William A. Wallace, O.P., in “Thomism and the Quantum Enigma,” The Thomist 61 (1997): 455–468, claims that

analogical middle terms are sufficient for a valid demonstration

and that this is

a teaching that is distinctive of Thomism

that other Scholastic schools do not uphold.

How would one justify that "analogical middle terms are sufficient for a valid demonstration"?

(cf. this on "mixed sciences" or scientia media and this answer here)

  • 2
    According to modern formal logic (but also the ancient one, from Aristotle on, see shane's answer) : no, because the "analogical" use of the middle term invalidates the syllogism : in shane's example, "healthy" is predicated with different "meaning" in the two premises. Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 9:10
  • Good question; I hadn't knbown that there was such a thing as a logic of analogy; it isn't normally understood that analogy is an important technique in mathematics - for example prime numbers as prime knots, or electrons as black holes. Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 12:02
  • If you are a math person your definition of what a proposition is does not match with the proper definition of “proposition “ used in Philosophy. Aristotelian logic did not use MODERN LANGUAGE in this case MODERN ENGLISH. One would need to convert the propositions to standard categorical form. If you are a literal reader you will likely MISS the point that there are hidden premises in the argument in order to prove such an argument deductively valid. As written the argument may not look valid. The analogous use of terms would need to be related as premises with further propositions.
    – Logikal
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


Think of some examples. Here's a classic Thomist "analogical" term: "healthy". Properly speaking it is only bodies that are healthy, and for a body to be healthy is for it to be in good working order. For medicine to be healthy isn't for the medicine to be in good working order, it is for the medicine to have the power to put bodies into good working order. So here we clearly have two distinct but senses of "healthy".

So let's consider an example of a syllogism.

  1. All healthy bodies are good.
  2. Some medicine is healthy.
  3. Therefore, some medicine is good.

The occurrence of "healthy" in the major premise is the primary analogate, and "healthy" in the minor premise means "that which produces health" (secondary analogate). Do we have a valid syllogism here? According to Thomists, yes; according to Scotists and those who are suspicious of analogy, no.

  • To give more detail about why the thomists and scotists disagree about this goes beyond what could reasonably be conveyed in a message board. it's a really deep problem.
    – user5172
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 4:20
  • Could you provide any references for further reading? thanks
    – Geremia
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 4:36
  • 1
    Here's one: Klima, G. (2002) “Aquinas’ Theory of the Copula and the Analogy of Being”, Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy, 5(2002), pp. 159-176. Or, if you're more in the mood for a book, one classic text is: amazon.com/Doctrine-Analogy-According-Marquette-Philosophy/dp/… A somewhat different take can be found in: cuapress.cua.edu/books/viewbook.cfm?Book=MCAA
    – user5172
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 12:54
  • Those books treat the logical aspects of analogy, specifically?
    – Geremia
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 1:20
  • 1
    McInerny def does. Don't recall about the other haven't read them in years.
    – user5172
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 1:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .