Volume 85, Issue 1, Winter 2011
Illumination and Certitude
The Foundation of Knowledge in Bonaventure
The paper aims to relocate Bonaventure within the paradigm shift towards the Aristotelian conception of philosophy, which also had a deep impact on theology.
But the standard narratives of a mere antagonism overlook to what extend the meeting of both the Aristotelian and the Augustinian tradition led to a mutual
influence and transformation. This is especially true in epistemological matters, as I will show in this paper dealing with the central question of the foundation of
knowledge and its certainty. The paper focusses on three topics: the rationes aeternae, illumination and exemplarism, and analysis (reductio) vis-à-vis the question of the first known. While Bonaventure’s claim for a foundation of our understanding based on natural reasoning goes beyond the Aristotelian standard model, he also displays the critical attitude of the Augustinian epistemology with respect to natural human understanding, which reveals the boundaries of philosophical wisdom. His epistemological criticism leads to a fundamental critique of a metaphysics of the Aristotelian type from the point of view of an exemplaristic metaphysics, which goes hand in hand with a renewed concept of a sapientia christiana.