Duns Scotus, Johannes
Duns Scotus, Johannes (Doctor Subtitis), on, of the most eminent of the Scholastic theologians, was born, according to one account, about 1265, at Dunstance, near Alnwick, Northumberland; according to another, at Duns, or Dunse, in Berwickshire, Scotland. In fact, both the place and the date of his birth are unknown. At an early age he joined the Minorit Friars, and was sent by them to Oxford, where he became fellow of Merton College. In 1301 he was appointed to the theological chair in Oxford, which he filled with so great reputation that it is said more than 30,000 scholars came to Oxford to hear him. In 1304 he removed to Paris, where he was made doctor of theology, and soon rose to the head of the theological schools. He here distinguished himself especially by his advocacy of the immaculate conception (q.v.) of the Virgin Mary against Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans. He influenced the University of Paris to adopt this heresy. In 1308 Duns Scotus was ordered by Gonsalvo, the general of the Minorites, to Cologne, to oppose the Beguines. On the road he was met in solemn pomp, and conducted into the town by the whole body of citizens. He died of an apoplexy at Cologne November 8, 1308. Paul Jovius relates that, when he fell from apopleixy, he was immediately interred as dead; but that afterwards coming to his senses, he languished in a most miserable manner in his coffin, beating his head and hands against its sides till he died.
His philosophical views are thus stated by Tennemann: "His celebrated attack on the system of Thomas Aquinas drew this skillful reasoner very frequently into vain and idle distinctions, but in all his dialectic disputes he maintained a steady zeal for the promotion of real knowledge. He endeavored to ascertain some certain principle of knowledge, whether rational or empirical, and applied himself to demonstrate the truth and necessity of revelation. As a Realist, he differed from Thomas Aquinas by asserting that the universal is contained in the particular, not merely in posse, but in actu; that it is not created by the understanding, but communicated to it; and that the nature of things is determined in particular or universal by a higher or absolute principle. In Psychology he opposed the belief that the faculties of the soul are distinct. The object of Philosophy was, in his opinion, to become cognizant of the nature of things, or 'what is.' Although human philosophy teaches the sufficiency of reason, and that supernatural disclosures are superfluous, the theologian regards a certain supernatural revelation as necessary, because man can never attain to certain truth by inspecting effects or secondary causes, whether ideas or sensations. The object of theology is God, an infinite Being, and the first principle of all things. Yet he is not to be regarded in the light of his infinity, but of his divinity, the latter idea being more perfect than the former, because God cannot be conceived apart from infinity, though infinity can be conceived without God. He attributed indeterminate freedom to God, and hence regarded the subjective will of God as the principle of morality. Sometimes he expressed doubts as to the possibility of a rational theology. Duns Scotus was the founder of a school, the Scotists, who distinguished themselves for subtlety of disputation, and for incessant disputes with the Thomists. These disputes were so frequently mixed up with human passions that science derived from them little benefit; and it very frequently happened that the points in question, instead of being elucidated, were obscured through their controversies" (Tennemann, Manual History of Philosophy, § 268). SEE SCHOLASTIC.
As to the will, Duns Scotus maintained its freedom, without any determinism. In fact, "the leading distinction between the Thomist and the Scotist psychology respects the relation of thinking and willing, which, although they are found united, unitive, in the soul, are really (formaliter) distinct, as well from each other as from the soul (Op. Oxon. 2, d. 16). The determinism of Thomas, according to which the will necessarily chooses what the thought presents to it as the best, Duns combats most emphatically. Not only that the will has the power to determine itself entirely alone (ibid. d. 25), and, under certain circumstances, to act against the reason (Disput. sctbtil. 9 and 16), but, in decided opposition to Thomas, it may be said that in very many cases the reason is determined by the will, e.g. when I will to think. It is most judicious to distinguish two different modes of thinking the first, which precedes the will; the second, which follows it; but even the former does not determine the will, for voluntas est superior intellectu (Op. Oxon. ii, d. 42, qu. 4). With Duns the will is entirely identical with liberum arbitrium; what it does is contingens et evitable, while the intellect obeys necessity (Op. Oxon, 2, d. 25). The function of the latter is to furnish to the will the material which it combines, the possibility being given to it of willing entire opposites (Op. Oxon. i, dist. 39)" (Erdmann, translated by Starbuck, Amer. Presb. Review, April 1865, page 299).
