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THE PHILOSOPHY OF ST. BONAVENTURE — A CONTROVERSY INTRODUCTION In the relatively recent past, there has been a reawakening of interest in St. Bonaventure, the great thirteenth-century Franciscan. As a consequence, several important problems have been debated regarding the proper understanding of his philosophy and regarding his place in Christian thought. It will be the purpose of this article to present some phases of this controversy. The discussion will be limited to the views of three men whose works on Bonaventure are especially worthy of attention, lhey are Etienne Gilson, Fernand Van Steenberghen, and Patrick Robert. Such a limitation is deemed advisable since the above-mentioned have engaged from time to time in a three-way discussion on the more important problems of Bonaventure's philosophy. Numerous references to other critics may be found in the writings of these three scholars. The controversy has centered for the most part around three main areas. I hesitate to call them questions, since each one is very difficult to isolate and formulate. With some trepidation, then, I would set down the following problems or groups of problems: i. What is the nature of Bonaventure's philosophy? Does he admit a "separate philosophy" ? What is the proper object of his philosophy? Is it really a philosophy at all, or is it rather a theology ? What does he mean by Christian Wisdom? 2.What is the attitude of Bonaventure to Aristotle and Aristotelianism ? Was it sympathetic or hostile? Can his thought be characterized as basically Aristotelian or Augustinian ? 3.What was the real issue behind the Averroist controversy? Was it Augustinian thought vs anAristotelian, therefore separate, philosophy ? Or was it Christian thought, including schools differing among themselves on some issues, against a common enemy represented by the rationalistic and naturalistic extremes of Averroism? The above divisions are put down merely as guides for any approach to St. Bonaventure. This is not to say, therefore, that the three men 14 Franciscan Studies 1959209 210R. J. ROCH whose works are under discussion have set them down in precisely the same way, much less that they have followed the same order. In the interest of simplicity (if such is attainable in so complex a matter), and as a starting point for discussion, we shall try to handle the following two questions: (i) Did St. Bonaventure admit the possibility of a „separate philosophy" ? (2) Can his thought be characterized as basically Aristotelian or basically Augustinian ? It will soon become evident that several of the other questions stated above will inevitably become involved in our treatment. Our procedure will be to discuss the views of Gilson as presented in his famous work on the philosophy of St. Bonaventure,* and then to review the reactions of Van Steenberghen and Robert. Though in the course of this article much attention will be given to the criticisms of Gilson's position, it is actually a tribute to his great volume on Bonaventure . For any analysis of the Seraphic Doctor's thought could hardly be made without giving serious attention to Gilson's scholarly work. I. THE PROBLEM OF A SEPARATE PHILOSOPHY Gilson answers this problem by stating that St. Bonaventure consciously rejected the possibility of a separate philosophy, that is, a philosophy distinct from theology, independent of revelation, having its own object and method. Gilson arrives at this conclusion from two approaches: (1) from an analysis of the Averroist controversy, and (2) from an analysis of Bonaventure's view regarding the place of human knowledge in the whole context of Christian wisdom.1 In Gilson's opinion, the Averroist controversy meant different things to different people. For St. Thomas, the whole problem consisted in a * Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, trans. Illtyd Trethowan (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1938). The original French edition appeared in 1924 (Paris: Vrin), and in 1943 a second revised edition without any significant changes. 1 For the most part, these two problems have been treated by scholars as though they were almost independent questions. This is true of Gilson and Robert who first deal with Averroism and only later take up the nature of Bonaventure's philosophy, its object, method, etc. It is my feeling that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 209-226
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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