The saint we know as Bonaventure was born John Fidenza about 1217 near Viterbo. It is thought that he studied the liberal arts in Paris from 1236 to 1242. In 1243 he entered the Franciscan Order, and it may be that he had begun studying theology before becoming a Franciscan; at any rate, he studied theology until 1248 under Alexander of Hales and others. Bachelor of Scripture in 1248, Bachelor of the Sentences in 1250, he received the licentia docendi in 1253 and was master of the Franciscan school in Paris from 1253 to 1257. Because of the opposition of the secular masters, Bonaventure was not admitted as a master of the faculty of theology in the university until 1257, being admitted at the same time as Thomas Aquinas. Some months before, Bonaventure had been elected master general of the Franciscan Order -- which effectively ended his university career, although he did lecture at the convent in Paris on several occasions. Bonaventure became a cardinal in 1273 and died in Lyon in 1274 while attending the ecumenical council which was held in that city. He was fifty-seven.
Bonaventure's commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and disputed questions on the knowledge of Christ, the Trinity, and evangelical perfection, together with the Breviloquium (which Van Steenberghen has called a kind of summa which résumés substantially Bonaventure's commentary on the Sentences), the De reductione artium ad theologiam, and the Itinerarium mentis in deum are among his most important works. There are also commentaries on Scripture, of course, and the publication of his lectures in the Paris convent after he became the head of his order: De decem praeceptis (1267), De donis spiritus sancti (1268), and the In Hexaemeron (1273).
Despite their proximity in time and place, it is doubtful that Bonaventure and Aquinas were close friends. Although Aquinas was successful in avoiding the active life and Bonaventure was not, the two men seem complementary, each representative of the spiritual and intellectual life of his order, and both looming above the other giants of the thirteenth century.
"Philosophical knowledge is a preparation for other sciences and he who wishes to stop there falls into error." (De donis, col. IV, 12)
It is an extremely difficult matter to determine what for Bonaventure the nature of philosophy is. The point has been debated by Gilson and Van Steenberghen, but we shall address the question without explicit reference to the views of these leading medievalists. Can a philosophy be isolated from the theological writings of Bonaventure and, if so, how much autonomy does it have? Further, what kind of philosophy would such a constructed system be? To say that it would be Augustinian presupposes that St. Augustine's conception of the nature of philosophy is clear and easily grasped. Before we can possibly adjudicate the differences of opinion between the scholars mentioned, we must of course turn to Bonaventure himself. When we do this, we find that while it is difficult to maintain that any one of Bonaventure's works is specifically philosophical, in many of them he does say things about philosophy.
Let us begin with the division of knowledge into four kinds, a division Bonaventure makes in his commentary on the Sentences. First of all, knowledge may be purely speculative and founded on principles of reason: this is the science of human philosophy. Second, there is a knowledge which resides in the intellect insofar as it is inclined by appetite: when founded on principles of faith, such knowledge is the science of Sacred Scripture. Third there is a science or knowledge which resides in intellect inclined by appetite toward operation: such knowledge is founded on the principles of natural law. Finally, there is a kind of knowledge which is in the intellect considered both as inclined and inclining, that is, inclined by faith and inclining to good works. This knowledge is founded on principles of faith and finds its source in the gift of grace. Such knowledge is called a gift of the holy Ghost. (III Sent., d. 35, q. 2, c.)
We find in this passage a distinction of philosophy (the first and third members) from theology (the second and final members of the division), and in both philosophy and theology there is a distinction between the speculative and the practical. Philosophy is based on principles of reason (principia rationis), theology on principles of faith (principia fidei). Elsewhere Bonaventure compares philosophy and theology in the following fashion. Sacred doctrine, or theology, is principally concerned with the First Principle, that is, with God as one and three; nevertheless, theology is concerned with other things as well. "The reason for this truth is that since sacred doctrine, or theology, is a science giving knowledge of the First Principle sufficient for our present state, insofar as it is necessary for salvation, and since God is not only the principle and effective exemplar in creation but also the restoring cause in redemption and the perfective cause in reparation, this science treats not only of God the creator but also of creation and the creature. . . . Thus, it alone is perfect science because it begins at the beginning, with the First Principle, and proceeds to the term, which is the eternal reward; it begins with the highest, the most high God, creator of all, and descends to the least, which is the punishment of hell. That alone is perfect wisdom which begins with the highest cause, that is, with the principle of caused things -- which is where philosophical knowledge ends." (Breviloquium, p. 1, cap. 1, 2-3) This passage clarifies the grounds for the distinction between philosophy and theology. The former, being based on what is naturally known to us, must begin with creatures and ascend to knowledge of God as to its term. Theology, since it is based on faith, begins with God and considers everything else in the light of revealed truth.
In discussing the subject of theology in his commentary on the Sentences Bonaventure distinguishes a variety of meanings for the phrase "subject of a science." In effect, he says, this phrase may mean either (1) that to which all else in the science is referred as to its radical principle, or (2) that to which everything in the science is referred as to an integral whole, or (3) that to which everything is referred as to its universal whole. Thus, the subject of grammar, following these three possibilities, is either the alphabet, or perfect and correct speech, or articulated sound capable of signifying something as itself or in another. In geometry the three subjects are, respectively, point, body, and immobile continuous quantity. As for theology, the subject to which it reduces everything as to its cause is God; the subject to which everything is reduced as to an integral whole is Christ, who unites in himself human and divine, created and uncreated nature. "The subject to which all things are reduced as to a universal whole can be named in two ways, by a disjunction, and then it is reality and sign, where sign means sacrament; or it can be named by one word, the credible, insofar as the credible takes on the note of intelligibility by having reason brought to bear on it [prout tamen credibile transit in rationem intelligibilis et hoc per adductionem rationis]; properly speaking, then, the credible is the subject of this book." (I Sent., proemium, q. 1, c.)
Theology and philosophy are different ways of considering things, and things are named differently because of the different light in which they appear to the theologian and to the philosopher. We will be seeing more of Bonaventure's use of the metaphor of light; for the moment consider the following remark concerning an innate and infused light. "The innate light is the natural light of the judging faculty or reason; superinfused light is the light of faith." (De donis, col. IV, 2) The first is impressed by the creator on the rational creature: it is the possible and agent intellects. In this context Bonaventure speaks of philosophical knowledge, theological knowledge, the knowledge which is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the knowledge of the blessed in heaven. "Philosophical knowledge is nothing other than certain knowledge of the truth as what can be investigated [ut scrutabilis]. Theological knowledge is loving knowledge of truth as credible. The gift of knowledge is holy knowledge of the truth as lovable [ut diligibilis]. The knowledge of glory is sempiternal knowledge of truth as desirable [ut desiderabilis]." (Ibid., 5)
To sum up our findings thus far: (1) philosophy is based on principles of reason, theology on principles of faith. (2) The former sees things under an inborn light, something belonging to the nature of the rational creature; the latter is dependent on an infused light, the gift of faith. (3) The subject of theology is the credible; the subject of philosophy is the naturally knowable. (4) Philosophy begins with creatures and arrives at knowledge of God as its term; theology begins with God and considers everything else in the light of what God has revealed to us about himself.
Speaking of the philosophical sciences, Bonaventure says: "All these sciences have certain and infallible rules which are as lights and rays descending from the eternal law into our mind." (Itinerarium, cap. 3, n. 7) Given this participation, it is possible for us to be led to contemplation of the eternal light. Things are the object of philosophy insofar as they can be investigated in the light of principles naturally known; they are objects of theology insofar as they are credible in the light of faith. From these considerations there seems to emerge a picture of philosophy as an autonomous science having its own light, principles, and certitude. What is more, philosophy is more certain than theology. "That concerning which no doubt is possible is known more certainly than that about which we can doubt; but what is known by scientific knowledge [scientiali cognitione] is so known that it cannot be doubted, as is obvious." (III Sent., d. 23, a. 1, a. 4, a. 2) When something is seen in the light of those principles naturally inserted in the mind, absolute certainty is attained. (De reductione, n.4) "Someone can know something so certainly through science that he can in no way doubt nor disbelieve it nor in any way contradict it in his heart, as is clear in knowledge of axioms [dignitatum] and first principles." (III Sent., d. 23, a. 1, q. 4, c.) Thus, not only are philosophy and theology distinct but philosophy is more certain than the faith on which theology is founded. This greater certitude of natural reason has to be correctly understood, however. No science is more certain than that which the blessed enjoy in heaven. "In another way, science means knowledge had in this life and is of two kinds: either it concerns things which are objects of faith or it concerns other knowable objects. If it is concerned with objects of faith, then absolutely speaking faith is more certain than knowledge. Hence, if some philosopher knows a given article [of faith] by reason, for example, that God is the creator or that God is the rewarder, he can in no wise know it more certainly through his science than the true believer through his faith. If however we are speaking of knowable objects other than those of faith, then in some ways faith is more certain than science and in other ways science is more certain than faith. For there is the certitude of seeing [speculationis] and the certitude of adherence [adhaesionis]: The first pertains to intellect, the second to the affections."
