Analogy (philosophy)

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Analogy (from the Greek ἀναλογία analogía "relationship") describes in philosophy a form of agreement of objects with regard to certain characteristics. In ancient times , the term was originally used as a technical term for the designation of mathematical relationships (proportions). Later he also referred to conditions that are not strictly quantitative. In medieval philosophy, analogy played a major role in connection with the question of how meaningfully one could speak of God. The theory of analogy mainly referred to semantic problems that arise when using concepts and the transfer of meaning.

Definition of terms: analogy , univocality , equivocality

The term "analogy" is traditionally differentiated from the terms " univocality " and " equivocality " in terms of language philosophy :

  • By analogy is when a word in various uses, although different meanings has, but still certain similarity have each other.
Metaphors are an example of this . B. from “ head of the family” the word “ head ” in this usage does not designate any part of the body - nevertheless there is an equivalent to this meaning; because similar to the meaning of the body part for the whole living being is the meaning of the family member concerned for the whole family.
  • Univocality ( adjective : “univok”) occurs when a word is used in different contexts with an identical meaning.
  • Equivocality (adjective: “equivok”), on the other hand, occurs when the same word has completely different meanings in different uses .
A classic example of this is the word “ bouquet ”, which can be used to describe 1. a bouquet of flowers, 2. a fight and 3. a species of bird. So, these are strictly speaking three different terms , with the same word (understood as mere According follow) are referred to.

The discussion of the term in the history of philosophy and theology


The sun - an analogue often used in the history of philosophy for the divine

The term “analogy” appeared as a term already among the Pythagoreans as a description of a mathematical equality of proportions (“8: 4 is analogous to 4: 2 with the same logos 2: 1”). But here we are actually still talking about a univocal relationship. In the real sense, the term was first introduced into philosophy by Plato . The analogy v. a. as a means of knowing the intelligible world. Since, according to Plato, the world of the visible is the image of the world of ideas , the world of ideas can be recognized by analogy. The most famous examples of this are the allegory of the cave and the comparison of the divine idea of the good with the sun emitting rays (the idea of ​​the good creates the sun as its "analogue").

Aristotle divided living beings into classes on the basis of analog functions. In ethics, he defines distributive justice as the analogy of those relationships in which each participant has his own ( Nicomachean ethics ). In metaphysics he states that “ being ” is stated in “multiple ways”, but always “towards one thing”, the substance to which being belongs first, while accidents only have their being in relation to substance. Aristotle does not speak of analogy in this context, but this fact will be taken up again in the further history of philosophy as the doctrine of the "analogia entis" .

The neo-Platonism teaches, building on the Platonic archetype dump scheme, the analogous structure of the different realms. The divine origin is indeed present in its effects; these, however, lag behind the former in terms of abundance of being. The divine archetype can therefore be grasped from the point of view of the effects, but only inadequately, analogously. All categories of the visible world apply analogously to the spiritual world.

middle Ages

Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita distinguishes three ways of speaking of God , like other traders of the Negative Theology, which is mainly rooted in Middle Platonism ( Philo , Alcinous, etc.) before him :

  • On the path of affirmation (cataphatic theology, theologia / via affirmativa vel causalitas ), attributes are ascribed to God. But these do not relate to its essence, but to its effects. A metaphorical way of speaking about God is considered possible because God is the foundation of everything.
  • On the path of negation (apophatic theology, theologia negativa ), statements about properties relating to God are negated. This emphasizes the incomparable nature of God as the first source of all created things.
  • Finally, on the path of overcoming ( theologia / via eminentiae ), finite expressive senses are exceeded, as indicated by prefixes such as "over-", "hyper-", "super-" etc.: God is, for example, over-being, over- good etc.

