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The Mediaeval Mind, A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages, by Henry Osborn Taylor in Two Volumes, Volume II., MacMillan Co., New York, 1911; pp. 509-524.





THE thirteenth century was a time of potent Church unity, when the papacy, triumphant over emperors and kings, was drawing further strength from the devotion of the two Orders, who were renewing the spiritual energies of Western Christendom. Scholasticism was still whole and unbroken, in spite of Roger Bacon, who attacked its methods with weapons of his own forging, yet asserting loudly the single-eyed subservience of all the sciences to theology. This assertion from a man of Bacon’s views, was as vain as the Unam sanctam of Pope Boniface VIII., fulminated in 1302, arrogating for the papacy every power on earth. In earlier decades such pretensions had been almost acquiesced in; but the Unam sanctam was a senile outcry from a papacy vanquished by the new-grown power of the French king, sustained by the awakening of a French nation.

The opening years of the fourteenth century, so fatal for the papacy, were also portentous for scholasticism. The Summa of Thomas was impugned by Joannes Duns Scotus, whose entire work, constructive as well as critical, was impressed with qualities of finality, signifying that in the forms of reasoning represented by him as well as Thomas, thought should advance no farther. Bacon’s attack upon scholastic methods had proved abortive from its tactlessness and confusion, and because men did not care for, and perhaps did not understand, his arguments. It was not so with the arguments of Duns Scotus. Throughout the academic world, thought still was set to chords of metaphysics; and although men had never listened to quite such dialectic 510 orchestration as Duns provided, they liked it, perceived its motives, and comprehended the meaning of its themes. So his generation understood and appreciated him. That he was the beginning of the end of the scholastic system, could not be known until the manner of that ending had disclosed itself more fully. We, however, discern the symptoms of scholastic dissolution in his work. His criticism of his predecessors was disintegrating, even when not destructive. His own dialectic was so surpassingly intricate and dizzy that, like the choir of Beauvais, it might some day collapse. With Duns Scotus, scholasticism reasoned itself out of human reach. And finally with him also, the wholeness of the scholastic purpose finally broke. For he no longer maintained the union of metaphysics and theology. The latter, to be sure, was valid absolutely; but, from a speculative, it has become a practical science. It neither draws its principles from metaphysics, nor subordinates the other sciences, — all human knowledge — to its service. Although rational in content, it possesses proofs stronger than dialectic, and stands on revelation.

There had always been men who maintained similar propositions. But it was quite another matter that the severance between metaphysics and theology should be demonstrated by a prodigious metaphysical theologian after a different view had been carried to its farthest reaches by the great Aquinas. Henceforth philosophy and theology were set on opposite pinnacles, only with theology’s pinnacle the higher. In spite of the last circumstance, the coming time showed that men cannot for long possess in peace two standards of truth — philosophy and revelation; but will be driven to hold to the one and ignore the other. By breaking the rational union of philosophy and theology, Duns Scotus prepared the way for Occam. The latter also asserts vociferously the superiority of the divine truth over human knowledge and its reasonings. But the popes are at Avignon, and the Christian world no longer bows down before those willing Babylonian captives. Under such a blasted condition of the Church, how should any inclusive Christian synthesis of thought and faith be maintained?


Duns Scotus1 could not have been what he was, had he not lived after Thomas. he was indeed the pinnacle of scholasticism; set upon all the rest. Yet this pinnacle had its more particular supports — or antecedents. And their special line may be noted without intending thereby to suggest that the influences affecting the thought of Duns Scotus did not include all the men he heard or read, and criticised.

That Duns Scotus was educated at Oxford, and became a Franciscan, and not a Dominican, had done much to set the lines of thought reflected in his doctrines. Anselm of Aosta, of Bec, of Canterbury, had been an intellectual force in England. Duns was strongly influenced by his bold realism, by his emphasis upon the power and freedom of the will, and by his doctrine of atonement.2 But Anselm also affected Scotus indirectly through the English worthy who stands between them.

