Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Thinking in Franciscan: Part I

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Thinking in Franciscan: Part I

Article excerpt

THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION between two scholars of St. Bonaventure, Emmanuel Falque (author of Saint Bonarenture et l'entree de Dieu en theologie [Vrin, 2000] and many articles on Franciscan thinkers) and Laure Solignac (author of La Theologie symbolique de saint Bonarenture [Parole et silence, 2010], and La Voie de la ressemblance. Itineraire dans la pensee de saint Bonarenture [Hermann, 2014]), took place September 5, 2014. During this conversation, the two philosophers tried to zero in on what it means to think "in Franciscan," which is less about determining what theses the Friars Minor positively defended and more about reaching further back, to the very dispositions and interior accents of the thought that has been grafted onto Franciscan life.

LAURE SOLIGNAC (LS): YOU are proposing, we are proposing, Emmanuel Falque, to "think in Franciscan," or rather, to formulate what "thinking in Franciscan" would mean, both yesterday and today. For you, for example, how does "thinking in Franciscan" differ, including at the time of St. Francis, from the act of "thinking in Dominican," or from every other mode of living and thinking in the Middle Ages? What is it that gives specificity to this Franciscan mode of being?

EMMANUEL FALQUE (EF): "Thinking in Franciscan" does not mean, first of all, to explicate Franciscan life or thought. There is a plethora of exposes on this subject, and to add here another treatise would only be a labor of erudition, which, while certainly necessary, is not the philosopher's task. "Thinking in Franciscan," seen from the starting point of contemporary thought (especially phenomenology) as well as, I think, from the starting point of mysticism, first of all comes down to "living in Franciscan," and, precisely within the heart of this "life," to thinking. What's important is not the "matter" (quid), but rather the "manner" (quomodo). "Franciscan," as your question suggests, indicates a specific mode of being, certainly at the time of its emergence but also today. The "following of Christ" or sequela Christi emerging at the end of the twelfth century marks another manner of being in the world, and indeed also of being toward God, to which the "mendicants," as we know, will lay claim, if not through the title of an order, at least through a common belonging (Franciscan and Dominican).

Indeed, perhaps we do not take sufficiently into account the kairos or "opportune moment" that characterizes this period of the Middle Ages, in its full rebirth: the "founders" (St. Francis, 1181-1226, and St. Dominic, 1170-1221), the "transition to masters" (Alexander of Hales, 1180-1245, and Albert the Great, 1200-1280), and the "doctors," seraphic and angelic (Bonaventure, 1221-1274, and Thomas Aquinas, 1224-1274). In the space of a century all, or almost all, is given, so that Franciscan life may endure, and with that life its manner of being and of thinking: the intuition (Francis and Dominic), the tools of formation (Alexander and Albert), and the conceptualization (Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas). Kant's dictum is well known: "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." (1) The founders' intuition required, even contrary to their wishes, the formators' transcription and the conceptualization of the masters in order that what was given could last. One can always go back to an intuition (the founders) but it dies without its conceptualization (the masters). But one can also get lost in abstraction (the masters) if it is not fed by the origin that engendered it (the founders). Thus there is not, on the one side, the Franciscans of the first hour, faithful to the intuition of poverty, for example, and the Franciscans of the schools and of the schola, on the other, always too rich with their own elucubrations. "To think in Franciscan" is first of all to live as a Franciscan [vivre en franciscain], with the work of thought being nourished by this life and translating this mode of being, instead of objectifying it, or even detaching itself from it. …

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