Saturday, April 15, 2023

Two Poem Drafts

 Lonely Hills

A mystery entwines all life and death;
the world is but a blend of strife and peace
until the final day is lost, and breath,
and raindrops fall as tears that never cease.
Can love with gentle service last for aye?
O Lord, the years are long and often dark
and love itself must oft expire away
and even memory turn cold, bare, and stark,
like stone that never life has felt or known.
I fear, I fear for winter winds of chills
that crown a dreamless sleep on bitter throne
and moan across the barren, lonely hills.
But somewhere deep inside a music thrums:
I must not fear you, Death, for Easter comes.


The foam explodes on the roaring waves,
the dreams are bursting on the sea of mind;
hear the thunder and the rush,
the dream-waves crashing on rocky shore!
The wind of thought on the deep of the sea
is brooding, seeking to create;
the birds are nesting on the rock,
resting from their soaring.
At times clouds gather in concentrated musing;
at times lightning insight burns into the sea.
The sheet-fire crackles,
the rumble grows loud,
the waves are whipped into gale-silver frenzy.
At times all grows still, pacific and clam,
the jade-green deeps in slow motion rolling.
But always the sea,
the infinite sea,
and the wind on the water,
the foam on the wave.

Friday, April 14, 2023

On Vallier's Trinitarian Contractarianism

Kevin Vallier recently received the Marc Sanders Foundation 2023 Philosophy of Religion prize for his paper, Trinitarian Contractarianism (PDF) . It does not start out promisingly in its discussion of natural law theory and divine command theory:

These theories share a weakness. They cannot explain the social character of moral obligations between functioning adult humans. I understand obligations as duties that enable mutual accountability and allow us to sanction and blame one another for violations. This practice of responsibility defines obligation’s social character. Promissory obligations illustrate. When John promises Reba to help her, she can insist that he keep it. Promissory duties have social character. 

Natural law theorists offer no account of the social character of obligation. They have often held that obligations come from the commands of a superior, and God in most cases.  In this way, their strategy for explaining social character resembles that of DCT.

This argument doesn't even make the tiniest bit of sense. Aquinas's account of law defines that kind of obligation as a promulgated rational ordering to common good by one who has the responsibility for what is common. Obligations in natural law theory are relative to the community (another way one can translate 'what is common') and get their authority from the goods we share in common; precepts of natural law themselves are requirements of practical reason directed to the good shared by all rational animals, a good which forms them into the human community. Obligations of law don't come "from the commands of a superior" in any form of natural law theory; they come from reason. That's why it is called 'natural law theory'; it is concerned with the law natural to human reason. Obligations of law are originated by one to whose care the community is entrusted; but Aquinas (and many others) is lucidly clear that the natural caretaker of any community is the community itself, cooperatively caring for their shared good. Under the precepts of natural law are various other kinds of obligations and moral requirements that have derivative obligatory force, like positive laws, officia, parental counsels, contracts, and so forth, and all of them are varied and different from each other entirely depending on the kind of community or subcommunity involved or our relations to such communities and subcommunities. Vallier throughout the entire paper falsely claims that natural law precepts depend on divine commands in natural law theory; in natural law theory, divine commands give you divine positive law, which God promulgates under various covenants with particular communities. Natural law is not based on divine command but immediately on reason, and remotely on our participation in divine reason.

The summary of divine command theory is only marginally better:

Divine command theorists attempt to capture the social character of obligation by explaining obligations in terms of a relationship between one God and human beings. This is not a bad strategy. However, DCT explains obligation in only one direction—from God to human persons— and so does not explain the social character of our obligations to one another. Social character implies reciprocity with obligees, but creature and creator lack relations of reciprocity—the obligations are too one-sided.

No divine command theorists hold that all obligations are to be understood in terms of "a relationship between one God and human beings"; only the most fundamental and general obligations are. Divine command theorists generally do have an account of mutual or reciprocal obligations -- they get their force from an obligatory framework established by the authority of an obligating superior. Legal contracts, for instance, get their obligatory authority from contract law established by legislative authorities. We see the problem in clear highlight a little later:

So, imagine that God commands John to keep his promise to Reba and authorizes them both to hold John responsible for violations. Promissory obligations now travel together with accountability relations. But they are the wrong kind of accountability relations because John and Reba’s accountability relationship is with God, not with one another. Even if God tells John to keep his promise for Reba’s sake, nothing changes. John only owes his promise to God. Divine commands can only create obligations to God, not to others.

This is as absurd as saying that Congress or a state legislature can't pass a law that makes one citizen have obligations and accountability to another. "Oh no!" we might say, "John isn't obligated to Reba under contract law, he's only obligated to the state legislature!" This is not how positive laws work, and divine command theory is the view that all moral obligations are divine positive laws. Obviously a legislator acting within legislative authority can impose an obligation that in particular circumstances, determined by law, makes one person or group accountable to another.

It looks very much like almost all of Vallier's understanding of both of these positions derives from Mark Murphy, particularly God and Moral Law. I suppose I'm not surprised by that; God and Moral Law is not a very good book, starting from page one with the poorly motivated and developed distinction between explanandum-driven and explanans-driven explanations (His attempt to explain the latter uses an example that involves a straightforward and obvious switching of explananda), and the argument requires accepting the false view that moral facts must bottom out in moral laws and also a loose analogy between moral laws and laws of nature that doesn't seem to get the modal properties of the moral theories correct. (And indeed, the analogy seems to be muddled simply as an analogy, since Murphy's demand that God be an immediate explainer is not a concurrentist but an occasionalist demand, and Aquinas develops his natural law theory in part with an explicit view to his concurrentist view of providence rather than to any conservationist one, and most forms of divine command theory are clearly not occasionalist in structure because general obligators can empower others to obligate, so Murphy seems to have done nothing but muddle everything into next Wednesday.) It's a really good example of a book that should have been refined for a few more years before being formally published. Start with a bad framework, you get bad results. Both natural law theory and divine command theory are actually families of theories that have far more resources to handle criticisms than one would imagine from the characterizations of them that one finds in Murphy and Vallier.

The main positive argument of Vallier's paper, trying to ground interpersonal obligations on a norm of mutual love, is less bad, but (1) it does not actually provide an explanation of the norm as a norm, and (unsurprisingly, when one reflects) such a norm would in any case either have to be naturalistically or positivistically understood; (2) our interpersonal obligations are based directly on justice, not love; love is the basis of friendship, in a very broad sense of the word, and while friendship is in some ways even more fundamental than justice, people have been pointing out since Aristotle at least that friendship goes beyond any obligations. Vallier's mistake is in part assuming that his premise "The Trinity is to be imitated" implies obligations (it seems to presuppose them) and in part assuming that a general claim like this, without further information, can authorize as a norm a very, very specific conception of how it is to be done.

Some slack should be allowed for the fact that the essays submitted for the Prize are fundamentally supposed to be programmatic, laying out a foundation for research rather than a culmination, but this is a case where the foundations need immensely more work.

Dashed Off XII

This begins the notebook that began in March 2022; I seem to have accidentally skipped this notebook in the order of uploading, so these are actually earlier than the most recent Dashed Off posts.

"The beginning of wisdom: get wisdom." Pr 4:7

the ostiarial power of the Church
(1) to admit or not admit
(2) to regulate effectively the approach to the altar
(3) to exclude and remove
(4) to keep secure under lock and key
(5) to guard from vandal and evildoer

"In the absence of governance, the strong will swallow the weak. In the presence of governance, the weak resists the strong." Kautilya

In the long run, the enemies of the Church always build their own gallows with their plots, but it also requires courage on the part of Christians before they are delivered.

duties within humanitarian traditions as creating rights (e.g., obligations of doctors making associated rights for doctors, justified by the humanitarian value of the medical tradition)

Never do anything important on a single statistic; serious statistical inference always looks that how different lines of evidence converge (or not).

selective delicacy as a common manipulation tactic

"as the care for all was fitting to the dignity of his see" Sozomen (Ecc. Hist. 3.8, paraphrasing St. Julius)
"the Church of Rome's peculiar privilege" Socrates (Ecc. Hist. 2.15, describing the same events)
"he alleged that there is a sacerdotal canon which declares that whatever is enacted contrary to the judgment of the bishop of Rome is null" Sozomen (3.10, paraphrasing Julius again)
"Neither was Julius, bishop of great Rome, there, nor had he sent a proxy, although an ecclesiastical canon commands that the churches shall not make any ordinances against the judgment of the bishop of Rome." Socrates (2.8)
"charging them with a violation of the canons, because they had not requested his attendance at the council, seeing that the ecclesiastical law required that the churches should pass no decisions contrary to the views of the bishop of Rome." Socrates (3.17)

The World as tempter makes considerable use of appeal to the authority of accomplished fact.

Recognition of legal personality always pre-exists covenant, treaty, or contract.

God must call the people of Israel before He can covenant with them as a body.

To make use of postulates consistently, one must at least postulate that postulates that genuinely resolve a number of distinct genuine problems are at least probably approximately true.

Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to Pope Soter, notes that the Roman church sends contributions "to many Churches in every city, thus refreshing the needy in their want and furnishing the brethren condemned to the mines all that is necessary." (Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. 4.23)

Both the sublimity of the starry heavens above and of the moral law within are but signs of the sublimity of God.

2 Chr 6:12 -- Solomon and the people pray toward the altar
2 Chr 6:32 -- foreigners pray toward the house of the Lord
2 Chr 6:34 -- people in battle pray toward the city of the house of God
2 Chr 6:38 -- people in captivity pray toward the land, the city, and the house of God

An imagined community is not the same as an imaginary one.

"It is evident that every person who participates in virtue as a matter of habit unquestionably participates in God, the substance of virtues." Maximos
"The inclination to ascend and to see one's proper beginning was implanted in man by nature."

Freedom of speech is not the freedom speak words into the air but the freedom to communicate by speech, and thus includes a secondary freedom of the interested and addressed hearer not to be prevented from hearing.

The ability to take on long-term debt is a sign of wealth, not poverty.

Enthymeme is the body of persuasion because it is what structures that to which one is persuaded, both in terms of the thing itself and the context by which it is understood.

"a topos is a heading under which many enthymemes fall" Aristotle, Rhet 1403a18-19

"Counter-speech" is not a coherent category, or else it is just "speech".

values as aspects of actual desirability
goodness G exhibits/constitutes value V to desiring power D

the link between sublimity and dignity

an ethos: an ordering of value preferences (Scheler)

pleasure, utility, vitality, culture, sanctity

feeling with another
feeling that another feels
feeling for another
feeling on behalf of another
feeling within a common mood as one's own feeling
feeling that others feel a certain way

Scheler gets his objective ranking of values on the basis of durability, indivisibility (resistance to change compared to carrier), relative independence of other values, depth of satisfaction, absoluteness (independence from one who feels).

"A Good is related to value-qualities as a thing is to the qualities that fulfill its properties." Scheler

sanctity vs. the value of sanctity
sublimity vs. the value of sublimity
(the holy, the sublime, etc., may in a given experience not be exhibiting the value of sanctity or sublimity)

Even in purely mechanical causes we must distinguish what a cause can do of itself and what it can do from other causes.

Much of international politics after the Second World War has been an attempt to discover means of aggression short of war.

the Burning Bush as type of Mary, of Church, of resurrection body

God witnesses affliction, hears cry of complaint, of Israelites.

'baptized into Moses' in the cloud and the sea

hell as the realm of wasted chance

televisual/audio participation in Mass (i.e. by visual and auditory prayer rather than by presence) and living in the Land, Israelites not able to go up to the Temple

reading of Scripture: Church Militant
Creed & prayers: Church Patient
Communion: Church Triumphant

paraliturgical commemorations not sharing the space (livestreaming), not sharing the space and time (recording, lesser symbolic commemorations)
-- Are there cases of not sharing the time but sharing the space? Good Friday seems an example.

"The aim of philosophy, abstractly formulated, is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term." Sellars
-- This requires that there be: aims, understanding, reality, coherence, unified intelligibility

The more specialized fields are, in terms of both context and ethos, the harder it is for them to spawn new fields.

the body as a system of natural signs

physical mass as stored power-to-do

(1) symbolic representation
(2) artistic geometry
--- (a) classical
--- (b) projective
--- (c) optical
(3) artistic mechanics
(4) artistic anatomy

One should see chess pieces not as pieces but as squares of control with a vulnerability (the piece as such).

If you ask about writing, "Should I do things this way?", the correct answer is almost always, "No, unless this is an exception." The same seems true of drawing.

remotive divine attributes
(1) being: remove limitations on being (unity, simplicity, infinity, ineffability)
(2) presence: remove limitations on presence (eternity, omnipresence)

From the way Aristotle sets up his account of virtue, one of the indications of true virtue is that it makes you a good friend.

