Bonaventura (Giovanni Fidenza)’s Understanding of Human and KnowledgeJune 26, 2021
According to Bonaventura, the individual emerges as a result of the combination of matter and mental form. Man is the noblest of all created creatures.
According to Bonaventura, man, by nature, cannot remain indifferent to a substantive form higher than himself. This means that from the very beginning man has turned to God as his ultimate goal. God has given man all the mental equipment that enables him to use nature so that he can enjoy a certain level of satisfaction with his life. Everything in the creation of the universe was brought to a level by God to provide an adequate environment for man before he was put into the universe (Aspell, 1999: 123).
An individual human being is the result of the substantial union of a corporeal body and a mental soul. This unity is natural insofar as the mental soul activates the human body. The human spirit, which consists of spiritual matter and form, individuates on its own and formally makes matter perfect (Aspell, 1999: 123). The human soul was created by God out of nothing. Such a combination is a necessary consequence of the God-given and therefore created (Maurer, 1982: 143). In other words, the life of the human spirit means taking part in the life of God.
Bonaventura was inspired by Ibn Gebirol’s Fons Vitae (Source of Life), a famous Jewish philosopher, while expressing that the human soul is a composite structure. As a matter of fact, Bonaventura uses the spiritual substance as one of the components of the human soul, while opposing Averroes’ interpretation of Aristotle. According to Ibn Rushd, active (nous poietikos) and passive (nous pathetikos) minds are cosmic substances that are one in all humans. Such an interpretation means that people cannot carry their individuality after death. According to Bonaventura, if the mental (or mental; for at that time there was no clear distinction between mind or intellect as there is now), if the soul were numerically one for all humans, then man would be no different from the animal. The reason why each individual person is separated from the other is his soul, which makes each person an individual person. In this respect, if there was only one soul for all humans, all humans would have to think alike. However, according to Bonaventura, the thoughts of all people are different from each other, and this is the clearest proof that each individual person has a different soul as an individual form (Aspell, 1999: 123).
The human soul undergoes changes through the spiritual substance that is in it and gives it the possibility of individuation. The change in the soul actually means that the soul acquires new qualities. Therefore, according to Bonaventura, the human spirit should not just be active; must have a passive state with some of them. Such a change, of course, can be considered as a reflection of life in the universe, as a participation in that life. In this respect, Bonaventura preferred to understand the human soul as “a form that contains existence, life, reason and freedom” (Bonaventura, Breviloquium, II, 9, 1; cited in Aspell, 1999: 124). What Bonaventura intended with such an expression was the replacement of Aristotelian material-form theory with psychic matter. Of course, Bonaventura had the help of Augustine, Ibn Gebirol and Alexander Haliensis in this regard.
The unity and independence of the soul was ensured through the Aristotelian material-formist understanding, which Bonaventura and even the philosophers before him changed. What Bonaventura achieved with this was the immortality of the soul. A wholly individual substance meant a structure that sustained its permanence on its own and that continued to exist separately from the body. The immortality of the soul, of course, has a Platonic content in it. However, Bonaventura thinks that the immortality of the soul can also be understood within the context of the soul’s purpose, resemblance to God, and active cause (Aspell, 1999: 124).
The soul’s purpose is the desire to attain the most perfect good in order to achieve its own perfect happiness. There is no doubt that such a purpose brings with it the absolute immortality of the person who carries the purpose. To enjoy perfect happiness, the soul must be capable of possessing God. Already created in the image of the soul (imago Dei), the soul must have claimed its own immortality in order to grasp the perfect happiness, which is the endless reflection of God.
What has been known since Plato is that the soul and the Idea exist from the same fabric. The soul, which is a created truth (veritas creata), wants to be completely like God; exhibits an existence in this direction. For such an analogy to take place, there must be an eternal measure (ratio aeterna). This measure is none other than God himself, and this measure is also the key to knowledge.
Bonaventura’s doctrine of knowledge Aristotelian and Augustinian