Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bettoni on Scotus

Efrem Bettoni, Duns Scotus: The Basic Principles of His Philosophy, pp.192 ff.:

The history of Scotism has not yet been written. It is still in the preparatory phase, as this or that Scotistic figure is chosen as the object of a particular study, or this or that Scotistic doctrine is considered in its evolution and set in relation to other doctrines. This is not the place to mention even briefly the main contributions that modern Scotistic literature can offer to a researcher. While an expert in the field is no doubt acquainted with them, to the ordinary reader they would be of no interest. It is an indisputable fact, however, that along with the Thomistic school, a Scotistic school of thought has emerged and flourished. Throughout the centuries it has given to the Church a great number of first-class theologians, saintly preachers, and formidable defenders of the faith. The number of philosophical and theological works written in the name of Scotus during the centuries is imposing, for they are counted by the hundreds.

Duns Scotus' influence upon modern nonscholastic philosophers is almost nil. This is due to the fact that very few among them have had a direct knowledge of scholasticism. Father Scaramuzzi has pointed out certain important parallels between the thought of Duns Scotus and that of Giambattista Vico. It is also an undeniable fact that some modern historians, like Windelband, have noticed a certain speculative affinity between Scotistic doctrines and various doctrines of Leibniz. It would be of great historical interest to study the extent to which Rosmini was inspired by Duns Scotus, whom he knows and quotes with great respect in working out his doctrine of the idea of being.

Some historians have considerably exaggerated Duns Scotus' influence upon the nominalistic movement. They have gone so far as to affirm that Ockham  mere draws natural conclusions from Scotistic doctrines. This historical thesis has met with some favor. However, the best of the medieval historians of today, when they do not reject this thesis entirely, raise at least some doubt as to its foundation. It is beyond question that some Scotistic doctrines taken out of context, such as the doctrine of "haecceity" and the doctrine concerning the knowability of the singular, which is closely related to it, could have been exploited by the nominalists. But it s one thing to admit this, and an entirely different thing to affirm that Scotistic philosophy necessarily prepares the way for nominalism. Otherwise, any great thinker could be held responsible for the more or less indirect paternity of all later philosophies claiming dependence on him or on some of his doctrines. The fact that Ockham was a Franciscan, and had probably been a disciple of Duns Scotus, does not in itself constitute any solid ground for the assertion that his system depends on Duns Scotus' doctrine. The history of philosophy teaches us us that a thinker's most formidable rival usually emerges from his school. Shall we say that Duns Scotus paves the way to nominalism precisely because nominalism is the natural outcome of opposition to his philosophy? In this case, we definitely commit ourselves to an abuse of terms. One philosophical movement prepares the way for another only when this later is a logical outgrowth of the former.

In Catholic cultural circles not only is Duns Scotus set aside and neglected, but he often looked upon with suspicion as though he were an insidious forerunner of heresy. This attitude might perhaps be conceivable in regard to certain Catholic thinkers, like Rosmini, for example. A strong support of such an attitude is found in the fact that the Church has condemned forty doctrinal propositions attributed-whether rightly or wrongly, it is not for us to decide-to the philosopher of Rovereto. However, it is difficult to understand how this same attitude could have become traditional in regard to Duns Scotus. There is not a single document of the Church that either directly or indirectly puts the Catholic scholars on their guard against any error or possible danger in the Scotistic speculation. Quite the opposite! There are authoritative acts and statement showing that the Church has always held Duns Scotus' work in high esteem. This is true in the first place of his theology, but it can be said to be equally true of his philosophy, which in him, as in any other scholastic, is intimately connected with theological doctrine. here are some of these acts and statements [...].

Friday, November 7, 2014

Festum Scoti

It's  November 8 again, the optional memorial of the subtle Scot. Once again, here's the collect:

Domine Deus, fons omnis sapientiae, qui Beatum Ioannem presbyterum, Immaculatae Virginis assertorem, nobis magistrum vitae et scientiae dedisti, concede, quaesumus, ut, eius exemplo illuminati, et doctrinis nutria, Christo fideliter adhaereamus. Qui tecum vivit.

Reflections on "Four Things you Need to Know About John Duns Scotus" can be found here. Benedict XVI's general audience here.