The Negative Theology of Maimonides and Aquinas Author(s): Joseph A. Buijs Source: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 41, No.

4 (Jun., 1988), pp. 723-738 Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc. Stable URL: Accessed: 08/09/2010 13:10
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"3 special some attributes. negative theology a number of contemporary More criticisms.1 against specifically. negative could claim or less than-thoroughly. negative theology no knowledge to be utterly It allows unknowable. the late Isaac Franck presented both Mai monides nents (1135-1204) and Aquinas (1225-1274) as prominent propo on to defend he went of negative theology. There can is no intelligible positive ever. it could if there were claim special knowledge In its radical of God. In this theology. 1 on Man's Knowledge of 38 (March ofMetaphysics of Metaphysics (June 1988): Copyright ? 1988 by the Review of . divine theology. an exclusively radical of urges negative negative theology language God.2 He distinguished this negative a negative radical version from A moderate a moderate. edge of God is to know that we are unable to know Him." By this he meant or positive that no affirmative the doctrine attributes of any kind are of God. we about language what he is not.THE NEGATIVE THEOLOGY OF MAIMONIDES AND AQUINAS JOSEPH A. say God whatso only meaningfully Isaac Franck. 3 Ibid. set out to defend what Franck "a radical he called theol negative ogy. claims the divine version. of man presumably.." 1985): 2 591-615. whatso reality ever of what a God he is not. however. if that were accessible to human beings. predicable that we can meaningfully say about God only what he is not (to speak the doctrine that man's highest knowl of Him in negative attributes). Review Metaphysics 41 723-738. Ibid. "Maimonides and Aquinas God: A Twentieth Review Century Perspective. BUMS J-N A RECENT article. is. correspondingly. such applicable attributes. theology only holds that "nothing predicable version. only of what Correspondingly. is predicable of God. that God is completely unknown and unknowable. 593. and. to God but not to human beings.

Thus he considers the agnosticism reflected negative sophic between Aquinas central the theology Harold intent. their questions whether Analyzing one in the end there is a substantial how Maimonides Aquinas philosophical apply difference. L. Maimonides attributes positive denying case. is flawed." and pressures religious likewise. of formulation rather he too concludes that "the difference than of substance. BUIJS clearly wants noting in the views what to defend negative he takes of both Maimonides to either extreme theology in its and to be an ambivalence to attribute of projecting paper. of their theolo view espoused in on them [Franck's] It is my theses: contention. analysis It does so by conflating and Aquinas. respective theories of divine attributes. On the of theological thinkers "so close rather than concepts. 2 (Madrid: Nacional. which he uncovers differences the formation both an agreement between tenuous appear by there in terms is a "residual concludes culturally that explained philosophical resources. God. two one concerning the unknowability of epistemic God with a semantic about tive God. 600-01. as to make less he issue. T. de philosophie N?o-scolastique " 6 Harold Via negationis and Via analogic^: Theological Johnson."7 is Although ence of one there are obvious I want similarities to argue that and indeed an influ there remain signifi on the other. Penido to God. de Dieu d'apr?s Ma?monide. 4 see pp."4 this version the and Aquinas. T. this version. Studies 23 (1987): 170. cional de Filosofa Medieval. Penido. overstates his in Maimonides' In an early and Aquinas. Ag in Maimonides and Aquinas. Ibid.5 the via result of linguistic excess Johnson negationis a matter are more Johnson similarly of Maimonides style considers of than philo that differences suggests and the via analogiae of of substance. side Maimonides Franck is not alone in merging the theologies of Maimonides in suggests that. study. For the source of this ambivalence 5 M. L.724 Franck himself radical even Franck gies. an strues distinct both Maimonides that Franck's miscon however." nosticism Actos del V Congresso Interna vol.6 of differing Alexander Broadie." Religious . inconsistency hesitates "for fear But JOSEPH A. contrast of emphasis. 1979). 7 on the Names "Maimonides and Aquinas of Alexander Broadie. and neverthe comparison"." "Les attributs Revue 26 (1924): 144-48. 844. theology one concerning the intelligibility of language nega along As his characterization of a thoroughly is ambiguous and his classification of Aquinas a result. M.

