This is the name given to the philosophical and theological system or school named after John Duns Scotus. It developed out of the Old Franciscan School, to which Haymo of Faversham (d. 1244), Alexander of Hales (died 1245), John of Rupella (died 1245), William of Melitora (d. 1260), Saint Bonaventure (died 1274), Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta (died 1289), John Pecham (died 1292), Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard of Middletown (died c.1300), etc. belonged. This school had at first but few peculiarities; it followed Augustinism (Platonism), which then ruled theology, and which was adopted not only by the Parisian professors belonging to the secular clergy (William of Auvergne, Henry of Ghent, etc.), but also by prominent teachers of the Dominican Order (Roland of Cremona, Robert Fitzacker, Robert of Kilwardby, etc.). These theologians knew and utilized freely all the writings of Aristotle, but employed the new Peripatetic ideas only in part or in an uncritical fashion, and intermingled with Platonic elements. Albertus Magnus and especially Saint Thomas (died 1274) introduced Aristoteleanism more widely into Scholasticism. The procedure of Saint Thomas was regarded as an innovation, and called forth criticism, not only from the Franciscans, but also from the secular doctors and even many Dominicans. At this time appeared Scotus, the Doctor Subtilis, and found the ground already cleared for the conflict with the followers of Aquinas. He made indeed very free use of Aristoteleanism, much freer than his predecessors, 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 and in other points he combatted energetically Saint Thomas. The Scotism beginning with him, 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, or with the express and strict challenge of the same (e.g. the view that matter is the principium individuationis). Concerning the relation of these schools to each other, or the relation of Scotus to Alexander of Hales and Saint Bonaventure, consult the work of the Flemish Recollect, M. Hauzeur.
Concerning the character and teaching of Scotus we have already spoken in the special article, where it was stated that he has been unjustly charged with Indeterminism, excessive Realism, Pantheism, Nestorianism, etc. What has been there said holds good of Scotism in general, the most important doctrines of which were substantially developed by Scotus himself. Little new has been added by the Scotists to the teaching of their master; for the most part, they have merely, in accordance with the different tendencies of the day, restated its fundamental position and defended it. It will be sufficient here to mention two works in which the most important peculiarities of the Scotist theology are briefly set forth and defended — Johannes de Rada, “Controversiae theol. inter S. Thom. et Scotum” (1598-); Kilian Kazenberger, “Assertiones centum ad mentem . . . Scoti” (new ed., Quaracehi, 1906). Reference may, however, be made to the influence which Scotism exercised on the teaching of the Church (i.e. on theology). It is especially noteworthy that none of the propositions peculiar to Scotus or Scotism has been censured by ecclesiastical authority, while the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was soon accepted by all schools, orders, and theologians outside the Dominican Order, and was raised to a dogma by Pius IX. The definition of the Council of Vienne of 1311 that all were to be regarded as heretics who declared “quod anima rationalis . . . non sit forma corporis humani per se et essentialiter” (the rational soul is not per se and essentially the form of the human body), was directed, not against the Scotist doctrine of the forma corporeitatis, but only against the erroneous view of Olivius; it is even more probable that the Scotists of the day suggested the passing of the Decree and formulated it (see B. Jansen, loc. cit., 289 sqq., 471 sqq.). Nominalism is older than Scotus, but its revival in Occamism may be traced to the one-sided exaggeration of some propositions of Scotus. The Scotist Formalism is the direct opposite of Nominalism, and the Scotists were at one with the Thomists in combatting the latter; Occam himself (d. about 1347) 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, meritoriousness of good works, the causality of the sacraments ex opere operato, the effect of absolution). 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.
