Research

My dissertation centers on Bonaventure’s Hexaëmeron as a return to the wisdom of metaphysics and religion—that “beloved woman” to whom the affective movements of our intellect are owed, which “makes the intellective power beautiful, the affective power delightful, and the operative power robust.”[1] It argues for Bonaventure’s metaphysical understanding of wisdom according to several key notions, namely: origin, eternal generation, essence, nature, beauty, the discipline of scholastic science, and others. By arguing for this, what I intend to demonstrate is that a Bonaventurian return to the wisdom of metaphysics and religion means, in large part, a return to exhortative and propaedeutical reading and instruction, and to a reciprocity of sound doctrine and conciliation whereby, in reference to Maimonides, one holds fast to the rules of divine law which “enters into what is natural.”[2] I begin in Chapter One by framing the topic of my dissertation through the historical lens of the University of Paris around the mid-13th century. The purpose of this is to highlight the relevant competing doctrines and viewpoints in the university at that time and to show how Bonaventure departs from them, and why. Such competing doctrines and viewpoints include those of Aristotle, Averroës, and St. Thomas Aquinas. In Chapter Two, I provide an overview of the core of Bonaventure’s metaphysical understanding of wisdom according to four main components. The first of these is uniform wisdom (sapientia uniformis). This is the form of wisdom proper to philosophy. It concerns the rules of divine law which come from God and lead back to God and define the principles of reason. The second is multiform wisdom (sapientia multiformis). This is the wisdom proper to theology. It concerns the truths of revelation in Holy Scripture, especially by way of allegory, anagogy, and tropology. The third is omniform wisdom (sapientia multiformis). This wisdom is cataphatic. It concerns the vestiges of the divine works which reflect the beauty of God’s power and presence throughout creation and manifest an intelligible system of things, words, signs, and morals. The fourth is nulliform wisdom (sapientia nulliformis). This wisdom is apophatic. It concerns the ascent and descent of divine ecstasy and rapture in the hidden mysteries of God, which enters the exegete by the Spirit. For this latter wisdom, Bonaventure devotes special attention to the example and witness of his spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi. In Chapter Three, I argue for the first and third components of wisdom according to Bonaventure’s key notions of origin, eternal generation, essence, nature, beauty, the discipline of the scholastic sciences, and others. I also address potential objections. After clarifying what the rules of divine law are that define the principles of reason, which importantly involves clarification of topics such as universal analogy, the distinctions of potency, and Bonaventure’s theory of contuition, I then devote my attention to unpacking Bonaventure’s principle of efficient causality: i.e., “Omnes agens agit sibi simile,” which I adduce to my account of the third component of wisdom. My central argument with this chapter is, that, by means of a special treatment of the first and third component, they together, in unity, comprise the essential philosophical wisdom of metaphysics and religion. In Chapter Four, I make sense of the second and fourth components of wisdom according to Bonaventure’s key notions. I also address potential objections. The central argument with this chapter is that, by conjoining what Bonaventure refers to as the “triple dignity of instruction” or triplex Verbum in Holy Scripture, which makes up the second component of wisdom, to the exemplary models of the fourth component of wisdom, namely the teachings of the prophets and apostles, a portion of the wisdom of metaphysics and religion is consummated as theological. In Chapter Five, I consolidate the four components, or “faces,” of wisdom to express what a Bonaventurian return to the wisdom of metaphysics and religion is inclusive of. Bonaventure exhorts his reader to wisdom, “lest the whole world fight against you.”[3] Wisdom is “more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things” (Wis vii, 24). She is “a breath of the power of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty” and nothing defiled “gains entrance into her” (Wis vii, 25).[4] She pours out instruction and teaching like prophecy “like the dawn,” making it clear “from far away” (Sir xxiv). Her council is sure guidance, “For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness” (Wis vii, 26). In wisdom is unity for all generations, because “In every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets” (Wis vii, 27). Wisdom “lives with prudence” in the heart of man (Prov viii, 12) and “God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail” (Wis vii, 28-30). Bonaventure’s commentary on wisdom as found in Holy Scripture and the writings of the prophets and apostles indicates that the wisdom of metaphysics and religion, as both philosophical and theological, pertains, first, to its adoption by desire, then to attunement to it by metaphysical preparation, and lastly to the apotheosis of wisdom whereby she possesses the soul who has truly yearned for her. As if a winepress extracting the finest juice, so Bonaventure’s “true metaphysics” extracts the worthy taste of wisdom from its fruits. Therefore, the purpose of this last chapter is to properly blend philosophical and theological wisdom according to Bonaventure’s Hexaëmeron , while yet acknowledging that not “so much of the water of philosophy” should be mixed into the “wine of sacred Scripture”—or else, to ensure that the bread of wisdom is not “changed into stones” of philosophical curiosity and presumption. [5] Thus, while the return to the wisdom of metaphysics and religion does mean a return to an intellectual vision through understanding given by nature, this intellectual vision must be lifted up by faith; and upon being lifted up by faith, then is one taught Scripture, exalted by contemplation, enlightened by prophecy, and finally absorbed in rapture with God.[6] Through metaphysical ascent made easier by the “seasoning of faith,”[7] one comes to realize wisdom as both rational and suprarational; infusive and effusive; hidden and sublime; and, to those who have been “weaned and removed from the sweetness of present consolation,” wisdom unites herself, that they may “understand useful things” in truth and love.[8]


[1] Bonaventure, Hex., II.1.

[2] Guide for the Perplexed, II.40. See Marvin Fox, “Maimonides and Aquinas on Natural Law” in Interpreting Maimonides: Studies in Methodology, Metaphysics, and Moral Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 142.

[3] Bonaventure, Itinerarium, I.15.

[4] Hence the council of Maimonides is apt: “In order to study philosophy, a man must prepare himself morally; he must first achieve the pinnacle of uprightness and perfection” (Guide, I.34).

[5] Bonaventure, Hex., XIX.14; I.8.

[6] Ibid., III.24.

[7] Ibid., IV.5.

[8] Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Prooemium, no. 3.

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