Exemplar Causality as similitudo aequivoca in Peter Auriol

In Jacopo Falà & Irene Zavattero (eds.), Divine Ideas in Franciscan Thought (XIIIth-XIVth century). pp. 203-238 (2018)
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The aim of this paper is to discuss the theory of exemplary causality of Peter Auriol (1280-1322). Until at least the late 13th century, medieval authors claim that the world is orderly and intelligible because God created it according to the models existing eternally in his mind (i.e. divine ideas). Auriol challenges the view of his predecessors and contemporaries. He argues that assuming divine ideas amounts to assuming multiplicity in God and therefore questioning the principle of his absolute simplicity. To avoid this problem, he develops a system that enables him to account for God’s knowledge of creatures (both as individuals and as species) and hence to preserve the theological principle of providence, but at the same time allows him to reject divine ideas as intermediaries for creation. In Auriol’s theory of exemplary causality, divine essence is the only object of God’s knowledge and thus the only exemplar for creation. God’s cognitive act is directed exclusively towards his own essence. However, he knows creatures through multiple connotations, i.e. the multiple ways divine essence is connotated when God knows himself. But these connotations play no role in creation, because imitability is only proper to divine essence. To explain how an object can be the only exemplar for the creation of many different creatures, Auriol has to rethink the concept of imitability and develop a new model of exemplary causality enabling him to account for the relationship between God and his creatures. The traditional model was that of analogy: a cause produces an effect which is partly similar and partly different from it. Auriol relies on the concept of equivocity. He argues that it is unnecessary to assume a particular similarity between a cause and its effect. Quite the contrary: for an object to be the exemplar of multiple different things, it is necessary that it should not be similar to any of them. The concept of aequivocatio allows Auriol to reject the traditional model of creation. Aequivocatio does not entail a resemblance between idea and ideatum. There is no contradiction, then, in claiming that a single object (divine essence) is in an equivocal way (aequivoce) the exemplary cause of multiple different objects. This is Auriol’s new theory of divine exemplarism: the theory of similitudo aequivoca.

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Chiara Paladini
Università degli Studi dell'Aquila


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