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From Metaphysics to Kataphysics: Bonaventure's ‘Good’ Creation

  • Ilia Delio (a1)

The question of ecology is fundamentally a question of relatedness. Is the Christian tradition, at once incarnational and other-worldly, responsible for the ecological crisis? This article examines the position of Bonaventure whose unique theological-philosophical synthesis leads to a new understanding of created reality, which I term ‘kataphysics’. The foundation of kataphysics begins with Bonaventure's understanding of philosophy as a heteronymous discipline, insofar as philosophy is completed and perfected in theology. From this position he develops an understanding of Being as Goodness based on the Trinity. Bonaventure's integral relationship between Trinity and creation leads to an understanding of created reality as essentially good and intrinsically relational. The integral relation between Trinity and creation through the divine Word gives rise to a theological metaphysics; the metaphysical question becomes the christological question and hence a new understanding of created reality, kataphysics, emerges which involves relatedness. It is suggested that kataphysics undergirds a Christian philosophy of nature which has implications for an ecological stance today.

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1 Toolan, David, At Home in the Cosmos (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001), p. 11.

3 Sean Kinsella, Edward, ‘How Great a Gladness: Some Thoughts on Francis of Assisi and the Natural World’, Studies in Spirituality 12 (2002), p. 66. According to Plato's Allegory of the Cave, which was very influential on the structure of Neoplatonism, sensible reality is comprised of ersatz forms while the true forms lie in a transcendent, spiritual world.

4 Kinsella, ‘How Great a Gladness’, p. 90; Cousins, Ewert, ‘Francis of Assisi: Christian Mysticism at the Crossroads’, in Katz, S. (ed.), Mysticism and Religious Traditions (New York: OUP, 1983), pp. 164–5.

5 Sorrell, Roger D., St. Francis of Assisi and Nature: Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes toward The Environment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 89; Cousins, ‘Francis of Assisi’, p. 165.

6 Bonaventure, Legenda maior, 8.6.

7 Cousins, Ewert H., ‘God as Dynamic in Bonaventure and Contemporary Thought’, in MacLean, George F. (ed.), Thomas and Bonaventure: A Septicentenary Commemoration, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 48 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1974), p. 140.

8 Bonaventure, I Sentence (Sent.). d. 27, p. 1, a. un. q. 2 (1.468–74). The critical edn of Bonaventure's works is the Opera omnia, ed. PP. Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 10 vols. (Quaracchi, 1882–1902). Latin texts are indicated by volume and page number in parentheses.

9 Ibid., d. 28, a. 1, q. 2, ad 4 (1.502).

10 Hayes, Zachary, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, vol. 3, Works of Saint Bonaventure, ed. Marcil, George (New York: Franciscan Institute, 1979), p. 101; Murphy, Anthony, ‘Bonaventure's Synthesis of Augustinian and Dionysian Mysticism: A New Look at the Problem of the One and the Many’, Collectanea Franciscana 63 (1994), p. 397.

11 Bonaventure, I Sent., d. 2, a. un., q. 2 (1.53).

12 Bonaventure, II Sent., d. 1, p. 2, dub. 1 (2.51).

13 Ibid., d. 1, p. 2, dub. 1 (2.51).

14 Bonaventure, Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (Itin.) 5.7 (5.309).

15 Ibid. 5.7 (5.309). Engl. trans. Cousins, Bonaventure, p. 98.

16 Bonaventure, Itin. 5.2 (5.307).

17 Cousins, ‘God as Dynamic’, p. 141.

18 Bonaventure, Itin. 6.2 (5.310). See Kretzmann, Norman, ‘A General Problem of Creation: Why Would God Create Anything at All?’, in Being and Goodness: The Concept of the Good in Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology ed. MacDonald, Scott (New York: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 225. Kretzmann claims that the first adjective in each pairing is more readily associated with static self-sufficiency or the Being side of the Being–Goodness relationship, whereas the second adjective brings out dynamic self-diffusion, or the Goodness side. However, I would argue that there is no relationship per se between Being and Goodness; rather, Being is Goodness.

