Creativity Magazine

Thinking of Duns Scotus

By Vickilane


Thinking of Duns Scotus

2 something am. Jenny jumps on the bed, waking me up. She doesn't seem to want to go out, and she snuggles down next to me. As I lie there waiting to go back to sleep, the name Duns Scotus floats into the magpie horde of trivia that passes for my mind. 

Some sort of theologian, I seem to remember. And presumably from Scotland. I make a mental note to Google the name in the morning.

And then I think of dunce cap--that conical badge of shame used in schools long ago for under-achieving students. 

Could there be a connection, I wonder?

And why am I thinking these random and esoteric thoughts at dark-thirty? 

The next morning, I do indeed Google Duns Scotus (b.1265 or 1266) and learn that he, and later his followers. wore those pointy hats in the belief that the shape would funnel knowledge from the outside world into the brain. Whether he was inspired by the headgear of wizards or vice versa isn't clear. But before the Rennaissance, the 'duns cap' was the sign of a deep thinker.

Come the Rennaissance and newer ways of thinking and the duns cap was transmogrified into the mark of one far behind the times--a dummy, a dunce.

It's possible I once knew the basic outlines of this correlation but one of the nice things about lost memories is that one has the pleasure of new discovery all over again.

There's more about John Duns Scotus and the use of the dunce cap HERE

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