A Treatise on God as First Principle Critical Essays

John Duns Scotus

A Metaphysical Analysis

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Even a brief glimpse of A Treatise on God as First Principle reveals that it is not in any sense a devotional work, even though its subject is God. No practical or religious goals are specifically in view, and in place of “God,” Duns Scotus uses an abstract title, the First Principle. The work is a technical consideration of metaphysical structure and attributes, and it deals directly with the central speculative questions that surround the divine nature. Theory of knowledge and arguments for God’s existence are present, but they are secondary to this straightforward metaphysical analysis of the First Principle of all things.

Although A Treatise on God as First Principle has few religious overtones, Duns Scotus begins with the traditional prayer for divine assistance in his task. He then considers “being” as the primary name for God, which shifts the discussion on to a metaphysical plane from which it seldom returns. He then discusses the traditional “division of orders,” the various meanings for and divisions of “being.”