Philosophy of Knowledge by Ioannes Duns ScotusJune 27, 2021
Duns Scotus also accepts the Aristotelian understanding of knowledge, accepted by all medieval philosophers, in general. According to this general understanding, all our knowledge stems from the senses. The material elements in the images we obtain through our senses are abstracted by the active mind (intellectus agens).
Intelligible objects (res intelligibilis) that emerge through abstraction are located in the passive mind (intellectus possibilis). All of these intelligible objects have the ability to represent known objects. Another feature Duns Scotus acknowledged is that the human mind is born empty (tabula nuda or tabula rasa). However, he focuses more heavily on the intuitive and abstracting aspect of the mind (Aspell, 1999: 255; Dumont, 2006: 361-362).
According to Duns Scotus, all individual existences in the physical world are directly perceived by the senses and then grasped by the mind. This is the knowledge of a lower form of activity from above, shaped from Boethius; but it is based on the idea that the opposite is not the case. Parallel to this, mental intuition is a necessary mode for all actual individual existences. What Duns Scotus refers to here as individual existences are true contingent propositions, induction, and intuition. The necessity of intuition in individual existences, according to Duns Scotus, is that abstraction presupposes intuition. According to him, “it is never possible to abstract the universals from the individual without knowing from where they can be abstracted from.” (Aspell, 1999: 255, Duns Scotus, In De Anima, XXII, 3).
According to Duns Scotus, man’s highest powers are his mind and will. In fact, according to him, although there is a formally determined distinction between the powers of the soul, these powers are essentially identical. As mentioned above, Duns Scotus accepts that there are two parts of the mind as active and passive. However, the functions of these parts in obtaining information are completely unique to Duns Scotus. The active mind need not engage in an abstraction by concentrating on sense images, as in Thomas Aquinas. The mind directs towards the audible object and reveals universal concepts from the intelligibility of that object (Maurer, 1982: 237).
According to Duns Scotus, who claims that we obtain our knowledge of what is going on in the pointable world through abstraction, intuitive knowledge is the knowledge of things in the world of actual existences, which we call reality. For example, knowledge of a table, a pencil on a table, a tree in a garden is intuitive knowledge. Abstracting knowledge, on the other hand, may be related to something that does not exist in the actual world of existences called reality (Maurer, 1982: 237). Basically both types of information are about something individual. However, abstract information may also emerge about a structure common to all individuals. The only difference between them is that intuitive knowledge is about something that exists; abstraction is the abstraction of knowledge from existence (Maurer, 1982: 238; Aspell, 1999: 255).
According to Duns Scotus, this situation that arises in the mind is also valid in sensory knowledge. According to him, vision is intuitive; this is because seeing can reach its object here and now (hic et nunc). However, imagination (imaginatio) is abstract in nature. What is to be understood from this is that the object of imagination need not be here and now. something that is not currently in front of our eyes; even something that has never existed since the world began can be animated by the imagination. Indeed, one of the most important debates of the fourteenth century, in which Duns Scotus lived, arises around what has been told so far (Maurer, 1982: 238).
This important question that Duns Scotus is also interested in is this: Is intuitive knowledge possible when its object does not exist? According to Duns Scotus, those who answer affirmatively to this question somehow support skepticism. Because the impossibility of knowing with certainty whether the objects we perceive actually exist or not brings along a serious questioning regarding the knowledge of those objects. A thinker named Henricus de Gandavo, known as Henry of Ghent in the history of medieval philosophy, argued that the certainty of the mind is always changing because it has to do with immutable truths (truths), and therefore, certainty can never be obtained from the audible things that are the object of the senses. Therefore, according to Gandavo, a constant, therefore divine enlightenment (illuminatio) is required for the emergence of such an unchanging, stable state. According to this understanding, which has been on the agenda of some philosophers since Plato, if there is no such divine resemblance, the truth in things cannot be obtained with certainty.
This dream of Duns Scotus Ganvado