Scotus Thomas and Henry of Ghent on analogy

What motivates Scotus to insist that 'being' is predicated univocally of God and creatures (as distinct from his arguments in support of this conclusion) is his conviction that on no other account could the possibility of the natural knowledge of God be justified. In particular, he maintains that the view according to which predicates such as ' exists' and ' is good' are predicated analogically of God and creatures puts at risk this possibility. Now Scotus' arguments against this account of...

Issues

What, then, are the issues, and how will the argument proceed As to the issues, two very broad questions are the subject of this essay first, is a natural theology - the claim that the existence of the one true God can be known by human reason alone - possible And this is a philosophical question. For even if the Vatican decrees are statements intended as articulations of faith, and are not proposed on philosophical grounds, nonetheless what they make a claim for is a rational, philosophical,...

List of works cited

PRIMARY SOURCES (LATIN TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS Anselm of Canterbury, St, Proslogion, in Anselm's Proslogion, trans. and introd. M. J. Charlesworth, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1965. Aristotle, De interpretatione, ed. and trans. E. M. Edghill, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1926. Aristotle, Metaphysica, trans. W. D. Ross, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1908. Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, trans. and commentary by Jonathan Barnes, 2nd edn, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1994. Augustine, Confessionum Libri Tredecim, ed....

The conditions of proof

If in any way the preceding arguments have succeeded in removing reasons for doubting - whether of philosophical or theological provenance -that a rational proof of the existence of God is in principle possible, where do those arguments leave us as to the 'shape' of such a proof, as to its 'argument-strategy' From what has been established, so far, as to Thomas's mind on this question, we know something of the conditions which any such proof must meet. First, of course, any such argument must...

Christological response

To which I reply that the premises are true - God is incommensurably different from creatures and there is no common logical ground between God and creatures - but the conclusion that therefore no inferences can 34 There are of course no longer, as there once were, minimum height requirements to join be constructed between them is invalidly drawn. And there is a theological reason for rebutting Loughton's objection. For were we to concede to the objection's force as an absolute prohibition of...

The argument

The decrees of the Vatican Council maintain, then, that we know by faith that it is possible to know God by human reason with certainty. In what follows I propose to defend this proposition in three distinct but interlocking stages, which relate, respectively, to 'reason', to 'the knowledge of God', and to 'certainty'. First, then, I will consider on what account of 'reason' it can be said that rational knowledge of God can be had, here showing that in a certain general character human reason...

Thomas on creation a skirmish with Gunton

Colin Gunton, in an extensive and influential theological output, has consistently offered a reading of Thomas on creation, exemplary of a very common and hostile theological evaluation, which it is an important purpose of this essay to contest. It therefore seems not to be in a merely ad hominem spirit to examine this reading in some detail. For example, in one of his last works,8 Gunton maintains that Thomas's account of creation is in error theologically, or is at least dangerously...

A riposte from Loughton

This response to objections cannot, however, be regarded as yet fully convincing, for it may appear that the case for the incommensurability of the gap between God and creatures must work against the case for saying that it can be crossed by any rational inference. Kevin Loughton32 has argued that a dilemma of this kind, at least apparent, remains to be resolved. He restates the objection as follows if God's difference from creatures is such that it cannot be understood in contrast with any...

Apophaticism or agnosticism

It is a conflict in which the opposing sides occupy some common ground. Thomas and Kant contest the common territory of the unknowability of God. For both, God could not be the cause of all that is in the sense in which anything in the world is a cause. For both, then, what a cause in the world explains could not in the same sense of 'explanation' be what God's existence explains - neither Thomas nor Kant has any greater need for God as an explanatory hypothesis than did Laplace. For both, what...

Does Scotus matter

Having first given some account of the 'shape' of reason in its broadest sense, we must now make some progress directly with the nature of reason in its narrower sense of 'ratiocination', and, more specifically, on the matter of the logic of proof itself. And if we begin with Duns Sco-tus, this is because the primary issue is with the difficulty set against any case for the possibility of proof of God, which is that any such proposal must entail an 'onto-theological' consequence, and the charge...

