Whether God is namable by us by some name signifying the divine essence in itself, as it is a “this”]
Concerning distinction twenty-two I ask whether God is nameable by us wayfarers by some name signifying the divine essence in itself, as it is a “this”
[I. Opinion of others]
It is said that just as God is understood by us, so he is able also to be named by us. According to the diverse ways some people think about the cognition of God by the intellect of a wayfarer, consequently they speak in different ways about naming God—and those who deny a common univocal concept between God and creatures and posit two analogous concepts (of which each one, which is of a creature, is attributed to the other, namely, to that one which is of God) will say because of this that God is nameable by a wayfarer by a name expressing that analogous concept.
But I argue specially against that opinion, because every real possible concept that can be had of the divine essence, comes to be in the intellect by the power of that essence (which is proved, because also any minimal intelligible object, naturally makes every real concept that can possibly be had of it); but according to them, only a single concept can be had of the divine essence by its power, although the intellect considering [negotians] can cause and fabricate many concepts concerning that object; therefore, whatever object makes some knowledge of God in our intellect, will make-according to that opinion—a concept of it as it is “this essence”, and so it will be nameable by a wayfarer by a name signifying “this essence” as it is a “this”.
[II. Scotus’s response]
It can be said to the question, briefly, that that proposition common to many opinions—namely that ‘just as it is understood, so also it is named’—is false if understood precisely, because something is able to be signified more distinctly than it can be understood.
Which seems to be persuaded by this, that since substance is not intelligible by a wayfarer unless in the common concept of being (just as was proved in distinction 3), if it cannot be more distinctly signified than understood, no name imposed by a wayfarer would signify some thing of the genus of substance, but just as some property from which a name is imposed is conceived precisely by the intellect of the wayfarer (which property commonly is expressed by the etymology of the name), so precisely such a property would be signified by a name: for example, by the name of stone something of the genus of substance would not be signified, but only something from the genus of action, such as “wounding of the foot”, which the etymology expresses and from which the name was imposed.
And so it can be argued about all other names, with things from the genus of substance having been imposed, because none of them signify something except some accidental property which is understood by the one imposing—or it is necessary to say that a name signifies more distinctly than the one positing it understood.
This may be possible in such a way, it can be understood so, according to the way of Augustine VI De trinitate c.6, in which he proves there to be composition in every creature. For many accidents are conceived by some, concurring in the same, supposes such quantity and such quality, --and neither of those is proved to be the other, because each of them remains without the other; each of those is proved also to have a common subject [??utrique illorum aliquid aliud esse subiectum commune], because each of them can be destroyed with the other not destroyed: therefore something is concluded to be the subject of each, as quality and quantity,--that however which is underneath [subest], is not conceived in a quidditative concept except of being, or of ‘this being’. And when frequently it comes about that such quantity and such quality are joined in something and elsewhere they are not conjoined, and this is not from the nature of quality and quantity, as it was shown—it is concluded that this is from the nature of that third, in which both of those are founded. Not however are things so much joined in that total, as much as in that: for from which they are joined in different ways in diverse things, it is concluded that the substrate of these is different from the substrate of those, and from this it is concluded that this is another from another third. But those others, so distinct (whatever that may be which is joined with them, which are being understood), imposing a name to something. That seems to be the proper sign of “this”, under the aspect which it is “this”, so that by imposing a name, one intends to signify that essence of the genus of substance: and just as one intends to signify, so the name which he imposes is a sign, and nevertheless he does not understand that distinctly, which he intends to signify distinctly by this name or this sign.
Example: is someone were to impose hebrew characters, unaware of hebrew utterances in particular—nevertheless knowing that some utterance is first and some second and some third, he would impose so “something is first, and whatever that is, I intend that it be signified by such a name and such a character’ those characters would be signs of those hebrew utterances, which some hebrew would distinctly know the objects of such signs, a non hebrew however even if he should understand what was being signified by those figures, would not understand that distinctly, but only under the aspect of the first utterance or the second.
Briefly, therefore, it can be said that at least many names are imposed which signify God in common, because so he can be naturally conceived by a wayfarer, as appears in distinction 3; or if it is true that he ‘can be signified more distinctly than conceived’, God can be named by a wayfarer by a name signifying ‘this essence’.
Whatever the case may be about this, it is similar to name God by such a name, and this or that name is imposed by God himself, or by an angel knowing him, or by a wayfarer. For it is similar that there are many names in scripture, signifying that essence distinctly—just as the jews say about the name of God which they call “Tetragrammaton”, and God seems to say in EX. 3: “Say this to the sons of Israel: He who is, sent me to you,’ that is, this is my name; an elsewhere, “I am the God of Abraham,” etc., “this is my name” and “I have not shown my great name of Adonai to them”.
Therefore God is nameable by a wayfarer signifying by a proper name the divine essence as it is ‘this essence’, because the wayfarer can use that sign and intend to express the signified of that sign, or he imposed that sign or another one who knew the signified; and by such a sign or name the wayfarer can use it as a name, although he is not able to impose it as a sign. And if that proposition would be true that ‘no name can be imposed to something more distinctly than it can be understood,’ this is false because ‘no one can use a name, more distinctly signifying a thing, than he himself can understand’ and therefore it must be granted that the wayfarer can use many names, expressing the divine essence under the aspect of the divine essence.