Question 13 of ST.
#1
Can someone please give an example of what St. Thomas means on ST I, q13, a1, objection 2, to wit,

It seems that no name can be given to God, because
Quote:(…) every name is either abstract or concrete. But concrete names do not belong to God, since He is simple, nor do abstract names belong to Him, forasmuch as they do not signify any perfect subsisting thing. Therefore no name can be said of God.

His response to the general objection is that a name can be given to God: words are signs of ideas, but ideas are the likeness to things, so a thing for which we have a concept, an idea, can be given a name. We have the idea of God, so a name can be given to God. But we have an idea of God not of His essence, but by way of the creatures (either by similitude or by remoteness).

He responds objection two in this way:

Quote:Because we know and name God from creatures, the names we attribute to God signify what belongs to material creatures, of which the knowledge is natural to us. And because in creatures of this kind what is perfect and subsistent is compound; whereas their form is not a complete subsisting thing, but rather is that whereby a thing is; hence it follows that all names used by us to signify a complete subsisting thing must have a concrete meaning as applicable to compound things; whereas names given to signify simple forms, signify a thing not as subsisting, but as that whereby a thing is; as, for instance, whiteness signifies that whereby a thing is white. And as God is simple, and subsisting, we attribute to Him abstract names to signify His simplicity, and concrete names to signify His substance and perfection, although both these kinds of names fail to express His mode of being, forasmuch as our intellect does not know Him in this life as He is.

The other day this question was the occasion of a bitter contention. Now, this person who unjustly usurps the title of doctor in philosophy claims this means only abstract nouns and concrete nouns as we know from usual grammar, and he gave the example of light and love, the former being a concrete noun and the latter an abstract noun. But what this has to do with simplicity/complexity?
Rather I can only conclude that St. Thomas when he is speaking of concrete and abstract names is talking about a thing that exists but whose essence is not to exist, while abstract names he seems to take those things by which a thing is that thing. So, this is quite far from “love” and “light” as the examples the fella gave.

My question is, is this interpretation right? I've look at the commentary of Brian Davies, but it didn't help. Also, can someone give an example of abstract and concrete names as they apply to God?

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#2
From Garrigou-Lagrange: "The abstract term signifies the nature separated from the subject, for example, humanity. The concrete term signifies the nature as existing in the subject, for example, man. Hence this distinction between concrete and abstract term is of great importance in distinguishing between the nature and the suppositum, since the nature is an essential part of the suppositum. There is the same distinction between "being" as a noun and "being" as a participle, or between the reality and the real itself."

Concrete names are those that will apply to God metaphorically, but abstract names will apply proportionately, i.e. they apply eminently of God and beyond our manner of understanding it and our manner of using the term.

Examples of concrete names: God is a rock, a firm foundation, a shepherd, etc. (and all the Psalms).
Examples of abstract names: God is truth, goodness, beauty, love, existence, power, wise, etc.

So, light could work as an example of a concrete name of God. It has to do with simplicity/complexity insofar as God cannot actually be a rock or light, etc., thus concrete terms, which signify finite supposita, are used metaphorically to apply to His "substance and perfection."

Hope this helps!
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#3
I answer:

God told Moses that his name is I AM WHO AM.  Hence, in Orthodox icons, Christ's halo always bear the Greek letters for I AM.

God has also taken the name of Jesus.
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#4
Yes. I think that I AM WHO AM is the most delightfully and wondrously precise , succinct, pregnant with food for thought, NAME that could never be thought up by a mere human.

Anyhow, names are words that have no meaning whatsoever if they are not conducive to some concept.

Names are no problem but the concepts conjured up are. Just think what ideas are conjured up by the word "God" for an Evangelical or Calvinist and a Thomist.
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#5
The problem, rich, is that from the answer it seems there's something else in the back. I mean, from the examples you gave, how do you apply foundation, shepherd, etc., to “signify His substance and perfection”?

I have the impression concrete names are supposedly to name God as, for lack of a better term, personal (His subsistence), and abstract names seem to name God as the One that is above all unity etc. etc. (you know, the same difference Ratzinger captures in, say, Introduction to Christianity, 135-136). So, I tend to agree with Clare (as long as I'm interpreting the vague answer rightly).

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#6
Hm, names was used a bit equivocally above albeit perhaps unintentionally. Aquinas doesn't mean by name a personal name but any word by which we speak of God.

By signifying God's perfection or substance, I take Aquinas to mean metaphorically embodying something of God's substance or perfection in the concrete or particular. Whereas with abstract words, these may be applied totally to an attribute of God or some aspect of His being (truth, powerful, etc.), the concrete words will manifest only one aspect and in a specific way. Hence God's eternity may be compared to the mountains with respect to their endurance; God's powerful and faithfulness may be compared to a secure rock upon which one stands.

So the difference really comes down to the fact that concrete names refer to specific objects that possess some quality or characteristic by which we can compare God, but abstract names refer to those qualities and characteristics directly and hence may be spoken of God simply and eminently. Or again in other words, concrete names just require that we take one further step in understanding how they apply to God whereas the abstract ones apply immediately. E.g. Calling God a spouse points to certain qualities of God that we can also find in spouses--faithfulness, love, tenderness, etc. The abstract names skip straight to those qualities and bypass a concrete object and they refer specifically to God's simplicity because all of these qualities exist eminently and in a higher unity than what we can comprehend by our finite mode of understanding.

I'm not sure if I'm addressing what you're getting at though.
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#7
Rich, I don't think we're using “names” equivocally. I know Aquinas was probably not thinking about proper names, but these seem to be the most clear examples of concrete names that when applied to God would preserve its concreteness, denoting a subsisting thing. Come to think of it, another name that could be a concrete name is the name “person” as St. Thomas himself says in ST I, q. 29, a1.

I'm still not convinced by your explanation because, still, by the answer he gives it seems he's talking about two different categories of names that would express two different aspects of God—to wit, those that I mentioned earlier in reference to Ratzinger. Maybe I'm reading too much into Aquinas, but even if my interpretation is wrong yours still doesn't look right—concrete names would be, as you noted, merely one more step removed from the other names, but would still be abstract.

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#8
Sorry, I'm not clear on what you're not convinced about.
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#9
(06-03-2015, 10:39 PM)richgr Wrote: Sorry, I'm not clear on what you're not convinced about.

According to you concrete names do not express anything different from abstract names and are merely one more step removed from abstract names. So, one would call God a rock to express His immutability. And one could call God immutable to express His immutability.
This doesn't seem to be what Aquinas is talking about, rather he seems to posit that concrete names express something other than what would be expressed by abstract names: ”And as God is simple, and subsisting, we attribute to Him abstract names to signify His simplicity, and concrete names to signify His substance and perfection”.
That's why I posit this is not about the common grammatical abstract/concrete nouns simply.

Another interpretation that just came to me is that maybe what Aquinas means is that in God form and the individual are the same. So, God is goodness and He is the one that possess goodness, so to speak. It would be like if we were to say a person is white and whiteness.
But then the examples “light” and “love” would fail.
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#10
Yes I think you're onto something. I very well may not understand this at all hahaha. I will do some more research and get back to you...
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