Reason and rhetoric

In just one respect, therefore - we could say in a loose metaphor, 'from above' - Thomas's 'Augustinian' understanding of 'reason' is much expanded by comparison with any which is common in everyday current speech - and for that matter, with any of its technical, philosophical senses today. For within that ancient tradition, human reason sits in a hinterland between the 'rational' in its narrowest sense, in which 'discursiveness' predominates, and the 'intellectual', in which a certain kind of...

Uttering performances revisited

In revisiting the subject of 'uttering performances' we may be brief. Actions 'speak', as gestures do. Verbal utterances are actions too, and so 'utter' as all actions speak, and not just as words uttered. Therefore, within verbal utterances we may distinguish between what is said in saying the words, and the meaning which the action of saying them bears. Judas greets Jesus with a kiss. But there is irony in the kiss because what the kiss says is subverted by what Judas' action of betraying...

Transgeneric inference

For there are, according to Thomas, two kinds of predication of terms across genera. The first is that of the most general transcendental predicates of 'existence', 'goodness' 'oneness' and the like, which are predicated analogically. The second is that of metaphor. It is of course obvious why no formal demonstration is possible from premises whose terms are literally predicated to conclusions which are metaphorical extensions of them nothing in the physics of colour could ever strictly entail...

Intellect

If we may fairly say that in the general character of an argument for the existence of God (as Thomas conceives of it) there converge the twin pressures of the knowability and the unknowability of God - of the cat-aphatic and the apophatic and if, as we saw in the last chapter, those pressures converging in a rational proof but replicate the structural exigencies of faith itself and if, more specifically, they replicate a certain sacramentally 'mystical' structure of faith, we must next, in...

Esse as actuality

But, Thomas says, distinct from such predicative forms of existential judgement are judgements of actuality (actus essendi), and these cannot be analysed out in the same way, and in this he is on common ground with a number of contemporary logicians in resisting the claims of existential quantification in the analysis of all existential judgements.10 For here we must note the difference between 'Hamlet does not exist' and 'Lawrence Olivier does not exist'. Whereas 'Hamlet does not exist' is...

The logic of existence

It is not impossible to reconstruct a response from Thomas to the dilemma posed at the end of the last chapter, and it is obviously important that we should find some way of doing so, because the dilemma strikes at the heart of my argument in this essay. For if logic required a choice between the rational demonstrability of the existence of God, but at the price of abandoning a theological apophaticism, and holding on to the apophaticism, but at the price of abandoning the rational...

Augustinian intellectualism

In the meantime, it is safe to say that as fourteenth- and fifteenth-century theologians read him, Thomas was a radical 'intellectualist'. This 'intellectualism', however, does not entail anything much which could be derived from any understanding of the word 'intellect' current today, and certainly has little to do with what is exclusively confined to academics. For us, as for the medieval 'affectivist', 'intellect' is a discursive power. It is what we use in calculations, whether of a...

On what Thomas does not do

What, then, are we to say in a preliminary manner are the methodological principles underlying questions 2-25 of the Summa First of all, even if we are to read Thomas's 'five ways' as being offered as a rational demonstration of the existence of God, he is not to be represented as setting out on a venture of such proofs from a definition of 'God' in some neutral terms of'natural theology'. This is at least for the reason that if Thomas has a 'natural theology' the first thing it knows is that...

The God of reason and the God of Christ

The starting point of my argument was the standpoint of faith, and the negative,' defensive', proposition that the exclusion on grounds of faith of any possibility in principle of a rational demonstration of the existence of God is to get something wrong about the nature of faith. The conclusion arrived at by the end of the last chapter was that to exclude that same possibility on rational grounds is to get something importantly wrong about the nature of reason. What linked these two...

