In his book Postmodernity's Transcending: Devaluing God1 Laurence Hemming develops further a thesis offered in an earlier article.2 He examines St. Thomas Aquinas's so-called analogia entis and makes two significant claims: (1) an analogia entis does not actually exist in Thomas's teaching and (2) analogy cannot accommodate the efforts of certain postmodern theologians' attempts to ‘tie the being of God, man, and the world together’3 because analogy (by which Hemming means ‘proportionality’ as we shall soon see) is incapable of sustaining the ‘ontological consequences’4 that its proponents would like it to bear. The consequence of denuding analogy of its ontological importance undercuts the endeavors of those for whom, ‘Analogy seems to be a way of tying the originative, eternal being of God to the finite, dependent being of creation in an ontological relationship.’5

In what follows I argue that St. Thomas does rest his doctrine of analogy upon an ontological basis. I shall show then how Hemming's argument harbors a severe misreading of Aquinas's teaching on analogy and draws, as a result, startling conclusions, for instance, that: ‘[analogy] was not very important for Thomas.’6 If it is true, as Hemming claims, that analogy is presently being recovered and deployed within certain contemporary (postmodern) theological contexts,7 then it would seem that at the very least ‘getting Thomas right’ on the subject would be of enormous value, and this for two reasons. First, analogy, as Thomas understands it, accommodates the dialectic of sameness and difference – showing special concern for notions such as otherness, alteriety, and incommensurability that are so central to much postmodern thought.8 By these ideas God and creation are brought together to form a kind of community and thereby (qualified) sameness. This sameness, in turn, is the positive ground from which the divine can be contemplated – overcoming certain postmodern tendencies to nihilism9– and yet not consumed in that contemplation.

Second, analogy, while unifying God and creature together in a unity, simultaneously preserves the absolute otherness or transcendence of God; it maintains the irreducible difference between God and the world. Keeping at bay that boogeyman of postmodern theology, ontotheology,10 this ‘difference’ guards against reducing God to those very concepts and reasonings by which God is thought, avoiding the construction of what Marion calls ‘conceptual idols’11 and frustrating any movement toward intellectual hubris. A deliberate ambiguity and dissimilar similarity, analogy at once preserves reason's ability to affirm true propositions about God, while respecting the absolute incomprehensibility of the divine being.12 Time and time again, Thomas tells us that even at the conclusion of one's analogical reasoning, God ‘remains unknown,’13 escaping every effort at conceptualization.14

Obviously, deploying these latter points within a postmodern theological context demands more than a recovery of St. Thomas's teaching on the analogy of being; in fact, a kind of Heideggerian Fragestellung– a sorting out of historical horizons for the formulation or posing of a particular question – would be required. Given the limitations of space, however, I can only offer an initial recovery of the ontological underpinnings of Thomas's teaching on analogy and leave a direct engagement with postmodern theology, such as that to which Hemming himself only alludes, for another time.


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Early in his argument Hemming points out that nowhere does Aquinas make use of the phrase ‘analogia entis.’15 In this claim he is quite correct and we readily concede him the point, however, from this fact one cannot conclude that analogy, for Thomas, lacks any place in the understanding of being.16 Hemming's account of Thomas's position on analogy is problematic for three main reasons: (1) he narrowly limits the full scope that analogy enjoys in Thomas's thinking to only two texts (viz., Summa theologiae and De veritate);17 (2) he takes Thomas's account of analogy in the De veritate as definitive – apparently oblivious to the many thorny issues surrounding that particular text;18 and (3) Hemming is insensitive to developments or shifts in Aquinas's doctrine of analogy. In fact, with respect to this last concern, Hemming is positively opposed to admitting any historical considerations into his interpretation of St. Thomas: ‘The vogue for tracing changes in opinion in scholars’ thinking is on the wane, and rightly so. It is a nasty shadow falling from the towers of speculation of the biblical historical-critical method over the work of dogmatic theologians …'19

Whatever may be the shortcomings of the historical-critical method in the field of biblical studies, one cannot overlook shifts in emphases and new directions that occur in a single thinker – his intellectual history. Chenu's work, and more recently that of Jean-Pierre Torrell, makes clear that Thomas's thought unfolds in stages, under diverse circumstances, in response to ever-shifting challenges, and in light of new intellectual influences.20 One should hardly be surprised then if Aquinas's position on analogy is caught up in the vicissitudes of his intellectual development.21 Here, Bernard Montagnes' work is invaluable for tracing the developments which occur throughout Thomas's various articulations of analogy and – important for our present purposes – shows that the reason for those developments is Aquinas's evolving understanding of being.22

Hemming's historical blindness renders problematic his effort to understand the meaning of the terms involved in analogy. He rightly points out that in addition to the Latin term ‘analogia,’ Aquinas can also make use of the term ‘proportio’ in his discussions of analogy. The difficulty arises, however, when Hemming, in attempting to interpret Thomas's use of proportio within Question 13 of the Summa theologiae (prima pars), turns to Cajetan's De nominum analogia for clarification. Though considered by some one of the greatest disciples of St. Thomas, Cajetan's faithfulness to the authentic teaching of his master has not been uncontested, especially with regard to his interpretation of Aquinas's doctrine of analogy.23 One hesitates to accept Cajetan's interpretation of analogy for two reasons.

