"Good Teacher, What Must I do to
Inherit Eternal Life?" Medieval Theories of Beatitude


Dr Callan Ledsham Not offered in 2020
In his Will there be Free Will in Heaven? (Continuum, 2003) Simon Gaine makes a seminal philosophical analysis of eschatological issues as treated by medieval philosophers, which he uses to address contemporary concerns. This unit will use Gaine’s texts to interrogate medieval thinkers' theories of the beatific vision. In particular, it will examine the theories of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, which are diametrically opposed on major points. The unit will consider each thinker’s view of the kind of freedom that is possible in heaven, where we will be without sin and without even the ability to sin. In order to provide a complete picture of the theories of human nature in relation to the beatific vision, the unit will also explore other aspects of each thinker’s theory of beatitude: whether we could attain beatitude by our natural resources alone without grace, whether all people of necessity have a desire for beatitude, and whether people could rightly seek annihilation to escape damnation.




face-to-face 3-hour weekly classes in semester or seven 2-hour face-to-face seminars, and independent study directed by supervisor in one semester


  • one 7,000-word essay 100%
  • one 2,500-word essay 40%
  • one 4,500-word essay 60% 


  • Celano, Anthony J. “The Concept of Worldly Beatitude in the Writings of Thomas Aquinas.” Journal of the History of Ideas 25 (1987): 215-26.
  • Gaine, Simon F. Will there be Free Will in Heaven? Freedom, Impeccability, and Beatitude. London: T. & T. Clark, 2003. 
  • Hoye, William J. Actualitas omnium actuum: Man’s Beatific Vision of God as Apprehended by Thomas Aquinas. Monographien Zur Philosophischen Forschung 116. Meisenheim am Glan: Hain, 1975. 
  • McCord Adams, Marilyn. “Duns Scotus on the Will as Rational Potency.” In Via Scoti: Methodologica ad mentem Joannis Duns Scoti, edited by Leonardo Sileo, 839-54. Rome: PAA-Edizioni Antonianum, 1995.
  • Prentice, Robert P. “The Degree and Mode of Liberty in the Beatitude of the Blessed.” In Deus et Homo ad Mentem I. Duns Scoti. Studia Scholastico-Scotistica 5, 327–42. Rome: Societas Internationalis Scotistica, 1972.
  • ———. “The Voluntarism of Duns Scotus, as seen in his Comparison of the Intellect and the Will.” Franciscan Studies 28 (1968): 63–103.
  • Ryan, John K., and Bernardine M. Bonansea, eds. John Duns Scotus, 1265–1965. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy 3. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965.
  • Wolter, Allan B. The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus. Edited by Marilyn McCord-Adams. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.