This, of course, was Robert Grosseteste, to whom we have had occasion to refer, yet, despite of his intrinsic worth, always in relation to his effect on others. He was a great man; in his day a many-sided force, strong in the business of Church and State, strong in censuring and bridling the wicked, strong in the guidance of the young university of Oxford, and a mighty friend of the Franciscan Order, then establishing itself there. To his pupils, and their pupils apparently, he was a fruitful inspiration; yet the historian of thought may be less interested in the master than in certain of these pupils who brought to explicit form divers matters which in Grosseteste seem to have been but inchoate.3 One thinks immediately of Roger Bacon, who was his pupil; and then of Duns, the metaphysician, who possibly may have listened to some aged pupil of Grosseteste. In different ways, Duns as well as Bacon took much from the master. And it is possible to see how the great teacher 512 and bishop may have incited the genius of Scotus as well as that of Bacon to perform its task. For Grosseteste was a rarely capable and clear-eyed man, honest and resolute, who with the entire strength of a powerful personality insisted upon going to the heart of every proposition, and testing its validity by the surest means obtainable. By virtue of his training and intellectual inheritance, he was an Augustinian and a Platonist; a successor of Anselm, rather than a predecessor of the great Dominican Aristotelians. He was accordingly an emphatic realist, yet one who would co-ordinate the reality of his “universals” with the reality of experience. Even had he not been an Augustinian, such a masterful character would have realised the power of the human will, and felt the practical insistencies of the art of human salvation, which was the science of theology.

Views like these prevailed at Oxford. They may be found clearly stated by Richardof Middleton, an Oxford Franciscan somewhat older than Duns Scotus. He declares that theology is a practical science, and emphasises the primacy and freedom of the will. Voluntas est nobilissima potentia in anima. Again: Voluntas simpliciter nobilior est quam intellectus: the intellect indeed goes before the Will, as the servant who carried the candle before his lord. So the idea of the Good, toward which the Will directs itself, is higher than that of the True, which is the object of the mind; and loving is greater than knowing.4 Roger Bacon had also held that Will (Voluntas) was higher than the knowing faculty (intellectus); and so did Henry of Ghent,5 a man of the Low Countries, doctor solemnis hight, and a ruling spirit at the Paris University in the latter part of the thirteenth century. Many of his doctrines substantially resembled those of Scotus, although attacked by him.

So we seem to see the pit in which Duns may have digged. This man, who was no mere fossor, but a builder, and might have deserved the name of Poliorcetes, as the overthrower of many bulwarks, has left few traces of himself, beyond his twenty tomes of metaphysics, which contain no personal references to their author. The birthplace of 513 Johannes Duns Scotus, whether in Scotland, England, or Ireland, is unknown. The commonly accepted date, 1274, probably should be abandoned for an earlier year. It is known that he was a Franciscan, and that the greater part of his life as student and teacher was passed at Oxford. In a letter of commendation, written by the General of his Order in 1304, he is already termed subtilissimus. He was then leaving for Paris, where, two or three years later, in 1307, he was made a Doctor. The following year he was sent to Cologne, and there he died an enigmatical death on November 8, 1308. Report has it that he was buried alive while in a trance.6 Probably there was little to tell of the life of Duns Scotus. His personality, as well as his career, seems completely included and exhausted in his works. Yet back of them, besides a most acutely reasoning mind, lay an indomitable will. The man never faltered in his labour any more than his reasoning wavered in its labyrinthic course to its conclusions. His learning was complete; he knew the Bible and the Fathers; he was a master of theology, of philosophy, of astronomy, and mathematics.

The constructive processes of his genius appear to issue out of the action of its critical energies. Duns was the most penetrating critic produced by scholasticism. Whatever he considered from the systems of other men he subjected to tests that were apt to leave the argument in tatters. No logical inconsequence escaped him. And when every point had been examined with respect to its rational consistency, this dialectic genius was inclined to bring the matter to the bar of psychological experience. On the other hand he was a churchman, holding that even as Scripture and dogma were above question, so were the decrees of the Church, God’s sanctioned earthly Civitas.

