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


To say that some words are analogous is to say something about the way they signify; and, if some words signify analogously while others do not, signification itself is presupposed by a doctrine on analogical words and should be considered first. It seems unwise to assume that it is perfectly clear what St Thomas meant by "sign" and "signification." His teaching on such matters, though initially it seems quite simple, turns out to involve a number of subtleties which must be borne in mind in discussing the analogy of names.


Is the matter of the signification of words a legitimate concern of the logician, or does it rather belong to the grammarian? As soon appears, several disciplines concern themselves with the word. The philosophy of nature, when it is involved with animate being, finds it necessary to inquire into vocal sounds, which it deals with as effects of certain kinds of animate being, namely those with respiratory systems.{1} The definition of vox  given by the philosopher of nature is as follows: "vox sit respirati percussio aeris ad arteriam vocalem, quae quidem percussio fit ab anima, quae est in his partibus, idest principaliter in corde."{2} Not a very interesting definition for our purposes, but it expresses what is physical in the word. It does not, however, permit us to distinguish the cries of animals from the conversation of men.

    The word is discussed in grammar and logic as well, St Thomas holds, and before turning to the logic of signification, we want to look at some remarks of his having to do with the distinction between logic and grammar. Actually, these amount to little more than asides; we have no developed treatment on the nature of grammar by St Thomas.

    Grammar is said to be "scientia recte loquendi";{3} its concern is the "congrua vocum constructio"{4} and, since any science studies opposites, it deals with incongruous constructions as well.{5} Though the grammarian, like the logician, is concerned with words taken alone and in composition with other words, his is, so to say, a more artificial concern than the logician's. Logical relations are founded on concepts and the nature of these concepts dictates the nature of logical relations; grammar on the other hand, deals with the purely conventional, and if it is called a science, "science" must be taken in the broadest sense.{6} Logic is ordered to knowledge of real things, and this makes the written word of slight interest to it, whereas grammar is necessarily concerned with the written language.{7} Indeed, St Thomas will oppose logic and the philosophy of nature to grammar, saying that the former are concerned with the natures of things, while grammar is concerned with the modus significandi.{8} Grammar, as pure art, defines in an artistic way; thus the substantive is such because it imitates substance, signifying per modum substantiae.{9} Needless to say, a substantive such as whiteness is in reality an accident. The grammarian's use of the terms "substance" and "quality" (we will return to this) does not respond to the categories of the same names which are distinguished by the logician.{10} The conclusion is not that grammar is unimportant. In the order of learning proposed by St Thomas, the trivium of the liberal arts - which included grammar and logic - was presupposed by any further study, and grammar preceded logic.{11} The disciplines concerned with the word, the artes sermocinales, had a priority because they dealt with what is most obvious to us or most necessary for learning other things. Not that concern with language disappears after the trivium. Indeed, the wise man, the metaphysician as well as the theologian, will exhibit his own concern with words and signification.{12} Let us turn now to the logical doctrine of signification.


At the outset of On Interpretation,{13} Aristotle discusses vocal sounds as signs, a note which was absent from the definition cited from On the Soul. Written words, Aristotle maintains, are signs of spoken words and spoken words are signs of what we know: of passiones animae, in the translation used by St Thomas. The noise emanating from the throat can be considered to be a sign, then, but what does it mean to say that vocal sounds signify? "Signum, proprie loquendo, non potest dici nisi aliquid ex quo deveniatur in cognitionem alterius quasi discurrendo."{14} The sign is that which leads to knowledge of something else by a kind of discursive process. Or, in the definition of John of St Thomas, a sign is "id quod potentiae cognoscitivae aliquid aliud a se repraesentat."{15} Signification, then, is to be explained in terms of a kind of discursus,  coming to know a thing thanks to another which is its sign. The word, which is a conventional sign, because of human institution, does not immediately signify the thing: that this is impossible is taken to be evident from its mode of signification. "Non enim potest esse quod  significent immediate ipsas res, ut ex modo significandi apparet: significat enim hoc nomen homo naturam humanam in abstractione a singularibus."{16} A groan or other natural sign may immediately signify the thing,{17} but the word relates to what it signifies only via a mental conception; indeed, we shall find it necessary to insist that it is the mental conception which is immediately signified by the word. This should not be interpreted as saying that words do not signify things; the point is the way in which they do so, namely through what we know of things. The word as conventional or arbitrary sign has the will as its source, like any other artifact.{18} No word of human language will as such naturally relate to the things signified by it.{19}

    This last point indicates a great difference between words and concept (passiones animae) as signs. The word is not similar to that of which it is the sign;{20} the concept, on the other hand, is a sign of the thing naturally and by way of similarity. That is why the word is said not to be a sign in the way an image is, for the image involves similarity in species (or in being a sign of the species) with, and origination from, that with which it is similar. The shape of a thing is thought to be more revealing of the nature of a thing than its color (we might distinguish the species of animal by their shapes) and consequently the image is similar in shape rather than in color.{21} But similarity in shape does not suffice for a thing to be an image: two eggs may be similar in shape but one is not the image of the other. Most properly, the image originates from the imaged, as the son is the image of his father.{22} What has this to do with words and concepts? The concept will be called a similitude while written and spoken words are only signs. This seems a long way from attempts to treat language as iconic sign, as that with which we make to ourselves pictures of facts.

