Jacques Maritain Center : Studies in Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


Cajetan cannot accept St Thomas' description of things named analogically as things which share a common name but the ratio propria is found in only one of them, the one from which the others are denominated. Cajetan has trouble here because he is thinking of the many places where St Thomas says that in names analogically common to God and creature, the res significata is found in both. Now if the ratio propria of a name were the same as the res significata, St Thomas would be in contradiction with himself; therefore, is it just that identification, apparently assumed by Cajetan, that must be questioned.

    St Thomas accepts the view of Aristotle that the spoken word signifies a thing through the mediation of an intellectual concept. In short, what is immediately signified by the name is the conceptus which is also called the ratio nominis. This view of signification is triadic: word, concept, thing. The triad may seem immediately threatened when we consider that there are words or names whose very signification indicates that they signify nothing "out there." For example, the meaning of the term, genus, is precisely a relation among concepts, among things as they are known. The ratio of such a name does not purport to have anything answering to it, as such, in things as they exist. When we think of the names of fictions, e.g. centaur, it is even more clear that not all words signify even mediately things out-there.{2} The difficulty is resolved, I think, by calling attention to the characteristic procedure of St Thomas. Word or name is first of all described or defined in terms of a most obvious instance where the triad mentioned is easily verified. That this is the best known, the most familiar, seems suggested by the fact that we have problems about logical and fictional words, and others, because they do not seem to behave as words should. It may then seem necessary either to redefine word or to rule against calling genus and centaur names. St Thomas does not honor the exhaustiveness of the implied division. He prefers to take an obvious instance, assign a definition on its basis, and consider other things to be called by the same name insofar as they approximate more or less to that normative case. Not all names fulfill perfectly the definition of name, but to the degree they do they deserve the appellation.

    The question as to the meaning of the phrase res significata arises if we ask whether when "animal," "man" and "rational" and "substance" are all taken as names of Socrates, they thereby have the same res significata. The problem is less acute, of course, when we consider the thing as the recipient of several synonyms. Thus, if I call my coat clothing, apparel and, less likely, vestment, I am naming the same thing and the various names have the same meaning. When we speak of the res significata, do we mean the thing named or the meaning of the name? What has already been said about signification indicates that the res significata in the first sense is the meaning or concept. Does this suggest that Cajetan's identification of the ratio propria nominis and the res significata is well-founded?

    The res significata is distinguished from the modus significandi; the two together make up the ratio nominis. What a name signifies must be distinguished first of all from its etymology. The latter is often what is meant by the phrase, id a quo nomen imponitur, and St Thomas' standard example is lapis, whose etymology he takes to be laedens pedem. That is, the stone is denominated from the act that we can trip over it, but what we are naming is not a menace to pedestrians, since we can trip on many things which are not called stones. Thus, the etymology is a description, a citing of various accidents, which enable us to indicate what we want to name. The etymology of breakfast is not what is named - we may break our fast with lunch or before breakfast. When the etymology is called the id a quo nomen imponitur, the meaning is said to be id ad quod nomen imponitur ad significandum. At other times, the phrase id a quo nomen imponitur refers not to the etymology of the term but rather to the denominating form. Whatever the etymology of sanum, its id a quo in the sense of the principal signification of the term, is opposed to id cui nomen supponitur; that is, to that for which the name supposes because it falls under the res significata. The denominating form is alwys signified in a given manner, according to a modus significandi. Sanum and sanitas have the same res significata but they signify it differently: concretely and abstractly, respectively. The concrete name signifies the form as "that which has health"; the abstract name as "that whereby healthy things are healthy." Every name involves a mode of signifying, a way in which the denominating form is meant. This is of crucial importance for analogous names.{3}

    When St Thomas wants to say how univocal, equivocal and analogous names are divided, he writes, "Aequivocum enim dividitur secundum res significatas, univocum vero dividitur secundum diversas differentias; sed analogum dividitur secundum diversos modos."{4} When a name is common to many things equivocally, it is imposed to signify from different denominating forms, different res significatae. We see here that the res significata cannot be that for which the word supposes, since then the univocal term would be equivocal.{5} Since the res significatae of the equivocal name differ, there is no need to go into a discussion of the modes of signifying those forms to establish the difference involved in bark's meaning part of a tree and a canine noise. The univocal word is divided by differences; that is, by further denominating forms which determine the generic perfection thus revealed as material. When considered as named by the generic name, certain things are named univocally and the word has the same res significata as said of each. Specific names, imposed from more determinate forms, divide the generic perfection. The analogous name is one which is predicable of many things thanks to the same denominating form or res significata, but the ways that form is signified, the modi significandi, vary and give rise to an ordered diversity of signification insofar as the res significata signified in one way makes up the ratio propria of the term in question: its familiar, usual, normative, focal meaning.

    We can do no better than appeal to the familiar example of healthy to illustrate these remarks about the analogous name. The denominating form, the res significata, of "healthy" in its analogous modes is always the same: health. It is the way healthy is signified that causes a variation in the meaning of "healthy": what has health, what signifies health, what causes health whether by restoring it when lost or preserving it when had. The res significata, then remains the same while the modes and rationes change. But this is not all; the various rationes of the common name are said to be related per prius et posterius in such fashion common nane are said to be related per prius et posterius in such fashion that one ratio, one way of signifying the denominating form is taken to be regulative and constitutes a focal meaning. This meaning reveals its priority by the fact it enters into the subsequent rationes. The same state of affairs is present in the case of the analogous term, being. Esse is that from which the word being is imposed to signify; it is wahat ens principally signifies. But the ways of signifying it vary, the meanings of the common term vary - it is an analogous term.


{1} Cf. Louis Lachance, O.P., Philosophie du Langage, Ottawa, Montreal: Les Editions du Levrier, 1943; Franz Manthey, die Sprachphilosophie des hl. Thomas von Aquin, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoeningh, 1937. The latter is a rather uninspired yet painstaking arrangement of textual citations (unfortunately by way of outmoded convention) under vaarious headings; the formr is popular and somewhat too personal to be considered an analysis of St. Thomas. What is wanted is a book which will combine the verve of Lachance and the scholarship of Manthey.

{2} Cf. I Sent., d. 2, q. 1, a. 2, where Thomas distinguishes "real" words, logical words and fictional words.

{3} For textual justification of the preceding paragraphs, cf. the work mentioned in note 3, p. 70 above.

{4} I Sent., d. 22, q. 1, a. 3, ad 2m.

{5} "...acquivocatio inducitur ex diversa forma significata per nomen, non autem exdiversitate suppositionis: non enim hoc nomen homo aequivoce sumitur ex eo quod quandoques upponit pro Platone, quandoque pro Sorte. Hoc igitur nomen homo, et de Christo et de aliis hominibus dictum, semper eandem formam significat, scilicet naturam humanam." - IV Contra Gentiles, cap. 49.

© 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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