Angelic knowledge in Aquinas and Bonaventure

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    Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274) try to recast traditional Christian ideas about angels and angelic knowledge in view of the newly discovered Arab-Aristotelian theories of knowledge. Both develop their speculations about the knowledge of angels along two lines. First, the knowledge of purely spiritual beings must be demarcated from knowledge by corporeal humans. Second, the distinction between Creator and creature must absolutely be maintained. However, the two authors differ in their way of dealing with the Aristotelian legacy. Aquinas revises Aristotle’s metaphysical act-potency scheme in a fundamental and creative way, while Bonaventure remains within a paradigm of universal hylomorphism. The paper compares Aquinas’s and Bonaventur’s views on the sources and media of angelic knowledge (innate species, angelic essence, divine essence), its formal structure (non-propositional, non-discursive, not liable to error), and its objects (self-knowledge and knowledge of God, other angels, future contingencies, private thoughts, mysteries of faith and unrealized possibilities). The conclusion is that Aquinas’ transformation of basic categories in Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology results in an analysis of angelic knowledge that is more profound than Bonaventure’s and succeeds better in demarcating it from human and from divine knowledge.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationA companion to angels in medieval philosophy
    EditorsT. Hoffmann
    Place of PublicationLeiden
    Number of pages335
    ISBN (Print)9789004183469
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Publication series

    NameBrill's companions to the Christian tradition


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