Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dionysian Scotism

A common complaint against Duns Scotus is that he is at odds with the Christian tradition, which, depending on the author can mean something as simple as Thomism, or as broad as the Fathers, the Nicene creed, or Christian Platonism.  One also meets attempts to classify Scotus in terms of the dominant -isms of the late thirteenth century (for example, avicennizing-aristotelianism). I'm thinking now of pseudo-Denys; I don't think I have ever seen anyone classify Scotus as Dionysian. It is true that one rarely meets with citations of the pseudo-Dyonisius in Scotus' works. Yet Scotus owes at least one significant doctrine to pseudo-Denys, that of unitive containment, which is based on the notion that God pre-eminently contains the perfections of creatures within himself, albeit in a higher and ineffable way.  But the relative paucity of citations is not true of the works of Scotus' followers. I was struck by the prevalence of Denys-citations recently while reading three very different Scotists: Francis of Meyronnes, Petrus Thomae, and William of Alnwick. Petrus Thomae is constantly citing pseudo-Denys in his Quaestiones de ente, although interestingly they do not appear at all in his Quaestiones de esse intelligibili. In the case of Alnwick, questions 6-8 of his Quodlibet are basically and extensive defense and explanation of unitive containment and the Dionysian principle of pre-eminent containment.

So the modest contribution of this blogpost is that we have an important -ism to add to our taxonomy of Scotism: Dionysianism.

1 comment:

Michael Sullivan said...

Very interesting point.