"In terms of the certitude of adherence the certitude of faith is greater than that of the habit of science, since the true faith causes the believer to adhere more firmly to what is believed than science causes the knower to adhere to any known thing. If, however, we speak of the certitude of seeing, which pertains to intellect and bare truth [nudam veritatem], then it can be granted that the certitude of any science is greater than that of faith insofar as someone can know a thing so certainly in a science that he can in no way doubt or disbelieve or gainsay it in his heart, as is clear in the case of first principles." (III Sent., d. 23, a. 1, q. 4, c.)
We have here a very nuanced position, since a distinction between objects and modes of certitude is implied. When the objects of philosophy and theology are different, then of course the certitude with which they attain truths about them will differ. But Bonaventure seems to begin with an instance of the same object simultaneously known and believed. This is particularly intriguing, and we must pursue it since it will lead us to call into question our earlier tentative conclusion that philosophy, for Bonaventure, is a quite autonomous enterprise.
Is it possible for the same truth to be known certainly with reference to the principles of reason and to be believed on divine faith? Bonaventure, in speaking of knowledge of God as creator and belief of this same truth, could, of course, be referring to different men, for example, to the pagan pre-Christian philosopher and the simple faithful of the Christian era. Such a "simultaneity" of knowledge and belief would present no problem. In the area of secular knowledge the teacher may know what the student for a time only believes. But it would seem odd to say that the same man simultaneously knows and believes the same truth, particularly if the following Bonaventurian distinction is accepted. "We must say that what is true is an object of faith differently from the way in which it is an object of knowledge: the object of knowledge, I say, is the seen truth [verum visum], whereas the object of faith is truth not as seen but as salutary. (III Sent., d. 23, a. 1, q. 1, ad 2) On this basis, to say that the same thing can be simultaneously known and believed is like saying that the same thing can be simultaneously seen and not seen. In short, such simultaneity seems contradictory. Nevertheless, Bonaventure is quite commonly represented as maintaining such a simultaneity. Thus, we must examine the relevant passages to see if he does indeed do this and, if so, in precisely what manner.
St. Bonaventure asks whether faith bears on the same objects as does scientific knowledge, and he approaches the question with a fine feeling for useful distinctions. (See III Sent., d. 24, a. 2, q. 3, c.) He first points out the difference between knowledge which is of open comprehension" and that which results from reasoning (duplex est cognitio, scilicet apertae comprehensionis et inanuductione ratiocinationis). If we speak of that open comprehensive knowledge whereby God is known in heaven, then faith is not compatible with it such that the same thing could be simultaneously known and believed, for such knowledge absolutely excludes any darkness (aenigma). With respect to this knowledge it is the view of the saints and the common opinion of masters of theology that here the same thing cannot be simultaneously known and believed.
With respect to the knowledge which results from reasoning there is, Bonaventure notes, a division of opinion. Some hold that it is incompatible with faith, since with such knowledge the intellect assents because of an argument, necessarily, and to a thing inferior to itself. Faith, on the other hand, is an assent to the first truth for its own sake and voluntarily, which elevates reason above itself. Thus, science and faith mutually exclude one another.
Others are of the opinion that with respect to one and the same thing it is possible to have science as the result of reasoning and faith. St. Augustine and Richard of St. Victor are invoked as authorities, and the upshot is this: "Hence, someone believing God to be one and the creator of everything, if he begins to know the same thing by necessary arguments, does not thereby cease to have faith; nor, if he first knew, would the advent of faith destroy his knowledge, as is clear from experience." The reason such science can be had simultaneously with faith concerning the same thing, neither destroying the other, is that science, which results from reasoning, although it gives some certitude and evidence about divine things, is not in every way clear as long as we are in this life. For though one be able by necessary reasons to prove that God is and that God is one, to discern the divine being itself, the very unity of God and the way in which that unity does not exclude a plurality of persons, is impossible until one is cleansed by the justice of faith. The illumination and certitude of such science are not so great that, science being had, the illumination of faith becomes superfluous. On the contrary, given that science, faith is all the more necessary. A sign of this, Bonaventure feels, is in the fact that some philosophers, while they knew many truths concerning God, committed many errors because they lacked faith. In short, Bonaventure holds that knowledge and belief are simultaneously possible concerning the same object.
Now, as will be seen, it is the view of St. Thomas that one cannot at the same time know and believe the same truth. It is often said that this is a point of open conflict between him and Bonaventure. But is this really the case? Is Bonaventure claiming that it is precisely the same thing that is known and believed? Let us consider the example he gives. A contemporary of Christ looks at him and sees a man; his divinity is hidden to every sense and is an object of faith alone. Bonaventure says that this makes it perfectly clear that doubt and certitude concerning the same thing are simultaneously possible. I can be certain that this is a man: I see that he is. But that he is God -- that I cannot see. 'Therefore, it must be conceded that faith and vision can bear on one and the same thing, although not in the same respect [quamvis non secundum idem]." (III Sent., d. 24, a. 2, q. 1, c.) It is that final phrase which is all important. Bonaventure is not saying that the same thing can be simultaneously known and believed where "the same thing" would mean same in every respect. The propositions "Christ is a man" and "Christ is God" are about the same thing, but they do not say the same thing about it. So too, the philosopher who proves that God is one knows that about God; what he does not know and cannot know in this life by natural reason is that the unity of God admits of a plurality of persons. In other words, faith and knowledge do not bear unequivocally on the same thing, since the thing is an object of faith insofar as it is not seen and an object of knowledge insofar as it is seen. Thus, while the same thing may be a credibile and a scibile, to be a credibile and to be a scibile are not the same. One cannot simultaneously know and believe the proposition "God is one" unless the predicate is made to bear two meanings. For example, (1) there is not a plurality of gods, and (2) the one divine nature admits of a plurality of persons. In conclusion, the position of Bonaventure, while complex, seems to be the same as that maintained by Thomas Aquinas: the same man cannot at the same time both know and believe the same truth. However, if the philosophical as opposed to the theological understanding of a proposition admits of certitude, it is not thereby wholly autonomous for Bonaventure. For the great Franciscan philosophical truth all by itself is dangerous; indeed, it is its own kind of error.
There are things which to a certain degree and in a certain respect are evident to sense and in another fashion and respect are hidden; owing to this complexity there can be vision or knowledge, in part, and credulity or faith, in part. Knowledge will bear on what is evident, faith on what is hidden. With respect to divine things Bonaventure grants that philosophers can know with certitude, because of necessary arguments, some truths concerning God. For example, that God exists and is one. Bonaventure says that such philosophical proofs cannot be resisted. (In Ioannem, proemium, n. 10)
Does this mean that philosophy can enjoy a life of its own quite apart from faith? The following somewhat lengthy passage gives a first approach to Bonaventure's thought on this matter. "To the objection that faith concerns what is above reason and science what is below, it must be said that just as nothing prevents one and the same thing from being both evident and hidden, so nothing prevents the same thing from being above and below reason according to different modes of knowing and thus being both known and believed. For though 'the sempiternal power and divinity' (Romans 1:19) can be known either through acquired or even innate science, yet, as compared with the plurality of persons or with the humbleness of our humanity which God assumed, it is wholly above reason and science. For should someone base himself on the judgment of reason and science, he would never believe it to be possible that the highest unity could admit a plurality of persons or that the highest majesty could be united with our humility or that the highest power should from not acting come to act without any change in itself, or other similar things which seem to go contrary to the most common concepts of the mind according to philosophy. Thus it is that science attains precious little in the way of knowledge of divine things unless it is based on faith, because in one and the same thing what is most obvious to faith is most hidden to science. This is clear in the highest and most noble questions, the truth of which is hidden from philosophers, for example, concerning the creation of the world, concerning the power and wisdom of God -- matters that were hidden from philosophers but are now manifest to simple Christians. Because of this Paul writes, 'God has made foolish the wisdom of this world,' since any faithless wisdom concerning God in this life is stupidity rather than true science. For it will drag the inquirer into error if he is not directed and aided by the illumination of faith; it is not destroyed by faith, consequently, but rather perfected." (III Sent., d. 24, a. 2, q. 3, ad 4)
While maintaining that science and faith can coexist, Bonaventure makes it clear that philosophy is not sufficient to itself; it needs the aid and light of faith lest it be turned into foolishness. It is difficult to express Bonaventure's thought accurately here. He has shown that science and faith, philosophy and theology, are distinct, that from one point of view science is more certain than faith, although from another point of view faith is more certain than science. If these can coexist, can they exist separately? Bonaventure wants to deny that they can. First of all, theology without philosophy does not seem to be possible. We remember from earlier considerations how Bonaventure described the subject of theology. That subject is not the credibile as credibile -- this is the object of simple faith, and faith is presupposed by theology. Theology is concerned with the credible, with the believed, to the degree that it can take on the note of understandability. In order for this to come about, philosophy is presupposed. "Since the teachings of philosophers are often useful for understanding truth and refuting error, there is nothing to be feared from the study of it, particularly since many questions concerning the faith cannot be resolved without it." (De tribus quaestionibus, n. 12) "Philosophy is concerned with things as they are in nature, or in the soul, according to knowledge naturally inserted or even acquired, but theology as a science founded on faith and revealed by the Holy Ghost deals with things pertaining to grace and glory and even to Eternal Wisdom." (Breviloquium, prologue) But these are not wholly separable pursuits. First of all, the theologian must employ philosophy. The simple faithful accept revealed truths owing to an infused and gratuitous light. So does the theologian, but, having accepted what God has revealed, he reflects on these truths, bringing to bear on them the findings of the philosophers. This results in an organization of articles of faith according to a pattern not followed by Scripture itself. The theologian defends the truths of faith against his own and others' doubt, and philosophy is an apt instrument for this task.
