Kitanov, Severin Valentinov. Beatific Enjoyment in Medieval Scholastic Debates: The Complex Legacy of Saint Augustine and Peter Lombard

By Jeschke, Thomas | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Kitanov, Severin Valentinov. Beatific Enjoyment in Medieval Scholastic Debates: The Complex Legacy of Saint Augustine and Peter Lombard


Jeschke, Thomas, The Review of Metaphysics


KITANOV, Severin Valentinov. Beatific Enjoyment in Medieval Scholastic Debates: The Complex Legacy of Saint Augustine and Peter Lombard. New York: Lexington Books, 2014. xix + 285 pp. Cloth, $90.67--Since Plato's Philebus or Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, one of the key issues in philosophy has been how to achieve final perfection, or how to gain ultimate happiness. In the Christian tradition answers to the problem were formed less by the Platonic or Aristotelian account than by Augustine's solution. It's not the right mixture between pleasure and knowledge or pure thought that, according to Augustine, makes man happy, but that he enjoys God in the afterlife. The subsequent medieval discussions of the topic are footnotes, so to speak, to Augustine's idea. After having explored Augustine's theory in detail and its second beginning in the twelfth century with Peter Lombard (who transmits Augustine's ideas to his contemporaries), Kitanov tracks these footnotes from mid-thirteenth century to the 1330s. Key topics in this narration were: What is the object of enjoyment? (Chapter two deals with thirteenth-century answers, chapter three with fourteenth-century answers.) In which faculty of the soul is enjoyment to be posited, namely, will or intellect? (Chapter three deals with answers in the fourteenth century.) Two other questions of the fourteenth century are how the Holy Trinity is enjoyed, namely, as a whole or as the persons separately, and in what way beatific enjoyment is a contingent or necessary act. These key topics show clearly how Augustine's ideas were transformed in the Middle Ages (and, hence, his reception is more than footnotes, in the end). Kitanov takes into account many different positions from many different thinkers. One gets to know positions of quite prominent thinkers, such as Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas for the thirteenth century, or John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham for the fourteenth century. Yet, Kitanov also considers less prominent figures such as Peter of Tarantaise, Robert Kilwardby, and Richard of Mediavilla for the thirteenth century, or Francis of Marchia and Robert Holcot for the fourteenth century. He even discusses Robert Graystanes's, Richard FitzRalph's, and Gerard of Siena's positions in the fourteenth century. Chapter three is especially interesting, where Kitanov discusses voluntaristic psychology. Augustine opposed enjoyment to use, stating that only God is enjoyed, while all other things are used in order to reach God (who is a goal by himself, while all others things are just means). Some fourteenth-century thinkers like Scotus and Ockham developed the idea that there could be another indifferent act beyond this dichotomy (Scotus speaks of assensus medius, Ockham of actus medius). …

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