19 Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaêmeron (Hex.), 11.11 (5.382). Engl. trans. Vinck, José De, Six Days of Creation (Paterson, NJ: St Anthony Guild Press, 1970), p. 163.

20 Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions, p. 46.

21 Ibid., p. 47.

22 Hayes, Zachary, ‘Incarnation and Creation in the Theology of St. Bonaventure’, in Almagno, Romano Stephen and Harkins, Conrad (eds), Studies Honoring Ignatius Brady, Friar Minor (New York: Franciscan Institute, 1976), p. 314.

23 Bonaventure shows a decided preference for the term Word; for this title signifies a complex network of relations which the Son bears to the Father, to creation, to humanity, and to revelation, all of which are grounded in the fact that he who is, first of all and by reason of an act of the divine nature, the Son of the Father's love, is simultaneously the Word of the Father's self-expression as loving, fruitful source of all that is. See Hayes, ‘Incarnation and Creation’, p. 314; Hayes, Zachary, ‘The Meaning of Convenientia in the Metaphysics of St. Bonaventure’, Franciscan Studies 34 (1974), p. 90.

24 Zachary Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics in the Thought of Bonaventure’, Journal of Religion (1978), S91.

25 Hayes, ‘Incarnation and Creation’, p. 314; Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions, p. 48.

26 In the second chapter of his Breviloquium, Bonaventure describes the creation of the world in this manner: ‘the entire world machine was brought into existence in time and from nothing by one First Principle . . . by asserting “from nothing” we exclude the error of those who hold the eternity of a material principle’. By emphasising a doctrine of creation ex nihilo Bonaventure assured his audience that creation is radically contingent on God; thus, under no condition can it be made out of pre-existent matter nor can it be eternal. Rather, creation has a beginning and end; it comes from God and is destined to return to God. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, 2.1.1. Engl. trans. Monti, Dominic V., Breviloquium, vol. 9, Works of Saint Bonaventure, ed. Karris, Robert J. (New York: Franciscan Institute, 2005), p. 59. Bonaventure repeats the theme of ex nihilo in the same chapter of the Breviloquium: 2.1.1 (5.291), 2.2.2 (5.220) and 2.6.3 (5.224).

27 Bonaventure, Itin., 6.2 (5.310). Engl. trans. Cousins, Ewert H., Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Major Life of Saint Francis (New York: Paulist, 1978), p. 103.

28 Hayes, ‘Incarnation and Creation’, p. 315.

29 Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics’, S92.

30 Hayes, ‘Incarnation and Creation’, pp. 315–16.

31 This position differs from Thomas who rejects exemplarity as a separate form from created Being, that is, Platonic ‘extrinsicism’. Rather, essential forms are inherent in things. See Jan A. Aersten, ‘Good as Transcendental and the Transcendence of the Good’, in Scott MacDonald (ed.), Being and Goodness: The Concept of the Good in Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology, p. 69.

32 Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions, p. 45.

33 Bonaventure, Itin., 6.2 (5.310).

34 Keane, Kevin P., ‘Why Creation? Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas on God as Creative Good’, Downside Review 93 (1975), pp. 112–13.

35 Ibid., p. 114 n. 39. Keane writes: ‘The will is the act according to which Goodness [as efficient] is turned toward Goodness [finality]. Hence it is that the will is the effecter in the act of creation, and thus it is that we attribute causality to God as a product of his will and not of his other characteristics.’

36 Ibid., p. 116.

37 Ibid., p. 115.

38 Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaëmeron (Hex.), 1.17 (5.332).

39 Ibid. 1.13 (5.331).

40 Edwards, Denis, ‘The Discovery of Chaos and the Retrieval of the Trinity’, in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (Rome: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1995), pp. 161–2; Bowman, Leonard, ‘The Cosmic Exemplarism of Bonaventure’, Journal of Religion 55 (1975), pp. 182–3.

