Duns Scotus, John°

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DUNS SCOTUS, JOHN ° (1265–1308), Catholic theologian and philosopher. Scotus opposed many of the views of Thomas *Aquinas. Against Aquinas he affirmed the limitations of philosophy, and argued that the will is superior to the intellect, because the will is free while the intellect is bound by necessity, insofar as one is constrained to believe what the intellect recognizes to be true. He objected to Aquinas' contention that attributes are applied analogically to man and God, holding that if man is to know anything at all about God, the attributes applied to God and man must, in some sense, be univocal. He affirmed the existence of individualized forms, maintaining that every object has its own unique form, its "thisness" (haecceitas), which differentiates it from other objects. Scotus is known for his support of the forcible baptism of Jewish children, and his contention that a sovereign has the right to have Jewish children educated in the Christian faith without parental consent. In this he opposed Aquinas who had argued against forcible baptism on the ground that it violates the right of parenthood which is a principle of natural law. Scotus held that conversion supersedes natural law, for nothing should stand in the way of enabling man to achieve eternal salvation. In the case of conflict between the right of parenthood and the will of God, the right of parenthood ceases to be binding. He did maintain that forcible baptism, when carried out by a private individual, violates natural law; however, when carried out by a sovereign it is legitimate (L. Wadding (ed.), Opera Omnia, 8 (1639), 275).

In a polemical passage directed against infidels Scotus characterized the Jews in exactly the same terms as had Aquinas: the laws of the Old Testament have become "tasteless" (insipidi) with the appearance of Christ (Opus Oxoniense Prolog., pt. 2, in Opera, 1 (1951), 71ff.). His negative attitude toward Judaism did not prevent Scotus from utilizing the views of Solomon ibn *Gabirol, author of Fons Vitae (MekorḤayyim; "The Fountain of Life"), whom he knew under the name of Avicebron, and did not identify as a Jew, and *Maimonides. He defended Ibn Gabirol's theory that even spiritual beings are composed of form and matter, a view which was traditionally upheld by the Franciscans and rejected by the Dominicans. Scotus refers to Maimonides' discussion of the relation of reason and revelation, and to his doctrine of divine attributes, which he finds similar to that of Avicenna, and follows Maimonides in his doctrine of prophecy. He argues against the view that the temporal creation of the world cannot be proved – a view which Aquinas adopted from Maimonides – but does not mention Maimonides in this connection. While there are no direct references to Scotus in their writings it had recently been suggested that Scotus and his school exerted an influence on late medieval Jewish philosophers. Thus reflections of Scotus' theory of individuation are found in Ma'amar ha-Dan ba-Ẓurot ha-Peratiyyot o Ishiyyot ("A Treatise Upon Personal Forms," Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, Ms. Heb. 984) written by *Jedaiah ha-Penini. *Levi b. Gershom, in his view that man's freedom of the will is a deviation from the determinism that prevails in the universe, and in his rejection of negative attributes, appears to have been influenced by Scotus. There are distinct similarities to Scotus in Ḥasdai *Crescas' criticism of the physical proofs of God's existence, in his theory of divine attributes, and in his seeing a compulsory element in the activity of the intellect. (For further details on Scotus' influence on Jewish philosophy, see S. Pines, in piash, 1 (1967), 1–51.)


E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1955), 454–71; idem, Jean Duns Scot. Introduction à ses positions fondamentales (1952); F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy, 2 pt. 2 (1962), 199–275; idem, Medieval Philosophy (1952), 107–17; Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2 (1967), 427–36; je, 5 (1907), 14–15; J. Guttmann, Die Scholastik des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts in ihren Beziehungen zum Judenthum und zur juedischen Literatur (1902), 154–67. add. bibliography: E. Bettoni, Duns Scotus (1961); J.K. Ryan and M.M. Bonansea (eds.), John Duns Scotus 12651965 (1965).