The Catholic University of America

Nov. 21, 2011

In Rome, Professor Represents University’s Stature in Medieval Studies

 
 

Associate Professor Tobias Hoffmann delivers a keynote address on Blessed John Duns Scotus, O.F.M., at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Tobias Hoffmann recently returned from giving a keynote address at Rome’s Pontifical University Antonianum that drew professors from Catholic universities across that city. He is the third Catholic University professor in three years to speak at the Antonianum on Blessed John Duns Scotus, O.F.M.

“Dr. Tobias Hoffmann is undoubtedly one of the most prominent medievalists of his generation,” says John McCarthy, dean of the School of Philosophy. “He is acquiring an international reputation for his scholarly publications on ‘the subtle doctor,’ but has also published highly regarded studies of Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great, and several lesser-known medieval thinkers.”

Scotus, a philosopher of the High Middle Ages, was born in 1265 in Duns, Scotland, and died in Cologne, Germany, on Nov. 8, 1308. Nicknamed “the subtle doctor,” his contributions to Catholic philosophical thought include his rational demonstrations for the existence of God, semantics of religious language, thoughts on the nature of human freedom, and his defense of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Although he came to be referred to as “blessed” shortly after his death, it wasn’t until 1993 that he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Hoffmann, who has written three books on Scotus, delivered his keynote, "Ripensando la libertà: il contributo di Duns Scoto” (Re-thinking freedom: the contribution of Duns Scotus) on the 703rd anniversary of Scotus’ death. The lecture offered a broad view of Scotus’ special contribution to a new understanding of the concept of freedom, in light of some contemporary ethical issues.

Hoffmann came to teach at Catholic University 10 years ago. He was offered a position in his native Germany, but, he notes, “some of the best contemporary scholars in medieval philosophy were either at CUA, or had been at CUA.” In this field, “Catholic University was the most impressive place in the world,” he says.

At Catholic University, Hoffmann has been able to work beside other faculty who are leaders in the study of medieval philosophy, most prominently Monsignor John Wippel, Therese-Anne Druart, Kevin White, Michael Gorman, and Timothy Noone. Gorman and Noone were invited to the Antonianum 2009 to present talks at a conference on Scotus.

The Antonianum is the home of the International Scotistic Commission, which since the 1920s has been in charge of the critical edition of the theological works Scotus produced at Oxford University. Noone completed the Opera Philosophica in 2006, a five-book set of the critical edition of Philosophical Works of John Duns Scotus. He is currently working on the Reportationes Parisienses, transcriptions of lectures by Scotus between 1302 and 1304.

The Scotus Project, of which Noone is the co-director along with Professor Kent Emery at the University of Notre Dame, just received a grant from the National Endowment from the Humanities. Since 1999, Noone has been able to do this research thanks to grants totally nearly $1 million.

“It is a testament to the philosophy school’s strength in medieval philosophy that we should have three members of the faculty be invited to the Antonianum,” says McCarthy. “Their scholarly labors, joined to the efforts of the other distinguished medievalists in the philosophy school — and in other faculties of the University for that matter — make CUA perhaps the leading center for the study of medieval thought in the world today.”

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