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  • Reduction's FutureTheology, Technology, and the Order of Knowledge
  • Kevin L. Hughes

Let me begin with something of a confession. When as a young undergraduate I first encountered medieval texts, and so, for the first time, began to know something of the medieval "way of seeing," I was intoxicated. And I was intoxicated, in part, by the comprehensiveness and unity of this worldview, where God, humans, the cosmos, science, theology, philosophy, nature, supernature – all of these elements fit. So often in my thinking I have repaired to those famous last lines of Dante's Comedy, to the "Love which moves the sun and other stars," as the epitome of the comprehension, coherence, and harmony of the medieval worldview.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I have been attracted to the work of St. Bonaventure. We may all be familiar with the statements that now have become almost truisms, that to know Bonaventure at all, one needs to know the whole system, and that the whole system is found in every kind of work that he had done. "Procession, exemplarity, return, this is the whole of our metaphysics."1 This principle of Order in Bonaventure, as described and analyzed by Wayne Hellmann, is a kind of keystone to all of Bonaventure's work.2 [End Page 227]

If you understand the "order," you understand Bonaventure. Such admirable consistency and harmony! Such remarkable unity of perspective! And, at least by many accounts, the Reduction of the Arts to Theology3 is a perfect concise instance of Bonaventure's synthetic vision.

It is precisely this unity, as found in the Reduction of the Arts to Theology, that Dieter Hattrup finds problematic. For Hattrup, the notion of unity itself is not problematic; rather, it is the unity of knowledge as conveyed in the Reduction that approaches a deeply problematic modern understanding of knowledge. Hattrup believes he has discovered in this brief treatise the seeds of what we might call a technological or manipulative knowledge. Whatever the limits of Dieter Hattrup's historical and textual brief against the authenticity of the Reduction, his theological queries should put us all on guard if we are to imagine a future for any "reduction of the arts to theology," Bonaventurean or otherwise.

A Theological Question

Bonaventura zwischen Mystik und Mystifikation4 begins with a basic theological premise: Christian theology is interested in the relationship between faith and reason, and this interest follows from the even more basic Christian claim that God is distinct from the world. If one has an intra-cosmic notion of the divine, wherein gods are the greatest or most powerful beings among all other beings, then the question between faith and reason does not arise. Gods who are beings can be known in the way we know all other beings, i.e., through reason. Faith, on the other hand, describes the kind of knowledge we can have of the One who is not part but [End Page 228] Maker of the created order. From the time of Philo on, Jewish and Christian believers5 have drawn this careful distinction and explored how faith and reason might be related without being reduced one into the other. Hattrup suggests that this perpetual question is raised with particular intensity with the revival of Aristotelian philosophy in the High Middle Ages, and Bonaventure stands as a major figure in scholastic inquiry. But, he tells us, this question remains crucial to our own time under the sign of "secularization."6

It is important to note this opening overture, as it tells us that Hattrup is exploring what he takes to be first and foremost a theological puzzle: Does the Reduction of the Arts to Theology faithfully represent Bonaventure's understanding of the relationship between faith and reason as ways of knowing? Is it consistent with what we find (and what Hattrup has studied elsewhere)7 in his Sentence Commentary, Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ, and the Collations on the Hexaëmeron? Most importantly, and more theologically, does the Reduction distinguish properly between faith and reason, as would befit this Doctor of the Church? Or is it the beginning of the collapse of this classic distinction...