Sunday, November 08, 2015

Scotus Day

Today is the feast of Bl. John Duns Scotus. Hug a Scotist near you!

From Scotus's De Primo Principio:

Our will can always love and seek something greater than any finite end, even as our intellect is able to know more. And there seems to be a natural inclination to love supremely an infinite good. For this is the sign of the free will's natural inclination for anything that, spontaneously, and without the aid of any habit, it loves this thing readily and with delight. And it seems that in this way we experience a love for the infinite good. Indeed it seems that the will is not satisfied with anything else. If infinite good were really opposed to its natural object, why does not the will by nature hate such a good, just as it naturally hates non-existence?

And from Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of Scotus's most enthusiastic readers, whose poetic concepts of inscape, instress, and pitch have clear and sometimes explicitly linked analogues in Scotus's philosophical concepts of formality, intuitive cognition, and haecceity:

Duns Scotus's Oxford
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers;

Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.

Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;

Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.

The last line, of course, concerns Scotus's most famous theological contribution, which was to formulate an approach to discussing the Immaculate Conception of Mary that was based purely on ordering of causes; it did not depend on any particular account of how conception occurred, and thus cut through the confusion over the subject that was due to the variety of such accounts.

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