Marcil George ,
Recensione: BERNARDINE M. BONANSEA, Man and His Approach to God in John Duns Scotus,
Antonianum, 58/2-3 (1983) p. 502-504
Fr. Bernardine M. Bonansea, Franciscan, is professor emeritus at Catholic University of America where he has taught philosophy foi eighteen years on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. His special area in the graduate school was philosophy of religion. He has shown interest in the proof of the existence of God as expressed by the major thinkers in history along with a special leaning toward the thought of John Duns Scotus, the premier Franciscan philosopher-theologian.
Among his publications, the translation of Efrem Bettoni's Duns Scotus: The Basic Principles of his Philosophy has been in circulation since 1961 and is an important general text on the thought of Scotus. In 1965 he was co- editor with Msgr. John K. Ryan of a work in a philosophy series entitled John Duns Scotus 1265-1965. It contained a number of important essays in English on the thought of Scotus, inlcuding one of Fr. Bonansea's own. Since that time he has published several important and original studies in major periodicals. And lately, in 1979, he published God and Atheism: A Philosophical Approach to the Problem of God, which contains some of his previously published articles along with some good new material. The present work is a new compilation including some previously published articles, a large part of God and Atheism, and one major new piece.
The book contains six chapters and an appendix. Chapter one, on philosophical and theological anthropology, is the one completely new essay in the volume. Chapter two, on will and freedom, is the oldest piece, previously published in 1965. Chapter three, on man and his knowledge of God, has just recently appeared in Franciscan Studies. Chapter four, the proof of the existence of God, is the core of the book he published in 1979. Chapter five is on St. Anselm's ontological argument. It is one of several pieces that Fr. Bonansea has published on that, one of his favorite themes. Chapter six, a study on will as found in God, the best essay on that theme in English, appeared already in the Antonianum in 1981. The appendix contains much material previously used by the author in encyclopedic articles.
All of this is said just to set the record straight. It is not to say that the book is unimportant. In fact the opposite is the case. This book despite its combination of old and new material contains a very well unified study of the thought of Duns Scotus. It is the broadest and most in depth study to appear in English to date. It can very well stand in place of the Beraud de St. Maurice effort, now very dated and out of print, and it is better than the too general Bettoni work. The present study may not touch as many topics as the Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. II, but it covers them more extensively and stays closer to the Scotus text.
The new chapter, the one on anthropology, is welcome. It reads a bit like an old manual of philosophy, but it shows expertise, covering many essential points, weaving them together without distortion and sympathetically. Basically, the essay studies the nature of the human soul including its relation to the body and reviews the sceptical position of Scotus on the problem of the immortality of the soul. This chapter along with the second, on will, make a fairly representative study of the views of Scotus on anthropology. What is missing is a section on Scotus' theory of knowledge.
The two chapters on will, the second and the sixth, attack the problem of Scotus' image as a voluntarist. These studies on will proceed simply by being descriptive of the views of Scotus: will in man and will in God. It is the author's belief that a simple statement of Scotus' position puts to rest any accusation of excessive voluntarism.
Chapters three, four and five, go over Scotus' views on man's knowledge of God. Chapter three is a statement on the univocity of being, a thesis that usually puts Scotus in opposition to the Thomistic School. Chapter four, sixty-six pages in length, treats Scotus' own very lengthy proof of the evistence of God. Fr. Bonansea follows the argument relentlessly, point by point, letting nothing pass. Hopefully his study will be of some help. It is the reviewers position that the student is better off reading the Scotus text which is already work enough, rather than going over a restatement of it. Chapter five brings to the fore one of Fr. Be nasea's favorites, the Anselmian argument. He has written several times and knowledgeably about this old philosophical saw. This particular essay on the ontological argument as « colored » by Scotus is a good one. It is a clear development and it makes Scotus shine.
The appendix gives the reader information on the life of Scotus, on his writings and on his position in history. The author could have put more stress on the great stature of Scotus in history, but the reader can get more information by perusing the old Alexandre Bertoni book, pp. 433-580. As to the writings of Scotus, it would have been useful to the English reader to have a complete listing of Scotus' writings available in English translation. In fact, some of the translations are not even listed in the bibliography, such as the Quodlibets translated by Allan Wolter and Felix Alluntis as God and Creatures.
On the whole then this book is a very welcome newcomer to the philosophical bookshelf. It fills a need. It is a good quality restatement of some of the major philosophical positions and arguments of the old Franciscan master.