1. Cajetan understands analogy, when taken in its proper sense, exclusively in terms of the Greek notion of αναλογια that denotes a four-term proportional relationship (proportionalitas).24 St. Thomas, however, never limits his understanding of analogia or, what is the same, proportio to a four-term proportional relation;25 rather, he expands analogia to include not only the Greek meaning of αναλογια but also what Aristotle refers to as προςɛν equivocity.26 For Aristotle, προςɛν equivocity does not involve a four-term proportional relationship as does αναλογια, but only a two-term relation. As the Stagirite famously holds in Metaphysics 4.2, though being is said in many ways, it is always said with reference to some one thing (προςɛνκαιμιαντιναφυσιν).27 Pointing to ‘health’ and ‘medical’ as examples, Aristotle explains that diverse things are called ‘beings’ because they are modifications, generations, destructions, qualities, et cetera, of substance – that is, being in the primary instance.28

In several texts Thomas takes this Aristotelian notion of προςɛν relation as his point of departure in identifying different types of analogous communities. He notes that one kind of analogous community arises when two or more of the analogates refer to something prior in which they participate; while in another kind of analogous community one thing is said to refer directly to another from which its derives its being and intelligibility.29 Though Thomas considers each analogous community as distinct in kind, both fall under the rubric of an analogy of attribution or reference (as opposed to an analogy of proper proportionality). In his De potentia Dei Aquinas provides a more technical description of each kind of analogous community, identifying the first as an analogy of ‘two to a third’ (duorum ad tertium) and the other as an analogy of ‘one to another’ (unius ad aliud).30 Consistent throughout his discussions of the analogy of attribution is Thomas's refusal to describe the analogical relationship between God and creature as an analogy of ‘two to a third,’ in which God and creature would attain an analogous similarity because of their relationship to some other third thing. There can be nothing prior to God either ontologically or conceptually in which the divine being participates, and so Aquinas opts instead for an analogy of ‘one to another,’ wherein the creature is directly related to God.

One cannot limit Thomas's understanding of analogy simply to the Greek meaning of αναλογια– as does Cajetan and Hemming following him – but must also allow for a προςɛν account as well. What is more, in certain passages (such as the sixth chapter of De principiis naturae31) it becomes clear that Thomas does not view attribution (προςɛν) and proper proportionality (αναλογια) as unrelated but subordinates the latter to the former.32 Cajetan, however, turns his master's teaching on its head when he holds that, while inequality, attribution, and proportionality are each modes of analogy, ‘only the last mode [i.e., proper proportionality] constitutes analogy and the first [i.e., inequality] is entirely foreign to analogy.’33 The tension in doctrine between St. Thomas and his disciple suggests, at the very least, that relying uncritically upon Cajetan's interpretation – as Hemming does – can be unwise.

2. Cajetan uses the De veritate– wherein Aquinas offers an account of the analogical community between God and creature strictly in terms of proportionalitas (i.e., proper proportionality) – as the hermeneutic key with which to unlock the rest of Thomas's texts pertaining to analogy. The De veritate teaching on analogy is anomalous, however, when considered in light of Aquinas's other treatments, where he clearly divides proportio into attribution, on the one hand, and proportionalitas on the other.34 Furthermore, when resolving the question of the analogical relationship between God and creation, Thomas does so in terms of proper proportionality, representing a significant departure from his earlier position expressed in the Commentary on the Sentences. In two significant passages from the Sentences (viz., I, Prologus, q. 1, a. 2, ad. 2 and I, d. 35, q. 1, a. 4) Thomas does not describe the relationship between God and creatures in terms of proportionalitas but rather in terms of a one-to-one relationship of imitation, wherein a creature is said to imitate (imitatur) God inasmuch as its nature will allow.35 Here, it is clear that the model St. Thomas has in mind for analogy is reference or attribution, not proper proportionality. Again, Cajetan's interpretation of Thomistic analogy fails to take seriously accounts given in other texts, such as the Sentences, stumbling over them in the attempt to make proper proportionality normative.


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The account of the analogical community between God and creature offered in terms of attribution is found not only in Aquinas's early Commentary on the Sentences, but also in every other text subsequent to the De veritate.36 Yet, despite the De veritate's anomalous character, Hemming follows Cajetan in making it regulative of his interpretation of St. Thomas's overall teaching on analogy. Consequently, Hemming attempts to interpret Aquinas's discussion of analogy (i.e., proportio) in the Summa theologiae as if it were simply an expression of a deeper proper proportionality. Hemming's interpretation, however, results in a grave distortion of what the text actually says. It is not the case, as he says, that the question inquires into ‘what analogy is,’37 rather the question is: ‘whether what is said of God and creatures is univocally predicated of them?’ The question provides Aquinas with the opportunity to employ analogy within the context of theological language.

After denying that any name can be predicated of God and creature either univocally or equivocally, Thomas argues that names can only be predicated analogously, which is to say, according to proportion (secundum analogiam, idest proportionem).38 Here, as elsewhere, Aquinas identifies analogy with proportion, but the question is: what kind of proportion? Hemming holds that what Thomas has in mind is proper proportionality. ‘In both Question 13 of the Summa and elsewhere, he [Aquinas] is simply able to take for granted that the kind of proportion in question is that of proportionality.’39 Analogy, as Thomas describes it in Question 13 does not consist in one ratio (una ratio) shared among all the analogates, as is the case in univocation; nor is the ratio totally diverse.40 In his own account of this passage, Hemming understands the ‘una ratio’ at issue as a ‘single relation’ or, what is the same, as a single proportion. He concludes, then, that since, for Aquinas, analogy does not simply involve una ratio, as is the case with univocity, it must involve a plurality of relations, which is simply to say that analogy is here understood as a proportion of proportions – proper proportionality. Though the examples Thomas uses to illustrate his understanding of analogy are really instances of attribution, Hemming claims that they ultimately depend for their legitimacy on proper proportionality.41

Yet, Hemming's account seems to involve a subtle legerdemain, namely – as we shall see momentarily – a questionable translation. Hemming points out that in Question 13 Thomas himself raises the issue of diverse or multiple proportions (diversae proportiones); and that fact, I agree, is indisputable. Yet the mere occurrence of multiple proportions or relations is not sufficient of itself to result in proper proportionality. Aristotle's understanding of προςɛν relations makes that much clear since there what is at issue is a diversity of relations, however, that diversity is unified insofar as each relation refers directly to some one common principle (προςμιαναρχην), not to another relation or proportion. As we have already noted, for Aristotle, that common principle is substance. In contrast, proper proportionality results when there is a relation between two different relations or when one proportion is related to another proportion, as, for instance, when one says that the relation between sight and the eye is proportional to the relationship between understanding and the intellect.