Ubi attendendum est quod litteras dixit esse notas, idest signa vocum, et voces passionum animae similiter; passiones autem animae dicit esse similitudines rerum: et hoc ideo quia res non cognoscitur ab anima nisi per aliquam sui similitudinem existentem vel in sensu vel in intellectu. Litterae autem ita sunt signa vocum, et voces passioneum, quod non attenditur ibi aliqua ratio similitudinis, sed sola ratio institutionis, sicut et in multis aliis signis: ut tuba est signum belli. In passionibus autem animae oportet attendi rationem similitudinis ad exprimendas res, quia naturaliter eas designant, non ex institutione. {23}
Earlier we quoted a definition of sign which is the ratio propria of the name. "Signum, proprie loquendo, non potest dici nisi aliquid ex quo deveniatur in cognitionem alterius quasi discurrendo."{24} Properly speaking, then, there are signs only where there is discursive knowledge, i.e. only in human knowledge. As we shall see later,{25} discursive knowledge invoves coming to know one thing from knowledge of another; furthermore, discursive knowledge implies a dependence on the senses, something important for the notion of sign. "Et propter hoc etiam in nobis signa sunt sensibilia, quia nostra cognitio, quae discursiva est, a sensibilibus oritur."{26} Properly speaking, a sign is sensible. If something is to lead to knowledge of something else, it must be more knowable to us; but sensible things are most easily known, so far as we are concerned, and will therefore serve as signs of other things. True enough, the notion of sign is broadened and made common so that the concept too is called a sign, but it must be stressed that this involves an extension of the meaning of "sign,"{27} that sensible things are most properly signs.{28} Thus, since all our knowledge takes its rise from the senses, it is from the sensible effects or qualities of things that we proceed to knowledge of quiddity, of what things are.{29} These sensible effects are signs of the nature since, being known, they lead to knowledge of what a thing is. It is interesting to note that, since signs in the most proper sense of the term are sensible, words are properly signs. St Thomas stresses this in his De magistro, where he argues that teaching, like medicine, is an art which cooperates with nature in order that nature may more surely and easily attain its end. The proper instruments of this art are those signs we call words.{30} Just as sensible things generally lead us to knowledge of what is not sensible, so do words heard or seen; moreover, words are more efficacious signs of the intelligible.
Unde ipsa verba doctoris audita, vel visa in scripta, hoc modo se habent ad causandum scientiam in intellectu sicut res quae sunt extra animam, quia ex utrisque intellectus intentiones intelligibiles accipit; quamvis verba doctoris propinquius se habeant ad causandum scientiam quam sensibilia extra animam existentia inquantum sunt signa intelligibilium intentionum.{31}

Thus words as sensible signs of intelligible concepts involve and indeed perfect the process whereby the intelligible is grasped from the sensible. If this is true in the sublimest areas - fides ex auditu - it is not surprising to have it recalled that "nos enim per auditum scientiam ab aliis accipimus."{32}

    We name as we know; words are imposed as signs of what we know and if what we know first are sensible things, the word, being sensible, will always be a reminder of the origin of our knowledge. Even when a word is imposed to signify what is intelligible, its very nature recalls the trajectory of our knowledge, from the sensible to the intelligible. To see how this is so, we must consider the question of the imposition of names.


In speaking of the imposition of words or names,{33} St Thomas distinguishes between that from which (id a quo) and that which the name is imposed to signify (id ad quod nomen imponitur ad significandum). The name is imposed from that which is most knowable to us, since we name as we know. The sensible effects of things are first and most easily known by us and the id a quo will often be that which is grasped by the senses. What is signified, however, need not be these sensible effects.

Dicendum quod in significatione nominum aliud est quandoque a quo imponitur nomen ad significandum, et aliud ad quod significandum nomen imponitur: sict hoc nomen lapis imponitur ab eo quod laedit pedem; non tamen imponitur ad hoc significandum, quod significet laedens pedem, sed ad significandum quamdam speciem corporum; alioquin omne laedens pedem esset lapis.{34}
By saying that sometimes there is a difference between the id a quo and the id ad quod, St Thomas suggests that it can happen that there is no difference. We can see that these can be the same wherever what is signified is so manifest that there is no need to impose the word from something more manifest. The examples St Thomas gives of words whose id a quo and id ad quod are identical are things which are absolutely rock-bottom. "Si qua vero sunt quae secundum se sunt nota nobis, us calor, frigus, albedo et huiusmodi, non ab aliis denominantur. Unde in talibus idem est quod nomen significat et id a quo imponitur nomen ad significandum."{35} Hot, cold, smooth, rough, etc. cannot be denominated from something more manifest, indeed, other things will be determined from them. When it is a question of naming what is the object of intellect a such, our names are often imposed from that which is grasped by the sense and by which we come to knowledge of substance. Thus we grasp sensible properties and operations of substance and the priority of this kind of knowledge will be manifest in the word we use to signify the substance. St Thomas makes frequent use of the example of lapis to make this point.{36} It hardly matters that the etymology he assigns to the word is nowadays considered dubious.

    As our knowledge must always have its principle in what is grasped by the senses, so too our words have the sensible as their id a quo: "secundum autem quod res sunt nobis notae, secundum hoc a nobis nominantur."{37) But just as our knowledge is not restricted to what can be known by the senses, so too the names which are imposed from the sensible manifestations of things can be made to signify the substance which underlies sensible accidents.

    When names imposed in this fashion are taken as signifying the id a quo rather than the ad quod, they are said to signify less properly. Thus, the word "life" is imposed from an effect, self-movement, a vital operation, but the term is imposed to signify the substance which has the ability to move itself, not the operation. Sometimes, however, "life" is taken to signify vital operations as such, and is then said to signify less properly. "Quandoque tamen vita sumitur minus proprie prooperationibus vitae, a quibus nomen vitae assumitur, sicut dicit Philosophus in IX Ethic. quod 'vivere principaliter est sentire et intelligere.'"{38}

