American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly


published on August 23, 2022

Brett W. Smith

Scotus and Grosseteste on Phantasms and Illumination

This article examines the reception of Robert Grosseteste by John Duns Scotus on two related questions in epistemology. The first concerns the need of phantasms for cognition, and the second concerns divine illumination. The study first examines Scotus’s Questions on the De Anima with comparison to Grosseteste’s Commentary on the Posterior Analytics, a text Scotus cites specifically. It is argued that Grosseteste is the main influence behind Scotus’s opinion that the need for phantasms is not proper to human nature as such. The second part shows how Scotus disagrees with Grosseteste on a related question. Grosseteste retains a version of divine illumination with a qualified need for phantasms, whereas Scotus maintains the strict necessity of phantasms in this life and rejects illumination. The two parts of this study taken together indicate that Scotus saw Grosseteste as an authority but also felt free to ignore him where the two disagreed.