Jacques Maritain Center : Studies in Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


The matter, however, is not so simple. There is a plethora of texts in which St. Thomas speaks quite clearly of a ratio communis of the analogous name. Indeed this seems to be involved in texts where substance and accident are discussed as modes of being differing from the transcendental modes.{1} Being is that which our intellect first grasps and into which all other conceptions are resolved. Resolution is the breaking up of something into its parts, the reduction of the secondary to the primary. Resolution to being, consequently implies that all other concepts involve addition to that of being. What is the manner of this addition? It cannot be the addition of a nature extraneous to being, as difference is extraneous to genus, since every nature is essentially being. Being is not a genus and a concept can add to it only in the sense that it expresses a mode of being that the term "being" itself does not express. Thus far we would seem to be given to understand that "being" expresses a common notion and that though something may be addd to it the added note is not some nature.{2} There are two ways in which words can express being in a way "being" itself does not: first, such that a special mode of being is expressed. This is the case with each of the categories. Secondly, a term can express a mode of being which belongs generally to being and is not confined to a given category. This suggests a ratio communis entis, say "that which has existence," a notion which expresses a mode of being that the term "being" itself does not express. Thus far we would seem to be given to understand that "being" expresses a common notion and that though something may be added to it the added note is not some nature.{1} There are two ways in which words can express being in a way "being" itself does not: first, such that a special mode of being is expressed. This is the case with each of the categories. Secondly, a term can express a mode of being which belongs generally to being and is not confined to a given category. This suggests a ratio communis entis, say "that which has existence," a notion which expresses no determinate mode of being, but is common to each of the special, categorical modes. Moreover, the ratio substantiae will express more than the ratio communis entis, there will be at least an addition ratione and thus the apparent equation of the notion of substance and that of being said without qualification, an equation suggested by the texts examined in the previous section, is called into question. Prior to the notions of substance and accident, there is the notion of being and insofar as "being" is taken to signify this first and fundamental grasp of reality, it signifies a ratio communis.

    Much the same point is made by St. Thomas in his discussion of the transcendental name "good," although this time he makes the point even more forcibly by citing a threefold way in which something can be added to something else.{3} They are: (1) the way in which accident adds to substance, (2) the way in which addition leads to a contraction and determination of the common, e.g. "man" contracts and determines what "animal" signifies; (3) the way in which something purely of reason is added to something. Thus, when we say "blind man," we are not adding some real nature, but a lack in the real order. However, though what is added is in mind alone, the addition of "blind" enables us to contract "man" since not all men are blind. No such contraction is gotten by adding "blind" to "tree" since no tree can see. Which of these modes can be involved in an addition to ens universale? Not the first since there is no natural thing which is "outside the essence of universal being" though, of course, one thing can be essentially different from another particular thing. With certain qualification, the second made of addition is involved in the distinction of the categories: unlike species with reference to genus, this contraction and determination of "universal being" is not had by the addition of any difference which is outside the essence of being, but by expressing a determinate mode of being (modus essendi) which is founded in the very essence of the thing. Such addition cannot explain such terms as "good," however, since good like being is divided equally into the ten categories.

    What is suggested, accordingly, is a ratio communis entis other than and superior to the rationes of substance and accident. Moreover, since they too escape confinement to one category, the so-called transcendental notions will be shown to add something of reason to the common notion of "being." From this one might want to conclude that, while metaphysics may be concerned first of all with substance when it turns to the special modes of being, it can first occupy itself with the notion of being which is prior to the categories and establish the transcendental properties of being as being. Indeed, it might even be maintained that this is proper level of metaphysical considerations. Nor would it be surprising to be told that concern with the ratio communis entis is characteristically thomistic as opposed to the Aristotelian penchant for substance, which is only a special mode of being. Occupation with the ratio communis leads to a deduction of the transcendental properties from esse, since there is little else to work with in that common notion; this, more than anything else, would recommend the acceptance of the ratio communis to many contemporary thomists for it would seem to involve that "putting of the accent" on esse which is said to separate the metaphysics of St. Thomas from all others, including that of Aristotle, which look to essence as source of intelligibility in philosophical wisdom, thereby putting a premium on "conceptual" thought.

    In the previous section we cited the procedure of the fifth book of the Metaphysics, in which Aristotle distinguishes the various meanings of common names, as indication that there is no common meaning of such names. However, if we look somewhat more closely at this process of distinguishing, we notice something : in discussing the various meanings of "disposition," St. Thomas cites a ratio communis of the name{4} At the end of the analysis of the meanings of "principle," St. Thomas writes, "And he reduces all the foregoing modes to something common; he says that what is common in all the mentioned modes is that that is said to be a principle which is first either in the being of the thing, as the first part of a thing is said to be a principle, or in the becoming of a thing, as the first mover is said to be a principle and in knowledge of the thing."{5} So too what is common to all modes of "element" is to be first in something.{6} The discussion of "one" is begun with this statement: "...those things which are wholly indivisible are especially said to be one: because all other modes are reduced to this one, since this is universally true that whatever things have no division are because of this said to be one."{7} So, in the discussion of "prior and posterior": First he assigns the common notion of the prior and posterior."{8} And there is a reduction of all modes of "possible" to one{9} Indeed, when speaking of the subject of metaphysics, St. Thomas speaks of "being" as prior to substance. "The subject of this science, however, can be taken either as it is commonly considered in the whole science, and in this way it is being or one, or as to that which is its principal concern, substance."{10}

