Bonaventure and the Question of a Medieval Philosophy

Bonaventure and the Question of a Medieval Philosophy

Speer, Andreas

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 6, no. 1 (1997)


Can one speak coherently of Bonaventure’s philosophy? Or is such an idea nothing more than a modern hermeneutical fancy? The arguments against the view that Bonaventure has a philosophy are of diverse origin. Certain influential students of medieval intellectual history have advanced the following argument: it is improper, a kind of basic category error, to speak of philosophy as an autonomous discipline practiced within medieval faculties of theology. This historiographical tendency derives from certain nineteenth- century continental ideas about enlightenment, progress, and secularization.

As the French Revolution is viewed as the birth of modernity, so, on this view, the Condemnations of 1277 beget philosophy as an “autonomous” discipline within the Middle Ages. “Autonomous” in this context means little more than “independent from theology.” In the writings of the Arts-masters at the University of Paris, so the argument goes, one can find enlightenment before the Age of Enlightenment, a renascence before the Renaissance, and a humanism before Humanism.

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