The credible, in short, can be looked upon in three ways. "For the credible insofar as it has in itself the note of First Truth to which faith assents for its own sake and above all else, pertains to the habit of faith; insofar as the note of authority is added to that of truth it pertains to the teaching of Holy Writ, of whose authority Augustine said that it is greater than any insight of human genius; but insofar as to the notes of truth and authority the note of being susceptible of proof [probabilitas] is added to the credible, it pertains to the consideration of the present book." (I Sent., proemium, q. 1, ad 5) It is out of love for what is believed that man naturally seeks arguments on behalf of what has been revealed. (Ibid., q. 2, ad 6) Thus, theology cannot exist without philosophy.
This would seem to indicate that philosophy must be able to enjoy a separate existence. And yet, the very fact of theology seems to call philosophy into question. "Beyond philosophical science God gave us theological science, which is a pious knowledge of credible truth, because the eternal light which is God is a light inaccessible to us as long as we are mortals and have the eyes of owls." (De donis, IV, 13) The reference is to Aristotle, who had pointed out the weakness of our minds with respect to divine things. On this very point, however, Bonaventure deals somewhat harshly with Aristotle. Of what good is it to recognize the weakness of the human mind and be unable to understand the cause of it, to recognize the illness and be unable to provide the remedy? "This, then, is the medicine: the grace of the Holy Ghost. This aid and this grace philosophy cannot attain." (In Hexaemeron, VII, 11) The weakness of the human mind is an effect of original sin. This weakness is present in the theoretical as well as the practical intellect, and Bonaventure will point out the errors into which philosophers were led, errors they might have avoided if they had had the grace of faith, which is the cure for original sin.
In his lectures on the work of the six days (Collationes in Hexaemeron) Bonaventure gives us a veritable catalogue of the errors of philosophers. The philosophical doctrine on virtue is unsatisfactory: no philosophical doctrine can provide the means for healing our wayward affections. (IV, 12) Philosophical moral doctrine fails to recognize man's true end, which is supernatural; consequently, it is mistaken about the sufficiency of the merit for acts done and cannot cure the weakness of our faculties. "Only faith can divide light from this darkness." (IV, 13) Bonaventure's charge here is not that philosophy failed to do what it could and should do, but that philosophy is radically inadequate in matters of morality. "We must then go on to the light of faith, which the philosophers did not have, for they knew only by the natural light. The most perfect virtues, however, are known by faith and lead on to the end." (III, 32)
As for Aristotle, Bonaventure summarizes his defects in the following manner. Asking how philosophers fell into darkness, be answers, "For this reason, that while all recognized a first cause, the principle and end of all things, they disagreed about the in-between. For some denied that the exemplars of all things were in God, the chief being Aristotle, who, at the beginning and the end of his Metaphysics and in many other places, rejects the Ideas of Plato. Hence, he says that God knows only himself and has no need of knowledge of other things and moves as what is desired and loved. From which it follows that he knows nothing of particular things. Aristotle execrates the Ideas in his Ethics as well, denying that the highest good can be an Idea. But his arguments are worthless and are disproved by the Commentator. Now from this error another follows, namely, that God has neither foreknowledge nor providence since he has not the notions of things in himself whereby to know them. Moreover, they say there is no truth concerning the future except in necessary events, the contingent having no truth. From which it follows that all things come about either by chance or by fatal necessity; and since it is impossible that everything come about by chance, the Arabs held for the necessity of fate, saying that the substances which move celestial bodies are necessary causes of all events." (In Hexaemeron, VI, 2-3) Thus, a rejection of exemplars, of the Platonic Ideas, leads inexorably to a rejection of providence and thus to a fatalistic view of the happenings in the world. (Bonaventure betrays no acquaintance here with the discussion of fate and providence in the fifth book of The Consolation of Philosophy or of Boethius' handling of chapter nine of Aristotle's On Interpretation.) The opinion that the world is eternal, that there is but one intellect for all men, and that, consequently, there is neither punishment nor reward for deeds done in this life -- these too follow from the rejection of the Ideas. The unicity of the intellect was maintained to avoid having to affirm an actual infinity of human souls, which would seem to follow if the world and time had no beginning. And if there is but one intellect, only it survives the demise of particular men, and no personal immortality is possible, nor, of course, personal reward or punishment. (Ibid., 4; see VII, 2)
It is a melancholy picture that Bonaventure paints of the philosophy of Aristotle. Since the whole sorry story has been made to hang on the rejection of the Ideas, we would expect to see Plato treated somewhat more kindly. And so he is. "Other enlightened philosophers posited the Ideas, and they were worshippers of the one God, for they placed all good in God as the best good." (VII, 3) Plato, Plotinus, and Cicero are cited and praised in this regard. Nevertheless, Bonaventure feels constrained to go on to enumerate the deficiencies of these men, which were due to their not having the faith.
Bonaventure does not seem to be saying that the philosophers just happened to commit errors. Rather, his point is that a man who does not have grace and faith will inevitably make philosophical mistakes; he has not the remedy with which to cure the disorder and weakness of his natural powers, and as long as there is not faith the malady lingers on. Thus, while Bonaventure holds that theology needs philosophy, he wants also to maintain that philosophy has need of faith if it is to achieve its own ends. We might wish to object to this position in the following manner. Granted that philosophers made mistakes (though I, for one, cannot accept the Bonaventurian estimate of Aristotle), the history of philosophy is not simply a catalogue of errors; indeed, the errors there are stand out precisely because of the background of truth. Now Bonaventure himself is willing to concede that philosophers, even Aristotle, recognized the existence of God; moreover, Plato and others are commended because they recognized the Ideas. Immediately after listing the three great errors of Aristotle, Bonaventure adds, "But some, seeing that Aristotle was so good in other matters and had said so much that was true, could not believe that in these instances he was not speaking the truth." (In Hexaemeron, VI, 5)
Can we not then accept the truths philosophers offer and reject their errors? This is just what theology must do. "Hence, making use of philosophical knowledge and taking from the nature of things what it needs to construct a mirror in which divine things are reflected, it erects a ladder the foot of which rests on earth and whose head reaches heaven." (Breviloquium, prologue) Theologians must take from philosophers in the way the sons of Israel took from the Egyptians, following the counsel of Augustine. (De tribus quaestionibus, n. 12) What criteria enable us to recognize the errors of philosophers? Not a more adequate philosophy. Bonaventure says that the simple faithful, knowing that in the beginning God created heaven and earth, see the falsity of the claim that the world is eternal. It is in the light of faith then that philosophical errors are recognized as such -- and presumably philosophical truths as well. But if a philosophical truth is the conclusion of an argument, to accept that truth because it is also revealed is not to accept it as philosophically established. An examination of the proofs and a philosophical assessment of them is a different undertaking altogether, and it seems difficult to hold that Bonaventure urges us to refrain from such activity. He has said that philosophical arguments are irresistible, and he will recognize a good number of them as valid. But these arguments demand a fairly wide context. In that sense Bonaventure recognizes the existence of philosophy. But philosophy is completed by faith and the theology based upon it. Moreover, philosophy is best carried on under the extrinsic control of faith, which warns against blind alleys and guides us toward the truth. But since faith provides no proofs, it does not constitute philosophy. Perhaps one could say that for Bonaventure faith has an important role to play in philosophizing, though not in philosophy as such. The openness of philosophy to a truth above reason would save us from thinking that the philosophical conclusion "God is one" is opposed to the truth of faith "the one God is three persons."
