- cussions, this should be done with great care. For although it is tempting to abstract thesemedieval theories from their theological assumptions, nevertheless, as it is shown here, even such seemingly purely metaphysical issues as the nature and scope of causal powers or the supposed necessary connection between causes and effects are unintelligible in the medieval context without the theological framework in which they originally arose.

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Recommended Citation

Toth, Zita Veronika, "Medieval Problems of Secondary Causation and Divine Concurrence" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10273316.