Dante's Heaven of the Sun and the Wisdom of Solomon (1)
Williams, Pamela, Italica
The wisdom of Solomon is proverbial; it is exalted among others by St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, Dante's two spokespersons in the two circles of the wise in the Heaven of the Sun. Indicating the brightest light Thomas says that there never was one so wise nor will there ever be: (2)
La quinta luce, ch'e tra noi piu bella, spira di tale amor, che tutto '1 mondo la giu ne gola di saper novella: entro v'e l'alta mente u' si profondo saver fu messo, che, se '1 vero e vero, a veder tanto non surse il secondo. (Paradiso X, 109-14)
That comment about the unprecedented nature of Solomon's wisdom instils doubts in the character Dante's mind and Thomas explains at the end of canto XIII that the kind of wisdom God granted Solomon was specifically kingly wisdom, "regal prudenza" (1. 104), so as to clear up any misunderstanding there might be about his being second to none in relation to Adam and Christ.
As the brightest light in Dante's Heaven of the Sun ("La quinta luce, ch'e tra noi piu bella"; "la luce piu dia / del minor cerchio," Paradiso XIV, 34-35), Solomon has been a key figure in interpretations of this section of the Paradiso and of the poem in general. In Paradiso XIV, when Solomon answers questions by Beatrice put on Dante's behalf on the splendour of the resurrected body and the capacity of human eyes to sustain it, he shows wisdom in his insight into the interdependence of loving and knowing, the two essential and complementary aspects underlying this whole episode of the Heaven of the Sun. (3) Marguerite Chiarenza finds Dante imitating as well as vindicating the author of the Song of Songs in the Heaven of the Sun, thus celebrating the art of religious poetry along with its most venerable practitioner. For Chiarenza, Solomon's wisdom inheres in his writing the religious poetry of the Song of Songs. She accepts the interpretation that Thomas's reference to doubts on earth as to whether Solomon is saved or not ("che tutto 'l mondo / la giu ne gola di saper novella") is attributable to people thinking that because of the prima facie sensuality of the Song of Songs Solomon had been damned for lust--not to mention, of course, the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines we hear about in the first book of Kings. (4) Dante's salvation of Solomon is then seen as an apology for his own poetry that, like the Song of Songs, was potentially "the target of ... accusations of earthly love and idolatry." (5)
The wisdom of Solomon may be proverbial but the interpretations of Solomon's wisdom are various. Here I want to concentrate on Thomas's speech at the end of canto XIII, not to dispute the kind of wisdom he had--because Dante's Thomas is characteristically clear about that; but in order to reconsider what I take to be the main theme of this episode in Paradise: the coordination of diverse wisdoms. My purpose is to compare Thomas's speech with a text from St. Bonaventure on the wisdom of Solomon, a passage from his Conferences on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, of which Dante was probably aware having attended both the Franciscan and Dominican schools in Florence as he tells us in the Convivio. (6) As a subtext, to my knowledge not referred to in this context before, for the words Dante puts in Thomas's mouth, it brings the theme of unity in diversity as dramatically into focus as does the positioning of figures, locked into controversy with one another on earth, next to one another now in heaven: Thomas next to Sigier of Brabant in the first ring of lights and Bonaventure next to Joachim of Fiore in the second. Harmony, complementarity, courtesy, and generosity are pervasive in the Heaven of the Sun but they are balanced by the principle of diversity. At the opening of the episode Dante asks his reader to contemplate the various movements of the sun and to be aware of the potency and diversity of life they cause (Paradiso X, 7-21). In the following canti, we are asked to be just as aware of how the human world is modelled on and should conform to this unity in diversity that exists already in the natural world.
For Dante, as for Thomas and Bonaventure, there are two kinds of order in things: the order in the balance of parts in a whole and the order in the ordering of things to an end, what we might call coordination and subordination. However, it is on this matter of orders in relation to the sciences that Dante differs from both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure. The differences appear to be one of emphasis, at least in the case of St. Thomas, but they are no less fundamental for all that. Etienne Gilson first drew attention to the issues surrounding them over fifty years ago and he declared Dante's distinctive system of the relation between the sciences and between the sciences and theology "the unifying vision" of all his work. (7) However, Gilson's arguments have been forgotten in recent studies on the Heaven of the Sun and will be worth reiterating here.
Questions about cooperation in interdisciplinary study and hierarchy in knowledge continue to be debated, even though in present-day academic communities it may seem that the division and coming together of disciplines is fairly arbitrary, at least at the institutional level, and that any hierarchy depends on consumerist trends. Single disciplines do still claim a regulative role in terms of truth as theology did in the Middle Ages: in the nineteenth century, physicists claimed that everything came under the laws of physics; (8) today sociobiologists claim the unity of science under their discipline. The modern debate surrounding these issues may throw some light later in this discussion on a trend in the interpretation of the Commedia. My argument is that that trend, which might be called "the victory of poetry over reason," should be viewed with reservations in the light of Gilson's studies and should be considered more carefully before it is followed too enthusiastically.
