- , DUNSMEN, DUNSERSJohn Duns Scotus (1265-1308), born in Duns, Scotland, became a Franciscan friar, then flourished at Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Paris. He was respected as an original thinker, willing to address complex theological problems. An arch-conservative in theological matters, Duns Scotus vehemently objected to the changes brought about by the English Reformers of the 16th century, even suggesting that the last seven of the Ten Commandments be abolished because times had changed radically since Moses brought the Commandments clown from Mt. Sinai.He believed that only those of the Ten Commandments that concern our duties toward God belong to the natural law in the strict sense. He also became a champion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Roman Catholic Church welcomed his theological concepts, and Duns Scotus, who had been known as "Doctor Subtle" because of his skill in arguments on theology and philosophy, was now dubbed the "Marian Doctor."Duns Scotus's religious school of thought had many followers fulminating in every pulpit they could. But their hair-splitting theories on divinity were rejected when placed under the spotlight of calmer thought. Even after the master had died, "the old barking noise" could be heard everywhere, expounding the master's theological doctrines. But the intransigence against progress of these followers and the revival of Classical learning during the humanist Renaissance of the sixteenth century moved the people to call them the Dunsmen, Dunsers, and then Dunces. It is ironic that from the name of one of the most learned scholars and philosophers of the later Middle Ages, a person of depth of thought and sharpness of mind, comes a word that suggests dullness of wit and ignorance—dunce or dull-witted, a blockhead incapable of learning or scholarship.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.