One of the major movements in scholastic thought, Scotism consists in the assimilation, application, and development of the basic doctrines of John duns scotus in the centuries following his death. Although fostered principally by Franciscan philosophers and theologians, Scotism exercised considerable influence beyond the order, particularly on the secular clergy and on philosophers outside the Catholic Church.
As a doctrine, Scotism is characterized by fundamental doctrines derived from the Subtle Doctor. Foremost among these is the univocity of the metaphysical concept of being that is the proper object of the human intellect. In terms of this abstract univocal concept, God and creatures are two distinct modes of being: Infinite and finite. As the metaphysical concept of being is the proper object of the mind, metaphysics is the highest and most connatural study for mankind. In natural theology, emphasis is placed on the supremacy of God's freedom and love, while in moral philosophy, man's ultimate happiness and freedom are found in love of God above all things. In psychology, Scotism recognizes only a formal distinction a parte rei between the soul and its faculties and between the faculties themselves. In natural philosophy, Scotism recognizes a plurality of formal perfections, or formalitates, and haecceitas as the principle of individuation.
Scotism also reinterprets the Aristotelian doctrine of matter and form, denying the pure potentiality of primary matter. In Christology, Scotists assign God's love for man as the primary motive of the Incarnation and stress the need for man to respond to Christ's redemptive suffering through love of Him. In Scotism, human natural actions are meritorious of eternal life de congruo because of God's infinite love in creating man and in predestining him to eternal happiness from all eternity. Most notable in the history of Scotism is the doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception and her intimate role in the economy of salvation.
As a movement, Scotism can be divided into four unequal periods of development: (1) early Scotism, from the death of Duns Scotus to about 1500; (2) resurgent Scotism, from 1500 to the General Chapter of Toledo in 1633; (3) universal Scotism in the Franciscan Order, from 1633 to the decline of scholasticism and of religious life generally in the second half of the eighteenth century; and (4) the revival of Scotistic studies in the twentieth century.
Early Scotism. During his own lifetime, Duns Scotus attempted to synthesize the traditional augustinianism of the Franciscan school with aristotelianism. St. thomas aquinas had already created a new Aristotelianism that was espoused by the Dominicans, even though some of the basic theses, such as the unicity of substantial form, individuation by matter, and the pure potentiality of primary matter, had been condemned in Oxford and Paris in 1277 (see thomism; scholasticism, 1). Despite the efforts of william de la mare and the Franciscan General Chapter of Strasbourg (1283) to safeguard the traditional Augustinianism of St. bonaventure through the Correctorium fratris Thomae, the Franciscans had no doctrinal synthesis on par with Thomism. Duns Scotus created such a synthesis in his commentaries on the Sentences. The way was prepared, not only by the older tradition of Bonaventure, but by the more proximate efforts of john peckham, roger marston, richard of middleton, vital du four, gonsalvus hispanus, and william of ware. The impact of Scotus's subtle arguments was considerable in Oxford and Paris. thomas of wilton, a junior contemporary of Scotus, gave a very vivid account of the theological disputations in the hall (aula ) at Oxford involving "Doctor Scotus," bachelors in theology, and those who scotizant, that is, followed Scotus in method and doctrine (Manuscript Vat. Borgh. 36, fol. 85vb).
Disciples. Although Duns Scotus was only 42 years old when he died and left few finished works, his teachings stimulated a strong following among the new generation in Oxford and Paris. In Oxford, william of alnwick and robert cowton showed great sympathy for Scotist doctrine, particularly in questions of grace and divine foreknowledge. Scotus, however, left his strongest mark on Paris, where his doctrines were immediately developed by his disciples antonius andreas, anfredus gonteri, James of Ascoli, and especially Francis of Meyronnes, who is the author of Scotism in the sense of a developing movement. Faithful to the univocity of being and to the formal distinction, Francis interpreted in his own way the notion of existence as an intrinsic mode of essence, even in God. On two important points, Francis abandoned the teaching of Scotus, as william of vaurouillon pointed out in the fifteenth century, namely, the distinction between divine Ideas and the divine nature, and the nature of the divine Idea as a simple "secondary object" of divine knowledge.
The essential features of Scotism were defended by John of Bassolis (d. 1347), who upheld the reality of genera and species in the sense Duns Scotus meant it, namely, not as universals constructed by the mind but as distinct formalities constitutive of essences. Similar views were held by Alfred Gontier (fl. 1322–25), hugh of newcastle, Gerard of Odone (d. 1348), Landolph caracciolo, and Francis of Marchia.
