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COMMENTARY loannis Duns Scoti Tractatus de Primo Principio * Though very few copies of this work have reached America (and there is little likelihood that any more will arrive for some time, because it is feared that the publisher's stocks were destroyed in the closing phases of the European war) its being brought to the attention of American students of medieval philosophy should not be delayed. For it is the first critical edition of any of Scotus' works and as such is a landmark in Scotistic studies. It is, perhaps, not altogether mere coincidence that the De Primo Principio should have been singled out for this honor. For it has long been acclaimed as Scotus' opusculum aureum and may well be considered the finest expression of his incomparable genius. It is undoubtedly the most magnificent treatise on natural theology that the middle ages ever produced. The precision of the strictness of its method, the simplicity and solidity of its starting-point, and the breadth and depth of its conclusions, established by means of refined and inexorable logic, are its characterization. Unfortunately this masterpiece of Christian philosophy has been forgotten , or deliberately ignored, even by Franciscans. No doubt, one of the main reasons for this neglect is the extreme difficulty everyone experiences in trying to understand the meaning of the text. Here, more than in any other work, the stylus nervosus of the Subtle Doctor expresses itself in a compactness which is at times almost unintelligible. This difficulty, serious enough in itself, has been increased by numerous textual errors in the faulty editions hitherto at our disposal. The student of Scotus has therefore looked forward to the completion of Fr. Müller's labors in the hope that a critical edition would eliminate many, if not all, of the textual difficulties, thus paving the way for an easier and more exact understanding of the work, which would greatly facilitate a more general recognition of its merits. To a great extent these hopes have been justified. Fr. Müller's edition is invaluable in so far as he has examined every known manuscript of the work and has given, in the footnotes, all of the variant readings in all of the MSS. In fact, the apparatus criticus takes up far more space than the text itself. This is fortunate in view of the fact that not everyone will agree with Fr. Müller's reconstruction of the text in every detail. Fr. Müller lists and describes fifteen known MSS of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and decides that they can be broken down into three families. For reasons which, unfortunately, he does not make explicit enough in his evaluation of the MSS, he chooses the Madrid MS as the most reliable and, finding seven other MSS in the same family, is thus provided with a comfortable "working majority." Obviously, the value of his work as a whole depends very much on the validity of this choice and * loannis Duns Scoti Tractatus de Primo Principio. Critical edition by Marianus Müller, O.F.M. (Bücher augustinischer und franziskanischer Geistigkeit, I Reihe, Abt. A, I Bd. Freiburg im Breisgau, Herder & Co., 1941. Pp. xl-171). 226 COMMENTARY227 Fr. Müller's description and evaluation of the MSS is not complete enough to satisfy the highest critical standards. Especially intriguing is his dismissal of the Munich MSS as "wholly inaccurate" without any further qualification or explanation. As regards the reconstruction of the text, the very first line contains an insertion which is absolutely unjustifiable on the basis of the MSS evidence. It reads: lncipit primus tractatus de Primo Principio. The significant word "primus" is found in one MS (Madrid). Why, then, is it incorporated in the text? The answer is to be found in the author's introductory remarks (pp. x-xi). Fr. Müller believes that the De Primo Principio is intimately connected with the Theoremata. These two tracts, according to him, together constitute a very brief compendium of Scotus' philosophical and theological system. Fr. Balic is quoted in support of this theory. But Fr. Balic seems now changing his opinion (cf. "De Critica Textaali Scholasticorum scriptis accomodata," Antonianum [Miscellanea Histórica P...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 226-230
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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