Volume 88, 2014
Dispositions, Habits, and Virtues
Marilyn McCord Adams
Scotus on the Metaphysics of Habits
Aristotelian method accounts for essential functional regularities in terms of powers rooted in the substantial form of the functioning thing. Habits are posited to explain new and acquired functional regularities (such as the ability to speak Chinese or control one’s temper). Because Aquinas sees habits as rendering potentiae more determinate, he finds it natural to account for post-mortem supernatural functioning in terms of infused habits or qualities that build on nature with further determinations. By contrast, Scotus begins with the natural priority of receiving subjects over what they receive, and how what they determinately are fixes which habits would be formally compatible and which incompatible with it. This leads him to reject the “new infused habit or quality” account of the soul’s post-mortem ability to see God, the will’s capacity to love God above all, and the body’s supposed post-mortem impassibility, subtlety, and brightness.