Opposition. The teaching of Scotus did not find universal acceptance in the Franciscan Order; there were still many who preferred the older simplicity of St. Bonaventure. Strongest opposition within the order came from william of ockham, who, in the name of a truer Aristotelianism, attacked the objective nature of universals defended in Scotism. The enormous success of Ockham's nominalism prevented the consolidation of Scotism in the Franciscan Order in the early period. In the philosophical and theological controversies that flourished throughout the following centuries, three principal schools emerged: Scotism, Thomism, and nominalism. Within the Franciscan Order there were not only Scotists and Ockhamists, but also those who defended the older Augustinianism of Bonaventure. In Paris, peter aureoli carried on a relentless attack on Scotism, while the influential john of ripa criticized both Ockham and Aureoli without ever fully following Duns Scotus. At Oxford, walter of chatton and the secular walter burley criticized both Scotus and Ockham without committing themselves to any particular school of scholasticism. In Italy, however, Peter of Aquila, commonly known as Scotellus, remained faithful to the thought of his master.
Characteristics. The chief characteristic of early Scotism is the use of Scotistic doctrine in independent commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and the composition of treatises De formalitatibus. The outstanding exception to this general characteristic was the controversy over the Immaculate Conception, in which Dominicans, bound to maintain the doctrine of St. Thomas, denied the Scotist position, which had become almost universal. In 1439 at the Council of Basel the doctrine was declared to be consonant with Catholic faith (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, [Florence-Venice 1757–98] 39:182). The council, however, was not an ecumenical one at that time, and the doctrine was opposed by two Dominican referees, John of segovia and Juan de torquemada. Only after silence was imposed on the disputants in the seventeenth century was the doctrine able to develop and become known as a doctrine of defined faith.
Resurgent Scotism. After the invention of printing, there appeared a number of editions of Scotus's Opus Oxoniense and Quodlibeta. Following the example of the Dominicans, who had replaced the Sentences of Peter Lombard with the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas, Franciscan studia introduced the text of Duns Scotus as the basic authority. The efforts of the Irish Franciscan Maurice o'fihely, in Italy, and the Italians Antonio Trombetta and Francesco Licheto (d. 1520) initiated the second period of Scotism. Throughout the sixteenth century, Scotists, both Franciscan and non-Franciscan, published innumerable commentaries on the works of Duns Scotus, and re-edited the text of the Subtle Doctor and of early Scotists. This led to the writing of manuals, such as the Parvus Scotus of Le Bret (c. 1527), the Scotus lexicon of Antonius de Fantes (1530), the Monotesseron formalitatum of John Dovetus (1579), and the Flores theologiae of the moralist Bishop Joseph Angles (d.1587). Although the Capuchins forbade their friars in 1550 to follow Scotus and returned to Bonaventure, who was declared a doctor of the universal Church in 1588, the Franciscans declared Scotus their doctor in 1593. By the end of the century, Scotism was a vital force at the universities of Salamanca, Alcalá, Coimbra, Rome, Padua, Paris, Louvain, Budapest, and Cracow. This resurgence led to the official formation of the Scotist school by legislation.
Early in the seventeenth century, the Irish Franciscan Luke wadding gave the following description of the resurgence of Scotism:
The Angelic Doctor has his own private professors and disciples; so too has the Subtle Doctor. From one chair the teachings of St. Thomas are expounded, and from another those of Scotus. I went to three of the most notable universities in Spain, Coimbra, Salamanca, and Alcalá, and at each I saw a chair appointed for the masters who taught the views of Scotus; also at the academy in Paris, Padua, and even Rome itself, the very capital of the world, Scotus acquired a chair. Furthermore in the University of Salamanca, no professor [in that chair] could expound any doctrine other than that of Scotus, and in doing so, he was supposed to explain his text and clarify the ideas at great length, and not merely summarize, or mention them by way of conclusion [Wadding, Annales Minorum, ad an. 1308, n. 5l (Quaracchi 1931) 6:143–144].
Universal Scotism for Franciscans. The general chapter of the Franciscan Order, meeting in Toledo in 1633, directed four lectors to write a manual of Scotist philosophy for the entire order; once this was written, all lectors in philosophy were obliged to teach from this course under pain of irremissible removal from office. Meanwhile, courses in Scotistic philosophy were to be organized in the major countries of Europe with a view to an international unified course [Annales Minorum, continuati, ed. A. Chiappini (Quaracchi 1941) 28:36]. The same chapter commissioned a new edition of the works of Duns Scotus to be published as soon as possible in folio and in sufficient numbers for every library of the order. This task was undertaken by Luke Wadding with the assistance of other Irish Franciscans from the College of St. Isidore in Rome. The Opera omnia was published in Lyons in 12 volumes in 1639 and contained commentaries by Francesco Pitigiani of Arezzo (d. 1616), Hugh MacCaughwell (d. 1626), O'Fihely, Licheto, John Ponce of Cork (d. 1670), Anthony Hickey (d. 1641), and Wadding.
