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THE SPARK OF CONSCIENCE: BONAVENTURE'S VIEW OF CONSCIENCE AND SYNDERESIS O. Lottin's monumental study, Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles, first published in 1948, summarized the history of medieval discussions of conscience up to the end of the thirteenth century.1 Regrettably, his work did not generate extensive discussions about the natures and roles of synderesis and conscience. More recently, Timothy Potts attributes this lack of impact to Lottin's failure to write in terms that are "easily accessible, psychologically , to contemporary philosophers who are intellectual heirs of Hume, Kant and, now, of Frege."2 Yet, Potts's own work has also failed to spark the interest he clearly hoped it would.3 While this failure may be explained in part by the general neglect of the topic of conscience in recent times, it is probably due more to Potts's own focus in his work. His emphasis on what Philip the Chancellor , Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas thought about necessary deontic propositions tends to obscure, for example, many of Bonaventure 's valuable comments about both synderesis and conscience.4 In this essay, I hope to indicate some of the intriguing features of Bonaventure's analysis: his placing of synderesis in the will, his mixing of the cognitive and affective orders, his view that synderesis controls conscience. I Bonaventure discusses both conscience and synderesis in his Commentary on the Sentences, Book II, distinction 39. He places conscience squarely within the rational faculty, specifying that it 1LoMm, O., Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XHIe siècles, vol. I (2nd ed.) (Gembloux: J. Duculot, [1948] 1957), vol. ? (Gembloux: J. Duculot, 1948). 2Potts, Timothy, Conscience in Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980): 1. Hereafter, Conscience. 3Potts, Timothy, "Conscience", in N. Kretzmann, A. Kenny, and J. Pinborg, eds., The Cambridge History ofLater Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980): 704. Hereafter, "Conscience." 4PoKs, Conscience, 44. 80DOUGLAS LANGSTON is part of practical reason since it is connected to the performance of actions. It is thus also connected to both the will and the emotions.5 On the other hand, he places synderesis in the affective part of human beings, for he regards synderesis as that which stimulates us to the good.6 It is important to note that Bonaventure's prefatory remarks at the beginning of the distinction discuss how Lombard's treatment of conscience and synderesis is guided by a key question: how does the will become depraved when it is the case that men naturally will and desire good? In particular, how can human wills become depraved when conscience always dictates good and synderesis inclines towards good and turns away from evil?7 Because human beings are directed towards good by conscience and synderesis, their performance of evil requires an explanation. Lombard's presentation of his discussion of conscience and synderesis obviously influenced Bonaventure. In addition to discussing the nature of conscience and synderesis, Bonaventure constantly returns to the question of how men can commit evil despite their orientation to good by both conscience and synderesis. Conscience is divided into two general parts by Bonaventure. The first part seems to be a power for discovering the truth of very general practical principles such as "obey God," "honor your parents ,"and "do not harm your neighbors."8 He talks about this power as a light on a par with the power of the intellect to discover the truth of first principles of theoretical reason.9 Bonaventure regards this part of conscience as unerring as well as innate. Not only does it never make a mistake about the truth of very general practical 5Bonaventure, Commentary on the Sentences, Book 2, Distinction 39, article 1, question 1, in Opera Theologica Selecta (Florence: Ad Claras Aquas, 1934), Volume ?, 934a-b. For ease of reference to other editions of Bonaventure's Commentary, I provide information on book, distinction, article, and question. Sentences ?, d. 39, a. 2, q. 1 (vol. 2, 945a). ''Sentences ?, d. 39, a. 2, q. 1 (vol. 2, 932a). According to J. Guy Bougerol in his Introduction to the Works of Bonaventure (New York: Desclee Co., 1964): 57ff., Bonaventure always offers a commentary on Lombard's text before presenting his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 79-95
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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