Analogues II

Thomism: Atheists or Naturalists must say more than “the universe is all that exists”, since we say this too. If they want to separate themselves from us,  they must also deny that God is all that exists. We also go a step further, and deny that the universe is God.

– Question: when Thomists say on the one hand the universe is all that exists, and then God is all that exists, does the predicate mean the same thing in both cases? 

A1.) If you include the mode of predication in the idea of a predicate, then obviously no, and all Scholastics would agree. Existence is predicated per se and primo (the latter being “commensurately universal”, in some translations) of God, according to the first sense of per se. Existence is never predicated in this mode of a creature. What a Thomist means by sayign “God is the same in his existence and essence” is simply that existence is said of him according to this first mode of perseity.

A2.) If you take meaning in a broad sense, then (somewhat controversially) yes, and Thomists and Scotists would agree. Thomists go further, however, and say that “what we mean” when we use a transcendental term has two aspects: that which first verifies the concept, and that which most verifies the concept. Both are included in a common ratio of an analogous term, making these diverse senses partly the same (so far as they fall under a common ratio) and partly diverse (so far as they are diverse from one another).

A3.) If the question is taken to mean speaking about the particular, distinct reality in which the mind comes to rest, then there is a good deal of controversy. The Thomists seem to be asserting that the ratio of a term is a single whole, but the mind can only come to rest in one of its subjoined rationes, that is, though there is some common ratio of “exists” the mind can only come to rest in either existence said of creatures or of God. The critique of this argument (as given in The Doctrine of Transcendentals in Duns Scotus) is that a ratio or concept can never have this sort of duality: the whole point of a concept is to determine the mind to something, and so there is no reason for a concept to exist which does not do so. Thought requires thinking about something, but what are we thinking about if we posit some irreducible duality, with no common, general idea in which the mind can rest to contain both indistinctly?

-The Thomist says “both God and creatures verify what I mean by ‘exists'”. In this sense, “exists” must have one meaning. But they verify it in diverse ways, and not by being contained indistinctly in some general concept in which the mind can come to rest. Therefore, the use is not univocal.


  1. lee faber said,

    July 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I’m a little confused by your final two paragraphs. Are you saying that Scotus (or the Scotists?) hold that the univocal concept contains indistinctly or confusedly God and creatures? In fact, the univocal concept is indifferent to either God or creatures, for it does not contain any intrinsic modes. The concept is contracted to one member of the disjunct by these modes. An indistinct or confused concept was advocated by Henry of Ghent and is franciscan followers Richard of Conington, Robert Cowton, and Peter Auriol.

    • July 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      The last paragraph wasn’t meant as a comparison to Scotists but A3. was. But the opposition is not that Scotists hold to a “confused concept” while Thomists don’t- since a confused concept means the same thing as “genus” and Scotists do not admit one genus of God and creatures.

      The opposition is between whether a concept can be formally a duality or not. As I read St. Thomas, he says that if you ask what a word like exists/good/true/person/being means, this must be taken as both what we first know as verfifying the concept and what most verifies it. Taken in the first way, it names a creature, taken in the second way it names God. But you need to invoke this duality – a formal duality – to explain what you mean by the ratio of the term. St. Thomas also speaks of a ratio communis of an analogous term – I take this to mean something like “there is a single term (e.g. ‘person’ or ‘exists’) which has this formal duality”. This is what I said the Scotists denied, saying that the idea that a ratio or concept could be formally a duality is repugnant to the idea of a concept. I didn’t write out the quotation, and I had to give the citation from memory, but I gathered this after reading actual Scotists.

      I’ve never heard of Robert Cowton.

  2. lee faber said,

    August 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks. I’m not sure what a ‘formal duality’ is, but then I”m a Scotist.

    • August 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Hey, I was just thinking about this yesterday. My citation is wrong: the book I had in mind in 3 was Allan Wolter’s The Transcendentals and Their Function in the Metaphysics of Duns Scotus, p. 33-34. That was the claim I was disagreeing with, though (if you are looking at the book now) I have a different idea of the analogous concept than the ones mentioned in the footnote. My idea is that of you take word X that is said of God and creatures, then when you ask “what do I mean by X?” you have to include both what you first meant by X (the creature) and what you most meant to call X (God). This is not true of all analogues, and so it’s a dead-end discourse to try to figure out the main point of interest (speaking of God) by a general theory of analogues. Healthy and medical (or “light” said of photons and the mind) are not instances of something first meant and something most meant.

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