torting philosophical First. that Maimonides' in the I Franck takes the unknowability of God to be the principle tenet of negative theology. Pegis. on the and knowledge than ogy of God Maimonides on the other. I will outline what I take to be the philosophical differences and Franck sion avoid." 519. "Maimonides and Aquinas. this not tenet the with fact of his existence. He may intend to imply that both claims mutually entail each other or that both derive independently 8 See Franck. and 603. how this is to be done and thus Aquinas. But Pegis interpretation the issue of the unknowability of God. between I will its sketch the distinction thesis and its within semantic negative thesis.. He conflates "Penitus Manet C. that positive course. his characterization theology the two theses in his reading of Anton quoted above on p. theology Next."Medieval the acknowledged basis of Franck's of Aquinas. for instance. theology. can only be taken But Franck inter the view that we talk meaningfully to mean that of God about God in negative ally meaningless." 603) leaves open the question need not preclude Aquinas's developed theory of analogy. con Even Pegis's only addresses clusion that "Man must come to unsay the whole universe in order to say God exists properly" "Maimonides and (ibid. of on and negative bring out between Maimonides.8 The tenet refers to our inability to know God's changes essence. theology a criticism Franck's against which one hand. 592. Neither can Maimonides' views be absorbed into the theology of Aquinas nor Aquinas's into the theology of Maimonides views without dis some of their fundamental or ignoring claims. 219 and quoted by Franck. ver radical and Aquinas to language negative I conclude. This iswhat he repeatedly calls the doctrine of negative theology. 1. 27 (1965): 212-26? Studies Ignotum. Finally.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS cant philosophical differences between Maimonides and 725 Aquinas with respect to both knowledge and language about God. 9 of radical negative See. Aquinas is defensible. I will show how Maimonides differs from Aquinas with respect to these theses. by epistemic outlining the main features of their respective theologies. Franck's is more more radical thoroughly negative negative negative theol theology and. . both Maimonides respect that with Aquinas. whereas end is not.9 tive theology advances Of terms. a claim he may both about talk about God is liter nega and our knowledge about our language of God.

theology of Maimonides position theological in order second. . employed. for that matter. is it clear JOSEPH A. in which our There ability to know something about aware not it. about However the the examples between distinction significant the examples talk talk overlook They may we merely in which the words raise we do in which are understand they and handled. Children often talk about such notions the meaning issues?moral as justice. And it is not obvious that these claims must are situations. we are experiencing. the to such versions is significant. situations thing is not matched by knowledge. Is the way we talk about God Or conversely. first.726 from Franck some offer other an claim about the reality nor of God. often goes together with an inability to talk about them. at that time at least. what these an important use words and use. Con our ability some to talk about versely. own emotional it seems. And philosophy at one teachers time?who are familiar are adept at students?perhaps Nevertheless Admittedly themselves about philosophical such talk views without is intelligible are troublesome. anything entail each for our ability that matter?is or inability not the to talk about God?or same as our ability or inability to know God. for example. language of God? questions questions is what some relationship by what can we we between can know thought. which Franck clearly For completeness It is the metaphysical view. nominal we knowing to others. God without we know of God determined Moreover. for example. that are relevant determined to talk about God. We can be of experiencing to describe be able there are emotional the distress emotions in which yet. can we know God or know of God without being able to talk meaningfully about God at all? elucidate order those An answer different to situate of Aquinas. vis-?-vis to in Let us call the claim about the unknowability of God the epis temic thesis of negative theology (ENT) and the claim about nega tive language the semantic thesis of negative theology (SNT). BUIJS But neither does and Aquinas else argument explicit would agree. questions of negative and.10 An 10 we should add a third claim. not only that God exists but acknowledges. other. involving which and God?in do not know rights. Knowledge of does not go along with our ability to talk our states. with or religious ones. meaningfully by the way we can talk about God? talk about knowledge of what God is? Or. that Maimonides Conceptually. they of the concepts talking mean.