In treating problems related to a hierarchy of studies in the Middle Ages, the focus was generally on the relations between Reason and Faith and between philosophy and theology. Indeed the different views of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure on the relation between philosophy and theology constitute the most important difference between them. They both distinguished philosophy and theology in the same way: philosophy being the reasoning whose starting point was self-evident or evident to the senses; (9) theology the reasoning whose starting point was the truths of revelation as found in the Bible. Both agreed that theology was a science and that it was the most important of the sciences in the Aristotelian terms of a science being more noble the more certitude it brings and according to the worth of its subject. (10) The main issue between them was whether philosophy could arrive at truth in its own right. St. Thomas was of the opinion that the more it was a subject in its own right the more it would help theology. For St. Bonaventure philosophy was not an autonomous subject for study.
Dante's most explicit comment on the relation between the sciences and theology is in the Convivio. In explaining the allegorical meaning of Venus, "il terzo ciel" in his canzone Voi che "ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, he relates each of the disciplines of the trivium and quadrivium to the seven planetary Heavens, physics and metaphysics to the Heaven of the Fixed Stars, and ethics to the Primum Mobile. In relating all the natural sciences to theology, which he equates with the Empyrean, Dante refers to a wisdom text, from Song of Songs (6: 8-9), on the number of Solomon's queens and concubines and their numberless handmaids, and the one dove, the perfect one:
"Sessanta sono le regine, e ottanta l'amiche concubine; e de le ancille adolescenti non e numero: una e la colomba mia e la perfetta mia." Tutte scienze chiama regine e drude e ancille; e questa [la teologia] chiama colomba perche e sanza macula di lite, e questa chiama perfetta perche perfettamente ne fa il vero vedere nel quale si cheta l'anima nostra. (Convivio II, xiv, 21)
Gilson uses the text quoted by Dante here and another wisdom text preferred by St. Thomas, from Proverbs (9: 3), in the opening section of the Summa theologiae, in order to exemplify their different attitudes, clarified in greater detail elsewhere, on the relation between theology and the other sciences. For St. Thomas theology is the queen who sends her handmaids, the other sciences, out to bring the silly and foolish to dine at her table: "Misit ancillas suas [theologiae] vocare ad arcem" ("She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city," Summa theologiae, la. 1, 5). For St. Thomas, philosophy, the sum of the other sciences, is a subject in its own right in all its specific areas of study and is servant to theology in theology's work of human salvation. For Dante theology is a pure dove, and the other sciences are queens and concubines who have numberless handmaids in attendance. (11) For him too philosophy exists in its own right but in order to assist in the work of human salvation alongside theology. (12) Gilson's thesis is that Dante is more radical than St. Thomas. Where St. Thomas has philosophy as autonomous and yet subordinate to theology, Dante has the sciences as mutually exclusive and one and all dependent on God. So that where for St. Thomas theology is the way to salvation, for Dante philosophy "by virtue of the miracle of its own existence and of the effects which it produces through its special quality" is helper in the work of salvation. (13) For Dante each science should respect the boundaries of the others. Dante is like a judge serving justice: he wants to give each authority its due, in order, in Gilson's words, to inspire the "fundamental authorities once more with the mutual respect which their divine origin exacts from them." (14) On this particular point, Gilson argues, Dante's view remains constant in all his works: the Convivio upholds the moral authority of the Philosopher alongside the Emperor; De monarchia maintains the political authority of the Emperor alongside the Pope; the Commedia promotes the rights and duties of all. Whenever any one of these authorities exceeds the limits imposed by God on its domain, it disrupts the integrity of an authority no less sacred than itself and commits a crime against justice. (15)
The recourse to wisdom texts in discussing the sciences in the Middle Ages seems almost inevitable: Solomon has to be a point of reference precisely because his wisdom is proverbial. If we compare Dante's Thomas on Solomon's specific wisdom (Paradiso XIII, 88-111) and a text by St. Bonaventure on the wisdom of Solomon, the difference in their views on philosophy and theology come into focus. (16)
According to St. Bonaventure, the term "wisdom" may refer to pagan wisdom found before and outside Christian revelation: in this sense it may refer to the knowledge we have of things both human and divine; or specifically to knowledge of eternal things. If by "wisdom" we mean Christian wisdom it refers to the wisdom of Christian piety, the knowledge obtained by the worship of God through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Such knowledge is deliberately contrasted with pagan wisdom in St. Bonaventure; it is described in the Bible as foolishness, and it was texts, referring to such folly, of course, which had a profound effect on the founder of St. Bonaventure's Order, Francis of Assisi. (17) Finally, for St. Bonaventure, there is the wisdom that is experiential knowledge of God, a gift of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by a feeling of divine sweetness--the kind of wisdom St. Francis himself experienced. (18) This last kind of wisdom is more the very "taste of knowledge," sapor, rather than the "act of knowing," sapere. (19)
