, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 135-148

Transcendental being: Scotus and Scotists

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Abstract

Of singular importance to the medieval theory of transcendentals was the position of John Duns Scotus that there could be a concept of being univocally common, not only to substance and accidents, but even to God and creatures. Scotus's doctrine of univocal transcendental concepts violated the accepted view that, owing to its generality, no transcendental notion could be univocal. The major difficulty facing Scotus's doctrine of univocity was to explain how a real, as opposed to a purely logical, concept could be abstracted from what agreed in nothing real, in this case, God and creatures. The present article examines Scotus's solution to this difficulty and its interpretation in four of his noted fourteenth-century followers. It is shown that the balance Scotus's solution achieved between the competing demands of the real diversity between God and creatures, on the one side, and the conceptual unity of transcendental being, on the other, is taken in opposed directions by his interpreters. Either the real diversity of God and creatures is given priority, so that the concept of being becomes a purely logical notion, or the real unity of the concept of being is stressed, so that some sort of real community is posited between God and creatures.

In the following notes,Lect. andOrd. are abbreviations forLectura andOrdinatio, the titles of Scotus's earlier and later versions of his Oxford commentary on theSentences, respectively.