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THE BASIC SIGNIFICANCE OF KNOWLEDGE FOR CHRISTIAN PERFECTION ACCORDING TO DUNS SCOTUS The question concerning the relation between knowledge and action belongs to the most interesting and stimulating chapters of human inquiry. Mankind always comes back to this subject, especially at times when new roads are opened in the history of human thought. The answer to this question, together with many other factors, deeply determines the countenance of the period. In Christianity this problem becomes the vital question of knowledge in general. The denial of any relation existing between knowledge and life, and in consequence, the rejection of pure knowledge for its own sake, will inevitably lower the value of knowledge before the tribunal of God. There is, of course, no room for such a radical denial within the realm of revealed faith. For it would stamp revelation with the character of senselessness. On the other hand, on the basis of revelation, which emphasizes the sinfulness of man, the Socratic equation of knowledge and action must likewise be rejected. But between both extremes there is still a very wide field. In the past, Christian thinkers were called upon to find the right means. The Franciscan spirit, from its beginning, was more disposed toward a closer approximation of knowledge and action. In the Order of Friars Minor, knowledge first had to show itself useful for salvation before occupation with it seemed to be justified. In addition, the limits of knowledge were set by the words of St. Francis: One knows as much as one does.1 Truly, a profound and wise expression. Hence, no room was left for pure knowledge for its own sake. It was natural, then, that the Franciscan friends of knowledge were in a special way interested in the inquiry concerning the relation between knowledge and 1. Speculum Perfectionis, cap. 4, (Ed. Sabatier, 1898), p. 13, 3. 153 154 BASIC SIGNIFICANCE OF KNOWLEDGE action. Thus, it is obvious that the great Franciscan Doctors accorded to this problem a relatively lengthy treatment.2 In this matter the most profound inquiries were made by the Subtle Doctor, Duns Scotus. In the Order knowledge had developed to the highest degree of maturity. The fight for the right of knowledge was theoretically concluded through the efforts of St. Bonaventure. There was no longer any need to create a living place for knowledge through the explanation of the Rule. Juridical and moral questions in this regard had been settled long ago. For this reason, Duns Scotus could turn his acumen more to the genuine metaphysical and theological realities. His penetrating metaphysical-theological genius naturally pushed him, as it were, into this direction. In addition, he had at his disposal the opinions of the great thinkers, from the ancient Greeks up to St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas.8 The position of the problem had reached its maturity. Many a road had been explored without a satisfactory result. Scotus takes all of this into consideration, makes sharp distinctions and arrives at new conclusions4 and for this reason alone, it is worthwhile to study the position of Duns Scotus. Moreover, it seems that up to the present time no one has gone beyond his conclusions ; and yet, it is unfortunately true, that the position of Duns Scotus seems to be almost entirely forgotten.5 The presuppositions by which Scotus is guided in his inquiry are clearly different from those of Aristotelianism and Thomism. 2.The rather extensive Quaestio 4 of the Prologue to the Oxoniense is the most explicit proof for that. St. Bonaventure also devoted much time, labor and space to this problem. Cfr., for example, his Collationes in Hexaemeron, which deals mostly with this problem. Before his time, Alexander of Hales and St. Anthony of Padua had done likewise. 3.Oxon., Prol. q. 4, n. 16-31. Scotus discussed the various opinions concerning this problem of theology. St. Bonaventure's solution, according to whom theology is a scientia affectiva, is not rejected by Scotus; however, the latter thinks that this expression can be easily misunderstood and is subject to a false interpretation. Cfr. loc. cit., ?. 26. 4.We have not found any discussion at Oxford by the predecessors of Scotus concerning this problem. If...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 153-172
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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