This series of Gifford Lectures, from noted expert on the history of Scottish philosophy Alexander Broadie, is a short but hugely accessible introduction to the theological and philosophical history of pre-Reformation Scotland. What is particularly impressive, given the brevity of the volume, is the overall focus on the philosophical nature of the work produced by early Scottish writers. Here, Broadie emphasizes the ways in which faith and reason are entirely complimentary and that, in fact, it was only through faith that philosophical reasoning could occur. This is a welcome response to the often overly simplistic notion of the basic incompatibility of faith with serious philosophical reflection and this short volume does much to establish the essential relationship between faith and reason. The range of detail of scholarship allows for attention to be brought to the work of key thinkers such as Anselm, but also more marginal and neglected figures, such as John Mair, a vital figure in the development of philosophical theology in Scotland and one of the most import principals of St Salvator’s College in St Andrews.
A hugely experienced historian, Broadie is extremely skilful in detailing the intellectual relationships and connections between different scholars, particularly around the realist vs. nominalist debate, which is of prime importance in this intellectual genealogy that Broadie constructs. Central to this series of six lectures is, of course, the great master of Scottish philosophical theology, the subtle doctor, John Duns Scotus. The lectures which deal with Scotus serve as both an excellent introduction to Scotus’s work, particularly his intellectual relationship with Aquinas and the ways in which his philosophical theology depends upon a complex form of logic and a sophisticated understanding of the delicate interplay between mind and violation. Lecture Two is an exploration of Scotus’s on intellect and will which are posited as both formally distinct from one another and from the soul but possessed of a single real identity. Lecture three covers Scotus on will and love – specifically love for God, which is inextricably bound up in Scotus’s notion of freedom of the will more generally. Whilst readers who are not as fluent in the intricacies of philosophical theology may find the nuances of Scotus a little opaque and difficult to follow, Broadie makes a distinct effort to connect the work of Scotus to wider intellectual issues, particularly the overarching concern of faith being the ground of philosophy — a kind of assent which involves both intellect and will. If there is a criticism to be made of this series, it is that the historical context is a rather scant. Whilst the lectures admirably lay out the intellectual landscape of the day, there is little by way of context here that might inform the reader of why particular issues were philosophically important. Given the extent to which ecclesiastical and university politics were bound up in issues of theology, doctrine and teaching, it seems to be an absence in the lectures that there is little by way of historical context to match the careful explorations of theological logic and philosophy. However, regardless of this lack of historicity, (an issue which is almost certainly beyond the remit of the original lectures) this is an invaluable guide to an under-studied and under-appreciated realm of theological history and philosophy.