    The distinction, then, is clear. For the most part, we must distinguish in names between that in sense experience from which the name is taken and that which it is imposed to signify. Sometimes, as in the case with the proper objects of the senses, the id a quo and id ad quod are the same. The distinction would seem to be the same as that St Thomas makes between the etymology and the signification of a word. Thus, in the example of lapis, the id a quo is the putative etymology of the word, i.e., laedens pedem. So too the etymology of "participate" is said to be partem capere; that of "principle" priority.{39} Lapis, the favorite example, makes it clear that a word does not properly signify its etymology,{40} and it does it particularly well because it is, if its etymology were correct, a composite term. In On Interpretation, it is said of the noun that none of its parts signify separately, a claim it may seem difficult to honor when one thinks of such nouns as "breakfast." This term is composite, is drawn from "break" and "fast," each of which signifies by itself. Why doesn't this observation destroy Aristotle's definition of noun? St Thomas argues that the composite term signifies a simple conception and that, although its parts taken separately signify something, they do not signify part of the morning meal. The composite signified by the sentence or oratio is such that a part of the oratio signifies part of the composite conception. Thus the etymologoy of the word does not function as do the parts of, say, a sentence. St Thomas' example in arguing this is, again, lapis.{41}

    The distinction between the id a quo and id ad quod seems to be such that the id a quo is the etymology of the word and not what is properly signified by it. Nevertheless, St Thomas will sometimes say that the id a quo is what the name properly signifies.{42} There is no question in this text of such proper sensibles as frigus, calor et alia huiusmodi. Apparently, unless there is here a flat contradiction, a distinction must be made between various meanings of the phrase id a quo if we are to reconcile the texts involved.

    Fortunately, St Thomas himself points out the necessary distinction.{43} That from which the name is imposed can be understood either from the point of view of the one imposing the name, which is the way we have hitherto considered it and the way in which it is opposed to the id ad quod, or on the part of the thing, ex parte rei. In the latter sense, the id a quo is the specific difference and what the name properly signifies. "Dicitur autem nomen imponi ab eo quod est quasi differentia constitutiva generis."{44}

    The same distinction appears if we examine what St Thomas has to say of denomination. On the one hand, he can say, "...denominatio proprie est secundum habitudinem accidentis ad subiectum";{45} on the other, in a plethora of texts, he says, "Denominatio fit a forma, quae det peciem rei."{46} If this last remark were taken without any possible qualification, few things would be named by us. But the form from which something is denominated can be understood in a wider sense: "...dicendum est quod illud a quo aliquid denominatur non oportet quod sit semper forma secundum rei naturam, sed sufficit quod significetur per modum formae, grammatice loquendo. Denominatur enim homo ab actione et ab indumento, ab aliis huiusmodi, quae realiter non sunt formae."{47} And, as the first text quoted in this paragraph indicates, denominations is had properly where something is named from its accidents, although it is also applied to the designation of something from its matter.{48} That is why, in the commentary on the Physics denominative predication is distinguished from both essential predication and from that which is predicated ut ihaerens.{49} Nevertheless, denomination can be intrinsic as well as extrinsic: the point is that, properly speaking, "denomination"refers to the later. We will be looking more deeply into the question of intrinsic and extrinsic denomination in Chapter VI, since the distinction plays a prominent role in Cajetan's division of the analogy of names.


The notion of the id a quo nomen imponitur leads to several other considerations suggested in the following remark. "Dicendum quod in quolibet nomine est duo considerari: scilicet id a quo imponitur nomen, quod dicitur qualitas nominis, et id cui imponitur, quod dicitur substantia nominis. Et nomen proprie loquendo dicitur significare formam sive qualitatem a qua imponitur nomen; dicitur vero supponere pro eo cui imponitur."{50} The first thing which must be determined in discussing the phrase "nomen significat substantiam cum qualitate,"{51} is the meaning of nomen. Sometimes nomen signifies with an extension comparable to that of the English "word." When it does, we have for the most part been using "name"; at other times nomen has the more restricted meaning of the English "noun."{52}In the phrase quoted above, nomen has the second more restricted meaning of a word which is other than the verb, for example. The statement, then, is a grammatical one,{53} something which affects the meaning of "substance" and "quality." These are not to be understood as they are distinguished in the Categories. There, substance is that which neither exists in another nor is said of another. The grammarian, aware that accidents can function as subjects in a sentence, as that of which something else is predicated, finds that a sufficient reason for calling them substances or substantives. For him, substance is that which can be the subject of a sentence. A quality, then, would be that which modifies a subject, i.e. can be predicated of it.{54}

    The quality of a noun is that from which the word is imposed, that which is the principle of knowing the thing named. In other words, the quality is the id a quo ex parte rei and is what is properly signified by the term.{55} In the noun "man," the quality of the term is human nature, the substance is the supposit subsisting in that nature. "Dicendum quod significare substantiam cum qualitate, est significae suppositum cum natura vel forma determinata in qua subsistit."{56} So too "white" signifies that which has whiteness; the latter is the quality of the term, that which has whiteness is the substance of the noun. It is the form or quality, the principle of knowing the thing, that the noun principally signifies.{57}

    The id a quo ex parte rei, the specific difference, that in virtue of which the thing is intelligible, is what the name principally signifies. The form principally signified is either the simple form of the abstract term, or the form by which the composite is known in concrete terms. But the significance of that remark requires an understanding of the notion of modes of signifying in order to be grasped. Before discussing modes of signification, it may be well to say something of "mode" itself. A text which brings out its meaning is that concerned with ranging the speculative sciences according to the dignity of their objects and according to modes.

    In the specification of a potency or habit, the object is assigned the principal role, so that science will be called the best which has the most worthy object. Thus metaphysics, since it is concerned with things higher than man and most perfect in themselves, is the science most worthy of pursuit. However, the mode of attaining the object, the certitude of the science, produces a different order of precedence; the most perfect science we have is not concerned with things in themselves most noble. Indeed, the science which is first in dignity, in object, would be last from the point of view of certitude and evidence, of mode.{58} The mode follows on the science; generally speaking, any modification presupposes its subject and does not constitute it. "Quia modificare proprie dicatur aliquid, quando redditur aliquale, non quando fit secundum suam substantiam."{59} Thus we come to speak of a distinction between what is signified by a word and the mode of signifying it.

