Ian Ramsey Centre


A Bold (Scotistic) Metaphysics for the Social Sciences

Thu 15 Feb, 5:30pm – 6:45pm

A Bold (Scotistic) Metaphysics for the Social Sciences

Michaël Bauwens
KU Leuven Institute of Philosophy

Blackfriars Hall, Main Aula, Oxford


Much of the free-will debate is staged against the background of the natural sciences or the kind of metaphysics informed by them. In the philosophy of the social sciences, human freedom is often considered as a factor of randomness from which abstraction has to be made in order to discover determining structures and tendencies. This talk explores the prospects of an inverted metaphysical approach whereby freedom is at the very origin of these respective realities instead of trying to either ‘fit’ freedom within them, or marginalize it. It draws from the theological conception of man as an imago Dei creatoris. With the natural world being the product of divine freedom, the social sciences would – in parallel to that – ultimately study the product of human freedom rather than determining factors on it. The metaphysics of John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) on free human and divine willing, especially his notion of synchronic contingency, will serve as a vantage point.

MICHAËL BAUWENS obtained his BA, MA and MPhil in philosophy from the KU Leuven Institute of Philosophy. He will defend his PhD on the metaphysics of institutions the week before this talk, which was funded by an FWO (Research Foundation Flanders) research project. He works on social ontology, the philosophy of the social sciences, philosophical theology, and preferably the connection between them. He has published and forthcoming articles in The Journal of Institutional Economics, The Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Communio, Divus Thomas, and has contributions in the recent edited volumes ‘Heaven and Philosophy’ and ‘Purgatory: Philosophical Dimensions’.


This event is organised by the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in collaboration with the Humane Philosophy Project and the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Warsaw.