Period Persona – John Duns Scotus


DunsScotus

Date of Birth: Between 23 December 1265 and 17 March 1266

Died: 8 November 1308

Birthplace: Duns, County of Berwick, Kingdom of Scotland

Little is known of Duns Scotus apart from his work. Duns Scotus’ age is based on the first certain date for his life, that of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood at the Church of Saint Andrew in Northampton, England, on 17 March 1291. The minimum canonical age for ordination to the Catholic priesthood is 25 and it is generally assumed that he would have been ordained as soon as it was permitted. According to tradition, Duns Scotus was educated at the Franciscan studium at Oxford, a house behind St Ebbe’s Church. Duns Scotus appears to have been in Oxford by 1300, as he is listed among a group of friars for whom the Minister Provincial of the English Province (which included Scotland) requested faculties from the Bishop of Lincoln for the hearing of confessions.He took part in a disputation under the regent master, Philip of Bridlington. He began lecturing on Peter Lombard’s Sentences at the prestigious University of Paris towards the end of 1302. Later in that academic year, however, he was expelled from the University of Paris for siding with Pope Boniface VIII in his feud with King Philip IV of France over the taxation of church property.

Scotus’ great work is his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which contains nearly all the philosophical views and arguments for which he is well known, including the univocity of being, the formal distinction, less-than-numerical unity, individual nature or ‘thisness’ (haecceity), his critique of illuminationism and his renowned argument for the existence of God. His commentary exists in several versions. The standard version is the Ordinatio (also known as the Opus oxoniense), a revised version of lectures he gave as a bachelor at Oxford. The initial revision was probably begun in the summer of 1300 – see the remarks in the Prologue, question 2, alluding to the Third Battle of Homs in 1299, news of which probably reached Oxford in the summer of 1300. It was still incomplete when Scotus left for Paris in 1302. The original lectures were also transcribed and recently published as the Lectura.

Scotus wrote purely philosophical and logical works at an early stage of his career, consisting of commentaries on Aristotle’s Organon. These are the Questions on Porphyry‘s Isagoge and Aristotle’s Categories, Peri hermeneias, and De sophisticis elenchis, probably dating to around 1295.[15] His commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics was probably written in stages, the first version having started around 1297,[13] with significant additions and amendments possibly after the completion of the main body of the Ordinatio.[16] His Expositio on the Metaphysics was lost for centuries but was recently rediscovered and edited by Giorgio Pini.[17]

Perhaps the most influential point of Duns Scotus’ theology was his defense of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Today, Scotus is considered one of the most important Franciscan theologians and was the founder of Scotism, a special form of Scholasticism. He was known as “Doctor Subtilis” because of the subtle distinctions and nuances of his thinking. Later philosophers in the sixteenth century were less complimentary about his work, and accused him of sophistry. This led to his name, “dunce” (which developed from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s) to become synonymous for “somebody who is incapable of scholarship”.

More information: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/duns-scotus/#ScoWor

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