But two different tokens of the same type might also be being used
This in turn can happen in two ways:
E.g.’s bark, bank, date, pen, ram, plus in spoken English lots more such as rain, rein, reign, weather and whether.
According to Moses Maimonides, this is how it is between us and God. But for Aquinas, this would take us into the opposite extreme, into total agnosticism.
Thankfully, there is another kind of equivocation, which is more usually
Equivocation a consilio is more commonly called ANALOGY. Which kind of Analogy depends on which kind of reason. Basically, there are two kinds of good reason, making for two species of analogy.
So far: words can be used univocally, purely equivocally, or analogously.
It is the latter which helps us out in respect of talking about God (according
to Aquinas and most theologians since).
EXTRINSIC: a factual, causal relationship, which does not by itself imply any similarity between what has the character literally and that to which the character gets attributed. E.g. our example of ‘healthy’: only living things can be literally healthy, healthy is said of mountain resorts and of food by analogy of extrinsic attribution. Alternatively, in the medieval terminology, they are virtually healthy, they have the virtus or power of causing or helping to bring about or sustain health. It is that and only that which legitimates our use of the language.
INTRINSIC: the causal relationship is of one of those kinds which brings about a similarity in the effect, e.g. mothers and fathers begetting children, an artist painting herself, or God creating the world in the image and likeness of the Logos.
Analogy of Intrinsic Attribution links closely with Aquinas’ renovated neo-Platonic metaphysics. Goodness, Beauty, Truth, Being itself creates good, beautiful, intelligible beings like mountains and seas, plants, trees, flowers, birds, dolphins, whales, human beings, angels etc.
There is an interesting difference between the two kinds of analogy of attribution. In analogy of extrinsic attribution, the effect has the quality literally or formally as the medievals have it, the cause has the quality only by attribution, not really or formally, but only because of a causal relation to the effect. However, in analogy of intrinsic attribution, not only do both cause and effect have the quality really or formally, but the cause frequently has the quality more truly or in a more intense fashion than the effect.
This is particularly the case between God and creatures: God is Good, Beautiful, Truth, Being essentially, creatures are such, in the Platonic phrase, ‘only by participation’. God is not only the ‘Efficient Cause’ of creation but also the ‘Exemplary Cause’. (Though once we bring the doctrine of the Trinity into play, it is the Logos or divine Sophia, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who is usually taken as the Exemplar of Creation. The perfections of the creatures are so many far off participations in the beauty, goodness and truth of the Divine Word.)
But it would also be the case between an artist and her self- portrait,
who not only expresses herself in her work but is actually painting herself.
Indeed, this latter is a useful image for conceptualizing the relationship
between the Divine Mystery and Creation. It also takes us on to consider
another variety of analogy, rather less intertwined with the metaphysics.
(KINDS OF ANALOGY (cont.))
For example, we might say a dog is intelligent, or a human being is intelligent, or God is intelligent – each literally so, but in a way appropriate to the nature of, respectively, dogs, human beings and God.
Analogy of Proportionality also admits of two varieties:
METAPHORICAL ANALOGY OF PROPORTIONALITY:
e.g. the lion is the king of beasts; God is the rock of my salvation, God is angry, God is crying, God is smiling, God is walking with the Earthling in the garden in the cool of the evening. What we are saying is that there is something going on between God and the first human being which is similar to what goes on with two friends or a husband and wife walking together in the garden in the cool of the evening. But we are not saying that God is literally walking, seeing God does not have legs, so it is a metaphorical analogy of proportionality. Similarly for angry, crying, smiling, being like a rock or a lion.
REAL ANALOGY OF PROPORTIONALITY:
e.g. God is alive, is intelligent, is good, is beauty, is. There is something in God which is to God like life is to living things, intelligence is to dolphins and humans and angels, good is in the case of good mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and friends etc.. Furthermore, that is really or literally the case for God, not just metaphorical, even though we don’t know exactly what it might mean for God to be intelligent or good or alive, not being able to comprehend God.
One advantage of Analogy of Proportionality is that it can be elaborated
without going into metaphysical speculations. It tends to be preferred
therefore by all except people who are interested in taking Aquinas seriously
for his own sake.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For Aquinas all affirmative speech about God is analogical rather than univocal with similar speech about creatures, in one or other of the above ways.
Duns Scotus (after Aquinas) disagrees: to truly avoid agnosticism, at least some expressions must be univocal between God and creatures, infinite and finite, e.g. being, in the sense of, opposed to nothingness, good, in the sense of not evil, intelligent, in the sense of not dumb. Otherwise we still won’t know what we are talking about – analogy, even real or intrinsic, is not good enough.
