American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly


published on September 21, 2019

Jeff Steele, Thomas Williams

Complexity without Composition
Duns Scotus on Divine Simplicity

John Duns Scotus recognizes complexity in God both at the level of God’s being and at the level of God’s attributes. Using the formal distinction and the notion of “unitive containment,” he argues for real plurality in God, but in a way that permits him to affirm the doctrine of divine simplicity. We argue that his allegiance to the doctrine of divine simplicity is purely verbal, that he flatly denies traditional aspects of the doctrine as he had received it from Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, and that his denial of the doctrine allows him to escape certain counterintuitive consequences of the doctrine without falling afoul of the worries that motivated the doctrine in the first place. We note also an important consequence of Scotus’s approach to simplicity for the correct interpretation of his view of the foundation of morality.