Wayne JHankey Introduction

The character of subjectivity in pre-modern Christian theological and philosophical writings has been and remains a question.1 Partly this is owed to the anti-modern purposes of the nineteenth century revival of scholasticism in the Roman Church. In that campaign a shift from being to the subject was associated with modernity (Hankey 1998a, 141-152; Hankey 1998b, 157-188; Inglis 1998). At present we have a postmodern retrieval of the Platonic traditions which also wishes to get back beyond what it depicts as closed and totalizing modern subjectivity to a human identity which is open, living, incomplete; a human self on a journey beyond itself (Hanby 1999, 109-26; Marion, 1998, 265; Pickstock 1997:95, 199, 114, 118, 192, 211-12, 214). In general, these revivals and rereadings set strong walls of difference between the modern and premodern, between Platonism and Aristotelianism and between philosophy (and thus Hellenism) and Christian theology (Hankey 1999b, 387-397; Hankey 1998a). Accounts of the relation between the knower and the object of knowledge are at the heart of these divisions and oppositions.

I will engage none of these recent enterprises here, but judge that the anti-modern and post-modern representations of the history of Western subjectivity show the need to rewrite the history of philosophy and theology in the Patristic and Mediaeval periods. We need a history freed from both anti-modern and post-modern manipulations.2 An account of the ways in which the subject and the object of knowing are constituted relative to each other in that history will be essential.3 The twentieth century recovery of Neoplatonism within the Catholic Church in reaction against Neoscholasticism has helped to move us a great distance toward that new history (Hankey 1998a; 143-161; Hankey 1998b; 182-186; Hankey 1997b, 405-416; Hankey 1999c; Hankey 2000 and Crouse 2000). A positive appreciation of the role of Neoplatonism in Patristic and Mediaeval Christianity allows us to understand how the human self in quest of salvation is the point of departure of philosophical theology in these periods, a starting point which determined how the goal was represented. This in turn enables a fuller understanding of the unity between philosophy and theology (Hankey 1999b, 407-408; Hankey 1998a; 168-173; Hankey 1997a), between the Greek and Latin Christian traditions,4 as well as between the Classical tradition and Islam, Judaism and Christianity both in the Hellenistic period and among the mediaevals.

As part of this drawing back together what has been polemically opposed, I examine in what follows two opposed structures of subjectivity in two itineraria: Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and Anselm's Proslogion, and point toward the problematic of their meeting in the twelfth century and beyond. Within these itineraria subjectivity may be understood, provisionally, as the substance or essence which knows and wills and which may move. A moving human subject is essential to all three, though subjectivity is not confined to the human. I will try to show something of how the subject and the object of knowing are constituted relative to one another on these journeys and something of how the object of knowledge is created by the knower. For one of the two structures we shall consider, the ultimate subject—defined now as that which founds the human self and is source and origin—is above and before being, substance, knowing, choice, self-reflection and alteration. Subjectivity, as it is constructed in the Latin West by the synthesis of two opposed traditions found in but developed beyond Plotinus, holds self-reflexive knowledge and will within a prior simplicity, or, put differently and in Christian terms, contains Augustine within the pseudo-Dionysius.5 The fundamental structures of Christian spirituality as it is developed in the Latin West in mediaeval times are established within the Hellenic tradition.

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