Thoughts on "A Long Way to Go"

Our Thomist confrere and savant, Dr. Christopher Malloy, raises penetrating questions regarding the analogy of being and analogical predication of God, engaging some of the matter of my recent book, Analogia Entis:  On the Analogy of Being, Metaphysics, and the Act of Faith.  With customary insight, he cuts to the quick of the matter, and the brief remarks ensuing are an effort to engage his analysis as adequately and accurately as possible.  

Here is one summary expression of his question:  

AND SO MY QUESTION IN A NUTSHELL: As analogy is analogous, so analogy of proportionality is analogous (and in various ways). ***Is not one way in which it is analogous the inclusion of proportion (as a one way street way) within the analogy of proportionality, not as totally subsumed by it but as included in it in a way that, while proportionality negates the “two way” movement (the blasphemous determination of God with respect to creature), yet the proportion still communicates NOT ONLY a relation of proportions (As man is to what is his, so God is to what is his) BUT ALSO a proportion of one to another (man’s being to God’s being)? 

My answer in brief—inviting comments from one and all—is as follows.  

I don’t think this question involves a mistake.  Rather, it grasps the reason why those who have deemed the analogy of being (as an analogy of proper proportionality) to be foundational—to be the evidentiary basis upon which causal wisdom supervenes in the demonstrations of the truth of the proposition that God exists—have nonetheless thought it contained a virtual analogy of proportion.  It contains a virtual analogy of proportion because, as you note, while there is no strict proportion between divine and created perfection, there is a comparison of any one thing with any other owing to the real relation of creature to Creator.  However, given that there is not any determined relation of God to creature, when we affirm the real ordering of creature to Creator we must mentally subtract what the formulation humanly seems to imply about God, namely that God has a real determined relation to the creature.  This is to translate the virtual proportion—the realization of the real ordering of creature to God and the comparison of creature to God as one to another—back into the analogy of proportionality, precisely because we must maintain the “one way street” ordering of creature to God, must not suppose that the perfections predicated of God comprehend God or measure God (for as Thomas expressly says in the ST, these perfections incomprehend God and are exceeded by God, and this is the very reason why analogy of proportionality is necessary with respect to the divine names, because howsoever real is the ordering of creature to God, everything that is said of God is said by way of identity with His simple substance, and God has no real determined relation to the creature).  Genuine proportion requires more than one way order, and—affirmed with respect of the relation of creature to God—we must nonetheless negate real determined relation of God to creature, which is to retranslate the analogy of virtual or transferred proportion (proportionis translatum) into the analogy of proportionality. 

Another way of viewing this:  the formal analogy of being will not do our causal reasoning for us, and the relation of effect to cause is always attributive (the effect is attributed to the cause).  But normally this implies a reciprocal relation or determinate proportion of cause to effect and here there is absolutely none.  That is why it is a virtual attribution or proportion, because God is not really and determinately related to the creature, and formally we do not directly know Ipsum Esse subsistens per se merely by knowing that there must be a reality which is the full perfection of act unlimited by potency. We know that God is the full perfection of act with no potency whatsoever, but knowing the truth of this proposition is not to know the full perfection of act itself and directly: rather we know only the true proposition that God is.

The causal analysis is nested within and founded upon the formal analogy of being as a likeness of diverse rationes of act limited by potency; this causal analysis (which moves from composite to simple, from act limited by potency to Actus Purus) discerns the necessary dependence of creature upon God, and the real ordering of creature toward God.  We cannot avoid the cognitive limitations of our understanding and language, and these insights are expressed as attributive and affirming a proportion.  But because the attribution is one way, and the proportion is one way, we must translate it back into proper proportionality, which preserves the absolute transcendence of God.  The perception that the creature is really ordered to God is retained as a causal inference proceeding from the creature’s clear reception of existential act, expressed in a virtual analogy of attribution and a virtual analogy of proportion.  But any actual proportion is not only one way:  if I say that the nickel is half the dime, the dime is twice the nickel; but there is no such strict proportion that encompasses creature and God, while nonetheless we can affirm as you say the “one way” order, the creature’s real dependence on and ordering toward God.  Likewise, we can attribute creatures to God in that they depend on God, and are ordered toward God:  but God is not really ordered toward, or dependent upon, the creature.  Normally if one says “that hat is Steve’s” one could also say Steven has this hat.  But when we try this with respect to creature and God, the “God has the creature” is a conceptual relation, because creation is absolutely free and there is no real determined relation of God to creature. This is again a function of the truth that everything affirmed of God is affirmed by way of identity with His simple substance, but it is not the essence of God that He cause “Steve”—I am not a necessary emanation from God.  Indeed, the causing of Steve is wholly ad extra with respect to the divine Good, as is the causing of any and all created being and good whatsoever.  The proper name of God is not “Cause of Steve” or even “Cause of the Universe” although God is the cause of the universe because it depends wholly on God.  The truth is that naturally, we cannot grasp a reality so perfect that its free and unnecessitated act is wholly ab extra and implies no change in the agent.  This is another aspect of the absolute transcendence of God.  The important thing to note here is that the causal knowledge of God is rooted in the analogy of being understood as an analogy of proper proportionality—it proceeds from the evidence of diverse rationes of act as limited by potency; and, while retaining the causal insight into the real ordering of the creature, we are never free to imply a determined relation of Creator to creature, and so all strict proportion is negated.  Thus, these analogies of effect to cause and of one to another are analogies of transferred proportion, of virtual attribution and proportion.  But they require to be properly understood that we mentally retranslate them into proper proportionality while retaining the causal knowledge—predicated on the analogy of being—of the real ordering of creature to God.  As the Lateran Council affirmed, there is a likeness of creature to God which always is exceeded by a greater unlikeness.