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A Maimonidean Critique of Thomistic Analogy

BUIJS*

LANGUAGE ABOUT GOD POSES PARALLEL PROBLEMS in the thought of Maimonides (1135

1204) and that of Thomas Aquinas (122575). Adopting an Aristotelian philo- sophical framework, they both develop broadly similar cosmological arguments for the existence of God. They draw like conclusions regarding the divine essence and human limitations in knowing it. Both thinkers maintain that God in His essence is absolutely simple, having no composition or multiplicity of attributes whatsoever. From this they both infer that we can know of God’s existence but we cannot comprehend His essence. We can know that God is; we cannot know what He is. 1 But if the divine essence is incomprehensible, what meaning can our lan- guage have when applied to God? The language in Scriptures does speak of God descriptively. Is this language unintelligible because there are no attributes to which it could refer? Can our language nevertheless tell us something about God? On these questions the thought of Maimonides and the thought of Aquinas seem to run in direct opposition to each other. They both concede that scriptural language is to be reinterpreted to have a figurative, rather than literal, meaning in line with their philosophical conception of divine simplicity. But they differ on the specific meaning of descriptive terms as applied to God. Maimonides con- tends that terms are predicated equivocally of God and other beings. In their application to God, they have a totally different and unrelated meaning from their application to other things. In arguing this position, he rejects two opposing views: that terms may be predicated univocally and that they may be predicated

1 For Maimonides see his Guide of the Perplexed, Shlomo Pines, trans. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963) I, 5060, pp. 11147, and II, 1, pp. 24352. For Aquinas see his Summa Contra Gentiles I, c. 1325, and III, c. 49; and his Summa Theologiae I, q. 2–q. 3. For a presentation of the problem in both thinkers see David B. Burrell, Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986).

* Joseph A. Buijs is Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta.

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amphibolously or analogically of God and other beings. 2 Aquinas, on the con- trary, contends that terms are used analogically. When applied to God, terms have a somewhat different yet related meaning to other applications. While he concurs with Maimonides that terms cannot be used univocally, he also explicitly counters that the meaning of terms cannot be equivocal when applied to God and other beings. 3 On the Maimonidean view terms can have no descriptive reference to God’s essence whatsoever. They cannot say what God is; they can at best say what God is not. However, terms may be understood to have descriptive reference to God’s agency, or more correctly to the effects of divine agency in the world, without thereby referring to God’s essence. 4 On the Thomistic view, instead, terms can at least have an indirect, descriptive reference to God’s essence. By way of analogy, they can, in a limited and imperfect way, say something of what God is. 5 Despite these explicit textual differences, commentators have tended to mini- mize philosophical differences between a Maimonidean and a Thomistic approach toward language about God. Some see virtually no difference in the respective views of Maimonides and Aquinas. 6 Others see at best a difference “of formula- tion rather than of substance.” 7 Maimonides’ insistence on equivocal language, on this interpretation, is more the result of limited semantic and metaphysical

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2 See Guide I, 56, p. 131. I use “amphibolous” and “analogical” interchangeably. For an analysis of the etymology of these semantic terms in Greek thought and of their usage in Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin medieval texts see Harry A. Wolfson, “The Amphibolous Terms in Aristotle, Arabic Philosophy and Maimonides,” Harvard Theological Review 31 (1938): 15173; and his “St. Thomas on Divine At- tributes,” in Mélanges Offert à Étienne Gilson de l’Académie Française (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Me- diaeval Studies; Paris: J. Vrin, 1959), 673700. Wolfson shows that analogus and its cognates in Latin philosophical texts came to translate the Greek amphibola, which was usually rendered by mushakkik in Arabic texts and by mesuppaq in Hebrew texts.

3 See STh I, q. 13, a. 5; ScG I, c. 32, 33, 34; De Potentia, q. 7, a. 7 (in which he explicitly mentions “Rabbi Moses”); and De Veritate, q. 2, a. 11.

4 See my “Attributes of Action in Maimonides,” Vivarium 27 (1989): 85102; Neil A. Stubbens, “Naming God: Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas,” The Thomist 54 (1990): 23341; and Ken- neth Seeskin, Searching for a Distant God, The Legacy of Maimonides (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 4044.

5 See John F. Wippel, “Quidditative Knowledge of God According to Thomas Aquinas,” in Grace- ful Reason, Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens, CSSR , Lloyd P. Gerson, ed. (Toronto: Pontificial Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983), 27399; Stubbens, “Naming God,” 25867; and David B. Burrell, “Maimonides, Aquinas, and Ghazali on Naming God,” in The Return to Scrip- ture in Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Postcritical Scriptural Interpretations, Peter Ochs, ed. (New York:

Paulist Press, 1993), 23846.

6 Etienne Gilson notes that “their philosophies were in harmony with one another on all the really important points,” except concerning the soul and immortality (History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages [London: Sheed and Ward, 1955], 229). Admitting the influence of Maimonides on Aquinas, Isaac Franck likewise maintained that “the discovery that so much of Aquinas’s negative theology bears a close resemblance to that of Maimonides should occasion no surprise.” See his “Maimonides and Aquinas on Man’s Knowledge of God: A Twentieth Century Perspective,” Review of Metaphysics 38 (1985): 600; reprinted in Maimonides, A Collection of Critical Essays, Joseph A. Buijs, ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 284305.

7 Alexander Broadie, “Maimonides and Aquinas on the Names of God,” Religious Studies 23 (1987):

170. See also his “Maimonides and Aquinas,” in History of Jewish Philosophy, Daniel H. Frank and Oliver Leaman, eds. (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 285.

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resources than it is of philosophical intent. 8 Aquinas’s analogical language, like- wise, retains a negative strand that approximates Maimonides’ emphasis. Indeed, “Aquinas’ champions have often forgotten that analogy was for him a species of equivocity (homonymity).” 9 A third reading, in effect, merges the views of Maimonides into those of Aquinas by attributing “a secret doctrine of analogy” to Maimonides 10 or by noting “a logic of analogy” in the Guide that can be elucidated with the help of Aquinas. 11 What these various interpretations tend to overlook is Maimonides’ critique of analogical language, a critique developed within the broader context of his dis- cussion of divine attributes and its implied negative theology. Although Maimonides’ critique is admittedly not directed against Aquinas, I believe an ar- gument can be constructed that would address the Thomistic theory of analogical predication. Such an argument is one of several to show that a Maimonidean solution to the problem of theological language differs philosophically and significantly from a Thomistic one. 12 There are, I believe, at least three significant differences. First, there is a difference in approach and in conclusion regarding the logical inter- connection between knowledge and language about God. While both ground their respective epistemic and semantic views in ontological claims about the very nature of God, Maimonides concludes with negative language on the basis of the unknowability of God, whereas Aquinas weakens his epistemic claims regarding the unknowability of God in light of his semantic theory of analogical meaning. 13

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8 Wolfson gave initial impetus to this interpretation by noting that the Arabic commentators employed a more extensive notion of amphibolous terms than did Maimonides. See Wolfson, “Amphibolous Terms,” 16373. See M. T.-L. Penido, “Les Attributs de Dieu d’Après Maïmonide,” Revue Néo-Scolastique de Philosophie 26 (1924): 1457; Harold J. Johnson, “Via Negationis and Via Analogiae:

Theological Agnosticism in Maimonides and Aquinas,” in Actas del V Congresso Internacional de Filosofía Medieval, vol. 2 (Madrid: Nacional, 1979), 844; and Burrell, “Maimonides, Aquinas, and Ghazali,” 234. Also see Burrell’s earlier discussion “Naming the Names of God: Muslims, Jews, Christians,” The- ology Today 47 (1990): 279 and his Knowing the Unknowable God, 57.

9 Burrell, “Maimonides, Aquinas, and Ghazali,” 234.

10 Kenneth Seeskin, “The Positive Contribution of Negative Theology,” in Jewish Philosophy in a Secular Age (Albany: The State University of New York Press, 1990), 45.