Having thus tested whatever was presented by human reason, and accepting what was declared by Scripture or the Church, Duns proceeds to build out his doctrine as the case may call for. No man ever drove either constructive logic or the subtilties of critical distinctions closer to the limits of human comprehension or human patience than Duns Scotus. And here lies the trouble with him. The endless ramification 514 and refinement of his dialectic, his devious processes of conclusion, make his work a reductio ad absurdum of scholastic ways of reasoning. Logically, eristically, the argumentation is inerrant. It never wanders aimlessly, but winding and circling, at last it reaches a conclusion from some point unforeseen. Would you run a course with this master of the syllogism? If you enter his lists, you are lost. The right way to attack him, is to stand without, and laugh. That is what was done afterwards, when whoever cared for such reasonings was called a Dunce, after the name of this most subtle of mediaeval metaphysicians.

Thus a man is judged by his form and method, and by the bulk of his accomplishment. Form, method, bulk of accomplishment, with Scotus were preposterous. When the taste or mania for such dialectics passed away, this kind of form, this maze of method, this hopelessness of bulk, made an unfit vehicle for the philosophy of life. Men would not search it through to find the living principles. Yet living principles were there; or, at least, tenable and consistent views. The main positions of Duns Scotus, some of which he held in opposition to Thomas, may strike us as quite reasonable: we may be inclined to agree with him. Perhaps it will surprise us to find sane doctrine so well hidden in such dialectic.

He held, for example, that there is no real difference between the soul and its faculties. Thomas never demonstrated the contrary quite satisfactorily. Again, Duns Scotus was a realist: the Idea exists, since it is conceived. For the intellect is passive, and is moved by the intelligible. Therefore the Universal must be a something, in order to occasion the conception of it. Thus the reality of the concept proves the actuality of the Idea.7 Duns adds further explanations and distinctions regarding the actuality of universals, which are somewhat beyond the comprehension 515 of the modern mind. But one may remark that he reaches his views of the actuality of universals through analysis of the processes of thought. Sense-perception occasions the Idea in us; there must exist some objective correspondence to our general concepts, as there must also be in things some objective correspondence to our perception of them as individuals, whereby they become to us this or that individual thing. Such individual objectivity is constituted by the thisness of the thing, its haecceitas which is to be contradistinguished from its general essence, to wit, its whatness, or quidditas. Duns holds that we think individual things directly as we think abstract Ideas; and so their hacceitas is as true an object of our thought as their quidditas. This seems a reasonable conclusion, seeing that the individual and not the type is the final end of creation. So our conceptions prove for us the actuality both of the universal and the concrete; and the proof of one and the other is rooted in sense-perception.

Nothing was of greater import with Duns than the doctrine of the primacy of the Will over the intellect. Duns supports it with intricate argument. The soul in substance is identical with its faculties; but the latter are formally distinguishable from it and from each other. Knowing and willing are faculties or properties of the soul. The will is purely spiritual, and to be distinguished from sense-appetite: the will, and the will alone, is free; absolutely undetermined by any cause beyond itself. Even the intellect, that is the knowing faculty, is determined from without. Although some cognition precedes the act of willing, the will is not determined by cognition, but uses it. So the will, being free, is higher than the intellect. It is the will that constitutes man’s greatness; it raises him above nature, and liberates him from her coercions. Not the intellect, but the will directs itself toward the goal of blessedness, and is the subject of the moral virtues. Such seems to be Dun’s main position; but he distinguishes and refines the matter beyond the limits of comprehension.8

Another fundamental doctrine with Duns Scotus is that theology is not a speculative, but a practical science — a 516 position which Duns unfortunately disproved with his tomes of metaphysics! But in spite of the personal reductio ad absurdum of his argument, the position taken by him betokens the breaking up of the scholastic system. The subject of theology, at least for men, is the revelation of God contained in Scripture. “Holy Scripture is a kind of knowledge (quaedam notitia) divinely given in order to direct men to a supernatural end — in finem supernaturalem.”9 The knowledge revealed in Scripture relates to God’s free will and ordainment for man; which is, that man should attain blessedness. Therefore the truths of Scripture are practical, having an end in view; they are such as are necessary for Salvation. The Church has authority to declare the meaning of Scripture, and supplement it through its Catholic tradition.