Jesuit philosophers and theologians adopted a series of the Scotist propositions. Later authorities reject in part many of these propositions and partly accept them, or at least do not directly oppose them. This refers mostly to doctrines touching the deepest philosophical and theological questions, on which a completely certain judgment is difficult to obtain. The following are generally rejected: formalism with the distinctio formalis, the spiritual matter of angels and of the soul, the view that the metaphysical essence of God consists in radical infinity, that the relationes trinitariae are not a perfection simpliciter simplex; that the Holy Ghost would be a distinct Person from the Son, even though He proceeded from the Father alone; that the angels can naturaliter know the secreta cordium (secret thoughts); that the soul of Christ is formally holy and impeccable, not by the very fact of the hypostatic union, but through another gratia creata (the visio beatifica); that the merits of Christ are not simpliciter et intrinsece, but only extrinsece and secundum quid, infinite; that there are indifferent acts in individuo; that the gratia sanctificans and the charitas habitualis are the same habitus; that circumcision is a sacrament in the strict sense; that transubstantiation makes the Body of Christ present per modum adductionis, etc. Another series of propositions was misunderstood even by Catholie 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. Of the propositions which have been accepted or at least favourably treated by a large number of scholars, we may mention: the Scotist view of the relation between essentia and existentia; that between ens and nihil the distance is not infinite but only as great as the reality that the particular ens possesses; that the accidens as such also possesses a separate existence (e.g. the accidentia of bread and wine in the Eucharist); that not only God, but also man can produce an esse simpliciter (e.g. man by generation); haecceitas as the principium individuationis. Also 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; that sense perception is not purely passive; that the intellect can recognize the singular directly, not merely indirectly; that the soul separated from the body forms its knowledge from things themselves, not merely from the ideas which it has acquired through life or which God infuses into it; that the soul is not united with the body for the purpose of acquiring knowledge through the senses but for the purpose of forming with it a new species, i.e. human nature; that the moral virtues are not necessarily inter se connexae, etc. Also many propositions concerning the doctrine of the angels: e.g. that the angels can be numerically distinct from one another, and therefore several angels can belong to the same species; that it is not merely through their activity or the application of their powers that angels can be in a given place; that they cannot go from place to place without having to traverse the intermediate space; that they do not acquire all natural knowledge from infused ideas only, but also through contemplation of things themselves; that their will must not necessarily will good or evil, according as it has once decided. Furthermore, that Adam in the state of innocence could sin venially; that mortal sin, as an offence against God, is not intrinsically and simpliciter, but only extrinsically infinite; that Christ would have become man, even if Adam had not sinned; that the human nature of Christ had its proper created existence; that in Christ there were two filiationes, or sonships, a human and a Divine; that the sacraments have only moral causality; that, formally and in the last analysis, heavenly happiness consists not in the visio Dei, but in the fruitio; that in hell venial sin is not punished with everlasting punishment; etc.
Scotism thus exercised also positively a wholesome influence on the development of philosophy and theology; its importance is not, as is often asserted, purely negative — that is, it does not consist only in the fact that it exercised a wholesome criticism on Saint Thomas and his school, and thus preserved science from stagnation. A comparison of the Scotist teaching with that of Saint Thomas has been often attempted — for example, in the abovementioned work of Hauzeur at the end of the first volume; by Sarnano, “Conciliatio omnium controversiarum etc.” (1589-). It may be admitted that in many cases the difference is rather in the terminology, or that a reconciliation is possible, if one emphasize certain parts of Scotus or Saint Thomas, and pass over or tone down others. However, in not a few points the contradiction still remains. Generally speaking, Scotism found its supporters within the Franciscan Order; certainly, opposition to the Dominicans, i.e. to Saint Thomas, made many members of the order disciples of Scotus. However, this does not mean that the foundation and development of Scotism is to be referred to the rivalry existing between the two orders. Even Aquinas found at first not a few opponents in his order, nor did all his fellow-Dominicans follow him in every particular (e.g. Durandus of Saint Pourçain, d. 1332). The Scotist doctrines were also supported by many Minorites, of whose purity of purpose there can be no doubt, and of whom many have been included in the catalogue of saints and beati (e.g. Saints Bernardine, John Capistran, Jacob of the March, Angelus of Chiavasso, etc.). 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. On the other hand, not all the Minorites were Scotists. Many attached themselves to Saint Bonaventure, or favoured an eclecticism from Scotus, Saint Thomas, Saint Bonaventure, etc. The Conventuals seem to have adhered most faithfully to Scotus, particularly at the University of Padua, where many highly esteemed teachers lectured. Scotism found least support among the Capuchins, who preferred Saint Bonaventure. Besides Scotus, the order had other highly-prized teachers, such as Alexander of Hales, Richard of Middleton, and especially Saint Bonaventure (proclaimed Doctor ecclesia by Sixtus V in 1587), the ascetico-mystical trend of whose theology was more suited to wide circles in the order than the critical, dispassionate, and often abstruse teaching of the Subtle Doctor. In Spain the martyred tertiary, Blessed Raymund Lullus (d. 1315), also had many friends. It may be said that the whole order as such never had a uniform and special school of Scotists; the teachers, preachers, etc. were never compelled to espouse Scotism. His disciples did indeed call Scotus “Doctor noster”, “Doctor (vel Magister) Ordinis”, but even among these many partly followed their own course (e.g. Petrus Aureolus), while Walter Burleigh (Burlaeus, d. about 1340) and still more so Occam were opponents of Scotus.