11 Stephen E. Lahey, “Maimonides and Analogy,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 67 (1993):

226.

12 Avital Wohlman, likewise, concludes that there is “a fundamental difference between Thomas and Maimonides,” which consists in the way each conceives the inevitable use of negation in language about God, but she argues for a “decisive originality” on the part of Aquinas in relation to Maimonides. See her Thomas d’Aquin et Maïmonide: Un Dialogue Exemplaire (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1988), 1567. Ehud Z. Benor notes that, “in denying even a relation of analogy between attributes that apply to human beings or the world and attributes that apply to God” the negative theology of Maimonides is more extreme than that of Aquinas. See his “Meaning and Reference in Maimonides’ Negative Theol- ogy,” The Harvard Theological Review 88 (1995): 33940. On Benor’s interpretation, Maimonides’ nega- tive theology serves to establish the reference of the name “God” and thereby to import a symbolic use of language into theological discourse. Benor goes on to argue for a “rationally disciplined constructivist theology” (ibid., 339) in which a symbolic use of language meaningfully points to a transcendent reality without describing it. Idid Dobbs-Weinstein cautions against drawing too close a parallel be- tween Maimonides and Aquinas on language of God on the grounds that they address different prob- lems and use disparate theories of language. See her Maimonides and St. Thomas on the Limits of Reason (Albany: The State University of New York Press, 1995), 1867.

13 See my “The Negative Theology of Maimonides and Aquinas,” The Review of Metaphysics 41 (1988): 72338.

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A second difference can be seen in the way Maimonides handles predicates of action. Unlike Aquinas, who considers such predicates to be causal or relational terms, Maimonides proposes predicates of action as a distinct logical category. 14 Thirdly, a Maimonidean solution differs from a Thomistic one in its insistence on an equivocal use of terms together with its critique of analogical language. An adequate defence of this third point would need to elucidate the claim and its justification; however, it would also need to show that Aquinas’s critique of equivocal language fails against Maimonides and that Maimonides’ critique of analogical language succeeds against Aquinas. It is only the latter argumentation I want to present here. I propose, first, to lay out the context within which Maimonides develops his argument against the analogical meaning of terms as applied to God; second, to restructure the argument by elucidating the criteria he proposes for an analogi- cal use of terms; and, finally, to extend the argument and its criteria to Aquinas’s theory of analogical language. If the critique succeeds, then it entails the view that language about the divine essence is intelligible, not as affirmative but only as negative propositions. 15 And in that case Maimonides’ negative theology would be shown to be philosophically different from a positive theology based on ana- logical language. Indeed, it is his insistence on an equivocal use of terms in their application to God and other beings, and its corollary that terms are to be reinter- preted to have a negative meaning when talking about God, that shapes Maimonides’ thoroughly negative theology.

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Maimonides’ critique of analogical language, together with an argument for the equivocal use of language in its application to God, occurs as part of a discussion whose intent, as he signals in the opening chapter of the Guide, is to establish a correct understanding of God, initially by purifying the concept of God from cor- poreal connotations but ultimately by attaining knowledge of the “true reality” of God in its absolute unity and transcendence. 16 This discussion, occupying most of Part I of the Guide, has two components: one exegetical, another philosophical. 17

14 See my “Attributes of Action.” Seymour Feldman has shown how Aquinas and others misunder- stood such predicates. See his “A Scholastic Misinterpretation of Maimonides’ Doctrine of Divine Attributes,” Journal of Jewish Studies 19 (1968): 2339 and his “Did the Scholastics Have an Accurate Knowledge of Maimonides?” in Studies in Medieval Culture III, John R. Sommerfeldt, ed. (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, 1970), 14550.

15 For a brief discussion of the intelligibility of negative language about God, see my “Is the Negative Theology of Maimonides Intelligible?” in Torah and Wisdom, Studies in Jewish Philosophy, Kabbalah, and Halacha, Essays in Honor of Arthur Hyman, Ruth Link-Salinger, ed. (New York: Shengold Publishers, 1992), 917.

16 Guide I, 1, p. 21; and I, 50, p. 111. It is, as Maimonides contends later, a knowledge by negation:

“God may he be exalted, cannot be apprehended by the intellects, and that none but He himself can apprehend what He is, and that apprehension of Him consists in the inability to attain the ultimate term in apprehending Him” (ibid., I, 59, p. 139).

17 His exegetical discussion occurs in Guide I, 149, pp. 21110; his philosophical discussion occurs in ibid. I, 5060, pp. 11147. See also Arthur Hyman, “Maimonides on Religious Language,” in Studies in Jewish Philosophy: Collected Essays of the Academy for Jewish Research, 1980–1985, Norbert M. Samuelson, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 35165.

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The exegetical component is propaedeutic to the philosophical component in that it establishes a principle of reinterpretation on the basis of scriptural usage which the philosophical treatment then justifies on the basis of demonstration. In the exegetical discussion Maimonides establishes, by appeal to linguistic usage and scriptural proof texts, that terms may vary in their meaning within different contexts. In the case of God, then, terms need not be taken in their ordinary, literal meaning; rather they can be interpreted, according to correct usage, in a different, figurative meaning. He illustrates the point by repeated ex- amples of terms that can be taken in either a corporeal or a noncorporeal sense. The term “to see” (ra’oh), to take one example, usually refers to physical sense perception but it may also refer to intellectual apprehension. In those contexts in which the term is used of God, it can only be interpreted in the sense of referring to intellectual apprehension. Otherwise, it leads to misuse and misconception, since God lacks corporeal sense organs. 18 (But even in this reinterpretation, as Maimonides had hinted earlier, divine intellectual apprehension is not of the same kind as human intellectual apprehension. 19 ) By repeated illustrations from Hebrew biblical usage, Maimonides establishes the view that language in its appli- cation to God does not mean what it usually means in its application to human contexts. Having shifted the meaning of terms in their application to God from a corpo- real to a non-corporeal connotation, he seeks to justify the interpretation in the philosophical discussion by raising the question of truthful language. He does so by starting his discussion with a characterization of beliefs in contrast with mere verbal utterances and by directing his reader to attain “certain knowledge” of divine unity. 20 For Maimonides as others in the realist tradition inherited from Aristotle, lan- guage is meaningful only insofar as it is truthful and truthful language is, in turn, an expression of true beliefs or knowledge. However, beliefs are themselves a true (or false) representation of reality: “for there is no belief except after a represen- tation; belief is the affirmation that what has been represented is outside the mind just as it has been represented in the mind.” 21 Therefore, if language of God is to be truthful as well as meaningful, it must be rooted in metaphysical truth about God. Now demonstrations for the existence of God also establish that the divine essence is unlike any other. God is the “necessarily existent,” a totally uncaused and therefore absolutely simple being. 22 For if it were composed in any way—of essence and existence, or matter and form, or substratum and accidents—it would be causally contingent in its being. The same argument establishes that God is incorporeal, since corporeality entails composition of various kinds. Consequently,

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18 See Guide I, 4, pp. 278.

19 See ibid. I, 2, p. 23.

20 Ibid. I, 50, p. 111.

21 Ibid. For a textual and historical analysis of this characterization, see Harry A. Wolfson, “Crescas on the Problem of Divine Attributes,” The Jewish Quarterly Review n.s. 7 (1916): 45; and his “The Aristotelian Predicables and Maimonides’ Division of Attributes,” in Essays and Studies in Memory of Linda R. Miller, Israel Davidson, ed. (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1938), 2035.

