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Conceptions of Happiness and Human Destiny in the Late Thirteenth Century

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Medieval theories of ethics tended on the whole to regard self-perfection as the goal of human life. However there was profound disagreement, particularly in the late thirteenth century, over how exactly this was to be understood. Intellectualists such as Aquinas famously argued that human perfection lay primarily in coming to know the essence of God in the next life. Voluntarists such as the Franciscan John Peckham, by contrast, argued that ultimate perfection was to be achieved in patria through the act of loving God. The present article argues that Giles of Rome and Henry of Ghent defended a different sort of voluntarism with respect to the final destiny of human beings. Rather than claiming that the goal of human life lay in the perfection of the self, they argued instead that ultimate union with God was to be achieved mystically through an act of self-transcendence, which occurred through ecstasy or quasi-deification.


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