Sunday, August 31, 2008

a realm of analogy

From Just Thomism on "the cause of analogy"

St. Thomas has a well known but often dismissed example concerning the difference between the meaning of a name and its etymology: “stone” was named because it hurt the foot; a similar etymology (from St. Thomas’s source for “stone) was that bees (apes) got their name from having no feet (”a” the alphaprivative, and “pes” for “foot”) But “stone” does not mean “foot hurter”; nor does “bee” mean “footless”.

The critical distinction here is between “that from which the name is taken” and “that to which the name is imposed”. But sometimes both of these two share the same name. At this point, one has analogy. “Light”, for example, first means that physical thing that comes from fire or 60 watt bulbs, but the word later comes to mean the power of reason, then holiness (”let your light so shine before men…” Mt. chap. 6) and then even God himself (God from God, light from light, etc.). The first meaning is “that from which the name is taken”, and the later meanings are the all based on it. St. Thomas’s example shows us that just as one moves from a thing to a sign (hurting the foot to the word “stone”), so too we can move from one sign to another sign analogous to it (light meaning manifestation, light meaning God).
Also, from Wikipedia:

Analogy is both the cognitive process of transferring information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target), and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process....

In ancient Greek the word αναλογια (analogia) originally meant proportionality, in the mathematical sense, and it was indeed sometimes translated to Latin as proportio....Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle actually used a wider notion of analogy. They saw analogy as a shared abstraction (Shelley 2003). Analogous objects did not share necessarily a relation, but also an idea, a pattern, a regularity, an attribute, an effect or a function. These authors also accepted that comparisons, metaphors and "images" (allegories) could be used as valid arguments, and sometimes they called them analogies. Analogies should also make those abstractions easier to understand and give confidence to the ones using them.
I have been thinking about how this concept of analogy relates to the concept of sacramental. ... only perhaps it goes in the other direction.

Flannery O'Connor says:

The Catholic sacramental view of life is one that sustains and supports at every
turn the vision that the storyteller must have if he is going to write fiction of any
depth. [...] The fiction writer presents mystery through manners, grace through
nature, but when he finishes there always has to be left over that sense of mystery
which cannot be accounted for by any human formula.
(Sacramental Realism -- a pdf)

WH Auden wrote that:

"the poet has to preserve and express by art ... that, for man, nature is a realm of sacramental analogies."
The Catechism says:

Primarily in the Eucharist, and by analogy in the other sacraments, the liturgy is the memorial of the mystery of salvation.

Pope John Paul II wrote, speaking of spousal love:

The mystery remains transcendent in regard to this analogy as in regard to any other analogy, whereby we seek to express it in human language. At the same time, however, this analogy offers the possibility of a certain cognitive penetration into the essence of the mystery.
Any analogy will not define, but to some extent allow an understanding of, the thing that it reaches towards. In that way the analogical faculty of the mind reminds me of contemplation. From what I understand though, analogy is a mode of seeing, and contemplation is described by Teresa of Avila thus as a kind of darkness or silence:

"In spiritual quiet one can think of nothing"
Even "spiritual quiet" is an analogy, but then, it is probably a function of language, especially poetry, to try to express what is not ordinarily expressible.

Finally, a paper about John Donne's I am a little world made cunningly.

I think I am trying to get at something that education has to do with -- bringing out truth beyond the simple realm of facts and information. I think this is something to do with what Charlotte Mason hoped from the long, quiet hours out of doors for children that she recommended, and from thoughtful, careful reading of the Good Books.

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