I'll be reading, glossing, and posting Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles, chapter by chapter, about twice a week, until the final Amen. Your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 32

Chapter 32: THAT NOTHING IS PREDICATED UNIVOCALLY OF GOD AND OTHER THINGS [CAPUT TRIGINTA DUO: Quod nihil de Deo et rebus aliis univoce praedicatur]

From the annotated edition: "This and the next three chapters suppose the doctrine of Aristotle about synonyma and homonyma to be found in the beginning of his Categories, and in the text-books. The conclusion of this chapter, if accepted, renders pantheism untenable."

[1] [Having established that ascribing many names to God does not conflict with His simplicity {cf. SCG, I, 32}, it is] evident that nothing can be predicated univocally of God and other things.

[2] An effect that does not receive a form specifically the same [formam secundum speciem similem] as that through which the agent acts cannot receive according to a univocal predication [secundum univocam praedicationem] the name arising from that form. Thus, the heat generated by the sun and the sun itself are not called univocally hot. Now, the forms of the things God has made do not measure up to a specific likeness of the divine power [formae ad speciem divinae virtutis non perveniunt]; for the things that God has made receive in a divided and particular way [cum divisim et particulariter recipiant quod] that which in Him is found in a simple and universal way [in Deo simpliciter et universaliter invenitur]. It is evident, then, that nothing can be said univocally of God and other things [Impossibile est igitur aliquid univoce de Deo et rebus aliis praedicari].

[3] If, furthermore, an effect should measure up to the species of its cause, it will not receive the univocal predication of the name unless it receives the same specific form according to the same mode of being [eundem essendi modum eandem specie formam suscipiat]. … For, as is clear from what we have said, there is nothing in God that is not the divine being itself, which is not the case with other things. Nothing, therefore, can be predicated of God and other things univocally.

This passage requires more meditation than I can afford right now.

[4] Moreover, whatever is predicated of many things univocally is either a genus, a species, a difference, an accident, or a property [Omne quod de pluribus univoce praedicatur, vel est genus, vel species, vel differentia, vel accidens aut proprium]. But, as we have shown, nothing is predicated of God as a genus or a difference [cf. SCG, I, 25]; and thus neither is anything predicated as a definition, nor likewise as a species, which is constituted of genus and difference [cf. SCG, I, 28]. Nor, as we have shown, can there be any accident in God, and therefore nothing is predicated of Him either as an accident or a property, since property belongs to the genus of accidents. It remains, then, that nothing is predicated univocally of God and other things [nihil de Deo et rebus aliis univoce praedicari].

[5] Again, what is predicated of many things univocally is simpler than both of them, at least in concept. Now, there can be nothing simpler than God either in reality or in concept [Deo autem neque secundum rem neque secundum intellectum potest esse aliquid simplicius]. Nothing, therefore, is predicated univocally of God and other things.

[6] Everything, likewise, that is predicated univocally of many things belongs through participation to each of the things of which it is predicated; for the species is said to participate in the genus and the individual in the species [nam species participare dicitur genus, et individuum speciem]. But nothing is said of God by participation, since whatever is participated is determined to the mode of that which is participated [nam omne quod participatur determinatur ad modum participati] and is thus possessed in a partial way and not according to every mode of perfection. Nothing, therefore, can be predicated univocally of God and other things.

[7] Then, too, what is predicated of some things according to priority and posteriority [secundum prius et posterius] is certainly not predicated univocally. For the prior is included in the definition of the posterior [nam prius in definitione posterioris includitur], as substance is included in the definition of accident [sicut substantia in definitione accidentis] according as an accident is a being. If, then, being were said univocally of substance and accident, substance would have to be included in the definition of being in so far as being is predicated of substance [Si igitur diceretur univoce ens de substantia et accidente, oporteret quod substantia etiam poneretur in definitione entis secundum quod de substantia praedicatur]. But this is clearly impossible [Quod patet esse impossibile].

I take this to be a major "line in the sand" for St Thomas. Based on my limited understanding, his often otherwise uncontested master, Aristotle, believed that, since substance was the bedrock of his realist metaphysics, therefore every substance included in its definition the fact of its own being. For Aristotle, in other words, a nonexistent substance was incoherent. This was, apparently, but all of piece with his pantheistic eternalism. Whatever exists, exists necessarily, though not absolutely necessarily. But in St Thomas' teaching, there is an intrinsic 'cleft' between anything's (actual) being and its substantial form (or 'essential definition'), a cleft bridged only by the Creator, in whom Being and Essence coalesce in a single act.

Now nothing is predicated of God and creatures as though they were in the same order, but, rather, according to priority and posteriority [secundum prius et posterius]. For all things are predicated of God essentially [cum de Deo omnia praedicentur essentialiter]. For God is called being as being entity itself, and He is called good as being goodness itself. But in other beings predications are made by participation [de aliis autem praedicationes fiunt per participationem], as Socrates is said to be a man, not because he is humanity itself, but because he possesses humanity. It is impossible, therefore, that anything be predicated univocally of God and other things.

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