In distinguishing these different kinds of wisdom the contrast between natural and Christian wisdom is crucial, but also important to St. Bonaventure's concept of wisdom was a distinction between kinds of pagan wisdom. (20) The distinction was made by comparing Aristotle and Plato, the one finding the sufficient reason for things in the things themselves, the other living in a world in which things were copies and symbols with no autonomous nature. For Aristotle nature was the real world and knowledge of things derived from human experience of them; ideas were abstractions from the reflections of natural objects in the human soul. For St. Bonaventure this kind of philosophy was a science of the universe stripped of its true meaning, as absurd as trying to understand the meaning of, say, a Hebrew text with no knowledge of Hebrew. For St. Bonaventure the revelation of the Bible enabled human beings to judge the "illegible" script of their experience from a transcendent viewpoint, like a dictionary would enable someone to interpret the meaning of a text. (21) Aristotle's philosophy was essentially pagan, because it looked at things from the point of view of the things themselves. Plato's philosophy was not, since it placed the reasons of things outside the things themselves: it was a philosophy directed toward the supernatural, a philosophy of the insufficiency of things and the knowledge human beings possess of them. For St. Bonaventure ignorance of the whole invalidates knowledge of the part, it necessarily introduces uncertainty and falsehood into what is known. If human beings compartmentalize the mass of their knowledge, they break it up into a multiplicity of particular and diverse sciences. But if they consider the mass of their knowledge from the point of view of faith, all these diverse compartments of knowledge receive a unity which of themselves they did not have and each finds its place in the one single knowledge. (22)
Solomon in St. Bonaventure's view was the Plato of the patriarchs. Solomon received wisdom from God as the granting of a desire. (23) Before Christ human beings did not have the illumination of faith, but for all that they could use their reason in two different ways. One way was to use it as an instrument to satisfy their individual curiosity, piling up items of knowledge relative to things as in Aristotelian science; in its other use, natural reason was directed towards the supernatural as giving meaning to all things in the natural world. For St. Bonaventure the most perfect type of such philosophers, so enlightened though without faith, was Solomon. (24)
St. Bonaventure divides philosophical truth into three kinds that, following the order in the fourth collation on the gift of knowledge in his Collations on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, he calls rational philosophy, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy. (25) The three kinds are different ways in which the truth is expressed: in words, in things, in human activity. Under rational philosophy the science of expressing the truth in suitable words is grammar, of judging the truth in words is logic, and of motivating human thought and action towards the truth is rhetoric. Natural philosophy studies the relationship between things and the way we think about them: metaphysics is the knowledge of ideas abstracted from matter; mathematics has knowledge, not derived from the things themselves, about the relationship between them; physics is the knowledge of the properties of the elements, or of ideas in union with matter. Moral philosophy is divided into individual, family, and social ethics. (26)
For St. Bonaventure Solomon possessed knowledge of the three parts of philosophical science and the three subdivisions of each. He could not have had all the knowledge that Revelation permits human beings to discover, but he did draw all his knowledge from the source itself of the truth in everything. His wisdom was the opposite of gathering items of knowledge relative to things as in Aristotelian science which was comparable in St. Bonaventure's mind to the materialistic idolatry of the Egyptians. Here I quote from St. Bonaventure on the second part of philosophy, natural philosophy, which is a commentary on a text from the Wisdom of Solomon (7: 17), Mihi dedit Deus eorum quae sunt scientiam veram, "For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are":
Alteram pattern philosophiae, scilicet quae est in veritate rerum, dicit se Salomon adeptum esse. Unde dicit in libro Sapientiae: Mihi dedit Deus eorum quae sunt scientiam veram, ut sciam dispositionem orbis terrarum et virtutes elementorum. Certum est, quod notitia veritatis rerum triformis est, secundum quod sunt formae concretae, formae abstractae et formae separatae. Formas concretas considerat physicus, formas abstractas metaphysicus, et formas separatae mathematicus. Unde dicit: Mihi Deus dedit scientiam eorum quae sunt, id est entium principaliter, quae vera entia quantum ad scientiam metaphysicam; ut sciam dispositionem orbis terrarum, quantum ad mathematicam; et virtutes elementorum, quantum ad naturalem philosophiam. Salomon scivit anni cursum ex dispositione stellarum, naturas animalium et virtutes radicum; omnia docuit Salomon. (Collationes de septem donis spiritus sancti: Collatio IV, De dono scientiae 9) [The other part of philosophy, that is, which is in the truth of things, Solomon says he obtained. Hence he says in the book of Wisdom: For he hath given certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation off the elements. It is certain our knowledge of the truth of things has three forms, according to whether they are concrete forms, abstracted forms, and separated forms. The natural philosopher considers concrete forms, the metaphysician abstracted forms, and the mathematician separated forms. Hence he says: For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, that is principally of beings, which are true beings as far as the knowledge of metaphysics is concerned; to know, how, the world was made, as far as mathematics is concerned; and the operation of the elements, as far as natural philosophy is concerned. Solomon knew the cycles of the years from the positions of the planets, the natures of living creatures and the virtues of roots; Solomon taught all things.] (27)