But is this relation of proportions not simply what Thomas spells out in the above-cited passage? Hemming would have him say so, but Aquinas's text itself tells another tale. For where Hemming translates Thomas as saying that analogy is ‘a name which thus is said multiply (and so which) signifies diverse proportions to some one proportion42 the Latin text actually reads: ‘significat diversas proportiones ad aliquid unum.’43 Nowhere does the text suggest that there is a relation of proportions to another proportion, from which there would arise proper proportionality. Instead, as Thomas explains earlier in Question 13, analogy can occur in two ways. In one way analogy involves the relation of many to one (multa habent proportionem ad unum), as ‘healthy’ is said of medicine and urine inasmuch as both have some relation to the health of a body; in another way, analogy involves the relationship that one thing has to another (unum habet proportionem ad alterum).44 It is this latter kind of analogy, Thomas holds, that describes the relationship between God and creation, for the two are related inasmuch as God is the creative cause of every creature. What is more, this direct proportion of ‘one to another’ is certainly not an instance of proper proportionality. Indeed, God would have to be a proportion to which other proportions are related in order for Hemming's claim of proper proportionality to stand, but what sense does it make to refer to God, in the present context, as a proportion? Thomas certainly never describes God as such but consistently refers to God as that one thing to which all others are related. The model for analogy here is obviously and undeniably that of attribution, which makes much more sense of the examples that Aquinas himself offers to illustrate his thinking on analogy, each of which, as Hemming himself notes, is an example of attribution. Furthermore, we see how his claim that: ‘[T]he De veritate is consistent with what is said in the Summa…’,45 simply does not hold. This misunderstanding of Thomas Aquinas's position on analogy has significant ontological implications, as we shall now see.


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After rendering Thomas's account of analogy in terms of proper proportionality, Hemming concludes that: ‘Such an understanding of analogy [i.e., in terms of proper proportionality] is in fact very weak – so weak, that it cannot, I would argue, bear any ontological consequences … [A]t no time does Aquinas himself ever require analogy to bear ontological consequences.’46 Hemming's claim is partly true and partly false. It is true insofar as an analogy of proper proportionality is insufficient to the task of accommodating the ontological exigencies proper to both St. Thomas's understanding of God as ipsum esse subsistens and his conception of the dyadic structure of created being as metaphysically composed of essence and esse (act of being). It is false insofar as Hemming understands Thomas's teaching on analogy reductively, solely in terms of proper proportionality without any regard for attribution or reference. If Hemming's claim is limited to proper proportionality, then he is quite right in denying analogy's ability to accommodate any ‘ontological consequences;’ and this for one significant and one minor reason.

1. Proper proportionality inadequately expresses Thomas's philosophy of God in terms of the relation between essence and esse. We recall that proper proportionality involves a relationship between two proportions and consists therefore in at least four terms. With respect to being, though, which four terms would constitute the analogy of proper proportionality? Given Thomas's thesis of the real distinction between esse (act of being) and essence within created being, two terms would already seem to be available. Furthermore, Aquinas is convinced that through a quia demonstration, which begins with knowledge of an effect to knowledge of its cause, we can come to know God's existence (esse)47– hence a third term. But what of the fourth term? Might one suggest the divine essence, arriving thereby at the following proportionality: ‘as a (1) creature's being (esse) is to its (2) essence, so is the (3) divine being (esse) to its (4) essence’? At this point, however, difficulties begin to emerge and one has to ask what intelligibility, if any, the above proportionality possesses for the following reasons.

As we just noted, Aquinas maintains throughout his intellectual career that there is a real distinction between a creature's act of being (esse) and its essence. However, God is unique in that He alone is such that His very essence is His act of being, which is to say that God's essence is His esse. There is no metaphysical distinction between the two, nor is there a conceptual distinction, since the content of the one is identical to the other. Joseph Owens, for instance, points out that the only distinction available is one of the words ‘essence’ and ‘being’ themselves as we predicate them of God. This distinction does not arise from the divine being itself, of course, but simply from the manner in which we consider the metaphysical structure of created being, in which esse (act of being) and essence are really distinct. ‘The problem concerns at least the content of the two concepts,’ Owens explains, ‘Their content is intrinsically identical, and not at all proportional.’48 In short, there is not the requisite number of terms (four) for an analogy of proper proportionality.

Still, even though there are only three terms, might not one of those terms be used twice as in certain mathematical instances of proportionality? In such proportions, both pairs of relations (‘one’ is to ‘two’ as ‘two’ is to ‘four’) share in a reduplicated term, thereby producing a proportion of proportions. But what, ontologically speaking, could God and creature possibly share in common? – nothing, at least if we are to avoid pantheistic consequences. Furthermore, the relation that God's essence has to His own esse is, according to Thomas, completely unlike the relation that a creature's essence has to its own esse. ‘Now God's relation to being [esse] is different from that of any creature's: for he is his own being [ipse est suum esse], which cannot be said of any creature.’49 Again, the reason for this dissimilarity derives from the fact that, in God, being and essence are absolutely identical. One could still try to argue that, inasmuch as proportionality is concerned with an equality of ratios or relations, and since ‘identity’ is itself a kind of relation, then one can indeed formulate a proportion of relations in which the relation that God's essence has to His own being serves as the second couplet.

