SAINT BONAVENTURE LOOKING FOR ANGELS

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In he returned to Paris, where his friars were under attack both from conservatives in the Theology faculty and from radicals in Arts. Bonaventure began a series of writings devoted primarily to moral matters: Collations on the Ten Commandments Collationes de decem praeceptis , Lent of ; Collations on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit Collationes de septem donis Spiritus sancti , Lent of ; a defense of the friars bearing the Socratic title Apologia pauperum Defense of the Mendicants , On 10 December , Etienne Tempier, bishop of Paris, condemned certain erroneous Aristotelian propositions.

During Easter-tide of Bonaventure delivered his magisterial Collations on the Hexameron Collationes in Hexaemeron. The last period of Bonaventure's life saw him rise to become one of the most prominent men in Christendom. During the three year Papal vacancy, from 29 November to 1 September , Bonaventure preached an important sermon in Viterbo and was probably instrumental in the invention of conclave.

Saint Bonaventure

He is said to have been offered the papacy by the electors and to have suggested Teobaldi Visconti instead. Bonaventure of happy memory, Bishop of Albano, who was a man eminent for his knowledge and eloquence homo eminentis scientie et eloquentie , a man outstanding for his sanctity and acknowledged for the excellence of his life, both religious and moral…Br. Without exception, every word of philosophy Bonaventure ever wrote is contained in works explicitly religious—in sermons, works of spiritual direction, and theology.

He never wrote the kind of introductions to the principles of metaphysics and natural philosophy that Thomas Aquinas composed in his On Being and Essence De ente et essentia and On the Principles of Nature De principiis naturae , nor did he comment on Aristotle's works. Commentators writing during the twentieth century neo-thomistic revival compared Bonaventure with three other thinkers: Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.

Mandonnet thought he had no philosophy of his own, but was an Augustinian theologian, pure and simple, all of whose conclusions depend on faith. Bonaventure the mystical synthesis of mediaeval Augustinianism was fully formed, just as that of Christian Aristotelianism was fully formed with St. Van Steenberghen thought his philosophy a failed Aristotelianism separate from but at the service of his Augustinian theology. Bonaventure's approach to Aristotle was quite different from Albert and Thomas. He felt no need for detailed knowledge of the text of Aristotle.

As a student in Arts he had learned from his Masters, not from detailed study of Aristotle's text, broadly Aristotelian philosophical principles—the categories and transcendentals, the causes and predicables, and fundamental notions like potency and act, possible and necessary—sufficient to do his own work.

On the other hand, while Augustine was clearly Bonaventure's favorite theological authority, he was not, properly speaking, an Augustinian. Even when he draws Augustinian conclusions, Bonaventure does not employ Augustinian arguments. In truth, Bonaventure was, broadly speaking, an Aristotelian in his philosophical principles, but not in his conclusions. A better way to describe his philosophical conclusions and his way of drawing them is that his thought was Franciscan in inspiration and Bonaventurean in execution.

The pressing issue concerning philosophy, faith, and theology in the s was how to set up theology as an Aristotelian demonstrative science. Albert had done so in his commentary on the Sentences —9 , which Bonaventure had on hand when writing his own commentary. Demonstration is causal knowledge, and a science in Aristotle's sense is systematic knowledge of one limited subject developed through demonstrating necessary conclusions by making use of certain fundamental causal principles relevant to the subject at hand.

The task theology had set itself, then, was to discover and present systematically the truths set out in that most unsystematic of books—the Bible. These causes in turn clarify the relations between philosophy, faith, and theology. Since science exists as an intellectual habit in the mind of the knower, the efficient cause of any book of theology is the author who wrote it, Peter Lombard in the case of his Sentences , Bonaventure himself in the case of his commentary. This simple point distinguishes faith, whose sole efficient cause is God working through grace, from both philosophy and theology, whose efficient cause is the human mind, though even here God has a role to play.

When he came to clarify the end of theology, Bonaventure understood that Aristotle had sharply distinguished practical science—whose end is deeds—from theoretical science—whose end is knowledge. Determining that material cause of theology is the same as settling on its subject. On this point, there had been considerable dispute among the Masters. Theology, by contrast, cuts across all genera and includes God, who is not confined within any genus. To throw light on these conflicting answers, Bonaventure turned to his study of the Arts.

