The nature and content of the thought of Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) remains largely unknown except by the expert. This book provides an accessible account of Scotus' theology, focusing both on what is distinctive in his thought, and on issues where his insights might prove to be of perennial value.
The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation maintains that the second person of the Trinity became a human being, retaining all attributes necessary for being divine and gaining all attributes necessary for being human. As usually understood, the doctrine involves the claim that the second person of the Trinity is the subject of the attributes of Jesus Christ, the first-century Jew whose deeds are reported in various ways in the New Testament. The fundamental philosophical problem specific to the doctrine is this: (...) how is it that one and the same thing could be both divine and human. Most of the philosophical effort devoted to the specifics of the doctrine has centered on this issue, which is the focus of this article. (shrink)
Duns Scotus, along with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham, was one of the three most talented and influential of the medieval schoolmen, and a highly original thinker. This book examines the central concepts in his physics, including matter, space, time, and unity.
Upholding a univocity theory of religious language does not entail idolatry, because nothing about univocity entails misidentifying God altogether—which is what idolatry amounts to. Upholders and opponents of univocity can agree on the object to which they are ascribing various attributes, even if they do not agree on the attributes themselves. Neither does the defender of univocity have to maintain that there is anything real really shared by God and creatures. Furthermore, even if much of language is analogous, syllogistic argument—and (...) hence theology’s scientific status, as accepted by the scholastics—requires univocity. (shrink)
According to Scotus, an intelligible species with universal content, inherent in the mind, is a partial cause of an occurrent cognition whose immediate object is the self-same species. I attempt to explain how Scotus defends the possibility of this causal activity. Scotus claims, generally, that forms are causes, and that inherence makes no difference to the capacity of a form to cause an effect. He illustrates this by examining a case in which an accident is an instrument of a substance (...) in the production of a certain sort of effect. All that is required is that the accident is relevantly joined to the substance, whether or not it inheres in the substance. Since intelligible species are bearers of semantic content, it follows that non-inherent objects of thought can also be the bearers of such content. Such objects are included in the mind without inherence, and the boundary between the mind and external reality is to this extent broken down. (shrink)
I argue that, if it is thought desirable to avoid the collapse of disability into generic social disadvantage, it is necessary to draw a distinction between impairment and disability, as in social models of disability. I show how to draw such a distinction by utilizing a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties. I argue further that, using this distinction, it is possible to define ‘impairment’ in ways that do not appeal to notions of the normal, and to define ‘disability’ in (...) terms of ‘impairment.’. (shrink)
The period from Thomas Aquinas to Duns Scotus is one of the richest in the history of Christian theology. The Metaphysics of the Incarnation provides a through examination of the doctrine in this era, making explicit its philosophical and theological foundations, and drawing conclusions for modern Christology.