The applicability of certain types of statements to God was discussed many times before and after Dionysius. In particular, the Eastern tradition are particularly important. Gregor von Nyssa , Gregor von Nazianz and Maximus Confessor ; John of Damascus (De fide orthodoxa) formulates an intermediate stage of the discussion, which will be referred to in many ways below . Eriugena , for example, gives a systematic discussion of the Aristotelian categories under the problem of negative theology . In the Arabic Kalam - in part probably following John of Damascus and other Christian traditions - the realism of divine attributes is controversially discussed. For realistic interpretations, u. a. Hanbaliten , for anti-realistic, allegorical readings, etc. a. Jahmites and later Mutacilites . In Arabic philosophy, the subject is pursued by most of the most important theorists (including al-Farabi , Avicenna, and Averroes ). Averroes, for example, like others, situates the analogy as something intermediate between semantic equality (univocality) and difference (equivocality). Similar discussions can be found at the same time and often depending on the Arabs among Jewish philosophers. Maimonides in particular advocates a consistent equivocation theory. Its doctrine of attributes, like Dioynsius and patristic texts, is discussed by Latin scholastics , for example Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas . In the 13th century z. B. Thomas Aquinas an analogous relationship between God and creature as well as the predications in application to God and to created things.

Thomas made a distinction between an "analogy of attribution" ( analogia attributionis ) and an "analogy of proportionality" ( analogia proportionalitatis ). The analogia attributionis describes the relationship between two "objects". The analogous conceptual content applies to a first object in a primary sense and is transferred to a second object in a derived manner. We speak of a “healthy” medicinal drink because it serves the health of a living being, of which the term “healthy” is primarily stated (cf. the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas). We also use the term “being” in this way. It is stated both by God (“attributed” to him), to whom being belongs in the primary sense, and by all finite creatures, who depend on God for their being. The analogia proportionalitatis is about the similarity of relationships. Thomas uses physical vision and spiritual insight as an example:

“According to the second way, something is said analogously, such as B. the word 'seeing' ( visus ) is spoken of bodily seeing and of the understanding, because like seeing in the eye, so is insight (intellectus) in the spirit. "

In roughly the Thomistic sense, the 4th Lateran Council then defines that God and creature are indeed similar, but this similarity is afflicted with an even greater dissimilarity.

A prominent critic of the Thomistic conception of analogy is Johannes Duns Scotus , who defends a univocal concept of being. The background of his criticism is the emphasis on the complete otherness of God towards his creatures:

“I say that God is not only thought of in a concept that is analogous to the concept of the creature, but is itself completely different from the concept that is predicated of the creature, but also in a concept that is unambiguous to God and the creature [in conceptu univoco]. "

For Duns Scotus, therefore, the term “being” contains neither the term “finite” nor the term “infinite”. In his opinion it is unambiguous and therefore ultimately completely devoid of content, since it no longer includes any differences. Duns Scotu's doctrine of the univocality of the concept of being motivates nominalistic conceptions which loosen the connection between concept and reality.

20th century

In the 20th century, the doctrine of analogy was subjected to radical criticism, especially by dialectical theologians who emphasize the difference between God and creature. In Protestant theology , Karl Barth strictly rejects the idea of ​​an analogy of being. He opposes this with the term “analogia fidei”: The analogy of creatures to God cannot take place in the knowledge of being by means of natural reason, but only in faith. For Catholic theology, however, Erich Przywara particularly emphasizes the “analogia entis” as the principle of a “formal unity” of philosophy and theology. The starting point for him is the sentence of the 4th Lateran Council (1215): “There is no similarity (similitudo) between creator and creature without this being accompanied by an even greater dissimilarity (dissimilitudo) (inter creatorem et creaturam non potest tanta similitudo notari , quin inter eos maior sit dissimilitudo notanda) ” (DH 806). This leads him to the conclusion that the analogy is “the last objective rhythm in being and the last subjective rhythm in thinking” .

See also


Lexicon article

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Plato, Politeia 508b after Stephanus pagination .
  2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1131ff.
  3. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1003a 32ff.
  4. Thomas von Aquin, De veritate q.2 a.11, quoted in Josef de Vries : Analogie . In: Basic Concepts of Scholasticism . 3rd edition, Darmstadt 1993, ISBN 3-534-05985-9 .
  5. Johannes Duns Scotus, Ordinatio , quoted in Josef de Vries: Analogie . In: Basic Concepts of Scholasticism . 3rd edition, Darmstadt 1993, ISBN 3-534-05985-9 .
  6. ^ Heinrich Denzinger: Compendium of the creeds and church teaching decisions , 40th edition, ed. by Peter Hünermann, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 2005.
  7. LThK : Analogia Entis .