Apologetics, Blessed John Duns Scotus, Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Philosophy, Psychology, Phenomenology, & Cognitive Science, The Franciscans, Theology

Scotus, the Primacy of Christ, & Cognitive Theory

blessed-john-duns-scotus-turning-from-the-summaTo properly understand the theological and philosophical project of Bl. John Duns Scotus, two things must be in constant consideration. First, is Scotus’s formation within and his commitment to the Franciscan religious order founded by St. Francis of Assisi. Second, is his commitment to the Absolute Primacy of Christ.

The Absolute Primacy of Christ is the most notable principle of Scotus’s thought because it guides the development of every topic he investigates. This view of the Incarnate Christ, that is his primacy in the order of creation, states that the Incarnation is intended by God to take place in history whether men had sinned or not. What this entails is that God had intended for man to be united to him through Christ no matter what took place in the Garden of Eden. Our predestined nature is in Christ, not original sin. So understood, creation is for Christ, not Christ for creation. There are many important derivations that naturally follow from this view of the Incarnation, most notably is the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth. For now, I would like to very briefly focus on how the primacy of Christ influences Scotus’s cognitive theory.

The development of Scotus’s cognitive theory begins and ends with the primacy of the Incarnate Christ. There are two primary aspects of Scotus’s cognitive theory – abstraction and intuition. These two components are unified in a single reality of the human person. According to Scotus, Christ also participates in this cognitive reality, but He does so more perfectly because he is without sin. Human persons made in the Imago Dei, or as Franciscans emphasize the Imago Christi, will share in the perfection of this cognitive reality at the beatific vision. This possibility is not a gift added to our existence when we pass into the next life, but a gift given to us in our very nature as beings created by God for communion with Him. However, the gift has been dulled because of the reality of sin and its darkening effect on our being.

This is a fascinating theory of cognition. It completely challenges the naturalistic/physicalist theories of cognition so prevalent today in our scientistic culture. It truly attempts to explain what it means to have “the mind of Christ.”


– Lucas G. Westman


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