    Names signify things as they are known and not immediately as they exist. The fact that all our knowledge takes its rise from the senses, so that the quiddity of material things is the proper object of our intellect, has an effect on the way or mode we know whatever we know, even when what we know is not the quiddity of a material thing. Because in the material thing to which our mid is naturally proportioned, there is a difference between the form and the one having the form, we have one mode of signifying the composite of matter and form and another of signifying the form as such. This is precisely the distinction between concrete and abstract modes of signification.{60} Names which signify forms do not signify them as subsisting since what is signified as subsisting is the composite which has the form.

Et quia in huiusmodi creaturis, ea quae sunt perfecta et subsistentia, sunt composita; forma autem in eis non est aliquid completum subsistens, sed magis quo aliquid est: inde est quod omnia nomina a nobis imposita ad significandum aliquid completum subsistens, significant in concretione, prout competit compositis; quae autem imponuntur ad significandas formas simplices, significant aliquid non ut subsistens, sed ut quo aliquid est: sicut albedo significat ut quo aliquid est album.{61}
"Humanity" signifies human nature abstractly, not as something which subsists but as that by which a man is a man; "man" signifies the same nature concretely, as that which has humanity, a subsistent thing which might be encountered in the world around us. Concrete terms imply a composition of the form and a subject and for the moment it does not matter whether our examples are "humanity" and "man" or "whiteness" and "white"." Human nature is signified by "humanity" per modum partis, since it is that whereby man is man. A man, however, is many things besides what is signified by "humanity," e.g. fat, white, etc. The abstract term is said to signify the nature with precision, that is, it prescinds in its mode of signification from everything but the essential principles of the nature signified.{62} From the point of view of the concrete whole, man, humanity is but a part. Yet humanity is what is formal to the composite: that is why it is called the forma totius as opposed to the forma partis.{63} "Man," the concrete term, is said to signify per modum totius, since it means the one who has humanity, that which subsists in the nature, without prescinding from what is not of the essence. That is why "man" can be predicated of Socrates and "humanity" cannot, directly (in recto), although "man" does not include in its signification the accidents of such individuals as Socrates. "Unde  licet in significatione hominis non includantur accidentia eius, non tamen homo significaat aliquid separatum ab accientibus; et ideo homo significat ut totum, humanitas significat ut pars."{64} Thus, it is the same nature which is signified by the abstract and concrete term, but the mode of signifying differs. As we shall see later,{65} no matter how perfect the res signified by a name attributed to God, with respect to its mode of signifying, omne nomen cum defectu est.


As our analysis of the text from the commentary on On Interpretation made clear, St Thomas' doctrine on signification is simply Aristotle's : the word signifies the thing (res) not directly, but via a conception of the mind.{66} This conception, which is directly and immediately signified by the word, is given the technical logical designation, ratio. "Ratio enim quam significat nomen, est conceptio intellectus de re significata per nomen."{67} In order to isolate the conceptio or ratio, we note, with St Thomas, that a man can be considered as related to four things when he understands: to the thing understood, to the intelligible species by which the intellect is actualized, to the act of understanding and, finally, to the conception.

Quae quidem conceptio a tribus praedictis differt. A re quidem intellecta, quia res intellecta est interdum extra intellectum, conceptio autem intellectus non est nisi in intellectu; et iterum conceptio intellectus ordinatur ad rem intellectam sicut ad finem: propter hoc enim intellectus conceptionem rei in se format ut rem intellectam cognoscat.Differt autem a specie intelligibili, nam species intelligibilis qua fit intellectus in actu, considerat ut principium actionis intellectus, cum omne agens agat secundum quod est in actu; actu autem fit per aliquaj formam, quam oportet esse actionis principium. Differt autem ab actione intellectus, quia praedicta conceptio consideratur ut terminus actionis, et quasi quoddam per ipsam constitutam.{68}
The conception produced by the act of understanding is what the word signifies; indeed, the conception itself is called a word. "Haec autem conceptio intellectus in nobis proprie verbum dicitur; hoc enim est quod verbo exteriori significatur: vox enim exterior neque significat ipsum intellectum, neque speciem intelligibilem, neque actum intellectus, sed intellectus conceptionem, qua mediante refertur ad rem"{69} The inner word is said to be both the efficient and final cause of the spoken word. It is the final cause for the reason just given: the purpose of the spoken word is to express and signify the concept or inner word. It is the efficient cause of the spoken word "Quia verbum prolatum exterius, praeexistit in mente artificis, ita in mente proferentis verbum exterius, praeexistit quoddam exemplar exterioris verbi."{70} The conception is called the verbum cordis whereas exemplar of the spoken word it is called the verbum interius.{71} What now is the significance of calling the conception a ratio?

    St Thomas gives us an extensive and exhaustive statement of what is meant by ratio in this regard, as well as the manner of its reference to the real order. "Ratio nihil aliud est quam id quod apprehendit intellectus de significatione alicuius nominis."{72} Sometimes, but not always, the ratio signified by the name is a definition; we know and name many things which cannot be defined, properly speaking, notably, substance, quantity and the other supreme genera. (Properly speaking, of course, the definition consists of the proximate genus and specific difference.) Now if that which the word signifies is sometimes a definition, ratio like definition consists of the proximate genus and specific difference.) Now if that which the word signifies is sometimes a definition, ratio like definition must be a second intention. The conception, considered as a definition, is a secundum intellectum,{73} a second intention. So too ratio in the phrase: ratio quam nomen significat est definitio. Ratio, of course, can mean other things,{74} but we are presently interested in it insofar as it is a nomen intentionis.{75} To be a ratio is something which happens to a thing insofar as it is conceived by our intellect: it is a relation following on our mode of knowing just as species, genus, difference and definition are.{76} Nec tamen hoc nomen ratio significat ipsam conceptionem, quia hoc significatur per nomen rei, sed significat intentionem huius conceptionis, sicut et hoc nomen definitio, et alia nomina secundae impositionis."{77} "Man" would be an example of a nomen rei. What does it signify? Rational animal. This is the nature grasped in the concept and verified in the real order. The term ratio applied to "rational animal" signifies a relation which attaches to the nature as it exists in the mind, the relation of the nature conceived to the word imposed to signify it.