Perhaps something can now be said of the controversy mentioned earlier. First of all, no one maintains that Bonaventure ever devoted himself to a specifically philosophical work. The question is, Can we find a philosophical doctrine in what he has written? Our answer must be in the affirmative. Bonaventure's whole view of the nature of theology indicates that it must make use of philosophy. But did he himself contribute to philosophy or only borrow from it? I think we must say that for the most part he only borrowed, though he did make contributions.
It is often said that Bonaventure was primarily a theologian. While true enough, this remark could be misleading. We feel prompted to observe that most theologians are primarily theologians, particularly when they are doing theology. The remark is made to establish the point that insofar as Bonaventure dabbled in philosophy, he did so with a view to the ends of theology. But of course theology was no more an end in itself for Bonaventure the man than was philosophy. Theological knowledge was to lead to mystical union and that to the beatific vision. The perspective in which something may be seen, the subjective reason for doing it, need not alter what is seen or done. In making use of philosophy the scholastic theologian may or may not find ready at hand the philosophical doctrine he requires. If none exists and he elaborates one and then goes on to employ it to explicate or defend truths of faith, the historian of philosophy will be able to examine the doctrine elaborated in legitimate isolation from the theological context and from the theological purpose it is made to serve. Some medieval masters of theology, and Bonaventure is in this class, do whatever philosophy they do in the context of works which are formally theological; others not only do this but also engage in philosophy within the limits and dictates of natural reason itself. Thomas Aquinas falls into this second class. The great difference between these two classes, as represented by Bonaventure and Aquinas, is the following. When we find philosophical doctrines elaborated in theological works of Aquinas, we know what for him is the wider philosophical whole to which they are contributions. The same is not true of Bonaventure. Consequently, it must always be a work of some daring and imagination to try to make a coherent whole of Bonaventure's philosophical doctrines, which are scattered piecemeal through his theological works. To maintain that any whole constructed from such pieces depends upon the acceptance of truths of faith would be to vitiate the whole enterprise. It would be better not to call such a systematic whole a philosophy at all if it presupposes religious faith for its acceptance.
What is for the moment clear is that philosophy represents for Bonaventure a given level of knowledge which is best interpreted with an eye to the hierarchy in which it fits. Most of his remarks about philosophical doctrines amount to more or less symbolic interpretations: they are seen as prefiguring what lies beyond philosophy. Bonaventure, in this characteristic stance, is clearly looking on philosophy from the vantage point of faith, and this is a perspective which presupposes philosophy as given and betrays no interest in contributing to it. From this sapiential point of view philosophy is a sign of what lies beyond it and at the same time is seen as a useful, if not necessary, rung on the ladder to heaven.
Scattered throughout the works of Bonaventure are the divisions of philosophy into various disciplines that indicate their sources in Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, and, of course, Aristotle. Bonaventure sets down the threefold division of philosophy into rational, natural, and moral in The Reduction of the Arts to Theology and argues that it is an adequate one since there are but three kinds of truth -- that of speech, that of things, and that of morals. Another argument is more typically Bonaventurian. "Again, just as in God we can consider the note of efficient cause, of formal or exemplar cause, and of final cause, since he is the cause of subsisting, the means of understanding, and the order of living, so in philosophical illumination, since it illumines either for knowing the causes of being, and then it is physics, or for knowing the means of understanding, and then it is logic, or for knowing the order of living, and then it is moral or practical philosophy." (n. 4) Bonaventure goes on to subdivide each of these, assigning grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the parts of rational philosophy. "Further, since our intellect has to be directed in judging according to formal notions [rationes formales] and these can be considered in three ways -- with reference to matter, and then they are called formal notions; with reference to soul, and then they are called concepts; or in relation to divine wisdom, and then they are called Ideas -- so natural philosophy is divided into three parts. Physics, accordingly, considers the generation and corruption of things according to natural forces and seminal reasons; mathematics considers the intelligible notions of abstractable forms; metaphysics is knowledge of all beings, which it reduces to one first principle from which they come according to the Ideas, or it reduces them to God as principle, goal, and exemplar. There is, however, a great divergence among metaphysicians on the subject of Ideas." Finally, Bonaventure subdivides moral philosophy into monastics, economics, and politics. The following schema summarizes his views:
While Bonaventure gives these divisions, with which we are well acquainted from previous chapters, what characterizes much of his
work, and indeed the Reduction itself from which we have just been quoting, is the way in which philosophy occupies only a few of the rungs on that ladder which reaches from earth to heaven. We shall try now to give a sketch of The Reduction of the Arts to Theology; having done that, we shall discuss a famous text in which Bonaventure argues that all science and wisdom are summed up in Christ, who is the mean (medium) of every science. We will then go on to the allied question of the way in which whatever is known is known in the eternal notions or divine Ideas.
The Reduction of the Arts to Theology is an elaborate interpretation of a remark by St. James in the first chapter of his Epistle: "Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." From this basic image of God as a sun from which flow rays of light Bonaventure distinguishes a variety of participated lights. He speaks of four: an external light, or the light of mechanical art; a lower light, or the light of sense knowledge; an inner light which is the light of philosophical knowledge; a higher light which is the light of grace and of Sacred Scripture. Bonaventure's discussion of the mechanical arts simply recalls the relevant part of Hugh of St. Victor's Didascalicon. Given the threefold division of philosophy already mentioned, he arrives at six ways of looking at the light emanating from God: mechanical arts, sense knowledge, rational philosophy, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and Sacred Scripture. These make way for a seventh, the light of glory. (n.6)
Since these six lights have their origin in one source, they are all ordered to knowledge of Sacred Scripture: they are contained in it, perfected by it, and through it ordered to eternal illumination. (n.7) Bonaventure's task now becomes one of showing how the other illuminations of knowledge are to be led back to Sacred Scripture. He then goes on to show how sense knowledge can be distinguished in terms of a medium, the exercise of knowledge, and the delight concomitant with it. The means (medium) suggests to Bonaventure the Divine Word; the exercise of sensation gives a pattern for human life, since each sense is directed to its proper object and shrinks from what could harm it. The delight which accompanies sensation is a sign of the soul's union with God. "Behold the way in which divine wisdom is contained hidden in sense knowledge." (n.1O) This may suffice to indicate how each of the levels of light leads Bonaventure inexorably back to Sacred Scripture and theology. "And thus it is obvious how the manifold wisdom of God, lucidly revealed in Sacred Scripture, is bidden in all knowledge and in nature itself. It is also clear how all kinds of knowledge serve theology, which takes examples and terms belonging to every branch of science. So too, it is clear how wide is that illumined path and how within each thing sensed or known God himself lies hidden." (n.26)
The procedure of the Reduction is not wholly unlike that of The Mind's Journey to God, the purpose of which is "rather the stirring of the affections than intellectual erudition." (Prologue, n.5) Doubtless such an approach lends itself to parody; moreover, the literal intent of philosophical doctrine becomes swiftly a matter of indifference as one seeks signs of what is believed. Perhaps the most difficult example of Bonaventure's attempts to take a scriptural text as programmatic for a summary assessment of human knowledge is to be found in his lectures on the six days of creation.
The first conference opens with the following passage from Ecelesiasticus (15:5): "In the middle of the Church he will open his mouth and the Lord will fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding and will clothe him with the mantle of glory." The medium ecclesiae of the text is identified with Christ, who is mediator Dei et hominum, the mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5). Bonaventure then sets forth his intention. "Our plan then is to show that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God and that he is the means (medium) of every science. There are seven kinds of mean: of essence, of nature, of distance, of doctrine, of modesty, of justice, and of harmony. The consideration of the first falls to the metaphysician, of the second to the physicist, of the third to the mathematician, of the fourth to the logician, of the fifth to the moralist, of the sixth to the politician or lawyer, of the seventh to the theologian. The first mean is primary because of its eternal origin; the second weighty because of its efficacious diffusion; the third profound because of its central position; the fourth clear because of its rational manifestation; the fifth important for moral choice; the sixth important in judicial compensation; the seventh pacifying by its universal conciliation. Christ is the first mean in his eternal generation, the second in his Incarnation, the third in his Passion, the fourth in his Resurrection, the fifth in his Ascension, the sixth in the future judgment, the seventh in eternal reward and punishment." (In Hexaemeron, I, 11) From this we construct the following table:
|7.||harmony||theology||heaven / hell|
Most of these juxtapositions are, to say the least, initially surprising. At any rate, this is Bonaventure's plan. To get some glimmering of how he makes good on it, let us see what he has to say about metaphysics. Metaphysics, he observes, although it rises from a consideration of the principles of created and particular substance to the universal and uncreated and to that being (ad illud esse) as it has the note of beginning, means, and ultimate end, does not grasp it as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is because philosophy ultimately arrives at God, who is the efficient, exemplar, and final cause of all else, that Bonaventure sees new significance in the tripartite division of philosophy. The metaphysician, insofar as he sees God as the first efficient cause of all things, is like the natural philosopher who considers the origin of things; and when the metaphysician considers God as final cause, he is like the moral philosopher who refers all to the highest good. "But when he considers that being as exemplifying all things, then he is a true metaphysician." (n.13) The defining role of metaphysics is concern with the eternal exemplars, or Ideas. Christ as the Word of God is the locus of the divine Ideas, and with him all things have their origin; hence, knowledge will achieve its perfection in Christ and metaphysics in its reduction of things to the Ideas. "For the beginning of knowledge is the same as the beginning of being. For if, as Aristotle says, the knowable (scibile) as such is eternal, it must be that nothing is known save through immutable, unchangeable, unlimited truth."