We naturally admire success and therefore naturally form hierarchies according to such various standards of success that we regard as both important and easy to apply, hierarchies of the apparently successful, and we take the higher-ranked as guides in our own behavior, because we too wish to be successful; or, failing that, to be linked with those who are. Attempting to quash this ranking-tendency only leads people to switch their standards of success and do the same thing according to that different standard.

Aquinas on Mass (IV Sent d8, exp.)
I. Beginning of Prayer
--- A. Preparing the people for prayer
--- --- 1. Through devotion (Introit)
--- --- 2. Through humility (Kyrie)
--- --- 3. Through intention (Gloria)
II. Middle of Prayer
--- A. Instruction of people through the word of God
--- --- 1. Deacon proclaims teaching of Christ (Gospel)
--- --- 2. Subdeacon proclaims New Testament preaching (Epistle)
--- --- 3. Lesser ministers proclaim Old Testament preaching (Reading)
--- B.  Effect of this instruction ordered to Christ
--- --- 1. Advance in virtue (Gradual)
--- --- 2. Exultation in hope (Alleluia)
--- --- [3. Lamentation of present sorrow (Tract)]
--- --- 4. Confession of faith (Creed)
III. Mystery
--- A. Oblation of matter to be consecrated
--- --- 1. Exultation of the ones offering (offertory Antiphon)
--- --- 2. Expression of offering and oblation (Suscipe)
--- --- 3. Petition for acceptance (Secret)
--- B. Gathering of the sacrametn
--- --- 1. Preparation through praise
--- --- --- a. Imploring praise be received (Preface)
--- --- --- b. Praise of divinity and humanity of Christ (Sanctus)
--- --- 2. Completion of sacrament
--- --- --- a. sacramentum tantum
--- --- --- --- 1. Blessing of offering (Te Igitur)
--- --- --- --- 2. Petition for salvation of the offerers individually (Memento)
--- --- --- --- 3. Commemoration of those in whose honor it is offered (Communicantes)
--- --- --- --- 4. Express conclusion (Hanc Igitur)
--- --- --- b. res et sacramentum
--- --- --- --- 1. Imploring of the consecrator (Quem Oblationem)
--- --- --- --- 2. Completion of consecration (Qui Pridie)
--- --- --- --- 3. Exposition of the commemoration (Unde et Memores)
--- --- --- c. res tantum
--- --- --- --- 1. Petition for the effect of grace
--- --- --- --- --- a. that the sacrament be accepted (Supra Quae)
--- --- --- --- --- b. that the grace be given (Supplices Te Rogamus)
--- --- --- --- 2. Petition for the effect of glory
--- --- --- --- --- a. of the dead (Memento)
--- --- --- --- --- b. of the living (Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus)
--- --- 3. Reception of the sacrament
--- --- --- a. petition of sacrament (Pater Noster)
--- --- --- b. expiation of the recipients (Libera Nos)
--- --- --- c. fulfillment of peace (Pax Domini)
--- --- --- d. petition for mercy (Agnus Dei)
--- --- --- e. special preparation of priest (Domien Jesu Christe)
III. End of Prayer (Thanksgiving)
--- A. Calling to mind the benefit (Antophon)
--- B. Act of gratitude in prayer

Aquinas on the Mass (ST 3.83.4)
I. Preparation by Prayer
--- A. Divine praise (Introit)
--- B. Prayer for mercy (Kyrie)
--- C. Commemoration of heavenly glory (Gloria)
--- D. Prayer of priest for people
II. Preparation by Instruction of the Faithful
--- A. Dispositively, by lectors and subdeacons
--- --- 1. Reading of teachings of Prophets and Apostles (Lesson)
--- --- 2. Signifying progress in life (Gradual)
--- --- 3. denotation of spiritual joy (Alleluia) or spiritual sighing (Tract)
--- B. Perfectively, by deacons and priests
--- --- 1. Reading of Gospel
--- --- 2. Assent of people
III. Celebration of Mystery
--- A. Offered as sacrifice (Oblation)
--- --- 1. Joy of offerers (Offertory)
--- --- 2. Prayer of priest that it might be acceptable
--- B. Consecrated as sacrament
--- --- 1. Exultation to devotion (Preface)
--- --- 2. Praise of Christ's Godhead and humanity (Sanctus)
--- --- 3. Commemoration
--- --- --- a. of those for whom the sacrifice is offered, the whole Church
--- --- --- b. of the saints (Communicantes)
--- --- --- c. Conclusion of petition
--- --- 4. Consecration
--- --- --- a. petition for effect of consecration
--- --- --- b. consecration
--- --- --- c. petition to excuse presumption
--- --- --- d. petition that the sacrifice finds favor
--- --- --- e. petition for the effect of sacrament
--- C. Received as Sacrament
--- --- 1. Preparation for communion
--- --- --- a. by common prayer (Pater Noster)
--- --- --- b. by private prayer (Libera Nos)
--- --- 2. Preparation for peace (Agnus Dei)
--- --- 3. Actual reception
IV. Thanksgiving
--- A. Rejoicing for having received
--- B. Returning thanks by prayer

Given the various appellations of angelic beings in Scripture, there are only three possibilities:
(1) They are all of a kind and share the same roles but the names indicate various aspects of these roles.
(2) They are of the same kind but the appellations indicate different roles or offices.
(3) They are of different kinds and roles, as indicated by the appellations.

Zech 1:12 & angelic intercession (Turretin argues that this is Christ, as he does also with Rev. 8:3)

It is difficult to see any evidence in history that animism ever develops polytheistic gods except under the influence of an already existing polytheism.

Grave goods are an important marker in the prehistory of religion because they had to have had a a transliminal point, which requires some kind of beyond-grave conception.

(1) ritual recognition of boundary
(2) ritual recognition of boundary-crossing
(3) ritual representation of what is beyond the boundary

100,000 BC -- earliest surviving evidence of deliberate burial
38,000 -- earliest zoomorphic sculpture
35,000 -- 'Venus' figurines begin to be found in graves, some deliberately broken or mutilated; staining of bones with red ochre
25,000 -- various grave goods
13,000 -- clear evidence of shared burial sites / cemeteries
9,130 -- Gobekli Tepe, Nerali Con
2494 -- We begin to find Pyramid Texts, the oldest surviving religious texts
2150 -- Oldest identifiable versions of Gilgamesh narrative
1700 -- Rig Veda
1351 -- Amarna heresy
1300 -- the Sin-liqe-unninni edition of the Epic of Gilgamesh
1250 -- Upanishads begin to be composed
1200 -- earliest surviving Chinese oracle bones

Christ saying, "My Father is greater than I," is somewhat peculiar if one assumes Him to be a mere man; of course God is greater than a man. But it takes on significance if we recognize that 'Father' here indicates a fatherhood not purely figurative and symbolic.

Jude 6 -- the aidios fire

Every sin has its piacularity as well as its culpability.

If we cannot deserve infinite penalty, we can even less be suitable for infinite reward. But the human heart opens out to infinity; we know ourselves to be capable of deserving infinite punishment and we know ourselves to have a suitability for infinite reward.

Hell is a state of good wholly finite, always a good merely petty and without greatness.

To claim that love does not punish is to claim something contrary to every kind of love we know.

Theological innovations always circle back to something like old heresies.

Family often vicariously bears penalty for family.

It is interesting to read Francis William Newman, Phases of Faith; he is always at one period of his life rejecting doctrine A on the authority of doctrine B, and then at a later period rejecting doctrine B on the authority of something else, without ever questioning his prior rejections, now apparently unfounded.

pilgrimage // commemoration

"Pursuing the same thought to the Old Testament, I discerned there also no small sprinkling of grotesque or immoral miracles. A dead man is raised to life, when his body by accident touches the bones of Elisha, as though Elisha had been a Romish saint, and his bones a sacred relic.' Francis W. Newman
-- 'As though', indeed!
-- Note that the standard of 'grotesque and unmoral' is merely 'being like Romanism'.
-- It's perhaps worth noting that the brothers think along similar lines on points like this, but Francis tollenses and John Henry ponenses.

Uzzah, Abimelech, and piacularity

Doublets in the Pentateuch are so many and extensive that their number clearly indicates that they are being used as a storytelling device.

FW Newman's suggestion that Ex 15:19 describes no miracle, but is merely 'hyperbolic', 'high poetry that describes nothing definite, is remarkable. People use hyperbole to accentuate what they think happened, not to invent it; Ex. 15:19 is at least being put forward in its very text as something that actually happened -- later interpreters did not invent this  aspect even if you assume they were overly literal about it. Ex 15:19 makes no sense at all unless the Lord was taken by the original author to have intervened in some way with waters to save the children of Israel from Pharaoh's army. To say it implies no miracle when it explicitly states one, however figurative you assume its language, is absurd. It is only topped by his later assumption that no one else in the history of reading Song of Songs recognized that the book consists of voluptuous love-songs, it apparently never having occurred to him that the allegorical reading presupposes it.

It is often the case that justice is impossible where love does not go first.

Mill's On Liberty as a generalization of Socratism (e.g., Socrates's discussion of refutation in the Gorgias)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Links of Note

* Subrena E. Smith and David Livingstone Smith, The Trouble with Race and Its Many Shades of Deceit, at "New Lines Magazine"

* Jacob Siegel, A Guide to Understanding the Hoax of the Century, at "Tablet"

* Matthew K. Minerd, Exploration Through Practical Signs

* Steven Shapin, Paradigms Gone Wild, at "London Review of Books"

* Brendan de Kinnessey, Promises, Offers, Requests, Agreements, at "Ergo"

* The USCCB's recent document on medical interventions is fairly good; you can find a link to it here.

* Dan Kaufman, Locks, Schlocks, and Poisoned Peas: Boyle on Actual and Dispositive Qualities (PDF)

* Hein van den Berg & Boris Demarest, Axiomatic Natural Philosophy and the Emergence of Biology as a Science (PDF)

* Edward Feser, What is a Law of Nature?

* Ken Dark, How long can historical associations of places be remembered? at OUPblog

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Eirene Hymin

 It being then evening the same day, the first from the sabbath, and the doors shut up where the students were students were from fear of the Judeans, Iesous came and stood in the midst, and he says to them, Peace to you. And having said this, he showed both his side and his hands to them. Then the students rejoiced, having seen the Lord. 

Then Iesous said again to them, Peace to you. As the Father has commissioned me, I also send you.

And having said this, he blew on them, and he says to them, Take the Holy Spirit. If you might have let go the sins of any, they are let go for them; if you might hold fast of any, they are held fast.

[John 20:19-23, my rough translation. As always, when I do these I sometimes deliberately do wooden translations to break familiarity or merely-possible translations to look at the range of interpretations the text might afford. 'Students' of course is usually translated as 'disciples', which is accurate, but the word literally means 'students'. 'Judeans' could also be translated as 'Jews' (the latter is just a shortened variation of the former), but I've argued elsewhere that in the Gospel of John, at least, the word probably doesn't mean Jews in general but those that were specifically connected with the Temple and Sanhedrin -- for instance, the Gospel does not seem to include Hellenistic Jews under the designation, calling the latter 'Greeks'/'Hellenists', instead. 

Jesus's comment uses two different words for 'sent'. The first, apestalken, which I have translated as 'commissioned', is the same word from which we get the word 'apostle'; it often means a specific mission in which the one sent represents the one who sent. The second, pempo, is more general. It seems very likely that the use of the two terms in this context is very deliberate; the statement is not trying to draw a parallel, as it often seems to be in English translations, but giving an explanation -- Jesus has a mission with authority, and by that authority he sends the disciples in a way appropriate to his mission.

The final part is particularly interesting. It's often translated, "Receive the Holy Spirit", but the word is literally 'take' (it's the same word used in 'Take and eat'). The natural way to understand the final sentence is the way it is usually translated -- 'forgive' and 'retain', which they can undeniably mean -- but the words literally mean 'send away' and 'seize a hold of'. Famously, while both are subjunctive mood, the tenses are different; 'forgive' is aorist, looking to the past, while 'retain' is present tense, which can sometimes have the force of future tense. Some hold that this indicates that the 'forgive' part indicates a particular act of complete release, whereas the force of the 'retain' is something like 'for as long as you retain them', and thus ongoing.]

The Rose Was Sweeter Wearing than the Crown

Thou Art the Pearl
by Willa Cather 

I read of knights who laid their armour down,
 And left the tourney's prize for other hands,
And clad them in a pilgrim's sober gown,
 To seek a holy cup in desert lands.
For them no more the torch of victory;
 For them lone vigils and the starlight pale,
So they in dreams the Blessed Cup may see --
 Thou art the Grail! 

 An Eastern king once smelled a rose in sleep,
 And on the morrow laid his scepter down.
His heir his titles and his lands might keep,--
 The rose was sweeter wearing than the crown.
Nor cared he that its life was but an hour,
 A breath that from the crimson summer blows,
Who gladly paid a kingdom for a flower --
 Thou art the Rose! 