Solomon then was a metaphysician who had knowledge of beings precisely as beings, a mathematician, since he could quantify in abstract terms relations between earthly things, a natural philosopher who knew the properties of the elements. He simply had knowledge of all things. (28)
The contrast with Thomas's words at the end of Paradiso XIII is striking. (29) After the double negative of line 94 ("Non ho parlato si, che tu non posse / ben veder ch'el fu re"), there follows a series of negatives about the wisdom that Solomon did not ask for. This section draws our attention to the fact that his kingly wisdom was distinct from other wisdoms, and that it had its own sphere of authority, as do other kinds of wisdom referred to in the Heaven of the Sun. (30) For St. Bonaventure Solomon was a metaphysician, mathematician, and so on. For Dante's Thomas Solomon did not want knowledge of metaphysics, logic, physics, or geometry:
non per sapere il numero in che enno li motor di qua su, o se necesse con contingente mai necesse fenno; non si est dare primum motun esse, o se del mezzo cerchio far si puote triangol si ch'un retto non avesse. (Paradiso XIII, 97-103)
The contrast between St. Bonventure's text and Thomas's words offsets their courteous and generous cooperation in the Heaven of the Sun reinforcing its major theme of diversity in unity, a theme which has been forgotten in some recent studies, and forgotten, I would add, in the midst of modern debates about the relations between disciplines.
Angela Meekins suggests that "Dante's aim in the Heaven of the Sun is to demonstrate which system of knowledge--that is, which ideological tradition--provides the best means for gaining knowledge about God, in order to achieve salvation," and she argues that Dante shows "he favours Bonaventure's way of writing, and Bonaventure's intellectual system, to Thomas's own." (31) But her argument, while it redresses the balance which in general favours St. Thomas as the influence in the Commedia, (32) seems to work against Dante's major theme: respect for the authority of every aspect of wisdom.
Chiarenza has described Thomas's speech at the end of canto XIII as "a tiresome list of metaphysical, dialectical, and geometrical problems which Solomon ... did not ask to be able to solve." (33) It is a speech, she writes, that because of his very carefulness and clarity demonstrates the limits of rationalism. (34) And she draws her interpretation of Solomon into her argument by commenting that the triumph of Solomon on the other hand "represents ... the victory of poetry as the expression of intangible mysteries that confuse and defeat reason." (35) Meekins finds that Thomas uses a richness of language, poetic imagery, and metaphor in his speech that contrasts strongly with what Anthony Kenny describes as St. Thomas's "passionless lucidity." She argues that by presenting us with "a 'corrected' Thomas" Dante shows his allegiance with the intellectual system most compatible with poesia: the Christian Neoplatonism of St. Bonaventure. (36)
To my mind the interpretations of both Chiarenza and Meekins reflect the kind of anti-science or anti-rationalism found in our culture today. Anti-rationalism has been criticised by, among others, that arch-rationalist Richard Dawkins who in turn, though, is arguing for the supremacy of his own discipline as do other sociobiologists today. In his book Unweaving the Rainbow, Dawkins has written against this "anti-science" feeling, in part, as his title makes clear in its reference to Keats's Lamia ("Do not all charms fly / At the mere touch of cold philosophy?") by correcting the errors of Romantic poets who attacked western science as something dangerous to humane ideals. (37) In Science and Poetry, a book that is effectively a riposte to Dawkins, Mary Midgley has pointed out that what Romantic poets, reported as taking sides with feeling against reason, actually often objected to, as she does in her book, was a single vision, the inability to look at things from any angle other than the scientific one. (38) "Anti-science" feeling is not usually an objection to the discoveries of science, it is a protest against "the imperialistic, isolating ideology about science," (39) not so much anti-rationalism then as a protest against the extravagant claims of rationalism. In terms of Dante scholarship there has been a protest against too much stress on the "scholastic" culture of the poet, and an endeavour to correct the balance. Interpretations like that of Chiarenza in particular, though, end up by going too far in the opposite direction by claiming, like Dawkins' straw man, the Romantics, the victory of poetry over reason. Pushed too far this view evidently distorts Dante's position, which is to instil interdependence and respect for each area of study. (40)
