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Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.2 (2002) 258-259



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Book Review

The Light of Thy Countenance:
Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century


Steven P. Marrone. The Light of Thy Countenance: Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century. 2 Vols. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Pp. x + 611. Cloth, $90.00.

In this, the most complete study of the tradition of divine illumination ever produced in English, Steven Marrone has set the standard for further studies in thirteenth-century epistemology as well as inaugurated a revival in the historiographical significance of philosophical schools for analyzing medieval thought. He conducts his investigation of thirteenth-century epistemology by focusing upon eleven figures seen as belonging to an "Augustinian school," contrary to the tenor of much recent scholarship. The reason for this terminological divergence from current practice is that one of Marrone's theses in the two volumes is that there was such a school, though its definition and boundaries are not taken so much from doctrinal agreements as they are from the metaphors and images the eleven historical figures employ and the common attitudes they evince, in particular toward the teaching of St. Augustine regarding the mind.

The two volumes are divided into two parts each: in the first volume, we find a treatment of incipient illuminationism within the Augustinian school in the figures of Robert Grosseteste and William of Auvergne and a treatment of classical illuminationism in the teachings of Guido of Tournai, St. Bonaventure, John Peckham, and Matthew of Aquasparta; in the second volume, our attention is brought to the critical assessment of the classical illuminationist position and an effort to accommodate more Aristotelian elements on the part of Henry of Ghent, Vital du Four, and Richard Conington, while the second half of the second volume is concerned with the new synthesis of divergent elements, both Augustinian and Aristotelian, in the teachings of William Ware and John Duns Scotus. [End Page 258]

In the first part of volume 1, Marrone advances an interpretation of Grosseteste that claims Grosseteste was not a committed or consistent illuminationist, though he did provide materials in his De veritate that prompted and inspired the views of later authors in the illuminationist tradition. Indeed, if the interpretation proposed is correct, Grosseteste was less and less enamoured of the traditional Augustinian epistemology in his later writings, retaining in the end only the intimacy of God to the mind from the Augustinian heritage. Much the same can be said, in Marrone's view, for William of Auvergne, save that the latter did allow for divine illumination regarding first principles and was not inclined, as Grossteste was, to endorse certain elements of Aristotelian psychology.

In the second part of volume 1, the key figure is St. Bonaventure who gave the illuminationist position its classical expression, albeit many of the finer details of argumentation were left to John Peckham and Matthew of Aquasaparta to develop. Bonaventure's manner of locating the action of the divine light mainly in the act of judgment, both regarding complex and simple cognition, while emphasizing the irreplaceable role of sense cognition in the formation of concepts set the goal for much of the effort of the classical Augustinians: namely, to find a place within the framework of the Aristotelian psychology for the divine light to insert itself without rejecting the essential elements of that psychology.

Henry of Ghent is at the third stage of this history of thirteenth-century epistemology, subjecting the ideas of his predecessors to severe criticism while simultaneously creating a new way in which the illuminationist approach could accommodate the strictures of Aristotelian psychology. Marrone proposes a genetic interpretation of Henry's thought: Henry began his teaching career a critical, though committed, illuminationist; then he developed an ontology and a philosophical psychology that tended away from and, in principle, could have dispensed with the doctrine of illumination as it was ordinarily understood; finally, Henry reaffirmed his earlier illuminationist stance without fully synthesizing that stance with the new ideas...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 258-259
Launched on MUSE
2002-04-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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