[4.10.2] St Bonaventure on Ontological Truth

St Bonaventure ( the “Seraphic Doctor”, 1217 – 1274 AD), in the work Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard, presents a theory of ontological truth (see also [4.8]):

  • God created all things, so the whole universe existentially depends on God.
  • Ontological truth is “the indivision of act and potency,” taken in a hylomorphic context (see [1.3.5] and [4.9.2])
  • Since we don’t have a perfect indivision of the potency and act in creatures, they present a combination of created truth and falsity.
  • Because it has perfect unity, God presents no indivision and admixture, so he is the highest, uncreated truth.

Bonaventure’s model of ontological truth is presented in the following OntoUML diagram:

Bonaventure on ontological truth
CLASSDESCRIPTIONRELATIONS
GodGod creates the creatures.
“If, however, truth is understood as that which admits no admixture, then only God is truth, for God is pure indivision or unity. In Him alone is there perfect imitation of unity, and pure expression with distinction”
creates Creature
CreatureAll creatures are created by God.
“All creatures are partial actualizations of truth.”
NatureNature (or essence) is the combunation of form and matter that make a creature what it fundamentally is, and without which it loses its identity.
“All creatures are true to the extent that they actualize the potential perfections of their natures, and they are false to the extent that they fail to do so, because ontological truth is ‘the indivision of act and potency.’ […] From rocks to angels, all creatures are true to the extent that the potencies of their “existence” given by matter are realized through the perfection of their “being” through form.”
mandatory part of Creature
FormForm is that which makes some matter which is potentially a Creature actually a Creature.
“Matter gives independent existence (existere) to form, while form gives the act of being (essendi actum) to matter.”
characterizes Nature
ActAct, is a change what realizes fulfillment of a possibility.relates Form with Nature
MatterMatter gives independent existence (existere) to form, while form gives the act of being (essendi actum) to matter.”contained by Nature
PotencyPotency is a “possibility” that a thing can have.relates Matter with Nature
(MeasureOf)IndivisionMeasure of indivision of act and potency.Relates Potency with Act
Falsity“All creatures are true to the extent that they actualize the potential perfections of their natures, and they are false to the extent that they fail to do so”charaterizes (MeasureOf)Indivision
CreatedTruth“All creatures are true [created truth] to the extent that they actualize the potential perfections of their natures, and they are false to the extent that they fail to do so, because ontological truth is ‘the indivision of act and potency.’ So ‘in a creature there is indivision combined with difference between act and potency. […]
truth is an ‘indivision’ between potency and act within a creature; the more it fulfills its nature, the truer it is.”
descendant of Truth; characterizes (MeasureOf)Indivision
UncreatedTruthGod’s unity is the uncreated truth. “In Him alone is there perfect imitation of unity, and pure expression with distinction”descendant of Truth
OntologicalTruthOntological truth is ‘the indivision of act and potency.’

Sources

  • All citations from: Noone, Tim and R. E. Houser, “Saint Bonaventure“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  • Noone, Tim, “Truth, Creation, and Intelligibility in Anselm, Grosseteste, and Bonaventure”

First published: 17/12/2020

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