    Elsewhere as well, St Thomas speaks of the ratio communis of the analogous name. "Origin, however, can be considered in two ways: either according to the common notion of origin, which is for one thing to be from another, and thus one notion is common to the origin, which is for one thing to be from another, and thus one notion is common to the origin of persons and the origin of creatures, not indeed by a community of of univocation but of analogy: and similarly too the name "principle".{11} Mortal and venial sin share a common notion, albeit analogously.{12} "Person" can be taken to signify a notion which abstracts from the things to which it is analogously common.{13} So too the analogous cause of truth communicates with its effect in name and a common notion.{14} The term "passion," which is said in many ways, has a common meaning.{15} Finally, with respect to the use of an analogous term in an argument, we can cite a text mentioned in this connection by Cajetan,{16} a text in which St. Thomas points out that, although "generation" and "production" are not univocally common to God the Son and creatures, a common notion of these words is possible thanks to which the Son and creatures communicate in the distribution of the term.{17}

    We began by noticing that analogical signification is said to be midway between univocation and pure equivocation and that it participates something if these extremes; indeed insofar as the analogous name is thought of as more closely resembling pure equivocation, the accent will be placed on the many rationes signified and cautions expressed as to the use of an analogous name in an argument since we may shift from one meaning to another and end up with a four term syllogism. The texts we looked at in the previous section stress the multiplicity of the notions signified by the analogous name and seem not to allow for a ratio communis. The texts we have just examined, on the other hand, do speak of a ratio communis although, when they do, they are careful to distinguish it from the common notion signified by the univocal name. If there is a ratio communis of the analogous name it is not equally common to its inferiors. This is check enough, surely, against assuming that wherever there is a common notion there is univocity. Nevertheless, there remains at least a prima facie opposition between these groups of texts and we must ask how they can be reconciled. In pursuit of an answer to this query, we will first recall the doctrine of analogical signification with particular reference to the terminology St. Thomas uses to describe it. Once this has been done, we shall examine the contexts of many of the texts already quoted by investigating the doctrine that being is not a genus. That investigation, together with a detailed tracing of the extension of some selected analogous names, should enable us to arrive at some generalities with respect to St. Thomas' doctrine on the nature of the ratio communis of the analogous name.


{1} Cf. Q.D. de ver., q. 1, a. 1: "Illud autem quod primo intellectus concipit quasi nocissimum, est ens... Unde oportet quod omnes aliae conceptiones intellectus accipiantur ex additione ad ens. Sed enti non potest addi aliquid quasi extranea natura, per modum quo differentia additur generi, vel accidens subiecto, quia quaelibet naura essentialiter est ens; unde etiam probat Philosophus in III Metaphys. quod ens non potest esse genus, sed secundum hoc aliqua dicuntur addere supra ens, in quantum exprimunt ipsius modum, qui nomine ipsius entis non exprimitur. Quod dupliciter contingit: uno modo ut modus expressus sit aliquis specialis modus entis. Sunt enim diversi gradus entitatis, secundum quosaccipiun tur diversi modi essendi, et iuxta hos modos accipiuntur diversa rerum genera. Substantia enim non addit supra ens aliquam differentiam, quae significet aliquam differentiam super dditam enti, sed nomine substantiae exprimitur quidam specialis modus essendi, scilicet per se ens; et ita est in aliis generibus. Alio modo ita quod modus expressus sit modus generaliter consequens omne ens..."

{2} Q.D. de ver., q. 10, a. 11, ad 10: "...ens quod est primum per communitatem, cum sit idem per essentiam rei cuilibet, nullus proportionem excedit; et ideo in cognitione cuiuslibet rei ipsum cognoscitur."

{3} Q.D. de ver., q. 21, a. 1: "Dicendum quod tripliciter potest aliquid super alterum addere. Uno modo quod addat aliquam rem quae sit extra essentiam illius rei cui dicitur addi; sicut album addit super corpus, quia essentia albedinis est praeter essentiam corporis. Alio modo dicitur aliquid addi super alterum per modum contrahendi et determinandi; sicut homo addit aliquid super animal: non quidem ita quod sit in homine alia res quae sit penitus extra essentiam animalis, alias oporteret dicere, quod non totum quod est homo esset animal, set animal esset pars hominis; sed animal per hominem contrahitur, quia id quod determinate et actualiter continetur in ratione hominis, implicite et quasi potentialiter continetur in ratione animalis... Tertio modo dicitur aliquid addere super alterum secundum rationem tantum; quando scilicet aliquid est de ratione unius quod non est de ratione alterius: quod tamen nihil est in rerum natura, sed in ratione tantum, sive per illud contrahitur id cui dicitur addi, sive non. Acecum enim addit aliquid supra hominem, scilicet caecitatem, quae non est aliquid ens in natura, sed rationis tantum, secundum quod ens est comprehendens privationes; et per hoc homo contrahitur, non enim omnis homo caecus est: sed cum dicimus talpam caecam, non fit per hoc additum aliqua contractio."