41 Bonaventure, Hex., 11.13 (5.382).

42 Edwards, ‘Discovery of Chaos’, p. 163.

43 Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics’, S98–S99.

44 Ibid., S91.

45 Ibid., S92.

46 Hayes, ‘Meaning of Convenientia’, p. 99.

47 Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics’, S88–S92.

48 Hayes, ‘Meaning of Convenientia’, p. 99.

49 Dupré, Louis, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 38.

50 Ibid., p. 39. This is the basis of Scotus’ doctrine of individuation (Haecceitas).

51 Wolter, Allan, Duns Scotus’ Early Oxford Lecture on Individuation (Santa Barbara, CA: Old Mission, 1992), p. 25. On the use of the term haecceitas see Wolter, Allan, ‘Scotus's Individuation Theory’, in Adams, Marilyn McCord (ed.), The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), n. 26, p. 76.

52 Falque, Emmanuel, ‘The Phenomenological Act of Perscrutatio in the Proemium of St Bonaventure's Commentary on the Sentences’, trans. Mangina, ElisaMedieval Philosophy and Theology 10 (2001), p. 18.

53 Ingham, Mary Beth, Scotus for Dunces: An Introduction to the Subtle Doctor (New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2003), p. 56.

54 Peter Leithard, ‘A Word for Scotus’, Leithart writes: ‘If of two things one is the measure of the other, then they must have something in common that permits the first to be measure of the second, and the second to be measured of the first. If of two things one exceeds the other by some quantity or degree, however great, then they must have something in common with respect of which the first exceeds the second.’

55 Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics’, S88. See a related argument by Adrian Pabst who shows through Platonic metaphysics that every being is individuated because it is a particular reflection of the universal Good and thus a unique and singular expression of God's self-communicative actualisation in the world. Bonaventure's kataphysics christianises Platonic metaphysics and thus provides a more theological basis for the primacy of relationship and individuation. Pabst, Adrian, ‘The Primacy of Relation over Substance and the Recovery of a Theological Metaphysics’, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 81/4 (2007), pp. 553–76.

56 Hayes, ‘Meaning of Convenientia’, p. 100.

57 Hayes, ‘Christology and Metaphysics’, S95.

58 Hayes, Zachary, ‘Christ, Word of God and Exemplar of HumanityThe cord 46.1 (1996), p. 7.

59 Bonaventure, Hex., 2.30 (5.341). Bonaventure does not deny the role of the intellect in knowledge but intellect alone cannot attain true knowledge. Since truth is grounded in the generation of the divine Word, one must know the Word to know truth. Thus contemplation, or the integration of mind and heart, is the means of knowing truth. Bonaventure writes that contemplation which comes about through grace is the supreme union of love. ‘Such love transcends every intellect and every science’. Engl. trans. DeVinck, Jose, Collations on the Six Days, vol. 5, The Works of Bonaventure (Paterson, NJ: St Anthony Guild, 1970), p. 36.

60 Panikkar, Raimon, Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics: Cross Cultural Studies (New York: Paulist, 1980), p. 243.

61 Fagg, Lawrence W., ‘Martin Buber: My Man of the Twentieth Century’, The Torch 81/2 (Winter 2007–8), p. 17.

62 Bonaventure, Hex., 2.31 (5.341). Bonaventure writes: ‘Now such love . . . puts to sleep and appeases all the powers and imposes silence; it lifts up since it leads to God. And so man is dead, wherefore it is said: Love is as strong as death, because it cuts away from all things.’ Engl. trans. De Vinck, Collations on the Six Days, p. 37.

63 Mary Beth Ingham, ‘A Certain Affection for Justice’, The Cord 45–3 (1995), p. 17.

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Scottish Journal of Theology
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