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 univocally continuous with them, for we can easily construct counter-instances. Geach quotes one from Quine: from the relational term, 'smaller than' and the general term, 'visible', both belonging to the universe of things which we can directly observe, we can form the compound term 'smaller than any visible thing', which is in perfectly sound logical order, yet could not, a fortiori, have application within that same universe of directly observable objects. As Quine points out, the compound gets us out of the universe within which the uncompounded terms both have application, 'without a sense of having fallen into gibberish'. He adds, 'The mechanism is of course analogy, and more specifically extrapolation.'28 Now what holds for this simple compounding will hold for any argument whose premises

28 Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960, p. 109, and Peter T. Geach, 'Causality and Creation', in God and the Soul, pp. 80-1.

contain the simple uncompounded terms and the conclusion the terms thus compounded: what holds is that such an argument will not fail of the fallacy of equivocation. Conversely, those premises will, on condition of the formal validity of the argument, entail a conclusion whose terms are not univocally related to the premises: the 'worlds' of'the visible' and 'the invisible' are heterogeneous, generically distinct.

There seems to be no good reason for denying that what holds for Quine's case holds equally for one of Geach's on the score of inferential validity; on the one hand, an argument, if it could be constructed, whose premises contained the uncompounded terms 'cause of and 'every mutable thing', both having univocal application within the domain of our human, natural, rational experience, all other conditions of inferential validity being met, would not fail of the fallacy of equivocation just because the conclusion entailed was the existence of the 'cause of every mutable thing'. On the other hand, since it would be clear that the relational term 'cause of in the conclusion could not be understood in the same sense as it is understood in the premises - for the cause of every mutable thing could not be a cause in the same sense as that of any mutable cause - the argument would trade in no theologically offensive univocity, thereby reducing God to 'just another cause'. For the argument would have demonstrated the necessity of an analogical extrapolation which could not have been presupposed to it.

To some, however, there will seem to be good reason for objecting to Geach's case, if not to Quine's, for it will be said that the two cases are crucially different: for is not God infinitely different from any creature? Even were it conceded that Quine is right and that transgeneric inference is possible - and Milbank does not concede even this much - the objection remains that what may hold for inferences from one genus of creatures to another cannot be supposed to hold between any creatures and God, for the 'othernesses' in question are not comparable, the one being finite, the other infinite, and in the latter case the gap to be crossed by inference must be infinitely too big to be bridgeable, and no rational argument could possibly get you across it. But can this objection be sustained, intuitively obvious as it must sound to most?

In answer, let us return to the matter of God's 'difference'. God, the pseudo-Denys says, is 'beyond both similarity and difference'. Now though, as I have argued elsewhere,29 the pseudo-Denys appears, in a manner characteristic of Platonists, to treat relational predicates of 'similarity' and 'difference' as attributes of God in the way that substantive predicates such as 'existence' and 'goodness' may be treated, it is fairly

29 Turner, Darkness of God, pp. 41-2.

clear that in fact the pseudo-Denys regards 'similarity' and 'difference' as second-order predicates qualifying the predication of the substantive divine attributes - they are, as Burrell argues, 'formal features'.30 The assertion that the 'cause of all' is 'beyond similarity and difference' entails that the predication of God's attributes is not governed by the same logic as governs their predication of anything other than God. Hence, there can be no calculation, whether in terms either of sameness or of distinction, of the 'gap' between God and creatures. But that in turn is to say that the question of'sameness' and 'distinction' can arise only as between creatures. If this is so, then clearly there can be no good sense, but only a misleading one, in any, even casual and metaphorical, calculation of the greater and lesser degrees of 'distance' which lie between Creator and creatures as contrasted with that between one creature and another; for it is not on some common scale of difference that these differences differ. Indeed, that is precisely what is meant by saying that nothing can be predicated univocally of both God and creatures.

Therefore, when it is said: that 'God's difference from creatures is incomparable with any creaturely difference', one has to agree. But tempting as it no doubt is to think of God's difference from creatures as being 'greater' than that between any two creatures, we should note that God's difference cannot be said to be both 'incomparable' and 'greater', as if to say: it is of this kind or that, only infinitely so. You cannot say, 'The difference between chalk and cheese is of this kind, and the difference between God and cheese is of that kind - see how incomparably bigger the one difference is from the other!', for 'bigger' is a term of comparison, and presupposes a common scale. If we can agree with the pseudo-Denys -and I argued in chapter 8 that we have every reason to do so - that God 'is not any kind of being', then it follows that there should be no issue over how God is different from every created being which is of some kind, belonging, as one says, to some genus or other. For if God is not any kind of being, then his difference from creatures is not a difference of any kind, hence is not a difference of any size, hence is not incomparably greater, but, on the contrary, is, simply, incommensurable. 'Greater' and 'lesser' cannot come into it, logically speaking.

Besides, while it is possible to sympathise with Christian theologians who think that, in their proper concern to defend the divine 'transcendence', they should go in for maximising gaps between God and creatures to an infinite degree of difference, it is less than helpful to put it this way, and if they insist, they should be asked to consider how, consistently with such a strategy, they will accommodate Augustine's fine words: 'But you,

O Lord, were more intimate to me than I am to myself - tu autem eras interior intimo meo;31 for Augustine's sense of the divine 'otherness' is such as to place it, in point of transcendence, closer to my creaturehood than it is possible for any creatures to be to each other. For creatures are more distinct from each other than God can possibly be from any of them: as Eckhart said, 'distinction belongs to creatures, indistinction to God'. The logic of transcendence is not best embodied in metaphors of 'gaps', even infinitely 'big' ones, and if we must speak in such metaphors, we should at least acknowledge that, since we are in possession of no account of the gap to be crossed between God and creatures, there is no warrant on that account for the objection that rational inference could not cross it.

Here, then, we are brought back to the argument of chapters 8 and 9, and to the question of how to speak of the divine 'difference'. The upshot of that discussion may now be seen to be that the 'logic of transcendence' and the 'logic of immanence' are 'dialectical', by which I mean that though, through the constraints of language, we have to see these terms as opposed to each other - or at least as being drawn towards different poles of meaning - nonetheless their 'logics' are mutually interdependent. You cannot understand immanence except as a form of transcendence, or transcendence except as a form of immanence. The only way we have of giving expression equally to this twin polarisation on the one hand, and to their dialectical mutuality on the other, is oxymoronic -the openly delivered and unresolved statement of the negation of the negations between them. It is this unresolved and unresolvable tension between the immanence and the transcendence of God which gives rise to the overstressed rebarbativeness of those theologies which seek to give expression to these tensions, and explains the 'brilliant darkness' of the pseudo-Denys, the God who is 'distinct by reason of indistinctness' of Meister Eckhart, and Nicholas of Cusa's description of God as the 'not-Other'.

It is these 'negations of the negation' - necessarily failing in any attempt at resolved affirmativity - between immanence and transcendence, because between similarity and difference - which determine the sense in which we can, and the sense in which we cannot, speak of 'the difference' between God and creation. It is not, I said, a difference; it is such as to be 'incommensurable' - that is to say, it is such that this difference cannot be set in any form of contrast with any sameness. For that reason, I have argued further, the difference between God and creatures cannot stand on the same logical ground that differences between creatures stand on. Therefore, no a fortiori case seems warranted that, since

31 Augustine, Confessions 3.6.7

there are objections to arguments across genera, even if successful, they must apply all the more so to supposititious arguments for God. Hence, it is a logically open question whether an argument can get you 'across' the gap. You have just to find the right argument to do it. Ab esse ad posse valet illatio: if the thing is done then it is not impossible.

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