Jacques Maritain Center : Studies in Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


When we were discussing the way in which intellection can be called quoddam pati, we referred to a text which makes the point in a significant way.{1} There we were given an option between saying that intellection is a certain kind of passion or something else similar to passion. Of these, the text continued, the second is truer because intellection is said to be a passion by analogy with sensing and the latter is not properly passion. Could this be taken to mean that, since "passion" as applied to intellection involves such a diluted meaning that the word is used metaphorically? This is explicitly suggested of the extension of "motion" to intellection. "Minimum autem de proprietate motus, et nihil nisi metaphorice, invenitur in intellectu."{2} That which least and most commonly saves the ratio of the name is said to involve a metaphor, as if it does not so much save the notion but is similar to what does.{3} Elsewhere, "motion" is said to apply to intellectual operations insofar as it is taken communiter. What precisely is the relation between a word's being taken analogously and metaphorically, and why is it that we might say of the same extended use of a word that it is analogous or metaphorical?

    To approach this problem, we want to examine a word which is both analogous and has metaphorical uses. The word is "potency" which has a multiplicity of meanings: "Sed ista multiplicitas quantum ad quosdam modos est multiplicitas aequivocationis, sed quantum ad quosdam analogiae. Quaedam enim dicuntur possibilia vel impossibilia, eo quod habent aliquod principium in seipsis; et hoc secundum quosdam modos, secundum quos omnes dicuntur potentiae non aequivoce, sed analogice. Aliqua vero dicuntur possibilia vel potentia, non propter aliquod principium quod in seipsis habent, et in illis dicitur potentia acquivoce."{4} Equivocal uses of "potency" are had in mathematics (e.g. three to the second power is nine) and logic, where possible propositions are those whose opposites can be true.{5} These are said to be powers, potencies, possibles, per quamdam similitudinem. Elsewhere, these equivocal uses of "potency" are said to be metaphorical.{6} Now these equivocal modes or metaphorical uses of "potency" are contrasted with a multiplicitas analogiae, i.e. a variety of modes which are related per prius et posterius. Four such modes are distinguished:{7} first, an active principle which is a principle of transmutation in another as other; secondly, passive potency which is the correlative of the active principle. "Haec autem potentia reducitur ad primam potentiam activam, quia passio ab agente causatur."{8} Thirdly, a disposition not to be changed for the worse-a principle of resistance to active potency. "Unde, cum passio ab actione dependeat, oportet quod in definitione utriusque illorum modorum ponatur definitio 'potentiae primae,' scilicet activiae."{9} Fourthly, insofar as the one having active potency can act well and easily, or something be acted on easily and resist easily: "Unde manifestum est quod in definitione harum potentiarum, quae dicuntur respectu bene agere vel pati, includuntur rationes primarum potentiarum, quae dicebantur simpliciter agere et pati: sicut in bene agere includitur agere; et pati in eo quod est bene pati. Unde manifestum est, quod omnes isti modi potentiarum reducuntur ad unum primum, scilicet ad potentiam activam Et inde patet quod haec multiplicitas non est secundum aequivocationem, sed secundum analogiam."{10} Thus, if potency is taken to signify the common notion "principle of change" (παθήματα τῆς ψυχῆς).{11} the active principle saves the notion per prius and whatever else is called a potency is referred to what first and primarily receives the name. Clearly, then, the name is not univocally common.

    Except in the case of pure equivocals, things receive the same name because of a known similarity between them. Thus Socrates and Plato are both named man because they have the same nature, the nature signified by the common word; so too they and dogs and cats are called animals because they are alike in what the word "animal" signifies. Things are name analogically when they participate more and less perfectly in the notion signified by their common name with those that save it less perfectly referred to what is most perfectly named by it. Now it may appear that the metaphor falls under this description of the analogous name. Consider Aristotle's definition of metaphor: μεταφορα δέ ἐστιν ὀνόματος ἀλλοτρίου ἐπιφορὰ.{12}  When we say that someone is a tiger, don't we explain this use by including what "tiger" properly signifies in our definition? St. Thomas seems to suggest just this.

