The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

The Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

Excerpt

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. 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 leadership of the Franciscan Order on John Duns' behalf. All that time the Friars Minor were by far the largest mendicant order. John Duns, born in Scotland, did not go to Paris as a studens de debito, nor as a studens de gratia (§1.4). He went to become a bachelor of the Sentences. However, Parisian Franciscan bachelors reading on the Sentences were appointed by the Minister General of the Order (§1.8 and §§2.1–2.2 and §2.4). Duns Scotus became the showpiece of Augustinian thought, the mainstream of Western theology and philosophy, within a few years through the quality of his thought as master of theology at the University of Paris. It had been assumed that he would set the theological and philosophical agenda for years, but it turned out to be that he would do so for centuries, even though he was to die within a short time.

Unfortunately, this picture is not mirrored in our handbooks and introductions to the history of philosophy and theology. Scotus fell from prominence in the nineteenth century, the century in which the study of history came of age. Thus he lost his historical place too, but

In addition to the Bible, the twelfth-century Sentence (Sententiae) of Peter Lombard was the
theological standard text during the last stage of studying theology for more than three cen
turies (until the middle of the sixteenth century). See §1.4: 'A senior theological student.'

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