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Title: John Duns Scotus in Two Minds about the Powers of the Soul
Author(s): VAN DEN BERCKEN, John H.L.
Journal: Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales
Volume: 82 Issue: 2 Date: 2015
Over the centuries Scotus has been presented as holding that the powers of the soul are really the same but formally distinct. Yet, when expressly dealing with the issue, Scotus gives two accounts: the first asserts absolute identity between the soul and its powers and among the powers themselves; the second argues that the soul and its powers are really identical but formally distinct. So we may ask: why did Scotus offer two accounts, how are they related, and why did the second become dominant in historical surveys? In this paper I address these questions by considering the two accounts in the context of the views of Scotus’s immediate predecessors and of scattered remarks found in Scotus’s own writings. I argue, first, that Scotus throughout his career always endorsed the real identity of the powers of the soul as expressed in his first account, and, secondly, that the second account does not overrule the first but merely adds a qualification to the latter by way of concession to the authorities and the views of his Franciscan predecessors. The reason why Scotus became identified exclusively with his second account may well be the way this position was elaborated and presented by his associate William of Alnwick.