Just as Christ lies at the center of metaphysics since the peculiar concern of metaphysics is the divine Ideas, so Bonaventure would have us see that Christ is implied by or prefigured in the principal concern of each of the sciences. Physics is concerned with two worlds, the macrocosm and the microcosm, man; and the centers of these worlds are, respectively, the sun and the heart, both of which are signs of Christ in his Incarnafion. Mathematics is said to be chiefly concerned with the measurement of the world and with the movements of the heavenly bodies. In his crucifixion on earth Christ stands at the center of the world; moreover, his passion is the measure of the Christian life. In logic we are concerned with the exterior manifestation of the truth, and this is a sign of the Resurrection, which is a proof of Christ's divinity. Ethics of course is concerned with virtue, and virtue lies in the mean between extremes. The Ascension corresponds with ethics insofar as the Christian is supposed to rise from virtue to virtue; moreover, rectified reason determines the mean of virtue, and faith is such a rectification of reason. The jurist or politician who must pass judgment is a sign of Christ in the last judgment. The theologian is chiefly concerned with the return of all things to God and thus with Christ as the means of eternal beatification.
One can only marvel at Bonaventure's ingenuity, though at the same time he may be baffled by its results. We have dwelt on this passage in order to give an indication of the way in which Bonaventure, while he sets down traditional divisions of philosophy, goes on in what we may well take to be his characteristic manner or style to reduce all intellectual pursuits to theology. Once more, in such efforts a minimum of time is spent in sketching aspects of philosophical doctrine, and the tendency is to hurry on to an interpretation of the whole endeavor as a sign of some role of the Incarnate Word in the supernatural order. Generally speaking, Bonaventure's attitude toward philosophy would seem to be one which assumes philosophy as given, as already there awaiting the kind of symbolic interpretation at which he is so adept. The goal again is spiritual edification rather than intellectual enlightenment. As we shall see, it is a matter of knowing things not simply in themselves but as vestiges and images of the divine.
St. Bonaventure has summed up the "whole of our metaphysics: it deals with emanation, exemplarity, consummation; that is, to be illumined by the spiritual rays and be led back to the highest is to be a true metaphysician." (In Hexaemeron, I, 17) We have seen that these various aspects come down to a consideration of the beginning, exemplar, and end of all things and that since in some fashion the metaphysician shares his interest in the origin and goal with the physicist and moralist, the defining metaphysical concern will be with God as exemplar cause. The proper way to approach the doctrine of Ideas is to ask after Bonaventure's theory of knowledge.
For Bonaventure knowledge is of three kinds: sense knowledge, scientific knowledge, and sapiential knowledge. It is the difference between the last two which interests us now; the fact that he admits both is testimony to Bonaventure's desire to keep what he considered best both in Augustine and in Aristotle. For Bonaventure the human intellect at the moment of creation is a blank slate, a pure possibility as far as knowledge goes. (II Sent., d. 3, p. 2, a. 2, q.l) Experience is the beginning of science. "It is true beyond doubt that, as the Philosopher says, knowledge is generated in us by way of the senses, memory, and experience, from which we derive the universal which is the principle of art and science." (Sermo, Christus magister, 18) However, Bonaventure, while accepting the Aristotelian doctrine on the abstractive character of our intellectual knowledge, makes some notable additions to that doctrine. Is it the case that all of our intellectual knowledge comes from sense experience? "The reply must be in the negative. For we must hold that the soul knows God and itself and the things in itself without any help from the external senses. Hence, if the Philosopher sometimes says that 'nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses' and that 'all knowledge takes its rise from sense,' this should be understood as referring to those things which are in the soul owing to an abstracted likeness." (II Sent., d. 39, a. 1, q. 2, c.) God and soul -- these fundamental, and Augustinian, concerns are excepted from the scope of Aristotle's doctrine of abstraction. Let us first see what Bonaventure has to say about abstractive knowledge, cognitio scientialis.
St. Bonaventure will here make use of the Aristotelian analysis which led to the distinction between an agent and passive intellect; this distinction permits us to speak of understanding both as an activity and as a kind of receiving of an impression. The agent intellect itself is a kind of light, Aristotle had said, which plays upon the images garnered from sense experience. The agent intellect then is the innate light because of which we can attain knowledge of what things are. We do not want to emphasize just now the divergence hetween Bonaventure and other Scholastics on the interpretation and use of Aristotelian doctrine. What we do want to stress is that Bonaventure allows for a theory of knowledge which it is easy to think is diametrically opposed to that which comes from Plato and Augustine. Bonaventure sees the merit in the teaching that intellectual knowledge of sensible things is abstractive. Intellectual knowledge is not simply a passive reception of objects: it is an activity and there is an agent intellect which may be compared to a light and which is an indispensable element in the doctrine of abstraction. However, while he accepts the necessity of abstraction, Bonaventure will also argue against its sufficiency. He will argue that intellection requires as well a kind of illumination which is independent of abstraction. It is to that difficult Bonaventurian tenet that we must now turn.
The locus classicus of Bonaventure's doctrine on the necessity of illumination as the complement to and foundation of abstractive knowledge is the Disputed Question on the Knowledge of Christ, question 4. The thesis Bonaventure would defend is this: "For certain knowledge it is necessary that the intellect, even here below, in some way grasps the eternal notion as normative and efficient cause, not by itself and in its own clarity, to be sure, but along with the created proper notion and as known in a glass darkly." We must follow in some detail Bonaventure's defense of this thesis.
The claim that whatever is certainly known is known in the light of the eternal Ideas (rationes aeternae) is susceptible of three interpretations. First, one might take it to mean that in certain knowledge the evidence of eternal light is the sole and whole cause of knowing. This does not commend itself, however, since it comes down to saying that all knowledge is knowledge of things in the Word, and then there is no difference between terrestrial knowledge and the beatific vision. Moreover, there would be no difference between knowing something in the Word and knowing it in itself (in proprio genere), and no difference between scientific and sapiential knowledge, between natural knowledge and that of grace, between rational knowledge and that of revelation. Since all these consequences amount to false identifications, the interpretation must be rejected. Augustine has observed that skepticism is the final result of this opinion. The Academicians, maintaining that nothing could be known with certainty save in the intelligible, archetypal world, and recognizing that that world is hidden from us, had to conclude that we have no certain knowledge, that all is opinion and open to doubt.
A second way of interpreting the claim is this. In certain knowledge an influence of the eternal Idea is necessarily involved, but not in such a way that the knower attains the eternal notion itself except in its influence or effect. This view is inadequate, however, and this according to Augustine, who expressly asserts and clearly argues that the mind has to be regulated in certain knowledge by eternal and changeless rules, not as by a possession of its own, but by things above it in the eternal truth. Thus, to say that our mind in knowing with certitude does not go beyond the effect or influence of uncreated light is to say that Augustine was deceived, since his remarks cannot be interpreted in this way. Bonaventure takes this to be an absurd accusation to make against so great a Father and Doctor, who is the most reliable expositor of Sacred Scripture.
We may add that either this "influence" of light is the general causality of God with respect to all creatures or it is special, like God's causality in grace. If the former, then God need be named the giver of wisdom with no more propriety than he is called the fructifier of the earth, nor should we ascribe wisdom to him anymore than honey; if the latter, in the fashion of the special effect of grace, then all knowledge is infused and none acquired or innate. But all this is absurd.