Validity is as validity does

But is such an argument to be had In advance of some substantive account of how such an argument might be validly conducted - and this will be a matter for the next two chapters - it is here necessary to clear away some objections in principle. In effect, the answer to all objections in principle has to be validity is as validity does - or as the scholastic logicians used to say, ab esse ad posse valet illatio. There cannot be a general case against arguments from premises to conclusions not...

Refusing the question

First, let us draw together some of the lines of argument which have run through the course of this essay. In particular, first, we can now revisit for the last time the post-modern crux, the 'Derridean dilemma', which has dogged so many steps on the way of my argument for proof of an unknowable God. For again and again it has seemed that proof and unknowability work against each other that proof might be had at the price of an 'onto-theological', and so idolatrous, theism, or else that...

Reason the central case

If music may be said to be 'definitively rational' in the sense of being a 'limit' case, defining a boundary, there is another sense of the word 14 See chapter 10, pp. 216-25 below. 'definitive' in which the 'definitive' is that which constitutes the central case and in that latter sense I should say - and it is one of the principal purposes of this essay to defend the proposition - that the 'central' case of human reason is that which is exhibited in a formally valid proof of the existence of...

Thomas on intellect

In this broad, undifferentiated, sense Thomas Aquinas is undoubtedly an 'Augustinian', but what is distinctive about how Thomas places himself within this tradition is the precise point at which he departs from it in one crucial respect. In Confessions 7.17 Augustine recounts his discovery of the presence within his mind of the 'divine light of truth' as having been the outcome of an upward surge of the mind from its lowest sensory perceptions, through imagination, to reason in its discursive...

And creatures

So much for Scotus on the meaning of terms predicated in common of God and of creatures. Next we must consider what, for Scotus, are the implications of his theory of meaning for inference from creatures to God, and so for the possibility of natural knowledge of God. And immediately, one consequence is clear. Regarding as he does all accounts of analogical predication, whether Henry's or Thomas's, as reducing to equivocation, it follows that natural knowledge of God is possible only if some...

Music as the limit of reason

If within Eckhart's 'poetic metaphysics' there is, as Davies says, a certain 'foregrounding of the signifier' which enables him to set up a subtle interplay between the formal and material significance of his theological speech, a strategy of deconstruction, then this suggests the intriguing possibility that one theoretical 'limit' case of human rationality is to be found in music.1 For we could say that in music the signifier is 'foregrounded' so absolutely that all is reduced to it, with...

The existential quantifier

Geach explains why in this second sense it cannot be existence which functions as predicate 3 if, in that sense of 'x exists' in which it figures as an answer to a question whether there are any such things as xs, you treat the grammatical predicate ' exists' as a logical predicate, as if ascribing some attribute of existence to what 'x' refers to, then you will find yourself in all sorts of muddles, familiar to readers of Plato, about how to handle negative statements of existence. To take, in...

Difference and the difference

Whatever view one takes of Scotus' arguments that the possibility of a natural theology depends on the most general terms used of God and creatures being univocally predicable, at the very least they can be said to address a genuine problem about theological language in general. What is the difference between God and creatures How are we to talk about that difference Does such talk have a 'grammar' And however we do talk about that difference - the 'gap', as it were, between God and creatures...

The problem of idolatry Scotus and Thomas

If Anselm's 'fool', the atheist, is wrong in denying that there is a God, he must at least know what he denies that is to say, 'God exists' must mean the same to him as it does to the theist. And if God does exist, then the atheist is 'wrong' in the plainest possible sense, in that what he says is straightforwardly false. That, as we have seen, is a straightforward application ofthe Aristotelian principle, eadem est scientia oppositorum. But what are we to say about Scotus' idolater, the person...

