Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Analogy of Law: From Law to Law

DEUM NEMO VIDIT, no man has seen God, the Apostle John, that favorite of Jesus, said in his first epistle (1 John 4:12). It follows that no one has seen the Divine Promulgator of the natural law. Nor has anyone seen the natural law. The natural law is not writ on tablets of stone, nor inscribed upon golden tablets, nor painted on scrolls nor scratched on sheaves of parchment, and so no one has seen the natural law writ in any visible media. How, then, not having seen either the Divine Legislator or a "Natural Law Code" can we say such a thing exists?

Like any natural theology, our knowledge of God begins with our senses, with what we are able to detect about the world around us. This is what is closest to us in a psychological and pedagogical sense. The world and our senses as the inform our minds are the bases of all our knowledge, and from the created order and our comprehension of it we are able to work backwards, as it were, to the uncreated God. The Invisible is known from the visible, the Uncreated from the created world, "being understood by the things that are made" (Rom. 1:20), so from creation God's power and divinity may be known.

In the area of the natural law, it is no different. We begin with our experience of the ordering of the cosmos and of the ordering of civil society through human law. These we know. We know the legislators who have promulgated that law. We know where they may found. We know that judges use (or should use) these laws in the fashioning of their decisions. We know that they exist, that they govern a society, that they are based upon the will of the legislator and upon some sort of reason and, at least in theory, for the common good. Thus it is that "the law of society comes before the law of nature in a psychological and pedagogical sense." Simon, 69. Human law is our visible springboard, as it were, to the invisible, the hidden natural law. But we ought not presume that the word "law" is understood univocally when used of human law and when used of natural law. We must be aware that the word "law" may be used analogically:
[W]e cannot presume that the concept of law applies in the same senses to the laws of society and to natural laws. The term law, as predicated of the laws of the state and the laws of nature, may convey not one meaning but a set of relate meanings; briefly, it may be analogical.
Simon, 69. In the comparison of two objects, the relationship of analogy merits some more extensive treatment, as it is a middling concept, one between univocity and equivocity. ("Et iste modus communitatis medius est inter puram aequivocationem et simplicem univocationem." ST, Ia, q. 13, a. 5, c.) Supposing two objects (x, y), we may want to know their relationship. They may both be red in color (perhaps two red apples). X is a red apple. Y is a red apple. The term "red apple" (or for that matter, "red" and "apple") is predicated of both x and y univocally, that is, in the exact same sense, unequivocally. The term "red apple" for both x and y involve the same res significata, they signify the same thing. The term "red apple" has a certain ratio propria, and the two objects share both the term "red apple" and the ratio propria relating to the term "red apple."

The same predicate may be said of two objects in an entirely equivocal sense. Suppose x is the "leaf" on a tree. Suppose that y is the "leaf" of a table. The term "leaf" is used equivocally. It has an entirely unrelated meaning when applied to x than when applied to y. There is no relationship between x and y despite the fact that they are both leaves. In an equivocal use of terms, the terms involve different res significatae, different things are signified. McInerny gives a multiple example of equivocal uses of the word "ball."
Cinderella, dancing on the balls of her feet at the ball, was having a ball until she slipped on a ball.
McInerny, 90. In each instant, the term "ball" is used equivocally. There is no real shared meaning between each use of the word "ball."

Two objects, however, may share predicates that are in some ways equivocal and in some ways unequivocal. In such contexts, the predicate is used in an analogical way. That is, the common name between them has the same res significata, but it is signified in different ways in each of the objects. McInerny, 104. Understanding the analogical use of words is important, particularly in discussing matters pertaining to God where words cannot be predicated univocally of God when comparing him to things of creation (since he differs substantially from creation), but they cannot be said to be entirely equivocal (or else we would not know God at all, or at least we would not be able to express any truths about God). As E. M. Macierowski puts it:
[I]f the created names that we apply to God are univocal, the divine transcendence is annihilated; if they are equivocal, our language is vain and we have to give up knowing God. Here again analogy must intervene to escape these two extremes.
Macierowski, 13.