Dicendum quod per prius dicitur nomen de illo in quo salvatur rota ratio nominis perfecte, quam de illo in quo salvatur secundum aliquid: de hoc enim dicitur quasi per similitudinem ad id in quo perfect salvatur, quia omnia imperfecta sumuntur a perfectis. Et inde est quod hoc nomen leo per prius dicitur de animali in quo tota ratio leonis salvatur, quod proprie dicitur leo, quam de aliquo homine in quo invenitur aliquid de rations leonis, ut puta audacia vel fortitudo, vel aliquid huismodi; de hoc enim per similitudinem dicitur.{14}
Few would doubt that the example is one of metaphor and yet St Thomas is concerned here with the way in which "father" can be said of God's relation to creatures and to His divine Son, which few would doubt involves analogy. Thus metaphor would seem to be the analogical use of a name. Furthermore, when St Thomas asks whether names common to God and creatures are said per prius of God,{14} he proceeds in such a way that metaphorical names seem included among analogous names. He first sets down a general rule for analogous names, namely that many are said to be such-and-such with reference to one, and then seems simply to apply it differently to names said metaphorically and non-metaphorically of God. Despite the seeming implications of these texts, we shall argue that metaphors are not instances of analogous names but must be divided against them.

    St Thomas sometimes asks if light is found properly in spiritual things.{15} Before replying, he invites us to consider that a name must be taken either according to its first imposition or according to subsequent usage. For example, "to see" is imposed to signify the activity of one external sense, but we also use it to speak of the other senses ("See how warm this is," "See how it tastes to you.") and indeed of the intellect (Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God). So too with "light."

Nam primo quidem est institutum ad significandum id quod facit manifestationem in sensu visus; postmodum autem extensum est ad significandum omne illud quod facit manifestationem secundum quamcumque cognitionem. Si ergo accipiatur nomen luminis secundum suam primam impositionem, metaphorice in spiritualabus dicitur, ut Ambrosius dicit. Si autem accipiatur secundum quod est in usu loquentium ad omnem manifestationem extensum, sic proprie in spiritualibus dicitur.{16}
On the basis of this text one might want to say two things. First, that while metaphor may be an analogous name, it is distinguished from other analogous names in terms of proprie and improprie. Or one might wish to quarrel with the implied description of metaphor; metaphor is here distinguished from the use of a word, but surely metaphor itself invoves using a word. Quite obviously the objection is well taken, but more than the mere use of a term is involved in the usage mentioned in the text.{17} The usus loquentium of which St Thomas speaks suggests regularity and convention and, indeed, the extension of the very signification of the name. When St Thomas takes up this same question elsewhere, the discussion contains a number of additional notes.{18} First of all, speaking of the position of St Ambrose and Pseudo-Dionysius, St Thomas distinguishes metaphor from analogy. Their position, that "light" is said only metphorically of spiritual things, seems truer "because nothing per se sensible belongs to spiritual things save metaphorically, because although something can be found analogically common to spiritual and corporeal things, something per se sensible cannot." Thus "light" is said of spiritual things "either equivocally or metaphorically." Of equal interest is the statement as to what is common to the conflicting views of Ambrose and Augustine.
Notice that corporeal things are transferred to spiritual because of some similarity, which is indeed a similarity of proportionality, and it is necessary to reduce this similarity to some community of univocation or of analogy; and so it is here, for that is called light in spiritual things which is to intellectual manifestation as bodily light is to sensible manifestation. Manifestation however is more truly in spiritual things and given this the statement of Augustine is true... that light is more truly in spiritual than in corporeal things, not according to the proper notion of "light" but according to the notion of manifestation{19}
In other texts as well St Thomas distinguishes analogy from metaphor, the similitudo analogiae from the similitudo proportionalitatis.{20} In analogous names and in univocal names there is similitude in terms of what the name signifies, that from which the name is imposed to signify ex parte rei. The similarity involved in the metaphor is of a most indirect kind. "Ea quae proprie de ipso dicuntur, vero in eo sunt; sed ea quae metaphorice dicuntur  ignis Deuter, IV eo quod sicut ignis se habet ad consumptionem contrarii, ita Deus ad consumendum nequitiam.{21} Here there is no similarity of nature or in that from which the name is imposed to signify: the metaphorical use of a name does not imply reference to that from which the name was imposed to signify in its first imposition (id a quo ex parte rei), but rather the thing named lion metaphorically has a property or effect similaar to an effect or property of what which the term properly signifies. As the lion acts audaciously so too does the man. Obviously, no metaphor would be involved in saying, "Socrates is audacious"; only "Socrates is a lion" poses the problem. Thus on the basis of lion: audacious::Socrates: audacious, it is the transfer of "lion" that constitutes the metaphor, since Socrates cannot be properly supposed for by "lion."It may be, of course, that the effect is a sufficient sign of the leonine nature, but again it is not a question of the name of the effect being tarnsferred.{22} The metaphor must be based on the obvious and manifest, hence on the sensible; St Thomas gives this as the reason why God cannot be called an angel even metaphorically.{23}