A merchant man, who knew the worth of things,
 Beheld a pearl more priceless than a star;
And straight returning, all he hath he brings
And goes upon his way, ah, richer far!
Laughter of merchants in the market-place,
 Nor taunting gibe nor scornful lips that curl,
Can ever cloud the rapture on his face --
 Thou art the Pearl!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Music on My Mind


Balsam Range, "Rivers, Rains, and Runaway Trains".

Sunday, April 09, 2023

The Mystery of Piety 1.4.3&4


1.4.3 On How We Know God 

As names are instruments for cognition, we name things according to the cognition we have of them, and therefore understanding divine names requires considering our understanding of divine being. 

Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, who is pure act without any potential, is in Himself supremely knowable. But what is supremely knowable in itself may not be knowable to a particular intellect, because an intelligible object may exceed the capacity of the intellect. Knowledge is in the knower according to the mode of the knower, but we in our current life have being in corporeal matter, and thus by our own natural cognition know only what is material or can be known by what is knowable by a being in corporeal matter. The human mind, which derives knowledge from sensible things, cannot reach a pure understanding of divine being itself, which is not only above all sensible things, but immeasurably above all other things.

It does not follow from this that we have no knowledge or understanding of God. There resides in everyone a desire to know the cause of effects they see; they see what is around them and wonder. This natural desire would be in vain if we could not in some way reach the first cause. And we have seen indeed that we can reason to such a first cause in a number of ways, both demonstrative and dialectical. 

Every causal inference, however, will involve three features. First, the inference will have to identify some form of dependence; this will provide the essential nerve of the inference. Second, the inference will have to distinguish the cause as cause and the caused as caused, since cause and caused are not the same; in particular the cause will have to lack whatever would actually make it the effect rather than the cause. Third, the cause must be at least adequate for the caused to depend upon it; it might be capable of causing many more than things than just this one, but based on this one, it must have a nature capable of making this caused thing, and similar things, possible and actual. These are all found even in very ordinary causal inference. If I find a sandwich with a bite in it, I can infer that the bite itself is due to something distinct from itself with a mouth capable of making it. All three of the features of causal inference are found here: that it is due to something that existed when the bite was made, that this something is distinct from itself, that this something has at least the characteristics capable of causing the bite as it was actually made, such as having a mouth and a capability for biting. They likewise are found in more complex inferences. For instance, if a dial in a measurement device does something, this change ultimately requires a cause, which must not just be the same kind of change, yet must have in it features that are at least adequate to causing this and other similar changes; or if I have a historical text, this posits some set of authors and perhaps redactors, whose causal powers in fact exceed this particular text.

Our natural knowledge begins in sensory cognition, and can extend as far as our minds can be led by sensible things. Sensible creatures, however, are effects that fall short of their cause, God; therefore from knowledge of these sensible things we cannot know the whole power of God. Nonetheless, because they are His effects, we can through effects know whether He actually is, recognizing these effects as indicators of His actually being, and from this we can know what must follow given that He is first cause. Therefore we can know Him by His relation to His creatures, as first cause; and we can know how creatures differ from Him, insofar as the first cause must differ from its effects in many ways; and that His effects are removed from Him, so to speak, not because of any defect, but because He excels them all. 

We can put the matter a slightly different way. Our complete good is to know God, as the infinite intelligible to which our minds are ordered, so we are able to rise to knowledge of God in our own way, and in particular, as the perfections of things descend in order from God as highest, we may reach out to God by ascending in proper order to Him through the things that participate Him. All natural knowledge of what things are terminates at something that actually is. God, however, is actual being itself, in which all other beings participate, not something Himself participating actual being. Therefore, in this causal inference we find that God must be a limit of causal inference; that is to say, causal inferences establishing that God exists establish that he exists as first in some way, and God's being first means that he must not have the characteristics that are due to being dependent and secondary. In order to understand God, therefore, we must remove all aspects of anything we might attribute to God that would imply such non-primacy. And God must be at least adequate as a cause to have such effects; but the effects include dependent being, all changing things, and the like, whose defects derive entirely from their dependence. Therefore God must have a nature that is eminent beyond anything that He causes. As St. John of the Cross says (Ascent 2.8.3), Created things cannot serve as a proportionate means by which the intellect can reach God. This then is the foundation of what is called the triplex via of relation (or causation), remotion (or negation), and supereminence (or excellence), which derives from the the structure of causal inference, given that we are talking about God as first cause. All of our knowledge of God involves these three. 

These features are well discussed in St. Gregory Nazianzen's Second Theological Oration (Oration 28). There Nazianzen tells us that God can be known by relation to his effects (28.6): Now our very eyes and the Law of Nature teach us that God exists and that He is the Efficient and Maintaining Cause of all things: our eyes, because they fall on visible objects, and see them in beautiful stability and progress, immovably moving and revolving if I may so say; natural Law, because through these visible things and their order, it reasons back to their Author. He then notes that God must be incorporeal, simple, etc. And finally he says (28.11), the Divine Nature cannot be apprehended by human reason, and that we cannot even represent to ourselves all its greatness. We find the same in St. Anselm, who has perhaps a greater trust of inference than Nazianzen, in the Monologion, in which, beginning with good things, he proceeds to God as supreme good (relation). He discusses how various things cannot therefore apply to God, such as dependency, composition, beginning and ending, etc. (remotion). And he argues that God is supereminent; as he says (Mon. 15), the Supreme Being must in no respect be said to be one of those things to which something that is not what they are is superior; and again he says (Pros. 15), not only are You that than which a greater cannot be thought, You are also something greater than can be thought. The examples, however, could be multiplied indefinitely. Knowledge of God based on the revelation of sacred scripture is not an exception to this; in such a case the relevant effect is a testimony, but the causal inference itself works the same way as a causal inference from the effects of the natural world. 

A common error, influenced by Hegel, treats the triplex via as a dialectical process, in which causation is 'negated', and then this negation is itself 'negated'. This errs in understanding each element. Causation is never without remotion and eminence, nor remotion without causation and eminence, nor eminence without causation and remotion. They are not successive stages in a process of reasoning; they are all found together in causal reasoning that is properly carried out. As they are distinct aspects of one inference, it is possible to focus on one rather than the other two for some purpose or another, but nothing prevents anyone from discussing them in any particular order.

Of the three aspects of causal inference, people often have the most difficulty with remotion, even in ordinary inferences. We see this sometimes when people assume that the cause must be exactly like the effect or the effect exactly like the cause. When we are discussing God, however, the primary reason why people struggle with confining their inferences to such as are consistent with remotion is dependence on the imagination. The first things we know are clearly composite, mutable, contingent, finite, and so forth. We thus know things that are simple, immutable, necessary, infinite, and so forth, despite being naturally prior and more fundamental in terms of intelligibility, only in a derivative way. This is precisely why we must define or understand first principles by negating what we know of subsequent things, and why we are said to know God by way of negation or remotion, recognizing that he must be incorporeal, immutable, noncomposite, infinite, incircumscribable, and so forth. Were we purely intellectual creatures, this would cause no problems. However, we are rational beings who depend heavily on imagination as a framework and platform for our intellectual thinking. While corporeality, mutability, composition, and finitude are all imaginable, incorporeality, immutability, simplicity, infinity and the like are not. Therefore understanding these things by remotion requires us to begin with the senses and the imagination, for we begin nowhere else, but also to recognize their limitations, and to keep their limitations in view throughout our reasoning.

Precisely because so much of our knowledge depends on imagination in some way, people also tend to assume that remotion is inconsistent with knowledge simply speaking. For instance, Kant argues (Critique of Judgment, sect. 91) that as the material for our ideas must always come from the world of sense, we can never give our formal ideas of the supersensible a material adequate to the form; as a result, we have no knowledge of the "inner constitution" of those supersensibles of which we have a concept. One might conclude from this, and some have concluded from it (although Kant's own view is somewhat more complicated), that we therefore can have no knowledge at all of supersensible things. One might also hold the view (which is closer to Kant's own) that these supersensible concepts or ideas serve as 'limit concepts', which we formulate insofar as sensible things require a ground but whose own nature cannot be known at all. And there is an initial plausibility to this; as St. Thomas says (Comm. Div. Nom. 1.2.75), God, since he is infinite, exceeds every finite substance, prepossessing in himself the ends of all things; and, consequently, he is separated from all knowledge, inasmuch as he exceeds all knowledge of a creature, so that he can be comprehended by none. We might assume that this means that all discourse about God being incorporeal, noncomposite, noncontingent, and so forth is just a packet of words that really says that we know nothing about Him at all, that 'God' is just a cipher for the unknowable unknown. However, much of our knowledge of the world around us is also by determining what things are not. As St. Macrina says in Gregory of Nyssa's On the Soul and Resurrection: We do learn, she replied, much about many things by this very same method, inasmuch as, in the very act of saying a thing is not so and so, we by implication interpret the very nature of the thing in question.

This also makes the mistake of assuming that we can have causal knowledge without triplex via; all our causal knowledge even in sensory matters includes remotions of some kind. Everything has its own distinct being in itself, so the more completely we see how a thing differs from other things, the more completely we know it. We see this everywhere. Much of the value of experiment, for instance, is in what it allows us to eliminate as true; that is, in the way it shows the world is not. The general practice of definition also shows this, since we define not merely by identifying the genus of the thing to be defined, but also must give the specific difference, identifying the ways in which it is not other things in the genus. Even our sensory knowledge is heavily dependent on remotions, then; our senses often do not provide material exactly proportionate even to our concepts of sensible things. Thus the mere fact that we are emphasizing remotion does not imply that we have no knowledge at all. 

Our knowledge of God through causal inference is thus indirect and limited; as Aquinas says (SCG 1.14.4), It will not be perfect, because we will not know what it is in itself. Nonetheless, remotion, as in other causal inferences, is initimately connected with causal knowledge. As Palamas says (Philokalia IV.81), The same God is incomprehensible in His essence, but comprehensible from what He creates according to His divine energies: according, that is, to His pre-eternal will for us, His pre-eternal providence concerning us, His pre-eternal wisdom with regard to us, and -- to use the words of St. Maximos -- His infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.  Thus we have causation (comprehensible from what He creates), remotion (incomprehensible in His essence), and eminence (pre-eternal).

It is true that the remotion involved in causal inferences to God is necessarily more extensive than in causal inferences to other things, because God is more fundamental and thus must be distinguished more sharply from that which follows from Him. The most obvious way is that God is not in a genus. Something can be said to be 'in' a genus as a species or by reduction. To be a species or in a species is to be composite; a species is composed by genus and specific difference, which are related to each other as potential to actual. Such composition does not exist in God. Moreover, when we speak of God in ways that are even suggestive of genus, we do so for transcendental terms like 'being'; but these terms are not generic, as we have noted. And more than this, God is principle for all of the genera that fall under this transcendental terms; therefore He cannot himself be in a genus nor reduced to a genus as its principle or generator. Because of this, we do not know God by putting him under a genus, and if we trace any genus back to God, we do so in a way that does not confine Him to being the source of that genus. Thus God is not know in His very nature, and for this reason is said to be invisible (Col 1:15) and to dwell in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16). As Dryden says (The Hind and the Panther), "Thy throne is darkness in the abyss of light, / A blaze of glory that forbids the sight." We see therefore that remotion leads completely to eminence; God exceeds the capability of any created intellect to apprehend Him; none can directly understand what He is by any creaturely power of mind. He excels and exceeds ever attempt to understand Him by classification, and no attempt we may make to understand Him can perfectly capture His nature. On the basis of this, Aquinas says (ST 1.3 prol.), When the existence of a thing has been ascertained there remains the further question of the manner of its existence, in order that we may know its essence. Now, because we cannot know what God is, but rather what He is not, we have no means for considering how God is, but rather how He is not.  Palamas has the same view, saying (Energ. 22, quoted in Pino, p. 150), We know that God is, whereas knowledge of what, or what sort of thing, he is, is impossible both for angels and for human beings.

In reasoning about God, we therefore must approach the matter in a threefold way, with wonder (in which we seek causes in order to learn and to know truly), reverence (in which we remove what is not appropriate), and awe (in which we recognize the sublimity of his excellence). These are three expressions in intellectual life of one greater thing, the fear of the Lord, of which we are told (Pr 9:10; cf. also Pr 1:7, Ps 111:10, Job 28:28, Sir 1:20), The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Out of this, we must cultivate an intellectual asceticism, without which we cannot study natural theology or sacred doctrine with any real profit. This intellectual asceticism must consist in several things:

(1) Taking to heart the principle of remotion, drawing conclusions with restraint, recognizing the limitations of our knowledge, and examining ourselves for intellectual pride, so that we may say with the Psalmist (Ps 131:1), O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. As Cyril of Alexandria says (Adv. Iulian, Bk 2), The divine Moses and after him the chorus of the holy prophets, the Apostles, and the holy Evangelists, they sing the glory of God, one by nature and in truth; they invite us to imitate them by ripping away the myths from ourselves -- all the unbelievable forms and sleazy ideas -- and involving us in a way of life that attracts admiration.

