ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

158. Influence of the Philosophy of Scotus. -- Scotus influenced in a considerable measure the development of medieval philosophy: of scholasticism, as in Abelard, Isaac de Stella, Garnerius of Rochefort, etc.; and more especially of systems opposed to scholasticism. The main anti-scholastic tendencies for which the philosophy of Scotus is responsible are the following: --

(1) Medieval Rationalism. -- Reason, deified, is made the sovereign source of knowledge, excelling and surpassing authority and revelation. The rationalism of Scotus has in it an appreciable tinge of theosophy.

(2) Theosophy. -- Theosophy is a form of rationalism peculiar to the Middle Ages. In opposition to modern rationalism, which tries in the name of reason to brush aside as unreal the data of Christian Revelation, medieval theosophy endeavoured, also in the name of reason, to prove to demonstration, as evidently true and real, these same revealed data in their full scope and meaning. Even mysteries were claimed to be so accessible to human intelligence that it could establish them by demonstrative arguments. Adopting the extreme deductive method, in imitation of Plato, Eriugena followed out this naturalistic interpretation of Christian dogma into all its smallest details.

This theosophical rationalism of Scotus is calculated to mislead; for the Palatine philosopher, so far from opposing or defying Christian dogma, proclaimed and protested that he was ever and always loyal to the Catholic faith.{1} He was constantly quoting Scripture and the Fathers. But in common with the Gnostics he attached to those writings a symbolic sense, which was to be determined in the last resort by reason itself

(3) Heterodox Mysticism: that, namely, which assigns substantial union of the soul with God as the goal of the mystic life (cf. Ch. III., art. i., § 5). For Scotus is unmistakeably a champion of pantheism.

(4) Pantheism. -- This of course denies the real distinction which scholasticism affirms between God and creatures; denying at the same time the separate individuality of each of the latter. So far as we know, Eriugena is the only avowed representative of pantheism prior to the twelfth century. His contemporaries appear to have consulted him merely for his opinion about the questions proposed by Porphyry. And we know his reply: being a pantheist, he was, of course, a fortiori, the standardbearer of extreme realism. Subsequently, those who espoused pantheism were inspired by the Neo-Platonism of Eriugena, some of them more and some less; and his influence is likewise traceable in all the various popular excesses and distortions of mysticism.{2} The Church condemned the De Divisione Naturae, but could not banish it from circulation. Even in the thirteenth century it was so extensively studied as to call for solemn censure from Pope Honorius III. (1225).

{1} It is owing to such declarations as those, in the mouth of Scotus, that he is classified as a scholastic by historians who regard the agreement of philosophy with Catholic theology as the supreme test of scholasticism. Yet what a veritable abyss there is between the philosophy of Scotus and that of St. Anseim, for example, or of St. Thomas!

{2} We might add that the philosophy of Scotus contains the germ of subjectivism, since he endows the human mind with the power of attaining, by the unaided effort of consciousness alone (gnosticus intuitus, 157) to a knowledge of the Divine evolution-process as an object of representation. Scotus did not, however, go so far; and no one in the Middle Ages pushed the logic of his system to these consequences.

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