On the Theology of Scotus, we take the following from Erdmann's article just cited: "The peculiarities of Duns's psychology, as well as his deviations therein from Thomas, reflect themselves in the manner in which he views the essence of God and the destiny of man, and, therefore, in his theology and ethics. As to his theology since the existence of God might be known without supernatural illumination, there is, therefore, ex puris naturalibus, a knowledge of the divine essence. But just as the former could not be proved a priori, the latter also cannot be derived from the highest metaphysical idea of the ens (Theorem. 14), but we raise ourselves to it by proceeding from the vestigium and the image of God. Our knowledge of the essence of God is therefore not intuitive, but abstractive (Rep. Paris. Prol. qu. 2). The distinction in the human soul between the intellectus, whose center is the memory and the will, must, and that eminenter, be found in the original ground of man, in God. Accordingly, in God, understanding and will must be distinguished, of which the former acts naturaliter, the latter libere; the former is the ground and sum of all necessity, the latter of all contingency, and therefore may be named the possibility of the contingent in God (Rep. Paris. 2, d. 1, qu. 3; ibid. 1, d. 40). Inasmuch, now, as these two determinations (Bestimmungen) give the foundation of Duns's doctrine of the Trinity, since the Son, as Verbum, has his ground in the memoria perfecta, the Holy Ghost, on the other hand, in the spiratio operated through the will (Rep. Paris. 1, d. 13; Op. Oxon. 1, d. 10 et al.); he does not hesitate to ascribe to the natural man such capacity as that he may know the Trinity (Quodl. qu. 14). These intra-divine relations (notlonalia) through which the three persons are, are the first deductions resulting from the essence of God, and are therefore to be derived from the known essentialibus (ibid. qu. 1). The case is otherwise with every relation of God ad extra. For, since all out of God proceeds from the divine will, and this cause acts contingenter (Op. Oxon. 1, d. 39), it can by no means be proved that anything out of God must exist, and that it must exist as it is. Truly his own being does God know and will of necessity; all else is only secundario volitum (Rep. Paris. 1, d. 17). That God might have created all things other than he has, or that he might do all things otherwise than he does, cannot be proved a logical impossibility, an incompassibilitas contrariorum; we can therefore only say, in the course of the established order chosen by God, this or that will or will not happen (Rep. Paris. 4, d. 49, qu. 11). Such an established order, limits which God has voluntarily fixed for himself, is postulated by Duns, because he distinguishes creation and preservation, i.e. bringing out of nothing into being, and out of being into being, as two essentially distinct relations of God to things, or, rather, of things (Quodl. qu. 12) to God. (Op. Oxon. 1,
d. 30 qu 2.) But it must never be forgotten that the ground why this particular order was established is to be found purely in the pleasure of God. Therefore, although it is true that God has created all things according to ideas which preceded the things in his intelligence, yet these archetypal forms have by no means determined his creating; least of all has he chosen any one form because it was the better gather it is only the better for the very reason that God has chosen it (Op. Oxon. 2, d. 19). There is, therefore, a scientific knowledge of the Trinity; of the creation there is none. It is with the incarnation precisely as it is with the creation. Had God willed, we might have become stone; there is no more impossibility in that than there was in his becoming man. Precisely the same is true of redemption through the death of Christ. A proof of the necessity of this is not possible. It is simply the pleasure of God that the death of the guiltless one should become the ransom for the guilty (Op. Oxon. 3, d. 7, qu. 1; d. 20; 4, d. 15). (Around this point revolve the controversies of the Scotists and Thomists respecting the merits of Christ.) Precisely as it must be said of these dogmas that they are certain, not through scientific proofs, but through thee fides infusa (ibid. d. 24), even so must we say of the moral commandments which are given us. It is not because it is evil that God has forbidden us this or that, but it is evil because he has forbidden it. Had he commanded murder or other trangressions, they would have been no transgressions and no sin (ibid. d. 37). The last adduced principle forms a convenient transition to his ethics. Whoever, like Thomas, lays the greater stress on the theoretical side of the soul, must, with Aristotle, put theory above practice, and with such a one, if the Christian idea of blessedness be added, it must assume a peculiar form. Here, therefore, blessedness is conceived as the knowing and beholding of God, as delectatio in God, and therefore, as a theoretic enjoyment. With Duns, who allows to the will precedence over the thinking power, the matter must naturally take another form. The authority of Aristotle alarms him not; it is, in his view, only the philosopher, with his temporal blessedness, who is opposed to him, when he himself maintains, as the Christian and theological view, that love, therefore the will, confers the highest blessedness, so that it seems to him almost too quietistic to call it delectatio (Rep. Paris. 