St. Louis by El Greco

Thus, when we say that God is "just," and that St. Louis was "just," we do not use the term "just" univocally of God and St. Louis. God's justice is far above St. Louis's justice, as good as St. Louis's justice may have been. Yet neither are God's justice and St. Louis's justice unrelated or equivocal. In some ways, St. Louis's justness participates or shares similarities to God's justness, and in some ways God's justness is similar or alike to St. Louis's justness. That is, the predicate "just" is used analogically when used of both God and St. Louis. This is how the word "law" is used when predicated of eternal law or natural law and when predicated of human law. The word law in reference to the eternal law or the natural law is neither used univocally, nor used equivocally, but analogically.

Since analogy uses terms in a non-univocal sense, an analogy, though it involves the same term, involves a plurality of meanings (rationes). There is, however, a common thread in the use of analogy, and there is a certain ordering, an order per prius et posterius, among the rationes or meanings of the same term, some being closer to the primary meaning or the ratio propria which is the form or perfection they all refer to. McInerny, 104.
We can say that the analogous name signifies a plurality or rationes which are related per prius et posterius; that is, one ratio is primary and presupposed by the others, this being revealed by the fact that the first ratio enters into the others. These secondary rationes signify diverse proportions or analogies to the first; they are said per respectum ad unum.
McInerny, 98. The term (word) is simply a way of signifying (modus significandi) a particular form or perfection (res significata). The term or word, when used analogously, has at least two but often a plurality of rationes. Each ratio, however, signifies the same form or perfection (the res significata), but it does so in a different way. The form or the perfection signified by the word or term is the id a quo nomen imponitur ad significandum, that particular thing which is the term or word has, by convention, been picked to designate. McInerny, 99.
Analogous names thus have the same res significata and diverse modi significandi. Each ratio involves both the res significata and a way of signifying it. The ratio propria is not the res significata, but the primary and controlling way of signifying the res significata. . . . We see now the precise meaning of saying that the many rationes of the analogous name are partly the same and partly different. They are the same as to the res significata; they differ as to the modi significandi.
McInerny, 99.

The analogous use of terms is generally divided into two kinds: terms used plurium ad unum and terms used unius ad alterum. McInerny, 102-03. The analogy unius ad alterum may be further subdivided into analogy of proportion and analogy of proportionality. McInerny, 113. The analogy of proportion is one where the objects have a particular relation between them. The analogy of proportionality is when the objects are not related through proportion, but rather a similarity of two proportions to one another.

Going back to the distinction between analogy plurium ad unum and analogy unius ad alterum. The latter exists when the terms are used of two or more objects with reference to another object. The former is in play when the the term is used of one object with reference to its use in another object. Thus we may say that a judgment is just and a judge is just. The term "just" is used analogically plurium ad unum, since the term just points to another object, namely God who is all just. On the other hand, if we use the term healthy to refer to medicine prescribed by a veterinarian to cure an animal and an animal, the analogy is unius ad alterum, since the term healthy as predicated of medicine prescribed by a veterinarian refers to the healthy animal. There is no reference to something other than the two objects compared with the same term. When analogy is used of God, it always has to be in the sense of unius ad alterum, as there is nothing other than creation and God. And when a term is used of a creature and applied eminently of God, there is no third to which the analogy can refer. McInerny, 111.

Once having hinted that the term "law" predicated of human or civil law and of the natural law may involve analogy, Simon turns to his definition of human law. That will be addressed in our next post.


McInerny refers to Ralph McInerny, Aquinas and Analogy (Washington, D.C., Catholic University of America, 1996).

Macierowski refers to Bernard Montagnes, The Doctrine of the Analogy of Being According to Thomas Aquinas (E. M. Macierowski, trans.) (Marquette University Press, 2004)


  1. I disagree with your reply in "Potpourri of the Natural Law". Can man with his free will abrogate the Laws of Nature? Is it not the duty of the Catholic Church to promulgate the Laws of Nature---and why hasn't it done so? Shouldn't the shepard teach the flock?

    If what I see in the this post and all the ones connected to Yves Simon, he is constantly refering and using the Laws of Nature but I see no specific recognition of that fact.

    Are humans herd animals? Did not Aristotle say that man is a social animal? Then, what is free will about that? Does man choose to be a herd animal or not? When Socrates applies the maxim and Law of Nature "Birds of a feather flock together" to humans in the Republic, what does this have to do with Free will? Is this not the Logos, i.e. Reason? And should not humans obey this impulse because it is Reason?

