Analogy in Thomas

Re-reading Thomas’s texts on analogous naming of God for the idunnohowmanyith time, the whole thing seems a good deal simpler than the commentary has made it.

The basic rule is this:

Analogous names have a per prius analogue. Every analogue other than this is called per posterius.

An analogue is per prius if it enters into the definition of per posterius analogues. So coffee can mean either the grounds, the drink, the color of paint or the flavor of ice cream, but the drink enters into the definition of the other three while the opposite is not the case. So the drink is per prius and the others are per posterius.

Because of this, there are two relations called “analogy”:

a.) Any analogue relating to the per prius analogue.

b.) Any per posterius analogue relating to another.

Sense (a) is how any analogue of coffee stands to the drink, sense (b) is how any analogue other than the drink stands to another.

Thomas’s main interest in analogous names said of God is to insist that the God-analogue is per prius. So which names of God are analogous? We could start with the Fourth Way, which proves God is the maximal good, true, dignified, and being, and qua maximal measure is the per prius analogue of every indeterminate manifold of lesser goods he measures. But in fact any of the names of God in the Five Ways are analogues for which God most of all satisfies the ratio of the name. God, in other words, more fulfills what one means by cause, mover, agent cause, necessary being, intelligence, or governor than any of the sensible beings of the same name.

Though analogies between God and creatures presuppose some causal connection, it is not in virtue of God’s causality that he is named analogously to creatures. Coffee (the grounds) causes coffee (the drink) but the latter is the per prius analogue. Thomas only names God analogously so far as the name has a per prius referent in God, otherwise Thomas is content to name God by negation or relation to creatures.

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