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Reviewed by:
  • Duns Scotus’s Theory of Cognition by Richard Cross
  • Oleg V. Bychkov (bio)
Richard Cross. Duns Scotus’s Theory of Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp xiv+224, Cloth, $74

R. Pasnau once commented that the present-day academic area of cognitive theory suits medieval thought better than epistemology. The comment seems to the point, and the focus of R. Cross’s book is thus appropriately placed. Scotus’s theory of cognition is worth a new treatment both because Scotus represents a new stage in medieval cognitive theory (with his theory of intuitive cognition, mental content, and ontological status of mental acts, among other things) and because his positions are “sometimes rather fluid” and “not always as clear” (3, cf. 56, 67n8). This lack of clarity extends to the most important subject in this book, such as various aspects of the issue of intentionality, where Scotus’s discussion is “anything but clear, even by his lax standards” (162; cf. 163).

As is typical of Cross’s publications, the book is an invaluable source of information on Scotus’s thought for the audience who does not read Latin (for whom Cross provides “generous” quotes in his translation), has no access to texts and editions, especially older ones, and even for most of us since most have no access to manuscripts, which he transcribes and translates where no other texts are available, or to correct old editions (cf. 60). Cross’s translations sound more like very accurate transcriptions of the Latin, which is most helpful to people who do not read Latin, as they get the impression of what exactly is in the Latin. At the same time, following the Latin exactly may sound awkward (cf. 55: “just as however greatly a perfect natural cause is posited, it cannot act”) and transliterating Latin terms into English, rather than giving their modern equivalents, can be confusing, e.g., rendering members contained within a class as “its inferiors” (65) or a non-preferential relation as being “under such an indifference” (66). Despite Cross’s usual mastery of both the Latin text and the translation, this book, surprisingly, is not devoid of some blunders in rendering Scotus’s text and meaning. E.g., at 141n13, rendering Scotus’s text from De an. 9, n. 17, Cross places Latin terms into combinations that do not agree in gender, such as sensus collativa (twice) or sensus memorativa. Scotus’s text reads sensus communis non est potentia collativa proprie, sicut memorativa vel cogitativa, so the appropriate combinations would be either potentia collativa or sensus collativus. His comment on this line is that Scotus “identifies it [sc. sensus] as the sensus memorativa,” [End Page 392] while Scotus’s statement about the sensus communis implies the opposite, that it is not a potentia memorativa; and if it is potentia that is meant here, then the wording is confusing. At 177 Cross translates a passage from Metaph. 6.3, n. 61, where Scotus speaks of actus rectus, as “correct” act (twice), while it is well known that in a discussion involving reflex and direct acts rectus means “direct” (and this is how Allan Wolter translates this passage in the companion volume). Although Cross’s transcriptions from manuscripts are most helpful, on occasion his “correction” of the old Wadding/Vivès edition results in odd readings: e.g., at 156n11 he transcribes Quod. 13, n. 13 as tamen iste secundum actus instead of secundus actus (which is the Wadding/Vivès reading), and at 165n32, transcribing the same passage, writes illam non necessario requiritur (Wadding/Vivès has illam necessario requirit, which is grammatically correct, and alternative possibilities would be illud/illa non necessario requiritur or illam non necessario requirit). There are also a few typos in the English (e.g., 4; 35; 60; 166; 168).

Despite these small problems, Cross, as usual, impresses the reader with his encyclopedic and detailed knowledge of Scotus’s texts, including those that are less well known, with his accurate translations and fine interpretations of analyzed passages. However, Cross’s claim to present an “original interpretation” of Scotus’s views can be contested, as in final stages of interpretation he often either disagrees...


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