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Scotus for Dunces

An Introduction to the Subtle Doctor

Mary Beth Ingham

Publication Year: 2003

This book is a "simple guide" to theological and philosophical aspects of the thought of the medieval Franciscan, John Duns Scotus. Known as the Subtle Doctor, Scotus has a reputation for intricate and technical reasoning. Ingham provides an insightful and creative introduction to his thought in this book. Philosophical and theological principles are explored with clarity and demonstrated by the use of numerous practical examples. By organizing the book around themes that are both timely and urgent, Ingham invites the reader into thoughtful reflection, encourages lively discussion, and challenges Franciscans in particular to consider choosing patterns of relattionships that strive for the good and beauty in all things.

Published by: Franciscan Institute Publications


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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-2


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pp. 3-4

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pp. 5-6

This English introduction to the thought of John Duns Scotus by Mary Beth Ingham is a most welcome text, filling as it does a definite need. After a well-written opening chapter on the life and literary works of the Subtle Doctor, the author arranges her presentation of Scotus’s principal doctrines in three core chapters. Entitled Creation, Covenant and Communion, these chapters provide excellent insight into the work of Scotus and will be quite helpful to those seeking a point of entry into his complex thought....

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pp. 7-12

This book offers a basic introduction to the thought of Franciscan philosopher-theologian, John Duns Scotus. Known to history as the Subtle Doctor, Scotus has a reputation for intricate and technical reasoning. He is generally acknowledged as a difficult thinker whose ideas are neither clearly set forth nor easily followed. Scotist thought is not widely known precisely because it is so difficult to access. Some may have an idea of his isolated insights, most notably his position on the divine reason for the Incarnation, but beyond this, few other...

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1 Scotus’s Life and Works

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pp. 13-36

At the outset of such an introductory study, it is important to have a chapter whose purpose is to give the reader some sense of the man and the time in which he lived. This is particularly important in the present case, because, in this book, I pre-suppose that Scotus’s Franciscan commitments play an enormously important role in his thought. This point has become a foundational...

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2 Creation

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pp. 37-70

If you wanted to offer an explanation for the beauty of a rose, how would you do it? If you needed to explain to a friend why it is that a sunset or a piece of music has the power to move you so, how would you go about it? If you had the insight that, even if you were the only person in the entire universe, God would still have created it all to place before you, where would you begin?...

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3 The Covenant

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pp. 71-104

I suppose it would have been enough for God to create the world as we know it and to give us natural clues to help us in our journey back to divine communion. As the preceding chapter noted, the created order in its contingent reality points to the act of divine, creative freedom. Reflection upon all that exists, in the very act of its existence, is indeed sufficient to conclude to the necessary existence of a being without whom nothing...

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4 Communion

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pp. 105-128

The Franciscan emphasis on love is the final aspect for our study of the thought of John Duns Scotus. This is not to say that only in the Franciscan tradition do we find love as the fullest culmination of human life. Indeed, this affirmation of the primacy of charity is proper to Christianity and is acknowledged by all Christian thinkers, even the most “intellectualist” among them. For this present volume, the way the primacy of love or...

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5 Reading Scotus Today

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pp. 129-150

At the conclusion of his short monograph on Thomas Aquinas,1 Anthony Kenny noted that the value of this thirteenth century Dominican lay not so much in the answers he offered for certain questions, but rather in the questions he raised and the way in which he raised them. In this final chapter, I present a similar argument for John Duns Scotus. Today we witness a renewal of scholarly attention to the work of the Subtle Doctor, both from those unfamiliar with the Franciscan tradition as well as those

Appendix One

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pp. 151-172

Appendix Two

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pp. 173-192

Appendix Three

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pp. 193-212


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pp. 213-224


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pp. 225-232


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pp. 233-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781576592809
E-ISBN-10: 1576592804
Print-ISBN-13: 9781576591871
Print-ISBN-10: 1576591875

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2003

Edition: First