Classical Theists (and other Realists) inherit Plato's Theory of Forms, and posit the existence of Forms such as Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Justice, and so on. Non-Christian Realists might say these Forms all exist as themselves, but Christian Realists most commonly say that actually it is the Divine Essence which is the Good, the Truth, the Beauty etc. This then leads to the idea of analogy, that when we say something is good, true, beautiful, or just, we are speaking analogically of the ultimate and perfect Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Justice that is God himself. All good things derive from God's goodness, all truth from his inherent truth, all beauty is a reflection of his beauty, all justice is an exercise of his justice. We cannot speak univocally (using words with the same meanings) of ourselves and God because our exercise of those traits is imperfect and limited compared to the full perfection they are in God.

My question is why linguistic univocity/analogy and metaphysical univocity/analogy have to be so tightly entwined. When considering things from a philosophical or metaphysical mindset we may agree that all these attributes derive from God (or a Form) and that things in the universe only participate in them partially via analogy. But when we consider language could we not still sometimes speak univocally? When we say that something is true, must we be speaking with analogy? The metaphysical origin of truth may lie in God/Form, but when we use the word "true" could we not use it univocally for things in this world and God? Some uses of language are inherently referential, for example Shakespearean. But many are not, they just have concepts they communicate. No dictionary would define "true" as "being analogous to the supreme source of Truth". Indeed for words like Good and True there are strong arguments that they are semantic primes, indivisible concepts that can't be defined by other concepts. But if you asked anyone other than a philosopher whether their use of the word "true" was referring analogically back to God (or a Form) they would deny it, they're just using the word to mean the concept of truth, not to refer to an ideal of perfect ideal Truth. It seems to me that we should be able to speak univocally without making an assertion of metaphysical univocity: I can use the word "true" with the same (ie, univocal) sense to talk about myself and God without implying that truths about myself exist in isolation to the Truth of God.

Have any Classical Theists or other Realists distinguished between univocity/analogy in language and metaphysics, agreeing with me that metaphysical analogy does not mean that all our language must therefore be analogical when talking about God or other Transcendentals? Or is there some strong compelling reason why metaphysical analogy must be matched by linguistic analogy?

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    +1) This is a fine and subtle question, maybe it's simply due to the topic. The famous Scholastic theologian Scotus, in contrast to your Thomistic metaphysical analogies, has a doctrine of univocity of being though in two radically distinct modes: infinite in God, finite in man. Deleuze adapts this doctrine to claim that being is difference univocally. Also the occult constructed language Enochian could be said to be a univocal angelical language pursued by John Dee and Edward Kelley. The conclusion depends on your theological commitments... Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 0:02


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