22 Guide II, 1, p. 248; see also I, 59, p. 137; and I, 60, p. 146.

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the divine essence has neither essential attributes that constitute it nor accidental attributes that qualify it. 23 Within this metaphysical framework, Maimonides can justify his contention, merely asserted by illustration in his exegetical discussion, that any language hav- ing a corporeal connotation is mistakenly applied to God. But this conclusion does not fully answer how language of God is to be understood. Can terms be truthfully applied to God and, if so, in what sense are they applied? The answer has a logical component concerning the predicability of terms and a semantic component concerning their meaning. Maimonides classifies predicates into one of five kinds: (i) a definition, i.e., the species of a thing; (ii) parts of a definition, i.e., its genus or specific differ- ence; (iii) qualities, including quantities, dispositions, habits, and the like; (iv) relations; and (v) actions. 24 The first two kinds of predicates describe a thing in terms of its essence or essential features. Such predicate terms are truthfully as- cribed to a thing in virtue of its essential attributes, either in combination as in the case of (i) or singly as in the case of (ii). The third kind, predicates of quality, describe a thing in non-essential terms. These predicate terms are truthfully as- cribed to a thing in virtue of any of its accidental attributes. The fourth kind, relational predicates, also describe a thing in non-essential terms, because they affirm, not what a thing is, but how it stands in comparison with another thing. The predication of relations to two or more things, however, requires that some attributes pertain to the things related. Spatial or temporal relations, for example, can be predicated of two things, only if the attributes of space or time pertain to each of them. But space and time are themselves accidental attributes of material substances. Likewise, such reciprocal relations as sameness, similarity, or likeness can be predicated of two things, only if they are alike in some respect. And things can be alike either because of essential attributes or because of accidental at- tributes. 25 Thus relational terms are truthfully predicated of two or more things in virtue of either essential or accidental attributes that link two or more things to each other. The last category, predicates of action, describe effects produced by an essence. This is a logically distinct category of predicates for Maimonides, be- cause they serve to identify a subject as an agent, unlike the other kinds of predi- cates which serve to describe it by reference to either its essential or accidental attributes. 26 Thus action terms are truthfully predicated of a subject in virtue of whatever issues from it as an agent and not necessarily in virtue of distinct essen- tial or accidental attributes. Given that neither essential nor accidental attributes pertain to God because of His absolute simplicity, it is immediately apparent that none of the first four kinds of predicates can be truthfully ascribed to God. Such predication would presuppose an ontological distinction in God and hence would import multiplic-

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23 See ibid. I, 51, pp. 1124; and I, 58, p. 135.

24 See Treatise on Logic, Israel Efros, trans. (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1938), especially c. 1, pp. 345; c. 3, pp. 378; and c. 10, pp. 514. See also Guide I, 52, pp. 1147. For a detailed discussion of this classification see Wolfson, “Aristotelian Predicables,” 20134; and more recently Stubbens, “Naming God,” 2339.

25 See Guide I, 52, p. 118, and 56, p. 130.

26 For a more extensive explanation see my “Attributes of Action,” 85102.

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ity into the divine essence. Predicates of action, on the other hand, may be truth- fully ascribed to God, for in identifying God as the agent of an action this kind of predication would not import multiplicity into the divine essence. 27 Maimonides contends that such attributes as knowledge, power, will, and life, which are tradi- tionally considered to be perfections of God, can be reinterpreted into predicates of action. But since the terms then refer to effects of divine agency in the world, rather than to the divine essence, Maimonides nevertheless considers whether such perfections could be ascribed to God’s essence. He contends that they can, provided that they are then understood to be used equivocally of God and other things. It is in this context that he develops his argument for an equivocal use of terms and against both a univocal and an analogical use of terms in their applica- tion to God. He considers the argument to be “a cogent demonstration that the meaning of the qualificative attributions ascribed to Him and the meaning of the attributions known to us have nothing in common in any respect or in any mode; these attributions have in common only the name and nothing else.” 28

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Before detailing Maimonides’ argument regarding language of God, I will first elucidate the criteria he proposes for an equivocal, univocal, and analogical use of terms. Since the Guide, as he himself admits, is “not a treatise on language,” 29 he gives only cursory allusions—in the introduction and at I:56. But his allusions can be supplemented with the treatment in his Treatise on Logic, whose philosophi- cal concepts are presupposed in the Guide. 30 Indeed, Maimonides precedes his argument for the equivocal use of terms by noting that the denial of essential attributes to God and its logical implications “can be understood only by some- one who already possesses knowledge of the art of logic and of the nature of being.” 31 Maimonides’ general classification of terms in Logic is into those that are “dis- tinct,” “synonymous,” and “equivocal.” 32 Distinct terms are different terms used to refer to different things; synonymous terms are different terms used to refer to the same thing; and equivocal terms are the same term used to refer to different things. The latter category, which understands “equivocal terms” in a generic sense, is further subdivided into six kinds: (1) purely equivocal, (2) univocal, (3) amphibolous, (4) general-particular, (5) metaphorical, and (6) derivative terms. 33 In the Guide he alludes to this subdivision when he cautions his reader against

27 See Guide I, 52, p. 119.

28 Ibid. I, 56, p. 131.

29 Ibid. I, 10, p. 35.

30 See Raymond L. Weiss, “On the Scope of Maimonides’ Logic, or, What Joseph Knew,” in A Straight Path, Ruth Link-Salinger et al., eds. (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988 ), 255 65 ; Joseph P. Cohen, “Figurative Language, Philosophy, Religious Belief: An Essay on Some Themes in Maimonides’ The Guide of the Perplexed,” in Studies in Jewish Philosophy: Collected Essays of the Academy for Jewish Research, 1980–1985, Norbert M. Samuelson, ed. (Lanham, MD: Univer- sity Press of America, 1987), 36796; and Hyman, “Religious Language,” 35165.

31 Guide I, 55, p. 129.

32 Logic, c. 13, p. 59.

33 See ibid.

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misunderstandings from the use of “equivocal,” “derivative,” and “amphibolous terms.” 34 In each of the instances of this subdivision, the same term is used in different occurrences to refer to different things. It is this category of terms that obviously applies to language of God, since it involves a transfer of language from one context to another. But only the first three kinds, namely, equivocal, univo- cal, and amphibolous terms, are relevant to Maimonides’ philosophical discus- sion of language of God. The other three in the subdivision, mentioned and illus- trated in his exegetical discussion, can be shown to be instances of one of these. In Logic, Maimonides characterizes a purely equivocal term as

one applied to two things, between which there is nothing in common to account for their common name, like the name ain signifying an eye and a spring of water, and like the name keleb (dog) applied to the star and to the animal. 35

In the Guide he defines the use of purely equivocal terms in virtually the same way; they “have in common only the name and nothing else.” 36 The only examples of purely equivocal terms Maimonides gives in the Guide are the terms referring to traditional divine attributes of knowledge, will, power, and life, to which he adds unity and existence. 37 A univocal term, according to its characterization in Logic, is used

when there is something which constitutes the essence of two or more things, and that term refers to each one of these things that share in that constitutive essence; e.g., the term ‘animal’, which is applied to man, horse, scorpion, and fish, because life which is nourishability is found in each one of these species and constitutes its essence. 38

In the Guide, Maimonides contends that there cannot be a univocal use of terms unless the attributes to which they refer are “comprised in the same definition.” 39 Although stated differently, these two characterizations are equivalent, since the formulation of a thing’s essence is its definition. A human being, on Maimonides’ conception, is defined as “a rational animal,” whose essence consists of the at- tributes of rationality and life. 40 Thus if an attribute is a constituent element of a thing’s essence, then it enters into its definition; and, conversely, the attributes by which a thing is defined are also the constituent elements of its essence. The term “animal” in reference to both humans and horses is used univocally, because ani- mal life constitutes part of the essence of both and enters into their definition. Put differently, humans and horses are properly classified under animal life and thus are comprised in its definition. An amphibolous term is characterized in Logic as

a term applied to two or more objects because of something which they have in common but which does not constitute the essence of each one of them. An example of this is the

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34 Guide, Intro., p. 5.