As many scholars have pointed out the speech at the end of canto XIII far from undermining the position of St. Thomas represents his usual, scholastic method of argument. The careful demonstration of the limits of rationalism in Dante's Thomas is an excellent characterisation of the real St. Thomas who while having a keen taste for dialectical discussions and arguments was fully aware of the limitations of reason, especially when it was a question of knowing an object which its very essence rendered inaccessible to the human mind. (41) The stress in all three discourses of Thomas in canti X, XI, and XIII is on "the need for and the beauty of rational discrimination, measure and sobriety of judgement" according to the way of doing theology that gives full place and honour to reason. (42)
No one can dispute the fact that Dante adheres to the Aristotelian principle that diversity implies inequality and therefore hierarchy, as both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure do, but his emphasis is on coordination, not subordination. (43) The key image in the Heaven of the Sun, the circle, militates against inequality and hierarchy in aspects of wisdom. The circling motion of the lights of the wise, as a crown, a halo around the moon, a garland of flowers, and so on, puts all the different aspects of wisdom on a level. (44) The circling motion does more than represent serenity and harmony and the transcendence, as one would expect in heaven, of earthly conflict and rivalry; it images forth Dante's conception of the relation between the sciences, between different kinds of wisdom. Each aspect of wisdom is on a level and works in cooperation in perfect harmony. When the second group of wise souls appears around the first, they imitate precisely the movement and song of the first group, as a double rainbow, as twin garlands of flowers, as the echo of the voice of the other. (45) The theme of reflection suggests that though these aspects of wisdom are distinct, there is a degree of similarity, just as the biographies of St. Francis and St. Dominic are told "in such a way as to preserve individual identity and yet to create no difference." (46) Each preserves its individual identity and is in perfect balance with the others. There is perfect co-ordination of the parts.
In ordering the sciences St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure speak rather of subordination, not co-ordination. The wisdom of theology governs the other disciplines, writes St. Thomas in article 6 of the first question in the Summa theologiae on theology, just as the wise person in any particular field guides those who contribute to its work. The theologian is like a skilled master-builder who can see the fundamental purpose for which a thing is done and can plan the whole structure organising the work of the artisans who cut the stones and mix the mortar. (47) Theology is the supreme wisdom by which all our knowledge should be governed and to which all other wisdoms are subordinate. (48)
For Dante each aspect of wisdom has independence in its own sphere--only within its own sphere is there pre-eminence, so that Solomon is pre-eminent among those with kingly wisdom, and in this sense he is the light among the wise whom Thomas points out as the most beautiful, "piu bella." (49) The aspects of wisdom are independent and interdependent, related to the whole as equal parts, acting in perfect harmony as aspects of divine wisdom. (50)
As Gilson reminds us at the end of Dante the Philosopher, speaking out against those who would identify Dante with one or other system, as a "lover of wisdom" Dante applied himself to every branch of knowledge and respected the authority in each sphere: Virgil in poetry, Ptolemy in astronomy, Aristotle in all the natural sciences, but above all in logic and moral philosophy, St. Thomas in speculative theology St. Bonaventure in affective theology, St. Bernard in mystical theology, and so on. In Dante there was no one single authority, although there was a supreme one in any one sphere and all have the same purpose as aspects of wisdom. Gilson was speaking out against those who would identify Dante with one or other system. (51) Midgley is making a similar point in trying to end "the contest of the faculties" in the modern world. (52) For Dante the notion of unity in diversity is fundamental and is made on several occasions in the Paradiso. What Dante always implies is that the more each part of a whole is itself, the more it fulfils the purpose of its own identity, the more it is at one with the whole and paradoxically the more the unity of purpose is achieved. The idea is embedded in Paradiso I, III, VIII, and elsewhere, but it has its fullest expression in the Heaven of the Sun. (53)
University of Hull
(1) This article is the revised version of a paper delivered at a Dante symposium in honour of Peter Armour at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London, on 11 and 12 April 2003.
(2) 1 Kings 3:12: "I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee." Bible references in this article are to the King James Version. I distinguish the character 'Thomas' from the real person 'St. Thomas' and likewise for 'Bonaventure' and 'St. Bonaventure.'
(3) K. Foster, The Two Dantes and Other Studies (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1977) 122. Solomon's clarification of the glory of the body as an expression of the soul in the resurrection of the flesh in Paradiso XIV has been linked to the exalted role given to the body in Dante, see R. Jacoff, "'Our Bodies, Our Selves': The Body in the Commedia," Sparks and Seeds: Medieval Literature and Its Afterlife: Essays in Honor of John Freccero, ed. D. E. Stewart and A. Cornish, with an introduction by G. Mazzotta (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2000) 119-38.
(4) I Kings 11:1-4: "But King Solomon loved many strange women ... he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father."
(5) M. Chiarenza, "Solomon's Song in the Divine Comedy," Sparks and Seeds 204. See also M. Chiarenza, "Dante's Lady Poverty," Dante Studies 111 (1993): 153-75 (172).