Priscian had noted three different senses of the subject of grammar. Bonaventure does not explicitly address the principles of theology. Consequently, Bonaventure adds a telling qualification to his description of the subject of theology. If so, then theology must have the kinds of principles that make possible both kinds of arguments: the fundamental truths of faith drawn from the Bible and tradition, but also fundamental truths of reason. What makes all such basic truths theological is their argumentative function.

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Theological arguments may draw from revelation by using revealed truths as premises and they may draw from reason by using rational truths as premises. Both kinds of arguments are theological because of the use to which they are put. In this way, philosophical reasoning has an integral place within the domain of Bonaventurean theology.

Bonaventure showed how philosophical reasoning works in theology in the very structure of his disputed question On the Mystery of the Trinity. Each question is divided into two articles, the first proven using rational premises and the second proven using premises drawn from faith. In Question 1, for example, God is rationally proven to exist in Art. Theology, then, consists most fundamentally in the understanding that results from joining rational arguments and faith-based arguments together. Bonaventure argues for each point by combining one claim based on reason with another based on revelation, as though they were wall and buttress of the cathedral of theology.

Philosophical reasoning, then, is an absolutely integral part of Bonaventure's faith-based theology. In the first step of the Journey Bonaventure focuses upon the sensible objects of the physical world around us, both taken in themselves and in reference to our sense awareness of them. Like all creatures, sensible things are understood to be signs that ultimately can direct humans to the divine art or wisdom through which all things have been made. Bonaventure's semiotics distinguishes four sorts of signs. But a creature is called a vestige based on properties which point to God as triple cause—efficient, formal, and final cause; for example, the properties: one, true, and good.

All creatures, from rocks to angels, are signs in the sense of shadows and traces of God, for they all bear a relation of causal dependency upon God as their source; but only rational creatures can have the divine as an object of their activities and, for that reason, can conform themselves to the divine will and become likenesses of God. Bonaventure's understanding of the physical world is heavily indebted to two fundamental sources: the Biblical account of creation, mediated by Patristic commentaries, and the Aristotelian view of nature, taken chiefly from Aristotle's writings on natural philosophy, such as the Physics Physica and On the Heavens De caelo , but combined with the commentaries of Averroes, the tracts of Avicenna, and the Timaeus of Plato in the Latin translation of Chalcidius.

Bonaventure constructs a view of the physical world that is indebted to both of his fundamental sources, but ultimately gives the Scriptural text and the related Patristic tradition precedence whenever his sources come into conflict. His manner of synthesizing those sources into a coherent and impressive whole is what gives his views on nature their distinctive character. The tension between the newly translated Aristotelian corpus and the traditional theological teaching of the Church regarding the doctrine of creation was well understood by Bonaventure's time.

Indeed, the prohibitions of and regarding the teaching of the Aristotelian writings on natural philosophy had given way to the direct teaching of Aristotle in the Faculty of Arts by the time Bonaventure took his master of arts degree at the University of Paris, and by the time he left the University, the Aristotelian corpus in its entirety was a subject of examination for candidates for degrees in the Faculty of Arts.

Yet the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the world was given various interpretations. Some favored a benign interpretation, claiming that all Aristotle meant in Physics VIII was that the world and its motion did not arise from some earlier motion, but rather time, moveable things, and motion were all coeval and concomitant.

Bonaventure's own position takes its origins from a combination of elements coming from Alexander of Hales and Grosseteste. Following the lead of the latter, Bonaventure rejects, albeit with some hesitation, the benign reading of the Stagirite; in all likelihood, Aristotle did intend to teach that the world was beginningless:. Yet the most striking feature of Bonaventure's account of the philosophers is the manner in which he juxtaposes the doctrine of creation, as he understands it, with the philosophical theory of origins.

The third possibility, namely that the world is both produced from nothing and eternal, Bonaventure vehemently rejects on the grounds that such a position is inherently contradictory:. Returning to the last argument, we find the reasoning to which Bonaventure refers.


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The argument is an elegant synthesis and restatement of the position of Parisian theologians since the time of William of Auxerre, but is especially indebted to the Quaestiones of Alexander of Hales. Everything that depends entirely for its being on something else is produced by that thing from nothing. The world depends entirely for its being on God.

Hence, the world must be produced from nothing. The world cannot arise out of nothing as out of matter. Thus the world must arise out of nothing as out of a point of origin. If, however, the world arises out of nothing as out of a point of origin, then the world has being after non-being. Nothing having being after non-being can be eternal.

