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CHAPTER XIIIHow the aforesaid Relations are predicated of God

IT cannot be said that the aforesaid relations are things existing outside of God.209209It is not difficult to recognise as combated here the sequel of a theory rejected already (B.I, Chap. LI), the theory of Avicenna. For since God is first of beings and highest of excellencies, we should have to consider other relations of God to those relations, supposing them to be things; and if the second relations again were things, we should have to invent again a third set of relations, and so on to infinity.210210This is the celebrated τρίτος ἄνθρωπος argument, originated by Plato himself against his own theory of Ideas, Parmenides, 132. Again, there are two ways in which a denomination may be predicated. A thing is denominated from what is outside it, as from place a man is said to be ‘somewhere,’ and from time ‘once’; and again a thing is denominated from what is within it, as ‘white’ from whiteness. But from relation nothing is found to bear a denomination as from something outside itself, but only as from something within itself: thus a man is not called ‘father’ except from the paternity that is in him. It is impossible therefore for the relations, whereby God has relation to the creature, to be anything outside God. Since then it has been shown that they are not in Him really and yet are predicated of Him, the only possible conclusion is that they are attributed to Him merely by our mode of thought, inasmuch as other beings are in relation to Him: for when our understanding conceives that A is related to B, it further conceives that B is related to A, even though sometimes B is not really so related.

Hence it is also clear that the aforesaid relations are not predicated of God in the same way that other things are predicated of God: for all other things, as wisdom or will, are predicated of His essence, while the aforesaid relations are by no means so predicated, but only according to our mode of thought. And yet our thought is not at fault: for, by the very fact of our mind knowing that the relations of effects of divine power have God himself for their term it predicates some things of Him relatively.


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