35 Logic, c. 13, p. 59.

36 Guide I, 56, p. 131.

37 See ibid. I, 56, p. 131; also I, 52, p. 118 and I, 57, p. 132, for existence and unity, respectively. All of the examples which Maimonides labels “equivocal” in his exegetical discussion are so in the generic sense and turn out to be either metaphorical or derivative terms.

38 Logic, c. 13, p. 59.

39 Guide I, 56, p. 131.

40 See ibid. I, 51, p. 113.

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name ‘man’ given to Reuben, the rational animal, to a certain man who is dead, and to an image of man carved in wood or painted. This name is applied to them because of their having one thing in common, to wit, the figure and outline of a man; but the figure and outline do not constitute the meaning of man. 41

In the Guide he writes, similarly but more explicitly, that amphibolous terms are predicated “of two things between which there is a likeness with respect to some notion, which notion is an accident attached to both of them and not a constitu- ent element of the essence of each one of them.” 42 Many of the terms that Maimonides shows to have a figurative or a derivative meaning in his exegetical discussion are also amphibolous terms in the sense characterized here. But one example, explicitly labelled “amphibolous,” is the Hebrew term “temunah” (image or figure) in its application to the perceived image of a thing, an imaginary repre- sentation, and an intellectually apprehended concept. 43 In the expressions “hu- man being” and “human statue,” the term “human” is used amphibolously be- cause a statue is not essentially a human being but only like a human being in its appearance. Likewise, the term “form” or “image” is used amphibolously of a concept and a sensible image. For these are essentially different in that a concept is an abstracted thought of the intellect, whereas a sensible image is a material impression of the senses; nevertheless they are alike in some respects insofar as they are a concept and an image of the same thing. It is clear from these characterizations and illustrations that the meaning of terms in different occurrences depends on the relationship that obtains among the things to which the term is applied. A univocal use requires that the things be related essentially, that they are in some way the same in their essence, and that a term is applied in virtue of this essential relationship. An amphibolous use, in- stead, requires only that the things be related accidentally, that they are in some way similar with respect to accidental features held in common, and that a term is applied to these things in virtue of this accidental relationship. In the absence of any relationship, the same term would be used in a purely equivocal sense, if it were applied to different things. Stated more formally,

(1) F is used univocally of x and y, if and only if F is applied to x and y in virtue of an essential sameness between x and y. (2) F is used amphibolously of x and y, if and only if F is applied to x and y in virtue of an accidental similarity between x and y. (3) F is used equivocally of x and y, if and only if F is applied to x and y neither in virtue of an essential sameness nor in virtue of an accidental similarity between x and y.

One way of interpreting these criteria is to understand the relevant relation- ship to obtain because of the objects to which the terms are applied. On this interpretation, objects, i.e., substances in Maimonides’ Aristotelian terminology,

41 Logic, c. 13, p. 60.

42 Guide I, 56, p. 131.

43 Ibid. I, 3, p. 27.

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are essentially the same only because of their common essence or essential at- tributes; and they are accidentally similar merely because of accidental attributes they happen to have in common. Maimonides suggests this interpretation in Logic; 44 Joseph P. Cohen, more recently, adopts it as well. 45 In that case, however, only essential predicates would satisfy (1) and all accidental predicates would satisfy (2) when truthfully predicated of different things. Using Maimonides’ classifica- tion of predicates, only terms indicating a definition, (i), or parts of a definition, (ii), could be used univocally and hence carry the same meaning in different occurrences. Terms indicating accidental features—predicates classified under qualities, (iii), and under relations, (iv)—would be used amphibolously and hence convey somewhat different meanings in different occurrences. But this interpre- tation leads to counterintuitive results. For instance, to use the term “human” of both Reuben and Saul would be to use it univocally, because “human” refers to the essence of both. But to use the term “Hebrew” of both Reuben and Saul would be to use it amphibolously, on this interpretation, because “Hebrew” refers to an accidental feature of both. However, it seems that the term has the same meaning and thus is used univocally in these occurrences, just as other terms would be used univocally in describing Reuben and Saul to have the same accidental fea- tures such as height or weight. However, such counterintuitive results are avoided if the criteria are interpreted in such a way that the relevant relationship obtains, not because of the objects, but because of the attributes that the terms signify. Indeed, Maimonides, as will be apparent later, employs this interpretation in the Guide in connection with at- tempts to understand terms referring to divine attributes. On this interpretation, objects are essentially the same when the attributes that a term signifies are the same; when the attributes that a term signifies are different yet render the objects alike in some respects, the objects are accidentally similar. Thus to describe both Reuben and Saul with the term “Hebrew” is to use it univocally, on this interpreta- tion, because the term refers to the same attribute or the same reality, namely, that of being Hebrew, even though the attribute is accidental to both. Reuben and Saul are essentially the same in being Hebrew. But in the expressions “human being” and “human statue,” the term “human” is used amphibolously, because in reference to Reuben it designates the essence of being human, whereas in refer- ence to Michelangelo’s David it designates the appearance of being human. The term refers to different attributes. Nevertheless, the objects are accidentally simi- lar in some respects and the term is applied to both of them in virtue of those different attributes. The particular appearance of a human being, on the one hand, and the particular shape of a statue, on the other, do not belong to the essence of either one; rather, it is non-essential or accidental to both. Reuben and Michelangelo’s David are not essentially the same in being human, but they are accidentally similar in virtue of a common appearance or shape. A conclusion

44 Logic, c. 13, p. 59: “Thus, the name of any genus is applied to its component species univocally, and every specific difference is applied to all the individuals of the species univocally.”

45 “Univocal terms are applied to different objects when they share a common property, and the

And amphibolous terms may be applied to different objects which

have a common accidental property but no essential property” (Cohen, “Figurative Language,” 378).

property is an essential

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that emerges is that terms signifying essential attributes are always used univocally. But terms signifying accidental attributes are ambiguous in their usage. They may be used univocally or amphibolously. Plato and Aristotle can be said to be “Greek” in a univocal sense in reference to their common origin; Maimonides can be said to be “Greek” only in an amphibolous sense in reference to his philosophical views.

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Maimonides lodges his argument against a univocal use of terms by objecting to those who claim that such terms as “existent,” “power,” “will,” and “knowledge” refer to essential attributes in God in a comparative sense in that these divine attributes are more perfect than their human counterparts. But a comparative sense, Maimonides counters, presupposes a univocal use of terms. 46 Only if we can predicate knowledge univocally of A and B, can we truthfully say that A’s knowl- edge is superior to B’s knowledge. Divine knowledge and human knowledge, how- ever, are not at all the same, just as God and human beings are not at all the same, neither in their essence nor in their existence. The human and the divine cannot be included in the same definition, as would be required for a relationship of essential sameness. God who is a necessary existent has nothing in common with other creatures who are contingent existents. In the case of other creatures, per- fections imply a contingency, since perfections are causal factors that define what they are. In the case of God, perfections cannot imply a contingency, nor define what He is. As an uncaused being, God has no essential attributes constitutive of His essence by which He could be defined. Thus if perfections are to apply to God at all, they can only be applied in virtue of the divine essence itself and not in virtue of distinct attributes. On these grounds, such perfections as knowledge, power, will, life, and even unity and existence cannot be considered to be the same in their reality, nor to be included in the same definition when we consider them as divine perfections and as human perfections. Therefore, such terms can- not be predicated univocally of God and other creatures. And since they cannot be predicated univocally, it follows that they cannot be predicated comparatively or pre-eminently in the sense of referring to divine attributes that are superior to human attributes. In the same context and with a parallel argument, Maimonides concludes that terms cannot be predicated amphibolously of God and other creatures. For amphibolous predication would require that God and other creatures are never- theless similar in some respects, even though they are not essentially the same. But the similarity would, in turn, hinge on accidental attributes that God would have in common with creatures. Since the divine reality does not, and cannot have, accidental attributes, there cannot be a relation of similarity between God and other creatures. Thus terms cannot be understood to be predicated amphibolously of God and other things, because there is no basis for any similar- ity between God and other things.

