Tuesday, April 10, 2018

An Introduction to Analogy in St. Thomas' Theology


One common problem among experienced by beginners in theology, especially those who have a more analytical mind but who have no previous theological training, is that they do not understand or know how to handle analogy.  Since they know from q. 1 of the Prima Pars that theology is a science, which uses logic and even the scholastic method, they expect terms to mean the same thing every time St. Thomas uses it.  In the Summa, however, St. Thomas expects his readers to have previously undertaken a comprehensive course of logica and of philosophy in general, where analogy is studied in depth and applied throughout.  So when a reader comes to the Summa expecting univocity, perhaps because they associate it with logical rigor, they are disappointed and it can become a serious obstacle to understanding the text.

So let me explain analogy briefly for those of you who are not familiar with it (for those of you who are well versed in St. Thomas' logic and metapysics, and are interested in reading more on my take on analogy in Aquinas, I refer you to this old post). 

St. Thomas teaches that we can use a term either univocally or equivocally. We use a term equivocally when we use it many times with different meanings. For example, when I say that the tree has bark I mean something quite different form when I say that my dog likes to bark. In these examples, "bark" is being used in a purely equivocal way. On the other hand, we use terms univocally when they have the same meaning: I am writing these words on a computer and you are reading them on a computer. Here "computer" has the same meaning in both instances, and thus it is being used univocally. Now there is a third way to use terms, which is called analogy, but which is really a subset of equivocal terms. For example, I can say that my dog is "healthy" but also that his food is "healthy" and that his urine seems "healthy." Of course the dog's being healthy means that his physiological funcitons are all in normal order; but the food's being healthy does not mean that at all: it means that the food is capable of producing or continuing the dog's being healthy. And the urine's being healthy is not at all healthy in the way his food is healthy: it is healthy in the sense that it is a sign of the dog's being healthy. So in these examples the term "healhty" is being used with different meanings (equivocally), but yet these meanings are so closely related that they constitute a special kind of equivocal term. 

St. Thomas uses analogous terms throughout his discussion of God, and so does all of theology, for that matter. When we say that this steak that I'm eating is "good," and when I say that God is "good," by the term "good" I mean different things. God is not tasty, and the steak is not goodness itself. Goodness is an analogous term. In fact, pretty much all divine attributes are analogous terms: they mean different things when attributed to God and when attributed to creatures. Thus, you as a student of theology and of St. Thomas in particular you need to be always aware of the fact that analogy is ubiquitous. 

In Summa theologiae Ia, q. 13, a. 5, we read:

