Monday, June 14, 2010


Do you know who Duns Scotus is?  He was one of the more important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages. He was nicknamed Doctor Subtilis for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought.  Scotus has had considerable influence on Catholic theology.  Scotus also developed a complex argument for the existence of God, and argued scripturally for the Immaculate conception of Mary.  (Wikipedia)  

Knowing what an eminent scholar and celebrated theologian, he was, I was surprised that one legend attributes the "Dunce Cap" to him.  It seems that King Philip IV of France wanted to tax the church in order to finance his war in England, but Pope Boniface VIII threatened to excommunicate him instead. Duns Scotus supported the pope and was banished from France. Those who disagreed with Scotus' teachings started referring to his supporters by the word 'dunce', which meant 'stupid or dull witted'. Duns' books on theology, philosophy, and logic were university textbooks. His followers were later challenged by their opponents about what was perceived as a system of hair-splitting and distinctions; their obstinacy over an increasing array of challenges posed first by humanists and then by reformers led to the term "dunses" to denote fools in general.  

How ironic!  The followers of  Dun Scotus are dunces.

No comments:

The Question Behind the Question

The Question Behind the Question : On the afternoon of June 14, a rather spirited, fascinating, and unexpected debate broke out on the floor...