The logic of proof

In this chapter, therefore, we are first brought to the question of the logic of proof. In a recent article, Milbank writes of how there is in Thomas's Summa Theologiae 'a much more integral relation between sacred theology and metaphysics'1 than there is in his earlier Summa contra Gentiles. In the earlier Summa, the overall structure and balance indicate just how much room Thomas was at that stage of the development of his theology prepared to allow for natural reason within the articulation...

The Kantian objection

As to Kant, the Vatican decree that the demonstrability of the existence of God by reason alone must be conceded on grounds of faith is prima facie exactly to reverse the priorities argued for in the Critique of Pure Reason, that it is on grounds of faith that such rational demonstrability must be denied. But the conflict is more complex and less direct than any such simple opposition of terms might suggest, if only because Kant argues at length and on purely philosophical grounds not only that...

Difference and hierarchy the pseudoDenys

At first blush, however, one would have supposed that classical forms of negative theology would hardly commend themselves to the 'democratic' temperament of post-modern philosophy, if only for the reason that 9 See Jacques Derrida, 'How to Avoid Speaking Denials', in Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser (eds.), Language of the Unsayable The Play of Negativity in Literature and Literary Theory, New York Columbia University Press, 1989, pp. 1-50. 10 Derrida, On the Name, p. 76. 11 Which you might...

The objection of the nouvelle theologie

A third sort of grounds for contesting the propositions of Vatican I -on my account of them - draws the issues closer in with the sources in Thomas Aquinas on which my defence of them partly relies, and causes me to anticipate here a distinction which, by the end of this essay, will turn out to be all-important. Put in its plainest form, my case is that there are reasons of faith for maintaining that the existence of God must be demonstrable by reason alone, and that by 'demonstrable' is meant...

The retreat from intellect medieval affectivism

If such is the widespread modern orthodoxy, a more common late medieval revision of Thomas's position shares with the modern its scepticism of the rational, while in at least one respect sharing with Thomas his apophaticism about faith. For even in Thomas's own time, and before, we encounter a rising tide of late medieval anti-intellectualism which became a flood in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a tendency - it is not a 1 See Milbank's extended article, 'Intensities', in Modern...

Effecting what is signified

Which brings us to the issue of sacramental efficacy. Since the twelfth century it has commonly been said to be in the nature of a sacrament to 'effect what it signifies'. And while there is no call to quibble with this formula as such, it needs to be said that, largely because of post-medieval and distinctly empiricist notions of causality, it is now a highly misleading formula. For these reasons. I have suggested that we ought to distinguish between the formal character of a sign in virtue of...

The case against Milbank

It is possible to contest this construction on Thomas's strategy in the 'five ways' on a number of counts, however, two in particular deserving comment. The first is the importation into Thomas's thinking, at just the wrong point, of the 'Augustinian' principle that you cannot know relative degrees of imperfection in creatures without first knowing, in some way, whether by 'intuition', or as the object of some 'experience', supreme perfection to exist. Thomas certainly maintains that there...

Further objections and answers

These things are simply a matter of the 'logic' of the incarnation, at any rate of a Chalcedonian Christology. It is, of course, possible for Christian theologians to abandon the logic, and some do explicitly, as we have seen Hick does though it is more common for Christian theologians thoughtlessly to dismiss the Chalcedonian Christology, unaware that in doing so they run the risk of abandoning the subtle and complex logic of transcendence on which it relies. As McCabe says, it is one thing to...

Thomas on inference from creatures to

Before considering whether there is a case for the possibility of a causal argument, let us first consider what Thomas's view of the matter is in principle. There are at least two important texts in which Thomas explicitly raises the question of whether the transcendence of God - which entails God's being spoken of 'analogically' - rules out the possibility of inference being valid to God from creatures, and in both his answer is in an unambiguous negative such inference is not thereby ruled...

Esse and analogy

In turning, then, to the question of how existence, in the sense of 'actuality', is predicated, we are brought to Thomas's famous teaching that existence is predicated 'analogically'. Famous it is, and famously misunderstood. To say that existence is predicated 'analogically' is in the first instance to say no more than that it is predicated neither equivocally nor univocally. On this matter, it is fair to comment that too much has sometimes been made of Thomas's so-called 'doctrine of analogy'...