This article highlights five areas of Scotus' philosophy that have recently been the subject of scholarly discussion. (1) Metaphysics : I outline the most current accounts of Scotus on individuation (thisness or haecceity) and the common nature. (2) Modal theory : I consider recent accounts both of Scotus' innovations in spelling out the notion of the logically (and broadly logically) possible, and of his account of the independence of modality. (3) Cognitive psychology : I examine recent views of Scotus' theory (...) of intentionality and the nature of mental content. (4) Semantics : I look at contemporary expositions of Scotus' view that words signify things. (5) Metaethics and ethics : I briefly describe conflicting interpretations of Scotus' metaethics, and discuss whether Scotus should be thought of as adopting some kind of divine-command theory or not. I note too Scotus' claim that virtues and passions can be located in the will. (shrink)
Scotus consistently holds that eternity is to be understood as timelessness. In his early Lectura, he criticizes Aquinas’ account of eternity on the grounds that (1) it entails collapsing past and future into the present, and (2) it entails a B-theory of time, according to which past, present and future are all ontologically on a par with each other. Scotus later comes to accept something like Aquinas’ account of God’s timelessness and the B-theory of time which it entails. Scotus also (...) offers a refutation of his earlier argument that Aquinas’ account of eternity entails collapsing past and future into the present. (shrink)
Duns Scotus defends the view that we can speak univocally of God and creatures. When we do so, we use words in the same sense in the two cases. Scotus maintains that the concepts that these univocal words signify are themselves univocal: the same concept in the two cases. In this paper, I consider a related question: does Duns Scotus have the notion of analogous concepts—concepts whose relation to each other lies somewhere between the univocal and the equivocal? Using some (...) neglected texts from Scotus’s attempt to refute Henry of Ghent’s rejection of univocity, I argue that he does, and that he uses his account of univocity to ground the relation of analogy between two concepts. According to Scotus, analogous concepts are compositional, and overlap at a univocal concept. (shrink)
Contrary to a common assumption, I argue that there is full agreement between East and West on the issue of the relation between the divine essence and the divine persons. I defend this claim by using the understanding of universals found in D. M. Armstrong to cast light on the theories. Taking Gregory of Nyssa and John of Damascus as representatives of the Eastern tradition, I show that this tradition sees the divine essence as a numerically singular object that is (...) wholly present in each divine person. The Eastern tradition explicitly sees this object as a universal. The Western tradition – exemplified in Augustine and Aquinas – likewise sees the divine essence as a numerically singular object that is wholly present in each divine person. But this tradition customarily denies that such an object could be a universal, on the merely philosophical grounds that universals are divided amongst the particulars that share them, and thus cannot be numerically one. Having shown the fundamental consonance of the two traditions, I argue by way of conclusion that differences between social and non–social theories of the Trinity depend entirely on the nature and extent of the features that are supposed to distinguish the persons from each other. (shrink)
According to an important set of medieval arguments, it is impossible to make a distinction between creation and conservation on the assumption of a beginningless universe. The argument is that, on such an assumption, either God is never causally sufficient for the existence of the universe, or, if He is at one time causally sufficient for the existence of the universe, He is at all times causally sufficient for the universe, and occasionalism is true. I defend the claim that these (...) arguments are successful. Since Christian theology requires a distinction between creation and conservation, arguments in favour of the possible eternity of the world fail. (shrink)
According to Henry of Ghent (d. 1293), it is impossible for the second person of the Trinity to assume into unity of person an irrational nature (e.g., a stone nature), or to assume a rational nature that does not enjoy the beatific vision. He argues that the assumption of a nature to a divine person entails both that the nature has the sort of powers that could exercise supernatural activities and that these powers are exercised. Henry’s Franciscan opponents argue against (...) this. Existent irrational natures (like existent rational natures) are not necessarily subsistent and belonging to a kind does not require the opportunity to exercise the causal powers associated with that kind. (shrink)
[Marilyn McCord Adams] In this paper I begin with Aristotle's Categories and with his apparent forwarding of primary substances as metaphysically special because somehow fundamental. I then consider how medieval reflection on Aristotelian change led medieval Aristotelians to analyses of primary substances that called into question how and whether they are metaphysically special. Next, I turn to a parallel issue about supposits, which Boethius seems in effect to identify with primary substances, and how theological cases-the doctrines of the Trinity, the (...) Incarnation, and of the human soul's separate survival between death and resurrection-call into question how and to what extent supposits are metaphysically special. I conclude with some reflections on various senses of being metaphysically special and how they pertain to primary substances and supposits. /// [ Richard Cross] Scotus's belief that any created substance can depend on the divine essence and/or divine persons as a subject requires him to abandon the plausible Aristotelian principle that there is no merely relational change. I argue that Scotus's various counterexamples to the principle can be rebutted. For reasons related to those that arise in Scotus's failed attempt to refute the principle, the principle also entails that properties cannot be universals. (shrink)