In this regard it is sometimes helpful in particular to keep in mind the incorporeality of God; God is spirit (Jn 4:24) and has no body, being the cause of all bodies. It seems to me that one reason why sacred Scripture, Jewish sages, and the saints have insisted on this attribute so much and in so many ways is that it serves as a template for others, and by reflecting on it one practices the mental discipline to reason in a manner consistent with triplex via. Many things in Christian doctrine and even in metaphysics imply the incorporeality of God, and when one further explores this one realizes that it is analogous to other negative attributes, like noncontingency, noncomposition, immutability, so that if God is incorporeal, He must be necessary, simple, immutable, etc., in at least some way; and when one further reflects on how the divinity excels any physical object, one comes to see that it is precisely because he is necessary, simple, immutable, etc. Moreover, whenever people make claims questioning these negative attributes, one can compare what their arguments say about those attributes to what they would have to say along the same lines about incorporeality, and often one will discover the absurdity of their arguments in reasoning by parity.

(2) As the ordinary dependence of our rational cognition on the working of the imagination can easily lead us astray when we consider matters that are not obvious to the senses, there is necessary a mortification of the imagination. St. Augustine notes that he had particular difficult with this when he was a Manichaean (Conf. 3.7), taking one of the primary causes of his errors to be the fact that his eyes saw no further than bodies and his mind no further than phantasm. As St. John of the Cross says (Ascent 12.4), Since created things...have no proportion to God's being, all imaginations fashioned from the likenesses of creatures are incapable of serving as a proximate means toward union with God. Therefore in any inquiry involving divine things, one must practice discipline what one imagines, and what one feels with respect to what one imagines, so that neither the imagination nor the passions based on them introduce a bias into the inquiry and force one off the path of truth.

(3) One must likewise be aware of the potential temptations that try one's commitment to the truth, arising from human inquiry itself. For instance, any inquiry is potentially derailed by unreasoned doubts. To doubt when one has definite reason is itself food for inquiry; but many doubts are not due to reasons but to passions, external pressure, vices, bad habits, poor education, and the like. Therefore one must always examine one's doubts to determine what reasons lead to them. The failure to distinguish unreasoned doubts from reasoned doubts have shipwrecked many minds even in mundane inquiries; the failure to do so in divine matters can ruin entire lives. Another example of a temptation that arises from human inquiry is the rigorous imposition of an arbitrary standard. Thus one finds, for instance, that when some people inquire, they reverse means and ends, treating rules and methods of inquiry not as means but as ends to which everything in the inquiry must fit, like a Procrustean bed. A third temptation that arises in human inquiry is the temptation to give up before one should, due to the aridity or dryness of the inquiry, which may for extended periods of time seem to get one nowhere. A fourth is the temptation to pedanticism, which is another way in which inquirers often reverse means and end, spending all their time on refining their tools and not on using them to discover more substantive truths. And a fifth common temptation is to isolationism in inquiry. Human beings are rational animals; but it is part of our being rational that we are social, and no inquiry that occurs entirely within oneself is complete. All true inquiry is, in the greater scheme of things, a cooperation with others, and therefore one must not fall into eschewing such communication with others as can be valuable to truth, on the arrogant assumption that if one inquires one must not rely on others for anything. All of these temptations, and others, must be considered and avoided in any serious inquiry; how much more must we avoid them when we inquire in order to know God better.

Grace, however, allows for possibilities beyond natural knowledge; as St. Augustine says (Exp. in Ps. 131), For if you be not exalted, if you raise not your heart on high, if you tread not in great matters that are too high for you, but preserve humility, God will reveal unto you what you are otherwise minded in; and St Clement of Alexandria says (Stromateis 5.12), It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him. Knowledge had by natural reason requires two things: sensible appearances and natural intellectual light enabling us to abstract the intelligible from these sensible appearances. In both ways human knowledge can be assisted by grace. The intellect's natural light can be strengthened by the light of grace, and God is capable of forming appearances in the imagination so as to express divine truths in particular ways. Even in such cases, we cannot know God in a manner inconsistent with triplex via, given the assistance, which gives either new effects that must be understood in light of causation, remotion, and eminence, or new light by which one might understand things in terms of causation, remotion, and eminence. In this way, such grace both is able to extend our knowledge and show its limitations. We are still unable to know what God is in Himself, and thus are united to Him as to one who is unknown in His very nature, but we can know Him more fully from a greater variety of effects, or from effects of greater excellence, and this includes divine revelation itself. We will learn more about this as we proceed.

 1.4.4 On Divine Names

It is not the role of a theory of names to guarantee that terms have enough in common that they are not equivocal in a given inference; it is rather the role of the theory of knowledge presupposed by the theory of names, and of the proper account of the inference in which the terms occur. Much damage has been done by failing to distinguish knowing and naming in this way. We cannot name what we do not know in any way, and we can name anything we can know in some way; but to know and to name are distinct things. On the other side, terms, by which we name things, are in many ways the primary instrument of human reasoning, and thus, properly used, aid us in knowing what we know. Because of this, it is important to consider how terms work, so that in divine matters we may avoid misusing them in ways that impede reasoning and knowledge. In discussing this matter, there are several things that must be considered, which are interlinked. First, we must consider how the meaning of the divine names themselves; this requires considering how names and terms are related, and thus how we apply names to God at all; and included in this we must consider whether all divine names are negative. Second, we must consider names insofar as they have meaning in judgment, and in doing this we must consider their uses, whether literal and figurative or proper and improper. Third, as many names can be applied to one thing, we must consider how they are related to each other, and in particular whether they are all synonyms. Fourth,  as names are signs, and have objects, we must consider how divine names are signs of God. Fifth, as names can be applied to many things, we must consider how one name is applied both to God and creature. Sixth, we have in Scripture a special name designated for God, the Ineffable Name or Tetragrammaton, and thus must consider it. In most of these matters I will follow fairly closely St. Thomas, who more than anyone else has reduced the topic of divine names to its essential principles.

I. Words are signs of things by way of concepts, through some conceptual presentation of the likeness or similitude of a thing; that is to say, words touch on what is signified through the medium of the mind's conception. We can therefore name anything in the manner in which we can understand it. As we have already noted, we know God in terms of relation, remotion, and eminence, as the source of creatures. Our names for God therefore always derive in some way from creatures, although they can do so in very different ways, but because God exceeds our understanding, He also exceeds our naming. In particular, we cannot give a proper definition of God, and cannot give a name adequate to Him in the way we can give a name like 'gold' that is adequate in its application to gold, as long as we have an adequate account of gold itself. As Aquinas says (Div. Nom. 1.1.29), according as in whatever way there is a likeness of created things to God, names imposed by us can be said of God, not indeed such as they are of creatures, but through a certain excess, and (Div. Nom. 1.1.30), Yet just as names imposed by us can be said of God according as there is some likeness of creatures to God, so according as creatures fail of the representation of God, names imposed by us can be removed from God and their opposites predicated. Given this, we can say something about different kinds of terms and names and how they can be applied to God at all.

A. Abstract and concrete terms. The creatures we know best are material creatures, and therefore the names we attribute to God always signify something associated with material creatures. Material creatures are composite, so what is subsistent in them is not their very form. The way we use names, therefore, tends to follow this. For instance, we use concrete nouns like 'good' to talk about the subsistent thing with the form, and we use abstract nouns like 'goodness' to talk about the form whereby the subsistent thing is. This carries over to how we talk about God, since we can talk about Him either concretely or abstractly. In particular, we tend to use abstract names to signify His simplicity and immutability, which is to our minds like that of forms, and concrete names to signify his substance and presence, which is to our minds associated with subjects. Precisely because God is simple and subsistent, however, He is neither form composed with subject nor subject composed with form. Thus neither concrete names nor abstract names are adequate to His mode of being; God is beyond abstractness and concreteness in this way.  As Aquinas says (In Met. 7.5 sect. 1380), if there is something in which no accident is present, then in this the abstract must differ in no way from the concrete; this is most evident in the case of God. Abstractness and concreteness in divine names arises from the affinity of our minds, not from the nature of God, and therefore we use both, depending on what we wish to emphasize.

B. Negative and affirmative terms. Different opinions have been given of affirmative names of God, such as 'good' or 'wise'. Some have said that all such names are really negative, even though they seem superficially to be affirmative. To say that God is wise, for instance, would be to say that God is not foolish. Others have held that these names signify a way of being related to creatures: thus to say that God is wise is to say that God is cause of wisdom in things. Both of these are errors. Neither of them allows us to understand why some names are more fittingly applied to God than others. He is the cause of bodies, so if 'God is wise' meant no more than 'God is cause of wisdom in things', the same reasoning would let us say that God is corporeal. In addition, those who speak of God, when they say that God is wise, certainly intend to say more than that God is different from foolish things or that God is cause of wisdom in things.

Therefore the correct doctrine is that we use these names to talk about God Himself, and especially to talk about His nature, although in such a way that they cannot fully convey it. Names express God to the extent and in the way that our intellects know Him. Our intellect knows God from creatures and in the ways in which creatures represent Him; but creatures represent Him not as being in a species or genus, but as the excelling principle which all things imitate but compared to which all effects fall short. Therefore divine names signify divine being, but do so in an imperfect manner, because creatures, as effects coming from divine being as their cause, represent it imperfectly. When we say, 'God is wise', the meaning is 'What wisdom we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God as their principle in a more excellent and higher way, lacking the defects it has in creatures'. Thus St. Thomas says (ST 1.13.2, quoting Augustine in Doctr. Chr. 1.2), it does not follow that God is good, because He causes goodness; but rather, on the contrary, He causes goodness in things because He is good; according to what Augustine says, "Because He is good, we are." This is true even of a name like "Being" which must understood in such a way as to guarantee that God is understood as a higher and pre-existent Being without any defects of creaturely being.

When we use more purely negative names, like 'Immutable', we emphasize remotion more. However, it would be an error to conclude that because of this they do not represent divine being in an imperfect manner. Their imperfection for describing God arises for many of the same reasons that the same imperfection arises for affirmative names. Negative names are also drawn from creatures and understood in ways appropriate to created minds like ours. As we can only name God well insofar as we know God, the limitations in our knowledge of God carry over into our naming of Him, regardless of the names we use. Even negative names must be understood remotively, because we must remove even the limitations of negative names. As Aquinas notes (In Div. Nom. 1.3), The primary way of naming God is through the negation of all things, since He is beyond all, and whatever is signified by any name whatsoever is less than that which God is; note that there are no exceptions to this, but we must negate 'all' and recognize that 'whatever' is signified by 'any name whatsoever' is less than God actually is. Whatever names we use, they are merely instruments that are inadequate to divine reality.

C. Relative and absolute terms. As our knowledge of God is based on our knowledge of creatures, all of the names we apply to God are in one sense relative, even when the term is of a form that we associate with absolute names. For this reason, some have wanted to say that they are all really relative terms. This is not quite right. To understand this, we need to consider how one thing is related to another. We know that things themselves can have some kind of relatedness or referentiality to other things as part of what they are; many things are clearly seen to have an ordering and habitude to other things. But the terms of this referentiality can be referential terms in different ways.

Sometimes the related terms are terms due to some actually shared something-or-other. Quantitative things can share measure, for instance, and in terms of that shared measure, they can be related as bigger or smaller, double or half. Cases falling under the categories of action and passion also share something, in terms of actuality in a change, and therefore we have things related as mover and movable, father and son, maker and made.

Sometimes, however, they are related terms only notionally, in reason's understanding. For instance, we can say that something is identical to itself. This is a kind of relatedness, a kind of self-referentiality. However, it is a kind of relatedness that arises from reason considering one thing twice. If I say that A is identical to A, A's being the first term and A's being the second term of this kind of relatedness is something that arises in reason's notice, and not because A is somehow duplicated in itself. Likewise, 'non-being' is a term that arises only in reason, not in things themselves; second intentions arising from classifications, like genus and species, are also like this. Such terms, being notional in themselves, could only be related to something notionally.

And nothing prevents cases in which one term is related by something shared to the other, but that other is related notionally to the first. Similarity between a copy and an original is a good example, as when we say that a painting is a good likeness of the sitter. If A is similar as a likeness to B, then A's being related to B is due to its being taken to share something with B; but in this particular way of thinking, at least, we are not considering B in a symmetrical way as sharing something with A. This is the way in which knowledge is related to what is knowable and in which sense is related to sensible. Knowledge of the known is ordered to what is known; but this way of being related does not make what is known ordered to knowledge of it, but on the contrary treats it as distinct from that ordering. This way of being related is particularly important when we are considering divine names. God is distinct from the ordering of creation and all its creatures to Him; when we recognize God as Creator from His creatures, this is a kind of relatedness based on the known reference of creatures to Him, not vice versa. We do not start with God as Creator and reach creatures from Him; we start with creatures and reach out to God.

