Friday, January 16, 2009

Aquinas on different kinds of correlatives

Aquinas says that the Son and Spirit are opposites, but we can ask: what kinds of opposites are they? In the last post, I explained why Aquinas thinks that of Aristotle's four kinds of opposites, the Son and Spirit are only opposites in the way that correlatives are opposites. However, there are different kinds of correlatives, so Aquinas needs to say something about the different kinds of correlatives.

To that end, Aquinas says that correlatives come in two kinds: those based on ‘quantity’, and those based on ‘action’. (Note that Aquinas surely has book 5 of Aristotle's Metaphysics in mind here.) Let’s look at each in turn.

(a) Quantity. The term ‘quantity’ is a little misleading in this context, and Aquinas's comments ehre can be a little obscure. Here's the stuff to keep in mind. Instead of ‘quantity’, it would probably be more helpful to talk about ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’. Let me explain.

Whenever two things are the same in some way, they are said to be ‘one’ in that way. For example, Socrates and Plato are the same kinds of things: they are both humans. Thus, we can say that they are ‘one in kind’. In this sense, sameness is based on situations where two things are ‘one’ in some way.

But when two things are different in some way, they are said to be ‘many’ in that way. Socrates and Felix the cat, for example, are different kinds of things. One is a human, and the other is a cat. Thus, we can say that they are ‘many in kind’ (in the sense that there are many (more than one) kinds of things there). In this sense, difference is based on situations where two things are ‘many’ in some way.

Now, talking about ‘one’ and ‘many’ makes it sound as if we’re talking about quantities — either one or many — and so Aquinas (following Aristotle) classes this kind of sameness and difference under the broad heading of ‘quantity’. But really, he is thinking of two things being the same (being ‘one’) or different (being ‘many’) in some way.

Aquinas next points out that there are only three ways that something can be ‘one’ or ‘many’ (same or different).

(i) First, two things can be the same or different with respect to substance. This is what the medievals (and us too) call identity and distinction. That is, when some x and y are they very same thing, they are identical, but when they are two things, then they’re distinct. For example, Cicero and Tully are identical, for ‘Cicero’ and ‘Tully’ are just two names for one and the same person. But Cicero and Plato are distinct, because Cicero and Plato are two separate persons.

(ii) Second, two things can be the same or different with respect to quantity. This is what the medievals (and us too) call equality and inequality. Note that here Aquinas is talking about ‘quantity’ in the strict sense (as in, the second of Aristotle’s categories). When two things are the same size/weight/some other quantity, then they are equal with respect to quantity, but otherwise they’re unequal. For example, two 10kg blocks are equal in weight, but a 10kg block and a 5kg block are unequal in weight.

(iii) Third, two things can be the same or different with respect to quality. This is what the medievals (and us too) call similarity and dissimilarity. When two things are the same in color, temperature, or some other quality, then they are similar with respect to quality, but otherwise they’re dissimilar with respect to quality. For example, the white table in my kitchen and the white walls in my living room are similar in color, but black cows and red cows are dissimilar in color.

At this particular point in his text then, when Aquinas talks about correlatives that are founded on ‘quantity’, he is talking about two things being ‘one’ or ‘many’ (same or different) in one of these three ways. Aquinas does not always talk about ‘quantity’ correlatives like this. More frequently, he talks about ‘quantity’ in the stricter sense, in which case he is talking about equality and inequality (type (ii) above). Here, I’ll just say ‘sameness-correlatives’ when I mean the broader kind based on ‘one’ and ‘many’, and I’ll reserve the word ‘quantity’ for the strict sense that pertains to equality and inequality.

(b) Action. The second kind of correlative is based on action. These sorts of correlatives occur between two things where one acts in some way on the other. In these cases, one thing x acts on another thing y, and a specific relationship occurs between the two that is based on that action.

Aquinas gives ‘mover’ and ‘moved’ as an example. When one thing moves another, there is a reciprocal relationship there: one thing does the moving, and the other gets moved. The mover/moved relationship is based on the mover’s activity that causes the movement.

Aquinas also gives ‘master’ and ‘slave’ as an example. The idea is that a master/slave relationship is based on the activity of governing and being governed: the master governs the slave, and the slave is governed by the master. Another example Aquinas gives is ‘father’ and ‘son’, for the father/son relationship is based on the father’s reproductive activity that brought the son into being: the father does the producing, and the son is produced.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What became of that (comparably better) picture that once graced the top portion of this blog?

Also, just what was the scenery that was captured in that picture?

I rather liked that one!

JT Paasch said...

Ah, but the previous picture wasn't so boring. =)

The previous picture was taken from the driveway of a house very near the Gibraltar tip of Spain. And get this, it was taken on Christmas day.