is respect respect thus we to God's only is not.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS initial formulation of both theses. we apply terms not just That is. when we talk positively is akin to saying "Sounds but mistakenly to God. it can be stand to mean: term as the in an affirmative subject term in 'God' cannot proposition. acterize Franck's radical monides nor Aquinas. of true. it can be taken subject only stand On the other hand. are red" or "The number two is just.11 well it fits below. see Franck. become clear reason would see an inconsistency formulated. Commentationes Scientiarum 22. H. for instance. are meaningless. can be refined one hand." forthcoming 11 of God. later (Russellian) trichotomy "On the Logic of Negation. that also so as espouse views." The Aristotelian recog distinction. know what we can he can know not know that God what he is. their respective that suggests to capture negative SNT the On SNTi: in admitting ENT while denying SNT as course the why concludes But it thoroughly negative. Von Wright. formulation for SNT is required. This claim we could call the metaphysical thesis For an initial development of these distinct (MNT) of negative theology." and in different it is this metaphysical defended claim that logically ways. also captures and privation the nized in medieval negation logic. G." Societas see. Formulated could exist. in which Maimonides and Aquinas to refer taken to two somewhat different are not theologies an alternative the sense Indeed. suggested by Franck's character 727 ization of negative ENT: With with and theology. . meaningless. 1959): 3-30. to draw conclusions about our knowledge theologian impels the negative and language of God. we essence. SNT: Only terms predicated negatively terms predicated positively of ENT negative As will and of God the conjunction Now. between and false propositions. a negative as the 'God' can proposition. "Maimonides and Aquinas. Such God-talk falsely. This is of of God are meaningful. Attributes. see my "Maimonides in Maimonides and the Problem of Divine theses in Thought. sinki. to mean: SNT2: We cannot meaningfully he is. to his can is the following: existence. we can he ing what talk about God by saying what talk about God by say only meaningfully is not. that the divine reality is totally different from anything else that does or 597. theology. Franck serve neither neither to char Mai one SNT may but theology. 4 (Hel Physico-mathematicae Fennica.

which to talk with about language. 1. left then we are only about his essence. (having no whatsoever) in common with absolutely beings). For an Shlomo Pines (Chicago: The University 1963). 243-52.14 (having we can the "third philosophic 2. But they part company on Maimonides would admit to SNT2.728 is more restrictive SNTi cannot be the referent SNT2 in that.1. restricts SNT2 there at are least allows itself to talk about God's the possibility of positive Consequently. of MNT. despite some differences. Whether Maimonides essence theological what God tion.57.57. For Maimonides.1. at all for any positive than JOSEPH A. 248. pp. 131980). for while not. see note 10 above. tional exists cosmological as a necessary formulations a demonstration arguments existent. God only true and intelligible 'God is not P' where of human T' and descriptive propositions stands other are those that take the form for predicates that are otherwise creatures.1. 14 See Guide This is Maimonides' 1. provided it is not descriptive such explicitly descriptions addresses. II Where do Maimonides and Aquinas stand with respect to these A brief outline of theses of negative theology? theologies will show that. terms that say what God is not. p." concludes Maimonides composition nothing 'a necessary existent' and its no cause of any to mean "having nor for its essence. 132. 131-57. The propositions. pp. of Maimonides' Lane Craig. See Guide 2. 247-49. ENT and deny SNTi. epistemic thesis ENT. speculation. 2. especially of the Perplexed are to the English All references translation pp. like the SNT2. pp.12 are taken existence that God and other can But along establish the the their respective they both admit SNT2. however. is. The informative exposition proofs see William to Leibniz Argument Cosmological from Plato (London: The Macmillan Press.13 From this is absolutely simple incomparable Consequently. Aquinas would the root of their philosophical difference. BUIJS according to SNTi. p. parallel essence." by of Chicago Press. 132-33. and defense formulation 12 The Guide . Here lies of the that tradi God lines fact equivalent for its neither kind. specifically is an open The ques point of of SNT2 is that when we attempt his and descriptions in negative to describe intelligibly what God is.

