John Duns Scotus was a Franciscan monk who taught philosophy and theology at Oxford, Cambridge and Paris, in the thirteenth century. The times were dominated by the medieval Church, an institution that would be undermined by its own success. Its leading academic division was made up of Scholastics, led by men like Scotus. His followers, dubbed Scotists, and their intense intellectual rigor defined the Age of Faith, relying on classical logic in their mission to enshrine spiritual belief as fact.

Time marched on however, and their methods were challenged by the logical empiricism of Renaissance inquiry—the early scientific method. Not to be outdone, the Scotists refused to concede that times were changing and campaigned vigorously against the new insistence on observation and experiment. After all, they had dominated religion, and thereby society, by harnessing the techniques of logic to those of religious belief. When their rational tools were recycled for use in investigating the physical world, the Scotists failed to adapt, and the authority of Scholasticism faded.

These former masters of disputation acquired, for their stubbornness, the label `Dunce' in dubious honor of their mentor. The word initially suggested not stupidity, but obsessive adherence to a particular idea. In similar vein the term `idiot,' of ancient Greek origin, was applied not to the stupid, but to those who had just one idea. Duns Scotus and his disciples were doomed by mental habits, and their demise is relevant to our current environmental predicament.


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"The Progress Trap - and how to avoid it" Copyright Daniel O'Leary, registered at
the Copyright Office, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada on April 5, 1991 (ref 405917)