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

255. Philosophical Teaching. -- St. Bonaventure is at one with all the great masters of the thirteenth century upon an imposing array of fundamental doctrines. Their adversaries are his: he misses no opportunity of striking a blow at Averroïsm and pantheism (notably at that of David of Dinant). The Scholia of the Quaracchi editors have brought out clearly this important fact, and it deserves to be carefully noted. Deferring to Art. III. the doctrines he taught in common with all the leading scholastics, we will indicate here the theories by which he made a personal impress on the philosophical teaching of his age.

I. On the relations between philosophy and theology, St. Bonaventure subscribes to the common opinion; but he makes theology a practical, rather than a speculative, science,{1} and accentuates its affective (emotional and volitional) elements and significance. In this, perhaps, we may recognize an echo of the favourite Augustinian theory of the primacy of will over intellect and knowledge.

II. In his Metaphysics three main positions call for some attention. Firstly, in all creatures we must recognize a real distinction not merely between essence and existence, but between matter and form. Act and potency, form and matter, are convertible pairs of correlatives. The angels, therefore, are not formae subsistentes. Though matter cannot exist without form, yet it has a representative idea in the Divine mind, for it is a reality, though an indeterminate one; and if we abstract from the forms which differentiate it, we must admit it to be homogeneous in material bodies and spiritual beings (as against Alexander of Hales). This theory of the hylemorphic composition of immaterial substances, as understood in the peripatetic sense by the earlier scholastics, is a legacy from Avicebron. But St. Bonaventure seems unaware of its origin; for he does not mention the name of the Jewish philosopher; he even tries to trace it to St. Augustine; and the Franciscans after him appeal more and more to the authority of the Fathers rather than to that of the Jewish philosopher (see 243, and below).

The plurality of substantial forms is a second theory, imbibed by St. Bonaventure from the teaching of his master, Alexander. Not that he rejects the formula, Unius perfectibilis una sola est perfectio, but he contends that the forma completiva, which gives the being its ultimate, specific perfection, is not incompatible with other subordinate substantial forms which would be principles of inferior perfections; -- and this view he applies not only to organic and inorganic compounds (mixta), but even to the elements in Nature. The plurality theory was accepted and defended universally in the Franciscan schools.

Thirdly, between the specific essence and the individual essence there is no real distinction, the principle of individuation is neither matter alone nor form alone, but both together.

III. The Existence of God, Divine Exemplarism and Creation, are the great characteristic themes of St. Bonaventure's Theodicy. God's existence is proved a posteriori. "Deus qui est artifex et causa creaturae, per ipsam cognoscitur."{2} But if we consider the Divine essence in itself, or suppose an intelligence endowed with a proper, and not merely negative and analogical, idea of that essence, for such an intelligence the Divine essence would indeed imply existence. This is the commentary of St. Bonaventure on the argument of St. Anselm.{3}

Secondly, in regard to Exemplarism, there are numerous passages in the Commentaries on the Sentences, in the Itinerarium Mentis in Deum and in the Hexaemenon, as well as a Quaestio disputata de cognitionis humanae suprema ratione,{4} in which St. Bonaventure expressly examines the famous Augustinian texts to the effect that all knowledge takes place ratione lucis increatae or rationibus aeternis, that God is present by His truth to all intelligences, etc. It is certain that St. Bonaventure did not understand those texts in an ontologistic sense{5} while his opposition to the Averroïst theory of the unity of the human intellect (hic error destruit totum ordinem vivendi et agendi), and his own ideology, clearly imply the view that man is himself an efficient cause of his intellectual activities. He merely throws into bold relief and expounds more eloquently than the other great scholastics, the Augustinian theory on the Divine ideas as objective foundations of truth and certitude, and the illumination of the human intelligence by a light that is Divine (100 and 102). This illumination consists firstly in the Divine resemblance imprinted on our intelligences by the creative act itself, and secondly in the immediate concursus of the First Cause with every exercise of thought. We do not think that St. Bonaventure accepted the theory of a special illumination, which, according to some of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors, representing the earlier scholastic tradition, would be something distinct from God's general or ordinary co-operation with the creature. On this important point of Augustinian exegesis -- important in theodicy, in metaphysics and in ideology -- St. Bonaventure thinks with St. Thomas and Duns Scotus: only in his mode of expression does he appear to differ from them.{6}

Creation, which offers the only intelligible explanation of the origin of the world, took place in time: an eternal creation implies a contradiction. On this question, so hotly debated in the thirteenth century, St. Bonaventure defends with great energy the view of the earlier scholastics, not only against Aristotle and the Averroïsts, but also against the more moderate conclusions of Thomism.

