Jacques Maritain Center : Studies in Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


We are asking whether metaphor is a kind of analogous name or is to be distinguished from the analogous name. Some of our foregoing considerations give credence to the contention that metaphor is an analogous name. This is corroborated by St Thomas' procedure in question thirteen of the Prima Pars, since in article three, when he asks if any name is said properly of God, the opposition brought into play is between usage proprie and improprie with the latter identified with metaphor.{1} Then, in article six, when he asks if names common to God and creatures are first said of creatures, the distinction proprie/improprie seems to be a subdivision of analogous name. St Thomas begins by saying that "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. Et quia ratio quam significat nomen per prius dicitur de eo quod ponitur in definitione aliorum, et per posterius de aliis, secundum ordinem quo appropinquant ad illud primum vel magis vel minus." This is exemplified by the old reliable, "healthy." "Sic ergo omni 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."{2} St. Thomas notices the similarity of proportion (similitudo proportionum) implied in "smiling meadow" and in calling God a lion. When he goes on to talk of other names "quae non metaphorice dicuntur de Deo," the clear impression is that he is talking of other instances of analogous names than metaphors.

    Are there texts where St Thomas opposes metaphor and analogy? If we turn to the commentary on the Metaphysics, we find St Thomas distinguishing "potency" into analogous and equivocal modes. "Potency" means a number of things. "Sed ista multiplicitas quantum ad quosdam analogiae."{3} The equivocal modes of potency are exemplified by the way we speak of 3 to the third power and of the cube as the power of the line. "Et propter hoc per quamdam similitudinem dicitur potens in quadratum, sicut dicitur materia potens in rem"{4} Once more a proportionality notice. That these equivocal modes are indeed metaphors is clear from the parallel passage in Book Delta in commenting on which St Thomas begins, "Ostendit quomodo potentia sumatur metaphorice."{5} Why are these modes metaphorical and not analogical? "His ergo modis praetermissis, considerandum est de potentiis, quae reducuntur ad unam speciem, quia quaelibet earum est principium quoddam, et omnes potentiae sic dictae reducantur ad aliquid principium ex quo omnes aliae dicuntur."{6} In short, St Thomas here opposes metaphor to analogous uses of a name because the latter and not the former involve a reduction to what is primarily denominated by the word in question whereas, should it need pointing out, in the text of the Summa we considered a moment ago, the metaphor was not distinguished from the extension proprie on this basis. Or is it the manner of the reference to what is principally signifed by the name which distinguishes metaphor from analogy, usage proprie from improprie? Things named metaphorically are, after all, taken to be similar to what the name properly signifies.

    An aporia has clearly emerged, therefore, and its resolution can only be had by determining what a metaphor is and what an analogous name is. Answers to these questions should enable us to understand the apparently conflicting statements of Aquinas. What we shall be looking for is some way of justifying the fairly common distinction of metaphor and analogy such that no appeal is made to Cajetan's division of analogy into attribution and proper proportionality.


{1} In Ia, q. 13, 1. 3, ad 3m.

{2} Ibid., a. 6.

{3} In IX Metaphys., lect. 14, n. 1773.

{4} N. 1774.

{5} In V Metaphys., lect. 14, n. 974.

{6} In IX Metaphys., lect. 1, n. 1776. In n. 1780, St. Thomas gives a most explicit statement of what constitutes the community of analogy. "Unde manifestum est quod in definitione harum potentiarum, quae quae dicuntur respectu bene agere vel pati, includuntur rationes primarum, quae dicebantur simpliciter agere vel pati; sicut in bene agere includitur agere; et parti, in eo quod est bene pati. Unde manifestum est, quod omnes isti maod potentiarum reducuntur ad unum primum, scilicet ad potentiam activam. Et inde patet quod haec multiplicitas non est secundum aequivocationem, sed secundum analogiam."

© 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.

<< ======= >>