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ST. BONAVENTURE ON DISTINCTIONS* St. Bonaventure developed a theory of distinction and identity which has long been overshadowed by the theories of his Franciscan successors, although it is interesting in its own right and important in the relation it bears to his philosophy as a whole. This article is an attempt to remedy this neglect. My first task will be to examine each of the types of distinction Bonaventure discusses. Then I will note some problems presented by his theory. Finally I will attempt to trace the influence of his theory on later Franciscan thought. This examination does not pretend to completeness because Bonaventure 's theory is itself incomplete since it was developed largely to handle theological rather than general philosophical problems. I Like most medieval philosophers, Bonaventure concentrated his attention not on the notion of identity, but rather on distinction, the negation of identity. (Actually, medieval philosophers preferred to regard identity as the negation of distinction, feeling as they did that division and distinction are understood by us prior to understanding identity). He generally divides distinction into three types. Thus in the Breviloquium he describes the following three types of distinction to be found in God: And there are there, therefore, only three ways of differing, namely according to modes of being or emanating, as one Person differs from another Person; according to modes of relating, as a Person differs from the essence because one Person is related to another and is therefore distinguished from that, but the essence truly is not related to another and therefore is not distinguished; also according to modes of understanding as one substantial property such as goodness differs from another [such as] wisdom.x * An earlier version of this appeared as a chapter of my dissertation, JWedieval Theories of Distinction, University of Pennsylvania, 1974. 1 Breviloquium, I, iv in Opera Omnia (Quaracchi: Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventurae , 1882-1902), V, 213. All references to the Opera Omnia below are St. Bonaventure on Distinctions195 Earlier, in his Commentary on the Sentences, however, he had listed the following three types of distinction: according to essential or accidental modes of things, according to different modes of understanding one thing, and according to different modes of relating in one thing.2 The two divisions do not completely correspond for the first diversity in the Sentences list cannot be found in God since it implies an essential diversity within a thing; this list then seems to leave no place for the distinction of divine Persons. Elsewhere in the Sentences, however, he admits either an absolute or a relative foundation for the distinction as to modes of being, solving the problem.3 Clearly the distinction according to modes of relating and the distinction as to modes of understanding on the two lists do correspond, and other passages indicate that Bonaventure intended to maintain a threefold division of distinctions in God into real (modes of being), attributional (modes of relating) and rational (modes of understanding) types. There do, however, appear to be distinctions in creatures which do not clearly fall under one of these three types. Bonaventure gives three general conditions for these distinctions: The first difference which can be found in God [i.e. the real] is greater for it is in the supposits so that one is not predicated of the other. The second difference [i.e. the attributional] is lesser, because it is in the attributes. For, although one extreme can be predicated of the other, as a Person of the essence, however something is predicated of one and not the other, e.g. a Person is distinguished and related and the essence is truly not distinguished and not related. Truly the third [i.e. the rational] difference is the least because it is in what are connoted. For, although one extreme may be predicated of the other, and the same can be predicated of both they do not, however, connote the same nor is each understood through the same means.1 to the Quaracchi edition. "Et propterea sunt ibi tantum tres modi differendi, scilicet secundum modos essendi sive emanandi, sicut differt persona a persona; secundum modos se habendi, sicut differt persona et essentia—quia una persona ad...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 194-212
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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