(6) Convivio II, xii, 7. A. Meekins, "The Study of Dante, Bonaventure, and Mysticism: Notes on Some Problems of Method," "In amicizia": Essays in Honour of Giulio Lepschy, ed. Z. G. Baranski and L. Pertile, The Italianist 17, Special Supplement (1997): 83-99, comments that the influence of St. Bonaventure upon Dante's thought and art has long been acknowledged by Dante scholarship; "however, the extent of that influence has proved to be difficult to ascertain with any certainty" (83). She looks at the cultural milieu of Dante's time, and finds "that Bonaventure's works were copied and circulated more than those of any other medieval writer" (84). Considering the factors that paved the way for the popularity of Bonaventure's works, she concludes that they "tend to confirm that Dante would have been familiar with the Franciscan's writings" (85).
(7) E. Gilson, Dante the Philosopher, transl. D. Moore (London: Sheed & Ward, 1948) 281.
(8) J. A. Fodor, "Special Sciences, or the Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis," Synthese: An International Quarterly for the Logical and the Psychological Study of the Foundations of Science 28 (1974): 97-115.
(9) Medieval thinkers do not spend time examining what is self-evident or what counts as evidence. For Aristotle, the data of empirical observation, the phainomena, included any observed data: "what we say" or common belief as well as previous scientific or philosophical treatments of the problem, the views one might say of the wise, see M. C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986) 243.
(10) Summa theologiae la. 1, 5 (all references to the Summa theologiae are to the edition translated by the Blackfriars, 60 vols [London: Eyre & Spottiswoode; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963-75]). Cf. Convivio II, xiv, 30: "si come dice Aristotile nel cominciamento de l'Anima [De partibus animalium I, 5], la scienza e alta di nobilitade per la nobilitade del suo subietto e per la sua certezza." St. Bonaventure makes a distinction between an affective certitude and a speculative one. People the for affective certitudes, such as religious truths, presumably they would not for a speculative certitude such as their grasp of a geometrical theorem (E. Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, transl. I. Trethowan and F. J. Sheed [London: Sheed & Ward, 1938] 90).
(11) "If we reckon theology--questa--among the other sciences, we shall have to say that it is one of the queens [Gilson's preferred interpretation], and the purest at that, but not their queen. If we reckon it separately from the other sciences, the 'divine science' will be distinguished from them as a dove is distinguished from queens. In whatever way we interpret this passage, not only shall we not find there the Thomistic doctrine of the subordination of the sciences to theology, but we shall find rather the intention of avoiding it" (Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 116).
(12) Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 118-29.
(13) Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 119. Convivio III, vii, 16: "questa donna sia una cosa visibilmente miraculosa, de la quale li occhi de li uomini cotidianamente possono esperienza avere, ed a noi faccia possibili li altri; manifesto e che questa donna, colo suo mirabile aspetto, la nostra fede aiuta."
(14) Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 280-81.
(15) The distinction is perhaps most apparent in the political sphere. On Dante's conception of the virtue of justice and of the allegiances that the virtue exacts, see Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 276-81.
(16) There is no trace of any personal animosity or spirit of contention between St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, but John Peckham, Franciscan Master at the University of Paris, has left an account of a controversy between the Franciscan Masters of Theology at the University of Paris and their brand of Augustinianism, at the time when St. Bonaventure was Minister General of the Order, and the Aristotelianism of Thomas, see Gilson, Bonaventure 24.
(17) "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). St. Paul deliberately preached the folly of Christianity, a God-man, dead on a cross and risen again from the dead, and opposed it to the wisdom of pagan philosophers: "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23). See E. Gilson, The Spirit of Medioeval Philosophy (Gifford Lectures 1931-1932), transl, by A. H. C. Downes (London: Sheed & Ward, 1936) 20-23.
(18) As the biographer of the founder of his order, St. Bonaventure tells us that St. Francis often experienced this kind of wisdom. Once Francis had passed like a lifeless corpse through an admiring crowd in Borgo San Sepolero and later was heard to ask anxiously of his companions when they would be reaching the town, Legenda maior l0 (Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. R. J. Armstrong, J. A. Wayne Hellman, and W. J. Short, 3 vols [New York, London, and Manila, 1999-2001] vol. 2: The Founder 606).
(19) See J. F. Quinn, The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure's Philosophy (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973) 409-10, for references. St. Bonaventure's definitions of Christian wisdom explain also the presence of the early followers of St. Francis, Illuminato and Agostino, who were not intellectuals, among the scholars in the Heaven of the Sun, authorities in theology, canon law, natural science, church history, logic, and grammar.
(20) "The first two uses of wisdom are concerned only with knowledge, whereas the last two uses of the term have to do with both knowledge and love," Quinn 410.
(21) See Gilson, Bonaventure 87-116 and 431-69, for full references.
