Saturday, February 28, 2009

St Bonaventure's Reticence

There are a number of reasons I prefer St Bonaventure to St Thomas. I think his metaphysics has distinct advantages. Unlike St Thomas he really is a spiritual master. He doesn't tend to rely on the "latest scientific research" the way Thomas does--we all know how that turns out. His Breviloquium and Itinerarium are original and excellent compressions of his thought which are not merely summaries of summaries; he's not constantly suck in disputatio mode. But his most endearing characteristic is his humility, his willingness to admit that a question is hard and he just doesn't know the answer, or even whether it's decidable. Consider the following passage from In Lib. IV Sententiarum Dist. XIII Art. I Q. III:

Quae autem harum opinionum verior sit, difficile est diiudicare et difficiulius videtur aliquam harum improbare . . . Quis autem audeat arguere, si amplius non vult asserere, cum nec fides cogat nec auctoritas compellat amplius dicere, maxime adhuc perspecta, quae non possit satis exponi hoc modo sine sensus distorsione? Et ideo, quia magis est sobria et magis intellectui consona, potest cui placet huic positioni satis adhaerere secure.

But which of these opinions is the truer is difficult to decide, and it seems even more difficult to disprove either of them . . . But who would dare to argue, if one doesn't want to assert further, since neither faith demands nor authority compels to say anything more, especially when one observes that nothing more can be expounded in this fashion with distorting the sense [of the question]? And therefore, since this is more sober and more agreeable to the mind, one can safely stick to whichever of these positions pleases him.

It doesn't matter much what the subject in question is; the point is that St Bonaventure talks like this often while St Thomas rarely does.

1 comment:

Lee Faber said...

nice to have you posting again. I wonder if this is related to Scotus often practice of giving arguments against his own position in certain key places (like grace) for those who can't follow him.