Is theology, then, properly a science? Duns will not deny it; but thinks it may more properly be called a sapientia, since according to its nature, it is rather a knowledge of principles than a method of conclusions. It consists in knowledge of God directly revealed. Therefore its principles are not those of the human sciences: for example, it does not accept its principles from metaphysics, although that science treats of much that is contained in theology. Nor are the sciences — we can hardly say the other sciences — subordinated to it; since their province is natural knowledge obtained through natural means. Theology, if it be a science, is one apart from the rest. The knowledge which makes its substance is never its end, but always means to its end; which is to say, that it is practical and not speculative. By virtue of its primacy as well as character, theology pertains to the Will, and works itself out in practice: practical alike are its principles and conclusions. Apparently, with Duns, theology is a science only in this respect, that its substance, which is most rational, may be logically treated with a view to a complete and consistent understanding of it.10


In entire consistency with these fundamental views, Duns held that man’s supreme beatitude lay in the complete and perfect functioning of his will in accordance with the will of God. This was a strong and noble view of man, free to think and act and will and love, according to the will, and aided by the Grace, of the Creator of his will and mind. The trouble lay, as said before, in the method by which all was set forth and proved. The truly consequent person who made theology a practical matter, was such a one as Francis of Assisi, with his ceaselessly-burning Christlike love actualizing itself in living act and word — or possibly such a one as Bonaventura with his piety. But can it ever seem other than fantastic, to state this principle, and then bulwark it with volumes of dialectic and a metaphysics beyond the grasp of human understanding? Not from such does one learn to do the will of God. This was scarcely the way to make good the ultimate practical character of religion, as against Thomas’s frankly intellectual view. Duns is as intellectual as Thomas; but Thomas is the more consistent. And shall we say, that with Duns all makes toward God, as the final end, through the strong action of the human will and love? So be it — Thomas said, through intellection and through love. Again one queries, did the Scotian reasoning ever foster love?

And then Duns set theology apart, — and supreme. Again, so be it. Let the impulsive religion of the soul assert its primacy. But this was not the way of Duns. Theology and philosophy do not rest on the same principles, says he; but how does he demonstrate it? By substantiating this severance by means of metaphysical dialectic, and using the same dialectic and the same metaphysics to prove 518 that theology can do without either. Not by dialectic and metaphysics can theology free itself from them, and set itself on other foundations.

Duns Scotus exerted great influence, both directly and through the reaction occasioned by certain of his teachings. The next generations were full of Scotists, who were proud if only they might be reputed more subtle than their master. They succeeded in becoming more inane. There were other men, whom the critical processes of Duns led to deny the validity of his constructive metaphysics. Of those who profited by his teaching, yet represented this reaction against parts of it, the ablest was the Franciscan, William of Occam, a man but few years younger than Duns. He was born in England, in the county of Surrey; and studied under Duns at Paris. It is known that in 1320 he was lecturing with distinction at this centre of intellectual life. Three years afterward, he quitted his chair, and in the controversies then rending his Order, hotly espoused the cause of the Spirituales — the Franciscans who would carry out the precepts of Francis to the letter. Next, he threw himself with all the ardour of his temper into the conflict with the papacy, and became the literary champion of the rights of the State. He was cited before the pope, and imprisoned at Avignon, but escaped in 1328, and fled to the Court of the emperor, Louis of Bavaria, to whom, as the accounts declare, he addressed the proud word: Tu me defendas gladio, ego te defendam calamo. He died about 1347.

The succession, as it were, of Occam to Duns Scotus, is of great interest. It was portentous for scholasticism. The pupil, for pupil in large measure he was, profited by the critical methods and negations of the master. But he denied the validity of the metaphysical constructions whereby Duns sought to rebuild what his criticism had cast down or shaken. Especially, Occam would not accept the subtle Doctor’s fabrication of an external world in accord with the apparent necessities of thought. For with all Duns’s critical insistency, never did a man more unhesitatingly make a universe to fit the syllogistic processes of his reason, projected into the external world. Here Occam would not follow him, as Aristotle would not follow Plato.


