Tradition of Scotist Scholars

What kind of works in Philosophy did Scotus leave us? […] What is the current status of his works? The Opera omnia was first edited by my countryman of origin, Luke Wadding, who in the terrible seventeenth century departed Ireland and labored in Italy to edit Scotus and other Franciscan writers. Another Irishman, Maurice O’Fehily, living in Padua, Italy, had edited Scotus’s Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle in 1497, and published the work in Venice. But then, these and some Englishmen were continuing a tradition of scholars who, like Scotus, had gone to Paris in the early fourteenth century, scholars who with John Duns Scotus refused to obey Philip the Fair and with Scotus, had to leave Paris and go back to Oxford in the early fourteenth century namely Ricardus Hibernensis, Odo Hibernensis and Thomas Anglicus.

From Duns Scotus: A Brief Introduction to his Life and Thought by Jeremiah Hackett in “Studies in Scottish Literature” (1991).

The departure of Scotus from Paris referred to above took place in 1303. Philip the Fair was trying to have Boniface VIII deposed as an illegal pope. On the 25th June 1303 royal commissioners examined the Franciscan friars in Paris individually: 84 (mostly French) backed the king, 87 (mostly foreign) backed the Pope. The price for dissenting from the king was to leave within three days. Scotus later returned to Paris in 1304 only to be suddenly dispatched to Cologne by the Franciscan Minister General in 1307, possibly for his theological views.

This short extract highlights the importance of Irishmen who worked on the philosophy of Duns Scotus, primarily Wadding, whose edition is still the best source for certain of Duns Scotus’ works, as well as for 16th and 17th century commentary. His work was assisted by Irish Scotists John Punch and Anthony Hickey, and drew on others such as Hugh MacCaghwell and (the earlier) Maurice O’Fehily (Mauritius de Portu/Mauritius de Hibernia, d 1513).

They were not alone. As Hackett points out there was a tradition of Irish scholars (like Scotus’ colleagues Ricardus Hibernensis and Odo Hibernensis) studying and working on the continent. Earlier examples include Peter of Ireland and Eriugena. The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries saw increasing numbers including John Callaghan, Florence Conroy, Peter Lombard, Geoffrey Keating, Michael Moore and Luke Joseph Hooke.

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