Summa Contra Gentiles 1. Wolfson. 135: "we are only able to apprehend the fact that He is and cannot apprehend His quiddity.52. then handle the problem of theistic language? Initially he follows Mai 15 See Guide 1. efficacy. are to be denied to God.s. Their affirmation would contradict God's an agent.58. is. Argument. Q. 118-19. Israel Davidson of Miller.118." 16 For the logic behind this classification See Guide 1. and his "Crescas on the Problem n. preamble. 18 See Guide 1. Other kinds of predicates. 3. 116.15 be other require directly essences some apprehended are. But comparable this condition given the absolute simplicity and incomparability of God. of some of his For an informative exposition chap. (i)-(iv).52. an agent what describe rather than what the agent is. pp. see Craig. can be truth Only fully predicated of God. Cosmological 158-204. 123-24.16 The first four kinds of predicates describe tions.18 edge of God's absolute similarly Aquinas with the recognition we only know that he concludes that we for the existence proofs as a result. namely. 17 See Guide 1. 1938). by ab of knowledge characteris defining to the characteristics cannot be satisfied. essence. proofs and their implications 193. and 1. do not." of Linda R. pose or productions to the results refer of an agent's instead. 7 (1916): 1-25. Predicates of action. habits.52.19 does his of God God he is. pp. that in other in some way things. In answering how we can truthfully and intelligibly talk about starts by classifying predicates into five kinds: God. Maimonides those that signify (i) a definition. see Harry A. (iii) qualities.17 they do not describe its essence. Nor do they provide absolute tradict God's any knowl simplicity. ed. what a thing or accidentally. did. know what is and what How he is not. 49. not con such predicates would Hence. Maimonides argues." Jewish Quarterly Review.54. pp. butes. They these predicates of action. (ii) parts of a definition. 201-34. and chap. 114-18. especially . 14. would minimally are 729 thereby knowing what God is. p. of action Predicates identify simplicity. 19 See Summa Theologiae 1. including quantities. And so at best we are left with knowledge of what God is not. and dispositions. (iv) rela and (v) actions. either essentially they also presup a multiplicity in whatever is described. and Maimonides' "The Aristotelian Predicables Division in Essays and Studies in Memory of Attributes. pp. (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of Divine Attri America.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS know the fact that God is without Since straction God's tics we the divine from essence in God know essence cannot as experience.

See also Broadie. 7. constitute al creatures. a. 15. implying corporeality to God. a. 11. 13. a. Knowledge. 7. a. mean and "God is eternal" because for us. both affirmed and denied. Lloyd P. are and potentiality. ad 1. Q. 10. they to both univocal and equivocal And while predication. 22 See Summa Dei Q. 296. 13. a. 5. 1." detailed textual analysis to Thomas Aquinas. Q. 7. 1. a. because a perfection we can that is present understand in God in a pre-emi tween what nent way. 2. which because God is unlike any other substance. and De Potentia Dei Q. 3. a. and Summa Theologiae 1." Wippel hensive and defining knowledge" and insists that the imperfect knowledge . In "Quidditative refers to "compre 2. 2. such as those in the first case. be ascribed Thus is infinite" "God may are said truthfully.20 a nega denied Other attributes that already have simply tive connotation to God. 5. a. 1. a. 7. a. See Summa 1.21 neither case. human terms. 30. 14. and Aquinas. also Summa Theologiae Contra Gentiles 1. Gerson Institute (Toronto: Pontifical of Mediaeval Studies. They are affirmed of God with respect to what is signified. ed. God is. 5. 7. Essays in Ancient and Medieval Presented Philosophy to Joseph Owens. chap. 292-93. 1983). Q.730 monides and others in the tradition of negative JOSEPH A. ad 1 and 3. 13.25 only are predicated of God analogically an authentic for Aquinas. a. that God is not limited or not finite and. "Maimonides 165. De Potentia Dei Q. For a more see John F. and De Potentia Theologiae 23 See Summa Contra Gentiles 1. 13. a. is signified (res significata) and the way in which it is such attributes are signified (modus significandi). and De Veritate Q. Q.24 do provide a comprehensive do not provide an imperfect. obj. in the second end. 3. BUIJS Some theology. 13. 34. they attributes." of God According Knowledge Wippel. and in what way? considers such Aquinas to signify attributes and allows to be predi them pure perfections a distinction cated of God substantially. the via negativa and the sub see also Summa Theologiae sequent chapters which apply this principle. Consequently. that God But what imply is unending of such attributes nor in having neither beginning as goodness and wisdom which nor carry a negative connotation? Are corporeality these predicable of God. 2. limited knowledge knowledge of God's of what in deficient attributes they 20 See Summa Contra Gentiles in general argues for 1. "Quidditative in (Graceful Reason. Summa Contra Gentiles 1. CSSR. Q. chap. 24 See Summa Theologiae 1.22 he draws be However.23 and other Such attributes respect to the way them in which ternative these essence. Summa Theologiae 1. chap. they are denied to God with they signify.21 2 and Q. a. 25 See De Potentia Dei Q. 5. Q. 7. 1 and Q. 2. chap.

