Thursday, October 23, 2014

Are all the words we use to describe God synonymous?


1.  Next, he asks whether all the names said of God are synonymous.  He gives three reasons for this view.  First, because two words are synonymous if the things they signify are altogether the same.  But in God everything we name in God is really identical, because he is utterly simple, so that his goodness and his life and so on are all the same thing.  

2.  Second, because even if the various names of God differ secundum rationem, i.e. differ logically according to the aspect of the thing understood in the name, because they do not differ at all secundum rem, i.e. as to the thing designated, the this diversity would be vain and empty.

3.  Third, because it redounds to the unity of God that there should only be one idea of him, and therefore only one name which expresses who he is under the proper ratio.

4.  For the Sed Contra he observes that if all the names of God were synonymous, then it would foolish to say that “God is good” or “powerful”, etc., because these would add nothing to the name “God”.  He appeals to the authority of Jeremiah.

5.  In the Corpus he resolves the question as follows: the ratio of a name is the intellectual conception of the thing signified by the name.  But our intellect, when it knows God from creatures, forms conceptions of God proportionate to the perfections proceeding form God into creatures.  And since these perfections exist in creatures in a diverse and partial way, though they exist in God perfectly and simply, by each ratio of perfection taken from creatures our intellect grasps some partial aspect of the united perfection of God.  The names signify God, each under the ratio of a perfection found in creatures, but taken in such a way that the mode of signification suspends the limitations of the name as applied to creatures, and refers instead to the supreme and simple perfection of God.  But, since the names differ secundum rationem, they are not synonymous.

6.  To the second he says that the diversity of rationes is not empty, because even though all the names reference the same, simple thing, they do so each under a different partial aspect.

7.  To the third he says that the perfection of God requires that what is multiple and divided in other things is simple and united in him, so that if we know him through creatures, we will know him in the multitude of imperfect and divided ways that creatures represent him.


- All these names have one simple object, so they must be synonymous.
- If they are diverse in ratio but the same in reference, then their diversity is empty and their rationes are contentless.
- God, being supremely one, should be known only under one ratio, and therefore should have only one name.

- We know God through creatures by the perfections they receive from him.
- In creatures these perfections are partial and diverse.
- Therefore the ideas of God we gain from creatures are partial and diverse.
- When we suspend the mode of signification proper to these names as applied to creatures, and apply them to God by way of eminence, the names signify one thing: God.
- But because we do not know the essence of God, each name grasps the nature of God through an imperfect ratio based on the perfection in the creatures from which it was abstracted.

- The object is simple and perfect, but the ratio of the name follows the mode of knowledge, and the mode of knowledge, through creatures, is diverse and imperfect.
- The many rationes of the divine names each imperfectly grasp some aspect of the simple reality of God.
- The names represent God in a multiple and diverse way, because he cannot be known through creatures as he is in himself.

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