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Abstract

The article investigates an important recent dispute within systematic theology over the interpretation of Thomas Aquinas. John Milbank has defended the view that the doctrine of analogy in Aquinas is peculiarly implicated with his entire ontology, that it cannot be understood in merely semantic terms, and that it involves a less “agnostic” position on knowledge of God than is often assumed. The article critically engages this position in two ways. It offers an archaeology of the prior polemical context out of which the claim arose, for the meaning and purpose of Milbank's claim are illuminated once it is seen as the vigorous repudiation of a “grammatical” or “linguistic” interpretation of Thomas on analogy which had been proffered earlier by Nicholas Lash. It will also provide a close investigation of the citations and interpretations of Aquinas texts that Milbank uses to ground his position, in order to adjudicate the dispute with Lash. The result will be to call strongly into question the plausibility of Milbank's readings of Aquinas. The article also indicates at several points the way in which those readings are shaped by an overriding anti-Kantian thrust in Milbank's entire approach to the discussion. In conclusion, it adumbrates the larger and older question which subtends the entire dispute: to what degree is some kind of vision or intuitive grasp of being as such, or of God's being, granted human beings in this life?