It is only at the end of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century that a special Scotist School can be spoken of. The works of the master were then collected, brought out in many editions, commentated, etc. Since 1501 we also find numerous regulations of general chapters recommending or directly prescribing Scotism as the teaching of the order, although Saint Bonaventure’s writings were also to a great extent admitted (ef. Marian Fernández Garcia, “Lexicon scholasticum etc.”, Quaracchi, 1910; “B. Joan. Duns Scoti: De rerum principio etc.”, Quaracchi, 1910, preface article 3, nn. 46 sqq., where many regulations of 1501-1907 are given). 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 nineteenth 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 Saint Thomas by several popes could not be favourable to Scotism. It has even been asserted that it is now merely tolerated; 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 Saint Thomas, but also Scholasticism in general, and this includes also the Scotist School. In 1897 Leo XIII approved the “Constitutiones Generales Fratrum Minorum”, of which article 245 prescribes for the members of the order: “In doctrinis philosophicis et theologicis antiqae scholae Franciscanae inhaerere studeant, quin tamen ceteros scholasticos negligant” (In philosophical and theological doctrine they shall take care to follow the ancient Franciscan School, without, however, neglecting the other Schoolmen.) On 11 April, 1904, in a letter to the Minister General, Father Dionysius Schuler, Pius X expressed his pleasure at the revival of studies in the order in connexion with the Franciscan schools of the Middle Ages, and on 19 June, 1908, in a letter to the abovementioned Father Marian, praised his book, “Mentis in Deum quotidiana elevatio duce B. Joanne Duns Scoto etc.” (Quaracehi, 1907. See Marian, op. cit., n. 66.)
Most Scotists are both philosophers and theologians.
Pupils of Scotus: Francis Mayron (died 1327), a very fruitful writer, who introduced the actus sorbonicus into the University of Paris, i.e. the uninterrupted disputation lasting the whole day. Petrus Aureolus (d. about 1322), Archbishop of Aix. William de Rubione (about 1333). Jerome de Atharia, Order of the Blessed Trinity (about 1323). Antonius Andreae (d. about 1320) from Aragon, a true disciple of Scotus, who is said to have written several treatises attributed to the master. John de Bassolis (d. about 1347). Alvarus Pelagius (d. about 1350). Bishop Petrus de Aquila (d. 1371), called Scotellus from his faithful adherence to Scotus, of whose teaching he issued a compendium (new ed., Levanti, 1907-). Landulf Caraccioli (d. 1351), Archbishop of Amalfi. Nicolaus Bonet (Bovet), who went to Peking and died as Bishop of Malta in 1360; John Bacon, Carmelite (d. 1346).
William Butler (died 1410). Petrus de Candia (died 1410 as Pope Alexander V). Nicolaus de Orbellis (died c.1465), who wrote a commentary on the Sentences (many editions) William Vorilong (Vorlion etc., d. 1464), a celebrated theologian, who wrote a frequently quoted “Comm. super Sentent.”, but who also followed Saint Bonaventure. Angelus Serpetri, General of the Order (d. 1454). William Gorris (about 1480), not a Franciscan, who composed the “Scotus pauperum”. Blessed Angelus of Chivasso (d. 1495), whose “Summa” (called Angelica) is extant in about thirty editions and contains a great deal of Scotist doctrine; it was publicly burned by Luther with the “Corpus juris canonici” in 1520. Antonius Sirretus (Sirectus, d. about 1490), famous for his “Formalitates”, to which several later Scotists wrote commentaries. Tartaretus (about 1495), rector of the University of Paris, and not a Franciscan; Elector Frederick III of Saxony had his philosophical commentaries introduced into the University of Wittenberg at his expense. Thomas Pencket, Augustinian (d. 1487), knew Scotus almost by heart, and edited his works. Francis Sampson, General of the Order (d. 1491), was called by Pope Sixtus IV, before whom he held a disputation, the most learned of all. Francis de Rovere (d. 1484 as Sixtus IV), who defended in a disputation before Pius II and also in his writings the doctrine that the blood shed by Christ on the Cross was released from the hypostatic union. Stephen Brulefer (d. about 1499), renowned professor in Paris and later a Franciscan, who wrote “Comm. in Bonavent. et Scotum” (often edited).
This period is very rich in names. The following may be mentioned: Paul Scriptoris (died 1505), professor at the University of Tübingen, who had as students all the other professors and many other members of religious orders. Nicholas de Nüsse (d. 1509). Mauritius a Portu (d. 1513 as Archbishop of Tuam, Ireland), who wrote a commentary on many works of Scotus. Francis Lichetus, General of the Order (d. 1520). Anthony Trombetta, Archbishop of Athens (d. 1518), who wrote and edited able Scotist works. Philip Varagius (about 1510). Johannes de Monte (about 1510). Gometius of Lisbon (d. 1513), re-edited the often issued fourteenth-century “Summa Astesana”. Frizzoli (d. 1520). James Almainus (about 1520), Parisian magister and not a Franciscan, favoured Gallicanism. Antonius de Fantes, physician, composed in 1530 a Scotus lexicon. Jerome Cadius (d. 1529). Le Bret (about 1527), wrote “Parvus Scotus”. Paduanus Barletta (about 1545). James Bargius (about 1560). Johannes Dovetus, who wrote in 1579 “Monotesseron formalitatum Scoti, Sieretti, Trombettae et Bruliferi”. Joseph Angles, bishop and celebrated moralist (d. 1587), wrote the often edited “Flores theol.”. Damian Giner issued the “Opus Oxoniense Scoti” in a more convenient form (1598). Cardinal Sarnanus (d. 1595), a highly distinguished scholar, wrote a commentary on some philosophical works of Scotus, and edited the works of many Scotists. Salvator Bartolucci (about 1586), also a zealous editor. Felix Perettus (d. 1590 as Sixtus V).