46 Guide I, 56, pp. 1301: “For the comparative is used only with regard to things in reference to which the notion in question is used univocally. And if this is so, there is necessarily a likeness between the things in question.”

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Maimonides’ argument regarding language of God is that neither the criteria for a univocal use of terms in (1) nor the criteria for an amphibolous use of terms in (2) can be met when they are applied to God. The criteria in (1) and (2) cannot be met, because the divine reality, as implied by the demonstration for its existence, has neither essential nor accidental attributes. Since there is no basis for any shared attributes, neither a relation of sameness nor a relation of similar- ity can obtain between God and other creatures. As a totally uncaused being God is ontologically different from any other being. Thus terms designating perfec- tions cannot be understood to apply to God and creatures univocally because neither God nor divine perfections can be essentially the same as creatures and their perfections. Neither can such terms be understood to apply to God and creatures amphibolously because God and divine perfections cannot be acciden- tally similar to creatures and their perfections. From these conclusions Maimonides infers that terms can only be predicated in a purely equivocal sense of God and other things. Only the criteria for an equivocal use of terms in (3) can be met in their application to God and other creatures. In line with this conclusion, Maimonides goes on to develop a reinterpreta- tion of language of God. Such language is truthful and informative, provided the terms ascribed to God are understood to refer either to negative predicates or to predicates of action. The former reinterpretation asserts what God is not by re- peated exclusions of God from human categories; the latter reinterpretation as- serts what God did by referring to the effects of divine agency in the world. 47 Since neither reinterpretation directly asserts what God is, neither of them contravenes the demonstrated unity or absolute simplicity of the divine reality. 48 The point of Maimonides’ insistence on an equivocal use of terms in the case of God is both logical and semantic. Logically, such terms do not function in a proposition understood to be a statement of predication. For if they did, the terms would refer to distinct attributes of the subject, as they do when they designate perfections in their application to human beings. Instead, the terms function in a proposition that is a statement of identity which tautologically and uninformatively amounts to asserting that God is God. 49 Semantically, such propositions are infor- mative, not in saying what God is, but in saying what God is not, when the terms designating perfections are reinterpreted to refer to the negation of their corre- sponding privations. However, his insistence also needs to be carefully qualified. It is terms that purport to be descriptive of God that are used in an equivocal sense and that convey an intelligible meaning when reinterpreted negatively. Predi- cates of action, Maimonides implies, do satisfy the criterion for an amphibolous

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47 Ibid. I, 58, p. 136: “It has thus become clear to you that every attribute that we predicate of

Him is an attribute of action or, if the attribute is intended for the apprehension of His essence and not of His action, it signifies the negation of the privation of the attribute in question. Moreover, even those negations are not used with reference to or applied to Him, may He be exalted, except from the following point of view, which you know: one sometimes denies with reference to a thing something that cannot fittingly exist in it.”

48 For a fuller discussion of Maimonides’ thoroughly negative theology see, for instance, my “Attributes of Action,” 916, and “Is Negative Theology Intelligible?” 113; Seeskin, “Positive Contri- bution,” 3544; and Benor, “Meaning and Reference,” 34759.

49 For a more extensive discussion of this logical point see my “Attributes of Action,” 913.

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use of terms in (2). For he makes it clear that such terms as “merciful” or “just” are attributed to God in virtue of certain visible effects in the world which are like the effects that issue from human actions. 50 Since the effects can be attributed neither to natural causes nor to human agency, they are attributed to divine agency. But even though divine agency is essentially different from human agency, it is nevertheless similar to human agency in its effects. And because of this similarity in effects, human actions are accidentally similar to divine actions. On the basis of this similarity, then, predicates of action are used amphibolously of God and hu- man beings. 51

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How does Thomas Aquinas address the same issue of language of God? Aquinas’s theory of analogy of language is not without controversy. 52 However, his general argument against both a univocal use and an equivocal use of terms as applied to God is fairly consistent in his major works; so is his general argument in favor of an analogical use of terms. Like Maimonides, Aquinas characterizes univocal predication variously in terms of a common nature, 53 the same meaning, 54 the same specific form and in the same mode of being, 55 or the same definition 56 that pertains to the things of which the term is predicated. These characterizations imply that Aquinas, too, requires a relationship of sameness for a univocal use of terms. And, like Maimonides, he argues that a relationship of sameness cannot obtain between divine perfections and human perfections. For even though God is the cause of perfections in crea- tures, the effects are not essentially the same as their cause. Just as in the case of the sun’s producing heat in various objects, so in general the effects neither re- ceive the same specific form as their cause nor receive it in the same mode of being. Likewise, divine perfections and human perfections do not have the same

50 Guide I, 54, p. 124: “The meaning here is not that He possesses moral qualities, but that He performs actions resembling the actions that in us proceed from moral qualities.”

51 Oliver Leaman is mistaken in extending Maimonides’ insistence on equivocation to include attributes of action: “We can talk about God acting, but must be aware at all times that our language here is entirely equivocal and bears no relation apart from the use of the same words to the meaning of those words in the different human and divine contexts”; see his Moses Maimonides, rev. ed. (Surrey:

Curzon, 1997), 27. However, it is important to note, as Seeskin correctly does, that strictly speaking “the analogy is not between us and God but between the consequences of His actions and the conse-

quences of ours” (“Positive Contribution,” 42).

52 Conflicting accounts are advanced, for instance, by Gerald B. Phelan, on the one hand, and by George P. Klubertanz, on the other. See, respectively, Gerald B. Phelan, Saint Thomas and Analogy , The Aquinas Lecture, 1941 (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1941 ) and George P. Klubertanz, St. Thomas Aquinas on Analogy; a Textual Analysis and Systematic Synthesis (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1960). David Burrell prefers to speak of the use of “analogous expressions” and “a judicious display of the analogous resources of language” by Aquinas, rather than “a theory of analogy”; see his “Maimonides, Aquinas, and Ghazali,” 242. Admitting that there are “many concepts of analogy in Aquinas,” Richard Lee also shows that incompatibilities and tensions exist among them and that none are reducible to a single concept. See his “The Analogies of Being in St. Thomas Aquinas,” The Thomist 58, no. 3 (1994): 487.

53 See De Ver. q. 2, a. 11.

54 See De Pot. q. 7, a. 7; and STh I, q. 13, a. 5 and a. 6.

55 See ScG I, c. 32; and De Pot. q. 7, a. 7.

56 See ScG I, c. 32.

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mode of being. Perfections exist in God essentially in a pre-eminent mode, whereas they exist in creatures imperfectly by way of imitation or participation. 57 Nor do divine perfections and human perfections fall under the same definition. 58 Terms signifying perfections cannot have the same meaning in their application to crea- tures and to God. On these grounds, Aquinas concludes, terms cannot be predi- cated univocally of God and creatures. His general argument against equivocal predication is that it presupposes there is no relation whatsoever between the things of which the term is predicated. Since there is some relation between God and creatures, just as there is between any cause and effect, it follows that terms are not predicated equivocally of God and creatures. 59 For Aquinas terms are predicated analogically, precisely because there is some relationship between God and creatures. On Aquinas’s character- ization the relationship is one of order, of priority and posteriority, either of the kind that obtains between a cause and its effect 60 or of the kind that obtains be- tween an exemplar and its imperfect imitations. 61 In either case, however, the order implies a likeness. But the likeness, Aquinas maintains, is from creatures to God, and not, conversely, from God to creatures. He views the likeness between a human being and a painted image in the same way. 62 A painting is modelled on human beings for its appearance or likeness; human beings are not modelled on paintings for their appearance. Both, he notes, are said to be human in an analo- gous sense. Another favored example of analogy, for Aquinas, is the attribution of being to substances and to accidents. 63 Substances have being in themselves, whereas accidents have being only in substances. There is a relationship of causal dependency, of accidents on substances but not conversely of substances on acci- dents. The relationship between God and creatures, or between divine perfec- tions and human perfections, according to Aquinas, is similar and therefore pro- vides a basis for analogical predication. Despite this conclusion, Aquinas agrees with Maimonides that God’s perfec- tions are incommensurable with human perfections; 64 he also agrees that God has neither essential attributes that constitute the divine essence nor accidental attributes that qualify it. 65 Thus Aquinas, like Maimonides, also concludes that

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57 See De Ver. q. 2, a. 11; De Pot. q. 7, a. 7; and ScG I, c. 32.

