Scotus’s Metaphysics

Course Information:

PHIL 93234 

  • Professors Cross and Shields
  • Seminar Meetings: T 9.30-12.15, O’Shaughnessy Hall 345


This class will examine central topics in Duns Scotus’s metaphysics by means of close reading of texts (in English translation) from his questions on Aristotle’s Metaphysics.  As a general plan, from which we will doubtless deviate, we will begin each seminar with an exposition of a target text in Aristotle’s Metaphysics and then turn to an exposition of Duns Scotus’s treatment of it.  In some cases, however, we will need to bring in additional relevant material, from both philosophers.  Accordingly, along the way we will look to complementary texts in the broader corpus of each. 

The seminar divides into two section: (i) the scope and character of metaphysics as the study of being qua being; and (ii) special topics in metaphysical inquiry.  Although distinct in general orientation, in practice we will find this a rather porous division.

Knowledge of Greek and Latin is neither required nor presupposed.  Advanced students of these languages may, however, feel at liberty to raise textual issues where they may seem pertinent. 

Office Hours and Contact Information

Professor Cross

  • Office: Malloy Hall 427
  • Office hours: TR 3.30-5.00
  • e-mail: 

Professor Shields

  • Office: Malloy Hall 327
  • Office hours: W 8.30-10.30 and by appointment
  • e-mail: 
    • N.b. I prefer e-mail to telephone as a manner of student contact.  I make an effort to answer student e-mails promptly, but please be aware that I measure promptness in this domain in days rather than hours or minutes. 

Required Texts:

  • Duns Scotus, Questions on the Metaphysics of Aristotle vols. 1 and 2, trans. G. Etzkorn and A. Wolter (Franciscan Institute: 1998) 
    • N.b.: this text is currently available at an attractively discounted price when purchased directly from the Franciscan Institute
  • Duns Scotus, Philosophical Writings, trans. A. Wolter (Hacket: 1987)
  • Aristotle, Metaphysics 
    • Various translations of varying degrees of accuracy are available.  One serviceable recent translation: Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. with introduction and notes by C. D. C. Reeve (Hackett: 2016)
    • It might also behove you to acquire a copy of The Complete Works of Aristotle: the Revised Oxford Translation vols. 1 and 2, ed. J. Barnes (Princeton University Press: 1984) 
      • This work is also available in a searchable electronic form from a number of e-book sellers. 

Recommended Texts:

  • Aristotle: Selections, trans. G. Fine and T. Irwin (Hackett: 1995)
    • This work is also available in a searchable electronic form from various e-book sellers. Note too that this text has an outstanding glossary which will orient Aristotle’s newer readers to his technical terminology.  

Requirements and Protocol:

Students will write two papers, the first at mid-term, of about 2,500 words, and the second, at the term’s end, in the neighbourhood of 4,000-5,000 words.  We will offer suggested topics for each of these papers.  You are, however, welcome to ignore these suggestions and write on a pertinent topic of your own choosing, but only if that topic is approved by me at least one week in advance of the due date. 

Students will also offer a seminar presentation, presumably but not necessarily in conjunction with the topic of one of their essays.  

The due dates are:   

  • Essay One: 28 September
  • Essay Two: 10 December 

These papers are to be submitted electronically, preferably in Word, or, if you use something non-standard, as .pdf documents, addressed to both and  Papers will be accepted until 17.00 on their due dates.

Reading Schedule 

Please adhere to this reading schedule. We will offer additional assignments and recommendations from the secondary literature as the term progresses.  

Part One: The Science of Being qua Being

  • Week One: Metaphysics as a Science of Causes
    • Aristotle, Met. A 1-6, 9
    • Scotus, QMA I, q. 1-2, 9 
  • Week Two: Being qua Being
    • Aristotle, Met. Γ 1-5
    • Scotus, QMA  IV, q. 1; Ordinatio I, d. 3, p. 1, qq. 1-2 (Hackett, section II, esp. pp. 19-25)
  • Week Three: Hylomorphism
    • Aristotle, Phys. I 5-8; Met. Z 3, 17; H 1-6; DA ii 1-2
    • Scotus, QMA VII, qq. 5-6; VII, q. 12
  • Week Four: Potency and Act
    • Aristotle, Met. Θ 1-5, Z 8
    • Scotus, QMA IX qq. 1-2
  • Week Five: Potency and Act
    • Aristotle, Met. Θ 6-9
    • Scotus, QMA IX qq. 3-5

Part Two: Special Topics in Metaphysics

  • Week Six: Individuation
    • Aristotle, Cat.; Met. Z 4-6
    • Scotus, QMA VII, q. 13, nn. 1-83
  • Week Seven: Individuation
    • Aristotle, Met. Z 14-17; Γ2; Top. i 7
    • Scotus, QMA VII, q. 13, nn. 85-181
  • Week Eight: Unity per se
    • Aristotle, Met. Δ 6, Z 10-11
    • Scotus, QMA VII, q. 16; VII, q. 20; VIII, q. 4

  • Week Nine: Autumn Break

  • Week Ten: Singular Cognition
    • Aristotle, Met. A 1, B 6, M 10;  APo. i 2, 4, 8
    • Scotus, QMA VII, qq. 14-15
  • Week Eleven: Self-motion 
    • Aristotle, Phys. viii 2-6; EN iii 5
    • Scotus QMA IX, q. 14, nn. 1-74
  • Week Twelve Self-motion: 
    • Aristotle, Met. Θ 1; Gen. et Corr. i 7; DA ii 5
    • Scotus QMA IX, q. 14, nn. 75-125
  • Week Thirteen:. Free Will
    • Aristotle, Met. Θ 2, 5
    • Scotus, QMA IX, q. 15
  • Week Fourteen: Infinity 
    • Aristotle, Phys. viii 1-6
    • Scotus, QMA II, qq. 4-6, 1-101
  • Week Fifteen:  Infinity
    • Aristotle, Aristotle, Phys. viii 7-10
    • Scotus, QMA II, qq. 4-6, nn. 102-162
  • Week Sixteen: Ad placitum

Lecture Notes and Handouts

.© Christopher Shields 2014