The world, as a created thing, has being after non-being. To Bonaventure's mind, the creationist view of the universe alone accounts for the total being of the universe in the sense of explaining both its structure and the fact that it exists; the view of the ancients only explains the order and the pattern of the universe without reaching the depths of accounting for why the universe exists at all. A sign of this shortcoming is to be seen in the shared presupposition of Plato and Aristotle that matter is unoriginated. Furthermore, to the extent that the ancient pagan views of the universe involve the infinity of past time, with all the philosophical difficulties that the eternity of past time entails, natural reason would seem capable of arriving, in principle, at the conclusion that the world was created, even though, historically speaking, the greatest of the ancient philosophers failed to do so.

The conflict between Scriptural sources and the Aristotelian writings on the issue of the primordial state of matter is not so severe, because in the Aristotelian corpus there is no description of the primordial state of matter, and the other sources available to Bonaventure are themselves in disagreement. Augustine, for example, had suggested in his literal commentary on Genesis that the matter of the world could have been made all at once, whereas in his Confessions Confessiones he had suggested that there might be an indeterminate and inchoate initial state of matter. This possibiliity was further corroborated by such pagan authors as Plato and Ovid, who had posited a primordial chaotic state of matter out of which the present cosmic order gradually emerged Plato, Timaeus 52DC, ; Ovid, Metamorphoses , — Bonaventure begins by distinguishing the consideration of matter from the actual existence of matter in the order of natural history.

But we may also think of matter as it actually exists in time. In this respect, matter never exists and cannot exist as lacking all form. Such a claim, however, does not require that material creation was brought forth as fully formed, even if such a position might be more philosophically defensible than its opposite. Rather, its potentiality to develop distinct forms required further external, divine agency in order for the distinct things having diverse forms to fully emerge.

These features are still shared by all the items in the physical world, even though Bonaventure admits, in accord with the Aristotelian teaching on the heavens, that heavenly bodies, such as the stars, have matter that differs in kind from that of terrestrial things. Accordingly, after things were fully produced matter was twofold, terrestrial and celestial, but in its primordial state physical matter enjoyed a corresponding unity that was one of contiguity, i. Bonaventure's treatment of light is mainly found in the discussion of light in his commentary on Lombard's Sentences , Bk.

In this theological context, light mainly bears upon the work of the six days of creation, and Bonventure must take a position on the Genesis account of the creation of light. Though he acknowledges Augustine's spiritualizing interpretation of light, an interpretation that identifies the light spoken of in Genesis with the creation and activities of the angels, Bonaventure inclines to a more literal interpretation. The two positions that Bonaventure discusses are what we may call a broadly Aristotelian position, one eventually adopted by Thomas Aquinas, and a broadly Augustinian position advocated by Robert Grosseteste in his On light De luce.

According to the first, light is simply an accidental form, one found in degrees in different bodies, but according to the second, light is perhaps a substance or at least a substantial form communicating extension and visibility to physical things. Bonaventure discounts the possibility that light is a substance, because it is purely active and if it were a substance in its own right it would be God and not a creature. He does allow, however, that light is a substantial form and is the substantial form that is concomitant with the mass of matter in its primordial state.

For Bonaventure, then, light is a substantial form, but only the partial perfection of any given physical substance, whether celestial or terrestrial. Since Bonaventure endorses, usually without any elaborate argumentation, the general claim that there is a plurality of substantial forms within any composite thing, his doctrine of light really means that light is the first form, endowing each thing with extension, and preparing the way for further perfections such as the forms of the elements or the forms of mixtures or compounds.

The transition in the order of natural history from bodies that are simply such, extended and endowed with the ability to act and be acted upon, to the bodies of plants and animals is explained in part through the motions of the celestial bodies and their causal influences on matter. In part, however, matter itself has latent structures that simply await the correct circumstances and conditions to cause the emergence of a higher type of body.

These latent structures, originally sown into matter at its creation, Bonaventure calls, following the terminology of St. Augustine, rationes seminales or seminal reasons, a term hearkening back to the cosmology of the ancient Stoics. Seminal reasons amount to a lingering impact of the creator on the matter of the physical world since their presence in matter originates with creation. In physical science, Bonaventure believes seminal reasons help to explain the successive emergence of the different kinds of bodies suitable for higher and higher types of life.

But this process of gradual emergence does not apply to the creation of human life, since human souls for Bonaventure are incorruptible and can only arise through the direct action of the creator. Though from our post-Darwinian perspective we may be tempted to see in the doctrine of seminal reasons, whether in Augustine or Bonaventure, a curious, yet awkward anticipation of the doctrine of evolution, similarities between the doctrine of seminal reasons and certain elements in evolutionary theory are more apparent than real.