    This a difficult but important doctrine. St Thomas points out that it underlies every discussion of the Divine names. The sublety involved is apparent when we watch St Thomas handle the question which asks if the ratio exists in reality. In a sense, we can say it does, but the reservations are most significant.

Non enim hoc dicitur, quasi ipsa intentio quam significat nomen rationis, sit in re; aut etiam ipsa conceptio cui convenit talis intentio, sit in re extra animam, cum sit in anima sicut in subjecto: sed dicitur esse in re, inquantum in re extra animam est aliquid quod respondet conceptioni animae, sicut significantum signo.{78}
Notice that the nature conceived can be called the ratio of a given name, but what ratio names is the relation, or the known nature as subject of the logical relation. The relation itself does not exist "out-there" anymore than the concept does; but the nature conceived and as such the subject of such intentions as species, genus, ratio, etc, may exist "out-there." There are degrees of dependence on or reference  to reality in names. The concept is a sign of a real nature and the name signifying it is called a nomen rei (e.g. "man.") The concept does not exist in reality, in the sense of outside the mind, since it is precisely an accident of intellect,{79} but something in reality answers directly to it as the signified to the sign. Second intentions, on the other hand, have as their proximate foundation the nature existing in the mind, the nature as known; there is nothing in reality  which answers immediately and directly to logical relations. If we add to names of first and names of second intentions the names of fictive entities, we can distinguish with St Thomas three ways in which names refer to reality.{80}

    The foregoing enables us to see what is meant by saying that the signification of names is a logical question. Insofar as we speak of the nature signified by the word as a ratio, we are adequately put on notice that we are engaged in a logical discussion; that is, we are considering natures, not as they exist in rerum natura, but from the point of view of the relations they take on as known by us. "Logicus enim considerat modum praedicandi, et non existentiam rei."{81} The nature as signified by the name, as well as the different way words signify - univocally, equivocally, analogically - are logical considerations and they are carried on in logical terminology.


We have distinguished the id a quo which is the etymology of the word from the id a quo which is its quality, that is, the form principally signified by it. We must now distinguish the id a quo in this second sense from the supposition of the term, for supposition, like etymology, differs from signification. The need for this further distinction is clear from a text already quoted from the Sentences.{82} "Dicendum quod in quolibet nomine est duo considerare: scilicet id a quo imponitur nomen, quod dicitur qualitas nominis, et id cuit imponitur, quod dicitur substantia nominis. Et nomen, proprie loquendo, dicitur significare formam sive qualitatem a qua imponitur nomen; dicitur vero supponere pro eo cui imponitur." The significance of this distinction for our purposes is that a diversity of supposition will not give rise to equivocation. "...aequivocatio inducitur ex diversa forma significata per nomen, non autem ex diversitate suppositionis: non enim hoc nomen homo acquivoce sumitur ex eo quod quandoque supponit pro Platone, quandoque pro Sorte."{83} Moreover, as we shall argue later, metaphor is a question of supposition rather than of signification. On this basis, the distinction of signification and supposition will be relevant in evaluating the position that metaphor is a kind of analogous name.

    In the following text, St Thomas compares signification with supposition and what is called copulatio.

...propria ratio nominis est quam significat nomen, secundum Philosophum.Idautem cui attribuitur nomen, si sit recte sumptum sub re significata per nomen,sicut determinatum sub indeterminato, dicitur supponi per nomen; si autem non sit recte sumptum sub re nominis, dicitur copulari per nomen; sicut hoc nomen animal significat substantiam animatam sensibilem, et album significat colorem disgregativum visus: homo vero recte sumitur sub ratione animalis, sicut determinatum sub indeterminato. Est enim homo substantia animata sensibilis tali anima, scilicet rationali; sub albo vero, quod est extra essentiam eius, non directe sumitur. Unde homo supponitur nomine animalis, copulatur vero nomine albi.{84}
Supposition presupposes the signification of the term and concerns its use to stand for what falls under its signification as the determinate under the indeterminate. Thus the species can be supposed for by the generic name, as in the text just cited, and the individuals can be supposed for by the specific name.{85} The supposition of a term, its supposits, are the things it stands for given its signification. A term has supposition, it would seem only as used in a proposition. Thus, in "Some animals are rational," the subject of the proposition signifies "animate sensitive substance" and supposes for men. Such a use of the term does not constitute its signification, since its signification must be presupposed if we are to understand the use. It is fairly clear that it is the abstractive mode of our understanding which gives rise to what is called the supposition of a term. Given the universal signification, the term can be used to stand for things in which what it signifies is found. As used in a proposition, a term will normally suppose or stand for the things in which its res significata is saved. Nevertheless, a term may suppose in other ways as well.

    Sometimes a word stands for itself, as in the sentence, "To run is a verb."

Sed dicendum est quod in tali locutione, hoc verbum curro non sumitur formaliter, secundum quod eius significatio refertur ad rem, sed secundum qod materialiter significat ipsam vocem quae accipitur ut res quaedam. Et ideo tam verba quam omnes orationis partes, quando ponuntur materialiter, sumuntur in vi nominum.{86}

This is what, in systematic discussions of supposition, is called the material supposition of a term{87} Sometimes a term is taken to stand for the nature it signifies insofar as that nature is considered as common or universal.

