Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Early Text on Analogy

Duns Scotus, Quaestiones super librum Elenchorum, q.15 (Opera Philosophia II, 336-7):

"To the question it should be said that as far as it is from the side of the utterance (vocis) signifying, it is not possible for an utterance to signify one per prius and a second per posterius, for to signify is to reprsesent something to the intellect. What therefore is signified, is first conceived by the intellect. But evertything which is conceived by the intellect, is conceived under a distinct and determinate definition/concept (ratio), because understanding is a certain kind of act, and therefore what understands distinguishes by another (?). Therefore everything which is signified, is signified under a distinct and determinate definition/concept (ratio). This is clear for prime matter which of itself is being in potency, if it is understood, it is necessary that it be understood under a distinct ratio. And if such is the case with matter, much more will this be true of everything else.

If therefore an analogous statement (dictio) or utterance (vox) is imposed to diverse [things, entities], it is necessary that it is imposed under a distinct and determinate ratio. Therefore if an analogous statement, under diverse rationes, is imposed to diverse [things, entities], it is necceary that those thing, insofar as it is the case from the side of the signifying utterance, represents equally. Whence in a thing there can be analogy, but in an utterance signifying there can fall no priority or posteriority, because there is some property which more befalls one thing than another. But there is not some property which more befalls the substance of an utterance than another. This is clear by a sign, because Aristotle in the book of the Categories, where he determines about signifying utterances, makes no mention of those things which are analogates in the thing, but he only speaks there about univocals and equivocals. Whence Boethius says in the same place that, since Aristotle said that 'equvocals are those of which the name is common and the ratio of the substance are diverse' that under that definition he includes those things which in the thing are analogates and every genus of equivocation. Whence 'ratio of substance' according to him is received there for a determinate ratio which the intellect attributes to those things, and not for a reason inasmuch as it is present(constat) from genus and difference. On account of which I say that, as far as the case is from the side of the signifying utterance, there falls no priority or posteriority, although the things signified have a relation (habitudo) to each other.

[Against the Principal Arguments]

To the first argument it should be said that as far as it is from the side of the utterance signifying, there is no medium between a univocal and equivocal.

To the other argument it should be said that a natural philosopher, and also the metaphysician, consider things themselves; the logician considers things of reason. And therefore there are many univocals according to the logician,wqhich are called equivocal by the natural philosopher. For the natural philosopher would say that 'body' is said equivocally of an inferior and superior body. But a logician would say that it is said of each univocally. Whence from each a logician can abstract one common notion (ratio), and says that in that notion the common is united or univocated (univocari). Whence because in superior and inferior bodies it befalls to find one common notion (because this and that body agree in having three dimensions), therefore the logician says they are both united in that univocal notion. But because a natural philosopher applies his consideration to the things themselves, and the nature of corruptible body is other than the nature of an incorruptible one, therefore the natural philosopher says that 'body' is said of this and that body equivocally. The logician however says that all species of one genus are univocal in their genus. But the natural philosopher says that 'many equivocations lie hid in the genus'. Whence the logician considers things as they fall under reason. But between the same and diverse there is no medium, and therefore the lgoician does not posit a medium between the equivocal and the univocal.

Whence by this to the form of the argument it should be said that because the first philosopher considers thingsd according to their quiddities, and in the thing it is the case that certain things have a relation (habitudo) to each other, therefore the Philosopher says that being is said analogically of substance and accident. But because a logician considers things as they fall under reason, therefore he says that being is said equivocally of substance and accident. Whence Porphyry says that 'if someone should call all things beings, he will name them equivocally, not univocally.'


awatkins69 said...

Not sure if anybody reads old comments here. But anyways:

Woah. So when we say a red trope/mode has being and that my cup has being, "being" signifies two completely different things?

And when talk about God, we *intend* to talk univocally (because there is no other way)? By the conjunction of that with the metaphysical (as opposed to semantic) analogy of being, we talk falsely, no? Or else we talk equivocally? How can we know anything true about God?

Do I misunderstand?

Lee Faber said...

well, they are not two different things, because "thing" is a transcendental that is co-extensive with being. But if the "red trope/mode" you speak of is taken as an accident, and the cup is taken as a substance (leaving aside the problem of whether artifacts are substances), then yes, the term 'being' is predicated equivocally of the cup and its redness. This is quite standard among the Scholastics.

Remember this is an early text, and he is not talking about God at all. But it seems clear from the context that he would still accept univocity of being between God and creatures here, on the logical level. analogy would hold on the "real" or metaphysical level.

awatkins69 said...

Thank you for replying. I think I was a little bit unclear.

I understand that here Scotus is not talking about God. But if we apply this understanding of meaning to God, it seems to create a problem. If we speak univocally of God and creatures, while on the *real* level predications do not hold univocally but rather analogically, then we can't speak truly of God. Unless our terms are predicated equivocally. But then we really don't know what we're saying?

Lee Faber said...

My point in mentioning that Scotus is not here speaking of God is that Scotus' views on univocity changeed over the course of his career. So I am not sure if one should try to infer from this text what he would say about God, since he explicitly addresses this in other texts, such as the Ordinatio (see the my post on this).

In the Ordinatio Scotus isn't much interested in analogy. In general, analogy is a species of equivocity; what Aquinas calls analogy is Aristotle's 'pros hen' equivocity, or focused meaning as it is often translated. Scotus however thinks that in order to save our knowledge of God, as well as the meaning of theology, that "real" analogy must be based on conceptual univocity. he never goes into detail what real analogy does as he is more interested in exploring the issues involved in univocity. But there doesn't seem to be any problem that I can see with this. If it's easier, just pretend he ignores analogy all together (after all, it gets only a short relative clause in the ordinatio).