It were well to consider more specifically these two sides of Occam’s succession to Duns Scotus, shown in his acceptance and rejection of the master’s teaching. He followed him, of course, in emphasising the functions of the will; and accepted the conception of theology as practical, and not speculative, in its ends; and, like Duns, he distinguished, nay rather, severed, theology from philosophy, widening the cleft between them. If, with Duns, theology was still, in a sense, a science; with Occam it could hardly be called one. Although Duns denied that theology was to be controlled by principles drawn from metaphysics, he laboured to produce a metaphysical counterfeit, wherein theology, founded on revelation and church law, should present a close parallel to what it would have been, had its controlling principles been those of metaphysics. Occam quite as resolutely as his master, proves the untenability of current theological reasonings. More unreservedly than Duns, he interdicts the testing of theology by reason: and goes beyond him in restricting the sphere of rationally demonstrable truth, denying, for instance, that reason can demonstrate God’s unity, infinity, or even existence. Unlike Duns he would not attempt to erect a quasi-scientific theology, in the place of the systems he rejects. To make up for this negative result, Occam asserted the verity of Scripture unqualifiedly, as Duns also did. With Occam, Scripture, revelation, is absolutely infallible, neither requiring nor admitting the proofs of reason. To be sure he co-ordinates with it the Law of Nature, which God has implanted in our minds. But otherwise theology, faith, stands alone, very isolated, although on the alleged most certain of foundations. The provinces of science and faith are different. Faith’s assent is not required for what is known through evidence; science does not depend on faith. Nor does faith or theology depend on scientia. And since, without faith, no one can assent to those verities which are are to be believed (veritatibus credibilibus), there is no scientia proprie dicta respecting them. So the breach in the old scholastic, Thomist, unity was made utter and irreparable. Theology stands on the surest of bases, but isolated, unsupported; philosophy, all human knowledge, extends 520 around and below it, and is discredited because irrelevant to highest truth.

Thus far as to Occam’s loyal and rebellious succession to the theology of Duns. In philosophy, it was much the same. He accepted his critical methods, but would not follow him in his constructive metaphysics. Although the older man was pre-eminently a metaphysician, the critical side of his intellect drew empiric processes within the sweep of its energies. Occam, unconvinced of the correspondence between the logic of concepts and the facts of the external world, seeks to limit the principles of the former to the processes of the mind. Accordingly, he rejects the inferences of the Scotian dialectic which project themselves outward, as proofs of the objective existence of abstract or general ideas. It is thus from a more thoroughgoing application of the Scotian analysis of mental processes, and a more thoroughgoing testing of the evidence furnished by experience, that Occam refuses to recognise the existence of universals save in the mind, where evidently they are necessary elements of thinking. Manifestly, he is striving very earnestly not to go beyond the evidence; and he is also striving to eliminate all unevidenced and unnecessary elements, and those chimeras of the mind, which become actual untruths when posited as realities of the outer world.

Such were the motives of Occam’s far from simple theory of cognition. In it, mental perceptions, or cognitions, were regarded as symbols (signa, termini) of the objects represented by them. They are natural, as contrasted with the artificial symbols of speech and writing. They fall into three classes; first, sense-perception of the concrete object, and thirdly, so to speak, the abstract concept representative of many objects, or of some ideal figment or quality. Intermediate between the two, Occam puts notitia intuitiva, which relates to the existence of concrete things. It serves as a basis for the cognition of their combinations and relationships, and forms a necessary antecedent to abstract knowledge. Notitia abstractiva praesupponit intuitivam.11 Occam holds that notitia intuitiva represents the concrete things as it exists. Otherwise with abstract or general concepts. They 521 are signa of mental presentations, or processes; and there is no ground for transferring them to the world of outer realities. Their existence is confined to the mind, where they are formed from the common elements of other signa, especially those of our notitia intuitiva. “And so,” says Occam, “the genus is not common to many things through any sameness in them, but through the common nature (communitatem) of the signum, by which the same signum is common to many things signified.”12 These universals furnish predicates for our judgments, since through them we conceive of realities as containing a common element of nature. They are not mere words; but have a real existence in the mind, where they perform functions essential to thinking. Indirectly, through their bases of notitia intuitivae, they even reflect outer realities. “The Universal is no mere figment, to which there is no correspondence of anything like it (cui non correspondet aliquod consimile) in objective being, as that is figured in the thinker.”

