John Duns Scotus was probably born in the small town of Duns, in the Borders region of Scotland. In 1279 he entered the Franciscan convent in nearby Dumfries, then the next year went to Oxford University. For eight years he studied the basic liberal arts courses, then arranged into the quadrivium of four subjects and the trivium of three. Having completed these courses, he became a student of theology in 1288. On March 17, 1291, he was ordained. In 1297, he received the baccalaureus, which enabled him to lecture, with the view to his becoming a doctor of philosophy and a university professor.
The main way to do this was to give a lecture course of a year’s length based on the Sententiarum libri IV (1148-1151; Four Books of Sentences, 2000) of the medieval theologian Peter Lombard, after spending a year preparing these lectures. This is when Duns Scotus wrote his Lectura. Basically they were lecture notes on the sentences, set out in the formal scholastic manner: proposition to be defended, questions on it, possible answers, possible objections, and refutation of objections. For some reason, he did not receive his doctorate immediately after having distinguished himself in these lectures. He attracted, it seems, some thousands of students, and was given the nickname of “Doctor Subtilis,” the subtle doctor. He also had the tag “Scotus” (the Scotsman) added to his name.
In 1301 Duns Scotus was sent to the University of Paris, which had been the center of fierce theological strife, to teach the course again, plus teach a philosophy course and enter into debate about the immaculate conception of the Virgin...
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