We can use relative names to signify the relative ordering itself, as with 'father' or 'son'; but we can also use them to signify things from which the relative ordering follows, such as 'mover' and 'moved'. Likewise, some relative names applied to God, like 'Lord', signify the relative ordering itself; these do not directly signify God, but do presuppose it, since, for instance, being Lord presupposes divine power and understanding. Other relative names, like 'Savior' or 'Creator' signify His activities. Thus, as Palamas says (Philokalia IV, p. 125), not everything predicated of God is said with regard to His essence; it can be said relatively, that is, with relation to something that is not God's essence

However, we may also have non-relative or absolute names for God, despite the fact that all our knowledge of Him is relative, because the name itself may not in particular rely on any to-ness or relativity. Our names for God, being based on participation of and assimilation to Him, may all be understood ‘participably’; but as all such participation implies more to God than can be participated, and God transcends any given name, we may also by a sort of transfer understand them ‘imparticipably’, for the we-know-not-what of God that transcends all participation. Thus we call God ‘Being’ insofar as He is participable and imitable by the beings that come from Him; but we may also say of Him that He is being beyond all participation, and also that He is beyond all being. Because God is not known to us in His very nature, so as to know what His nature is, being instead made known to us from His operations or effects, we name Him from these operations or effects, but always in such a way as to recognize that He exceeds any such name.

D. Terms with weak modal import. Since every other being, whether of the cosmos itself or any part of it, flows from God Himself, we name God by way of how He is related to these things, and as many of these have not always had actual being, some of this relativity must have temporal or contingent import due to the temporality or contingency of one of the terms. This is not true of every such relativity, because some relate God to what creatures are absolutely or simply speaking; but it is certainly true of some. However, to say that A is related to B does not imply that aspects of B are in A; it only indicates an ordering of one to another in some way. God's relativity toward creatures can be understood insofar as He is their source and principle (e.g., 'Creator', 'Lord', 'Wisdom') or insofar as He is the term and end (e.g., 'Our Hope'), but in either case, the temporality or contingency pertains not to the divine nature but to the other term. That is to say, we apply temporal or contingent terms to God properly insofar as temporal and contingent things are from Him or to Him as their nontemporal, noncontingent cause. 

This is true more generally. We can distinguish strong modality from weak modality; the former is often represented in logic by a Box operator, which indicates some kind of exceptionlessness or necessity in a broad sense, and the latter often by a Diamond operator, which indicates an allowance for exception or possibility in a broad sense.  any people have tangled themselves in absurdities and puzzles by assuming that the use of names for God that suggest some relation involving weak modality, such as the contingent, the local, the temporal, and so forth, require us to say that God has this weak modality in either His actions or His being. But in reality, the names, by indicating a relation, speak of two things simultaneously, God and what is not God, and we must not attribute limitations of the latter to God.

E. Primarily referential terms. More purely referential terms, like demonstrative pronouns, are applied to God as describing what is understood, not what is sensed, because we do not perceive God by the senses and we can only describe Him as far as we understand Him. Thus, just as nouns, participles and demonstrative pronouns are applicable to God, and in exactly those ways, God can be signified by pronouns. 

II. It is appropriate as well to say something here of literal and figurative, and proper and improper, applications of names. We sometimes say that a name is figurative, and there is generally no problem with this usage, but it is a loose manner of speaking. Words can only be figurative in use, because the figure lies in what you do with the normal meaning of the term. Thus the very same word may be used either figuratively or literally. When we are using the term literally, we are using it in a way appropriate to its customary signification; when we are using the term figuratively, we using it in such a way that the signification is being transferred out of its customary signification. For instance, if we say that someone is a fox, and we are using it to say that they are a member of the species Vulpes vulpes, we are speaking literally. If, however, recognizing or assuming that foxes are clever, we say that someone is a fox specifically in that they are clever, we are speaking figuratively. We may even say that a fox is a fox, using the term literally in one use and metaphorically in the other. The figurative use always gives a twist to the literal use that it in some sense includes, by taking the signification in the literal use and using it as part of a further signification.. If, however, it happened over time that the animal fox was hardly ever discussed, but the use of 'fox' to indicate cleverness was common in such a way that the animal stopped being the customary reference point for the word, then 'fox' would just signify cleverness, and to say that someone is a fox would just mean that that they were clever, and not involve the animal at all. Many of our words, in fact, have shown precisely this kind of change, as anyone can see from the study of historical etymology. From this it becomes clear that the distinction between the literal and the figurative, being based on what is customary, is only as clear and precise as the customs themselves, and that it shifts in accordance with changes in custom. It also becomes clear that two positions about the literal and figurative use of divine names, that all divine names are figurative and that none of our true statements about God involve the figurative use of divine names, are ruled out by this, because both require that the distinction be sharp and independent of customary usage.

However, we sometimes use 'literal' or 'figurative' more loosely, to indicate a related but distinct set of properties, namely whether a term is being applied properly (or strictly) or improperly (or loosely). Since our own use of language often follows customary usage, the two distinctions often track each other fairly closely, which is why we often reasonably use the words for one to describe the other. However, proper or improper use of a term does not have reference to customary usage, but to the relation in a given use. In an improper use of anything, we are using something in a way that does not belong (is not 'proper') to it on its own or in its own right, but derivatively, secondarily, or in an extended way. In the case of names applied to God, all our names are derived from creatures in one way or another, as is our understanding of them, so the question becomes whether all the divine names are said properly of creatures and only improperly of God. By this, it is important to understand that we do not mean that they are used incorrectly or inappropriately of God, but rather that they only apply to God in a secondary and extended way. Someone might hold that all names apply to God in this secondary or improper, but reflection shows that this cannot be right.

Some divine names clearly are used improperly of God; that is to say, they are used precisely as transferred from creatures. This is true, for instance, of all cases in which we are applying a corporeal term metaphorically of Him. When we call Him, 'Rock', it is generally clear that we are speaking metaphorically, because the name is customarily applied to physical objects as signifying their having a certain general composition, and since God is not a physical object and has no composition, it is clear that 'rock' applies properly to rocks and only improperly to God. However, some names are said of God properly. These are cases in which what is being signified does not suggest any limitation or defect, and in which creatures have that which is signified because of participation. In these cases, such as 'Wisdom' or 'Goodness', what is signified is primarily in God and only secondarily in creatures, so the name is applied properly to God and improperly to creatures. As Jesus said (Mk 10:18), Why do you call me good? None but God alone is good. That is to say, 'good' applies properly to God, and only in a secondary and derivative way to creatures. As regards what is signified by names like these, they belong properly to God, more properly than they belong to creatures, and are applied primarily to Him. Nonetheless, even in these cases they may apply imperfectly in the sense that they have a mode of signification that is more appropriate to creatures. This will in general be the case: where some limitation, defect, or corporeal or weakly modal condition is included in what is actually signified, it applies improperly to God insofar as it involves what is limited, defective, corporeal, or merely weakly modal; where this shows up only in the way it is signified, the term will apply properly but imperfectly to God.

From all of this discussion of names and their applications, we can see that true affirmative propositions can be formed about God. In every true affirmative proposition predicate and subject are in some way same in the thing and differences are in the meanings or notions conveyed. Thus in propositions that have an accidental predicate, as in 'The man is tall', 'man' and 'tall' are the same in subject and different in meaning; whereas if we have an accidental predicate, as in 'The man is an animal', we find the same, since the same thing that is man is animal, but the terms are applied for different reasons; but even in propositions in which something is predicated of itself, as in 'Man is man', the first use of the term 'man' has the function of of a subject term referring to something and the second use has the function of a predicate term expressing an attributable form.  In the case of God, He is, considered in Himself, undivided and noncomposite, but our minds, which cannot see Him as He is in Himself, know Him through different conceptions. Nevertheless, we know that the diverse conceptions correspond to one and the same God. As Aquinas says (SCG 1.32),  For, although our intellect arrives at the knowledge of God by various conceptions, as stated above, it understands that what corresponds to them all is absolutely one, because our intellect does not ascribe its mode of understanding to the things which it understands, even as neither does it ascribe immateriality to a stone, although it knows it immaterially

We can have in addition have true affirmative assertions about God whether we are speaking figuratively or literally. This has been denied by some on the ground that figurative claims cannot be true, but this claim is false; the distinction between literal and figurative is concerned with how words are used with respect to customary usage, not with whether the meaning is true when they are used. A great many things we say, especially in difficult or new or unusual matters, involve figurative language, but nothing prevents them from expressing true judgments. Thus if cosmologists, in an attempt to give an account of various phenomena, posit something to exist that is far outside the realm of ordinary experience, they will speak of it figuratively; for instance, they may call it a 'black hole', and talk about it as bending space around it like a rubber sheet. This, however, does not prevent their claims from being true, if they are understood as figurative in a way relevant to the way in which the terms are actually used. The same will be true of figurative assertions about God; that God is a rock of refuge is true, and can be seen such as long as one understands that 'rock' is here used metaphorically and not literally. 

III. Because God is simple, some argue as if the names of God were all synonymous, substituting one for another indiscriminately; but this is not so, and based on a misunderstanding of language. Synonyms are intersubstitutable insofar as they are synonyms, and when we conjoin synonyms together, we get redundancy. Therefore if all names applied to God were synonymous, to say 'God is good' would convey nothing more than saying 'God is God', which is false. This is especially easy to see with negative terms; since negative terms applied to God remove what is not appropriate to God, they obviously have to differ in meaning depending on what they remove. For instance, to say that God is incorporeal is not the same as to say that God is immutable, because the first tells us to remove corporeality but the latter to remove mutability, and it is clear that 'corporeality' and 'mutability' are not synonymous terms. Likewise, in the case of terms that specifically identify some causal relation, naming God in light of some effect, we see that there can be no synonymy unless the causal relation is exactly the same. To call God the protector of Israel is not synonymous with calling Him the protector of the Church. But something similar is true of all terms. What is signified by a name is signified by way of the intellectual conception of it; but our mind, knowing God from creatures, forms only those conceptions that are proportional to the many and various perfections and goodnesses pouring out from God to creatures. These perfections or goodness are multiplied and divided in creatures, but in their pre-existence in God, that is, the greater goodness by which God is able to be a cause of all of these creaturely goodnesses, they are united and noncomposite. Thus all these many names, varied and multiplied according to our various intellectual conceptions, signifying only through these conceptions, differ, even though they are applied to what is the same. We are not making any error in conceiving many things about one thing; divine being is such that different things have various similarities to Him. Therefore we devise various names for God. 

Nonetheless we also need many names to apply to God, and it is healthy to consider and reflect on many of them. First, it is unavoidable, because since we cannot know Him naturally except throgh His effects, the terms we use to describe Him have to be diverse, because we discover His excellence through many different routes. As St. Thomas says (ST 1.13.4 ad 2), The many aspects of these names are not empty and vain, for there corresponds to all of them one simple reality represented by them in a manifold and imperfect manner. This is discussed by St. Gregory Nazianzen in his Fourth Theological Oration; we need many names of God to form in ourselves a fuller likeness or shadow of truth. As Clement of Alexandria says of the names we use (Stromateis 5.12), each one by itself does not express God; but all together are indicative of the power of the Omnipotent. Second, we need many names to have a worship appropriate to Him. Every divine name is a path through which we may worship God, for when we worship God as Creator, this is not the same as when we worship Him as Goodness Itself, or as the First Cause. Human beings only give respect or venerate to things insofar as they conceive them in such a way as to show them worthy of respect or veneration, and we express our conceptions in names. Therefore by prayer we weave for God a vestment of divine names, as part of our worship of Him.

IV. We must also consider divine names as signs. In the early twentieth century, a dispute broke out among the monks of Mount Athos over the doctrines that were expressed in a book, On the Caucasus Mountains, by a monk named Hilarion, as he attempted to explain the spiritual discipline of the Jesus Prayer, which focuses on the name of Jesus. In the course of this discussion, he claimed that the discipline showed that the name of God is God Himself. This position became known as Name-Glorifying (Imyaslavie in Russian, Onomatodoxy in Greek). The arguments given by the onomatodox are diverse, but might be summarized in the following way. Names express the hypostasis or essence or energies of things that they name, and are inseparable from them in use; without the name these cease to be for us. When things change in a fundamental way, for instance, as in baptism and monastic tonsure, we change the name, showing that the name expresses what is for us. Moreover, a word that is living expresses an idea, which expresses a reality. This is even more obviously the case in revelatory names, by which one person reveals himself to another. In the case of divine names, God is omnipresent and therefore certainly abides in the name, but the name also reveals God, and therefore has a different relation to God than other things in which God abides. As mere words, they are simply that in which God is present; but as communications, they reveal the God present in them. Therefore one may say, the onomatodox continue, 'The Name of God is God Himself' when speaking of the one named; one says, 'God Himself is present in the Name of God' when we are talking about the syllables and letters that are used to name Him. Thus every name of God that is God-revealed, is God Himself, for the revealer is revealed in the revelation, and an action or energy of God is God Himself.