Though Thomas does regard ‘identity’ as a kind of relation,50 such a relation does not result in two terms but only one; and so one cannot really call the relation of identity a proportional relation. Attempting to use the divine esse in relation to the divine essence would result in something like the following confusion: ‘one’ is to ‘three’ as ‘ten’ is to ‘ten.’ Here, just as ‘ten’ cannot properly be said to be proportional to itself, although it is identical to itself, so too God, with reference to His own being, cannot be said to be proportional to Himself. One might say then that, while all proportions are relations, not all relations are proportional.51

Hemming himself seems to grasp this limitation of proper proportionality in part, at least, when he says:

Proportionality will simply not do for the analogy of being, for one very good reason. For proportionality you need four terms in two proportions with a common relation, for a direct proportion only two terms in relation to each other… With being, however, an immediate problem arises. There are only two terms – being is analogously said, surely of both God and creatures. But this is a proportion, not a proportionality.52

Hemming is therefore correct when he says that proper proportionality cannot accommodate the ontological exigencies of being. Yet, as we have seen, Thomas's understanding of analogy cannot be reduced to proper proportionality alone but extends beyond the Greek notion of αναλογια to include what has been described as προςɛν relations.53

2. Proper proportionality can only function subsequent to the valid establishment of the four terms that it involves; this means that it can only function after prior metaphysical demonstrations from which one can then unpack the content contained therein by means of proper proportionality.54 One could, for example, use proper proportionality to uncover the perfections proper to God, subsistent being itself (ipsum esse subsistens), through determining what follows necessarily upon being, as Aquinas does in De veritate, q. 1, a. 1.55 Yet, God's existence must first be assumed before one can employ a legitimate analogy of proper proportionality. Put simply, within Thomas's metaphysics, proper proportionality cannot stand alone but depends upon a prior relationship between creatures and their Creator.


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Noting analogy's inability to handle ontological consequences, Hemming then goes on to say, ‘Aquinas needs no analogy of being, because he takes for granted … that God is the originating cause of all things.’56 One may question, of course, just how much Aquinas takes God's creative causality for ‘granted’– indeed he argues that God's existence and, by implication, His causal relation to the world, is not self-evident to human reason but in need of demonstration57– but Hemming clearly misses the point that, for St. Thomas, analogy is thoroughly interrelated with causality. In the course of his argument, Hemming notes, ‘It is because God is the causa omnium that God knows things other than himself,’ but then asks, ‘What has this to do with analogy?’58 Thomas's answer, it would seem, is ‘Everything!’ One cannot divorce analogy, as Aquinas understands it, from causality and also participation. Montagnes correctly notes, ‘Participation, causality and analogy are the three aspects under which philosophy approaches being, the first two concern the reality itself of being, the third relating itself to the concepts by which being is represented.’59 Returning to Question 13 of the Summa theologiae, we see that central to Aquinas's account of analogy is the metaphysical axiom omne agens agit sibi simile to which he makes implicit appeal.60 In his reply to the first objection Thomas argues that God cannot be understood as a univocal cause since, while a univocal agent only effects individuals within the same species and not the whole species itself, God is the universal cause whose power extends to all species. Still, God cannot be a purely equivocal agent either for the reason that, were He such, God would be incapable of producing His own likeness.61 Here, it is clear that in analogy, creatures, according to Thomas, are brought into an analogical unity (community) with God inasmuch as He sustains them as His effects; yet, as effects, creatures do not attain an identity with the divine being, remaining metaphysically distinct.

In so describing the analogical relationship between God and creatures as one that is causal, Thomas remains consistent with his larger teaching on analogy. For instance, in a passage from his early Commentary on the Sentences, Aquinas explicitly links analogy to God's causal communication of being (esse). He tells us that God and creatures can be reduced to a kind of unity, not a univocal one but an analogous community. As noted above, Thomas thinks that an analogous community can occur in two ways. In one way, many things participate in something prior in virtue of which they attain a similarity to each other. Of course, Aquinas denies that God and creation can form a community in which there would be some ‘third thing’ prior to both (i.e., prior to God and creature) in virtue of which each shares in some similarity or resemblance to the other. Rather, Thomas argues that the analogical community between God and creature is such that the creature is related to God, not by way of something prior to both, but immediately or directly. In this regard a creature is like or similar to God because it imitates the divine being inasmuch as its own nature will allow, yet, because imitation as such is imperfect – that is, an imitation precisely as an imitation is always a diminished re-presentation of its original – there remains between God and the creature a formal inequality or dissimilar similarity.62 What is of particular importance here is that Thomas identifies the analogical unity between God and creatures as following upon the causal relationship between the two. Moreover, that causal relationship is such that what is caused is none other than the creature's very being (esse): ‘[F]or the creature does not have being [esse],’ St. Thomas says, ‘unless it descends from that first being, nor is it named [a] being unless it imitates the first being inasmuch as it is possible ….’63

In a later passage from his Commentary on the Sentences (I, d. 8, q. 1, a. 2), Thomas identifies the interrelatedness between analogy and causality. Facing the question whether God is the being of all things (esse omnium rerum),64 Aquinas makes a distinction between essential being (esse essentiale) and causal being (esse causale). God is not the very substance or essence of all things – the consequence of this would be pantheism; however, God can be considered the being of all things from a causal perspective, which is simply to say that God is the cause of all creatures.65 But this is precisely to posit an ontological relationship between God and creation. Thomas goes on to point out that causality occurs within different modes. There are (1) equivocal causes, causes such that an agent and its effect agree neither in name (nomen) nor in character (ratio),66 (2) univocal causes, causes which agree with their effects in both name and character,67 and (3) analogous causes. Thomas insists that God can be neither a univocal nor an equivocal agent: not a univocal one, since no creature can agree with God according to the same degree of formality, and not an equivocal one, since God's effects do bear some resemblance to Him with respect to name and character.68 But, though creatures resemble God, there is not perfect agreement, since whatever perfections (including being) exist in creatures exist in a preeminent and prior (per prius) way in God, whereas in creatures they exist derivatively (per posterius) and deficiently.69 If God is neither a univocal or equivocal agent, then, Aquinas concludes, it can only be the case that God is an analogous one. Here, an analogous agent is understood as one that produces an effect such that it (the effect) bears only an imperfect likeness (similitudine imperfecta) to its cause. Only according to such mode of causality, Thomas tells us, can God be called the being of all things; He is the being of all things as their analogous cause, which is to say as the exemplar and efficient cause of their very being (esse).70