58 See ScG I, c. 32; and STh I, q. 13, a. 5.

59 See De Ver. q. 2, a. 11; De Pot. q. 7, a. 7; ScG I, c. 33; and STh I, q. 13, a. 5. Aquinas offers other reasons: that an equivocal use of terms would render any arguments about God invalid, that it pro- vides no knowledge of God from creatures, and that there would be no differentiation among terms that are and are not properly applicable to God. How Maimonides would address such criticisms of his position calls for further development. Some of these points are taken up in my “Is Negative Theology Intelligible?” 135; and by Stubbens, “Naming God,” 24358.

60 See De Pot. q. 7, a. 7; and ScG I, c. 34.

61 See STh I, q. 13, a. 5. For a more extensive textual discussion of both kinds of order see Klubertanz, St. Thomas on Analogy, 6476 and Wolfson, “St. Thomas on Divine Attributes,” 673700.

62 See ScG I, c. 29; and STh I, q. 4, a. 3, ad 4.

63 De Ver. q. 2, a. 11: “So, in accordance with that first kind of conformity we find something predicated analogically of two things one of which is related to the other, as being (ens) is said of substance and of accident through the relation that substance and accident have to each other, and as healthy is predicated of urine and of animal because urine has a certain likeness to the health of the animal.” See also I Sent., d. 19, q. 5, a. 2, ad 1.

64 See De Ver. q. 2, a. 11.

65 See ScG I, c. 31; and STh I, q. 3, a. 7.

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God cannot be considered to be like creatures with respect to some feature that they have in common. If likeness in this sense is a requirement for analogical predication, then Aquinas would have to concur with Maimonides that analogical predication is precluded in the case of God. But Aquinas would object to the underlying requirement for analogical predication; it need not, on his view, pre- suppose a likeness in respect of some feature held in common. Thus it would appear that the concept of analogical predication used by Aquinas differs from that used by Maimonides. While both use the terminology of likeness or similarity in their respective characterizations of analogical language, Maimonides seems to understand likeness or similarity only as a reciprocal or mutual, two-way relation, whereas Aquinas seems to allow it to be a non-reciprocal or one-way relation. 66 Maimonides seems to require that things related analogi- cally have some common determinate feature, albeit non-essential rather than essential. Aquinas seems to require only that there be an order, and not some common determinate feature, between the things related and thus described ana- logically. Aquinas would espouse the criterion for a univocal use of terms in (1). He would also espouse the criterion for an equivocal use of terms in (3). But he would not adopt the criterion for an amphibolous use of terms in (2) as equiva- lent to his own concept of analogical predication. True, he could admit that a similarity in virtue of some accidental attributes held in common is a sufficient condition for an analogical use of terms, but he would not admit that it is a neces- sary condition, as it does not capture the full range of an analogical use of terms. Instead, I take it, Aquinas would propose the following modification to the crite- rion drawn from Maimonides: 67

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(2’) F is used analogically of x and y, if and only if

(i)

F is applied to x and y in virtue of an accidental similarity between x and y, or

else

(ii)

F is applied to x and y in virtue of an order of priority and posteriority between x and y, such that either

(a)

y is causally dependent on x, or

(b)

x is the exemplar of y.

Unlike the single criterion expressed in (2), the criteria stated in (2’) comprise disjointly sufficient and necessary conditions for an analogical use of terms. One of the two conditions will do. Moreover, the order of priority and posteriority in condition (ii) can be met in one of two ways: Aquinas’s example of analogy in the case of a human being and a painting with respect to their likeness fits (ii)(b); his example of analogy in the case of substances and accidents with respect to their being fits (ii)(a).

66 Sarah Grant refers to a “non-reciprocal dependence relation” in Aquinas which she sees paral- lel to Sankara’s Hindu view of the self in relation to its Ground. See her Toward an Alternative Theology, Confessions of a Non-Dualist Christian (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), esp. 516. 67 Here “analogical” is used interchangeably with “amphibolous”; see n. 2 above.

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It is the difference in criteria for an analogical use of terms, captured by (2) and (2’), that appears to be at the center of the Maimonidean and Thomistic arguments regarding language of God. For on the basis of the condition in (2’)(i), taken as the only necessary condition, Maimonides argues that language cannot be used in an analogical sense in its application to God. On the basis of the condi- tion in (2’)(ii), taken as a sufficient condition, Aquinas argues on the contrary that language must be used in an analogical sense in its application to God. But if the criteria for an analogical use of terms vary between Maimonides and Aquinas, and if the concept of analogy differs in Maimonides and Aquinas, then Maimonides’ critique of analogical language as applied to God would argue at cross-purposes to the views of Aquinas. Is it the case that Aquinas’s treatment of language of God can avoid Maimonides’ rejection of analogical language?

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5.

There are several lines of argumentation that can be made on behalf of Maimonides. One is to show that analogy by priority and posteriority reduces to analogy based on similarity. Another is to show that analogy by priority and poste- riority in effect begs the question with respect to an appropriate relationship be- tween God and creatures sufficient to support analogical predication. Aquinas mentions analogy by priority and posteriority frequently; Maimonides not at all. This has been attributed to the fact that Averroes’s treatment of analogy was available to Aquinas but not to Maimonides. It has led to the conclusion that Maimonides has a more restrictive concept of analogical predication from that of his successor. 68 However, the same example of the relationship between a human individual and a human image appears in the writings of both thinkers. Aquinas uses the example to illustrate a likeness that is purportedly at the root of analogi- cal predication by way of priority and posteriority; 69 Maimonides uses the same example to illustrate analogical predication in general. 70 If the example fits Aquinas’s analogical relation by way of priority and posteri- ority, it can also be shown to satisfy Maimonides’ criterion of accidental similarity. The explanation of the analogical use of “human” (or the generic term “man”) in Arabic commentators available to both Aquinas and Maimonides is that the term refers to a property, namely, human shape, in the Aristotelian sense of a unique feature which is held per se and primarily by a human individual but only per ac- cidens and secondarily by a human image. 71 The reason Michelangelo’s David can be said to be a human statue is precisely because of its similarity in shape to a human being, its exemplar or model. Thus the relation between a real being and its image, on this interpretation, is still based on some non-essential attribute held

68 See Wolfson, “Amphibolous Terms,” 16373 and his “St. Thomas on Divine Attributes,” 673700. See also Burrell, Knowing the Unknowable God, 57.

69 Aquinas uses it in ScG (I, c. 29) but changes it in STh (I, q. 13, a. 10, ad 4), using the term “animal” instead of “man.”

70 Maimonides uses the example in Logic, c. 13, p. 60.

71 See Wolfson, “Maimonides and Gersonides on Divine Attributes as Ambiguous Terms,” in Mordecai M. Kaplan Jubilee Volume, On the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, Moshe Davis, ed. (New York:

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1953), 5167, English Section.

