Jacques Maritain Center : The Logic of Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


At the beginning of his opusculum, De nominum analogia,{1} Cajetan remarks that analogy has great importance for metaphysics, something which is certainly true, but soon the impression gets fixed that analogical signification is a metaphysical doctrine. John of St Thomas observes that there is a logical doctrine of analogy, but feels that in following Cajetan one is engaged in a metaphysical consideration. Nevertheless, John stresses something which it is difficult to find in Cajetan and Sylvester, namely that the doctrine of the analogy of names is a logical one.
...quia in illo loco 1 p., q. 13 agit de analogia magis dialectice quam metaphysice, scilicet ut tenet se ex parte nominum, non ex parte rerum (de nominibus Dei ibi agebat). Sicut autem ad analogiam metaphysice attenditur inaequalitas ex parte rerum, ita in analogia dialectice considerata attenditur inaequalitas in modo significandi et nominandi.{2}
How curious then that John of St Thomas can begin his discussion of analogy as an antepredicament with these words: "Difficultates de analogia, quae satis metaphysice sunt,  ita copiose et subtiliter ab Caietano disputatae ip opusc. de Analogia nominum, ut nobis locum non reliquerit quid quam aliud excogitandi."{3}

    What is puzzling about John's attitude here is that he accepts the view that the analogy of names is metaphysical and that its metaphysical character is made evident in a work whose title indicates that it is concerned with names. But the analogy of names, John has said, constitutes a dialectical or logical problem. How then can the analogy of names be metaphysical? And, if it is, why is John introducing a treatment of it into his work on logic?

    Analogy as it covers inequality on the part of the signification of a common name is a logical question according to John of St Thomas, yet Cajetan's work on the analogy of names presents a metaphysical doctrine. This confusion is not peculiar to John. It is not unusual to find an allusion to the logical doctrine on analogical names in studies devoted to analogy, but it is extremely rare that there is something more than an allusion. Most authors prefer to concern themselves with what they feel is the metaphysical doctrine on the analogy of names. In the light of this, we want to stress that, for St Thomas, the analogy of names is a logical doctrine; moreover most texts brought forward in interpretations of analogy as metaphysical are clearly written from a logical point of view. Once it is seen that the analogy of names is a logical doctrine, the present study, whose title might seem to indicate that it offers a partial analysis of analogy, can be seen as an attempt at a formal treatment of the problem.

    The analogy of names is a logical question. To this assertion it might be objected that "analogy" is used in many ways, that it is itself an analogous term. This is a very valuable objection because it indicates that, even if there should be a metaphysical problem of analogy, there is a prior problem concerned with words - in this case, with the word "analogy" that is analogous, and to understand what this means is to understand something about the way this word signifies many things. This is a logical matter. To say this is not to say that "analogy" in every one of its uses signifies a logical relation, but it is to say that one of its uses will tell us how the one term "analogy" can mean many things, one of which is a logical relation. No one who favors a metaphysical interpretation of the analogy of names has ever attempted to apply this to "analogy" itself even while taking obvious delight in reminding us that "analogy" is analogous. It does not seem too much to say that, unless one can explain what he means by saying that "analogy" is analogous, he is begging the whole question of the analogy of names.

    St Thomas is hardly ambiguous on the nature of analogical signification. Consider, for example, his remarks on the various modes of unity distinguished by Aristotle.{4} "Primo distinguit modos unius naturaliter, idest secundum conditiones in rebus inventas. Secundo vero logice, idest secundum intentiones logicales..."{5} What are the members of the division according to logical intentions? "Ponit aliam divisionem unius, quae est magis logica; dicens quod quaedam sunt unum numero, quaedam specie, quaedam genere, quaedam analogia."{6} Can this be dismissed as an isolated remark, perhaps dictated by the text being commented rather than by his own views on analogy? Hardly, when we notice that St Thomas usually speaks of analogical signification by comparing it with univocation and equivocity; it is difficult to find a text on the analogy of names where this comparison is not made.{7} The obvious significance of the comparison is that the things compared are in the same order. But to be named equivocally or univocally is surely not something which would be numbered among the accidents of things as they exist in rerum natura. To be named happens to things as they are known by us; that is why the modes of signification fall to the consideration of the logician. They are indeed the first consideration of the Categories and it was in commenting on that work that Cajetan saw the need for a separate treatise on analogous names. At that time, he experiences no difficulty in recognizing the logical character of the problem.{8} We could safely assume, then that the analogy of names, like equivocity and univociaty, is a logical intention, is in fact an antepredicament. But we do not have to assume that this is the view of St. Thomas; he tells us this quite explicitly.

