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JANUARY, 1883.


Duns Scotts, the Doctor Subtilis of Scholasticism, is the least known of the great lights of the Middle Ages. Really it may be said of him, Stat nominis umbra. While Thomas Aquinas, the darling of the Romish Church, is everywhere extolled, and his writings have been commented on in every age, till they seem submerged beneath the weight of his expositors, Scotus has had but little sympathy outside his school, and but few competent historians of his doctrine. Erdmann's account of him, though brief, is comprehensive, and Ritter's exposition is one of his best pieces of work. Ilaureau, with his brilliant dash, gives but a travesty of his doctrine. Stöckl, with his sturdy German honesty, does him fair justice, though devoting only ninety pages to Duns, and over three hundred to Thomas. The French writers, Cousin, Rousselot, and others, fail to appreciate him fitly, with the single exception of Morin in his Dictionary of Scholastic Theology and Philosophy. None of the Church historians do lim justice, with the exception of Baur, both in his Church History and History of Doctrines. Last year (1881) Dr. Karl Werner wrote a book of 512 pages, 8vo, devoted to his system, but in language so scholastic and so completely a transfer of Duns' own modes of expression, that it is about as easy to read the barbarous original as Werner's Exposition. Certainly it is not likely to inake Scotus


any better known than before. His name, which signifies darkness in Greek, has been the occasion of many a pun, while his cognomen has given us the word dunce, as if his very subtilty were an indication of the want of intellectual vigor-“dark by excess of light.”

John Duns Scotus was probably born in the year 1274, in the village of Dun or Dunum, whence his name. Scotus points to the country of his birth; but as Ireland as well as Scotland is indicated by the term, it is not absolutely certain which was his native land. Still Scotland seems to have the preference, in accord with the inscription on his tomb :

“Scotia me genuit,
Anglia me suscepit,
Gallia me docuit,
Colonia me tenet."

It is narrated that he was dull in his boyhood, and had no aptitude for learning. Tradition tells us that the future clampion of the Immaculate Conception of Mary called upon the mother of God to illuminate his mind, and that amid his tearful struggles he fell asleep. The virgin mother appeared to him and promised the gift of learning on condition of his faithful service in her cause. This was the beginning of a new intellectual life.

We know not when he became a brother of the Minorite Order, nor yet the course of his early studies. At all events we find him in Oxford, England, before 1300, and in Merton College. Amid the dearth of information regarding his favorite studies, we learn that he was especially devoted to mathematics, and that about 1300 lie was called to the Chair of Theology vacated by his master. It was at Oxford that he wrote his Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard, making six volumes of his collected works. In 1304 we find him in Paris, whither he was called to hold a public disputation on the subject of the claims of Mary, and as a champion of the Franciscan Order. It was in this contest too that he won his title of “Subtle Doctor,” at the suggestion of Pope Clement V. or of the Bishop of Paris. The chivalric knight of the honors of Mary was often called Doctor Marianus. It was at Paris that he wrote the Reportata, a new Commentary on the Master of Sentences, less full and valuable than the Oxford work.

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