Duns Scotus, John (c.1266–1308)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-B035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 21, 2021, from

3. Sources and method

After nearly fifty years of publication and research, the critical edition of Scotus’ works has resulted in two general findings important for the exegesis of his thought. The first is that Scotus’ single, most important source by far was Henry of Ghent, the leading theologian at the University of Paris in the generation after Aquinas. On one major issue after another, Scotus begins with an extensive analysis and criticism of Henry’s position only to develop his own view in reaction to it. At least for his Oxford commentaries, Scotus’ real textbook was not Peter Lombard’s Sentences but, in effect, Henry of Ghent’s Summa. The relation of Scotus to Henry, however, is complex and does not simply consist in the former rejecting Henry’s conclusions. Scotus’ own position is often indebted to Henry’s vocabulary, distinctions and general philosophical framework. Even when he does not have Henry’s opinion under direct consideration, he will presume Henry’s prior discussion of the matter. Accordingly, Henry should be properly viewed as the major intellectual influence on Scotus as much as his principal adversary.

A second finding is that Scotus revised his works heavily by way of additions, annotations and insertions, termed extra, or ‘outside Scotus’ original text’. This method is especially apparent in the first book of the Ordinatio and in the questions on the Metaphysics. Scotus’ additions and insertions to his initial text can run to pages and typically record further objections and replies, often lodged by a contemporary, and note cross-references to related arguments elsewhere. Consequently, at these places Scotus’ texts cannot be read as finished products but as work in progress containing several chronological layers.

Citing this article:
Dumont, Stephen D.. Sources and method. Duns Scotus, John (c.1266–1308), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-B035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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