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Returning to Hemming's question ‘what has analogy to do with causality?’ we see quite clearly that the answer is: everything. As effects of the divine, creatures bear some likeness or resemblance to God since, as Aquinas maintains time and again, omne agens agit sibi simile. In an agent's reaching out beyond itself to communicate its actuality to an effect, the agent assimilates its effect to itself, making it similar or like unto itself through the reduction of the effect's potentiality. Thomas explains, ‘[I]t is by act that a thing is made like its efficient cause, for the agent produces its like so far as it is in act,’71 and also, ‘[I]t belongs to the nature of action that an agent produce its like, since each thing acts according as it is in act.’72 Without a doubt, as St. Thomas sees it, the similarity obtaining between God and creatures is an ontological one. ‘All that which is from God as the first and universal principle of being [esse] are rendered like unto Him [assimilantur ei] insofar as they are beings.’73

Still, the ontological similarity that creatures bear to God is an imperfect one; it is not univocal but analogical. To illustrate his meaning Thomas often appeals to the sun in its production of heat within sublunary bodies. The sun effects heat simply insofar as it (the sun) is in act. This activity or actuality is communicated to the sun's effects, whereby they themselves exercise a similar act; that is, they too exist as actually hot.74 One may say then that the sun is like or similar to those things in which it induces (inducit) heat efficiently, but one must also recognize that it is unlike the heated things insofar as the latter do not possess the actuality of ‘heat’ in the same way as it is found in the sun.75 The same can be said, Thomas concludes, with respect to God and creation. As God is the universal cause of creation, all creatures manifest a certain similitude or likeness to God, yet, since they do not reach the same perfection as God, creatures are also dissimilar.76 As the universal cause of creation God is related to creatures neither as a univocal cause nor as a purely equivocal one – God is not an equivocal cause since if He were, God could not produce His like. Accordingly, God must be related to creation as an analogical agent (agens analogicum) to which all other agents, univocal or otherwise, must ultimately be reduced.77

There can be no doubt, then, that Thomas's doctrine of analogy goes hand-in-hand with his understanding of the causal relationship between God and creation. Moreover, since that which God communicates to creation through His creative causality is precisely being itself, the claim that analogy, for Aquinas, is never meant to bear out any ‘ontological consequences’ is unsustainable. Analogy is simply the expression of St. Thomas's philosophy of being couched within a dialectic of identity and difference. But how could Hemming overlook such a crucial element in Aquinas's doctrine of being? I suspect that his refusal to admit the ontological underpinnings of Thomas's doctrine of analogy has a deeper motivation. Unwittingly or not – and I suspect not – Hemming's enervation of analogy's ontological character reinforces what Karl Barth would call the analogia fidei, analogy of faith.78‘[T]here is no analogy of being as such apart from Christian believing,’ Hemming claims, ‘though analogy may be applied to being in consequence of something else that must already be at work and held to be true in advance of any analogical naming.’79 Here, this ‘something else’ is simply faith in the claims of Christian revelation.

But why regard the analogia entis with suspicion and sacrifice it for the sake of the analogia fidei? Barth gives us a clue where Hemming's reasoning is only implicit; for the former, concern over the analogia entis centers principally upon the notion of being. The concept of being is seen as functioning as a kind of a priori conceptual category under which is subsumed God, creature, and the content of revelation, as it were.80 On such a view, God must comport Himself to our expectations, to our pre-established procrustean metaphysical beds. Whether or not Barth's and also presumably Hemming's description of being – and therefore the analogy of being – accurately reflects Thomas's own understanding is an altogether different (and controversial) question. Likewise, whether there is room for an analogia entis at the heart of the analogia fidei (or vice versa) is a question fiercely debated by Barth, von Balthasar, and their disciples, but it departs from our immediate thesis and is one that I am not presently prepared to address. For now, suffice it to say that Thomas does in fact view the relationship between God and creature in terms of an analogy that is, pace Hemming, through and through ontological.

  1. 1 Laurence Paul Hemming, Postmodernity's Transcending: Devaluing God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005); see especially ch. 6 ‘Analogia Entis,’ pp. 111–36.

  2. 2 Cf. idem., ‘Analogia non Entis sed Entitatis: The Ontological Consequences of the Doctrine of Analogy,’International Journal of Systematic Theology 6.2 (2004), pp. 118–29.

  3. 3 Ibid., p. 119.

  4. 4 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 122; cf. Postmodernity's Transcending, p. 129.

  5. 5 Postmodernity's Transcending, p. 126.

  6. 6 Ibid., p. 119. In direct contrast to Hemming's claim one finds Gerald B. Phelan's position, spelled out in his St. Thomas and Analogy (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1948): ‘The importance of analogy in the philosophy of St. Thomas literally cannot be overestimated. There is not a problem either in the order of being, or in the order of knowing, or in the order of predicating, which does not depend for its ultimate solution on the principle of analogy. Not a question can be asked either in speculative or practical philosophy which does not require for its final answer an understanding of analogy’ (p. 1). To appreciate to what extent analogy functioned in Thomas's thinking one might also consult the dense first appendix of George Klubertanz's St. Thomas Aquinas on Analogy: A Textual Analysis and Systematic Synthesis (Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 1960), pp. 159–293 in which numerous texts pertaining to Aquinas's understanding of analogy are reproduced.

  7. 7 For examples of thinkers using analogy as a means of engaging the postmodern theological scene, see, e.g., David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism (New York: Crossroad, 1986), pp.405–56; Graham Ward, Cities of God (London: Routledge, 2000); David Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003); Thomas Guarino, Foundations of Systematic Theology (London: T&T Clarke International, 2005), pp. 239–68. As further evidence of analogy's growing relevance, I would also point to conferences such as the recent one held in Washington, D.C. ‘The Analogy of Being: Invention of the Anti-Christ or Wisdom of God? A Theological Symposium’ April 4–6, 2008.

  8. 8 Cf., e.g., Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference (trans. Joan Stambaugh; Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1969); Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference (trans. Alan Bass; Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), esp., pp. 74, 89, 90.

