Equivocal Causality Agent causes either

Equivocal Causality

Agent causes either produce effects that are of the same species, or they do not. When a tree makes another tree by means of its seeds, or a man makes a man by his own material principle, the effects are obviously in the same species as their agents. When a man makes a calculator, the effect is just as obviously not in the same species as its maker. The first sort of causality is called univocal; the second, equivocal.

Given that equivocal causes are not in the same species of their effect, they must either be a higher sort of thing, or a lower sort of thing. But to be a lower sort of thing means that one lacks the perfection of something higher. But if something lacked a certain perfection, how could it be responsible for giving it to another? Equivocal causes must therefore be higher sorts of things than the effects that they produce.

At the same time, every cause causes some perfection that is similar to itself as cause; for to be dissimilar is to either have a different perfection, or the lack of some perfection. But no agent can give some different perfection than its own, nor can it be a cause of the lack of some perfection. And so the greater perfection of the agent equivocal cause must be in this: the agent causes an effect which that same agent possesses in a more perfect way.

It is necessary to look to equivocal causes when there is something in the nature of the effect that cannot be attributed to the univocal cause as such. Two things in the effect fit this description, first, that it exists with a certain essence; and second, that it has existence at all. No univocal cause, which by definition must produce an effect that is the same sort of thing, can explain why this sort of thing exists at all. If it could, it would have to be the cause of the existence of sort of thing that it is, but then it would have to be the cause of itself, which is impossible.How could I, or you who are reading this, be the cause of human nature? If we were, it would have to have never existed before we were conceived, but this would have destroyed the possibility of us ever being conceived. It would, therefore, not exist. But it obviously does exist- both in me and in you- as one of the givens that philosophy cannot explain away.

So long as we do not simply ignore the question of why our nature, or any nature exists at all, we must look to some equivocal cause. When we describe this cause, we must be careful to attribute to attribute to it all of our own perfections, and yet we must admit that they exist in a higher and more perfect way in the one who caused our nature. We will therefore only speak of this cause analogously, using words that we borrow from the names from our own perfections, always realizing that these perfections exist in a more perfect way in this higher cause. We will negate from our concepts all that belongs to our imperfect existence or being; even negating, when necessary, the imperfections that will attach to our way of speaking about things. With these analogous words, that are appreciated just as much for their negation as for their content, we can hope to approach this equivocal cause that caused our own nature, and the nature of all things.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: