Scotism

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Blessed John Duns Scotus (c.1265-1308) the eponym of Scotism. JohnDunsScotus.jpg
Blessed John Duns Scotus (c.1265-1308) the eponym of Scotism.
Antonio De Fantis, Opus Oxoniense De Fantis - Opus Oxoniense - 4324737.tif
Antonio De Fantis, Opus Oxoniense

Scotism is the name given to the philosophical and theological system or school named after Blessed John Duns Scotus. The word comes from the name of its originator, whose Opus Oxoniense was one of the most important documents in medieval philosophy and Roman Catholic theology, defining what would later be declared the Dogma of the Immaculate conception by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus on 8 December 1854. [1] [2]

Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy is a term used to refer to the philosophy that existed through the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century. Medieval philosophy, understood as a project of independent philosophical inquiry, began in Baghdad, in the middle of the 8th century, and in France, in the itinerant court of Charlemagne, in the last quarter of the 8th century. It is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed in Greece and Rome during the Classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine with secular learning.

Dogma is an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Roman Catholicism, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.

Pope Pius IX 255th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was head of the Catholic Church from 16 June 1846 to his death on 7 February 1878. He was the longest-reigning elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving for over 31 years. During his pontificate, Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council (1869–70), which decreed papal infallibility, but the council was cut short owing to the loss of the Papal States.

Contents

Development

Scotism developed out of the Old Franciscan School, which dominated theology during the Middle Ages. This school of thought initially followed Augustinism which dominated theology at the time.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Scotus found the ground already cleared for the conflict with the followers of Aquinas. He made very free use of Aristotelianism, but in its employment exercised sharp criticism, and in important points adhered to the teaching of the Older Franciscan School – especially with regard to the plurality of forms or of souls, the spiritual matter of the angels and of souls, etc., wherein he energetically combatted Aquinas. Scotism, or what is known as the Later Franciscan School, is thus only a continuation or further development of the older school, with a much wider, although not exclusive acceptance of Peripatetic ideas. The difference between Thomism and Scotism could be expressed by saying that, while both derive from Arabic Neoplatonized Aristotelianism, Thomism is closer to the orthodox Aristotelianism of Maimonides, Averroes and Avicenna, while Scotism reflects the Platonizing tendency going back through Avicebron, the Brethren of Purity, the Liber de Causis and Proclus to Plotinus.

Aristotelianism tradition in philosophy

Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. This school of thought is in the modern sense of philosophy, covering existence, ethics, mind and related subjects. In Aristotle's time, philosophy included natural philosophy, which preceded the advent of modern science during the Scientific Revolution. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school and later on by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings. In the Islamic Golden Age, Avicenna and Averroes translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic and under them, along with philosophers such as Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi, Aristotelianism became a major part of early Islamic philosophy.

Peripatetic school School of philosophy in Ancient Greece

The Peripatetic school was a school of philosophy in Ancient Greece. Its teachings derived from its founder, Aristotle, and peripatetic is an adjective ascribed to his followers.

In the religion of Islam, two words are sometimes translated as philosophy—falsafa, which refers to philosophy as well as logic, mathematics, and physics; and Kalam, which refers to a rationalist form of Islamic philosophy and theology based on the interpretations as developed by medieval Muslim philosophers. Islamic philosophy has also been described as the systematic investigation of problems connected with life, the universe, ethics, medicine, science, society, and so on as conducted in the medieval Muslim world from Persian, Arab, and Andalusian Islamic philosophers, scholars and polymaths during the Islamic Golden Age.

Concerning the relation of these schools to each other, or the relation of Scotus to Alexander of Hales and St. Bonaventure, consult the work of the Flemish Recollect, Mathias Hauzeur. It is notable that, while Thomism became the official philosophy of the Church, Scotist influence prevailed on a number of important points, not least the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Alexander of Hales English Franciscan theologian and philosopher

Alexander of Hales, also called Doctor Irrefragibilis and Theologorum Monarcha, was a theologian and philosopher important in the development of Scholasticism and of the Franciscan School.

Mathias Hauzeur was a Belgian Franciscan theologian.

Immaculate Conception Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived free from original sin

In Christian theology, the Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that God acted upon Mary in the first moment of her conception, keeping her "immaculate".

Scotism and doctrinal conflicts within the Catholic Church

Nominalism is older than Scotus, but its revival in Occamism may be traced to the one-sided exaggeration of some propositions of Scotus. Scotist Formalism is the direct opposite of Nominalism, and the Scotists were at one with the Thomists in combatting the latter; Occam himself was a bitter opponent of Scotus. The Council of Trent defined as dogma a series of doctrines especially emphasized by the Scotists (e.g. freedom of the will, free co-operation with grace, etc..). In other points the canons were intentionally so framed that they do not affect Scotism (e.g. that the first man was constitutus in holiness and justice). This was also done at the Vatican Council. In the Thomistic–Molinistic controversy concerning the foreknowledge of God, predestination, the relation of grace to free will, the Scotists took little part. They either supported one of the parties, or took up a middle position, rejecting both the predetermination of the Thomists and the scientia media of the Molinists. God recognizes the free future acts in His essence, and provides a free decree of His will, which does not predetermine our free will, but only accompanies it.

In metaphysics, nominalism is a philosophical view which denies the existence of universals and abstract objects, but affirms the existence of general or abstract terms and predicates. There are at least two main versions of nominalism. One version denies the existence of universals – things that can be instantiated or exemplified by many particular things. The other version specifically denies the existence of abstract objects – objects that do not exist in space and time.