But there is a third way of understanding the claim, one which is a mean between the two unsatisfactory interpretations. Certain knowledge necessarily requires the eternal Idea as normative and efficient cause, not alone and in its proper brilliance, but together with the created notion, that is, it is "known in part" to the degree that this is presently possible. This is what Augustine tells us. "Let the impious one reflect in order that he may be converted to the Lord as to that light whereby even as he turns from it he is touched. So it is that even the impious recognize eternity and rightly grasp and rightly praise many things concerning the morals of man." (De trinitate, XIV, 15) And he adds that they accomplish this through rules "written in the book of that light called truth." In order that our mind in its certain knowledge might in some wise attain those rules and changeless Ideas, there must necessarily be both nobility of knowledge and worthiness of the knower.
By nobility of knowledge Bonaventure means that certain knowledge requires immutability on the part of the knowable and infallibility on the part of the knower (ex parte scibilis immutabilitas et infallibilitas ex parte scientis). Created truth is not absolutely, but potentially, immutable; similarly the light of the creature is not wholly infallible in virtue of itself -- both are created and come forth from nonbeing to being. Both truth and the light which enables us to see it are daughters of time. If then the fullness of knowledge necessitates recourse to a truth in every way immutable and stable and to a light wholly infallible, there must needs be in such knowledge recourse to the supreme art as to light and truth: to the light as to that which gives infallibility to the knower, to the truth as to that which gives immutability to the known. Since then things enjoy a threefold existence -- in the mind, in themselves, and in the eternal art -- the truth of things which follows on the second mode of being is not sufficient for the soul's certain knowledge, nor is the existence of these things in the mind sufficient. In some way things must be attained as they are in the eternal art.
Certain knowledge also requires worthiness (dignitas) on the part of the knower. The rational spirit has a superior and inferior part, and just as the inferior part has need of the superior for a full deliberative judgment as to what should be done, so too with respect to a complete judgment in speculative matters. The superior part of the soul is that owing to which it is an image of God; it adheres to the eternal rules, and it is through them that it defines and judges with certitude: this belongs to it insofar as it is an image of God.
The creature can be compared to God as a vestige, image, or likeness. The creature is a vestige insofar as it is referred to God as to its principle, an image insofar as it is referred to God as to an object, a likeness insofar as it is referred to God as to an infused gift. Every creature since it is from God is a vestige; every creature which knows God is an image; only that creature is a likeness in whom God dwells. Following on this threefold reference to God, there is a threefold gradation of divine cooperation.
God cooperates in the effect of the creature as vestige by way of the creative principle and in the work of the creature as likeness, a work meritorious and pleasing to God, by way of an infused gift. God cooperates in the effect of the creature as image in the manner of an effecting notion (per modum rationis moventis), and such is the work of certain knowledge which is not from inferior reason alone but involves the superior reason. Since then certain knowledge belongs to the rational spirit insofar as it is an image of God, in such knowledge it attains the eternal Ideas. But because in this life it is not fully like God, it does not attain them clearly, fully, and distinctly; rather, to the degree that it is more or less like God, to that degree it attains them, but always only in a certain fashion, since it cannot rid itself of the status of image. Hence, in the state of innocence, when the soul is an image without the deformity of guilt, it nevertheless did not have the full likeness with God which is glory; thus, it attained the Ideas in part but not in darkness. In the state of fallen nature the soul both lacks "deiformity," likeness to God, and has deformity, and so attains them in part and darkly (in aenigmate). In the state of glory the soul will lack deformity and have full likeness to God and will then attain the Ideas fully and perspicuously.
Again, because the soul is not an image in its entirety (but only owing to the ratio superior), it attains the eternal notions along with the similitude of things abstracted from phantasms, and these similitudes are proper and distinct means (rationes) of knowing. Without these concepts the light of eternal reason is insufficient for knowledge, at least in this life, unless perhaps through some special revelation this state is transcended. This happens in states of rapture and in revelations to the Prophets.
The key text we have just examined provides us with a hook on which to hang all subsequent discussion of St. Bonaventure. We have seen that for Bonaventure true metaphysics is occupied with three things: creation or emanation, exemplarity, and consummation or return. Of these three the exemplars, or divine Ideas, are finally the most important since, as we shall see, it is via these that things emanate from God and because of these that in their different ways creatures return once more to God. This metaphysical program will strike us as Neoplatonic, and as a philosophical program that is essentially what it is. The theologian, of course, could have no alternative plan: creator, creatures, return. That is, as we shall see, the plan of Aquinas' Summa theologiae. Yet Bonaventure is no Neoplatonist, or if he is, he is something else besides. In the first place, while in some sense the Ideas are the beginning of knowledge as well as of being, they are also a culmination and conclusion from a philosophical point of view. The text we have just considered exhibits a typical deference to Augustine, and the Augustinian influence gives a Platonic and Neoplatonic tone to what Bonaventure has to say. True and certain knowledge entails infallibility on the part of the knower and immutability on the part of what is known. If I am certain that "X is Y", there can be no possibility that "X is not Y" will be true. The truth, in short, is immutable.
Whence comes this immutability, particularly when I consider that the value of X is something sensible and changeable? Here is the familiar source of idealism, whether it leads to the positing of another realm of entities, Xness and Yness, or whether it posits innate rules of thought according to which "X is Y" can never be overturned. Notice that Bonaventure, following Augustine, has dismissed the latter possibility: the eternal rules are not the innate grooves of the
created mind. Why? Precisely because it is created. As created, the human soul is vertibilis in non-esse. Being contingent, it cannot of itself account for the necessary. Changeable things are in themselves changeable and not necessary; moreover, their existence in the mind cannot as such confer unchangeability and necessity on them. If we take a proposition which expresses an eternal truth, "the truth signified by it can be signified either as it is in matter or as it is in the soul or as it is in the divine art or taken to be certain in all these ways at once." (Ibid., ad 23-6) Now, if we say that things are true as spoken, such statements are signs of mental states. What we must do is see the soul as occupying the middle ground between things and the divine Ideas. Owing to inferior reason (ratio inferior), the soul is referred to things in themselves by way of abstractive forms or concepts which are accordingly rationes creatae; because of superior reason (ratio superior), which makes it an image of God, the soul refers to the divine Ideas which are rationes increatae. True and certain knowledge is had by bringing the rationes aeternae to bear on the rationes creatae. We have then a blend of abstractive and illuminative knowledge: the former without the latter is mere contingency; the latter without the former is empty. Illumination, then, an intellectual participation in the divine Ideas, is the perfection and sine qua non of abstractive knowledge; scientific knowledge must be anchored in and guaranteed by sapiential knowledge.
As to the nature of illumination, we are first told what it is not. Neither is it another name for the general cooperation of God in the operations of creatures nor is it something as special as grace. Illumination is not something supernatural. It lies somewhere in between these two possibilities. More positively, it is said to be God's cooperation with the activity of the creature as image; a creature is an image insofar as it can know God, and thus illumination is the divine cooperation with the activity of the intellectual creature. God as exemplar cause is the guarantee of the certitude and immutability of knowledge in the strict sense. No matter how fluid and evanescent the created thing which is known, it is a vestige of the creator, an exemplification of a divine Idea. As such it can be a factor in abstractive knowledge, in scientific knowledge. But scientific knowledge is not yet sufficiently grounded. Bonaventure accepts Aristotle's definition and discussion of scientia, or episteme, and asks what is the guarantee of its immutability. It cannot be the things known, the things out-there in the visible world, for they are mutable and changeable; it cannot be a constituent conferred by our mind because we too are creatures, our minds are vertibiles in non-esse. Beyond abstraction and science, then, it is necessary for recourse to be had to the art behind the things and our souls, the art which operates through eternal notions and Ideas. By reference to these science is anchored and justified. Without this reference to Ideas there is no metaphysics. Aristotle, consequently, is a philosopher of nature, a scientist, but he is not a metaphysician or sapiens.
