Preface
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PREFACEI In this book we present John Duns Scotus's metaphysical treatment ofGod. As a philosopher, Scotus was above all a metaphysician , and his metaphysics was ordered finally toward the rational knowledge of the first being. Since the purpose of this series in the history of philosophy is to present the fundamental ideas of the great thinkers-and Scotus is certainly one of the greatest thinkers of the medieval West-we think there can be no more direct access to his basic thought than through a critical study of his philosophical treatment ofGod. Many readers will be familiar with Thomas Aquinas's Five Ways or with Anselm's famous Proslogion argument. Scotus's proof, however, is altogether of another order of complexity. Indeed, it amounts to a summula metaphysicae, or little "summa," of first philosophy. The texts and commentaries we present draw out the critical, systematic sweep of his philosophical vision. Chapters 3 and 4 constitute the core of our book. In chapter 3, we take up the actual prooffor the existence ofGod. Our text is drawn from the Reportata parisiensia, which is a report-rather like a scribe's transcript-examined and approved by Scotus himself, of his lectures at Paris. This mature treatment of the God question is distinguished within Scotus's works for its selfconscious holistic approach to what was conventionally a series of separate topics. In chapter 4 we discover the underlying principles of Scotus's philosophical theory ofknowledge. When taken together in their systematic totality, the issues dealt with there enable us to see the historical uniqueness and speculative daring of Scotus's metaphysics. Among the medieval philosophers who accepted Aristotelian scientific theory, he is perhaps the first to I vii viii I PRE F ACE realize fully its negative consequences for the philosophical doctrines of illumination and the analogical concept of being. This central unit on the knowledge of God is preceded by chapter 2, with its brief introduction to Scotus's theory of metaphysics -or first philosophy, as it is sometimes called. As with all ofthe great philosophers, Scotus had an ordered view ofthe whole of reality, one in which God is but one-albeit the most important -topic. Our intent is to introduce the discipline or science by which Scotus will subsequently carry out his primary investigation . Our final chapter examines the issue of individuation and universals and that of the nature of free will. The first of these questions establishes the principles of Scotistic realism, and the second introduces the ontological foundation for contingency and for the particular splendor that moral goodness gives to the world. History has been stingy with facts concerning the details of Scotus's life. During his own lifetime, his intellectual daring seems to have made him a target for certain vengeful fellow scholars. Several centuries after his death, at least in England, "Duns" became a term ofopprobrium, dunce. Only in this century have we distinguished his authentic works from a number of titles spuriously attributed to him. Chapter 1 takes stock ofwhat we know of Scotus's life and works in the light of current historical and textual studies. Our commentaries serve the primary purpose of bringing out the philosophical meaning ofScotus's text. To this end, we provide the historical context, discuss the requirements of the genre, elaborate the various arguments, explain technical terms, reestablish dialectical contexts, and correlate particular passages with complementary Scotistic texts. Because he was dealing with perennial philosophical issues, we also try to shed light on them by alluding to contemporary strategies for dealing with similar problems. It is our conviction that Scotus's metaphysical thoughts can stand above the historical contingencies in which he shaped them. We hope our book will be as much a spur to philosophical thought as a guide to a splendid moment in its history. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Earhart Foundation and the University of Dallas. We also wish to thank both the Catholic University ofAmerica Press for its permission to reprint the text and translation of the material on the will in chapter 5 and Franciscan Studies for its permission to reprint the text and translation of chapter 3. We gratefully recognize the permission ix I PRE FA C E of Hermann Schaliich, O.F.M, Grand Chancellor of the Pontifio Ateneo Antonianum, to use the many texts from the Vatican edition of Scotus's Opera omnia, which is the corporate work of the Scotus Commission. Our readers should know that we-and...


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Subject Headings

  • Knowledge, Theory of.
  • Duns Scotus, John, ca. 1266-1308.
  • Metaphysics.
  • God (Christianity) -- History of doctrines -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
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