(22) "It is a problem of enormous gravity to decide whether it is possible to order things from the point of view of the sciences--that is, of the things themselves; or whether their ordering does not suppose the adoption of a centre of reference, which makes it possible for them to be a system precisely because it is outside them.... the problem posed by medieval thought has been neither forgotten nor solved by modern philosophy" (Gilson, Bonaventure 116).
(23) I Kings 3:5 and in II Chronicles 1: 7. Cf. Wisdom 7: 7, "I besought it, and understanding was given me." Thomas comments with care on Solomon's request: "in sleep it was declared to [Solomon] that wisdom was to be infused into him by God because of his desire for it before," Summa theologiae la2ae. 113, 4.
(24) When wisdom is so obtained it is a gift of God, although there exist more perfect gifts, like the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Gilson, Bonaventure 95). Solomon discovered that the more he learned the less he knew, Ecclesiastes 7:30 (Gilson, Bonaventure 431, referring to St. Bonaventure's commentary on H Sentences, proemium, which can be found with English translation on the Franciscan website: www.franciscan-archive.org/ bonaventura/opera/bonprem2.html).
(25) The Wisdom texts quoted are: Proverbs 22:20-21; Wisdom, 9:4-12; Wisdom 7; Ecclesiastes 7:26.
(26) Vita monastica, vita oeconomica, vita politica. The monastic life or government of self treats of right order in a human being's actions as an individual; the economic life or government of the family governs an individual's actions as a member of the domestic society; the political order or government of the city regulates an individual's actions as a member of the city or of the civil society.
(27) My translation. The text with English translation can be found on the Franciscan website: www.franciscan-archive.org/bonaventura/opera/collat4.html.
(28) Gilson, Bonaventure 96.
(29) There is more in the whole speech than just distinguishing Solomon's wisdom. Thomas begins by cautioning Dante against believing he has understood an argument without first examining carefully its exact terms of reference and ends with advice not to pass hasty judgements, advice reminding us about the doubts on the salvation of Solomon. From the question about Solomon's gift of wisdom arises a discourse on creation, with its starting point in the Holy Trinity.
(30) Foster notes that the choice of Solomon and kingly wisdom "has behind it Dante's passionate concern with politics, his belief ... in the high dignity and sacred autonomy of the civil power and in the vocation of the civil ruler as something utterly distinct from that of the priest or the intellectual" (The Two Dantes 133).
(31) A. Meekins, "Reflecting on the Divine: Notes on Dante's Heaven of the Sun," The Italianist 18 (1998): 28-70 (29 and 50).
(32) Foster, The Two Dantes 76: "though I would not call Dante, without much qualification, a Thomist, I would agree that his doctrinal affinities were with the school of Aquinas rather than with any other." See also on Dante's main theological sources, A. A. Iannucci, "Dante's Theological Canon in the Commedia," Italian Quarterly 37 (2000): 51-56, who notes that the debate on the ontological status of the poem, interpreted either as being a visio or fictio, "has resulted in an adversative approach towards the relationship between poetry and theology which sees both as mutually hostile, and which involves the primacy of one over the other" (55). Iannucci suggests, although the point is not developed in detail, that "rather, they are intimately bound by Dante, theology the very source of the poetry and poetry the ultimate expression of theological truth" (56).
(33) Chiarenza, "Dante's Lady Poverty" 169.
(34) Chiarenza writes that the distinction Thomas makes in reference to the word "surgere"--that it has a specifically regal connotation--is "so subtle as to almost suggest a parody rather than a celebration of the scholastic dialectic," since he uses the word a few lines later to describe the ascent of a thief to salvation. She notes that "the celebration of human wisdom in the heaven of the sun would be incomplete if it did not also point to its relativity and its insufficiency compared to divine truth" ("Dante's Lady Poverty" 170-71).
(35) Chiarenza, "Dante's Lady Poverty" 172.
(36) Meekins, "Reflecting on the Divine" 56.
(37) Lamia Part II, ll. 229-38.
(38) Midgley apologizes "for repeatedly choosing [her] quotations from Dawkins. [She does] not do this in order to persecute him, but for a reason that is greatly to his credit, namely, because he writes so clearly. Clear expressions of important mistakes are useful things" (M. Midgley, Science and Poetry [London: Routledge, 2001] 40).
(39) Midgley 1.
(40) It is part of Giuseppe Mazzotta's position in Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge (Princeton, Princeton UP 1992) that Dante develops a theory of imagination, and hence poetry, which is the foundation of knowledge.
