The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

Antonie Vos
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 672
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus
    Book Description:

    This book provides a formidable yet comprehensive overview of the life and works of this Scottish-born medieval philosopher theologian.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2725-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Over the last ten years I have been constantly aware that momentous decisions and events were taking place in Duns’ life seven centuries ago. In 1298–99 John Duns acted as a bachelor lecturing on the Sentences in Oxford in the academic year 1298–99.¹ This series of lectures was to change his life. In 1301, rather than become a theological master in Oxford, he sailed for France to become a bachelor lecturing on the Sentences and Master of Divinity in Paris, the intellectual capital of Europe.

    This move must have been the result of an intervention by the international...

    • CHAPTER 1 Life I: Duns and Oxford
      (pp. 15-56)

      Around the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the world saw the birth of the very first universities and the thirteenth century was the very first university century in the history of learning. The medieval university enjoyed continuous growth and flourished, as did Europe itself. The thirteenth century has also been characterized as the century of Aristotle. The philosophical faculties were invaded by his works.

      From the religious point of view, one is struck by the enormous vitality in the activities of the Church which gave a new dynamics to the development of faith and theology. The thirteenth century...

    • CHAPTER 2 Life II: Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, and Cologne
      (pp. 57-102)

      The young John Duns was committed to the ideals and expectations of his Order and the renewal program of the Church. Initially, he had missed Paris. At Oxford he had already been professor designatus. Now, after about twenty years in Oxford, he sailed for France. He would again be a teacher-student for years to come, going through a very tough program in the capital of Western learning. The years 1303–08 would see a series of events no one could have dreamt of in 1301: exile (1303–04); a new effort as baccalaureus sententiarius in Cambridge; a new chance in Paris (1304–06); a short Parisian professorship...

    • CHAPTER 3 Two critical text revolutions
      (pp. 103-148)

      The legacy of Duns Scotus’ works is a complicated affair due to a number of different causes. His life was short. He studied and taught in all the theological faculties the universities of the thirteenth century possessed. He spent the last year of his life in the important academic center that Cologne had already become. The extraordinary brevity of his life is combined with a unique range of work. The specific nature of university education in these times, the stature of the University of Paris, the policy of the Franciscan Order and the academic legislation of the University of Paris...

    • CHAPTER 4 Logic matters
      (pp. 151-195)

      The Lectura and the Ordinatio contain many analytical and conceptual praenotanda or introductions which serve as preliminary analyses. The requirements of a theological revolution permanently press in the direction of new logical, semantic and ontological investigations. Important parts are theological parallels to Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations. The ordinary language of common life and common sense is the source of logical-philosophical creativity for the latter, the ordinary language of faith is so for the former, within the context of a powerful tradition of systematic theology. However, if we had the impression that Duns was driven by some religious wishful thinking we would...

    • CHAPTER 5 Ars obligatoria
      (pp. 196-222)

      In Lectura I 39.56 and 59 we notice quite an interesting feature: in reply to an objection to his theory of synchronic contingency (§§38–54) the young John Duns rejects a certain rule of logic. He also mentions the ars the rule under consideration belongs to:

      Concerning the next objection: we deny that rule. Nevertheless, the disputational art of obligations is handed down very well by that master without this rule.¹

      We observe that Duns is generous in his praise regarding the master who evidently was an expert in the field: a certain magister handed down the ars obligatoria very...

    • CHAPTER 6 Conceptual devices
      (pp. 223-263)

      Contingency thought presupposes that reality is complicated. Because our reality is complicated, a simple set of parallel distinctions does not satisfy if we have to cope with true, and sometimes harsh, reality. There is no simple one-dimension reality. Since there is only multidimensional reality, we need logical complexity and more devices to do justice to reality. Contingency thought derives its inspiration from the positive drive of biblical revelation that reality has to be better than it usually is. The logic of conversion does not square with the idea of the only one best possible world Actua is. Scholasticism is often...

    • CHAPTER 7 Ontology
      (pp. 264-301)

      Duns Scotus’ philosophy has many ontological solutions which arise from theological dilemmas and the tension originates from the familiar modal limitations of conceptual structures at home in traditional thought. At the end of the thirteenth century, there is an innovative mixture of logica modernorum and theologia antiqua. John Duns’ faith, the follower of the poverello from Italy, cannot be accounted for in terms of semantic, logical, and ontological presuppositions which are basic to any form of necessitarianism. When one sticks to such a type of logic, semantics, or ontology, the theory of divine properties and the doctrine of the incarnation...

    • CHAPTER 8 Epistemology
      (pp. 302-333)

      The originality of medieval philosophy and the creativity of its logic and theory of knowledge speak very much in its favor. Medieval philosophy may have been considered uninteresting because of its alleged lack of originality. However, its contributions are actually of tremendous cultural importance and they are theoretically interesting for modern philosophy and systematic theology. The reason is that many of its innovations do not have parallel theories in ancient philosophy. Medieval thought yields plenty of evidence refuting the popular view that systematic thought during these dark centuries was unilluminating, but the legacy of medieval theories is fresh and particularly...