4, d. 49, qu. 1 and 2). How he disposes of the Biblical authority, according to which eternal life consists in knowing God, has been mentioned above. As, through his stronger emphasizing of the will he separates himself from Aristotle's deification of theory, naturally with him the Augustinian will-lessness must disappear. Duns is a decided synergist. To be sure, the will is not sufficient for salvation; it needs to be assisted through the infusion of the theological virtue of charitas (ibid. qu. 10); but it must be remembered also that Christ only names himself the Door, but the door does not render entrance superfluous. Entrance requires the cooperation of man (Op. Oxon. 3, d. 19). He does not scruple, therefore, to name the appropriation of salvation through faith a merit which will be rewarded. It is no contradiction to say that when God shows himself compassionate only, he, when just, also decides the act of man (Rep. Paris. 4, d. 46)." "The admirers of Scotus extol his acuteness and subtlety as unrivalled, and he has always been accounted the chief glory of the Franciscans, as Thomas Aquinas has been of their rivals, the Dominicans. If in his short life he actually wrote all the works that are commonly attributed to him, his industry at least must have been prodigious. His fame during his lifetime, and long after his death, was not exceeded by that of any other of the Scholastic doctors. From him and Aquinas two opposing sects in theology took the names of Scotists and Thomists, and divided the schools down almost to the last age. The leading tenet of the Scotists was the immaculate conception of the Virgin, and they also differed from the Thomists on the subjects of free-will and the efficacy of divine grace. In philosophy the Scotists are opposed to the Occamists, or followers of William Occam, who was himself a pupil of Scotus, but differed from his master on the subject of universals, or general terms, which the Scotists maintained to be expressive of real existences, while the Occamists held them to be nothing more than names. Hence the Scotists are called Realists, the Occamists Nominalists. It is a favorite opinion of Bayle's that this doctrine of the Scotists was nothing less than an undeveloped Spinozism (Dict. Crit. art. Abelard, note C, and Andre Cisalpin, note B). It may be added that the English term 'dunce' has been commonly considered to be derived from the name of the subtle doctor 'perhaps,' says Johnson, 'a word of reproach first used by the Thomists, from Duns Scotus, their antagonist' "(English Cyclopaedia, s.v.).
The collected works of Duns Scotus first appeared at Lyons under the title of Joannis Duns Scoti Opera omnia quae hucusque reperiri potuerunt collecta, etc., edited by the Irish Minorite, Wadding (Lugd. 1639, 12 vols. fol.). It does not contain all the works of Scotus, but only those designated as his Opera Speculativa the contents are, volume 1, Wadding Vita Scoti, with Grammatica speculativa; In universam logicam Quaestiones; volume 2, Comment. in libros Physic. Aristotelis; Quaestiones in libros Aristotelis
De Anima; volume 3, Tractatus de Rerum Principio; Tractatus deprimo Principio; Theoremata subtilitissima; De Cognitione Dei; volume 4, Expositio in Metaphysicam Aristotelis; Conclusiones Metaphysica; Quaestiones in Metaphysicam; volumes 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Distinctiones in quatuor libros Sententiarum; volume 11, Reportatorum Parisiensium Libri 4; volume 12, Quaestiones quodlibetales. The Commentorii Sacr. Script, were to be given in a later pullication by the same editor, which never appeared. Wadding's Vita Joannis Duns Scoti was reprinted at Mons (1644, 12mo). There is also a Tractatus de Joannis Scoti Vita, etc., Auctore R.F. Joanne Colgano, Ord. Minor. (Antw. 1655, 12mo). A summary of his theology is given in Albergoni, Resolutio Doctrinae Scoticae (Lugd. 1643, 8vo). Baumgarten-Crusius wrote a treatise on his theological system (De Theologia Scoti, Jena, 1826, 4to). See also Neander, History of Dogmas (Bohn's ed.), 2:544-590; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines (Smith's ed.), 1:396 et al.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 15:255; Christian Examiner (Bost.), 1849, art. 1; N. Brit Rev. May 1855, art. 3; Mosheim, Church Hist. book 3, c. 14 part 2, chapter 2, § 38; Haureau, Philosophie Scolastique, chapter 25; Brucker, Historia Critica t. 3, page 825; Erdmann (translated in Amer. Presbyt. Review, April 1865, cited above).