propositions. But it denies the semantic thesis in both the formulation of SNTX and SNT2. Wolfson. ." (N.26 essence.. express a statement They amount about God's essence. 112-13. semantic thesis in the formulation of SNT2 in that when Yet. and hence remain uninformative See. reprinted ed. to human beings God remains completely essence. p.. knowledge admits the nor for by contrast. of God. scriptive negative theology denies attributes that special Maimonides is not moderate essence. by . Aquinas of human Those in which in a sense beings. 1972). pp. Thus the theology of Aquinas admits the epistemic thesis ENT with the proviso that only an adequate comprehensive or defining knowledge is excluded. those in which the predicates And the Thomistic theology signify attributes of pure perfection. we have no way of means of negations is the correct description it be through negations and not otherwise. albeit inadequately denies SNT2 in that we can talk meaningfully. It denies SNTi in that 'God' can stand as the subject term in affirmative propositions. nor intent does content. 134: "Know that the description of God ." 26291. to saying that God is God of identity. and The theology we of Maimonides.Y. the Maimonidean theology theology. 58. language remain negative. for Louis Ginsberg Jubilee Volume Attributes. 180-218.: Ktav. the formulation the in affirmative term those in namely. Arthur Hyman and Islamic Philosophy. Aquinas does not 731 radical Franck's espouse negative ver to represent its moderate he may be taken although theology. see also pp. for instance. nor the Yet radical Because of God's the theology of type he of Maimonides as unknowable characterized would in his in his by de fits neither the moderate Franck. be nega defends is "not purely negative in content" Knowl Aquinas ("Quidditative edge. 1945).. of what God is. namely. 298).. 295-96. God about what imperfectly. it comes to God's like the Thomistic semantic 'God' can thesis stand in as can only say what God is not.51.: American Academy in Essays in Medieval Jewish Jewish Research. is.27 which the predicates Mai signify Similarly. to be predicable of God attributes does allow special sion. the too. without the epistemic monides thesis any proviso acknowledges ENT.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS Clearly. subject attributes of action. Neither and in formulation. rejects For Maimonides. (N. See Guide 1. on Negative "Maimonides Guide 1.Y. 411-46. Aquinas. they are not predicable attributes are truly predicable of God's essence and provide some knowledge. and Harry A. of SNTi." describing Him unless 27 'God' to stand in affirmative Maimonides also allows propositions to but he takes these propositions in which predicates signify perfections. albeit deficient.

and Aquinas. pp.732 tive theology. he is not radical in his negative in the way Franck would want. reply the to this as well?is second renders it inter that The reply terms. Aquinas's One neither SNTi nor SNT2. does when re another is more it Maimonides not. thesis Aquinas it becomes do not clear fit to Franck. to either mysticism and silence The first renders about God after all in its content. contrary same the of understanding from Maimonides negative Ill What Maimonides. is that." it with the criticisms of George my view by associating Englebretsen .28 The 28 his reply to (5) See Franck. can clearly formulate and semantic amounts the differences among elucidated between them above. 613-14. that. obvious nature specifically in a way that Aquinas thoroughly negative is that the negative conclusion Franck theology divine defends extreme except sively fully cisms theology language theology than both." "Maimonides especially on Maimonides' see also my "Comments and (6). nally on behalf be made dilemma?one correct. can to inconsistent. First. theology. this useless to religious Franck's of Maimonides practice. Franck's tion ENT and SNTi. New Scholasticism Franck misrepresented Theology. in difference theses to the the epistemic Maimonides' SNT2. the first horn is that negative although such talk theology does allow talk about God. theology Once the epistemic thesis of negative theology is sorted out its semantic and theology. comes mains to the theology radical negative ENT conjunction claims the conjunc theology claims ENT and instead. the fact that It upholds God exists as the the utter unknowability sui only generis?and to talk way urges about of God? an God exclu truth negative language and meaningfully. Negative 49 (1975): 87-93. conclusion or essence. and because he nevertheless JOSEPH A. he What then of Franck's defense of this theology? The criti or another to reduce in one way lists. understood in negative is to be correctly The reply to the second horn is that it begs the question. BUIJS allows some positive attributes to be predicable of God. attempt negative or to positive in its intent. terms Whereas and of we can be said of the philosophical and Franck? Aquinas.

