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SCOTUS'S CONCEPTION OF METAPHYSICS: THE STUDY OF THE TRANSCENDENTALS The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries saw considerable speculation concerning the proper conception of metaphysics. The controversy centered around three topics: its proper object of study, its proper method, and its proper aim.1 Much of the discussion was inspired by Aristotle.2 The different and ambiguous formulations Aristotle had presented concerning these three topics in the Metaphysics, together with the commentaries on them by Averroes, Avicenna, and other Islamic authors, constituted the background against which these discussions took place and, to a great extent, provided the motivation for them.3 Indeed, many of the views defended by various scholastic authors could be directly traced to Aristotelian texts or those of his Islamic commentators. Scotus was no exception to this as is evident from the fact that his most important and detailed statements concerning this topic are contained in the Quaestiones subtilissimae super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis.4 Still, the analysis Scotus provides is novel and separates him from the views of his contemporaries. In this article, I present a brief discussion of a fundamental aspect of Scotus's position: his view concerning the object of metaphysics. In addition, I indicate what I take to be an important contribution his position makes to the controversy concerning the nature of the discipline. 'See, for example, Thomas Aquinas, Expositio super librum Boethii "De Trinttate", qq. 5 and 6, ed. Bruno Decker (Leiden: Brill, 1959) 161-229. The most important texts from Aristotle, are found in: Metaphysics I (980-83), IV (1003-5), and XII (1069a-b); and Nicomachean Ethics VI (1 139-41). For method, see also Posterior Analytics Tl (100). 'For a discussion of Aristotle's views, see Giovanni Reale, The Concept of First Philosophy and the Unity of the "Metaphysics" of Aristotle, ed. and trans. John R. Catan (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1980). References to Avicenna and Averroes will be given later.¦John Duns Scotus, Quaestiones in Metaphysicam Aristotelis, 2 vols, ed. G. Etzkorn, et al. (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, in press). 153 Franciscan Studies, Vol. 56 (1998) 154Jorge J. E. Gracia Throughout the history of metaphysics philosophers have tried to balance two requirements of the discipline that originate in Aristotle. First, the requirement that metaphysics have something special to study which is not the same as what other disciplines study; if each discipline has a particular object of study, then metaphysics must also have one.5 Second, the requirement that metaphysics be a general rather than a specialized study; other disciplines are specialized but metaphysics must somehow encompass much more than other disciplines.6 These requirements motivated Aristotle and the medievals because of their desire to make room for metaphysics among other disciplines and to make it fundamental or primary in relation to them.7 I. ARISTOTLE'S VIEW AND ITS PROBLEMS Aristotle tried to meet these two requirements by holding that metaphysics is the study of being qua being.8 Being qua being is, he believed, the most general object of study and also different from the special objects other disciplines consider.9 Other disciplines 'Aristotle, Metaphysics 1003a20-25; I. Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics,§ 1, ed. L. W. Beck (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1950) 13; H. P. Grice, D. F. Pears, and P. F. Strawson, "Metaphysics," in D. F. Pears, ed., The Nature of Metaphysics, (London: Macmillan, 1957) 1-22. Note that, often, those who discuss this issue speak of the subject or subject matter of metaphysics, rather than its object. The reason for this terminology is that they think in terms of a subject in which features or characteristics inhere, or of subjects of sentences of which predicates are predicated, and they contrast these with the objects toward which mental or perceptual faculties are directed. See Thomas Aquinas, Expositio super librum Boethii De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 4, pp. 192-195, and William of Ockham, Expositio super viii libros Physicorum, Prologus, ed. V. Richter and G. Liebold, in Opera philosophica, vol. 4 (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1985) 8-9. For purposes of this paper, however, I shall ignore this distinction and speak solely of the object of metaphysics. 6Aristotle, Metaphyncs 982al0...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 153-168
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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