Duns Scotus, John
In metaphysics, Duns taught the
univocity of being; by this he meant that being must be regarded as the ultimate abstraction that can be applied to everything that exists. He is also known for the use of the
formal distinction, a subtle manner of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing. The Scotists deny that matter is the principle of individuality and insist that individuation of things is caused by a determination called
thisness. According to Scotus, the essence of things as well as their existence depends not on the Divine Intellect but on the Divine Will; his philosophy accordingly is voluntaristic in its entire spirit. It is possible to prove the existence of God, but the ontological proof of St. Anselm is modified: the idea of God's possible existence involves his necessary existence, but knowledge of that possible existence must be demonstrated from sensible things, i.e., from experience. Scotus taught that the state arose from common consent of the people in a kind of social contract. He also denied that property was ordained by natural law.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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