It results from the foregoing argument, that science, ordered knowledge, which seeks co-ordination and unity, has not to do with things; but with propositions, its object being that which is known, rather than that which is. Things are singular, while science treats of general ideas, which are only in the mind. “It should be understood, that any science, whether realis or rationalis, is only concerned with propositions, (propositionibus); because propositions alone are known.”13

It was not so very great a leap from the realism of Duns, which ascribed a certain objective existence to general ideas, to the nominalism, or rather conceptualism, of Occam, which denied it, yet recognised the real existence and necessary functions of universals, in the mind. The metaphysically proved realities of Duns were rather spectral, and Occam’s universals, subjective though they were, lived a real and active life. One feels that the realities of Dun’s metaphysics scarcely extended beyond the thinker’s mind. In 522 many respects Occam’s philosophy was a strenuous carrying out of Duns’s teachings; and when it was not, as we see the younger men pushed, or rather repelled, to the positions which he took, by the unsatisfying metaphysics of his teacher. History shows other rebounds of thought, which seem abrupt, and yet were consequential in the same dual way that Occam’s doctrine followed that of Duns. Out of the Brahmin Absolute came the Buddhist wheel of change; even as Parmenides was followed hard by Heraclitus. And how often Atheism steps on Pantheism’s heels!

Thus, developing, revising, and changing, Occam carried out the work of Duns, and promulgated a theory of knowledge which pointed on to much later phases of thinking. In his school he came to be called venerabilis inceptor, a proper title for the man who shook loose from so much previous thought, and became the source of so many novel views. He had, indeed, little fear of novelty. “Novelties (novitates) are not altogether to be rejected; but as what is old (vetusta), on becoming burdensome, should be abolished, so novelties when, to the sound judgment, they are useful, fruitful, necessary, expedient, are the more boldly to be embraced.”14

It is not, however, as the inceptor of new philosophies or of novel views on the relations between State and Papacy that we are viewing Occam here at the close of this long presentation of the ultimate intellectual interests of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But rather as the man who represented the ways in which the old was breaking up, and embodied the thoughts rending the scholastic system; who even was a factor in the palpable decadence of scholastic thinking that had set in before his eyes were closed. For from him came a new impulse to a renewed overstudy of formal logic — with Thomas, for example, logic had but filled its proper rôle. Withdrawing from metaphysics the matter pertaining to the problem of universals and much more besides, Occam transferred the same to logic, which he called omnium artium aptissimum instrumentum.15 This reinstatement of logic as the instrument and means of all knowledge was to be the perdition of emptier-minded men, 523 who felt no difference between philosophy and the war of words. And in this respect at least the decadence of scholasticism took its inception from this bold and virile mind which had small reverence for popes or for the idols of the schools. We shall not follow the lines of this decay, but simply notice where they start.

In the growth and decline of thought, things so go hand in hand that it is hard to say what draws and what is drawn. In the scholastic decadence, the preposterous use of logic was a palpable element. Yet was it cause or effect? Obviously both. Scholasticism was losing its grasp of life; and the universities in the fourteenth century were crowded with men whose minds mistook words for thoughts; and because of this they gave themselves to hypertrophic logic. In the other hand, this windy study promoted the increasing emptiness of philosophy.

Likewise, as cause and effect, inextricably bound together, the other factors work, and are worked upon. The number of universities increases; professors and students multiply; but there is an awful dearth of thinkers among them. There ceases even to be a thorough knowledge of the scholastic systems; men study from compendia; and thereby remain most deeply ignorant, and unfecundated by the thoughts of their forbears. Cause and effect again! We can hardly blame them, when tomes and encyclopaedias were being heaped mountain high, with life crushed beneath the monstrous pile, or escaping from it. But whether cause or effect, the energies of study slackened, and even rotted, both at the universities and generally among the members of the two Student Orders, from whom had come the last creators — and perhaps destroyers — of scholasticism.

Next: the language of philosophy deteriorated, becoming turbid with the barbarisms of hair-splitting technicalities. Likewise the method of presentation lost coherence and clarity. All of which was the result of academic decadence, and promoted it.

