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 analogy are

22 'When the pagan says the idol is God he does not use the name as signifying a mere [false] supposition about God, for then what he says would be true; and even Christians use the word in this false sense, as when it is said in Psalm 95:51, "all their gods are devils." -'Cum enim paganus dicit idolum esse Deum, non utitur hoc nomine secundum quod significant Deum opinabilem: sic enim verum dicaret, cum etiam catholici interdum in tali significatione hoc nomine utitur, ut cum dicitur (Ps. 95:51), omnes dii gentium daemonia.' ST 1aq13 a10, corp.

sometimes read as if they were directed against Thomas Aquinas' version of it - or at least, as Richard Cross does, as being effective against Thomas's version24 - but they are, in fact, explicitly directed against a quite different version of analogy found in the writings of Henry of Ghent, and are effective, if at all, against it. At any rate, I shall argue against Cross that Henry and Thomas differ quite fundamentally in their accounts of analogy. Hence, there are two issues to be considered next: first, what is it in Henry's account of analogy which, according to Scotus, puts at risk the natural knowledge of God? Secondly, since Scotus is in agreement with Thomas that the natural knowledge of God is possible, how far are Scotus' arguments against Henry's account of analogy effective against Thomas's?

For Henry, no predicates are predicated univocally of God and of creatures. All are predicated 'analogically'. For any predicate predicated analogically of God and of creatures, there are two, as he calls them, 'irreducible' concepts; that is to say, two concepts neither of which is capable of further reduction to any simpler concept, one of which is predicated of God, the other of creatures. The predicate '... is good', for example, may seem to be a simple concept, but in fact is two diverse concepts, one of which holds of God, the other of creatures. Since both are irreducibly simple, these two concepts can have nothing in common with each other, and yet, he says, they are 'like' each other, their likeness being founded in the relationship of cause and effect. For God's goodness causes goodness in creatures. Analogy for Henry is founded in the divine creative causality.

It is very difficult to know how to make any sense at all of this account of analogy, and, in any sense one can make of it, it is open to very obvious objections. What is most obviously hard to make sense of is on what account of 'likeness' the two 'simple' concepts of 'good' are said to be 'alike'. Are they alike in sharing some common meaning? If not, then how can they be alike at all? And if they are in no common respect 'alike', how is analogy to be distinguished from equivocity? If they do share some common meaning, in what sense of'common'? Is the meaning they share 'common' in being univocally predicable of both? In that case, Scotus' view wins the field, because, as we have seen, this is exactly the position that he maintains about the predication of terms of God and of creatures, namely that, once we have removed from the 'formality' of predicates such as '... is good', '... is wise' and so forth that which is proper to creatures, what we are left with is a common univocal meaning neutral as between its predication of God and of creatures. But it is the point of Henry's case for analogy that the 'likeness' between the concepts of uncreated and created

goodness cannot consist in a univocally common meaning. Then, is the 'likeness' between the goodness of God and the goodness of creatures the likeness of analogy? That cannot be the answer, because it succeeds only in pushing the problem one step further on along a line of infinite regress. It is not surprising, therefore, that the nub of Scotus' criticism of Henry on analogy is that, on any account of what it could amount to, it reduces analogy, and so talk about God, either to equivocity or to univocity. Hence, it seems to Scotus that Henry's account of analogy, upon analysis, serves only to demonstrate his own conclusion, namely that either we cannot talk about God at all, or, if we can, some predicates must be predicable of God and of creatures univocally.

Of course, Scotus' argument does not finish off Henry's doctrine of analogy quite yet; for Henry had argued that what links the 'simple' concept of 'good' as predicated of God with the 'simple' concept of good as predicated of creatures is the divine causality, such that the divine goodness creates created goodness. That, he seems to think, is sufficient to establish a connection of meaning between the two simple concepts of goodness. But that response will not do either. For the word 'cause' as predicated of God will itself have to be predicated univocally of God and of creatures, or equivocally, or else analogically. But if'cause' is predicated univocally of God and creatures, then again, Scotus' case wins. If'cause' is predicated equivocally of God and of creatures, then the required link between God and creatures is not established. Hence, if'cause' is not itself predicated either univocally or equivocally of God and of creatures, then it must be predicated analogically. But if so, then, on Henry's own account, there must be a simple concept of'cause' predicated of God, and another simple concept of'cause' predicated of creatures, neither reducible to the other, and linked through... what? Once again, the argument is set on the trail of an infinite regress.

Now as to the issue between Scotus and Thomas on analogy, this is extremely complex. Only on two conditions is the matter straightforward: first, if, as seems likely, Scotus does not distinguish between Henry's account of analogy and Thomas's, and second, if we further suppose, as Cross does, that Scotus is right thus to identify them. For Henry's account of analogy is plainly incoherent, so that if it is indeed also Thomas's account there is nothing for it but to abandon the Thomistic baby with the Ghentian bathwater. But in my view, Cross is wrong, as I shall argue in chapter nine:25 Thomas's account of analogy is sharply to be distinguished from Henry's, in which case it becomes possible to read Scotus

25 See pp. 179-83 below.

as offering ad hominem arguments against Henry which have no bearing at all on Thomas's version.

Especially if I am right and Cross is wrong about Thomas on analogy, however, the issues between Scotus and Thomas become more complex, since there is a number of propositions on which Thomas and Scotus can be construed as agreeing. On the one hand, there is no doubt that Thomas would have agreed with Scotus that, if Henry's account of analogy were right, then no natural knowledge of God would be possible, analogy having been reduced to equivocation - and both Thomas and Scotus wish to defend the possibility of the natural knowledge of God. On the other hand, there is less doubt still that Scotus, in arguing that some predicates are predicated univocally of God and creatures, knew that Thomas was opposed to this view. Hence, there is genuine disagreement between Scotus and Thomas about whether there are terms predicable univocally of God and of creatures, even if they are to a greater extent at cross-purposes over analogy than would allow for any clear-cut disagreement: in short, on the question of analogy, what Thomas defends is not what Scotus rejects.

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