Unitas autem sive commumitas humanae naturae non est secundum rem, sed solum secundum considerationem; unde iste terminus homo non supponit pro natura communi, nisi propter exigentiam alicuius additi, ut cum dicitur, homo est species.{88}
This use of a term is called simple supposition in systematic treatises on supposition. It is clear that material and simple supposition are possible and important uses of a term, but it is equally clear that a possible and important uses of a term, but it is equally clear that a term will normally be taken to suppose in the way we spoke of supposition at the outset, a type of supposition called personal supposition in systematic treatises. Nonetheless, the signification of a term does not decide the use it may have in a proposition. It is a fairly common tenet{89} that a term has supposition only in a proposition; if this is accepted, and doubtless it should be, supposition will be a logical intention falling to the logic of the second operation of the mind; signification, and this will include equivocation and consequently analogy, pertains to the logic of the first operation. For, again, the meaning of a term is presupposed by the use of a term in a proposition and not constituted by that use. There can be diversity of supposition in the realm of personal supposition (e.g. "man" standing now for Socrates, now for Plato) without equivocation ensuing, for in each of these uses "man" has the same signification. Equivocation, of course, involves diversity of signification.

    It may be that what St Thomas has to say about supposition is the same as what can be found in treatises devoted to this matter; we are not prepared to say that this is so, or that it is not so. If we assume that John of St Thomas has accurately systematized his mentor on this matter, however, a rather curious result follows. John groups material, simple and personal supposition under the heading of proper supposition. Metaphor, he adds, is an instance of improper supposition.{90} Furthermore, he will say that supposition is a second intentiion arising from the second operation of the mind.{91} Equivocation, on the other hand follows on the first operation. How then can he maintain that metaphor is a type of analogous name? We will agree that metaphor is rather a question of supposition than of signification, but we will go on to take this as indication enough that metaphor must be distinguished from analogy. And we will show how this is done.


{1} On the Soul, II, 8.

{2} In II de anima, lect. 18, n. 476.

{3} Q.D. de ver., q. 24, a. 6.

{4} In I Periherm., lect 7, n.6.

{5} In IV Metaphys., lect. 3, n. 564.

{6} Cf. Sheilah O'Flynn, "The First Meaning of 'Rational Process' According to the Ecpositio in Boethium De Trinitate," Laval Theologique et philosophique, X, (1954), pp. 167-188.

{7} In I Periherm., lect. 2, n. 3. The difference may be illustrated by noting that, whereas the spoken and written words which signify logical relations are conventional or arbitrary, these relations themselves are not, since they have their foundaation in natures as known. The foundation of logical relations introduces the note of necesssity thanks to which logic is science in the strict sense, and not merely an art, as grammar is.

{8} Cf. Il Sent., d. 35, q. 1, a. 2, ad 5: "...dicendum quod passio potest sumi supliciter: vel quantum ad naturam rei prout logicus et naturalis passionem considerat, et hoc modo non oportet omnem poenam passionem esse, sed quamdam poenm, scilicet poenam sensus: vel quantum ad modum significandi, prout grammaticus considerat..."

{9} In V Metaphys., lect. 9, n. 894.

{10} I Sent., d. 22, q. 1, a. 1, ad 3.

{11} Cf. In Boethii de trin., q. 5, a. 1, ad 3.

{12} To the objection that the science concerned with res will not be concerned with nomina, St Thomas replies: "Sed dicendum quod (...) theologia, inquantum est principalis omnium scientiarum, aliquid in se habet de omnibus scientiis; et ideo non solum res, sed nominum significationes pertractat: quia ad salutem consequendam non solum est necessaria fides de veritate rerum, sed etiam vocalis confessio per nomina." - I Sent., d. 22, expositio textus, (ed. Mandonnet), I, p. 543. For the metaphysician's interest in words, see In V Metaphys., lect. 1, n. 749.

{13} [16al ff.

{14} Q.D. de ver., q. 9, a. 4, ad 4; cf IIIa, q. 60, a. 4: "Signum autem est per quod aliquis devenit in cognitionem alterius."

{15} Cursus Philosophicus, I, p. 9.

{16} In I Periherm., lect. 2, n. 5.

{17} Note that so far as the interpretation of a sign goes, knowledge must always mediate between the natural sign and that of which it is the sign; this it has in common with the conventional sign. It is the constitution of the conventional sign which involves the human practical intellect. Of course, insofar as the cause of nature is intelligent, mind is involved in the constitution of the natural sign as well.

{18} Q.D. de ver., q. 4, a. 1.

{19} In I Periherm., lect. 4, nn. 11-12.

{20} We will not be detained here by the difficulty presented by such words as "susurrus," "whisper," etc., except to note that they do not function in the same way as imitations of bird calls. But "Ulalume"?

{21} The terms species and forma originally signified shape.

{22} Ia, q. 35, a. 1; cf. ibid., q. 93, a. 9.

{23} Cf. In I Periherm.,  lect 2, n. 9; Cf. In de sensu et sensato, (ed. Spiazzi), lect. 2, n. 31: "...et dicit quod auditus multum confert ad prudentiam. Et accipitur hic prudentia pro quadam intellectiva cognitione, non solum prout est recta ratio agibilium, ut dicitur in sexto Ethicorum. Sed hoc est per accidens, quia sermo, qui est audibilis, est causa addiscendi non per se, id est secundum ipsas sonorum differentias, sed per accidens, inquantum scilicet nomina, quibus sermo est, id est locutio componitur, sunt symbola, idest signa intentionum intellectarum, et per consequens rerum." (Emphasis ours.)

{24} Q.D. de ver., q. 9, a. 4, ad 4.

{25} Chapter VIII.

{26} Q.D. de ver., q. 9, a. 4, ad 4.

{27} Ibid. "Sed communiter possumus signum dicere quodcumque notum in quo aliquid cognoscatur; et secundum hoc forma intelligibilis potest dici signum rei quae per ipsum cognoscitur."