Sed contra, quidquid praedicatur de aliquibus secundum idem nomen et non secundum eandem rationem, praedicatur de eis aequivoce. Sed nullum nomen convenit Deo secundum illam rationem, secundum quam dicitur de creatura, nam sapientia in creaturis est qualitas, non autem in Deo; genus autem variatum mutat rationem, cum sit pars definitionis. Et eadem ratio est in aliis. Quidquid ergo de Deo et creaturis dicitur, aequivoce dicitur.   On the contrary, whatever is predicated of various things under the same name but not in the same sense, is predicated equivocally. But no name belongs to God in the same sense that it belongs to creatures; for instance, wisdom in creatures is a quality, but not in God. Now a different genus changes an essence, since the genus is part of the definition; and the same applies to other things. Therefore whatever is said of God and of creatures is predicated equivocally.
Praeterea, Deus plus distat a creaturis, quam quaecumque creaturae ab invicem. Sed propter distantiam quarundam creaturarum, contingit quod nihil univoce de eis praedicari potest; sicut de his quae non conveniunt in aliquo genere. Ergo multo minus de Deo et creaturis aliquid univoce praedicatur, sed omnia praedicantur aequivoce.    Further, God is more distant from creatures than any creatures are from each other. But the distance of some creatures makes any univocal predication of them impossible, as in the case of those things which are not in the same genus. Therefore much less can anything be predicated univocally of God and creatures; and so only equivocal predication can be applied to them.
Respondeo dicendum quod impossibile est aliquid praedicari de Deo et creaturis univoce. Quia omnis effectus non adaequans virtutem causae agentis, recipit similitudinem agentis non secundum eandem rationem, sed deficienter, ita ut quod divisim et multipliciter est in effectibus, in causa est simpliciter et eodem modo; sicut sol secundum unam virtutem, multiformes et varias formas in istis inferioribus producit. Eodem modo, ut supra dictum est, omnes rerum perfectiones, quae sunt in rebus creatis divisim et multipliciter, in Deo praeexistunt unite. Sic igitur, cum aliquod nomen ad perfectionem pertinens de creatura dicitur, significat illam perfectionem ut distinctam secundum rationem definitionis ab aliis, puta cum hoc nomen sapiens de homine dicitur, significamus aliquam perfectionem distinctam ab essentia hominis, et a potentia et ab esse ipsius, et ab omnibus huiusmodi. Sed cum hoc nomen de Deo dicimus, non intendimus significare aliquid distinctum ab essentia vel potentia vel esse ipsius. Et sic, cum hoc nomen sapiens de homine dicitur, quodammodo circumscribit et comprehendit rem significatam, non autem cum dicitur de Deo, sed relinquit rem significatam ut incomprehensam, et excedentem nominis significationem. Unde patet quod non secundum eandem rationem hoc nomen sapiens de Deo et de homine dicitur. Et eadem ratio est de aliis. Unde nullum nomen univoce de Deo et creaturis praedicatur.   I answer that, Univocal predication is impossible between God and creatures. The reason of this is that every effect which is not an adequate result of the power of the efficient cause, receives the similitude of the agent not in its full degree, but in a measure that falls short, so that what is divided and multiplied in the effects resides in the agent simply, and in the same manner; as for example the sun by exercise of its one power produces manifold and various forms in all inferior things. In the same way, as said in the preceding article, all perfections existing in creatures divided and multiplied, pre-exist in God unitedly. Thus when any term expressing perfection is applied to a creature, it signifies that perfection distinct in idea from other perfections; as, for instance, by the term "wise" applied to man, we signify some perfection distinct from a man's essence, and distinct from his power and existence, and from all similar things; whereas when we apply to it God, we do not mean to signify anything distinct from His essence, or power, or existence. Thus also this term "wise" applied to man in some degree circumscribes and comprehends the thing signified; whereas this is not the case when it is applied to God; but it leaves the thing signified as incomprehended, and as exceeding the signification of the name. Hence it is evident that this term "wise" is not applied in the same way to God and to man. The same rule applies to other terms. Hence no name is predicated univocally of God and of creatures.
Sed nec etiam pure aequivoce, ut aliqui dixerunt. Quia secundum hoc, ex creaturis nihil posset cognosci de Deo, nec demonstrari; sed semper incideret fallacia aequivocationis. Et hoc est tam contra philosophos, qui multa demonstrative de Deo probant, quam etiam contra apostolum dicentem, Rom. I, invisibilia Dei per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur.    Neither, on the other hand, are names applied to God and creatures in a purely equivocal sense, as some have said. Because if that were so, it follows that from creatures nothing could be known or demonstrated about God at all; for the reasoning would always be exposed to the fallacy of equivocation. Such a view is against the philosophers, who proved many things about God, and also against what the Apostle says: "The invisible things of God are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made" (Rm. 1:20). Therefore it must be said that these names are said of God and creatures in an analogous sense, i.e. according to proportion.
Dicendum est igitur quod huiusmodi nomina dicuntur de Deo et creaturis secundum analogiam, idest proportionem. Quod quidem dupliciter contingit in nominibus, vel quia multa habent proportionem ad unum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et urina, inquantum utrumque habet ordinem et proportionem ad sanitatem animalis, cuius hoc quidem signum est, illud vero causa; vel ex eo quod unum habet proportionem ad alterum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et animali, inquantum medicina est causa sanitatis quae est in animali. Et hoc modo aliqua dicuntur de Deo et creaturis analogice, et non aequivoce pure, neque univoce. Non enim possumus nominare Deum nisi ex creaturis, ut supra dictum est. Et sic, quidquid dicitur de Deo et creaturis, dicitur secundum quod est aliquis ordo creaturae ad Deum, ut ad principium et causam, in qua praeexistunt excellenter omnes rerum perfectiones. Et iste modus communitatis medius est inter puram aequivocationem et simplicem univocationem. Neque enim in his quae analogice dicuntur, est una ratio, sicut est in univocis; nec totaliter diversa, sicut in aequivocis; sed nomen quod sic multipliciter dicitur, significat diversas proportiones ad aliquid unum; sicut sanum, de urina dictum, significat signum sanitatis animalis, de medicina vero dictum, significat causam eiusdem sanitatis.    Now names are thus used in two ways: either according as many things are proportionate to one, thus for example "healthy" predicated of medicine and urine in relation and in proportion to health of a body, of which the former is the sign and the latter the cause: or according as one thing is proportionate to another, thus "healthy" is said of medicine and animal, since medicine is the cause of health in the animal body. And in this way some things are said of God and creatures analogically, and not in a purely equivocal nor in a purely univocal sense. For we can name God only from creatures (Article [1]). Thus whatever is said of God and creatures, is said according to the relation of a creature to God as its principle and cause, wherein all perfections of things pre-exist excellently. Now this mode of community of idea is a mean between pure equivocation and simple univocation. For in analogies the idea is not, as it is in univocals, one and the same, yet it is not totally diverse as in equivocals; but a term which is thus used in a multiple sense signifies various proportions to some one thing; thus "healthy" applied to urine signifies the sign of animal health, and applied to medicine signifies the cause of the same health.

To stress the point further, the use of analogy is so ubiquitous that we find it throughout theology, and not just in St. Thomas' discussion of divine attributes (which is perhaps the context in which philosophers use analogy the most).  

Analogy extends much further and is found in the discussion on the Trinity as well.  One example is St. Thomas' discussion on the "Son" as an "image" of the "Father." Those three terms are analogous: "Father," "Son," and "image" are being attributed to God, and therefore they have different (though related) meanings in God from the way they are meant when attributed to creatures.

The first point is regarding God as cause/principle. In order to understand St. Thomas' remarks on this topic, we need first to make an important distinction. And this distinction is not that between philosophy and theology. Philosophy indeed identifies God as the first cause. And so does theology. In doing so, philosophy and theology are speaking of the relationship between God and what is outside of God (ad extra). But theology also delves into God's inner life, what is to be found within God (ad intra). And within God, we find processions, where one person, the Father, is the first principle of the others. This procession ad intra is distinctly different from the causality of God ad extra. We can properly describe God's action ad extra as 'causation' or 'causality', but for the reasons St. Thomas gives, God's inner processions are best described as proceeding from a principle, rather than from a cause.

So, the take home message for beginners in theology: get used to analogy in theology!  It's everywhere!

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