    See, is not the Natural Law, when you say "Semantics is everything", well the term "Lex Naturalis" is a Roman word, term, idea, but not Greek! The Greek word is Logos. So in your reply that the Laws of Nature, which is the Logos, only applies to brute animals and to material creation but not to the free will and things that use reason? If Logos is the Greek work meaning Reason, why the contradiction and hatred toward, or compartmentalization of the Laws of Nature which is Logos, Reason?

    Does not God in his being incorporate the whole of the Logos? Then, why this false dichotomy?

    If Yves Simon is using the "Laws of Nature" in his proofs of the natural moral law----what book did Yves Simon read to find out the Laws of Nature? What and where did any Catholic write and promulgate the Laws of Nature?

    Are not Human beings subject to the Laws of Nature or are Human beings above the Laws of Nature and are they important to know and if they are, why doesn't the Catholic encyclopaedia have an article on them?

    If Aristotle writing "All things are either in Authority or in Subjection" is that not true of both the Brute animal world, Insect world and in the Human Sphere? Can Human "reason" and free will break this Law of Nature? Why are Catholic Hierarchy preaching egalitarianism and attacking "racism" and racialism for?

    Are we not despite have our "free will" subject to the Laws of Nature? Are we not supposed to be like the birds and flock together by the feather and are we not supposed to have authority and be subjected, are we not to have a aristocracy and hierarchy in society? Are we not to have segregation by race?

    Did God give us Free Will to disobey the Laws of Nature? I can't see where Animals or humans are under seperate laws. Is not human reasoning right now abrogating the Laws of Nature? Must not the "free will" of man be obedient to the Laws of Nature?

  2. I cannot see where I suggested that man can abrogate either the "laws of nature" or the "natural law" with his free will or reason. He can disobey them, but not abrogate them. A man can jump off a cliff. A man can commit adultery. In either event, he has not abrogated, but only disobeyed or ignored the law to his detriment.

    The Church has made an extended effort to teach about the natural law. I'm not sure the Church has competence in matters of the "law of nature," strictly so called, unless they also happen to impginge upon the "natural law." For example, it teaches on the proper ends and proper use of sex and procreation, matters which are, from a physical standpoint, clearly within the "law of nature," but, with respect to man, also involve the "natural law," since they have a moral component attached to them.

    I don't think I have ever taken the position that brute creation and rational creation (i.e., man) don't participate in the Logos or Ratio Ordinis. The Eternal Law covers all creation, the brute creation in accordance with their end, the rational creation in accordance with its end. The brute creation and the rational creation, at least insofar as matter is involved, share in the "law of nature." But the rational creation has, in addition to the "law of nature," and not in contradiction to it, the "natural law," which is specific to the rational nature and free will. Brute animals have no need of the "natural law," as they have no reason and no free will. On the other hand, man must act consonant with the "laws of nature" since, like animals, he shares their animal nature. But he also has need of law over his unique characteristics: free will and reason. It is sort of like a Texan. A Texan is subject to the laws of his State. But he is also subject to the laws of the United States. Many is a dual citizen: a citizen under the laws of nature and a citizen under the natural law. He operates under two "jurisdictions," or if not two "jurisdictions," two bodies of laws.

    The word "law" as used in "eternal law," in "natural law," and in the "law of nature," is not univocal. Nor is the term used equivocally. The term is used analogically. Therefore, there is overlap, but there is also distinction. To some extent, Simon will address this issue.

    Tell me: do the angels have to obey the "law of nature"? I should think not, since they have no material existence. Similarly, that part of man that is material is subject to the "laws of nature," but that part which is spiritual, like the angels, is subject to another order, another law, to wit, the "natural law."

    But nothing, nothing would suggest that the "natural law" abrogates the "law of nature," as that would suggest contradiction in the Divine Legislator, which is incompatible with the very nature of God.

    I should think, on the issue of race or tribe, that we are dealing with an area of overlap between "law of nature" and "natural law." Man's social nature is a given. Man's familial nature is a given. Man's communal nature is a given. Historically, the commune and the race and tribe were homogenous. The Greeks were all Greeks. The Persians were all Persians. The Mongols all Mongols. The Turks all Turks. The heterogeneity we have modernly was atypical. Perhaps the first time you saw it in any organized way was in the late Roman Empire.

    So are we condemned to live only among our race and tribe? Isn't Christianity meant to overcome, without necessarily ignoring, all such divisions of race and tribe? Are we dealing with grace superadded to nature?