  9. 9 Cf., e.g., Jeffrey Robbins, ed., After the Death of God: John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 39ff. where Vattimo speaks of nihilism as a consequence of, what he calls the ‘weakening of being.’

  10. 10 For a helpful discussion concerning ontotheology and Aquinas's doctrine of analogy, see Merold Westphal, ‘Aquinas and Onto-Theology’, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 80: 2 (2006), pp. 173191. With respect to ontotheology and Thomas's metaphysical thought in general, Jean-Luc Marion, ‘Thomas Aquinas and Onto-theo-logy,’ in Mystics: Presence and Aporia, ed. Michael Kessler and Christian Sheppard (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 38–74. While Westphal suggest that Aquinas can only be accused of a very weak ontotheology, Marion, at least after his reconsideration of Thomas's thinking, finds that Aquinas escapes ontotheology altogether. Cf. also Marion, God Without Being: Hors-Texte (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1997), pp. xxii–xxiv.

  11. 11 Cf. Marion, God Without Being, pp. 7–52.

  12. 12 See Summa theologiae (hereafter ST) I, q. 3, a. 4, ad. 2 where Thomas explains that, though God's essence is His very esse (i.e., existence), we do not know that divine esse as it is in itself when we affirm that God exists. ‘… non possumus scire esse Dei, sicut nec eius essentiam … Scimus enim quod haec propositio quam formamus de Deo, cum dicimus Deus est, vera est. Et hoc scimus ex eius effectibus …’

  13. 13 Summa contra gentiles (hereafter SCG) III, c. 49: ‘… quod quidem contingit dum de eo quid non sit cognoscimus, quid vero sit penitus manet ignotum.’ Cf. in this regard Phelan B Gerald., ‘Penitus Manet Ignotum’, Mediaeval Studies 27 (1965), pp. 21226.

  14. 14 Cf. In III Sent., d. 24, a. 2, qa. 3: ‘… Deus, formationem intellectus nostri subterfugit …’

  15. 15 Postmodernity's Transcending, p. 129.

  16. 16 Hemming is not the first to make this claim; Ralph McInerny argues a similar point, claiming that analogy, for Thomas, is primarily a matter of predication and not metaphysics. Though I disagree with McInerny on the latter point, to his credit he at least acknowledges that St. Thomas did in fact have in mind what others call the analogy ‘of being,’ even if he does not refer to it as such. Cf. McInerny, Aquinas and Analogy (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), pp. 162: ‘[T]erminologically speaking, there is no analogy of being in St. Thomas. There is, of course, the analogy of ‘being.’ This is not to say that Thomas did not hold what others call the ‘analogy of being’…’

  17. 17 Hemming completely ignores other crucial texts in Aquinas's articulation of the analogical relationship between God and creation, viz., Scripta super libros Sententiarum (hereafter In Sent.) I, Prol., q. 1, a. 2, ad. 2; In I Sent., d. 8, q. 1, a. 2; In I Sent., d. 35, q. 1, a. 4; SCG I, cc. 32–4; De potentia Dei (hereafter De pot.), q. 7, a. 7; Compendium theologiae (hereafter CT) I, c. 27.

  18. 18 For instance, in that text – and in that text alone – Aquinas describes the analogous relationship between God and the world in terms of proper proportionality instead of attribution or, what is the same, reference as he does so consistently in his many other texts. In fact, Klubertanz confirms that Thomas's use of an analogy of proper proportionality is ‘quietly abandoned’ around 1256; cf. Klubertanz, St. Thomas Aquinas on Analogy, p. 94.

  19. ‘19 Analogia non Entis,’ p. 122.

  20. 20 Cf. Marie-Dominique Chenu, Toward Understanding Saint Thomas (Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery Company, 1964); Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996).

  21. 21 Indeed, Thomas's preference, at one time, for an analogy of imitation sketched out in terms of attribution, his opting later for proper proportionality, and then finally his return to an analogy of attribution give one more than enough reason to suspect doctrinal development.

  22. 22 See Bernard Montagnes, La doctrine de l'analogie de l'être d'apès Saint Thomas d'Aquin (Louvain: Béatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1963). I disagree with Montagnes, however, when he suggests that Thomas's ontology itself changes from being ‘formalistic’ to one that later ‘discovers being as act.’ As I see it, Thomas's ontological view of being remains remarkably consistent throughout his career, though, to be sure, his emphasis changes. Moreover, this difference in emphasis is afforded by Aquinas's own view of created being itself as twofold, both essential and existential.

  23. 23 Cajetan's interpretation of Thomas's doctrine of analogy was, for centuries, almost quasi-canonical. Beginning with the second half of the twentieth century, however, a series of serious critiques of Cajetan's interpretation began to emerge, and along with them, efforts at recovering Thomas's authentic thought on analogy. The first of the ground-breaking works in this field is Hampus Lyttkens, The Analogy Between God and the World: An Investigation of its Background and Interpretation of its Use by Thomas of Aquino (Uppsala: Almquist & Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1952). Other works continuing along the same line include Klubertanz, St. Thomas Aquinas on Analogy; Montagnes, La doctrine, pp. 115–58; and, much more recently, McInerny, Aquinas and Analogy, pp. 3–29.

  24. 24 Cajetan, De nominum analogia, § 2: ‘Analogiae igitur vocabulum proportionem sive proportionalitatem (ut a Graecis accepimus) in proposito sonat.’ With respect to the Greek notion of αναλογια as a four-term proportional relationship, see Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 5.3.1131a30–b4; Poetics 21.1457b16–18.

  25. 25 Even in the tricky De veritate (hereafter, De ver.), q. 2, a. 11 passage where Thomas discusses the analogical relationship between God and creation, his treatment of analogy itself includes both proportionalitas and attribution; albeit Aquinas resolves the problem in terms of proper proportionality.

  26. 26 For the different kinds of equivocals in Aristotle's metaphysics, see Joseph Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978), pp. 107–54.

