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Was the Early Wyclif a Determinist? Concerning an Unnoticed Level within His Taxonomy of Being

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AbstractThis article takes issue with the most authoritative argument for the commonplace that John Wyclif was an extreme determinist: he denied distinctions between divine ideas and God’s metaphysical constituents and between ideas as principle of divine cognition of creatures (rationes) and as models for their production ad extra (exemplaria); since as a constituent of God’s essence every divine idea is absolutely necessary, and every idea is unfailingly a pattern for creation, therefore God cannot but create anything He can think of. This paper argues against the premise that Wyclif never distinguished rationes and exemplaria by examining significant excerpts from Wyclif’s edited and unedited academic writings in which the distinction is assumed or discussed. Wyclif maintains that there are more ideas in God than created essences ad extra, and that God’s absolute power covers more than His ordained power does. To stress that not every divine idea is automatically a model for creation, Wyclif sometimes includes in his standard taxonomy of being a hitherto unnoticed level, the esse intentionale, which is eternal and ad intra, like the esse intelligibile, but contingent, the kind of being in which something participates as the result of God’s free choice to bring it into existence ad extra at the due time.

Affiliations: 1: Università degli Studi del Piemonte OrientaleVercelli


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