A limit question

And that 'limit' question is 'Why is there anything at all rather than nothing ' It is, Thomas thinks, a question the rational mind opens up to naturally, yielding to the pressure of its own native energies as reason, which is to wonder about causes.5 This is the question with which 'reason' reaches its limits, for it is a question the answer to which must in the nature of things defeat our powers of comprehension, so that in its encounter with the necessity of asking that question, 'reason'...

Ens is predicated univocally of God and creatures

Scotus says that 'being' ens is univocally predicated of God and of creatures. His argument for this proposition is based upon a general episte-mological principle familiar to those who know Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy if, of two properties potentially ascribable to a thing, one can be known with certainty to be ascribed to it, but the ascription of the other is open to doubt, then those two properties must be really distinct from one another. Alternatively the principle can...

Difference and indistinction Meister Eckhart

In the formulation of Meister Eckhart's theology, however, the Dionysian hierarchy - whether in the form of an ontology of degrees of being, or in that of the outflow of descending illuminations - notably plays little if any part. If 'difference' is central to that theology and spirituality, the carefully structured hierarchical gradings of the pseudo-Denys found in chapters 4 and 5 of his Mystical Theology in Eckhart are relatively underplayed, yielding central place within his theological...

Bonaventure and the centrality of Christ

In Bonaventure's Itinerarium Mentis in Deum5 we find a complex interweaving of at least three strands of theological tradition. First, there is his own Franciscan piety and devotion, which place at the centre of Christian thought and practice the human nature of Christ, but very particularly the passion of Christ. Secondly, there is a rampantly affirmative theology of 'exemplarism', in which, in classically medieval style, he constructs a hierarchy of 'contemplations' of God, beginning from the...

Presence and absence in Thomass Eucharistic theology

Our merely illustrative examination of Thomas's Eucharistic theology may begin in an iconographical setting. In the once medieval Catholic, now Calvinist-maintained, cathedral at Bern in Switzerland, one is confronted by a visibly Calvinist architectural revision. Altars once richly ornamented are stripped niches once containing images of saints are now empty walls, once brilliantly hued, whitewashed the glass now plain the orientation reversed, the stalls facing north, not east. The effect is...

A metaphysics of Exodus

At this point it is necessary to dispel a myth which may have been thus far reinforced by my own lax terminology. Thomas's 'simple' God is not, in the first instance at least, a 'God of the philosophers', as I, in a dubiously helpful concession to Pascal, may appear to have been saying. Thomas's God, whose simplicity is ultimately guaranteed by the divine identity of esse and essentia, is, at least so far as he is concerned, the God of 'Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob', that is to say, the God of the...

Scotus and univocity

I call a concept 'univocal' if it has that sameness of meaning which is required so that to affirm and deny it of the same subject amounts to a contradiction also, if it has that sameness of meaning required such that it can function as a middle term in a syllogistic argument - thus that where two terms are united in a middle 1 Catherine Pickstock, 'Modernity and Scholasticism A Critique of Recent Invocations of Univocity', forthcoming in Antonianum. I am grateful to Dr Pickstock for allowing...

Thomas and ontotheology

And so we return to the question whether to say that esse is predicable of both God and creatures is 'onto-theological'. Thomas, of course, knows no such nomenclature but he knows the question and entertains it for himself. If God's simplicity gets its root meaning in the identity of God's essentia and esse,30 this poses the further objection that if God's esse and God's essentia were identical, if God were to be described as ipsum esse subsistens, it would seem to follow that God's existence...

The univocal predication of being

Scotus is quite clear about one proposition central to his theological epis-temology 'being' ens is the proper object of the intellect and is predicated univocally of anything whatever. I say that Scotus is clear about this. But followers of Thomas Aquinas are likely to judge this proposition to be thoroughly confused when they read it in conjunction with another, equally unambiguous, statement of Scotus ens is not a genus and the logic of ens is not that of a genus.26 In saying this, Scotus is...

