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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 4, 1999

Philosophies of Religion, Art, and Creativity

William E. Mann
Pages 59-68

Believing Where We Cannot Prove
Duns Scotus On The Necessity Of Supernatural Belief

In the Prologue to his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, John Duns Scotus considered five arguments for the claim that humans, equipped only with their native intellectual capacities, would be incapable of discovering the truths most important for their salvation. Scotus endorsed three of the arguments, regarding them as ‘more probable’ than the other two. I shall not attempt detailed analyses of the arguments. Rather, my purpose is to embed the arguments in a more general picture of the epistemology of religious belief. In the course of doing that, I shall suggest that Scotus should have taken one of the two less probable arguments more seriously. I shall argue, finally, that Scotus’s position on belief formation is rationally defensible.

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