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Scotus's Realist Conception of the Categories: His Legacy to Late Medieval Debates

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Scotus claims that the extramental world is divided into ten distinct kinds of essences, no one of which can be reduced to another one. Although by the end of the thirteenth century this claim was not new, Scotus's way of articulating it into a comprehensive metaphysical doctrine resulted into a ground-breaking contribution to what became known as 'late medieval realism'. This paper shows how Scotus's view of the categories as ten kinds of irreducible essences should be seen as a development and correction of his predecessors' (including Thomas Aquinas's and Henry of Ghent's) views. The main elements of Scotus's doctrine are his application of the real distinction to the categories, his view of inherence as a categorial item separated from accidents, and his distinction between absolute and non-absolute accidents. Finally, although Scotus's doctrine of the univocity of being seems to pose a challenge to his claim that categories are irreducible to each other and do not have anything in common, this paper shows how Scotus's doctrine of univocity and his realist conception of the categories can be reconciled as two theories that describe the world from different points of view.


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