John Duns Scotus’ Lectura I 39: A Key Text

  • John Duns Scotus
Part of the The New Synthese Historical Library book series (SYNL, volume 42)


In 1981 two important studies were published, both of which focussed on distinctio I 39 in John Duns Scotus’ Lectura. Although S. Knuuttila and A. Vos had each written independently of the other, they each demonstrated the great importance of this work for theology, philosophy and the history of ideas1. The Lectura is a commentary on Peter Lom-bard’s Sententiae and was composed by John Duns (1266–1308) as a young theologian in Oxford. According to Knuuttila and Vos, Scotus, in distinction I 39 of this commentary, is the first scholar in the history of theology and philosophy to give an extensive development of logical-ontological theory of what Vos calls ‘synchronic contingency’. This theory not only plays a crucial part in Scotus’ theology but, in our view, it also deserves to be seen as indispensable, a cornerstone of all theology and philosophy. The text of Scotus’ Lectura I 39 is important, not only to the history of ideas but also to systematic thinking. The purpose of this book is to highlight that double relevance as much as possible. Since we have had to deal with a very complicated scholastic text, we have opted for having the text in Latin and an English translation on the left, and a parallel commentary on the right hand page.


Modal Theory Systematic Thinking Parallel Commentary Extensive Development Future Contingent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    S. Knuuttila, Time and modality in scholasticism’, in: S. Knuuttila (ed.), Reforging the great chain of being, Studies of the history of modal theories, Dordrecht/Boston/London 1981, 163–257; A. Vos, Kennis en noodzakelijkheid, Een kritische analyse van het absolute evidentialisme in wijsbegeerte en theologie, Kampen 1981 (abbrev.: KIV). Knuuttila gives an extended history of modal theory in the Middle Ages. Vos, in addition to his historical survey, also devotes a number of chapters to a systematic development of his own epistemology and metaphysics which he bases on Scotus’ theory of contingency. Further recent studies of modal theories in the Middle Ages: K. Jacobi, Die Modalbegriffe in den logischen Schriften des Wilhelm von Shyreswood und in anderen Kompendien des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts, Funktionsbestimmung und Gebrauch in der logischen Analyse, Leiden/Cologne 1980; S. Knuuttila, Aika ja modaliteetti aristotelisessa skolastiikassa, Missiologian ja ekumeniikan seura, Helsinki 1975; S. Knuuttila, The statistical interpretation of modality in Aver-roes and Thomas Aquinas’, Ajatus, 37 (1978), 79–98; S. Knuuttila, Duns Scotus’ criticism of the statistical’ interpretation of modality’, Sprache und Erkenntnis im Mittelalter, Akten des VI internationalen Kongresses für mittelalterliche Philosophie der Société internationale pour l’étude de la philosophie médiévale 29. August - 3. September 1977 in Bonn, Berlin/New York 1981, 1. Halbband, 441–450; S. Knuuttila, `Modal logic’, in: N. Kretzmann, A. Kenny, J. Pinborg (eds.), The Cambridge history of later medieval philosophy, Cambridge/New York/New Rochelle/Melbourne/Sydney 1982 (abbrev.: CHLMP), 342–357; L. Alanen, S. Knuuttila, `The foundations of modality and conceivability in Descartes and his predecessors’, in: S. Knuuttila (ed.), Modern modalities, Studies of the history of modal theories from medieval nominalism to logical positivism, Dordrecht/Boston/London 1988, 1–69; C. Normore, `Future contingents’, in: CHLMP, 358–381; E.L. Ormsby, Theodicy in Islamic thought, The dispute over Al-Ghazali’s `best of all possible worlds’, Princeton 1984; A. Vos, `On the philosophy of the young Duns Scotus, Some semantical and logical aspects’, in: E.P. Bos (ed.), Mediaeval semantics and metaphysics, Studies dedicated to L.M. de Rijk, Ph.D. on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Nijmegen 1985, 195–220. Various studies in: T. Rudaysky (ed.), Divine omniscience and omnipotence in medieval philosophy. Islamic, Jewish and Christian perspectives, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1985. For still more literature, see: A. de Libera, `Bulletin d’histoire de la logique médiévale’, Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, 69 (1985), (273–309), 281–291.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

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  • John Duns Scotus

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