According to Swinburne, one way of dealing with the guilt that attaches to a morally bad action is satisfaction, consisting of repentance, apology, reparation, and penance. Thus, Christ's life and death make atonement for human sin by providing a reparation which human beings would otherwise be unable to pay. I argue that the nature of God's creative activity entails that human beings can by themselves make reparation for their sins, merely by apology. So there is no need for additional reparation, (...) and the satisfaction theory of the atonement is otiose. Following an insight of Swinburne's, I argue that satisfaction is not sufficient for forgiveness, since satisfaction does not place the wronged party under any obligation to forgive the wrongdoer. Christ's death merits the forgiveness of those sins for which human beings have made satisfaction. It does this in virtue of a divine promise to reward Christ's meritorious life with the forgiveness of such human sin. (shrink)
Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) has long ranked as one of the most challenging of philosophers. He was known from shortly after his death as doctor subtilis—the subtle doctor—and his obscure style and complex thought-processes make him a hard thinker to study. That said, he quickly established an almost cult following among his students, and his thought, for all its density, remained hugely popular throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. It is no exaggeration to claim that the last two decades have (...) seen a remarkable burgeoning of Duns Scotus studies—perhaps not one of medieval proportions, but certainly noticeable. There are various reasons for this, some obvious, some not so obvious, and I will begin by considering .. (shrink)
According to a well-known interpretation, Henry of Ghent holds that possible but non-existent essences – items merely with what Henry labels ‘ esse essentiae ’ – have some reality external to the divine mind, but short of actual existence ( esse existentiae ). I argue that this reading of Henry is mistaken. Furthermore, Henry identifies any essence, considered independently of its existence as a universal concept or as instantiated in a particular as an item that has some kind of reality (...) in the divine intellect, and that constitutes an object of thought for that intellect. This object is distinguished from the universal concepts of creaturely cognition. (shrink)
Scotus holds that dispositional and occurrent cognitions are qualities that inhere in the soul. These qualities have semantic or conceptual content. I show that such content is nothing in any sense real, and that this content consists either in the relevant quality’s being measured by an extramental object, or in its being such that it would be measured by such an object in the case that there were such an object. The measurement relation, in the case of an intelligible species, (...) is secured by the species’s internal structure; in the case of an act of cognition, it is secured either by some sort of relation to a species, or by a relation to an external object. (shrink)
Drawing on insights from the medieval theologians Duns Scotus and Hervaeus Natalis, I argue that medieval views of the Incarnation require that there is a sense in which the divine person depends on his human nature for his human personhood, and thus that the paradigmatic pattern of human personhood is in some way dependent existence. I relate this to a modern distinction between impairment and disability to show that impairment -- understood as dependence -- is normative for human personhood. I (...) try to show how medieval theories of the resurrection of the body can provide, within this context, plausible accounts of what it might be for human persons to be redeemed. (shrink)
Aquinas distinguishes four types of part included in a hypostasis (’suppositum’): (1) kind-nature; (2) individuating feature(s); (3) accidents; (4) concrete parts. (1) - (3) in some sense contribute ’esse’ to the ’suppositum’. Usually Aquinas holds that Christ’s human nature does not contribute ’esse’ to its divine ’suppositum’, since it is analogous to a concrete part of its ’suppositum’. This effectively commits Aquinas to the Monophysite heresy. In ’De Unione’ Aquinas argues instead that Christ’s human nature contributes ’secondary ’esse‘ to its (...) divine ’suppositum’. This account is coherent and orthodox, but sacrifices explanatory power. (shrink)
Contrary to the claims of recent commentators, I argue that Boethius holds a modified version of the Ammonian three-fold universal (transcendent, immanent, and conceptual). He probably identifies transcendent universals as divine ideas, and accepts too forms immanent in corporeal particulars, most likely construing these along the Aphrodisian lines that he hints at in a well-known passage from his second commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge. Boethius never states the theory of the three-fold form outright, but I attempt to show that this theory (...) nevertheless underlies and gives structure to what Boethius has to say on the topic. (shrink)