1977): "if the things that . Bochenski The Logic of Religion (New York: New York University Press.. is to say that they have no intelligibile use" (p." according to the negative not wise" be denied and "God to God. are said of Him equivoca tion. which Thus be the charged contests. for their use.29 Yet even if exclusively entail positive language. The objection takes negative theology to hold that only propo sitions of the form 'God is not P' are true that meaningful." on what there are no restrictions is or is not there are. ." New Scholasticism an argument I was presenting to that levelled by similar against whom in the end. Theologiae causal or a negative can there be any of divine attributes] interpretation . which 31 a. positive ment presupposes that only positive language is intelligible. . ronto: Pontifical of Mediaeval Institute Studies. is precisely the issue that negative theology of exclusively of God cannot thesis language negative with internal inconsistency. and 32-34. (more appropriate) are absolutely there are no rules "if divine attributes comments: equivocal. 1965).30 it is suggested raised by Levi ben Gerson by Aquinas (1288-1344) equivo inter insistence predicated a negative pretation of divine attributes. it follows predications any and all or "God and terms thus may be truthfully While we predicated truthfully is not of God provided say "God is wise" they are denied to God. (then) not one of the terms for things which are (known) to us would . then theologian we can truthfully say "God is can But if any and all terms corporeal. . . . in effect. Q. 32). than in affirmation. Franck 29 This point is more formally in his argued by Joseph M. . Consequently. or in negation from God be more appropriate than in negation" Samuelson in affirmation (p. 113-14. 13. 2: "on neither See Summa view [i. predicable and a language Thus with no rules of predication that terms This against cally line of criticism was Maimonides' of God. no rules remains are against of predication unintelligible. 30 Three: On God's The Wars See Gersonides. language But the premiss of this argu if it entails language. 197).MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS criticism internal about only implicit in the second horn of the dilemma argues 733 for an in the thesis of exclusively inconsistency negative language on the grounds that any negative is intelligible God. on a 1. not. and of us in absolute we affirm of him . ("The Logic of Negative Theology. of God. cannot is corporeal. of the Lord. Treatise translation and commentary by Norbert Max Samuelson (To Knowledge.31 It is also implicit in the conten 47 [1973]: 228-32). negative the question language about God need not still remains whether it is A serious logical objection argues that it is indeed intelligible.e.

are governed for re garding And certain even language of God. sus in light of Gersonides' utes calls for further elaboration. . from one to the other. "What We Can Say About God. is no point in talking about Him" know anything (p.32 and But of Fred JOSEPH A. 162-63. BUIJS whose criti Sommers. just as a positive that any and all predicates if it were to claim that any and all theology would be unintelligible predicates could be affirmed of God.58. pp. . Aquinas. with able the to us.." 33 See Wolfson.33 Not all terms are simply denied to God. "Negative Attributes. attributes meaningfully of action do not describe such attributes of God would though they flow from it?predicating nor SNT2. only if we deny their corresponding these are applied meaningfully or imperfection to God. and 1. But Maimonides and Aquinas. 1. out perfections. because however. seems to miss the radical Franck thrust of their critique. "God is not P"]. Neither the Maimonidean nor Thomistic Maimonides theology. an essence?al semantic then we for Maimonides. monides and Aquinas. are rules of predication as Aquinas there are. 128-29. he concludes unknow Since." singles to God. Indeed.734 tions cisms of George Englebretsen Franck considers. according by and Finally. as well falls prey to this charge. the latter in turn derives from Maimonides' metaphysics. privation in Maimonides' attrib This refinement theory of negative 60." as well. especially tained criticisms. prey precisely because it implies are to be denied to God. We cannot There about God. And whereas SNT2 derives from violate neither ENT ENT. no more sense to say of it makes 15 (1966): 61-73: "For negative theology than it does to say of Him that He is brown or that God that He is merciful of their views see "Mai For Franck's discussion He is round" (p. 604-06 and 613-15. . "Maimonides 446. those that restrictions." Judaism See also Fred Sommers. Maimonides essence describe argues remains it either. . "Logic. reason why we should use some words about God rather than others we could say 'God is a body' because we want to deny that he is merely See also Broadie. 231). 142-43. That is. his radical negative theology falls to this charge of unintelligibility. 63)." 32 See Englebretsen. p." potential 162.e. we cannot circumscribe God. what of the difference then between Maimonides Aquinas? One difference is the way in which Aquinas and Maimonides approach the logical relation between the epistemic thesis and the semantic thesis of negative thesis cannot theology. If God's thesis ENT." 228-32: "If all talk about God is negative in sense (i) [i.55. "Maimonides and being like primary matter. and Broadie. 136. given the epistemic SNT2. pp. to Maimonides. Guide 1.