So decay worked on within the system, each failing element being both effect and cause, in a general subsidence of merit. There were also causes, as it were, from without; which possibly were likewise effects of this scholastic decay. 524 As the life of the world once had gone out of paganism, and put on the new vigour of Christianity, so the life of the world was now forsaking scholasticism, and deriding, shall we say, the womb it had escaped from. Was the embryo ripe, that the womb had become its mephitic prison? At all events, the fourteenth century brought forth, and the next was filled with, these men who called the readers of Duns Scotus Dunces — and the word still lives. Men had new thoughts; the power of the popes was shattered, and within the Church, popes and councils fought for supremacy; there was no longer any actual unity of the Church to preserve the unity of thought; Wicliffe had risen; Huss and Luther were close to the horizon; a new science of observation was also stirring, and a new humanism was abroad. The life of men had not lessened nor their energies and powers of thought. Yet life and power no longer pulsed and wrought within the old forms; but had gone out from them, and disdainfully were flouting the emptied husks.



1  The most convenient edition of the works of Joannes Duns Scotus is that published by Vives, at Paris (1891 sqq.) in twenty-six volumes. It is little more than a reprint of Wadding’s Edition.

2  See Seeberg, Die Theologie des Johannes Duns Scotus (Leipzig, 1900), p. 8 sqq., a work to which the following pages owe much.

3  Grosseteste’s philosophical or theological works are still unpublished or very difficult of access; and there is no sufficient exposition of his doctrines.

4  Seeberg, o.c. p. 16 sqq.

5  See De Wulf, History of Medieval Philosophy, p. 363 sqq.

6  See Seeberg, o.c. p. 34 sqq.

7  The kernel of Dun’s proof is contained in the following passage, which is rather simple in its Scotian Latin: “Dicendum, quod Universale est ens, quia sub ratione non entis, nihil intelligitur: quia intelligibile movet intellectum. Cum enim intellectus sit virtus passiva (per Aristotelem 3, de Anima, cont. 5 et inde saepe), non operatur, nisi moveatur ab objecto; non ens non potest movere aliquid ut objectum; quia movere est entis in actu; ergo nihil intelligitur sub ratione non entis. Quidquid autem intelligitur, intelligitur sub ratione Universalis: ergo illa ratio non est omnino non ens” (Super universalia Porphyrii, Quaestio iv.).

8  Cf. the far from clear exposition in Seeberg, o.c. p. 86 sqq. and 660 sqq.

9  Miscell. quaest. 6, 18, cited by Seeberg, o.c. p. 114.

10  The last two or three pages have been drawn mainly from Seeberg, o.c. p. 113 sqq. In discussing Duns Scotus, I have given less from his writings than has been my wont with other philosophers. And for two reasons. The first, as I frankly avow, is that I have read less of him than I have of his predecessors. With the exception of such a curious treatise as the (doubtful) Grammatica speculativa (tome i. of the Paris edition); and the elementary, and comparatively lucid, De rerum prinipio (tome iv. of the Paris edition) — with these exceptions Duns is to me unreadable. My second reason for omitting excerpts from his writings, is that I wished neither to misrepresent their quality, nor to cause my reader to lay down my book, which is heavy enough anyhow! If I selected lucid and simple extracts, they would give no idea of the intricacy and prolixity of Duns. His commentary on the Sentences fills thirteen tomes of the Paris edition! No short and simple extract will illustrate that! On the other hand, I could not bring myself by lengthy or impossible quotations to vilify Duns. It is unjust to expose a man’s worst features, nakedly and alone, to those who do not know his better side and the conditions which partly explain the rest of him.

11  Quodlibetalia, i. Qu. 14, cited by De Wulf, o.c. p. 422.

12  Expos. aurea, cited by De Wulf, o.c. p. 423, whose exposition of Occam’s theory I have followed here.

13  On Occam, see Seeberg’s article in Hauck’s Encyclopaedia; Siebeck, “Occams Erkenntnislehre, etc.,” in Archiv für Ges. der Philosophie, Bd. x., Neue Folge (1897).

14  Quoted by Seeberg.

15  De Wulf, o.c. p. 425.

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