Different ways of taking the essential concepts  -- 'The Name of God is God Himself' or 'The Name of God is the Energy of God' or 'The Name of God is God according to the Energies', where this means they are the same and the name is co-eternal with the divine being -- this is not how the onomatodox take it, but part of the worry is that they are not always careful and slip into it; 'The Name of God is God Himself', where this means the name is adequate to the divine being; 'The Energy of God is in the Divine Name' or 'God Himself is present in the Name of God', taken generally (God is present in the revelation of God by name); 'The Energy of God is in the Divine Name', where this means that in prayer the name is inseparable from God; the Divine Name is deserving of latreia -- this is not how the onomatodox take it, but again the worry is that they slip into it; 'The Contemplation or Idea of the Divine Name is God Himself' or 'The Idea of God is God'.

Against any of this taken naively, we may simply affirm the words of St. Basil (In Ps. 32): The name of God is said to be holy not because it contains in its syllables any special virtue, but because in whatsoever way we contemplate God we see Him pure and holy. A divine name itself does not contain God Himself, nor any of his energies or activities, but only directs the mind to God, because it is a sign of God through our concepts, which are also signs, and in signs we must distinguish that which signifies, which is often called the 'sign' but could also be called the 'sign-vehicle', from that which is signified, the object of the sign. We see this in the fact that when we use a word, we may use it in a way that supposits materially (as when we say, "'Cup' is a word") or that supposits conceptually (as when we say, "A cup is something used for drinking) or that supposits personally (as when we say, "The cup is full of water"); the word can be used to stand for a pattern of physical signs, or for a concept, or for something taken actually to exist. In the latter two cases, however, the word is clearly not the same as that for which it stands, and it is not even strictly the same in the case of material supposition, since it is used in the claim to stand for patterns of signs that themselves are not necessarily being taken to stand for patterns of signs, but also for concepts and for things to taken to exist. The same is true of 'God' or 'Jesus'; in the latter case, for instance, the name is taken to apply to the subject of a human nature, by way of His having a human nature, and in the ordinary way we apply names to subjects of human nature.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to assess the position properly so as to reject not merely the naive error but any errors in the vicinity, because they are tangled with things that are either not erroneous or are corrigible if they receive the right qualification. A major difficulty is that the onomatodox make no careful distinction among different kinds of presence.  Signs, insofar as every sign is a sort of formed mediator between mind and object, can be divided into several kinds. First and most importantly, we can divide signs according to their nature as manifesting something to a cognitive power. If the sign makes the object present to a cognitive power by being in the power, the sign is called a formal sign. These in some sense make the object present to the mind, and in the intellect are also known as concepts. If the sign makes the object present to a cognitive power by itself being an object extrinsic to the cognitive power, it is an instrumental sign. Spoken words, for instance, are instrumental signs, and they have formal signs as both their efficient and their final causes. Second, we can divide signs according to their nature as relating to their objects. If the sign's relativity or reference to its object is by being in its nature like or connected to the object, the sign is called a natural sign. If the sign's reference to its object arises from an individual imposition of will, it is called a stipulative sign. If the sign's reference to its object arises from custom, it is called a conventional sign. Sometimes we simply include stipulative signs under the label conventional sign, because they are both artificial. The third way we can divide signs is by the end the mind has in using them, in which case the sign is a speculative sign if used for knowing and a practical sign if used for doing. Concepts, for instance, are formal natural speculative signs; names and words are instrumental conventional speculative signs; computer programs and recipes are instrumental conventional practical signs; and so forth. Names are instrumental and conventional, and therefore distinct from both the cognitive power and the object; therefore the name of God cannot be God Himself, since the name is a mediating instrument only connected to God by convention or stipulation. One might as well say that if someone mentally designates a pebble as a sign of God that the pebble as sign is God Himself; this is a way to get very foolish very quickly. It is less obviously foolish to say that the idea of God is God Himself, because concepts are formal and natural. Nonetheless, two things may be said here. (1) The concept is an effect of intellectual activity, produced by it, and quite clearly the intellect has no power to produce either God or His activity or His presence. (2) The concept is the intellect forming itself a certain way, and thus to say the idea of God is God Himself would, properly speaking, be to say that the intellect, insofar as it forms the idea of God, is God. This is because signs mediate between a cognitive power and its objects. 

Therefore the only thing that is left for the onomatodox to mean is that the presentation of the object by the concept is itself the divine presence. In the most proper sense, what is present to us is present as it actually is itself, which might be called subjective or ontic presence. Thus may be in whole or by part, by location or by direct causal action, principally or by direct use of instrument. However, we do recognize, particularly in matters where one person is somehow revealed to another, that there are other kinds of presence to us, extended kinds of presence, which can be called collectively, objective presence, in which the ground for attributing presence is either natural, as in the case of general causal power, or artificial, and thus rooted in something like custom, law, or ritual. Thus, for instance, a king said to be objectively present where the mechanisms of his government operates; likewise, people take their loved ones to be present 'in thought' even when they are physically absent.

It is clear from what we have said that God is not ontically present in divine names as such. The names, when said, are ontically present to us, but God is not the name; the name expresses the concept, but God is not the concept; and while it is not impossible that God might be ontically present in direct and active revelation of the name to us, as when God revealed the Ineffable Name to Moses, it is not because of the name that He is present. The onomatodox error arose in the context of trying to explain and defend a particular practice of prayer, the meditative use of the Jesus Prayer. While God may be present in prayer, taking our prayer as an occasion or an instrument for action, this presence is simply different from the presentness of the names used for Him. Again, God may be present by omnipresence, but this, too, would be a presence that does not reduce to the name's being present to mind. If one were to take omnipresence as an argument for onomatodoxy, the error would seem to be attributing to names what applies to everything. The revelatory presence is something that has no particular connection with our merely saying the name, as if we could summon God's revelation by an incantation; it is solely a matter of God's good pleasure.

Nothing, of course, prevents God from being ontically present when we pray, although the divine will and not the prayer would be the reason for it, so we cannot get the onomatodox position this way, except by either making the mistake of confusing God's action and our own, or by assuming that we have some assurance that God will present Himself whenever we say His name, which we do not. But even setting aside His general omnipresence and His special revelations, it is important to recall that we do take God to be present in prayer, specifically as the object of our prayer. Insofar as their position depends on this, the onomatodox seem to commit the same error as ontologists who think we have direct intellectual knowledge of God; that is to say, they have conflated the object (objectum) and the thing (res), in addition to having treated the sign as if it were its object.

With objective presence, on the other hand, there are several kinds, and they can be important because people interact and connect with each other by establishing various kinds of moral, juridical, or ritual presence to each other. However, all these kinds of cases work by the mediation of some kind of sign. All signs involve something that provides an object to something capable of taking it as object, as when a word suggests an object to a cognitive power. However, the object of a word is distinct from the thing itself; it is the thing only insofar as it is considered in a particular way in a cognitive power. If one held that the object simply were a thing, then to mean things would be, to use the term Caramuel uses, a sort of moral transubstantiation, in which the thing itself would stand under the accidents of the sign, not 'physically' (i.e., by an act of nature) but 'morally' (i.e., by an act of will). If something like this is intended, this is not adequate for the conclusion that the onomatodox want. Caramuel is not wrong insofar as we sometimes treat the name as a rational proxy for the object, letting the name 'stand in' for it; but the direction of this is the opposite of what an account of moral transubstantiation would suggest. That is to say, we are in such cases using the name as a substitute, as if we used names in a diagram to indicate where people were at a time, and thus use the names to stand in for the people in the context of the diagram. But to use X as a substitute for Y for a particular purpose is not the same as for Y to be itself present in X; people are not present in but represented by their names on the diagram. In the case of 'God', the name 'God' may itself sometimes be used metonymically for God in the context of particular practice, custom, law, or ritual. An example is if we show reverence at a written or spoken version of the divine name. But the presence of God that is relevant to such cases is entirely in the sense that the name calls Him to mind as something about which to think. Moral transubstantiation in the proper sense, like physical transubstantiation, would be a miracle only God could effect. Likewise, we may artificially create a customary, legal, or ritual framework in which we designate a role for God, such as being the addressee of our prayer together, and thus make Him present as our object in the context of that framework; this does the same, but it is something we are constructing together. God thus has a presence in the framework, as having a designated role within it that is mediated by various signs, including divine names. The name in all such cases is as it were an icon; it makes God present to us in the sense of reminding us of Him and drawing our attention to think about Him, and not because He lies under the veil of our technical terminology.

The mention of icons in this context is not casual. The general structure of the theology of icons is already implicit in the theology of divine names, the latter being transposed into a material key in the former, and the former being transposed into a verbal key in the latter; they are signs whose ultimate object is God that play a role in our prayer.  As St. Theodore the Studite says (Antirrheticus 1.14), The name is the name of that which is named by it and a certain, as it were, natural icon of the object which bears this name: in it the unity of veneration is indivisible. And in all such cases, as he says elsewhere with regard to icons (Third Refutation 4), The archetype will be the archetype, just as the representation will be the representation, and the one will never turn into the other. The onomatodox seem to have held that the divine name was greater than the icon, because icons were only sanctified as icons by inscriptions of names. However, the names in such cases are quite clearly specifying and clarifying the objects of the icons to make them more suitable for the purposes of prayer, and when one venerates an icon, one venerates the icon, and not merely the name on it. In reality, at the level of signs, the two cases are the same; what the Second Council of Nicaea says of icons, for instance, is true of names, allowing for the difference that icons are generally depictions and names are written or spoken words. Just as we do not give latreia or divine worship to icons or to saints as represented by icons (who are signs of Christ), we do not give it to written words, or to spoken words, or to words in imagination, or to concepts in our minds, but, recognizing these all as signs, we may give respect to the sign as carrying the mind to the divine object, to whom we give the sign. The name of God is divine and holy insofar as it is in some way from God, and as a sign is about God, and in effect lifts the attention of the mind to God; but it is not divine and holy in the sense of being God, even God behind a veil of letters or syllables.

V. Terms are able to be predicated of, and names imposed on, subjects. When we compare any two cases, we might find that what is signified (res significata) and the way we signify it (modus significandi) and the way we are predicating it in this case (modus praedicandi) do not vary between the two cases. The term is then held to be univocally predicated between the two cases. On the other hand, we may find that what is signified is not the same between the two cases. We then say that the term is equivocally predicated between the two cases. Univocal and equivocal predication, however, cannot be exhaustive, because there are cases in which what is signified is the same but the way it is predicated or signified is not. For instance, if I call both a person at the local police department and a fictional police inspector  'detective', knowing that one is fictional and the other not, what is signified seems to have to be the same, but that cannot be the whole account; the way I am using the term changes between the two cases. Compare also 'cow' used to describe a living animal and used to describe a painting or picture of a living animal. What is signified has to be the same. We see this if we consider what Indian philosophers call upamana, a means of knowing involving likeness. If I have never seen a cow, and you show me a picture of one, saying, 'This is a cow,' then I have learned something not merely about pictures but about cows, so that if I go out and see a living cow, I can say, 'That's what this is! This is a cow, because that was a cow.' For this to be the case, what is signified must be the same. Yet it is very obvious that in the first case I saw a pictorial cow but in the second case I saw a living cow, and the two cannot be classified as cows in the same way. Rather, the same term is applied in different ways to each. In particular, fictional detectives have reference to factual detectives and pictorial cows to living cows that allows us to use the term for one to talk about another, in a way that takes into account this relation, or ordering between them. This relation or ordering Aquinas calls a ratio or proportion, for which the Greek is analogia, and therefore we say that the term is analogically predicated among the different cases. 

The temptation that must be resisted, in other words, is to think that predications or impositions of names always occur in isolation from each other, as they would if the only ways of predicating were either univocal or equivocal, since in those cases the only relations are relations of simple sameness and simple difference. What we find when we consider many cases of predications, however, is that terms are often predicated, and words applied, as part of a larger web of possible predications, the understanding of which is required to understand the individual predications. The kind of relation or ordering underlying analogically predicated terms can be one of many things having reference to one thing, in the way that 'food is healthy' and 'exercise is healthy', when compared, have a reference to 'healthy' as applied to the body, or by a more direct ratio, as when 'exercise is healthy' is compared to 'body is healthy', but regardless of the kind of relation, 'healthy' in the individual cases, if used correctly, is being applied in a way that presupposes these relations. The notion under which we apply it is the same, but the ways in which we apply it have these various relations to each other, so the term is common to all the subjects but not in the same way. 

