Volume 95, Issue 4, October 2018
Wayne J. Hankey
Placing the Human
Establishing Reason by Its Participation in Divine Intellect for Boethius and Aquinas
We begin with the kinds of knowing and ignorance in Plato’s allegory of the Line in the Republic, and go on to the problem of the relation of human reason and divine intellection in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, I and XII, De anima, II and III, and, especially, Nicomachean Ethics X, 7 and 8. Plato and Aristotle do not establish the human firmly vis-à-vis the divine and leave the Platonic tradition with a deep philosophical, theological, and religious ambiguity. Passing to Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and Aquinas in his Summa theologiae and Aristotelian commentaries, we consider how they take up the Platonic-Aristotelian problematic and define the human in relation to the divine, partly by way of the notion of participation which Aristotle rejected. Aquinas is the most determined humanist among the thinkers considered. After outlining features of his position, we conclude with reflections on medieval humanism.