    • CHAPTER 9 Argument, proof, and science
      (pp. 334-361)

      In many respects, modern philosophy profoundly differs from medieval thought. In a sense, this truth is a trivial one, for medieval thought also differed from ancient philosophy, just as archaic, prephilosophical thought profoundly differed from ancient Greek, Hellenistic and Roman philosophia. Still, there is a secret to be uncovered. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thought, both in its philosophical and its theological sources, is much more alike medieval thought than is usually considered. Just as, in important respects, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries might be reckoned among the early modern centuries, so the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries might also be reckoned among...

    • CHAPTER 10 Physics
      (pp. 362-396)

      Absolute conceptions of knowledge and being are characteristic of all important positions of ancient philosophy. These conceptions molded the ideas of physical reality, but they are incompatible with physics as it was built up in the revolution of the natural sciences during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The foundations of the scientific revolution were laid in earlier centuries. For Duns Scotus, physics was not a dominating interest as semantics and logic were, but it is still of interest to pay attention to a number of physical themes within a wider philosophical context. Moreover, in contrast to the other subjects (with...

    • CHAPTER 11 Individuality, individuals, will, and freedom
      (pp. 397-430)

      At the close of the thirteenth century, there was no feeling of a fin de siècle in Oxford. The young university flourished and the expanding Franciscan movement led the way in the shadow and light of the weighty Parisian condemnations of 1277, and in the light of the Oxford condemnations of 1277 and 1284. Step by step, Duns Scotus pushed back the boundaries of semantics and logic. Massive theological problems lay ahead and the new lecturer of divinity tried to cast new light upon the dilemmas surrounding individuality. During these remarkable years of the mid-1290s everything changed. The theoretical center...

    • CHAPTER 12 Ethical structures and issues
      (pp. 431-464)

      In antiquity, ethical interests were different from what they are now in Western thought. In Greek philosophia, ethics is more something given than a set of problems and issues to be reflected on, because the connection between nature and customs, commands, precepts, or law is intrinsic. What is at stake here depends on the ontological impact of the ideas of being essential and reality. If natural law is invoked as a standard, what kind of rule is to be invoked? Does the validity of this rule consist in being invoked or is reality as such law-like and natural? The non-Christian...

    • CHAPTER 13 The philosophical theory of God
      (pp. 465-508)

      The Christian faith confesses the openness of God and the openness of His reality. Classic Christian theology translates this openness into a structured concept of God by stating that the one divine nature (una substantia: Tertullian) knows of three divine Persons (tres personae: Tertullian). We see that a closed concept of God is rejected, since the concepts of natura and persona do not coincide. We may describe an absolutely closed concept of God as a concept where the notions of natura and persona coincide. The alternative form of monotheism knows of two processions (processiones) between the three Persons, which are...

    • CHAPTER 14 John Duns, Aristotle, and philosophy
      (pp. 511-539)

      The originality of medieval philosophy and the creativity of its logic and theory of knowledge make themselves felt in many contributions without any counterpart in ancient philosophy. Its novelties possess a tremendous cultural importance in general and great theoretical interest for modern philosophy and current systematic theology in particular.

      In his important introduction to medieval philosophy L. M. de Rijk lists four examples of original contributions that excel the inventions of ancient Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman philosophy:2 (1) terminist logic (which is in fact to be seen as a part of the wider phenomenon of the logica modernorum);3 (2) the metaphysics...

    • CHAPTER 15 Historical dilemmas concerning Duns Scotus’ thought
      (pp. 540-572)

      According to the Renaissance view of the development of Western philosophy there is a ‘breakdown of traditional thought’ around 1500. This approach leads to the paradoxical view that English and French, German and Italian, Spanish and Dutch, Scandinavian, Middle and Eastern European philosophy start only after 1500 and that modern European philosophy is not much older than American thought. Moreover, modern history of modern philosophy pays a great deal of attention to the great individual philosophers outside the universities. Hobbes and Descartes, Locke and Berkeley, Spinoza and Leibniz are those so privileged.

      However, this approach begs some questions: can systematic...

    • CHAPTER 16 Philosophy in a new key – extrapolations and perspectives
      (pp. 573-616)

      Modern secular philosophy has often objected to theology that Christianity is loaded with paradoxes. The paradoxical situation of our Western theoretical culture is that its philosophy is itself a paradox, for modern philosophy cannot know itself if it ignores its own history. Apart from the fact that there is flourishing research in the history of medieval philosophy, general philosophy still widely ignores the decisive continuity between sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century thought, on the one hand, and theology and philosophy in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, on the other. The effect of this pattern is that the discontinuity between Western...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 617-644)
  10. Index
    (pp. 645-654)