(41) Summa theologiae 1a, 1, 5, notes that human understanding is feeble, and refers to Aristotle that "the slenderest acquaintance we can form with heavenly things is more desirable than a thorough grasp of mundane matters," De Partibus Animalium I, 5. Even that enigmatic figure Siger of Brabant, representative of the Latin Averroists, was not a rationalist in revolt against faith, even if that was the way he was presented by his enemies. Siger appears in the Heaven of the Sun because he maintained a rigorous distinction between the philosophical and the theological orders and professed to discuss and solve the problems with which he dealt from the standpoint of reason alone. When the conclusions to which he was led by the interpretations of Aristotle contradicted the teaching of faith, he contented himself with propounding them as the conclusions of philosophy, but he maintained at the same time that the teachings of faith were the true ones. See Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 261: the so-called doctrine of "two-fold truth ... although commonly attributed to the Averroists, was not taught by them but was forced upon them by their opponents."
(42) Foster 63.
(43) "Distinctio autem formalis semper requirit inaequalitatem," Summa Theologiae la, 47, 2, see T. Barolini, The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992) 195. "Dante never called in question the hierarchies of dignity established by Aristotle and confirmed by St. Thomas," Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 173. Cf. De monarchia I, 5: "when several things are directed towards a single goal, it is imperative for one of them to control or rule, and for the others to be controlled and ruled."
(44) Paradiso X, 65, 67-69, 76, 91-92, a holy millstone, XII, 3.
(45) Paradiso XII, 10-12, 14, 19-20, a double constellation of stars, XIII, 4-21.
(46) Barolini 196. Barolini has spoken eloquently of the "paradoxical task" required of the poet in the Paradiso in balancing harmony and diversity, unity and multiplicity. This paradoxical task "is a microcosmic version of the task of writing the Paradiso: to present as one, undifferentiatedly, figures who appear in time, in narrative sequence, separately" (196). On the image of reflection, it is interesting to note that when something is described as a reflection it is neither the thing itself nor other than it since without the thing itself the reflection would be nothing (Gilson, Bonaventure 347).
(47) "Ut sapiens architectus fundamentum posui," Corinthians 3:10, Summa Theologiae 1a. 1, 6, cf. 2a2ae. 45, 1.
(48) And for St. Bonaventure all human knowledge is directed toward the savouring of God in that sense I mentioned at the outset of experiential knowledge of God that is primarily affective (B. Hinwood, "The Principles Underlying St. Bonaventure's Division of Human Knowledge," S. Bonaventura 1274-1974 [Rome: Collegio S. Bonaventura Grottaferrata] vol. 3: Philosophica 463-504 (473), and Quinn 411). Bonaventure conceives the structure of society to be like an organism, a living body, in which all the members depend on one another and mutually aid one another in the common purpose of vital development. However there is a certain gradation of faculties and acts that contributes to the conservation and perfection of the entire organism. In the social organism, which closely parallels the human body, there is a primacy of the principal parts, a hierarchy in which the lower is subjected to the higher and influenced thereby. See M. M. De Benedictis, The Social Thought of Saint Bonaventure: A Study in Social Philosophy (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972) 121-25.
(49) Cf. Orosius who is a "piccioletta luce," one might argue, because he does not have supreme authority in the field of history.
(50) Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 188: "the special achievement of Dante's thought is to have eliminated the hierarchical gradations essential to Thomas and replaced them merely with a system of equal authorities. In St. Thomas, the actual distinction between the orders justifies and necessitates their gradation; in Dante it excluded it."
(51) Gilson, Dante the Philosopher 281.
(52) On the complex series of crossings and cross-fertilizations between "literature" and "science," see Science and Literature in Italian Culture: From Dante to Calvino. A Festschrit for Pat Boyde, ed. E Antonello and S. A. Gilson (Oxford: Legenda, 2004). (53) In Paradiso I, Beatrice explains that all natures are formally distinct. Their diversity enables them to co-ordinate their respective activities as they follow instinctive love to different destinations on the great sea of being. In Paradiso III, Piccarda says she is perfectly at peace within the hierarchy of the universe because she is perfectly fulfilled in the purpose God willed for her. In Paradiso VIII, that diversity--one might say "division of labour"--is translated into a social context. A human being is a social animal, with a nature disposed to live in an organized society; a society cannot be organized unless there is diversity, diverse natures for diverse tasks in that society, whether individuals be politicians, soldiers, religious, or whatever else. A similar view is expressed on the knowledge of individuals in the Monarchia I, 3-4: individuals endeavour to acquire a certain amount of knowledge by the use of their reason, but what they can acquire in the way of intelligible knowledge represents but a minute part of the total intelligible knowledge that is accessible to the human species. The total knowledge cannot be realized all at once by any individual, or even by any particular group of human beings. Only the human species taken in its entirety is entitled to lay claim to it, but it may aspire to such an achievement only on condition that it exists as a universal community.…
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Publication information: Article title: Dante's Heaven of the Sun and the Wisdom of Solomon (1). Contributors: Williams, Pamela - Author. Journal title: Italica. Volume: 82. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2005. Page number: 165+. © 2008 American Association of Teachers of Italian. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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