{28} Cf. IIIa, q. 60, a. 4, ad 1: "Effectus autem sensibilis per se habet quod ducat in cognitionem alterius, quasi primo et per se homini innotescens: quia omnis nostra cognitio a sensu initium habet. Effectus autem intelligibiles non habent quod possint ducere in cognitionem alterius nisi inquantum sunt per aliud manifestati, idest per aliqua sensibilia. Et inde est quod primo et principaliter dicuntur signa quae sensibus offeruntur..."

{29} What is proper to the sign is not to be an effect, but to be more easily known than what it signifies. "...de ratione signi proprie accepta non est quod sit vel prius vel posterius in natura, sed solummodo quod sit nobis praecognitum..." - Q.D. de ver., q. 9, a. 4, ad 5.
(30} Q.D. de ver., q. 11, a. 1: "...unde et secundum hoc unus alium docere dicitur, quod istum discursum rationis, quem in se facit ratione naturali, alteri exponit per signa et sic ratio naturalis discipuli, per huiusmodi sibi proposita, sicut per quaedam instrumenta, pervenit in cognitionem ignotorum."

{31} Ibid., ad 11.

{32} Q.D. de ver., q. 9, a. 4, ad 12.

{33} On the use of "word" and "name," see below, note 52.

{34} Ia, q. 13, a. 2, ad 2.

{35} Ia, q. 13, a. 8

{36} "Dicendum quod non est semper idem in a quo imponitur nomen ad significandum, et id ad quod significandum nomen imponitur. Sicut enim substantiam rei ex proprietatibus vel operationibus eius cognoscimus ita substantiam rei denominamus quandoque ab aliqua eius operatione vel proprietate: sicut substantiam lapidis denominamus ab aliqua actione eius, quia laedit pedem; non tamen hoc nomen impositum est ad significandum hanc actionem, sed substantiam lapidis." - Ia, q. 13, a. 8.

{37} In V Metaphys. lect. 1, n. 751.

{38} Ia, q. 18, a. 2.

{39} Ia, q. 33, a. 1, ad 3: "Dicendum quod licet hoc nomen principium, quantum ad id a quo imponitur ad significandum, videatur a prioritate sumptum: non tamen significat prioritatem, sed originem. Non enim idem est quod significat nomen, et a quo nomen imponitur, ut supra dictum est." For partem capere, cf. In Boethii de hebdomadibus, lect. 2.

{40} Cf. Q.D. de pot., q. 9, a. 3, ad 1; IIaIIae, q. 92, a. 1, ad 2; I Sent., d. 24, q. 2, a. 2, ad 2.

{41} In I Periherm., lect. 4, n. 9: "Cuius ra

{42} Cf. e.g. III Sent., d. 6, q. 1, a. 3.

{43} Q.D. de ver., q. 4, a. 1, ad 8.

{44} I Sent., d. 4, q. 1, a. 1. Cf. Q.D. de ver., q. 4, a. 1, ad 8: "...nomen dicitur ab aliquo imponi dupliciter: aut ex parte imponentis nomen, aut ex parte rei cui imponitur. Ex parte autem rei nomen dicitur ab illo imponi per quod completur ratio rei quam nomen significat; et haec est differentia specifica illius rei. Et hoc est quod principaliter significatur per nomen. Sed quia differentiae essentiales sunt nobis ignotae, quandoque utimur accidentibus vel effectibus loco earum, ut VII Metaphys. dicitur; et secundum hoc nominamus rem; et sic illud quod loco differentiae essentialis sumitur, est a quo imponitur nomen ex parte imponentis, sicut lapis imponitur ab effectu, qui est laedere pedem. Et hoc non oportet esse principaliter significatum per nomen, sed illud loco cuius hoc ponitur."

{45} I Sent., d. 17, q. 1, a. 5, ad 2.

{46} In I Periherm., lect. 8, n. 9; In II de anima, lect. 9, n. 347; Ia, q. 33, a. 2, ad 2; ibid., q. 115, a. 2; II Sent., d. 9, q. 1, a 4.

{47} Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 10, ad 8. The significance of this grammatice loquendo will become clear in a moment when we examine the notion of the qualitas nominis.

{48} Thus, to say of the table that it is wooden, is to denominate it from its matter. Cf. In IX Metaphys., lect. 6, nn. 1839-1843; In VII Metaphys., lect. 2, nn. 1287-9.

{49} Cf. In III Physic., lect. 5, n. 15.

{50} III Sent., d. 6, 1. 1, a. 3.

{51} Ia, q. 13, 1. 1, ad 3.

{52} In I Periherm., lect. 5, n. 15: "Nomen dupliciter potest sumi: prout communiter significat quamlibet dictionem impositam ad significandum aliquam rem. Et quia etiam ipsum agere vel pati est quaedam res, inde est quod et ipsa verba, inquantum nominant, idest significant agere vel pati, sub nominibus comprehenduntur communiter acceptis. Nomen prout a verbo distinguitur, significat rem sub determinato modo, prout scilicet potest intelligi ut per se existens."

{53} I Sent., d. 9, q. 1, a. 2.

{54} I Sent., d. 22, q. 1, a. 1, ad 3.

{55} III Sent., d. 6, q. 1, a. 3.

{56} Ia, q. 13, a. 1, ad 3.

{57} I Sent., d. 22, q. 1, a. 1, ad 3.

{58} Cf. In I de anima, lect 1, nn. 4-5; I Sent., prolog., q. 1, a. 3, sol. 2.

{59} Cajetan, In II Periherm., lect. 8, n. 3.

{60} I Contra Gentiles, cap. 30.

{61} Ia, q. 13, a. 1, ad 2.

