ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

254. Personal Influence of St. Bonaventure. -- In philosophy, as in theology, St. Bonaventure stands forth as the champion and promoter of tradition. He makes the claim himself more than once, as, for instance, in the Praelocutio ad L. II. Sententiarum: "At quemadmodum in primo libro sententiis adhaesi et communibus opinionibus magistrorum, et potissime magistri et patris nostri bonae memoriae fratris Alexandri, sic in consequentibus. . . . Non enim intendo novas opiniones adversare, sed communes et approbatas retexere. Nec quisquam aestimet quod novi scripti velim esse fabricator," etc. His philosophical system is altogether in the conservative spirit of the earlier scholasticism, of which he may be taken as perhaps the last great representative. He is Augustinian by inclination as well as by tradition; yet the Augustinian elements of his philosophy are incorporated into what is fundamentally a peripatetic system. And although he defended to the last the great organic ideas of the earlier school, his works are free from all trace of direct opposition to the Thomistic innovations. He was too gentle by temperament as well as by virtue, and too intimate a friend of St. Thomas, to identify himself with the attacks directed by other Augustinians against the teaching of the great Dominican master. Let us add, moreover, that St. Bonaventure's conservatism was far from making him a slave to the tradition of the past. He exposed and rejected errors not merely in Aristotle and the Arabians, but in the work of his own master, Peter Lombard, and was the first to compile from the Sentences a list of false theories unanimously repudiated by his successors.

St. Bonaventure is, in the next place, the very incarnation of the purest theological mysticism of the thirteenth century. But he does not allow his mysticism to weaken or obscure in any way his genius for pure speculation, as has been often erroneously asserted of him;{1} on the contrary, he controls and masters his mysticism. In giving expression to it he is influenced by the Fathers of the Church, by Pseudo-Denis and St. Bernard, but still more deeply and directly by the Victorine tradition.

Many writers have drawn a parallel between St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas. The domination of the mystic tendency in St. Bonaventure accounts for his attachment to the synthetic method and his constant care to bring all psychological and metaphysical problems into relation with God, as the great centre of philosophical investigation. St. Thomas, less ardent and more calmly logical, gives greater organic coherence to the component elements of his great philosophical structure. He had also more time to perfect his work; for St. Bonaventure's scholastic labours were interrupted, from the age of thirty-five, by the distracting cares of his office as general of his Order.

{1} The Quaracchi editors point out that only one out of the nine volumes of his complete works, and that in part only, is devoted to his writings on mystic theology.

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