Disputed Question on The Universal Predicate

Whether, given that being is not common to all things said to be, there is also one concept common to all things said to be? 

It would seem there is, for:

1.) What is opposed to a single predicate is itself a single predicate. But absolute non-being is a single predicate, therefore its opposite is common to all things said to be.

2.) If there is not one concept of all things said to be, then there are many, A and B. But we could not predicate these things of something C without knowing “C is something”. But this statement cannot be less universal or common than A or B, and it could be commensurately universal with at most one of them. Therefore either one concept is more general than the other ;or “something” is more general than both, which negates the hypothesis.

3.) If there there is not one concept common to all things said to be, then there are many said analogously. But all analogies involve some identity of relation, in the way that similar fractions are not merely similar in the relation of numerator an denominator, but absolutely equal. Therefore all analogues presuppose some identity common to the analogues, and so some one concept common.

4.) Essentia and esse refer to the same thing, but the first as a noun and the second as a verb. Let this same thing be called C. Therefore whatever has either essence or existence in any way refers to some common reality C. But all that can be said to be has essence and existence in some way.

I respond. As the question usually arises with respect to a common ideal of God and creatures, we’ll take this as a point of departure.

There can be no real potency behind creator and creature, or behind the absolutely first cause and secondary causes. If there were such a thing, creation would be from some pre-existent potency, and the creator would be actualized into being. The question is therefore whether there can be a single, unified concept of the creature and creator even on the supposition that there is no real potential existence shared by them, and which is actualized by diverse forms to become creature or creator.

But if there is, then our argument starts from the fact that all concepts correspond to some terminus. If there were some one concept common to God and creatures, then this concept corresponds to a real impossibility and yet is diversified into two actual beings.  Now there is no contradiction in corresponding to the impossible, as happens all the time with idealizations, mistaken beings, fictions, etc. But to diversify the impossible into actual beings is to constitute a totality out of a contradiction, and a contradiction cannot thought in the mode of a single concept, but only as a judgment between two diverse concepts. Therefore there is no one common concept shared between God and creature, even on the supposition that it is distinguished from the equivocal community of being.

And thus even if we had some common concept of God and creature, we should judge this concept as a mistake, even if it is formed spontaneously and necessarily, in the way we judge the number of Trinitarian persons.

to #1: Non-being is understood entirely in relation to being, and so will have as many opposites as being does.

to #2. The initial hypothesis allows for a multitude of things that are of equal greatest universality, and so there is nothing odd in proving that “something” is a third one in addition to A and B. It is simply false that diverse rationes cannot be of equal universality, as can be clearly seen in the transcendentals, and which show why the argument makes an illicit move from diversity of meaning to diversity of universality. 

to #3. Analogies are required to describe the relation of a secondary to a primary cause, and no cause taken formally has something in common with its effect, for that which cause A has in common with effect B is cannot be explained by reference to A, nor can it be caused by it. It therefore does not belong to it qua cause.

to #4. Even if one grants that essentia and esse differ only in the mode of signifying, they are still intrinsically divided by diverse modes of predication. Esse is not said according to the first mode of per se except of God, while it is said of creatures either in another modality of the per se or accidentally.


  1. David said,

    February 12, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Would your response argue against any common concepts at all? The concept “animal,” for instance, contains “rational” and “non-rational,” an intrinsic contradiction.

    • February 12, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      I was working from the idea that creation is not from anything positive, which is why it’s creation and not art. But I probably will need to re-write this to make it clear.

  2. Jacinta said,

    February 12, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    “For if there is some common idea of God and creatures, then this common idea must be of that which is neither created nor non-created.”

    Why does it need to be?

    “Again, if there is some common idea of God and creatures, then it is the idea of something that both existed before creation and did not exist, which is contradictory.”

    And why is this contradictory? Why couldn’t someone say,”One thing (God) existed before creation, and the rest (creation) did not, but they are all things?

    I am probably misunderstanding it, but to me it looks like it could be saying something like this, “One beaver existed before it another beaver, so saying they are both beavers is a contradiction.”

    • February 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      To the first, because that’s the nature of common predicates that admit of differences. Animal must be neither of itself rational or non-rational, but both in potency.

      To the second, if something is a positive thing that is potentially divine and created, then some positive thing is potentially created before anything at all. Creation is not from any positive, non-created thing.

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