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John Duns Scotus – The ‘Subtle Doctor’ – Philosopher of the Month

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John Duns Scotus (b. c. 1265/1266–d. 1308) was one of the most significant Christian philosophers and theologians of the medieval period. Scotus made important and influential contributions in metaphysics, ethics, and natural theology. Little was known of his life but he was born in Scotland, became a Franciscan monk, spent his learning and professional life at Oxford and Paris, and died in Cologne. He was also the first theologian to defend the theory of Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of Immaculate Conception holds that God preserved the Virgin Mary from the taint of original sin from the moment she was conceived. Although Aristotle’s ideas were prevalent during the turn of the 13th century, he belonged to Franciscan tradition which, as opposed to Aristotle, emphasised the power of faith and will. He was also much influenced by Arabic philosophers, especially Avicenna, with their emphasis on Being as the metaphysical object.Scotus’s approach to philosophy was characterised by rigorous philosophical analysis, meticulous exposition of arguments and its use of technical concepts. Because of his nuanced and technical reasoning, he was referred to as the “subtle doctor.” Notably, Scotus made a distinctive contribution to natural theology in his proofs of God’s existence and the attributes of God. His arguments are both original and highly complex, establishing God as an efficient cause, an ultimate final cause, and a most eminent being, and finally as an “infinite being.” He took up some aspects of Aquinas’s arguments that all our knowledge about God starts from creatures but also presented his own arguments as modifications. Scotus’s univocal concept of being – the idea that words describing the nature of God mean the same thing as they apply to creatures and people – is also arguably his most famous position in this respect. He argued that we can apply certain predicates univocally to God and creatures with exactly the same meaning. This is in opposition. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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