The importance of this can be particularly seen in the cases of transcendental terms. 'Being' is presupposed by every possible classification, but if we look at all the ways in which it is applied, we find that it cannot possibly apply univocally across all of them, and a classification that did not take this into account would soon be in a muddle. Whatever is predicated of many things univocally must be either a genus, or a species, or a difference, or an accident, or a property. Being as such, the primary and fundamental use of the term, cannot be a specific difference, for then it would distinguish real somethings of different kinds; but there are no real things that are non-being and all kinds of somethings are kinds of beings. It cannot be a property; properties follow on a thing's nature, but natures themselves are beings. Nor can it be an accident, because accidents follow on substances, but substances themselves are beings. Nor can it be a species, because there is nothing more general than being. Nor can it be a genus, because it is prior to any genus. Yet all of these things, genus, species, specific difference, accident, or property, must be such that they can be said to be, even though they cannot all be in the same way. Further, whatever is predicated of many things univocally is at least conceptually simpler than all of them, precisely because it is not affected by any difference in that for which it is predicated. This is because of the asymmetry introduced by priority and posteriority. Whatever is predicated of some things according to priority and posteriority is is predicated in such a way  that the prior, or more primary, is included in the definition of the posterior, or more secondary. Accident is posterior to substance, in the sense that an accident is by its very nature such as to be in a substance; so 'being' is applied to a substance in a more fundamental way than it is applied to an accident. In terms that are merely equivocal, on the other hand, there is no order or reference of one to another; it is happenstance that one name is applied to diverse things. Because of this, we cannot be led to knowledge from one to the other; such learning depends not on shared words but on significations. Equivocation is therefore an impediment to reasoning, and if you equivocate in a line of reasoning, you break the reasoning. Where there is mere equivocation, there is no likeness in what is understood, only a likeness of name. This is not to say that there would be nothing in common between the two cases; rather, that any such likeness is incidental to how it is being applied in both cases. For instance, you might use a term equivocally in an argument not by using a pure homonym, but by adding or subtracting a qualification in your understanding of the term that makes the two uses no longer the same for the purposes of that argument. Therefore transcendental terms like 'being', which can be applied to everything in ways that allow us to learn about one thing from another thing, are predicated analogically across those many things to which they apply.

It is important to grasp that terms are not univocal, or equivocal, or analogical in themselves, but in comparison with other terms and insofar as they are actually used. Any term whatsoever can be applied univocally, equivocally, or analogically between any two uses; 'univocally', 'equivocally', and 'analogically' are comparative terms applied to sets of uses, and not directly to the terms themselves. We should not say that a term is a univocal or equivocal or analogical term on its own but that when said in two or more cases, it is said univocally or equivocally or analogical. For obviously, if I apply the same term to God twice, I will usually be doing so univocally; but I could apply it twice to God but equivocate between the two uses. For instance, if I say 'God is good' and later say the same thing for the same reason, I have used the term 'good' univocally of God in the two cases. However, I may say 'God is good', meaning by 'good' a simple perfection, and then later say 'God is good', meaning by 'good' the same kind of goodness in a human being, in which case I have used the term 'good' in a way that is not univocal. This is clear from the fact that I can say something true by putting forward the first literally, but I can only be saying something true in the second case if I am putting the second use forward in a figurative way, as a metaphor.

As naming depends on manner of knowing, and we know what we know of God from creatures, the most important things will inevitably be cases when we use a term of both God and creatures so as to say something true. For as St. Athanasius says (Def. Nic. 3.11), For God creates, and to create is also ascribed to men; and God has being, and men are said to be, having received from God this gift also. Yet does God create as men do? or is His being as man’s being? Perish the thought; we understand the terms in one sense of God, and in another of men. We therefore turn to how this happens.

Every creaturely perfection or completeness is dependent on divine perfection, and therefore terms that on their own denote perfection absolutely and without defect can be applied both to God and to creatures. That is to say, starting with the perfection of creatures we infer, by triplex via, that the divine perfection exists from which the creaturely perfection comes, and that in God this divine perfection is more eminent than that which is in the creature, being removed from all defects found in the creature. In the case of terms referring to perfection whose ordinary meaning carries with them some creaturely defect, the term for the perfection can only be applied to God by similitude and metaphor. The durability of rocks depends on God in such a way that God cannot be less enduring; but God cannot have any of the limitations of a rock. Thus we may, due to the causal inference, apply 'rock' to God; but the term 'rock' in its ordinary meaning involves many things, such as composition and limitation in space, that cannot be applied to God. Thus the term 'rock' can be applied both to rocks and to God, and legitimately on the basis of our causal reasoning, but when we compare the two uses of the term, we see that the term, if used in a way appropriate to what we know, is used equivocally, applying properly to the rock and applying improperly, by a sort of transfer in which we ignore the defects and limitations in the sense of the term, to God. 

However, as noted above, we also have terms that imply no such defects; for example, those that are used to describe pure perfections, like 'goodness' and 'wisdom'. Since there are no defects or limitations in the sense of such terms, when we apply them to God, we do not have to apply them metaphorically. However, if we are applying the terms in a way appropriate to our knowledge, we see that the two uses also cannot strictly be univocal, because the mode in which the terms have to be taken to apply cannot be the same. 'Wisdom' applied to man must be applied in a mode appropriate to the fact that man's wisdom is finite; 'wisdom' applied to God cannot be applied in such a mode. Therefore terms we use for creatures can only only be used for God if they are used analogically. 

We have another kind of term, however, where we take a simple perfection and qualify it so as to restrict the mode by which it can be applied. If we do this in divine matters in such a way as to restrict it to a mode appropriate to triplex via, we get terms that can only properly be applied to God, such as 'infinite good', 'highest wisdom', 'absolutely first being'. In these terms we attempt to indicate the divine supereminence by combining a relation to creatures (by which God is known) and a negation of creatureliness. If we were also to try to apply these terms to creatures, we would necessarily equivocate.  

However, regardless of what we do, our terms inevitably have a kind of inadequacy in their application to God. This becomes clear when we consider neither what the term is used to signify (res significata), nor the mode of predication (modus praedicandi), but the mode of signification itself (modus significandi). We express things by a term in the way in which we understand him. Our intellect, however, depends on the senses and the imagination, and therefore is limited in its understanding of things that go beyond these, which give us things that are composite, changing, and limited. Therefore when we refer to things, we tend to treat them as if they were compositions of concrete subsisting participants with a non-subsisting simple form. When we refer to things as subsistent, we signify them as participant, and when we refer to things as simple, we signify them as qualifying something else, and thus as non-subsistent. This is an imperfection in how we signify things; it means we have difficulty in directly speaking of things that are subsisting but not actually composed of a subject and a qualification. We necessarily struggle somewhat to talk about them in a way appropriate to them. The distinction between subject and what we say of it is in such cases an artifact of how we judge anything. In divine matters, we are speaking of a subsistent non-participant, and therefore must be careful to recognize that the distinction between subject and predicate is an artifact of our judging and that God is not a concrete subsisting particular participating in abstract qualifying forms. God indeed can be said to be a point at which our usual distinction between 'concrete' and 'abstract' breaks down, as we noted above. Therefore, in every term employed by us, there is imperfection as regards the mode of signification by which we refer to God; although the thing signified is becoming to God in some eminent way (for example, in the term ‘goodness’ or ‘the good’), we are applying it to a God in a defective way. 'Goodness', for instance, signifies by way of abstract non-subsistence, and 'the good' signifies by way of concrete participation, but God is neither non-subsistent nor participant. Therefore even when a term is appropriately applied to God in respect of that which is signified, our application is defective because of the limitations of our capacity for judgment. Thus, as Aquinas takes the Dionysian to teach (Coel. Hier. 2.3), such terms can be either affirmed or denied of God. That is to say, they are affirmed, on account of the signification of the term, but also denied, on account of the mode of signification.

From all this, it is clear that we cannot predicate terms univocally of God and creatures and still say true things; either we will be misclassifying creatures as divine or we will be treating God as a mere creature. When any term expressing some perfection is applied to a creature, it signifies that perfection in such a way as to be notionally divided from other perfections. To apply the term 'wise' to a man implies nothing about whether 'strong' should also be applied to him, but all terms expressing perfections in God must be applied as not being divided in this way.  As Augustine says (De Trin. 7.5), it is an impiety to say that God subsists, and is a subject in relation to His own goodness, and that this goodness is not a substance or rather essence, and that God Himself is not His own goodness, but that it is in Him as in a subject. Further, when we correctly apply terms to creatures, we do so in ways recognizing their limitations and defects, but when we apply them to God, we must do so on the understanding that they involve no such limitations and defects. Likewise, whatever is predicated univocally of several things belongs by participation to them each, the species participating the genus,  the individual participating the species. Nothing is truly said of God by participation, however, since whatever is participated is possessed partially, in partial mode, and not in a full way. Therefore no name is correctly predicated univocally of God and of creatures.

 On the other hand, names correctly applied to God and creatures cannot apply in a purely equivocal sense, because then we could not reason about God at all; the reasoning, which in our case always has to begin with creatures, would always display the fallacy of equivocation. However, as Aquinas notes (ST 1.13.5), this is inconsistent with metaphysics and also with Scripture, which says (Rm 1:20),The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Where there is pure equivocation, we do not find substantive similarity, but only sameness of name. Other things, however, have some kind of likeness to God, participating His likeness according to their modes of being, truth, and goodness, as we have previously seen. Even if someone were to say that such terms are really just indicating what God is not, there would still not be a pure equivocation, because creatures and God can agree in negatives; for instance, both God and a man are not inanimate. The names we apply to God must follow what we know of God; we know of God from creatures, and therefore, since pure equivocation breaks the continuity of reasoning, not all the terms we use of both God and creatures can be purely equivocal.

For this reason, terms correctly used of both God and creatures must by applied in a third way, that is, not by equation (univocally) nor by change of subject (equivocally), but by a relation or ordering involving the priority and posteriority of one thing to another within a larger web of applications (analogically). If we were to predicate ‘being’ univocally of substance and accident, we would be either treating substance as accident or accident as substance, because in reality the way they have being is that one has being with reference to the being of the other, not that they have the same being or being in the same order. Nothing can be truly predicated in the same order of God and other things. For instance, if we apply transcendental terms to God and creatures, the predicates when truly applied to God are essential (for He is called ‘being’ because He is being itself, and ‘good’ because He is goodness itself, and so forth), whereas the predicates when applied to creatures are applied as being participated (in the way that Socrates is said to be good not as though he were goodness itself, but because he has goodness). Therefore some things are said of God and creatures analogically, and not in a purely equivocal nor in a purely univocal sense. As St. Thomas says (1.13.5), Whatever is said of God and creatures, it is said according to the relation of a creature to God as its principle and cause, wherein all perfections of things pre-exist excellently. At the same time, and for the same reason, we know that God cannot have the perfection in the way the creature does.

We see something similar with icons, which, while different kinds of signs from words nonetheless often work in similar ways. Suppose I have an icon of Christ, and in praying before it use the name of Christ. If the term were used equivocally, I would not be praying to Christ, but if the term were used univocally, I would be engaging in idolatry. In this way it is like any image, as when I point to a statue of a king and say, 'That is the king', or when I refer to a cow in a painting as a 'cow'. As St. Theodore the Studite says (First Refutation 11), For the copy is a copy of the original, and so the name is the one name of the one who is named.