Dicendum quod animal dictum de animali vero et de picto, non dicitur pure aequivoce: sed Philosophus largo modo accipit aequivoca, secundum quod includunt in se analoga. Quia et ens, quod analogice dicitur, aliquando dicitur aequivoce praedicari de diversis praedicamentis.{9}
The point of comparing analogy with equivocation and univocation is that each is a second intention, each falls to the consideration of the logician. Not only is analogical signification an antepredicament, it is as well a kind of equivocation. Thus to remark that we have in the works of St Thomas no formal and per se consideration of the analogy of names is much the same thing as saying that we have no commentary by him on the Categories of Aristotle.

    St Thomas could not be clearer on the status of the analogy of names: it is a logical doctrine to be discussed in terms of what is formal to logical discussions and, above all, to be divided by properly logical criteria. By attaching nearly every statement on the analogy of names to equivocation, St Thomas makes it difficult for us to treat the analogy of names as something other than a logical intention. And yet the very texts on which this obvious judgment is based have occasioned statements of the profoundly metaphysical character of the analogy of names. What is the reason for this misunderstanding?

    It would be too facile to lay the entire blame for it on Cajetan. There is a host of difficulties in the texts of St Thomas. Generally speaking, this is due to the fact that St Thomas always introduces the doctrine on the analogy of names in function of a particular problem, when he is discussing things which happen to be named analogously. Side by side with quite general statements as to what it means for things to be named analogously are found statements about the determinate things under consideration, things which happen to found the second intention. Because of this, the real considerations can seem to be part and parcel of the mode of signification which is the analogy of names. Thus because the things named healthy analogically are these particulr things with these particular characteristics, and those named being analogically are things with these determinate characteristics, the real differences between these groups of things can seem to be differences in the mode of being named which they have in common. The division of analogy resulting from such confusion can only be regarded as a gross identification of the logical and real orders.

    When we add to such contextual difficulties the discrepancy, noted by both Cajetan and Sylvester, {10} between the use of the Greek ἀναλογία and the Latin analogia, an almost insuperable obstacle to and understanding of St Thomas' doctrine is erected - if one forgets that St Thomas must be numbered among the latini, not the graeci. How often, in commenting on the Metaphysics does St Thomas speak of analogy where Aristotle has not used the Geek term, but rather the phrase "things said in many ways."{11} Are we to discount St Thomas' remarks because κατ' ἀναλογίαν or ἀναλογία does not occur in Aristotle? How absurd, and yet we have seen that this is precisely the tendency of Cajetan and, less clearly, Sylvester. To strive for a one-to-one correspondence of doctrine between what Aristotle tends to call ἀναλογία and analogia is wrong-headed at best, since the correspondence is obviously lacking. this lack of correspondence has nothing to do, need it be said, with the question of a correspondence of doctrine between what Aristotle tends to call πολλαχῶς λέγεται and St Thomas analogice dicuntur a question , moreover, that we are not posing. We hope only to make some small contribution to the effort to rescue St Thomas' doctrine on the analogy of names fromt the vast confusion into which it has fallen in the literature, the more so because we are convinced that stripped of the accretions of quasi mystical obfuscation, that doctrine will be revealed as an important statement on what might be called the systematic ambiguity of certain words.

    The stage having been set, the nature of the study which follows can be at least partially foreseen. If St Thomas makes analogical signification a logical matter, we must determine what for him logic is. Then we must examine his views on signification in general, after which we can profitably turn to an initial statement on the analogy of names. In going on to discuss the division of things named analogically, we shall look at length at the texts which suggested to Cajetan his hybrid, tripartite division. Then, after discussing knowing by analogy and analogical causes, we shall say something about the divine names, a problem which, more than any other, occasioned the remarks of St Thomas which form the basis of the present interpretation.


{1} De nominum analogia, ed. cit., nn. 1, 29.

{2} John of St Thomas, Cursus Philosophicus, ed. Reiser, (2nd edition, Rome; 1948), Tome I, p. 490b.

{3} Ibid., p. 481b. Emphasis ours.

{4} Metaphysics, Delta, 6.

{5} In V Metaphys.,  lect. 7, n. 848.

{6} Ibid., lect. 8, n. 876.

{7} Cf. Ia, q. 13, a. 5; In IV Metaphys., lect. 1, n. 535; De principiis naturae, (ed. Spiazzi), cap. 6, n. 366; In XI Metaphys., lect. 3, n. 2197; Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a.7, etc.

{8} Cajetan, Commentaria in Praedicmenta Aristotelis, ed. cit., pp. 8-14.

{9} Ia, q. 13, a. 10, ad 4. Cf. In I Metaphys., lect. 14, n. 224.

{10} De nominum analogia, ed. cit., n. 20; In I Contra Gentiles, cap. 34, n. VII: "...sciendum est quod analogiae nomen graecum est vocabulum, et aliter accipitur a Graecis, aliter a nonnulliis Latinis." Cf. John of St Thomas, op. cit., p. 512b42.

{11} Notably Aristotle, Metaphysics, Gamma, 2, 1003a33 and St Thomas, In IV Metaphys., lect. 1, n. 535.

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