the philosophical question of how to talk truthfully and meaning fully about God in human terms but also the religious demand to speak of God in positive terms. or if he does see a logical of Maimon implication seems to argue the from Aquinas some That of ENT. then not-SNT2 not-SNT2 and not-ENT 3) If ENT. because against the describe something at God's essence. either instead. is. Maimonides argues thus: 1) MNT 2) IfMNT. . however. which allow Mai positive 34 Logically formulated. The main on the part on difference. then ENT 3) If ENT. claim semantic independently handles from epistemic other. Aquinas. ides' denial from his metaphysics he uses For it to argue in effect of God. of that essence. And both thinkers recognize that there monides are inherent sees limitations in our human a solution in attributes of action.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS ENT is claimed these to be true because entail about God's is contingent 735 of God for the existence of proofs for In other words. and on centers a theory on the theory on of action of analogy the part of The problem for both thinkers is not only to satisfy Maimonides. language determines thought. then SNT2 4) Hence. then SNT2 4) Hence." ("Quidditative argues thus: Aquinas 1) MNT 2) If MNT.35 theology. case of God least. theology negative about God which moves Maimonides' language negative fully developed of human of the privation to the negation from equivocal predication contin in Franck's interpretation?is point not explored perfections?a on his metaphysics. Knowledge. derived connection. names very seriously" 299). ENT and SNT2 of Mai to the metaphysical I alluded In my "Comments." underpinnings to Englebretsen's in contrast monides' logical focus. nature. of SNT2 to a modification yet truly know attributes imperfectly or imperfectly yet positively in the it seems that both language and thought are directly contingent reality else. gent 35 refined as much when he contends that Aquinas suggests Wippel of God "because Thomas to exclude his views knowledge only defining the divine restrictive came to take Moses Maimonides' concerning position In other words.34 on thought is con and thought the each claim though and both the are and what Maimonides tingent language on reality. we can also Here. of Aquinas. capabilities.

they set nor agency Thus from attributes not the necessary of ac result spatial.36 Maimonides' tion in conjunction Aquinas them to refer attributes with seems of action derive of from his of ac theory and emanation. he.37 of emanation. tion are neither any specific divine distinguishes as natural causation. 1.25. of God's essence. BUIJS Aquinas sees a solu tion in his theory of analogy. 301-02. 136. p." in Divine Philosophy. The philosophical differences in favour of Aquinas. 279. 40 See Guide 2. which descriptive issues and of God's Detailed allows positive of the talk that is analyses underlying uncover here would fundamental argumentation philo I do not propose differences. the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina.12. 2. Maimonides and Philosophy. ides. agency of the agent intellect with respect to knowledge. p. Knowing Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. pp.18. especially 147-53. Pines and Y. and Alvin "Maimonides' Union College Annual Reines.53. 2. are They a relation up in any 36 a number Johnson Harold of differences in Aquinas's recognizes and Maimonides' and metaphysical logical commitments.58. S. Yovel and (Dordrecht Boston: Martinus Two other recent contrasting 1986). misses the unique thrust of Maimonides' The scholastics. 2. Divine and Possibility: Omniscience The Case of Maimon "Providence." of Jewish See Guide 1. and defended by David Burrell. is of this kind. T. p. theory." are more explic 848-55. Misinterpreta tion of Maimonides' Doctrine of Divine Journal Attributes. Concept of Miracles." Hebrew on 277-79. JOSEPH A. and 2.40 nor do relational.39 Yet Maimonides further as well emanation. without of likeness The agency explains agency of natural similar does to causation the effect The presupposes that an active is produced. p. unlike that of natural theory causation. ed. p. and 2. Maimonides. especially his summary Studies 19 (1968): 23-39. See on Causality. 157-72. 1985). 329.12. religious "Via negationis. 45 (1974). 169. 3. of immaterial in the disposition whereas agency by such as that beings. 51-70. Rudavsky J. of causal cause.25. 319.69. (Dordrecht: Reidel. 505. attributing them to differing see his and intellectual pressures resources. to divine as their agent emanation not. 121. pp. 299-300. especially 37 See the study of Seymour "A Scholastic Feldman. purportedly a relation or similarity. While such an analysis sophical here. p. pp." the detailed of Arthur "Maimonides in analysis Hyman. 1986). on similar are these: Alfred discussions themes in Maimonides L. let me hint at some of the issues. 38 . by inter like other While preting his theory to accommodate causation such attributes agency cause.22.38 The agency of God in the world is described in similar terms. 39 See Guide 1. p. Ivry.736 talk that is not descriptive essence. Nijhoff.18. see his itly explored. Omniscience and Omnipotence inMedieval ed. 279-78.