From all this we see that, in cases where names are applied primarily to God and secondarily to creatures, only analogical predication of names used of both God and creatures is the only way appropriate to our knowledge of God by triplex via. All names applied metaphorically to God, on the other hand, are applied primarily to creatures rather than God, indicating that He is like creatures in some particular way. We are, as it were, going upstream, using a term that applies more properly to the secondary in order to talk about the primary. Thus 'Rock' applied to God might indicate that, as rocks are durable relative to what is around them, so God is durable relative to all other things. If one held, as some have, that all divine names are said of God only as cause, the same conclusion would have to be drawn for all of them. On such a view, saying, 'God is wise', would only mean that God is cause of the goodness of creatures. The term when applied to God would then include in its meaning a reference, relation, or ordering to creature's goodness, and thus apply primarily to creatures, and we would only use them of God as figures of speech. It is because of this, or similar reasons, that some have argued that all discourse about God must be metaphorical. However, as we have noted, many terms signify not only that He is the cause of wisdom or goodness or whatever, but that these exist in Him in a more excellent way.  As St. Thomas says (ST 1.13.6), As regards what the name signifies, these names are applied primarily to God rather than to creatures, because these perfections flow from God to creatures; but as regards the imposition of names, they are primarily applied by us to creatures which we know first. Hence they have a mode of signification which belongs to creatures

V. The name 'God' (El, ElohimTheos) is incommunicable according to what God actually is, but the term is an appellative name, and not a proper name, signifying divine nature and activity in the possessor, in the manner that we usually apply abstract universals to concrete particulars. God Himself is beyond the distinction between abstract and concrete, as noted above, but names are not based on the mode of being in the thing, but on the mode of being as it is in our mind.  Although there is only one God by nature, as we are told in the Torah (Dt 6:4), the Lord your God is one, we can apply the term 'god' to other things by participation or functional imitation or by human opinion. Angels might be called gods due to their natural superiority and manifest splendor, or demons, due to their ability to display power and intelligence, so that, as the Psalmist says Ps 82:1), God (Elohimstands in the  council of God (El), among the gods (elohim) He judges and (Ps 95:5 LXX and Vulg), terrible is He above the gods, the gods of the nations are demons; prophets can be called gods, as God told Moses (Ex 7:1), I have appointed you the god (elohimof Pharaoh, and as we are told (Jn 10:35), he called them gods to whom the word of God was spoken; priests may be called gods because they are divine ministers, that is, as instruments representing God; rulers may be called gods because they rule, as God does; all Christians may be called gods, as participating through Christ in the divine nature, as in the saying of Athanasius (De Inc. 54:3), God became man that man might become god; idols may be called gods by imitation because men give to them that worship which should be reserved to God, as in the previously noted verse in the Hebrew (Ps 96:5), He is to be feared above all the gods (elohim); all the gods (elohe) of the nations are idols (elilim).

This can be fleshed out in somewhat greater detail. As Aquinas notes (ST 1.13.9), a name is communicable, or able to be used in common according to its meaning, either properly, when its whole signification can be given to many, or by similitude, when some part of its signification can be given to many. With regard to proper communicability, every form existing in the singular subject, by which it is individualized, is common to many either in thing, as 'rock' applies to many rocks, or merely conceptually or in opinion, as is the case with 'God'. This contrasts with what are often called 'proper names', which are names imposed deliberately to signify a singular thing as singular. Such names, being both really and conceptually incommunicable, containing in their meaning a note that particularly excludes proper communicability, can still be communicable by similitude, as possessing some features the originally named is supposed to have had, as we say of someone that he is an Einstein or an Achilles. People sometimes think that 'God' is a proper name in this way, but as we are unable to understand God in Himself, we give Him names that describe Him as if he were an abstract universal attributed to a concrete particular. The name 'God' does not and cannot have the same features as God Himself. It therefore describes what is actually incommunicable, but nothing prevents it being communicable by similitude, as in the Psalm (81:6), I have said, You are gods. Nonetheless, we can have a proper name for God; it would have to be a name used not to name God insofar as He has a nature but insofar as He is a subject; this is the case with the Tetragrammaton, which will be discussed below.

From everything that has been said, these multiple uses of the term 'God' or 'god', as well as similar terms like 'deity' and 'divinity', are said analogically across the different uses. Univocally predicated terms mean wholly the same, but equivocally predicated terms wholly different, in their various uses; whereas in analogically predicated terms, a word taken in one signification serves as a reference point, being placed in the definition of the same word taken in other senses. 'God' includes reference to the true God when it is used to speak of God either in opinion or participation. When we name anyone god by participation, we understand by the name some likeness of the true God; such would be the case with applying the name to angels, prophets, kings, and the like. Likewise, when we call an idol god, by this name god we understand and signify something which is God as people think. This is why it is possible to have an argument about whether something is divine or not. None of us know God's nature as it is in itself; as previously noted, our knowledge exhibits the features of triplex via. Therefore, pagans and Christians do not necessarily mean something completely different when the one says something is divine and the other denies it. The pagan talking about his god, for instance, does not mean 'God only as men think', but can intend to be describing his god as having features that belong to the true God. We must reject the notion that some have suggested, that all such cases are cases merely of talking past one another.

If we wish to find a name for God that is less generic and more proper, we must turn to the Ineffable Name. The mystery of the Ineffable Name is held in common among all Jews and Christians, and is found in Exodus 3, when Moses comes across the burning bush and receives his mission from God. The Ineffable Name indicates several things, each establishing the name as the most proper name of God, and all of them interlinked, thereby constituting a sort of compendium of theology in the most condensed form possible:

(a) Being and Unity. If we consider the signification of the name, the Hebrew verb is hayah, which means 'to be'. As Maimonides says (Guide, ch. 63, p. 94), "The principal point in this phrase is that the same word, which denotes 'existence,' is repeated as an attribute." Therefore Aquinas says (ST 1.13.11), it does not signify form, but simply existence itself.  Thus the Septuagint gives the name as, I am Being (Ego eimi ho On), and Damascene says (De Fide Orth. 1.9) that HE WHO IS, is the principal of all names applied to God; for comprehending all in itself, it contains existence itself as an infinite and indeterminate sea of substance. Gregory of Nyssa says (Life of Moses 2.24), It seems to me that at the time the great Moses was instructed in the theophany he came to know that none of those things which are apprehended by sense perception and contemplated by the understanding really subsists, but that the transcendent essence and cause of the universe, on which everything depends, alone subsists, for, as he says, nothing else exists without participation of true Being. Turretin perhaps can be seen in suggesting something similar (Institutes 3.4.5) when he holds that one of the three things indicated by the name is "causality and efficiency because what is the first and most perfect in each genus is the cause of the rest". 

(b) Eternity, Immutability, and Necessity. If we focus on the consignification or grammatical aspect of the terms, we find that ehyeh is the first-person imperfect, and therefore indicates ongoing action, and in Hebrew whether the imperfect aspect is in the past, the present, or the future is determined by particles or by context that are not in evidence here. It is therefore possible to read the phrase as simply indicating the ongoing aspect, without reference or confinement to any given time. As Maimonides says (Guide ch. 63, p. 95), "The proof which he was to give consisted in demonstrating that there is a Being of absolute existence, that has never been and never will be without existence." Thus Moses Mendelssohn, in his German translation of the verse, translated it as der Ewige, the Eternal and das ewige Wesen, the Eternal Being. Mendelssohn in fact took the name to indicate three things about God: that He was, is, and will be the same; that He is necessary; and that His providence is continual. Therefore he used 'Eternal' as the term that came closest to capturing all three of these. We find this same idea in Augustine, who says (Serm. 7.7), What does I Am Who Am mean, but 'I am Eternal'? What does I Am Who Am mean, but 'I cannot be changed'? John Calvin, too, says (Harmony of the Law, Exodus 3:14), "This is very plain, that God attributes to himself alone divine glory, because he is self-existent and therefore eternal; and thus gives being and existence to every creature. Nor does he predicate of himself anything common, or shared by others; but he claims for himself eternity as peculiar to God alone, in order that he may be honored according to his dignity." Turretin also takes it to indicate "the eternity and independence of God, inasmuch as he is a necessary being, and existing of himself, independent of any other, self-existent", and refers to Rv 1:4: who is and who was and who is to come (ho on kai en kai ho erchomenos). Thus we may pray with Anselm (Pros. 22): And in a proper and unqualified sense You are who You are, because You have neither a past nor a future, but only a present, and because You cannot be thought ever not to exist

(c) Presence and Providence. When the Lord goes on, in what can be read as a further clarification of the name itself, He says (Ex 3:15-17): Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations, thus linking it to His providence as shown to the ancestors of the children of Israel, and continues by promising providence in the future, delivering them from Egypt and giving to them a land flowing with milk and honey. Names and titles are also signs of authority, and we are told that this sign of authority is for all generations; we can take this to show God's everlasting providence. We find something of this in the commentary of Rashi on this verse, who takes the name to indicate that He will be with the children of Israel in this trial under Pharaoh what He will be in future trials; this is related to the interpretation given in Berakhot 9b, "The Holy One, Blessed be He, told Moses to go and tell Israel: I was with you in this enslavement, and in this redemption, and I will be with you in the enslavement of the kingdoms in the future." This conforms as well to the interpretation that Philo gives to the burning bush in his Life of Moses. The bush, he tells us, represents the oppressed of Israel and the fire their oppressors; thus the bush is aflame but is not burned up. And in the flame, he tells us, there was an angel, an image like to God who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, who represents the divine providence working even in oppression. Thus Judah Halevi says in paraphrasing the revelation (Kuzari 4.3), "Say to them 'ehyeh', which means, 'I am that I am,' the existing one, existing for whenver you seek me. Let them search for no stronger proof than My presence among them, and name Me accordingly." Turretin also suggests this meaning when he says that one of the three things indicated by the name is "immutability and constancy in promises"; while He had not been known to the patriarchs by this very name, what He had been to them is signified by the name.

(d) Mystery and Ineffability. We may also consider the name in its mode, which has extraordinary universality, since it specifies no further mode for I Am except that I Am (asher ehyeh). Of this Aquinas says (ST 1.13.11), our intellect cannot know the essence of God itself in this life, as it is in itself, but whatever mode it applies in determining what it understands about God, it falls short of the mode of what God is in Himself. Therefore the less determinate the names are, and the more universal and absolute they are, the more properly they are applied to God. Athanasius likewise says (Def. Nic. 5.22), When then He says, ‘I am that I am,’ and ‘I am the Lord God,’ or when Scripture says, ‘God,’ we understand nothing else by it but the intimation of His incomprehensible essence Itself, and that He Is, who is spoken of. Thus Philo also glosses Exodus 3:14, "At first say unto them, I am that I am, that when they have learnt that there is a difference between him that is and him that is not, they may be further taught that there is no name whatever that can properly be assigned to me, who am the only being to whom existence belongs." And again (Changing of Names 11), "Note that when the prophet desires to know what he must answer to those who ask about His name, He says, I am the Being, which is equivalent to 'My nature is to be, not to be spoken.'" As Judah Halevi notes (Kuzari 4.3), "When Moses asked, 'And they shall say to me, What is His name?' the answer was, 'Why should they ask concerning things they are unable to grasp?'"

The Ineffable Name is itself summarized, so to speak, in the Tetragrammaton, which in Hebrew is yod, he, waw, he and the short form Yah (Iao in Greek, most known from the phrase, Hallel Yah, or Hallelujah, usually translated as 'Praise the Lord'). The Mesha Stele attests its use in the ninth century before Christ. Some take this to be a pre-existing local divine name, associated with a god of sky and harvest, that was adapted. The primary reason for thinking this is that it fits with some of the available monumental evidence, but such evidence gives us only small selections of what would likely have been a much larger range of interpretations and uses over a very long period of time. The explanation given in Exodus 3:14 could be a folk etymology of this name (of the sort common throughout the Old Testament) rather than vice versa, but even if so, it makes excellent sense, especially allowing for things like changing conventions over time, as any folk-etymological association will over an extended period of time become part of the use and meaning of a word. In any case, in the context of Torah, and thus of all the Bible, it indicates what is given in Exodus 3. As Gersonides tells us (The Wars of the Lord, Book 3.3 p. 115), "The Torah uniquely ascribes to God the Tetragrammaton, which connotes being and existence, as well as the predicate 'one'.” Because written Hebrew in its early form had no vocalizations, and out of deference and reverence the Tetragrammaton itself (although not the short form, which, while occasionally used on its own primarily served as a root for theophoric names) came not to be generally spoken outside of limited ritual contexts like the Day of Atonement each year, we do not know how it was pronounced, no matter how much scholars may speculate. Such a curiosity is particularly fitting to gesture to the divine ineffability and sublimity, and therefore it should continue not to be vocalized, because it is foolish to trade the more fitting for the less fitting. Thus we use it to signify the substance of God itself insofar as it is singular and incommunicable, so that it is, as it were, a pronoun especially devoted to God insofar as He is referred to by the Ineffable Name, indicating the way in which we must be silent before Him, as St. Gregory Nazianzen notes (Or. 30.17-18). Even this is not adequate to God, but beyond this, all words fail. St. Gregory of Nyssa says of this (Song of Songs 12): There is only one name for expressing the divine nature: the wonder which seizes us when we think of God. God is therefore sometimes said to be nameless (cf. Damascene, De Fide 1.12). As St. Thomas says, (ST 1.13.1 ad 1) The reason why God has no name, or is said to be above being named, is because His essence is above all that we understand about God, and signify in word


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Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Complex, M. Friedlander, tr., Dover Publications (New York: 1956).

Moses Mendelssohn, Moses Mendelssohn's Hebrew Writings, Edward Breuer, tr., Yale University Press (New Haven: 2018) pp. 332-333.

St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, eds., The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Volume 4, G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, trs., Faber and Faber (London: 1998) pp. 287-425.

Tikhon Pino, Essence and Energies: Being and Naming God in St. Gregory Palamas, Routledge (New York: 2023).

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