Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Prof. Henrik Lagerlund


Thomas Bradwardine (d. 1349) was an English philosopher, logician, and theologian of some note; but though recent scholarship has revived an interest in much of his work, little attention has been paid to an early treatise he wrote on the topic of future contingents, entitled De futuris contingentibus. In this thesis I aim to address this deficit, arguing in particular that the treatise makes original use of the divine power distinction to resolve the apparent conflict between God’s foreknowledge on the one hand, and human free will on the other. Bradwardine argues that God’s foreknowledge operates in accord with God’s ordained power, and so relative to God’s ordained power, our actions are indeed compelled; however, because of Bradwardine’s appeal to the distinction in power, he is able to maintain that our actions remain free relative to God’s absolute power, and are thus free, absolutely speaking. This solution is, I argue, unique to Bradwardine, although it seems to be abandoned in his later writing.

Bradwardine’s approach to the problem is heavily influenced by three figures in particular — Boethius, Anselm of Canterbury, and John Duns Scotus — each of whose solutions I discuss in some detail. Furthermore, Bradwardine explicitly places his own solution in opposition to that of William Ockham, and so I give substantial attention to examining Ockham’s position. But while I agree with Bradwardine’s assessment that Ockham’s position undermines God’s foreknowledge in ways that should be untenable to someone of 14th-century Christian commitments, I argue that Bradwardine’s solution amounts to an equally untenable determinism.

An appendix contains excerpts from my own English translation of the De futuris contingentibus (the first into any modern language), in parallel with the original Latin.