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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 17-04-14 11:49


  • Against via negative because rejects the use of negative language for God as it does not say anything directly about God, language needs to be more concrete when applied to God
  • Against univocal (words used universally, same in each scenario eg pig is fat Steve is fat) and equivocal language (words that are dependent on context eg love etc subjective) and states analogy is a middle ground (bible uses equivocal)


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Aquinas: Analogy of Attribution

  • Brian Davies example= the bread is good, the baker is good
  • Aquinas’ example= animal is healthy, animal’s urine is healthy (although the health of urine and animal are different they are connected as the animal produced the urine- don’t have to see animal, urine show it is healthy)
  • Look at the world and without seeing the creator you can understand things about the creator
  • Because God created the world God is revealed through it
  • It remains unclear what it means for God to be ‘good’ all we can do is deduce from the good creation God Is good- attributing qualities to God
  • A Posteriori (observation)


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Aquinas: Analogy of Proportion

  • Refers to the nature of what something is
  • Example= a tribe in an Amazonian jungle, all mathematicians have never seen a car before, you tell them you have the perfect car and although they have never seen a car before they understand what it means to be perfect as they know a perfect circle, they have an idea of perfection
  • We have an idea of perfection and good and therefore understand Godin proportion to these
  • God measures up to what we believe is good- subjective
  • A Priori


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Ian Ramsey

  • His models and qualifiers relate to analogy
  • Models are words and titles applied to God eg the human brain is like a computer but this does not tell us enough (meaningless) therefore they need qualifiers eg the brain is like a computer but is not made up of microchips
  • When we use language to describe God this functions as a model and qualifiers are needed for a new level of understanding (disclosure)
  • Eg model= God is good model + qualifier= God is infinitely good
  • Adds to Aquinas’ argument, giving more information, setting God apart from humans – avoiding anthropomorphism


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J Ross

  • Purpose of Aquinas was to make the meaningfulness of religious language obvious and clear by pointing out its similarity to everyday language not by stipulating some exact mathematical relationship
  • Aquinas simply did not intend this theory of meaning to be used as a means of arriving at information about God, his character, perfections or attributes
  • Aquinas’ aim was to explain how predicates applied to God have meaning


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  • Dr Fry:
    • There is no middle way between univocal and equivocal language
  • Ferre:
    • Analogy of proportion is unable to provide any real understanding of God as this kind of analogy has two unknowns (God’s wisdom and Gods’ infinite nature)- no empirical evidence
    • Analogy of attribution does not work because whilst we may think of God as the cause of a property in his creatures it does not force us to have to think of God himself possessing such qualities
    • Analogy of attribution is ‘excessively permissible' Eg God is sweet smelling
  • Colin Brown:
    • Maintains that analogy needs to be linked to religious experience
    • Religious experience is an empirical grounding
    • But religious experiences are described as ineffable
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths:
    • Overcoming problems of via negative
    • Middle ground between univocal and equivocal
    • Meets Aquinas’ original intention to only understand God enough to worship
    • Relatable/ accessible uses analogies that are present in everyday life
    • Ramsey/ J Ross
  • Weaknesses:
    • Subjective eg father has different connotations to others
    • Univivocal language could be seen as stronger
    • Far too selective: evil?
    • Analogy needs empirical evidence
    • Contradicts the way in which theists wrote about God in bible (use equivocal)
    • No language that uses material images can describe God- Plotinus
    • Dr Fry/ Colin Brown/ Ferre
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