Q. overlooks Maimonides' the second minimizes about agnostic a Maimoni of analogical language tent of analogy. in a metaphysical of relations between different theory of entities. a. ad 3. analogy metaphor. existent. In Maimonides. Summa Theologiae 1. Libros Sententiarum of 2. 3. 19. See. especially. as manifested identify It is for in the world 737 an this is that talk is more than it is linguistic Aquinas. and a. At ontological one who has produced talk about God's actions about God's essence. conversely. for instance. Q. Q. for instance. and other the dis as a necessary between and crea God. 1." 44 that every agent produces Aquinas adopts the principle something like itself (omne agens agit sibi simile) and views the that is in someway creative activity of God as directed only to being (esse). a. a. cated or the sense. ad 1. 3. existents is not broached In (caused) it is. 847-48. chap. 166-67. Mai capabilities.44 in the divine being (ipsum esse per se subsistens) as their On Maimonides' view. their nature. 2. creatures 41 this is a cogent demonstration See Guide 1. Summa Contra Gentiles 1. 131: "Accordingly of the qualificative to Him and the that the meaning attributions ascribed of the attributions known to us have nothing in common in any meaning have in common only the name respect or in any mode. 3." and nothing 42 "Les attributs. De Potentia Dei Q.41 If Maimonides' insight later insistence developed is simply a veiled way of capturing suggest?then and retains the Mai by Aquinas?as remains monides Aquinas's God?as dean is in intent. (uncaused) as contingent at all. creatures. 18.43 and he. the supposed "rela and. the predication. Aquinas. concerns the way nature. ad 4. The Unknowable 31-32 and 93-99. if not formulation. "Via negationis. God. On more both analogical explicit critique con the positive a of action.56." 144-48. See also the development this issue in Burrell. . best they merely a certain effect. 43 for instance. a. as on that issue very emerges of attributes that the fundamental. 1. a. 3. 22 and chap. a. consequently. because creatures by way of their very receive being their (esse) exis participate very source.MAIMONIDESAND AQUINAS temporal as agent reason not also For rooted kinds monides. Johnson. Penido. 5. 1.42 And if of analogy theory others suggest?then But the first intent. some when predi of God grounds. dist. "Maimonides and Aquinas. insists other and on an equivocal use of terms also on metaphysical creatures. 2." See. and activities. 29. these attributions else. 44. and Broadie. See. thinkers ontological the approach status of divine of creative concept tion" between God tance tures. activity. p. Q. negative Thomistic. instead.

738 tence as a result JOSEPH A. they stand so to speak. BUIJS of divine but once in existence. than Franck's classifi to uncover a number of philosophical and Maimonides Franck ology on the falls differences on other. it is nevertheless by and large plausible when applied to St Joseph's College. Maimonides. re moreover. while Franck's of his own and theology between defense radical between Aquinas Maimonides of negative and the short in the case version of negative theology. the And on negative one hand. negative a wider veals spectrum cation initially A carefully of two distinct those theses within formulation of negative theology It also serves recognized. IV Franck's In conclusion. often similar termi Despite remain and Maimonides and philo Aquinas fundamentally at a distance. appeal as being the historical ides among to Aquinas Maimon alongside un roots of negative theology covers the need to distinguish theology. from God. sophically different. The University of Alberta . agency. nology. theses.

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