First, though seminal reasons do provide directionality and progression for the succession of physical types in natural history, they are themselves latent forms within matter and not reducible to more fundamental mechanical or chemical processes; rather, they underlie such processes. Second, seminal reasons are never appealed to in order to explain the demise of one living species and the emergence of another species to replace the former, a key feature of Darwinian explanations.

Third, seminal reasons are not, as we have just seen, universal in their application to the living things that occur within the order of natural history; human beings, at least in terms of their souls, fall outside the range of influence of seminal reasons. Bonaventure's doctrines regarding living things are mainly inspired by an Aristotelian biology. Living things are such thanks to the kind of forms they have, namely, soul, which is defined as the first actuality of a body having life potentially.

Soul is understood as the form that makes a thing alive and able to enjoy the type of life that it does. Consequently, souls are termed either vegetative, sensitive, or rational, according to the functions that the living things themselves exercise. The world as it is revealed to us through the senses provides the means for our re-entering ourselves and ascending to higher things.

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Furthermore, the senses themselves are equally signs of higher things. These features are grounded in the activities and natural powers of sensible substances. The nature of sensible substances accordingly expresses in their actions and interactions the measure, beauty, and order of their origin and thereby attest to the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Source from which they spring. The pointing of physical things towards their Source finds its parallel in sense cognition itself, which also points towards that same Source. Drawing his point of departure from the Neoplatonic theme of macrocosm and microcosm, Bonaventure discovers an analogy between Aristotelian cosmology and the process of sensation.

Each sensible object generates a likeness of itself in the medium through which it is perceived, and that likeness in turn generates another likeness successively in the sense organ, causing the sense power to apprehend the sensible object. The process so described reflects the process of the emanation of forms from the heavenly bodies and also the manner in which creatures, going forth from their Principle, return to their Source through the exercise of their natural activities. A similar pattern emerges within the different acts exercised by each sense power: the sense apprehends apprehensio the object, delights delectatio in its object, provided that the object does not exceed the natural limits of the organ, and judges diiudicatio or discriminates the quality of its object.

This last act, found in both the external senses and the internal senses, takes on a special role for Bonaventure. Such a sense judgement, through comparative awareness, detaches the object from a given place and time, thereby preparing the way within the realm of sense cognition for intellectual cognition. When we arrive at the threshold of intellectual cognition, we are entering the next step along the Bonaventurian journey.

This level of creaturely being points to the Divine Source, but in ways that are more direct than those in which sensible creatures do.

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In exercising their powers of intellect and will, intellectual creatures discover the highest and most perfect object of their powers in the Divine Source of their being, since God is the First or Highest Truth and the First or Chief Good. Accordingly, intellectual creatures have God as their ultimate object, whereas all creatures have God as their Cause. Bonaventure traces out how intellectual creatures and intelligible objects reflect the divine Source. Yet every definition requires a genus and a differentia.

Through the generic term we are led to a further object of simple apprehension, usually itself susceptible of definition. If the genus is definable, we may state its definition, but we shall eventually find ourselves through continuing the process of definition arriving similarly at one of the supreme general or Aristotelian categories; if the genus is not definable, then we have arrived at one of the Aristotelian categories.

Once we arrive at a category, we confront an item not susceptible of further definition, though it admits of description. The resolution of all our items of simple apprehension into the concept of being is metaphysically and epistemologically crucial: metaphysically, it opens up a route of argumentation that leads to the existence of God; epistemologically, such a resolution means that behind all, even the most determinate and specific, conceptions of things lies a transcendental awareness of being that informs all of our knowledge.

If we take the concept of substance as being in itself, we cannot come to know a particular substance's definition without the concept of being presupposed in the background, and in addition we are concomitantly aware of the transcendental properties of being unity, truth, and goodness in any such notion. Such co-extensive transcendental properties, however, are only one of the two types of properties that belong to being; the other transcendental properties later called disjunctive properties prove extremely useful for increasing our metaphysical knowledge.

Being may be conceived of as either actual or potential, absolute or dependent, prior or posterior, immutable or mutable. Yet to conceive of being as potential, dependent, posterior, or mutable requires that we already be acquainted with being as actual, independent, prior and immutable. In other words, the more perfect of the two disjuncts in any of the disjunctive transcendentals must be an item we acknowledge in our awareness of being:. At one level, this line of argumentation is part of an argument for the existence of God.

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