I have been attempting to rehabilitate St. Anselm’s the ontological argument for God. However, no matter how hard I try my own understanding of discovering knowledge is similar to Aquinas’ that it begins with the senses and the recognition of the world. The issue that I’ve developed is that I disagree with St. Thomas Aquinas/Aristotle in regards to universals/forms like beauty and truth. Therefore, my ontological argument has more or less become an epistemological argument for God which is Augustinian in nature and tied to Augustine’s theory of knowledge of Divine Illumination.
I’ve been reading a bit on Divine Illumination and Aquinas’ Aristotelian Agent Intellect synthesis into his first principle of knowledge. And not surprisingly, it appears that there are those who claim that Aquinas makes a strict separation from Augustine in regards to Divine Illumination. However, it’s not a settled debate and Peter Kreeft argues in the Summa of the Summa that Aquinas is more Platonic/Augustinian in his understanding than Aristotelian, albeit many Thomist would disagree with his sentiment–I’ve personally asked one. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that what Thomas does is merely move the understanding of Divine Illumination to the material sensory of understanding. For instance, two different husbands may look at their respective spouses and believe their own is more beautiful than the other. Some would argue this indicates that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, what appears to be innate from the two husbands is beauty itself. Sure, it’s their senses that tell them what is beautiful, nonetheless, it is not their senses that is the source for understanding the concept of beauty itself. If this is true, then, it would render that not all knowledge is gained through the senses.
The more I think about this interpretation of knowledge with Aquinas’ synthesis on the sense revealing knowledge, the more I agree with it in accord to Augustine’s philosophy of Divine Illumination in regards to Romans chapter 1 and 2 which speak about knowing God “is manifest in them” and the “law written in our hearts,” I firmly agree with Augustine that we’re in possession of certain knowledge by God; however, we’re only moved to discovering by interactions with creation as attributed by Aquinas emphasis on Participation. So, when we judge beauty, for instance, the concept of the beautiful is divinely instilled by God; however, it is through our experience with a sunrise, a mountain, the ocean, or our loved ones that stir the understanding of the beautiful.
Upon doing more reading on the topic, I find this to be very similar to Bonaventure’s assessment. Perhaps, I need to read more Bonaventure. Naturally, the above is just a short examination of my current work. I am at the moment writing a more detailed treatise on the subject of illumination.
And if you think Augustine and Bonaventure are right, support Augustinian thought by buying this cool shirt! And help me teach our youth about St. Augustine.