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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being and Natural Law: On Vilnius and Kaunas and Koufax and Mays

IN TRYING TO GRASP AT THE SOURCE for the moral imperative, the "oughtness" or the obligation-in-freedom that humans sense, Dr. Knasas begins with Thomistic epistemology. As we have seen, Dr. Knasas proposes a realistic epistemology, one that proposes that our cognition, informed by our senses, is directly impressed with the real. It is from our minds so impressed that we begin the process of intellection. The process of intellection is the means by which we distill, as it were, commonalities or the "sameness" among things.

As an example of this process, Dr. Knasas drew three triangles on the blackboard, and asked the question: "How many objects are we aware of?"

Triangles: 3 or 4 Objects?

Naturally, the response was, "Three." "Four," Dr. Knasas correctly pointed out. There are the three physical triangles, and then there is the fourth object, intellectual in nature, of which we are aware, namely, "triangularity." One sees "triangularity" along with the three triangles one sees through the senses. The process of distilling commonalities or sameness in things is what is called "intellection." Another word for it is "conceptualization." It is, at least in the Aristotelian and Thomistic tradition, a process of abstraction. It is not a process of anamnesis or reminiscence such as Plato proposed. Additionally, this "triangularity" is not something with real existence such as Plato problematically taught, but is something that is that is drawn out from, abstracted, from the the instantiation of triangularity in the triangles we see.

Commonalities are of two kinds: univocal and analogical. It is important to distinguish the two forms of intellection that come from the two forms of commonalities we see in things.

Univocal commonalities are intellected "apart from the differences of the individual instances." We distill out the differences, concentrate on the sameness, and it is the sameness thus abstracted from any individual differences that becomes the shared commonality. The differences are left outside. Only the similarity between objects is allowed in the door of the mind. Thus, in univocal notion of triangularity, we ignore the fact that one of our triangles is an isosceles triangle, one is a left-handed right-angled triangle, and the other a right-handed right-angled triangle.

Univocal Reasoning: Sameness without Differences

Not all intellected commonalities are of this kind. There is a kind of intellection that is analogical,* where the commonalities are intellected without excluding the differences in their instantiation. The entire analogate or individual instance is invited in the door of the mind, and the individual instances' differences help inform our understanding of the commonality or analogon.

Analogical Reasoning: Sameness with Difference

Dr. Knasas gave two examples of this sort of reasoning. Consider the two Lithuanian cities of Vilnius and Kaunas.** They may both be called "charming cities," and yet they are palpably different even while sharing the commonality of "charming cities."

Kaunas and Vilnius are Charming Cities

Vilnius has winding and crooked streets. Kaunus, on the other hand, straight and orderly streets. Yet withal they are both charming cities in spite of the differences in the makeup of their streets. To understand the sameness in Vilnius and in Kaunas, therefore, one begins by focusing on the differences. "The sameness lies in the differences." In this instance, the city of Kaunus and the city of Vilnius are called analogates, and the commonality they share, that of "charming cities," is called the analogous concept or analogon. What is striking about this sort of reasoning is that the more instances one has of analogates, the more one understands the analogon. It is not like univocal commonality where, once seized it is essentially completely grasped. Analogous concepts, while less precise than univocal concepts, are infinitely richer. They are almost inexhaustible. There is, therefore, a certain bitter-sweetness in analogical thinking because analogical concepts can only be grasped through individual instances, through analogates, and so they are never fully and completely learned. As we gather up our knowledge through understanding analogates, we are also aware that we never fully exhaust the concept. This is even more true when we speak about analogons that involve the transcendentals such as being and the good.

Another instance of analogous commonality would be the notion of "great baseball players." The analogon "great ball players" contains such diverse greats such as the Jewish left-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, Sandy Koufax, or the great African-American right-handed hitter and outfielder for the New York Giants, Willie Mays. In order to understand the analogon we need to invite all of their diversities. We learn, thereby, for example, that race, religion have nothing to do with being a great ball player. We learn that one can be a great ball player even though one's greatness comes from different tasks or roles that relate to the playing of the game of baseball. The more great ball players we have within the analogon great ball players, the more we learn about the commonality these ball players share.

Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax are Great Ballplayers

A further distinction in analogies can be made. This distinction is based upon how the analogates realize the analogon. Analogies are proportional if the analogon relates to the individual analogates independent of another analogate. If, however, one analogate refers to the analogon through another analogate, then one has an instance of analogy of proportion. The analogy of "charming cities" is proportional in that neither Vilnius nor Kaunas have to refer to each other to in realizing the analogon. The same is true for Koufax and Mays as analogates of the analogon of "great ball players." An example of an analogy of proportion would involve the notion of holiness. In the analogon "holiness" we would have Christ as the prime analogate. The saints would also be analogates, yet their holiness is completely dependent upon the holiness of the prime analogate, Christ. These secondary analogates--St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. Clare of Assisi, etc.--are dependent upon the prime analogate Christ. (Though not mentioned by Dr. Knasas, it would seem that if "Law" is the analogon, then Eternal Law would be the prime analogate, and the secondary analogates would be the Natural Law, and even tertiary analogates positive law, whether divine or human, and the Jewish ceremonial or judicial law.)

*We have addressed the issue of analogy or analogical thinking in a number of prior posts, perhaps most technically in the posting entitled The Analogy of Law: From Law to Law.
**Dr. Knasas is of Lithuanian origin, and has taught at Universities there hence the choice of Lithuanian cities as examples.

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