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in common, albeit as a property in one and a quality in the other. In other words, an exemplar is a model for its instances only in some respect and this amounts to admitting a similarity or resemblance on the basis of some common feature which pertains to the exemplar per se but to its instances per accidens. Likewise, then, to claim that perfection terms such as knowledge or goodness are used analogously of God because divine perfections are the exemplars for human perfections is to admit, on this analysis, that knowledge or goodness pertains uniquely to God per se in some way (even if not as a property) but to other creatures per accidens. Hu- man shape also pertains to human beings per se as a property and to statues per accidens as an accident, in virtue of which there is a similarity between them. Thus just as human beings differ essentially from statues and paintings of human be- ings, God also differs essentially from human beings and other creatures. And just as human beings and statues are similar in some respect, namely, shape, so God must be similar to human beings in respect to perfections such as knowledge or goodness. If there were not a similarity in some respect between God and human beings, then what are considered divine perfections could not be the exemplars for human perfections. Since the basis of the similarity lies not in the essence of both of the entities so related—although it may pertain to the essence of one of the entities—it suffices to consider this a non-essential or accidental similarity. 72 Thus in the case of an order of priority and posteriority by way of exemplarity, either a requisite relation for an analogical use of terms does not obtain at all or it amounts to a relationship of non-essential similarity after all. In the latter case, the criterion proposed by Aquinas in (2’)(ii)(b) reduces to the criterion pro- posed by Maimonides in (2). Consequently, if an order of priority and posterior- ity by exemplarity justifies an analogical use of terms in the case of divine perfec- tions, it would still seem to fall prey to Maimonides’ critique. The other example, the attribution of being to both substances and accidents, is more difficult to handle. Aquinas frequently uses the example to illustrate anal- ogy by way of priority and posteriority on the basis of a causal dependency. 73 There is no reference to this example or this form of analogy in Maimonides. 74 But I believe a challenge can be lodged here, similar to that lodged against analogy by way of priority and posteriority in terms of exemplarity. Extending Aristotle’s analy- sis of causal relationships, Maimonides could argue that the relationship between substance and accidents is also one based on non-essential or accidental similarity.

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72 Lee takes the point further. The order of priority and posteriority in Aquinas exemplifies a situation of “deficient participation.” But “in deficient participation there really is no analogy at all” because it is the same predicate said of one subject and another insofar as an aspect of the former partici- pates more or less in the latter (“Analogies of Being,” 487).

73 See, for instance, STh I, q. 13, a. 10; XI Metaphys., lect. 3; and De Principiis Naturae, c. 6.

74 Lahey suggests that there is in the Guide an analogy of unity between the divine intellect and the human intellect similar to an analogy of being between accidents and substances; see his “Anal- ogy,” 2245. He refers to Maimonides’ example of one cause, such as fire, producing several effects, which Maimonides likens to divine agency. But Lahey misses the point of Maimonides. He conflates what he takes to be an example of analogical predication with what is in fact an argument by analogy. Maimonides argues that just as one thing can cause various effects without the cause having each effect, so God’s actions can have different effects without concluding that God has corresponding attributes or habits. This is not an example of analogical use of language but an instance of reasoning by analogy.

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Aristotle distinguishes between an active and a passive potentiality among the conditions of change. He also notes that these potentialities are alike, although they are in different things. 75 An active potentiality is the capability of an agent to act on another thing; a passive potentiality is the capability of a thing to be acted on by another thing. In other words, Aristotle is describing the relationship be- tween a cause and its effect. A cause is active with respect to its effect and the effect is passive with respect to its cause. These active and passive potentialities, however, are for Aristotle themselves categories of accidents; they are states that incidentally pertain to things in relation to each other. 76 In his Logic Maimonides lists the same Aristotelian categories of accidents 77 and adopts the Aristotelian account of natural causation. 78 Thus things are accidentally or incidentally re- lated as cause and effect insofar as they are active and passive with respect to a common feature brought about as an effect by a cause. The flame of a match is causally related to a burning piece of paper, not only because it actualizes the accidental form of fire or heat in the piece of paper but also because the fire or heat of the piece of paper is passive whereas the flame of the match is active with respect to each other. And since fire is accidental to paper, its being passive with respect to heat is an accidental state. Applied to a presumed causal relationship between substances and accidents, this means that accidents are related to substances with respect to their being. But the kind of being of each is different. Insofar as the being of a substance is active with respect to the being of its accidents and the being of accidents is passive with respect to the being of its substance, there is a relationship between them in vir- tue of the common aspect of being. But since being is qualified as active in the one case and passive in the other, the relationship is not one of essential sameness. Substantial being as active and accidental being as passive do not fall into the same definition of being. And since accidents are contingently dependent on substances for their being, the active and the passive are correlative states. Thus if being is predicated of substance and accidents analogically because of a causal relationship, then the relationship can also be seen to involve the correlative fea- tures of being active and being passive, respectively. Consequently, if the relationship between divine and human perfections pur- portedly supports analogical predication in the same way that the relationship between substances and accidents do, then it follows that divine perfections are active and human perfections are passive with respect to each other. If human knowledge, for instance, is related to divine knowledge, because divine knowl- edge is prior to and the cause of human knowledge, then divine knowledge also has the feature of being active with respect to human knowledge and human knowledge has the feature of being passive with respect to divine knowledge. Thus if perfections are attributed analogously to God and creatures in virtue of priority

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75 See Aristotle, Metaphys. IX, 1, 1046a 1830; and V, 12, 1019a 1520.

76 See Cat. 4, 1b 25. The claim that the correlative states of active and passive are accidental need not deny any necessary connection between cause and effect, in the conditional sense that, if a cause

operates, its effect necessarily follows. But that x is a cause at all or that y is effected may yet be acciden- tal to x or to y.

77 See Logic, c. 10, p. 53.

78 See ibid., c. 9, pp. 4951, and c. 11, pp. 546.

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and posteriority because of a causal dependency between them, according to Aquinas’s criterion, then it is also the case that there is a non-essential or acciden- tal similarity between them, according to Maimonides’ criterion. For if the causal dependency is relational, as it would have to be to support analogical predication, then it would require that God has the state of being active with respect to any of His perfections and human beings have the state of being passive with respect to those perfections. Even though the state of being active with respect to any per- fection is essential to God, the state of being passive with respect to those perfec- tions is not essential to human beings. Otherwise, perfections in human beings would not be contingent in their being and hence could not be causally actual- ized at all. As with the previous analysis of similarity in the case of an exemplar and its instances, so in this case the basis of similarity between an active and pas- sive state, between cause and effect, can be said to pertain not essentially but non- essentially to the entities so related. Therefore, there is on this understanding a non-essential or accidental similarity between God and human beings with re- spect to divine perfections, if these are taken to be the cause of human perfec- tions. As with the other instance of analogy by priority and posteriority in virtue of exemplarity, so the criterion for this instance of analogy by priority and posterior- ity in virtue of causal dependency, stated in (2’)(ii)(a), reduces to the criterion for analogy in terms of accidental similarity, stated in (2). For the same reason, then, if the relation between God and creatures is understood in this way, it would seem that an analogical use of terms encounters Maimonides’ critique. On these arguments, however, the reduction of Thomistic analogy to Mai- monidean analogy assumes that an order of priority and posteriority, whether of causal dependency or of pre-eminence, requires a similarity of some sort grounded in a common determinate feature. But there are grounds for claiming that this may not be the case. Aquinas, in reply, could legitimately deny that there is an order of priority and posteriority only if there is a similarity grounded in a deter- minate feature held in common. As already seen, his emphasis on a one-way rela- tion and on differences between the mode of being of divine perfections and the mode of being of human perfections suggests this view. So do several recent com- mentators who have shown that Aquinas explains the order of priority and poste- riority in terms of a Neoplatonic metaphysics of participation. 79 Can a metaphysics of participation salvage analogical language as applied to God and divine perfections? Maimonides would claim that it does not, for rea- sons that would venture into metaphysical issues concerning God and the depend- ence of creatures on His causal agency. Here let me suggest some points on be- half of a Maimonidean response.