    The analogous name differs from the metaphor in this that the former is not only used of something which does not perfectly save its meaning, but thanks to usage, the name is understood to be extended in meaning as well, so that thanks to a new ratio (related to the ratio propria), the things fall under the signification of the word, are signified by it, though less properly than that which saves the ratio propria perfectly. That is why St. Thomas speaks of propriisime, proprie and communiter, or stricte and communiter,{24} proprie and largo modo.{25} Because these extended meanings differ from the ratio propria, the analogous use of a name can be judged metaphorical by one who thinks only of the first and proper meaning, as Ambrose did with :light. "The extended meaning is always less proper.{26} As we have seen, sometimes so little of the ratio propria is saved that what is named such-and-such communiter loquendo is said to be named metaphorically. This will be because the analogous name in that case reveals so little of the proper nature of that to which it is applied.{27} This is why Aristotle objects to Plato's mode of speech,{28} since one cannot argue with metaphors.{29}


{1} In III de anima, lect. 7, nn. 675-6.

{2} In I de anima, lect. 10, n. 160.

{3} Ia, q. 18, a. 1, ad 3: "...dicendum quod aquae vivae dicuntur, quae habent continuum fluxum: aquae enim stantes, quae non continuantur ad principium continue fluens, dicuntur mortuae, ut aquae cisternarum et lacunarum. Et hoc dicitur per similitudinem: inquantum enim videntur se movere, habent similitudinem vitae. Sed tamen non est in eis vera ratio vitae: quia hunc motum non habent a sepsis, sed a causa generate eas; sicut accidit circa motum aliorum gravium et levium."

{4} In IX Metaphysic., lect. 1, n. 1773.

{5} Ibid., nn. 1774-5.

{6} In V Metaphysics., lect. 14, n. 974: "Ostendit quomodo potentia sumatur metaphorice; et dicit in geometria dicitur potentia secundum metaphoram. Potentia enim lineae in geometria dicitur potentia secundum metaphoram. Potentia enim linease in geometria dicitur quadratum lineae per hans similitudinem: quia sicut ex eo quod est in potentia fit illud quod est in actu, ita ex ductu alicuius lineae in seipsam, reultat quadratum ipsius."

{7} In IX Metaphysic., lect. 1, nn. 1776-1780; In V Metaphysic., lect. 14, nn. 955-960.

{8} In IX Metaphysic., lect. 1, n. 1777.

{9} Ibid., n. 1779.

{10} Ibid., n. 1780.

{11} 1046a12.

{12} Poetics, 1457b6-7.

{13} Ia, q. 33, a. 3.

{14} Ia, q. 13, a. 6: "Dicendum quod in omnibus nominibus quae de pluribus analogice dicuntur, necesse est quod omnia dicuntur per respectum ad unum; et ideo illud unum oportet quod ponatur in definitione omnium... Sic ergo omnia nomina quae metaphorice de Deo dicuntur, per prius de creaturis dicuntur quam de Deo, quia dicta de Deo nihil aliud significant quam similitudines ad tales creaturas. Sicut enim ridere dictum de prato nihil aliud significat quam quod pratum similiter se habet in decore cum floret, sicut homo cum ridet, secundum similitudinem proportionis; sic nomen leonis dictum de Deo nihil aliua significat quam quod Deus similiter se habet ut fortiter operetur in suis operibus, sicut leo in suis. Et sic patet quod secundum quod dicuntur de Deo, eorum sigificatio definiri non potest, nisi per illud quod de creaturis dicitur. - De aliis autem nominibus, quae non metaphorice dicuntur de Deo, esset eadem ratio, si dicerentur de Deo causaliter tantum... Sic enim eum dicitur Deus est bonus, nihil aliud esset quam Deus est causa bonitatis creaturae; et sic hoc nomen bonum, dictum de Deo, clauderet in suo intellectu bonitatem creaturae. Unde bonum per prius diceretur de creatura quam de Deo..."

