God's Knowledge of the World
Medieval Theories of Divine Ideas from Bonaventure to Ockham
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
A theory of divine ideas was the standard Scholastic response to the question how does God know and produce the world? A theory was deemed to be successful only if it simultaneously upheld that God has perfect knowledge and that he is supremely simple and one. In articulating a theory of divine ideas, Carl Vater answers two sorts of questions. First, what is an idea? Does God have ideas? Are there many divine ideas? What sort of existence does an idea enjoy? Second, he answers questions about the scope of divine ideas: does God have ideas of individuals, species, genera, accidents, matter, evil, etc.? How many divine ideas are there?
These questions cause the Scholastic authors to articulate clearly, among other things, their positions on the nature of knowledge, relation, exemplar causality, participation, infinity, and possibility. An author’s theory of divine ideas, then, is the locus for him to test the coherence of his metaphysical, epistemological, and logical principles. Many of the debates over divine ideas have their roots in disagreements over whether a given theory adequately articulates one of the underlying positions or the overall coherence of those positions. Peter John Olivi, for example, argues that his predecessors’ theories of knowledge and theories of relations are at odds, and this critique results in a major shift in theories of divine ideas.
God's Knowledge of the World examines theories of divine ideas from approximately 1250–1325 AD (St. Bonaventure through Ockham). It will be the only work dedicated to categorizing and comparing the major theories of divine ideas in the Scholastic period.
"Many articles have been published on the individual thinkers considered here, as well as important biographies and monographs on them and on their thought. But book-length considerations of the theory of divine ideas are rare, even for any of these thinkers individually. This book fills a gap in the scholarly literature and as such is significant. The bigger names will normally be considered – Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus and Ockham – but the supporting cast is not so often given attention."~Vivian Boland, OP, Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Rome)
"Marked by meticulous scholarship and incisive argument, Vater's book provides the definitive systematic discussion of the divine ideas in the period from Aquinas to Ockham. It offers a vigorous and powerful defense of Scotus's approach against alternatives. The gauntlet is down!"~Richard Cross, University of Notre Dame
"Vater’s treatment of divine ideas theory from Bonaventure to Ockham is a tour de force. This volume effectively explicates the general theory and also traces the details of its historical development through the High Scholastic period, focusing on all of the major figures as well as some of their lesser known students. In this way, this volume provides the reader with a better understanding of the metaphysical, epistemological, and logical debates of the Middle Ages. Vater's book will undoubtedly be of value to medievalists, philosophers, and theologians alike."~Gregory T. Doolan, author of Aquinas on the Divine Ideas as Exemplar Causes
"Vater’s book is simply remarkable. He gives an overview of the problem of divine ideas in the major figures in thirteenth and early fourteenth century philosophy, but he also does much more than that. He provides a comprehensive taxonomy of the various theories, distinguishing between the imitability theory, the infinite intellect theory, obiectum cognitum theory, the creatura intellecta theory, and the nominalist theory. In the process, he covers the thought on divine ideas of Bonaventure, Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, Olivi, Petrus de Trabibus, James of Viterbo, Richard of Mediavilla, Scotus, some early Thomists and Scotists, Auriol, and Ockham. In each case, he locates a given thinker’s view of divine ideas in reference to their more general metaphysical and logical theories. For the taxonomy alone, the work would be worthwhile reading; for its actual treatment of the authors, it should be required reading for philosophers, theologians, and those working in intellectual history."~Timothy B. Noone, The Catholic University of America