The question of who is right is controversial, and in Scotus’ formulation depends on being able to make certain kinds of distinction which Aquinas does not make.
Mixed perfections can be predicated of God only virtually or metaphorically,
that is, by analogy of extrinsic attribution or by a metaphorical analogy
of proportionality. Examples already given, including crying, angry, smiling,
walking in the garden in the cool of the evening.
Pure perfections may be predicated of God analogically or analogously (not univocally) with a meaning partly the same and partly different – either by an analogy of intrinsic attribution or a real analogy of proportionality, depending on your preference.
Even with these, however, Aquinas distinguishes between a perfection and its mode of realization. With respect to God and creature, unlike creature and creature (e.g. dog and human with respect to life or intelligence), we have only negative insight into mode of realization. We know that God is intelligent or wise or alive or good, and literally so; but we don’t know what it is for God to be intelligent or wise or alive or good etc., except negatively. Or, we know this in the creatures; we know that God is the Exemplar of which this is only a far off imitation; but we don’t know what it is to be the Exemplar of which this is only an imitation. We do not yet see face to face – we see as in a mirror, as in a glass, darkly.
This introduces a strong strand of negative theology: is even Aquinas’
doctrine of analogy therefore enough to save us from agnosticism??
The main functions of the Negative Attributes: to purify what positive
insight we have, rendering mixed perfections metaphorical or virtual and
qualifying mode of realization of pure perfections.
These can be predicated of creatures only: God (in our Judeo-Islamic-Christian conception) has no imperfections.
The dispute nowadays is in respect of what goes into which category.
Aquinas would throw into the bag of imperfections anything requiring passivity,
responsiveness, sensitivity, dependence of any kind, relativity even the
slightest. This would render ‘compassion’, for example, as applying to
God metaphorically or virtually at best. However, it is not necessary to
take that on board in order to use his theory of analogy, including even
the above broad distinctions.
Implication: in spite of its intention, it is to be doubted whether
St Thomas’ doctrine takes affirmative God-talk out of the narrowly symbolic
category of speech ( = leaning on another bit of speech in order to get
meaning out of our first bit, which other bit is not more literal than
the first bit). God is good, beautiful, intelligent, loving and wise, not
in a gum-tree like way or a dog-like or a human-like way but in a way appropriate
to the nature of God. But we have no positive insight into the nature of
God in order to measure that way, or at least none that is non-analogous
and does not suffer from similar weakness. Things never do get to be literal
for us, just words, words, words, one depending on the others – except
Response: the problem arising from only negative insight into
mode of realization can be mitigated in two ways:
Compare Ian T. Ramsey on this.
To sum up all three points: religious talk is from experience, divine and everyday, to experience, divine and everyday.
In spite of this mitigation: the distinction between perfection and mode of realization has the effect, among other things, of partially undermining the distinction between mixed and pure perfections:
Pure perfection: we know that it applies, and literally, we know there is something like this in God, but we don’t know what that something is.
Mixed perfection: we know that there is something in God to justify our metaphor even though it is only a metaphor, but we don’t know exactly what that basis amounts to.
E.g. gracious, versus smiling. The difference is not so massive as to render one kind of talk proper and the other kind somehow improper. In neither case do we know quite what we mean. In both cases the only question is whether the attribution is reliable. One is more easily disciplined than the other; the other however makes for greater creativity and insight and enjoys much greater imaginative content. We need models of both types.
Compare Sallie Mc Fague, Metaphorical Theology.
Implication: if Scotus is correct, not all of our positive God talk would be symbolic in the strong sense, some percentage would be straightforwardly descriptive. For example, “There is a God.” That seems to be an advantage.
However: even if Scotus is correct, there would hardly be enough of
such language to merit the word ‘theology’. Any theology significantly
rich in descriptive content would have to contain as well lots of analogous
language of various kinds.
Some kind of theory of analogy is possible even nowadays. See especially the work of James Ross, Portraying Analogy (CUP, 1981). Also, David Burrell, Analogy and Philosophical Language (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 1973). Burrell gives a detailed outline of the history of analogy since Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages and into linguistic analytical philosophy where Burrell himself operates. He finishes with a linguistic analytic account in the spirit of Aquinas. Ian T. Ramsey’s theory of disclosures is also of use as a complement to the theory, giving more detail on how positive analogous talk actually gets meaning.
For Reading on Analogy, see General Bibliography pp. 16-17, Part B (a) Religious Language. Also the paper by Wim de Pater in your Book of Readings: de Pater manages a synthesis between The Three Ways, Analogy in its proper Thomas Aquinas sense and contemporary analytic thought particularly that of Ian T. Ramsey.
Go now to Analytic Philosophy and Religious Language
or else you may return to the Unit Outline