{15} Cf. Ia, q. 67, a.1.

{16} Ibid. On why sight of all the senses should be so extended, see In I Metaphysic., lect. 1, nn. 5-8.

{17} Cf. Ia, q. 29, a. 4, in fine corporis for the distinction between use and signification.

{18} Il Sent., d. 13, q. 1, a. 2.

{19} "Sciendum tamen quod transeruntur corporalia in spiritualia per quam dam similitudinem, quae quidem est similitudo proportionabilitatis; et hanc similitudinem oportet reducere in aliquam communitatem univocationis vel analogiae; et sic est in porposito; dicitur enim lux in spiritualibus illud quod ita se habet ad manifestationem intellectivam sicut se habet lux corporalis ad manifestationem sensitivam. Manifestatio autem verius est in spiritualibus; et quantum ad hoc, verum est dictum Augustini... quod lux verius est in spiritualibus quam in corporalibus, non secundum propriam rationem lucis, sed secundumrationem manifestationis..." - Ibid. cf. In evang. Ioann., cap. 1, lect. 3, n. 96: "Ubi primo considerandum est quod, secundum Augustinum et plures alios, nomen lucis magis proprie dicitur in spiritualibus quam in sensibilibus. Ambrosius tamen vult quod splendor metaphorice dicatur de de Deo. Sed in hoc non est magna vis facienda: nam de quocumque nomen luci dicatur ad manifestationem refertur, sive illa manifestatio sit in intelligibilibus, sive insensibilibus. Si ergo comparentur manifestatio intelligibilis et sensibilis, secundam naturam prius invenitur lux in spiritualibus;sed quoad nos, qui nomina rebus imponimus ex earum proprietatibus nobis notis, prius invenitur in sensibilem quam intelligibilem; quamvis secundum virtutem prius et verius conveniat spiritualibusg uam sensibilibus."

{20} II Sent., d. 16, q. 1, a. 2, ad 5: "...proprietates divinae ostenduntur in creaturis dupliciter; vel secundum similitudinem analogiae, sicut vita, sapientia et hujusmodi, quae analogice Deo et creaturis conveniunt, et sic divinae proprietates praecipue otenduntur in rationali natura; vel secundum similitudinem proportionalitatis, secundum quod spirituales proprietates corporalibus metaphorice designantur..."

{21} I Sent., d. 45, q. 1, a. 4.

{22} "...effectus qui est signum alicuius secundum proprietatem in uno, est signum eiusdem secundum similitudinem in altero, in omnibus quae metaphorice dicuntur." - I Sent., d. 45, q. 1, a.4, ad 2.
{23) I Sent., d. 34, q. 3, a. 2, ad 3: "...nec etiam metaphorice quia metaphora sumenda est ex his quae surt manifesta secundum sensum: et ideo numquam invenimus Deum in Scriptura nominatur vel seraphim vel aliquid huiusmodi."

{24} I Sent., d. 33, q. 2, a. 1, ad 5.

{25} In X Metaphysic., lect 8, n. 2092; Q.D. de ver., q. 1, a. 4, ad 8.

{26} "Sed hoc non erit secundum propriam verbi acceptionem quia si aliquid eorum quae sunt de ratione alicuius auferatur, iam non erit propria acceptio." - Q.D. de ver.,, q. 4, a. 2.

{27} "Sed tamen si aliquid dicere non sufficit ad cognoscendam naturam rei: quia res naturalis per similitudinem quae assumitur in metaphora, nou est manifesta." - In II Meteorol., lect. 5, n. 4.

{28} In In I Metaphysic., lect. 15, n. 231.

{29} In II Post. analytic., lect. 16, n. 8.

© 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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