As a result of the directive of the general chapter and the new edition of Scotus's works, the seventeenth century abounded with manuals of philosophy and theology ad mentem Scoti. The Irishman John Ponce himself wrote an Integrum philosophiae cursum ad mentem Scoti and a complete course in theology. The Belgian Franciscan William van Sichem (d. 1691) produced a clear, easy-to-teach Cursus philosophicus at the request of his superiors, "harmonizing" Scotus, St. Thomas, and St. Bonaventure. One of the most important and influential presentations of Scotism in manual form came from the pen of Claude Frassen, a doctor of the Sorbonne in 1662; his theological Scotus academicus (4 v. Paris 1672–77; 12 v. Rome 1900–02) and Philosophia academica exemplify a simplicity of style, clearness of method, and subtlety of thought that emphasized the difference between Scotism and Thomism. To bring out more clearly the Scotist answer to Thomism, Jerome of Montefortino published in 1728 a Summa theologica compiled from the works of Scotus and arranged in the order of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas.
In the early eighteenth century, the influence of Duns Scotus and Scotism was strongly felt outside of the Franciscan Order. Particularly noteworthy is the influence of Scotism on the philosophy of Christian wolff; consciously or unconsciously, Wolff adopted the Scotist concept of being.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, Scotism and other scholastic systems were on the decline, being replaced gradually by the philosophy of John locke and E. condillac, the science of Isaac Newton, and theological manuals that were too often eclectic, sterile, and apologetic. The Kantian critique of Leibniz and Wolff was taken as a refutation of scholasticism in general. Although Scotist manuals continued to be written by Franciscans, such as B. Sarmentero (d. 1775), P. Mayer (d.1781), and S. Lypnica (d. 1794), they were insignificant and uninfluential. The decline of scholastic studies was due, in large measure, to the French Revolution, the suppression of religious houses, and the Napoleonic wars.
Revival of Scotistic Studies. Renewed interest in Duns Scotus was shown more outside the Franciscan Order than within during the nineteenth century. Early in the nineteenth century, the Lutheran theologian L. Baumgarten-Crusius published De theologia Scoti (Iena 1826). Even during the Thomistic revival in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, Scotus attracted the attention of non-Franciscan historians and philosophers. In 1859 Aloys Schmid published Die Thomistische und Scotistische Gewissheitslehre (Dilligen), and even after aeternipatris, non-Franciscan scholars, such as Karl Werner, J. Müller, R. Seeberg, A. Vacant, É. H. Gilson, and C. Harris, published historical studies on the philosophy and theology of Duns Scotus, often in comparison with St. Thomas, or in relation to some contemporary problem. In the United States, C. S. peirce was also interested in Scotus.
The revival of Thomism under Leo XIII and the rise of historical scholarship led to renewed interest in Franciscan scholastic authors. The principal author to benefit from this revival was St. Bonaventure, whose works were published in a critical edition by the international center of Franciscan studies at Quaracchi, near Florence. While other authors received respectful attention, a wave of prejudice engulfed the figure of Duns Scotus, who was accused of being a forerunner of all erroneous doctrines that have existed since the fourteenth century, including Protestantism, Kantianism, and modernism. In 1903 the Syrian Franciscan Gregory Dev Oglu vindicated Scotus of ontologism. From 1905 until his death in 1926, Parthenius Minges devoted his energy to defending Scotus from the charges of Pelagianism, Lutheranism, indeterminism, fideism, and other misconceptions.
Many articles on Duns Scotus and Scotism appeared in Franciscan journals begun in the early twentieth century: Études Franciscaines (Paris 1899—), Archivum Franciscanum Historicum (Quaracchi 1909—), Franziskanische Studien (Münster 1914—), Studi Francescani (Arezzo 1914—), and Franciscan Studies (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1940—). These early studies contributed greatly to a more balanced appreciation of the Subtle Doctor and the Scotistic school of scholasticism [ E. Bettoni, Vent' anni di studi scotisti (Milan 1943)] This prompted the Franciscan Order to establish an international Scotist Commission with headquarters in Rome to prepare a critical edition of the works of Duns Scotus. The first volume was published by the Vatican press in 1950. More recently, American scholars have begun a critical edition of the philosophical works of Duns Scotus, working first at the Franciscan Institute and then at the Catholic University of America. By the year 2001, 11 volumes had appeared in the Vatican edition of Scotus's Oxford theological writings, along with three volumes of his Opera philosophica, edited by the American team of scholars. The writings of early Scotists, such as William of Alnwick and James of Ascoli, have appeared gradually in article form.