This is not to say that scientific knowledge requires explicit reference to the Ideas. Augustine has said that the eternal light reaches men even when they are turned from it. The scientist -- think of Aristotle -- achieves certain knowledge and thus implicitly at least is aware of the Ideas -- that is why his knowledge is certain: the Ideas are operative in it. But he is not, for all that, wise. "The wise man [sapiens] attains these Ideas in one way, the scientist [sciens] in another. The latter attains them as causes [ut moventes], the former as that in which he rests [ut quietantes], and to this wisdom no one attains 'unless he first be cleansed by the justice of faith' (John 1:9)." (Ibid., ad 2) Alas, this passage complicates matters once more. In his defense of his thesis Bonaventure had made no mention of Ideas ut quietantes, but only ut moventes. Presumably the latter was sufficient to show the way in which abstraction is perfected by illumination, science by wisdom, and there was no question of a supernatural gift. Now, wisdom is associated with a knowledge which terminates in the Ideas as opposed to a knowledge in which the Ideas are operative but perhaps not explicitly alluded to. Is Bonaventure distinguishing now the wisdom which is a gift of the Holy Ghost from theology and a fortiori from philosophical wisdom, or is he distinguishing the supernatural from the natural order? If unequivocally the latter, then philosophical wisdom, or metaphysics, is impossible and Plato is no better off than Aristotle. Perhaps it is not a trivialization of Bonaventure's position to say that the Ideas are operative in scientific knowledge insofar as God is the cause of the known and cooperates with the activity of the knower. He need not be taken to mean that there are other objects of knowledge to which we must turn in order to have scientific knowledge, but that we can have scientific knowledge of the things we do because those things are what they are and we are what we are. The divine truth is known to us, not in itself, but rather insofar as it is revealed generally in the truths we know: "The eternal Idea not only causes us to know but is known, not specially in itself, but generally together with the truth of principles; thus, it does not follow that it is known to us in itself, but to the degree that it shines forth generally in principles." (ad 16) Scientific truths, then, are referred to the Ideas, the rationes creatae to the rationes aeternae, not as objects to further objects. Rather, in reflecting on the demands of truth and knowledge the mind is led to know God and the way in which God creates.
The danger here of course is that eternal truths appear to be, salva reverentia, whimsical or capricious choices of God. Bonaventure's point is more subtle and Augustinian. Self-evident principles are signs of God, who is eternal truth. In short, and we shall return to this, Bonaventure is here treading the Augustinian way of truth as a proof for the existence of God. The following summary statement of his position by Bonaventure perhaps makes it as clear as it can be made. "To the objection that if we know in these notions or Ideas
[rationibus], every knower is a wise man, let it be said that it does not follow, because to attain these Ideas does not make one wise unless he rests in them and knows that he attains them, which is proper to wisdom. For such Ideas are attained in the concepts of scientists as instruments [ab intellectibus scientium ut ductivae], but in the concepts of the wise as terms and resting points [ab intellectibus sapientium ut reductivae quietativae]. And since they are few who so attain them, the wise are few, though the knowing are many. Few indeed are those who know that they attain such Ideas and, what is more, few wish to believe there are such Ideas since it appears so difficult for an intellect which has not been elevated to the contemplation of divine things and thus to have God present and near, although Paul says in Acts 17:27 that 'He is not far from each of us.'" (ad 19)
Few indeed maintain that Bonaventure's doctrine on illumination is an easy one to grasp. We can only hope that we have managed to remove some of the initial ambiguity from it. We must go on now to discuss a number of allied doctrines: What is the status of proofs for the existence of God? What has Bonaventure to say about creation? What is Bonaventure's doctrine on universal hylomorphism? What is the nature of the human soul and can its immortality be proved? In attempting to answer these questions we shall have more to say on the distinction of reason into a superior and inferior part and on the division of created perfections into vestiges, images, and likenesses. We shall want to ask what is the relevance of that triad to the question, How can God be named by us?
Bonaventure's doctrine of illumination is such that God is involved in all certain knowledge, not as object, but as the regulating and motivating cause. The theory according to which intellectual knowledge is abstractive is good as far as it goes, Bonaventure feels, but it is ultimately insufficient to explain the certitude of knowledge. For that, appeal must be made to the Ideas. Now, if Bonaventure were saying that we know all things in God, it would be fair to call him an "ontologist," but, as it happens, he insists that in this life we always know God in or through something else. God, the divine Ideas, are the ultimate guarantee of knowledge, but we cannot have direct and comprehensive knowledge of God in this life. Thus, he counsels us to interpret carefully any authoritative statements which seem to say that we can know God in this life; they must be taken to mean, not that we can know God in his essence, but rather that we can know him in some inner effect. (II Sent., d. 23, a. 2, q. 3) The universe is a scale we must ascend in order to arrive at knowledge of God; therefore, the universe is that through which we know God. We must begin with God's vestige in the corporeal and temporal. Although he more often than not will exempt ecstatic and mystical knowledge from the scope of this claim, Bonaventure says that our knowledge of God is always an achievement, the term of rational discourse by which we move from effects to God as their cause. If, however, knowledge must begin with what is sensed, we cannot make the object of intellection coterminous with what has been abstracted from sense experience. Once more, abstraction is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of intellectual knowledge. Bonaventure will insist that our knowledge of God is not abstractive; no more is our knowledge of ourselves. Not unlike Kant, he will say that while all knowledge begins with experience, not all knowledge is derived from experience. Our knowledge of sensible things may be the occasion for our self-awareness, but knowledge of self is not derived from what is sensed. In order to stress this, Bonaventure will speak of an intuition of the self as opposed to abstractive knowledge, which pertains to the corporeal and temporal. In the same connection he will speak of an intuition or cointuition of God.
Knowledge of self and knowledge of God are linked when Bonaventure wants to oppose them to abstractive knowledge. "It is necessary to say that the soul knows God and itself and its own activities without any aid from the external senses." (II Sent., d. 39, a. 1, q. 2) The route that Bonaventure is taking here is certainly Augustinian. In our ascent to knowledge of God the sensible world has its role to play, not so much because one moves from corporeal things directly to their incorporeal cause, but rather because corporeal things, as vestiges of God, lead us within ourselves, to the image of God we are. What is the next step? If there is an intuition of the self and of mental activities which is occasioned by experience of corporeal things, is there also a direct intuition of God? The difficulties here are precisely the difficulties we encountered in trying to understand Bonaventure's remarks on the divine Ideas. On the one hand, he seems to be saying that we know God by direct intuition; on the other, he vehemently denies that God is directly accessible to the human mind in this life. What he seems to be saying is that since the human soul is the image of God, reflection on it permits us to arrive at knowledge of God by moving from the image to the original. This is a discursive knowledge, a movement from effect to cause, but Bonaventure insists that it is knowledge of God. The whole purpose of the universe is to lead men to knowledge of God, and Bonaventure's teaching will not allow that this purpose is systematically frustrated. But since our discursive knowledge of God must betray its origins, our knowledge is always imperfect, and Bonaventure will again remind us of the distinction between attaining God cognitively and comprehending God. The latter is impossible. Bonaventure employs the distinction between affirmative and negative knowledge to indicate how we attempt to surmount the imperfections of what has permitted us to come to knowledge of God.
Bonaventure is often represented as accepting the ontological argument for God's existence, and there are grounds for this contention. However, here as elsewhere the precise position of Bonaventure is a nuanced one, and we must be careful in ascribing to him an unqualified acceptance of the Anselmian proof. The text which is most pertinent to this inquiry is the Disputed Question on the Mystery of the Trinity, question one, article one. Bonaventure is asking whether "God exists" is an indubitable truth. He begins by giving twenty-nine reasons why the truth that God exists is indubitable, and among those twenty-nine reasons are several borrowed from Saint Anselm. When we turn to the Respondeo of the article, however, we find Bonaventure remarking that a truth can be indubitable in itself and nonetheless dubitable by us. That is the kind of indubitable truth "God exists" is taken to be. Insofar as one does not correctly apprehend the meaning of the term "God," he can doubt that God exists. Nevertheless, Bonaventure concludes as follows: "But that God exists cannot only not be doubted, its contradictory cannot even be thought by a mind which fully comprehends the meaning of the term 'God,' namely, a being than which nothing greater can be thought." Bonaventure thinks it highly unlikely that anyone would not know the meaning of the term "God," however, and if the ontological argument is less an argument proving that God exists than the denial of the need for such proofs, one must ask what Bonaventure takes the status of attempted proofs to be. Having recalled that "God exists" is dubitable only from a defect on the part of our mind, a defect which calls forth proofs, he adds, "Hence, reasonings of that kind are intellectual exercises rather than arguments giving evidence and manifesting a proved truth." (Ibid., ad 12m) So-called proofs do not so much prove as remove impediments to our seeing that "God exists" is indisputably true.
