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RATIO INFERIOR AND RATIO SUPERIOR IN ST. ALBERT AND ST. THOMAS T HE history of philosophy in the thirteenth century is in part the history of a gigantic effort of constructive assimilation. Yet the great geniuses of this period made the assimilation with such tranquil assurance that unless one is familiar with the sources of their writings and the often vastly different ideas which these men reconciled, the magnitude of their accomplishment can neither be adequately understood nor fully appreciated. A case which well illustrates the mediaeval achievement of assimilating the wisdom of the past is the history of the theory of ratio inferior and ratio superior-a theory which M. D. Chenu, 0. P., considers to have been "one of the pillars of the noetic common to all the masters of the thirteenth century. • • ." 1 Derived ostensibly by the mediaevals from the De Trinitate of St. Augustine, the theory seems to have had a much older and much more complicated history. St. Augustine's own source was very likely the Enneads of Plotinus; and from this one source of the Enneads at least two lines of tradition can be projected: one passing through the De Trinitate of St. Augustine and the Augustinian schools of the early middle ages; another passing through the neo-Platonic Arabian schools represented by the Theologia of pseudo-Aristotle, the De anima of Avicenna, and the Liber philosophiae of AlgazeL Both lines converged momentarily but significantly-before continuing their separate paths to the intellectual centers of mediaeval France,-in the writings of the eminent translator of Toledo, 1 M. D. Chenu, 0. P., "Ratio 11Uperior et inferiOT: un cas de philosophie chretienne ," Laval theologique et philosophique, I (1!145), l!i!l: "En verite, nous sommes Ia devant l'un des piliers de la noetique commune a tous les maitres du XIII• siecle...." 339 340 R. W. MULLIGAN Dominicus Gundissalinus, whose own writings include a modified version of the Arabian theory of duae facies animae in terms that clearly echo the teaching of St. Augustine on ratio superior and ratio inferior.2 In the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, morever, the theory was freighted with such extrinsic problems as that of delectatio morosa by Peter Lombard and that of synderesis by William of Auxerre and Richard Fishacre until it almost entirely lost its original meaning.3 The purpose of the present essay is to trace its subsequent history in the works of St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. After briefly reviewing the theory as it is found in the writings of St. Augustine, we will follow its development in the works of St. Albert and then its evolution and ultimate assimilation in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. II The human mind, St. Augustine writes in the De Trinitate/ has two principal functions: it contemplates the eternal reasons -the universal natures that give meaning to experience-and it guides man through the vicissitudes of life. Consequently, it may be said to have two parts, a higher part whose object is the eternal reasons, and a lower part whose object is corporeal things} These "parts" are not to be understood in a material • Cf. Dominicus Gundissalinus, De immortalitate animae, edited by Georg Billow, Beitriige zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Band II, Heft III (1897), p. 19: 1\:Ianifestum est virtutem istam nobilem aut esse duarum facierum, quarum altera illuminabilis est desuper, a rebus scilicet nobilibus, incorporalibus, scilicet spoliatis a materia et ab appendiciis ipsius, altera illuminabilis a parte inferiori, videlicet corporalium et sensibilium; aut eadem est virtus et eadem facies, sed liberum habens vertere se in quam partem voluerit. . . .. St. Augustine uses the term facies to describe the upper part of the reason in De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII, xlvi (PL 40: 80) and in his De Trinitate, XV, 7 (PL 4~: 1065). • For a fuller treatment of the history of this theory, see author's" Ratio Superior and Ratio Inferior: The Historical Background," The New Scholasticism, XXIX (1955). 1-3~. • St. Augustine, De Trinitate, XU, 8 (PL 4~: 999). • It seems that St. Augustine never used the precise terms ratio inferior and ratio superior. This terminology was introduced l~ter. Ordinarily he simply...


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