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Order and Miracles: Investigations into Duns Scotus’s Metaphysics

February 4, 2019 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Image of an illuminated initial from a medieval manuscript representing the medieval thinker, John Duns Scotus, sitting at a lectern and lecturing to a group of friars squatting in front of him. A little angel is whispering in Duns Scotus's right ear.
Image: Città del Vaticano, ms. Vat. Lat. 878, f. 1ra. Image Credit: Vatican Library; view full manuscript here: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.lat.878

Monday Seminar:

Giorgio Pini

Solmsen Fellow (2018-2019)

Philosophy, Fordham University


In the few years he taught at Oxford and Paris universities, the medieval philosopher and theologian, John Duns Scotus (d. 1308), managed to produce an extremely influential corpus of writings. Some of his views soon became famous (or infamous) for both their originality and their difficulty. That difficulty still haunts his contemporary interpreters. In many respect, Duns Scotus can be seen as the typical scholastic thinker: his style is dry, his references to authors and debates now difficult to identify are many, his arguments are technical and at times convoluted, and most of the topics he discussed are closely (one might be tempted to say, too closely) linked to Christian doctrine. Still, it is my contention that some of the very aspects that makes Duns Scotus’s thought difficult also make it interesting and (I would add) relevant. I am currently working on a monograph on Duns Scotus’s metaphysics. My intention is not to write a systematic overview (which in my opinion would give us a distorted image of his thought). Rather, I am working on a series of parallel investigations on key topics, which are nevertheless connected by a common thread: the way Duns Scotus thought that some apparently “neutral” metaphysical concepts (i.e. substance and accident, essence, cause and effect, necessary and contingent) are actually influenced by one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. More specifically, my focus is on the relationship between metaphysics and the belief in a deity able to perform miracles and so upset the standard way things are.


Giorgio Pini (Ph.D. 1997, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy) is professor of philosophy at Fordham University in New York City, where he has been teaching since 2005. He held fellowships in Toronto (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies), Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium), and Oxford (All Souls College). He has published extensively on later medieval metaphysics and theory of cognition with a particular focus on the thought of the Franciscan theologian and philosopher, Joh Duns Scotus. His most recent book is the critical edition of a hitherto unknown treatise on metaphysics by Duns Scotus, which was published by Brepols in 2017 in the series Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis.


February 4, 2019
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States