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79 See John F. Wippel, “Aquinas and Participation,” in Studies in Medieval Philosophy, John F. Wippel, ed. (Washington, DC: The Catholic University Press of America, 1987), 11758; his “Metaphysics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump, eds. (Cambridge: Cam- bridge University Press, 1993), 85127; Rudi A. te Velde, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995); and Wayne J. Hankey, “Theoria Versus Poesis: Neoplatonism and Trinitarian Difference in Aquinas, John Milbank, Jean-Luc Marion and John Zizioulas,” Modern Theol- ogy 15, no. 4 (1999): 387415. I am indebted to a referee of the Journal for pointing out this Neoplatonic context of Thomistic analogy.

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In the first place, an appeal to participation by itself will not do to substantiate the use of analogical language. Aquinas uses participation to explain various rela- tions: of individuals to species, of species to genus, of substance to accident, of matter to form, of effect to cause, of an entity to its being (esse), and of the being of any entity to divine being. It is only participation in being (esse) that he associ- ates with an order of priority and posteriority that in turn supports analogical predication; other kinds of participation allow for univocal predication. 80 Sec- ondly, one way of elucidating the ontological relation at the root of Thomistic analogy is in terms of an “analogical likeness” because of a deficient similarity or an imperfect imitation of, for instance, an effect and its cause. 81 However, in the case of created beings and the divine being, the participation is not in the divine being itself but in a likeness of it. 82 Hence, even the deficient similarity or imper- fect imitation expressed by participation is removed from God; analogical like- ness is not between creatures and God per se. Nevertheless, even within the metaphysics of participation in Aquinas, we may note, there is still an appeal to similarity or likeness. But instead of explaining analogy in terms of similarity, as Maimonides does, here similarity between God and creatures is explained in terms of analogy. If so, this move, it seems, begs the question regarding an ontological relation sufficient to justify the use of analogi- cal language. Moreover, removing the participation from the divine essence to a likeness of it is hardly different from Maimonides’ appeal to attributes of action, which are also removed from the divine essence. But while for Maimonides at- tributes of action do not entail essential predication of God, the ontological rela- tion of participation at the root of the priority-posteriority relation presumably does entail such essential predication according to Aquinas. For Maimonides, then, it becomes questionable whether a metaphysics of participation can justify an analogical use of language. For if it amounts to a relation based on similarity, then Maimonides’ criterion would apply; and if it amounts to a relation without a similarity, then it would seem to assert, rather than justify, the use of analogical language in the case of God. A further line of argumentation is available to Maimonides. If the basis for analogy is fundamentally an order of priority and posteriority, regardless of the question of similarity, then the order itself would seem to be a relational attribute. However, Maimonides, as we have seen, classifies relational attributes under those that non-essentially, rather than essentially, pertain to things. And even though, on Maimonides’ account, ascribing relations to God would not import multiplic- ity into the divine essence, they are inappropriately ascribed to God because they at least imply some determinate feature in addition to His essential nature. 83 The

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80 See Wippel, “Aquinas and Participation,” 11934; and te Velde, Participation and Substantiality, 35 and 95.

81 See te Velde, Participation and Substantiality, 95102 and 1106. Aquinas occasionally refers to an “analogical cause” or an “analogical agent”; see, for instance, I Sent. d. 2, q. 1, a. 2 and d. 8, q. 1, a. 2.

82 See te Velde, Participation and Substantiality, 1156; and Wippel, “Aquinas and Participation,”

1468.

83 Guide I, 52, p. 118: “If a relation subsisted between them [God and creatures], it would neces- sarily follow that the accident of relation must be attached to God. Even if it is not an accident with regard to His essence, may He be exalted, nevertheless it is, generally speaking, some sort of accident.

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relation of parent to child, for instance, if it is understood not causally or pre- eminently but purely relationally, is not of the essence of any human being and is not based on any qualitative feature held in common; yet it is a determinate fea- ture of each, which not only links two individuals to each other but also qualifies them both. For Maimonides, any determinate feature, even a relational one, is inconsistent with the reality of God as a totally uncaused being. An underlying issue here concerns an understanding of divine agency. Aquinas takes it to be causal, coupled with the general principle that any effect is like its cause in some way. 84 Maimonides would challenge that view. For if an effect is indeed like its cause, then, as shown above, it is so in respect of some correlative determinate feature that is common to both of them in some way. Without some common determinate feature, there would be no way to know the nature of a cause from its effect, unless a similarity is merely assumed. Indeed, Aquinas’s ar- gument for analogy presupposes the assumption that divine agency operates like other causes within the scope of human knowledge. Maimonides, instead, implies that such an assumption is unwarranted. His account of attributes of action serves to show that causal agency indeed entails dependency but it need not entail a relation of sameness or similarity with its effects. 85 It so happens that there is a similarity in the case of natural causes; even in the case of human agency, we can admit a similarity between the intent of an agent and the outcome of an action. However, there is no reason to conclude that divine causality operates on the same principles as natural causality, nor that divine agency operates in the same way as human agency. 86

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In conclusion, the general objection of Maimonides to analogical predication of God and creatures is that a requisite ontological relation is lacking. Analogy, for Maimonides, requires a non-essential similarity based on correlative determinate features. Aquinas minimally requires an order of priority and posteriority. If this order involves a non-essential similarity, then, on Maimonides’ argument, it can- not obtain between God and creatures. If it does not involve such a similarity, then, Maimonides implies, it begs the question regarding analogical language of God.

However, relation is an attribute with regard to which it is more appropriate than with regard to the others that indulgence should be exercised if it is predicated of God. For it does not entail the positing of a multiplicity of eternal things or the positing of alteration taking place in His essence, may He be exalted, as a consequence of an alteration of the things related to Him.” Maimonides does discuss different kinds of “order” in his Logic (c. 12, p. 57) but there he does not apply them to the question of God and creatures.

84 See, for instance, ScG I, c. 34; and te Velde, Participation and Substantiality, 956.

85 See ibid. I, 52, pp. 1189. See also my “Attributes of Action,” 979.

86 For a discussion of divine causality as different from natural causality as well as human agency see, for instance, my “Attributes of Action,” 99100; Lenn E. Goodman, “Matter and Form as At- tributes of God in Maimonides’ Philosophy,” in A Straight Path, Ruth Link-Salinger et al., eds., 8697; Arthur Hyman, “Maimonides on Creation and Emanation,” in Medieval Philosophy, Wippel, ed., 4561; and Marvin Fox, “Maimonides’ Account of Divine Causality,” in Interpreting Maimonides. Studies in Meth- odology, Metaphysics, and Moral Philosophy (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1990),

22950.

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A Maimonidean and a Thomistic approach to language of God reveals funda- mental philosophical differences. Maimonides starts with a concept of God as absolutely simple and incomparable in both its being and its agency. Aquinas, on the other hand, accepts the concept of absolute simplicity but his use of participa- tion considerably weakens incomparability. 87 Consequently, they differ on how they view the dependence of creatures on God. Both maintain that there must be a dependence. It is the basis for their respective cosmological arguments for the existence of God; it is also the grounds for the metaphysical view that God, in His necessary and uncaused existence, is totally different from creatures in their con- tingent and caused existence. Central to the Thomistic theory of analogical lan- guage, however, is the view that the dependence of creatures on God is both causal and relational. For Maimonides, the dependence of creatures on God is causal, based on his theory of divine agency and attributes of action, but it cannot be understood relationally, based on some likeness or correlative determinate fea- ture between God and creatures. On Maimonides’ view, it seems clear, neither human language nor human conceptualization can bridge the distance between God and creatures—“unless it be through negations and not otherwise.” 88

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87 Maimonides rejects the Neoplatonic theory of emanation to explain the relationship between God and creatures; see Hyman, “Creation and Emanation,” 5961. Whether “emanation” amounts to “participation,” although both derive from Neoplatonic sources, is an open question. 88 Guide I, 58, p. 134.