Necessity and Future-Dependence: ‘Ockhamist’ Accounts of Abraham’s Faith at Paris around 1200

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Abstract

This article aims to show that the so-called ‘Ockhamist’ solution to the determinist challenge was a commonplace among Parisian scholastics around 1200. On the ‘Ockhamist’ view, some propositions about the past do not fall under the necessity of the past, since their truth-value depends on the future. The paper focuses on two puzzles involving Abraham’s belief in the future Incarnation. The author discusses the ‘Ockhamist’ strategies adopted by theologians of the period, including Simon of Tournai, Peter of Poitiers, Praepositinus of Cremona, Stephen Langton, Geoffrey of Poitiers, and William of Auxerre. Langton draws an analogy between Abraham’s faith and Christ’s statement “Thou shalt deny me thrice” and suggests (while weighing alternatives) that past movements of faith are counterfactually flexible with regard to content. In order to interpret Langton’s statements, the author sketches a model of empty slots in the supernatural layer of the past, retrospectively infused with grace.