Of very many names we may mention: Gothutius (about 1605). Guido Bartholucci (about 1610). Petrus Bonaventura (about 1607). Ruitz (about 1613) Smissing (d. 1626). Philip Faber (d. 1630). Albergonius, bishop (d. 1636). Centini, bishop (d. 1640). Matthaus de Sousa (about 1629). Merinero, bishop (about 1663). Francis Felix (about 1642). Vulpes (died 1647) wrote “Summa” and “Commen. theologiae Scoti” in twelve folio volumes. Blondus, bishop (died 1644) — Gavatius, archbishop (died 1658). Wadding (died 1657), a well-known annalist, edited with other Irishmen in the College of S. Isidore at Rome the complete works of Scotus (12 volumes, Lyons, 1639), with the commentaries of Pitigianus of Arezzo (d. 1616), Poncius (d. 1660), Mauritius a Portu (Mac Caughwell), Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland (d. 1626), and Anthony Illckey (d. 1641); reprinted Paris, 1891-95. Bricemo, named on account of his keenness of intellect the Second Scotus, Bishop of Venezuela (d. 1667). Belluti (d. 1676), edited with Mastrius a highly prized “Philosophia ad mentem Scoti” (many editions). Mastrius himself (d. 1673) wrote a celebrated “Disputationes theol.” (many editions) and “Theologia ad mentem Scoti” (1671, etc.). Ferchius (d. 1666) wrote “Vita et apologia Scoti, etc.” Bruodinus (died 1664). Herinckx (died 1678), Bishop of Ypres. Stümel (d. 1681 at Fulda). Boivin, highly esteemed philosopher and theologian (several editions of works, 1678, etc.) Sannig (about 1690). Lambrecht (about 1696), named the Viennese Scotus. Bishop Gennari (d. 1684). Cardinal Brar ‘catius (died 1693), held in high favour by several popes. Hernandez (d. 1695).-Macedo (d. 1681), a Portuguese, professor at Padua is said to have composed over one hundred writings and was renowned for his public disputations.
Frassen (died 1711) was for thirty years a celebrated professor at the Sorbonne and wrote “Scotus academicus seu universa theo Scoti” (many editions, 1672, etc.; last ed., Rome 1900-), a very profound and lucid work. Du randus (d. 1720) wrote the great “Clypeus scotisticus (many editions). Dupasquier, “Summa phil.” an “Summa theol.” (about 1720; many editions). Hieronymus a Montefortino “Duns Scoti Summ. theol. ex universis opp. eius . . . juxta ordiner Summæ Angelici Doctoris” (6 vols., 1728-34; new ed., Rome, 1900-03), a very able work. Panger (died 1732 at Augsburg), Scotist moralist. Kikh (died 1769 at Munich), Scotist dogmatic theologian. Pérez López (died 1724). Krisper (died 1749). Hermann, Abbot of Saint Trudbert, “Theologia sec. Scoti principia” (1720). Melgaco (1747). Bishop Sarmentero (died 1775).
Nineteenth and twentieth centuries
In the nineteenth century, although Scotism was retained in the schools of the Franciscan Order in accordance with the statutes, we meet but few tractates secundum mentem Scoti, in any case no celebrated ones. The twentieth century appears to promise better. Father Fernández, a Spaniards, is a zealous Scotist. Beside the abovementioned writings, he has written a large “Scotus Lexicon”, and is at present (1911) issuing new edition of Scotus’s “Comment. in Sentent.’ Another zealous worker is Father Deodat-Marie de Basley; his fortnightly journal, “La bonne parole” (now entitled “Revue Duns Scot.”), contains much Scotistica. He is also engaged on the “Capitali opera B. Joan. Duns Scoti” (Le Havre, 1908) of which the “Praeparatio philosophica” and “Synthesis theologica credendorum” have already appeared. Father Parthenius Minges has explained and defended much of the Scotist doctrine in his “Compend. theolog. dogmat. specialis et generalis” (Munich, 1901-02), and in a number of other works.
- Parthenius Minges. “Scotism and Scotists”. . Saints.SQPN.com. 26 September 2013. Web. 2 October 2014. <>