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Review of Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (H. Lawrence Bond, ed.)
The Thomist (1998)
  • Peter J. Casarella, DePaul University

An excerpt from the review:

This book represents a major step forward in the introduction of Cusanus to English-speaking readers. Never before have the major spiritual writings of Nicholas been bound together in such a well-informed single volume. The book contains historical material, interpretive guides, and a brief glossary of terms that will be helpful to future first-time readers of Nicholas's works.

Given the tenaciously neologistic style of Nicholas's philosophical Latin, no translation into English will leave all interpreters satisfied. In comparison to the most prolific and widely respected English translator, Jasper Hopkins, Bond's style is far less literal and more in accord with the fluidity of spoken English. Bond is wise to leave key terms like possest and posse itself untranslated. Ample footnotes offer variants and justifications in places in which Bond knows no single English rendering is definitive. Masculine personal pronouns which refer to God, however, are generally translated as "God," which is an anachronism introduced without explanation. Similarly, the rendering of homo as "human" and "human being" in the third, Christological book of On Learned Ignorance has the unintended consequence of making the uniqueness of the God-man's humanity into a more generic abstraction than Nicholas intended.

Nicholas of Cusa also proffers a comprehensive interpretation of Cusanus's life and thought on a scale that few Cusanus scholars have hazarded. Bond's general approach to Cusanus's thought is to see himself as part of an open-ended "quest for the historical Cusanus." He states: "[Cusanus] writes philosophy but more as therapeia and as cura animarum than as logica" (17). One could expect to leave a Scholastic disputation in the Middle Ages with a true proposition in hand, and this was no small accomplishment. Cusanus's style of writing, however, disavows this form of pedagogy. Bond therefore refers to Cusanus's philosophical and theological musings as a "ministry" carried out to heal the soul.

  • Nicholas of Cusa,
  • H. Lawrence Bond,
  • Cusanus,
  • 15th century,
  • fifteenth century,
  • 1400s,
  • spiritual writings,
  • reflections,
  • introduction to Cusanus,
  • coincident theology
Publication Date
Citation Information
Peter J. Casarella. "Review of Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (H. Lawrence Bond, ed.)" The Thomist Vol. 62 (1998)
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