Appreciation. Throughout its long history, Scotism has always been contrasted with Thomism on the one hand, and with nominalism on the other. While metaphysical principles of Duns Scotus differ radically from those of St. Thomas, they are not on that account unscholastic, or incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Scotism is an authentic scholastic view, and it was developed within the context of the Catholic faith. Some Scotists, such as Francis Macedo (d. 1681) and John of Rada (d.1606), and some Thomists, such as capreolus and Tommaso de Vio cajetan, emphasized in the course of their works the various points of disagreement between the Subtle Doctor and the Angelic Doctor. Some Scotists, such as Jerome Lortey Escartin (d. 1724) and Fulgence Stella, compiled lists of the basic differences between the two schoolmen, as though they had nothing in common. At the other extreme, some authors have maintained that the disagreement is merely verbal and not real. One such author was the Conventual Franciscan Constantius Sarnano, whose Conciliatio dilucida of all the controversies between the two theologians, tried to persuade men of good will that verbis non autem rebus tantos viros dissensisse.
While differences between Scotus and Thomas should not be overemphasized or underestimated, they should be recognized as two different approaches, primarily to theological understanding. The point of departure for Duns Scotus, as É. Gilson pointed out, was Avicenna, while Thomas Aquinas took Aristotle for his point of departure. Both schoolmen, however, used philosophical principles to understand divine revelation better; in so doing, they created two Christian philosophies compatible with Christian revelation.
Cardinal F. ehrle expressed the mind of the Church when he wrote:
The Church, for all the esteem it has for the Doctor Communis, still refuses to lay such emphasis on the teaching of this saint as to condemn, or even to disapprove, the views of other important schools. She knows too well the importance, for the pursuit of truth, of a free exchange of ideas that alone makes the clarification of a problem possible, even though thinkers start from different points of view. Provided that faith and charity are preserved, truth can only profit from such an exchange. Thus she allows a proper freedom to all teachers, students, and seekers for truth. If a particular thinker, religious order, or institute should wish to follow more closely St. Thomas, or any other master, they have every right and perfect freedom to do so [La Scolasticae isuoi compiti odierni (Turin 1932) 92].
Bibliography: É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York 1955) 454–471. d. de caylus, "Merveilleux épanouissement de l'école au XVIIe siècle," Études Franciscaines 24 (1910) 5–21, 493–502; 25 (1911) 35–47, 306–317, 627–645; 26 (1912) 276–288. h. j. storff, "De schola et doctrina Franciscana B. Joannis Duns Scoti," Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 51 (1932) 36–42. d. scaramuzzi, Il pensiero di Giovanni Duns Scoto nel Mezzogiorno d'Italia (Rome 1927). a. bertoni, Le Bienheureux Jean Duns Scot: Sa vie, sa doctrine, ses disciples (Levanto 1917). v. comte–lime, "Le Mouvement scotiste de 1900 à 1914 d'après les publications de langue française," in Congrès des lecteurs franciscains (Lyons 1934) 147–189. c. piana, "Gli inizie lo sviluppo dello Scotismo a Bolognae nella regione romagnolo-flaminia (saec. XIV–XVI)," Archivum Franciscanum historicum 40 (1947) 49–80. c. baliĆ, "Skotistična školau prošlostii sodašnjosti," Collectanea Franciscana Slavica 1 (1937) 3–54. m. grajewski, "Scotistic Bibliography of the Last Decade (1929–1939)," Franciscan Studies 22 (1941) 73–78, 55–72, 71–76; 23 (1942) 61–71. s. dumont, "The Univocity of the Concept of Being in the Fourteenth Century: John Duns Scotus and Willia of Alnwick," Mediaeval Studies 49 (1987) 1–75; "The Univocity of the Concept of Being in the Fourteenth Century: II, the De ente of Petrus Thomae," Mediaeval Studies 50 (1988) 186–256; "Transcendental Being: Scotus and Scotists," Topoi 11 (1992) 135–148. t. b. noone, "Alnwick on the Origin, Nature, and Function of the Formal Distinction," Franciscan Studies 53 (1993) 231–261.
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"Scotism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scotism
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