Duns Scotus and Ockham are, together with Aquinas, the most significant and influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. The purpose of this subject is to make you familiar with some fundamental aspects of their theological and philosophical thought. As to Scotus, these include the proof of the existence and of the unicity of God (the most sophisticated one in the Middle Ages) and the issues about causality that it raises, the theory of the existence of concepts common to God and creatures (the univocity theory of religious language), the discussion about the immateriality and the immortality of the human soul, and the reply to scepticism. As to Ockham, they include nominalism about universals and the refutation of realism (including the realism of Duns Scotus), some issues in logic and especially the theory of “suppositio” and its application in the debate about universals, the theory of intellectual knowledge of singulars and the question of whether we can have evidence about contingent properties of singulars, the nature of efficient causality and the problem of whether we can prove the existence of a first efficient cause. These are studied in translation rather than in the Latin original, though a glance at the Latin can often be useful. Candidates are encouraged to carefully read and analyze Scotus’s and Ockham’s texts and to focus on the philosophical questions they raise. Paper 134 Aristotle, Physics is a good background for this option.
Texts: Duns Scotus, Philosophical Writings (transl. A. Wolter); Ockham, Philosophical Writings (transl. P. Boehner).
R. Cross, Duns Scotus; M. McCord Adams, William Ockham, vol. 1.
The subject will be studied in the following sets of texts:
Scotus: Philosophical Writings, tr. Wolter (Hackett), chapters II-IV, pp. 13-95 (man’s natural knowledge of God; the existence of God; the unicity of God); Five texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals, tr. Spade (Hackett), pp. 57-113 (universals, individuation).
Ockham: Philosophical Writings, tr. Boehner (Hackett), pp. 18-27 (intuitive and abstractive cognition); pp. 97-126 (the possibility of natural theology, the existence of God); Five texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals, tr. Spade (Hackett), pp. 114-231 (universals).
The texts are studied in translation rather than the Latin original. This paper will include an optional question containing passages for comment. This subject may not be combined with subject 110.