Wednesday, December 5, 2007

St Bonaventure, Univocity, and Analogy

L’être désigne dans les créatures une perfection que n’est pas analogique, mais qui est celle d’un genre; il faut donc dire que la matière se retrouve, au sens propre du mot, dans tous les êtres concrets. C’est là, nous a-t-il semblé, un des points importants de l’argumentation de saint Bonaventure et qui nous servira à l’opposer tout à l’heure à celle de saint Thomas. Dans la philosophie bonaventurienne, l’être est sans doute une notion analogique, mais c’est seulement lorsqu’on considère la communauté qu’elle désigne de Dieu à la créature. A l’intérieur du domaine des créatures, elle redevient une notion univoque.

"Being designates [for St Bonaventure] a perfection in creatures which is not analogical, but which belongs to a genus; one must then say that matter in the proper sense of the word is found in all concrete beings. This is, it seems to us, one of the most important points in St Bonaventure's argument by which we may compare it to that of St Thomas. In Bonaventurian philosophy, being is without doubt an analogical concept, but this is only when one considers the community between God and creature which it designates. Within the domain of creatures, it becomes a univocal concept."

--Aimé Forest, La Structure métaphysique du concret selon Saint Thomas d'Aquin, 118.


Lee Faber said...

I'm not sure i see why claiming that being is a genus for creatures also entails that there is matter for all creatures as well. Unless he is going to have as detailed a notion of genus, species and difference as Scotus does (ie, differences formally distinct from the Ord I d. 8 q. 3)

I also don't think Bonaventure thinks in terms of "analogical concepts"; that sounds like a thomistic import. I have in mind my reading of I Sent. of several years ago, as well as a recent article on analogy and bonaventure I read last year.

Michael Sullivan said...

Forest's book was actually not too useful because of its Thomo-centric mindset. It is, after all, a book on Thomas, so you can't blame him there, but he presents the issue as though Thomas' take on it in De spir. cr. is not only the best approach to Thomas' position, but also the best approach to Bonaventure's, which is very much not so. He's also up on the current Thomist literature but despite his pretty lengthy treatment of the matter his bibl. doesn't even contain the major literature on the subject up to that point, i.e. Kleineidam, Lottin, Robert, etc. Not too impressive.

I think his major point here however is that for Bonaventure the same metaphysical rules apply across the spectrum of being, so that if angels are substances just like bodies are substances, then the same rules apply, i.e. mutability, accidents, etc. must be rooted in the same principle. Which is true. Whereas for Thomas different rules apply for spirits and bodies on individuation, speciation, mutability, and so forth. For him modifications of the intellect and will for instance aren't even really accidents in the same way that sensible qualities are, but only in an "analogous" sense. In a certain sense we might even say that Thomas is more neoplatonic here than the Franciscans, in that he wants to see angels and to some extent human intellects are more static, quasi-necessary beings with an absolute minimum of motion or changability. Note his insistence on the angels' being saved or damned in the first instant of their existence: it's as though he only allows them one act of will, at the beginning of their being, and after that they just keep on performing their one operation. Whereas the Franciscans look at the angels more through the lens of scripture and see them as things like us that communicate and move around and so forth. Thomas doesn't deny e.g. angelic apparitions but I think he understands them differently. For him I think the spiritual world is really a separate world with its own rules and principles, which sometimes interacts with the material world. For Bonaventure et al the universe is one and contains the same principles, so that spirits and bodies, while having different properties through their different forms, are really all on the same continuum.

This is getting pretty speculative though. I'm not ready to back up every word of it yet. Take it with a bit of a grain of salt.

Lee Faber said...

I found it very interesting. Just the sort of speculation I was hoping to provide a venue for with this blog. Euge, Euge.