{4} In V Metaphysic., lect. 20, n. 1058: "...et ponit rationem communem huius nominis Dispositio, dicens, quod dispositio nihil est alius quam ordo partium in habente partes."

{5} Ibid., lect. 1, n. 761: "Recudit omnes praedictos modos ad aliquid commune; et dicit quod commune in omnibus dictis modis est, ut dicatur principium illud, quod est primum, aut in esse rei, sicut prima pars rei dicitur principium, aut in fieri rei, sicut primum movens dicitur principium, aut in rei cognitione."

{6} Ibid., lect. 4, n. 807.

{7} Ibid., lect. 8, n. 866: "...illa quae sunt penitus indivisibilia, maxime dicuntur unum: quia ad hunc modum omnes alii modi reducuntur, quia universaliter hoc est verum, quod quaecumque non habent divisionem, secundum hoc dicuntur unum, inquantum divisionem non habent."

{8} Ibid., lect. 13, n. 936: "Primo assignaat rationem communem prioris et posterioris."

{9} Ibid., lect 14, n. 975: "Reducit omnes modos possibilis et impossibilis ad unum primum."

{10} "Subiectum autem huius scientiae potest accipi, vel sicut communiter in tota scientia considerandum, cuius modi est ens et unum: vel sicut id de quo est principalis intentio, ut substantia." - Ibid., lect. 7, n. 842.

{11} "Potest autem origo considerari dupliciter: aut secundum communem rationem originis, quae est aliquid ab aliquo esse, et sic una ratio est communis ad originem personarum et originem creaturarum, non quidem communitate univocationis, sed analogiae: et similiter etiam nomen principii." - I Sent., d. 29, q. 1, a. 2, sol. 1.

{12} Q.D. de malo, q. 7, a. 1, ad 1: "...duplex est divisio: una qua dividitur genus univocum in suas species, quae ex aequo participant genus, sicut animal in boyem et equum; alia est divisio communis analogi in ea de quibus dicitur secundum prius et posterius; sicut ens dividitur per substantiam et accidens, et per potentiam et actum; et in talibus ratio communis perfecte salvatur in uno; in aliis autem secundum quid et per posterius; et tale est divisio peccati per veniale et mortale." - Cf. ibid., ad 2: "...veniale est differentia diminuens de ratione peccati; et talis differentia invenitur in omnibus quae participant aliquod commune imperfecte et secundum quid." Cf. ibid., ad. 7. - II Sent., d. 42, q. 1, a. 3: "...alia vero divisio est eius quod est commune per analogiam, quod quidem secundum perfectam rationem praedicatur de uno dividentium, et de altero imperfecte et secundum quid, sicut ens dividitur in substantiam et accidens, et in ens actu et in ens portentia: et haec divisio est quasi media inter aequivocum et univocum; et talis divisio est peccati in mortale et veniale: quia ratio peccati perfecte in mortali invenitur; in veniali vero non nisi imperfecte et secundum quid." Cf. ibid., ad 1. - IaIIae, q. 88, a. 1, ad 1: "...dicendum quod divisio peccati venialis et mortalis non est divisio generis in species, quae aequaliter participant rationem generis: set analogi in ea de quibus praedicatur secundum prius et posterius. Et ideo perfecta ratio peccati...convenit peccato morali. Peccatum autem veniale dicitur peccatum secundum rationem imperfectam, et in ordine ad peccatum mortale; sicut accidens dicitur ens in ordine ad substantiam, secundum imperfectam rationem entis."

{13} "...dicendum quod ratio personae importat distinctionem in communi; unde abstrahitur a quolibet modo distinctionis: et ideo potest esse una ratio analogice in his quae diversimode distinguuntur." - I Sent., d. 25, q. 1, a. 2, ad 5.

{14} In II Metaphysic., lect. 2, n. 294: "Nomen autem veritatis non est proprium slicui speciei, sed se habet communiter ad omnia entia. Unde, quia illud quod est causa veritatis, est causa communicans cum effectu in nomine et ratione communi, sequitur quod illud, quod est posterioribus causa ut sint vera, sit verissimum."

{15} IaIIae, q. 22, a. 1: "...pati dicitur tripliciter. Uno modo, communiter, secundum quod omne recipere est pati, etiam si nihil abiiciatur a re..."; cf. Q.D. de ver., q. 26, q. 1, a.2; III Sent., d. 15, q. 2, a. 1, sol. 2; infra IV, 2.

{16} Op. cit., n. 107.

{17} Q.D. de pot., q. 2, a. 5, ad 6: "...dicendum quod generatio Filii et productio creaturarum non sunt unius rationis secundum univocatione, sed secundum analogiam tantum. Dicit enim Basilius quod accipere Filius habet communi cum omni creatura; et ratione huius dicitur 'primogenitus omnis creaturae' et hac ratione postest eius generatio productionibus creature communicari sub una distributione."

© 2011 by the Estate of Ralph McInerny. All rights reserved including the right to translate or reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form.

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