{62} Quodl. IX, q. 2, a. 1, ad 1: "...dicendum quod ex unione animae et corporis constituitur et homo et humanitas: quae quidem duo hoc modo differunt: quod  humanitas significtur per modum partis, eo quod humanitas dicitur qua homo est homo, et sic praecise significat essentialia principia speciei, per quae hoc individuum in tali specie collacatur; unde se habet per modum partis, cum praeter huiusmodi principia multa alia in rebus naturae inveniuntur. Sed homo significatur per modum totius: homo enim dicitur habens humanitatem, vel subsistens in humanitate, sine praecisione quorumcumque aliorum supervenientium essentialibus principiis speciei; quia per hoc quod dico: Habens humanitatem, non praeciditur, qui habet colorem, et quantitatem et alia huiusmodi." Cf. De ente et essentia, cap. 3.

{63} In VII Metaphys., lect. 9, nn. 1467-9.

{64} In VII Metaphys., lect. 5, n. 1379.

{65} Chapter IX.

{66} In IV Metaphys., lect. 16, n. 733.

{67} Ia, q. 13, a. 4.

{68} Q.D. de pot., q. 8, a. 1; ibid., q. 9, a. 5.

{69} Q.D. de pot., q. 8, a. 1.

{70}  Q.D. de pot., q. 4, a. 1.

{71} Ibid. We might mention that St Thomas is here presenting verbum as an analogous name; ibid., ad 8 gives the etymology of the term: "...a verberatione vel a boatu."

{72} I Sent., d. 2, q. 1, a. 3.

{73} Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 9: "Prima enim intellecta sunt res extra animam, in quae primo intellectus intelligenda fertur. Secunda autem intellecta dicuntur intentiones consequentes modum intelligendi: hoc enim secundo intellectus intelligit inquantum reflecitur supra se ipsum, intelligens se intelligere et modum quo intelligit."

{74} Cf. In de divinis nominibus, lect. 5, n. 735. "Ratio" can mean, (a)quaedam cognoscitiva virtus, (b) causa, ut, e.g., "qua ratione hoc fecisti?," (c) computatio, (d) aliquid simplexabstractum a multis, sicut dicitur ratio hominis is quod per considerationem abstrahitur a singularibus, ad hominis naturam pertinens. It is with this last sense that we are presently concerned.

{75} I Sent., d. 33, q. 1, a. 1, ad 3; cf. ibid., d. 25, q. 1, a. 1, ad 2, fr "definitio."

{76} Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 6.

{77} I Sent., d. 2, q. 1, a. 3. On the difference between nomen rei and nomen intentionis, see Ia, q. 30, a. 4. Andre Hayen, S.J., in L'Intentionnel selon saint Thomas, Paris, Bruge, Bruxelles, deuxième édition, 1954, seems not to take sufficiently into account the distinction between ratio as a nomen intentionis and ratio as the known nature to which being a ratio happens. On p. 180, for example, he quotes St Thomas, "Ratio autem se tenet mais ex parte rei." St Thomas is comparing ratio, scientia and idea, and his complete sentence is as follows:"Ratio autem se tenet magis ex parte rei, ut consignificari et significari possit; dicimus enim rationes plures." (I Sent., d. 36, q. 2, a. 2, ad 4) Or consider this remark. "La théorie psychologique de la première et de la seconde intention met en relief la propriété de notre connaissance intellectuelle, qui est de s'opposer à son objet en lui attribuant une intentio prima, si cet objet est une chose extérieure ou une intentio secunda, si cet objet est un autre concept de l'esprit, la ratio de la chose déjà investie d'une intentio prima." (pp. 192-3) The reader, finding the distinction between first and second intentions becoming progressively hazier, is somewhat abashed to find his objection anticipated (p. 194), but handled in a yet more hazy manner. But of course there can be no question here of giving Father Hayen's book the attention it undoubtedly deserves.

{78} I Sent. d. 2, q. 1, a. 3.

{79} Q.D. de pot., q. 8, a. 1.

{80} I Sent., d. 2, q. 1, a. 3.

{81} In VII Metaphys., lect. 17, n. 1658.

{82} III Sent. d. 6, q. 1, a. 3.

{83}  IV Contra Gentiles, cap. 49. Cf. Compendium theologiae, cap. 211; Q.D. de unione verbi incarnati, a. 2, ad 4: "Dicendum quod univocatio et aequivocatio attenditur secundum quod ratio nominis est eadem vel non eadem. Ratio autem nominis est quam significat definitio; et ideo aequivocatio et univocatio secundum significationem attenditur et non secundum supposita."

{84}  Q.D. de pot., q.9, a. 4; cf III Sent., d. 7, q. 1, a. 1, ad 5. In Ia, q. 39, a. 5, ad 5, St Thomas attributes the distinction between supposition and copulation to sophists, which is why we are excusing ourselves from any discussion of copulatio.

{85} See references in note 83 above; see as well, Ia, q. 13, a. 10, ad 1.

{86} In I Periherm., lect. 5, n. 6.

{87} John of St Thomas, Cursus Philosophicus, T. I, p. 29 ff; Ph Boehner, O.F.M., Medieval Logic Chicago, 1952, pp. 27-51; E. A. Moody, Truth and Consequence in Mediaeval Logic, Amsterdam, 1953, pp. 18-23; J. P. Mullally, The Summulae Logicales of Peter of Spain, Notre Dame, 1945.

{88}  Ia, q. 39, a 4. Cf. IIIa, q. 16, a. 7.

{89} John of St Thomas, loc. cit, p. 30. See Moody, op. cit., p. 21. Possible corroboratiion in St Thomas is had in III Sent., d. 7, q. 1, a. 1, ad 5.

{90} Loc. cit., p. 31.

{91} There is a special problem connected with the term suppositum, a problem we only allude to here. This term is sometimes a nomen rei as opposed to a nomen intentionis. Cf. I Sent., d. 23, q. 1, a. 3; Q.D. de unione verbi incarnati, a. 2; a. 3 c. et ad 5; Ia. q. 29, a. 1, ad 3.

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