  27. 27 Cf. Metaphysics 4.2.1003a33–35: ‘The term ‘being’ is used in various senses, but with reference to one central idea and one definite characteristic, and not merely as a common epithet’ (trans. Hugh Trednick, Aristotle: Metaphysics [Cambridge, MA, 1996], p. 147).

  28. 28 Ibid., 1003a35–1003b10; for a discussion of Aristotle's influence on Thomas's thinking on analogy on this particular point, cf. Montagnes, La doctrine, pp. 30–1, 37–8.

  29. 29 Cf. In I Sent., Prol., q. 1, a. 2, ad. 2: ‘… Creator et creatura reducuntur in unum, non communitate univocationis sed analogiae. Talis autem communitas potest esse dupliciter. Aut ex eo quod aliqua participant aliquid unum secunudm prius et posterius, sicut potentia et actus rationem entis, et similiter substantia et accidens; aut ex eo quod unum esse et rationem ab altero recipit, et talis est analogia creaturae ad Creator …’; cf. In I Sent., d. 35, q. 1, a. 4: ‘Sed duplex est analogia. Quaedam secundum convenientam in aliquo uno, quod eis per prius et posterius convenit; et haec analogia non potest esse inter Deum et creaturam, sicut nec univocatio. Alia analogia est, secundum quod unum imitatur aliud quantum potest, nec perfecte ipsum assequitur, et haec analogia est creaturae ad Deum.’

  30. 30 De pot., q. 7, a. 7: ‘Hujus autem praedicationis [analogice] duplex est modus. Unus quo aliquid praedicatur de duobus per prespectum ad aliquod tertium, sicut ens de qualitate et quantiate per respectum ad substantiam. Alius modus est quo aliquid praedicatur de duobus per respectum unius ad alterum, sicut ens de substantia et quantiate.’

  31. 31 De principiis naturae, c. 6: ‘Materia … et forma et priuatio, siue potentia et actus, sunt principia substantie et aliorum generum; tamen materia substantie et quantitatis, et similiter forma et priuatio, differunt genere, sed conueniunt solum secundum proportionem in hoc quod, sicut se habet materia substantie ad substantiam in ratione materie, ita se habet materia quantitatis ad quantitatem. Sicut tamen substantia est causa ceterorum, ita principia substantie sunt principia omnium aliorum.’

  32. 32 Cf. Montagnes, La doctrine, pp. 29–30; cf. John Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Infinite to Uncreated Being (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), pp. 76–8.

  33. 33 Cajetan, De nominum analogia, § 3: ‘… ultimus modus tantum analogiam constituat, primus autem aliens ab analogia omnio sit’; trans. E.A. Bushinski and H.J. Koren, The Analogy of Names and the Concept of Being (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1953), p. 10.

  34. 34 De ver., q. 2, a. 11: ‘Prima … convenientia est proportionis, secunda autem proportionalitatis; unde et secundum modum primae convenientiae invenimus aliquid analogice dictum de duobus quorum unum ad alterum habitudinem habet …. Quandoque vero dicitur aliquid analogice secundo modo convenientiae; sicut nomen visus dicitur de visu corporali et intellectu, eo quod sicut visus est in oculo, ita intellectus est in mente.’

  35. 35 In I Sent., Prol., q. 1, a. 2, ad. 2: ‘… creatura enim non habet esse nisi secundum quod a primo ente descendit, nec nominatur ens nisi inquamtum ens primum imitator …’; In I Sent., d. 35, q. 1, a. 4: ‘… analogia est, secundum quod unum imitatur aliud quantum potest, nec perfecte ipsum assequitur; et haec analogia est creaturae ad Deum.’

  36. 36 See, e.g., SCG I, c. 34; De pot., q. 7, a. 7; ST I, q. 13, a. 5; CT I, c. 27.

  37. 37 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 123.

  38. 38 ST I, q. 13, a. 5: ‘Dicendum est igitur quod huiusmodi nomina dicuntur de Deo et creaturis secundum analogiam, idest proportionem.’

  39. 39 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 123.

  40. 40 ST I, q. 13, a. 5: ‘Neque enim in his quae analogice dicuntur, est una ratio, sicut est in univocis; nec totaliter diversa, sicut in aequivocis ….’

  41. 41 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 123.

  42. 42 Ibid., (emphasis mine).

  43. 43 ST I, q. 13, a. 5 (emphasis mine).

  44. 44 Ibid.: ‘Quod quidem dupliciter contingit in nominibus: vel quia multa habent proportionem ad unum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et urina … vel ex eo quod unum habet proportionem ad alterum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et animali, inquantum medicina est causa sanitatis quae est in animali. Et hoc modo aliqua dicuntur de Deo et creaturis analogice ….’

  45. 45 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 124.

  46. 46 Ibid., p. 122.

  47. 47 ST I, q. 2, a. 2.

  48. 48 Joseph Owens, ‘Analogy as an Approach to Thomistic Being’, Mediaeval Studies 24 (1962), pp. 30222, quote from p. 311.

  49. 49 De pot., q. 7, a. 7: ‘Deus autem alio modo se habet ad esse quam aliqua alia creatura; nam ipse est suum esse, quod nulli alii creaturae competit’; cf. Owens, ‘Analogy,’ p. 311.

  50. 50 Cf. SCG IV, c. 10: ‘… relatio identitatis, quae distinctionem operari non potest, sicut dicitur idem eidem idem’; ST I, q. 28, a. 1, ad. 2; In V Metaph., lect. 11, no. 912.

  51. 51 Cf. Owens, ‘Analogy,’ p. 312.

  52. 52 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 124.