Thomism philosophical school based on the work of Thomas Aquinas

Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, Aquinas' disputed questions and commentaries on Aristotle are perhaps his most well-known works. In theology, his Summa Theologica is one of the most influential documents in medieval theology and continues to be the central point of reference for the philosophy and theology of the Catholic Church. In the 1914 encyclical Doctoris Angelici Pope Pius X cautioned that the teachings of the Church cannot be understood without the basic philosophical underpinnings of Aquinas' major theses:

The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.

Council of Trent Synod

The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.

Scotism and the Jesuit tradition

Jesuit philosophers and theologians adopted a series of the Scotist propositions. Later authorities reject in part many of these propositions and another series of propositions was misunderstood even by Catholic theologians, and then in this false sense rightly rejected – e.g. the doctrine of the univocatio entis , of the acceptation of the merits of Christ and man, etc.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church which originated in sixteenth-century Spain. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

Numerous other propositions have been accepted or at least favourably treated by a large number of Catholic scholars and amongst these are many propositions from psychology: e.g. that the powers of the soul are not merely accidents even natural and necessary of the soul, that they are not really distinct from the substance of the soul or from one another etc.

They also took from Scotism many propositions concerning the doctrine of the angels.

The influence of Scotism on philosophy and theology

Scotism exercised an influence on the development of philosophy and theology; its importance is not, as is often asserted, purely negative – i.e. it does not consist only in the fact that it exercised a criticism on Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic school.

A comparison of the Scotist teaching with that of Aquinas has been often attempted – for example, in the abovementioned work of Hauzeur at the end of the first volume; by Sarnano (Costanzo Torri, Conciliatio omnium controversiarum etc. (1589– ). In many cases, the differences are mostly in the terminology and a reconciliation is possible if one emphasize certain parts of Scotus or Aquinas and passes over or tones down others. However, some contradictions remain on a number of points.

Generally speaking, Scotism found its supporters within the Franciscan Order; certainly, opposition to the Dominicans, i.e. to Aquinas, made many members of the order disciples of Scotus. However, this does not mean that the foundation and development of Scotism is to be regarded as a product of the rivalry between the two orders. Even Aquinas at first found a few opponents in his order – not all his fellow-Dominicans followed him in every particular (e.g. Durandus of St. Pourçain).

The Scotist doctrines were also supported by many Minorites. Furthermore, Scotism found not a few supporters among secular professors and in other religious orders (e.g. the Augustinians, Servites, etc.), especially in England, Ireland, and Spain. Of the Minorites who supported Scotist doctrine, the Conventuals seem to have adhered most faithfully to Scotus, particularly at the University of Padua, where many highly esteemed teachers lectured.

Emergence of the Scotist School

It is only at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century that a special Scotist School can be spoken of. The works of the master were then collected, brought out in many editions and commentated, etc. And from 1501 we also find numerous regulations of general chapters recommending or directly prescribing Scotism as the teaching of the order.

Scotism appears to have attained its greatest popularity at the beginning of the seventeenth century; during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries we even find special Scotist chairs, e.g. at Paris, Rome, Coimbra, Salamanca, Alcalá, Padua, and Pavia. In the eighteenth century it had still an important following, but in the 19th it suffered a great decline. One of the reasons for this was the repeated suppressions of the order in almost every country, while the recommendation of the teaching of St. Thomas by several popes could not be favourable to Scotism.

It has even been asserted that it was merely tolerated by the Catholic Church; but this statement is a priori improbable in regard to a school of which not a single proposition has been censured, and to which so many highly venerated men (bishops, cardinals, popes, and saints) have belonged; and it is still less probable in view of the approval of the various general statutes (repeated so often down to the present day), in which Scotism is at least recommended. In their Decrees Leo XIII and Pius X have recommended not alone St. Thomas, but also Scholasticism in general, and this includes also the Scotist School.

Scotists

Most Scotists are both philosophers and theologians. Notable Scotists of the fourteenth century included Antonius Andrea and Francis of Mayrone(c. 1280-1328) author of a Tractatus de transcendentibus.Francis Mayron, who introduced the actus sorbonicus into the University of Paris.

15th and 16th centuries

Scotists of the fifteenth century included two popes, Alexander V and Sixtus IV, Elector Frederick III of Saxony and Angelus of Chivasso. The latter's work on Scotist theology was so notorious that it was publicly burned by Martin Luther.

Notable Scotists of the sixteenth century included Paul Scriptoris, noted professor at the University of Tübingen, and the Archbishop of Athens Antonio Trombetta.

17th and 18th centuries

Of very many names we may mention:

19th century

In the nineteenth century, although Scotism was retained in the schools of the Franciscan Order in accordance with the statutes, there were few works in the Scotist tradition, in any case no celebrated ones.

20th and 21st centuries

Though the use of the term Scotism has become a bit antiquated, several contemporary theologians, especially from among the Franciscan Orders, like Kenan Osborne OFM and Daniel Horan OFM, can be seen as in the Scotist tradition. Several recent projects such as the Scotus Project of CUA, the International Scotistic Commission in Rome and the Commission of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition of the English Speaking Conference of the OFM have sought to increase awareness of Duns Scotus and Scotism on contemporary theology. Scotism has also found a home amongst Anglo-Catholics, including Richard Cross and Thomas Williams, as well as influencing Protestants like William Lane Craig. [5]

Notes

  1. Ordinatio III, d.3, q.1
  2. http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/marye1.htm
  3. The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church – Biographical Dictionary – Consistory of September 1, 1681
  4. Bartholomaeus Durandus, Online bibliography of Franciscan Authors.
  5. Craig, W. L. (1987). John Duns Scotus on Gods Foreknowledge and Future Contingents. Franciscan Studies, 47(1), 98-122.

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