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Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

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published on November 17, 2015

Andrew Jacob Cuff
DOI: 10.5840/acpaproc2015111624

Man’s “Very Special Habit” and God’s Agency in the Illumination Epistemology and Volition Theory of Bonaventure and Aquinas

It is commonly taken for granted that Thomas Aquinas employed Aristotelian principles in his philosophical system to promote a “program” of Christianizing the Stagyrite. However, the question of why Thomas used Aristotle on a particular point can help uncover the goals of his scholastic project. The case of divine illumination theory is especially enlightening in this regard. From the zenith of Augustinian illumination epistemology as expressed in Bonaventure to its disappearance in Scotus, the influence of Aristotle’s notion of active intellect can be clearly traced throughout the thirteenth century. Thomas is especially important in this chronology, because he “internalizes” Bonaventure’s illumination theory and encapsulates it in man’s innate power of abstraction. In determining his motivation for doing so, this study explores the connection between epistemology and volition in both Bonaventure and Thomas, and postulates that Thomas adopted Aristotelian principles to safeguard a doctrine of free will in his volition theory.