Villanova, PA: Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Conference, 2011. — 14 p.The concept of natura oscillates near the center of the various Platonisms of the fabled 12th century renaissance, particularly in connection with the idea of the anima mundi, the world soul, recovered from the Timaeus and the writings of Plotinus. This paper intends to examine the connection of these two ideas – nature and world soul – with the legacy of the doctrine of the divine ideas or exemplars inherited from Augustine. My central argument is that situating the concept of nature within Christian cosmology required a christological, indeed incarnational, understanding of the exemplars, a process which is embarked upon by Hugh of St. Victor and completed by Bonaventure. In the course of this discussion, I want to show how the Augustinian legacy of the so-called psychological analogy was key to this situating. For while attention to Pseudo-Dionysius and his hierarchical metaphysics of mediations (especially in the Celestial Hierarchy) provided an ideal way of articulating the concept of nature in the hierarchy of creation cosmologically (although, as we will see, it also posed significant problems), on the other hand it was somewhat more difficult to mesh with the Augustinian metric of “God and soul” for understanding creation. For integral to these Platonisms was the tension between the affective and anthropological interiority of the already ancient Augustinian doctrine of grace, and the cosmological apophatic intellectualism of a newly recovered Pseudo-Dionysius. This distinction, most certainly overdrawn when put thusly, nevertheless conveniently provides a measure of the significance of Bonaventure’s synthesis of these various themes in his Christology.
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