  53. 53 Hemming is correct when he says that proper proportionality cannot accommodate the exigencies of being. He is also correct to note, following Harry A. Wolfson and Pierre Aubenque, that ‘analogical predication in Aristotle has no ontological signification’ (‘Analogy non Entis,’ p. 126). Cf.H.A. Wolfson, ‘The Amphibolous Terms in Aristotle, Arabic Philosophy and Maimonides’, Harvard Theological Review 31 (1938), pp. 15173; P. Aubenque, ‘Sur la naissance de la doctrine pseudo-Aristotélicienne de l'analogie de l'être’, Les Études philosophiques 44 (1989), pp. 291304. In this regard, Owens explains clearly, ‘Being in its own nature is not constituted by analogy. The Aristotelian Being lacks the four-term relation necessary for analogy. …’The Doctrine of Being, p. 380. Wolfson, Aubenque, and Owens are each correct in his assessment of analogy with respect to the Aristotelian doctrine of being because, as we saw earlier, ‘analogy’ has a very precise meaning for the Stagirite, namely, a four-term proportional relationship – the Greek meaning of αναλογια.

  54. 54 Cf. Owens, ‘Analogy,’ p. 307.

  55. 55 Ibid., pp. 314–5.

  56. 56 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 125.

  57. 57 See ST I, q. 2, a. 1.

  58. 58 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 124.

  59. 59 Montagnes, La doctrine, p. 10: ‘Participation, causalité et analogie sont les trois aspects sous lesquels la philosophie aborde l'être, les deux premiers concernant la réalité même de l'être, le troisième se rapportant aux concepts par lesquels l'être est représenté.’

  60. 60 For a sustained treatment of this axiom from Parmenides through the scholastic period, see Philipp W. Rosemann, Omne Agens Agit Sibi Simile: A ‘Repetition’ of Scholastic Metaphysics (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996).

  61. 61 ST I, q. 13, a. 5, ad. 1: ‘Agens enim non univocum est causa universalis totius speciei, ut sol est causa generationis omnium hominum. Agens vero univocum non est causa agens universalis totius speciei (alioquin esset causa sui ipsius, cum sub specie contineatur): sed est causa particularis respectu huius individui, quod in participatione speciei constituit. Causa igitur universalis totius speciei non est agens univocum. Causa autem universalis est prior particulari. – Hoc autem agens universale, licet non sit univocum, non tamen est omnino aequivocum, quia sic non faceret sibi simile; sed potest dici agens analogicum …’

  62. 62 Strictly speaking, Thomas does not use the term ‘form’ or ‘formal’ within the corpus of the present article, however, from his discussions elsewhere within the Sentences it is clear that he is in fact operating against a background that emphasizes the diminished communication of form. In fact a number of scholars have pointed out that Aquinas's Commentary on the Sentences presents a view of being in terms of form and thereby in terms of the exigencies of formal or exemplar causality. Cf. Lyttkens, The Analogy between God and the World, p. 345, Montagnes, La doctrine, pp.43–54.

  63. 63 In I Sent., Prol., q. 1, a. 2, ad. 2: ‘… creatura enim non habet esse nisi secundum quod a primo ente descendit …’

  64. 64 In I Sent., d. 8, q, 1, a. 2: ‘Utrum Deus sit esse omnium rerum.’

  65. 65 Ibid.: ‘Respondeo, sicut dicit Bernardus, Serm. IV super Cant., Deus est esse omnium non essentiale, sed causale.’

  66. 66 Ibid.: ‘Invenimus enim tres modos causć agentis. Scilicet causam ćquivoce agentem, et hoc est quando effectus non convenit cum causa nec nomine nec ratione: sicut sol facit calorem qui non est calidus.’

  67. 67 Ibid.: ‘Item causam univoce agentem, quando effectus convenit in nomine et ratione cum causa, sicut homo generat hominem et calor facit calorem.’

  68. 68 Ibid.: ‘Neutro istorum modorum Deus agit. Non univoce, quia nihil univoce convenit cum ipso. Non ćquivoce, cum effectus et causa aliquo modo conveniant in nomine et ratione …’

  69. 69 Ibid.: ‘… licet secundum prius et posterius …’

  70. 70 Ibid.: ‘Unde est tertius modus causć agentis analogice. Unde patet quod divinum esse producit esse creaturć in similitudine sui imperfecta: et ideo esse divinum dicitur esse omnium rerum, a quo omne esse creatum effective et exemplariter manta.’

  71. 71 SCG II, c. 53: ‘Assimilatio alicuius ad causam agentem fit per actum: agens enim agit sibi simile inquantum est actu’; trans. Anderson, Summa Contra Gentiles: Creation (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), p. 154 (emphasis mine).

  72. 72 Ibid., I, c. 29: ‘… de natura enim actionis est ut agens sibi simile agat, cum unumquodque agat secundum quod est actu …’; trans., Anton Pegis, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), p. 138. Cf. ST I, q. 4, a. 3.

  73. 73 ST I, q. 4, a. 3: ‘… illa quae sunt a Deo, assimilantur ei inquantum sunt entia, ut primo et universali principio totius esse’; cf. Ibid., I, q. 50, a. 1.

  74. 74 SCG I, c. 29.

  75. 75 Ibid.; cf. De pot., q. 7, a. 5.

  76. 76 Ibid.

  77. 77 ST I, q. 13, a. 5, ad. 1.

  78. 78 Barth's criticism of the analogia entis is well known, especially his referring to it as the invention of the ‘Antichrist.’ Cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1, eds. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrence (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), p. xiii: ‘I regard the analogia entis as the invention of Antichrist, and I believe that because of it it is impossible ever to become a Roman Catholic, all other reasons for not doing so being to my mind short-sighted and trivial.’

  79. 79 ‘Analogia non Entis,’ p. 121.

  80. 80 Hans Urs von Balthasar provides a helpful summary of Barth's objection to the analogia entis in The Theology of Karl Barth (trans. John Drury; New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Wilson, 1971), p. 147: ‘The notion of being is incapable of expressing the decisive element in relationship between God and creation. In fact, it obscures this element, taking the relationship for granted from the start instead of bringing out the unexpected wonder of it all. … However analogously we may apply it, the concept of being remains a concept, an organizing framework under which we lump both God and creature. We thus show disrespect for the creator and expropriate his prerogative of self-revelation. He alone has the capacity and the right to tell us who he is and what his nature is like.’