If the whole of creation bespeaks its cause, nevertheless because the universe is graded and hierarchical, things reveal their creator in various ways. Bonaventure, we have seen, distinguishes between vestige and image. Sometimes he speaks of shadow, vestige, and image. Earlier we proceeded as if the difference between vestige and image were simply the difference between the corporeal and spiritual. This is not exactly true, since vestigial traces of God are found in spiritual creatures as well. "With respect to the difference between vestige and image some assign the following: the vestige is in sensible things, the image in spiritual. But this will not do because the vestige is found in spiritual things as well, for unity, truth, goodness, in which the vestige consists, are quite universal and intelligible conditions. Others say that something is called a vestige because it is a partial representation, while an image gives the whole. But this position will not do either, because since God is simple, he cannot be represented according to a part. And since he is infinite, he cannot be represented totally by any creature or indeed by the whole world. So we should recognize that when creatures lead to knowledge of God as shadows, vestiges, and images, the difference among these three, as their names suggest, is taken from mode of representing. For a shadow is that which represents in a remote and confused manner, a vestige in a remote but distinct manner, and an image more closely and distinctly. . . . Creatures are called shadows with respect to properties which refer them to God in any genus of causality, but according to an indeterminate notion of the cause. The vestige is that whose property refers it to God under the aspect of a threefold cause: efficient, formal, and final, like one, true, and good. A creature is called an image because of conditions which refer to God not only as cause but as object -- properties like memory, understanding, and will. From this we can arrive at other differences taken from the cognitive destination of these three. For the creature as shadow leads to knowledge of the common as common; as vestige, to knowledge of the common as appropriated; as image, to knowledge of the proper as proper." (I Sent., d. 3, q. 2, conel.) From creatures which are only shadows we can have only the most remote conception of what God is, whereas vestiges enable us to know attributes common to the three Persons of the Trinity, though these attributes of nature can be appropriated to one Person rather than another, for example, wisdom to the Son. The rational creature alone is an image of God and is an imago trinitatis.
The principle that Bonaventure invokes to discuss creation is that the good is diffusive of itself (bonum est diffusivum sui), what might be called the principle of the generosity of the good. Since he invokes this same principle in speaking of the procession of Persons in the Trinity, however, some distinctions are clearly called for. The procession of Persons is eternal, whereas Bonaventure is a staunch opponent of the claim that the world is eternal. The distinction brought forward is that between production within the Godhead and production without. The procession of Persons is within the Godhead and is a necessary one, whereas the production of the world is without and is not necessary. The reason for the latter claim is that production without bears on that which can be and not be, that is, on the contingent. The created world depends for its existence on God's free will. "The reason why this causality is attributed to the will is the following: the reason for causing both from the point of view of efficient and from that of final causality is goodness, for the good is said to be diffusive of itself and the good is that for the sake of which all things are. The efficient cause becomes actually such because of the end. . . . Therefore, it is will that unites the effective with the end." (I Sent., d. 45, a. 2, q. 1) It is according to the divine reason and power that creation takes place, but not automatically or necessarily -- free will is required. God has eternally within himself the patterns of creatures, but he creates them freely and in time. Creatures come to be in time and from nothing owing to the power and free will of God.
That the world was created freely by God, in time and from nothing, is for Bonaventure a truth accessible to human reason. However, though this is true in principle, in fact men have recognized this only under the influence of Scripture. "It must be said that this is the truth: the world was produced in being, not simply as a whole but also with respect to its intrinsic principles, which do not come from anything else but from nothing. This truth, though it is now open and clear to every believer, was hidden from the wisdom of philosophers, who on this matter long wandered on errant ways. (II Sent., d. 1, p. 1, a. 1, q. 1, concl.) Since the most eminent philosophers have erred on this matter, Scripture has come to our aid and made the point clear. Once the truth of creation in time and from nothing is clarified by Scripture, it is easy, Bonaventure feels, to see that the opposed view is untenable. Bonaventure held that to maintain that the world is eternal not only contradicts Scripture but involves within itself a contradiction. He gives a number of reasons for this, among which are the following. If the world had always existed, the sun would have described its revolutions an infinity of times; but the sun is still revolving, and this entails further additions to an already infinite number, which is a contradiction. Furthermore, if the world as we know it is eternal, there would be an infinite number of souls of the departed, and an infinite number is a contradictory notion. By an infinite number Bonaventure understands an actual, not a possible, infinity; an actual infinite number is one to which no further additions could be made.
Bonaventure's assertion that the notion of an eternal world is self-contradictory is directed against Aristotle. Nevertheless, Bonaventure makes use of an Aristotelian conception when he describes finite beings, namely, the notion that the creature is composed of matter and form. Aristotle had argued that an entity which comes to be as the result of a change is composed of form and matter. There are other beings, separate substances, devoid of matter. For such a thinker as Aquinas there are beings other than God and still quite immaterial. Bonaventure held to a universal hylomorphism, claiming that every finite being has matter as a principle of its limitation. "The principle of any limitation is matter or something material" (principium omnis limitationis est materia vel alquid materiale). (Q.D. de myst. trin., q. 4, a. 1) Only divine being, which is pure act, lacks materiality and thus is without limitation. It is clear that for Bonaventure matter is the name of the principle of limitation whereby finite being is precisely finite and not infinite; it is the source of possibility and potentiality. That is why he can speak of matter in the angels and in rational souls. "Matter considered in itself is neither spiritual nor corporeal; therefore, the capacity following on the essence of matter relates indifferently to spiritual and corporeal forms." (II Sent., d. 3, p. 1, a. 1, q. 2, ad 3) On the basis of this Bonaventure will speak of spiritual matter which is simple and unextended. All this sounds odd, of course, but the strangeness recedes somewhat when we recall that what Bonaventure was seeking to emphasize is the difference between finite and infinite being. Since finite being is limited and some principle or source of its limitation must be recognized, Bonaventure chose the term "matter" to designate the principle of limitation of finite being. Souls and angels, while not corporeal, are finite beings and thus, in Bonaventure's odd locution, must contain a material component. He is not suggesting that everything other than God is material in the sense of corporeal and extended.
The human soul is immortal or incorruptible, something that could hardly be said of it if it were material or a composition in the usual sense, for matter, in its usual sense, is the principle of change or of the corruptibility of the composite. Matter itself is incorruptible, and that provides Bonaventure with one of his arguments for the immortality of the soul. The order of the universe involves both prime matter and an ultimate form. The rational soul is the ultimate form, and if prime matter is incorruptible, then, Bonaventure argues, the ultimate form too must be incorruptible. This is the first of twelve arguments given by Bonaventure for the immortality of the rational soul. (See II Sent., d. 19, a. 1, q. 1.) On other occasions Bonaventure will found the soul's immortality on its ordination to beatitude. "For the soul is the image of God because it has a capacity for God and can participate in his being, and thus it is made for beatitude and is apt for beatitude, which, I say, can only belong to an immortal substance; it is necessary therefore that the soul be immortal." (II Sent., d. 26, q. 4, ad 1) In connection with discussions of the immortality of the soul Bonaventure will stress that his doctrine of universal hylomorphism is a metaphysical and not a physical doctrine. From a physical point of view the soul is wholly simple, since a composition of parts makes a body, whereas the soul is a spirit since it is simple and without extension. Metaphysical composition, such as of act and potency, is, Bonaventure notes, admitted to obtain in all creatures, even angels, and angels are certainly immortal. That is why he concludes that the soul's metaphysical composition of form and matter is not a root of corruptibility.
In form and intent the work of St. Bonaventure is always the work of a theologian; he writes as one for whom the only angle of vision and the proximate criterion of truth is the Christian faith. This fact influences his importance for the history of philosophy; when coupled with his style, it makes Bonaventure perhaps the least accessible of the major figures of the thirteenth century. This is true, not because he is a theologian, but because philosophy interests him largely as a praeparatio evangelica, as something to be interpreted as a foreshadow of or deviation from what God has revealed. We find in his writings something like a charter for philosophy, but not for anything like a fully autonomous philosophy. Despite this, however, Bonaventure himself seems little interested in engaging in philosophical work. In a way that is not true of Aquinas or Albert or Scotus, Bonaventure does not survive well the transition from his time to ours. It is difficult to imagine a contemporary philosopher, Christian or not, citing a passage from Bonaventure to make a specifically philosophical point. One must know philosophers in order to read Bonaventure, but the study of Bonaventure is seldom helpful for understanding philosophers and their characteristic problems. Bonaventure as a theologian is something else again, of course, as is Bonaventure the edifying author. It is in those areas, rather than in philosophy proper, that his continuing importance must be sought.
Bonaventure, Opera omnia, 10 vols. (Quaracchi, 1882-1902). English translations: C. Boas, The Mind's Road to God (New York, 1953); the same in Latin and English, with introduction by P. Boehner (St. Bonaventure, 1956); Sister E. Healy, Saint Bonaventure's De reductione artium ad theologiam: A Commentary with an Introduction and Translation (St. Bonaventure, 1939); St. Anthony Guild Press is publishing elegant English translations of Bonaventure's opuscula in a series which began in 1960. See Vollert, Kendzierski, and Byrne, St. Thomas Aquinas, Siger of Brabant, St. Bonaventure: On the Eternity of the World (Milwaukee, 1964). See Étienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure (London, 1938) and F. van Steenberghen, La philosophie au xiiieme siècle (Louvain, 1966); P. Robert, Hylomorphisme et devenir chez S. Bonaventure (Montreal, 1936); Efrem Bettoni, Saint Bonaventure (Notre Dame, 1964).
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