Analogia entis

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Analogia entis is a Latin expression from Scholasticism that Latinizes a Greek technical term from Platonic philosophy . In German it can only be reproduced in a cumbersome manner through the “proportionality of beings”. The core is the Platonic concept of analogy (see analogy (philosophy) ). The term serves to investigate whether the being of different beings can be compared. The position of Aristotle (and also of Aristotelian scholasticism) is that there is no actuality that is common to all beings. This means that the commonality of the different beings is not based on a common actuality, but is analogous.

The term

The term “Analogia entis” differs from the “Aequivocitas entis” and the “Univocitas entis” and occupies an intermediate position. In the “Aequivocitas entis” beings are viewed as completely different in terms of their being. In this perspective, the concept of being only uses the common sound of a word (“vox”). In reality, there is nothing that justifies the common use of the word “being”. The other extreme is the “Univocitas entis”. It is used for different beings that have a common topicality, which justifies the common use of the word “being”. Here the same thing is denoted by the same sound of the word. According to Aristotle, neither the term “Univocitas entis” nor the term “Aequivocitas entis” can be applied to the totality of beings, but only the “Analogia entis”.

The philosophical problem

Aristotle knows 10 highest kinds of being, the categories ( substance , quality, quantity, relation, when, where ...). That would not be the case if beings were their own species. Because then this would be the highest genus. A superficial thinker quickly puts this top genre over the categories. Aristotle examined the question in detail and came to the conclusion that being cannot be a supreme species. Already in the first pages of his Metaphysics, Aristotle explains that there can be no science of all beings. You don't have to know anything to learn it. But you can't learn anything with it. (1. Book 992b) Aristotle also makes it clear that all effectiveness of being is based on the fact that the cause has an actuality which is initially only in power in the sufferer. If everything is up to date, it cannot be effective. Such topicality does not exist or at least is useless and unrecognizable. (2. Book 993b) So a substance exists through its being substance and a quantity, because it is quantity, but not through a common “being”. There is nothing in common that makes beings to be. The beings are each for a different reason. There is no uniform additional formal actuality (“being-being”) on the part of the being, which causes a non-existing being to exist as a being (centrism). The being exists through all its actualities, which emerge from the being (holism). Existence is not a further formal determination of the being, but a transcendental determination, in addition to the being (Thomistic Distinctio realis). In this respect, Kant is Aristotelian here when he says that an existing substance does not differ formally in any way from an imaginary one. However, the imaginary substance will not be as detailed as reality requires. The actuality, which is added to the essence in beings, is not a further formal determination of the being, but includes the integration of beings in the causal structure of real things. For a being to exist, it is not only necessary that its essence is free of contradictions, it must also have emerged as an effect from an already existing cause. But this transcendental relationship is not of a formal order.

The essence is already ordered by definition to existence and therefore already contains every formal determination that is necessary for the existence of a being. The entity only lacks the integration into the causal structure of existing things in order to become a being.

The integration of a being into the structure of real things requires additional, accidental, formal provisions, which are required by adapting to the specific circumstances. Because of their origin, these provisions are also called "existence". They exist and represent beings.

Essence of analogy

Aristotle sharply criticizes Plato's theory of participation and the Pythagorean doctrine of imitation (Book 1 987b). Participation and imitation say nothing in concrete terms. What does being that participates in another have from this? What does participation consist of? Therefore, for Aristotle, these terms are unscientific. He opposes this with his theory of analogy (4th book 1003a ff). The effect is analogous to the cause. With its four causes, it can describe the analogy between beings in such a scientifically precise manner, on four different levels. This applies to both substances and accidents. He not only carries out this description of the analogy on the ens realle, but also extends it to the ens rationis. The analogy is supplemented by the term privation . A non-being is not-being. With the beings (not just individual things) he finally completes the analogous description of being. With this set of instruments it is now necessary to examine which analogy the "Analogia entis" is based on. Under certain circumstances, however, two beings have nothing in common formally at all (e.g. when and where). There cannot be the slightest direct causality here either. Only the weakest level of analogy applies here. The analogy about a third. Aristotle also calls two beings analog if they have a common cause. Both beings have emerged from the first cause and this is their whole analogy. There doesn't have to be the slightest formal correspondence with one another. However, each of these two beings must have a formal correspondence with the first cause.

Significance for metaphysics

In contrast to the other sciences, metaphysics is to be understood as a science of substances (for beings insofar as they are: 4. Book 1003a). However, the substance is not accessible to the senses, only to the mind. This creates a further demarcation from the other sciences. The other beings (quantities, qualities, when, where, relations ...) are only viewed by metaphysics as accidents, as beings that are not substance. In contrast to the other sciences, which organize their objects on the basis of accidents, the topological space of substances is shaped by analogy, i.e. causality. Aristotle now wants to show that all being is captured through this description. Every commercial is possessed by a substance in a special way. Ultimately, the order of the substances also fully describes every job. Ultimately, all being is accessible to metaphysics, although its first object is only the substances, which are also the ultimate causes. Something is warm by analogy with fire.


(The classic opponents can be found in the article on analogy (philosophy) .) Karl Barth is considered a declared opponent of "Analogia entis" . He confessionalizes the term and describes it as his greatest obstacle to the Catholic faith. But even among the avowed supporters of the “Analogia Entis” there are today numerous who reject the Aristotelian doctrine. “Analogia entis” is understood in a broader sense, which also includes the Platonic theory of participation. This type of opponent of the Aristotelian analogia entis includes, for example, Neothomists such as E. Gilson and J. Maritain . With their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Thomistic “Actus essendi” they give every being an equal formal actuality that is limited by the essence. A genre could be formed here based on the neo-Gothic "actus essendi". This philosophical direction is supported by Cornelio Fabro .


  • Aristotle, Metaphysics, Phillipp Reclam Junior, 1970
  • André Léonard, Métaphysique de l'être, éditions du cerf, Paris, 2006
  • Etienne Gilson : L'être et l'essence, VRIN, 2000
  • Erich Przywara : Analogia entis. Munich, Kösel and Pustet: 1932