IV. In Physics and Psychology respectively, we may note the theory of the rationes seminales and the doctrine on the nature of the soul and its relation to its faculties. Primary matter is not purely passive. It contains within itself; in an undeveloped and imperfect state of being, the various substantial forms with which it is destined to be united under the operation of natural agencies. It is in order to distinguish the transformations of natural substances from creation and annihilation that St. Bonaventure has recourse to the rationes seminales. He thus. reinstated the old Augustinian doctrine,{7} and the authority of his great name was quickly claimed by the promoters of a movement of reaction against Thomism towards the end of the century (312).

On the delicate question of the distinction between the soul and its faculties, St. Bonaventure propounds, though not without hesitation,{8} a sort of compromise between the old Augustinian and the new Thomistic theory. On the one hand, he does not allow with the Thomists that the three great faculties of the soul are superadded, distinct realities; but neither, on the other hand, does he admit identity of essence between the soul and the principles of action which emerge from the soul: they are, however, con-substantial with the soul.{9} Supporting the peripatetic ideology, he denies that we have any innate ideas, but we have an innate intellectual habit which he calls the naturale judicatorium. Then, also, he holds with St. Augustine that the will is the noblest of our faculties.

In accordance with the general principles of his metaphysics he distinguishes in the human soul a forma and a materia spiritualis, and in the individual human being a plurality of forms. His teaching is peripatetic in regard to the nature of the human compositum, and on the spirituality and immortality of the soul.

{1} The Quaracchi editors are of opinion that St. Bonaventure's formula differs little (parum differt, distat) from that of St. Thomas Aquinas (Opera, t. i., p. 13).

{2} In I. L. Sent., t. i., p. 72.

{3} Such is the interpretation of the Quaracchi editors, t. i., pp. 155, 156. DOMET DE VORGES (op. cit., p. 294) also observes that St. Bonaventure reproduces St. Anseim's argument only with characteristic reserves.

{4} First published in the De Humanae Cognitionis Ratione Anecdota Quaedem. S.D.N. Bonaventurae, etc., Quaracchi, 1883; reproduced with slight additions in the Quaestiones Disputatae de Scientia Christi, q. iv. (t. v., p. 17).

{5} See the Scholion on the Itinerarium, t. v., pp. 313-516.

{6} The Quaracchi editors have rightly insisted on this point. See especially the Sckolion to d. 24, p. i, In II. L. Sent. (t. ii., p. 570): "Manifeste ostenditur S. Doctarem ab aliis principalibus Scholasticis in hac doctrina i.e., de ratione cognitionis humanae non discrepare nisi in modo loquendi, vel in re exigui momenti Cf. t. i., p. 70. So too in the dissertatio dealing expressly with this question -- prefixed to the question referred to in note 1. So, finally, in this other text (t. x., Dissertatio de Scriptis, p. 31), which sums up St. Bonaventure's ideology and shows how he considers St. Augustine to have united Plato and Aristotle: "Licet anima secundum Augustinum connexa sit legibus aeternis, quia aliquo modo illud lumen attingit secundum supremam aciem intellectus agentis et superiorem portionem rationis, indubitanter tamen verum est, secundum quod dicit Philosophus, cognitianem generari in nobis via sensuum, memoriae et experientiae, ex quibus colligitur universale in nobis, quod est principium artis et scientiae. Unde quia Plato totam cognitionem certitudinalem convertit ad mundum intelligibilem, idea merito reprehensus fuit ab Aristotele. Et hoc ponendo, licet (Plato) videtur stabilire viam sapientiae, quae procedit secundum rationes aeternas, destruebat tamen viam scientiae, quae procedit secundum rationes creatas. Et idea videtur, quad inter philasophos datus sit Platoni sermo sapientiae, Aristoteli vera sermo scientiae. Ille enim principaliter aspiciebat ad superiora, hic vera principaliter ad inferiora. -- Uterque autem sermo, scilicet sapientiae, et scientiae, per Spiritum Sanctum datus eat Augustino tanquam praecipuo expositori totius Scripturae satis excellenter, sicut ex ejus scriptis apparet" (Sermo, t. v., p. 572). Aristotle is the savant, Plato the sage, Augustine both the savant and the sage.

{7} "Hanc positionem credo esse tenendam non solum quia eam suadet ratio, sed etiam quia confirmat auctoritas Augostini" (t. ii., p. 198).

{8} See Scholion, t. ii., p. 78.

{9} "Istae patentiae (memoria, intelligentia, voluntas) sunt animae consubstantiales, et sunt in eadem genere per reductionem, in qua est anima. Attamen, quoniam egrediuntur ab anima -- potentia enim se habet per modum egredientis -- non sunt omnino idem per essentiam" (In L. I. Sent., D. III., p. 2, art. i., q. 3, t. i., p. 86).

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