Duns Scotus, John (c.1266–1308)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-B035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 22, 2021, from

4. The place of Scotus in medieval philosophy

Scotus occupied a pivotal place in scholastic thought, closing the thirteenth century and opening the fourteenth intellectually as well as chronologically. First of all, Scotus’ focus on Henry of Ghent, quite apart from its obvious exegetical importance, was otherwise significant for the period. By in effect making a contemporary work the object of his commentary on the Sentences, Scotus fundamentally changed the programme and form of scholastic literature itself. While this change was already underway in the previous generation, Scotus nonetheless marks a clear divide between the thirteenth-century project of incorporating Greek and Arabic sources, as exemplified by Albert the Great, Bonaventure and Aquinas, and the fourteenth-century focus on contemporary opinion evident in William of Ockham.

However, Scotus’ greater contribution lies in his philosophical innovations, which not only became frequently discussed opinions – Scotus is one of the most cited authors in the fourteenth century – but defined the very issues and terms of analysis for the next century. Among the important concepts introduced by Scotus must be considered the following: in metaphysics, the univocity of the transcendental concepts, proofs for the existence of God and the principle of individuation; in epistemology, the distinction between intuitive and abstractive cognition; and in ethics, the will as a rational power for contraries and the interpretation of Anselm’s distinction between affection for justice (affectio iustitiae) and affection for what is advantageous (affectio commodi).

Citing this article:
Dumont, Stephen D.. The place of Scotus in medieval philosophy. 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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