Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Origin of the Word "Dunce"...


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Inspires a modicum of respect and empathy for the Rennaisance Scotists:

"DUNCE, a slow or stupid person, one incapable of learning.  The word is derived from the name of the great schoolman, John Duns Scotus, whose works on logic, theology and philosophy were accepted text-books in the universities from the 14th century. "Duns" or "Dunsman" was a name early applied by their opponents to the followers of Duns Scotus, the Scotists, and hence was equivalent to one devoted to sophistical distinctions and subtleties.  When, in the 16th century, the Scotists obstinately opposed the "new learning" [i.e., anti-scholastic Renaissance  humanism], the term "duns" or "dunce" became, in the mouths of the humanists and reformers, a term of abuse, a synonym for one incapable of scholarship, a dull blockhead."  (From Chisholm, Hugh, ed. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911.)

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