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  • One Is in the Definition of All:The Renaissance Thomist Controversy Over a "Rule" for Names Said by Analogy
  • Domenic D'Ettore

THOMAS AQUINAS writes in question 13, article 6 of the Prima pars that "in all names which are said about many analogously, it is necessary that all are said with respect to one, and therefore it is necessary that this one is placed in the definition of all."1 Aquinas's readers have disagreed over whether "all names" here includes the names of pure perfections as said analogously about God and creatures.2 [End Page 89]

One cause of the disagreement is that Aquinas at least appears to take opposed positions in different places. George Klubertanz presents a list of nine passages from diverse periods of Aquinas's life which address the notion that "one is in the definition of the other" in analogy.3 According to Klubertanz, four of these texts reject the idea,4 four of them accept it,5 and one both accepts it and rejects it.6 The most influential of the passages that reject the idea is in the disputed questions De veritate, question 2, article 11, response to the sixth objection, where Aquinas says that a particular line of objection to naming God from creatures is effective against the kind of analogy in which there is "a determinate relation of one to another. For then it is necessary that one is placed in the definition of the other."7 In the body of the article, Aquinas distinguishes the analogy of proportion, which involves determinate relations between the analogates, from analogy of proportionality, which does not involve determinate relations, adding that names are said analogously of God and creatures according to analogy of [End Page 90] proportionality.8 Aquinas's remarks here have been taken to indicate that "one is … in the definition of all" only applies to the kinds of analogy that involve determinate relations between the analogates and does not apply to the indeterminate analogy of proportionality suited to the divine names.

Although Klubertanz considered the variations between De veritate and the Summa to be merely a "confusing" "termino-logical shift," not a "doctrinal development," James Anderson has argued on the basis of the text from De veritate that "one is … in the definition of all" applies to only one kind of analogy,9 and Ralph McInerny has argued from the above-quoted text from the Summa that "one is … in the definition of all" applies universally.10 This disagreement between prominent twentieth-and twenty-first-century interpreters of Aquinas recapitulates a dispute between members of the Dominican schola at Bologna in the later part of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century. In what follows, I will consider the opinions of Dominic of Flanders (Flandrensis), Thomas de Vio Cajetan, Silvestro Mazzolini da Prierio (Prierias), and Francis Silvestri of Ferrara (Ferrariensis). The first three figures embrace the conclusion defended by Anderson, and the last opposes them, as McInerny opposes Anderson. This article attempts to discover what light these earlier Dominicans can shed on what is at the very least a "confusing terminological shift" in the writings of Aquinas. [End Page 91]

I. Flandrensis (1425-79)11

The issues arises within Flandrensis's Summa divinae philosophiae [=SDP] in the context of an argument over whether the whole universe is ordered towards God. By one argument, the whole universe is not ordered towards God, because there has to be some similitude between something and that to which it is ordered, and there is an infinite distance between the whole universe and God.12

In his reply, Flandrensis draws from the passage from De veritate and distinguishes two modes of similitude:

[S]imilitude is twofold. For certain things, [similitude] is derived from the fact that any two things participate in one thing, or from the fact that one thing has a determinate relation to the other thing such that one can be comprehended by the intellect from its relation to the other. And [similitude] of this kind diminishes distance [between the similar things]. The other [kind] is the similitude which is derived from the agreement of the proportions of any proportionality. And...


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