Nietzsche Derrida grammar and

In his Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche tells us of his 'fear that we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar',5 thereby expressing, perhaps seminally for much French interpretation of Nietzsche, its logophobia, its fear of language. For all his supreme wordiness, Nietzsche fears language - it torments him with theological paradox. Language, constructed internally from the formal constituents of grammar, divides. Not that language fails merely as expression - because it...

Acknowledgements

My first, and principal, debt of gratitude is to my wife, Marie, who not only has helped me with advice about some details of the text of this work, but has throughout the long and painfully slow process of its composition selflessly provided me with the kind of support and encouragement without which that process could not have been easily endured. Nor can I imagine ever having completed this book without her having created the sort of personal and domestic circumstances in which alone...

Theological rhetoric

Anyone who has had the least acquaintance with the writings of Thomas Aquinas and of Meister Eckhart will be struck by how it is that the writings of these two Dominicans, educated as both were albeit some forty years apart in the same priory at Cologne, and possibly taught by the same Albert the Great, could differ so starkly in rhetorical 'feel'. It would be easy to put these differences down to a relatively superficial matter of style and imagery, dictated by differences of intellectual...

The Barthian objection

One different kind of ground for contesting the propositions of the Vatican Council - I shall characterise it in terms which are broadly 'Barthian' -is distinguishable from Kant's in that on this account an authentically Christian faith rules out the standpoint of natural theology as rivalling Christian faith as if with an alternative 'standpoint of unbelief', as Alvin Plantinga puts it.8 On this account of Barth's position, natural theology is a form of betrayal of the divine purposes of...

Affirmative and negative in the Christology of Bonaventure dynamics

Which brings us to the 'dynamics' of the structure of the Itinerarium. We have noted that the hierarchical principles of Bonaventure's exposition could lead us to read the movement from vestigia through imagines to the highest concepts of God, from 'outer' to 'inner' thence 'above', as successive phases of affirmativeness into an ultimate negativity. But such a reading is defensible only on neglect of a contrary movement of'centring', a movement which clearly predominates in Bonaventure's...

Natural theology and ontotheology

As a first step in response to what seems to be a widespread and general hostility to 'natural theology' we must next begin a long process of consideration of two particular forms that the criticism takes, sometimes linked, sometimes not, as directed at some key high and late medieval theologians, including, some say, Thomas Aquinas, while others find them in Duns Scotus but not in Thomas. The first accusation is that of the theological error which, since Martin Heidegger, is described as...

The apophatic and the cataphatic

That Thomas's theological starting point lies in the defeat of the human mind by the unknowability of God, whether in the mind's own nature as rational or as transformed by grace, will perhaps seem hard to reconcile with any case for the demonstration of the existence of God unaided by faith - for such a case, if any does, would seem to lay claim to 'know God', indeed to know God all too well. But this unknowability will seem, on the other side, just as hard to reconcile with the nature of that...

The formal and material objects of faith and reason

As a first step in setting out how this argument will proceed, let us note a crucial ambiguity in Kerr's conclusion from the propositions of the 'nouvelle theologie' that the 'God exists' of the philosopher's reason 'means something radically different' from the 'God exists' affirmed by the Christian 'under the conditions of faith'. This is partly, but only partly, true, and to see in what sense it is true and in what sense false, we can ask why does the Vatican Council, in distinguishing what...

Christology statics

For there are two general principles which organise the structure of the Itinerarium, embodying, as it were, the theological statics and the theological dynamics. They are of equal theological importance. As to the 'statics', these are most visible in the purely formal elements of exposition and chapter division of the work, though they are by no means merely formal in their significance. The work is set out on the model of a 'ladder of ascent' and so on conventional principles of medieval...