Bonaventura’s (Giovanni Fidenza) Conception of CreationJune 26, 2021
The idea of creation has been a well-established problem in philosophy since Plotinos’ Enneades. This problem may seem to have surrendered itself mainly to the understanding of monotheistic religions.
However, creation itself is a Platonic problem. Moreover, this situation, as it can be easily noticed, is a situation that produces contradictions. Because in Plato’s time, an idea like creation was an immature idea and the general opinion was that “nothing comes out of nothing” approach. However, the task of rationalizing what the religion of revelation said about creation was entrusted to the philosophy of Plato. Platonism, which took on this task, was fulfilling its influence on Bonaventura through Augustine.
In the same period, besides the Platonic influence, there was also an Aristotelian influence. However, Aristotle’s influence was not at first a positive influence like the Platonic influence. Because Aristotle expressed one of his most challenging views on the medieval philosophers about the universe and claimed that the universe existed eternally. This, of course, was contrary to the Christian faith, and almost all philosophers had a counter-approach to this thesis. Because, after all, Aristotle was the most intelligent person who ever lived, and it would be very difficult for someone who did not agree more or less with what he said to get his thoughts accepted.
Bonaventura was one of those who went on this path. He put forward the following arguments against the idea that the universe is eternal and therefore did not come into existence out of nothing: “1- If the world did not have a temporal beginning, an eternity would have passed. Yet each day adds one unit to the earth’s temporal duration. However, it is impossible to add anything to something that is infinite. The eternity of the world therefore presupposes an infinity that can be increased, which is absurd. 2- If the world has no beginning, it means that the infinite number of motions of the celestial bodies have already happened. Yet this is clearly impossible; because an infinite series (event) cannot travel a long way. In a world acceptance that has no beginning in time, the “now” is a time that has not been reached. 3- If the world were eternal, humans would have always existed, and therefore there would have to be an infinite number of immortal souls. But it is impossible for an infinite number of things to exist all at once” (Maurer, 1982: 141-142)
Rejecting the thesis that the material has no beginning in this way, Bonaventura argued that everything was created by God as his own cause. According to him, the entire universe was created in time and this existence emerged from nothing. The reason for this kind of existence out of nothing is a Principle that is One, Supreme, and Immeasurable. This Principle is God, a Being that transcends all material things, is self-sufficient, and exists in its simplicity. All of the features of God now voiced resemble those of the Platonic Idea. The only difference is that God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo, fit). Plato did not give such power to either the Idea or the Demiurge.
God in himself is also his action. His simplicity already necessitates this situation. Thus, this action of God is the definitive cause of the creation of the universe. According to Bonaventura, God is the Being that shapes the universe and gives it its existence. This Being is a Power that contains the entire universe He created. Beings that, left to themselves, would fall into a great void, thus become dependent on God’s will. Thanks to God’s will, and therefore his grace, beings are prevented from being buried in the void (Aspell, 1999: 117-118; Maurer, 1982: 142).
In his work titled Bonaventura De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, he exhibits the theory of light that he developed especially under the influence of Robertus Grossetesta and Rogerus Baco. According to him, light should be understood in four different ways. Accordingly, the “external light”, which is the light of the mechanical faculty, illuminates the arts and crafts. This is called mechanical ability; for arts and crafts are outside of human beings and need bodies or objects. The second type of light is the down light type; activates sense perception and relates to natural forms. The third type of light is inner light and illuminates mental truths. The fourth and last light is the higher light and has a duty to hide the truths. The human mind needs this light in order to discover the truths and thus to acquire mental knowledge (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, I-2).
The expression arts and crafts refers to the following seven arts or crafts described and classified in Hugo Victoriensis’s Didascalion: weaving, armor making, agriculture, hunting, seafaring, medicine, and drama.
Thus, the idea that all objects are composed of a basic form of light becomes clear. According to Bonaventura, light is not just an accidental form of the object; also the e of all substantial forms