[4.16.3] Meister Eckhart on God, Intellect and Trancendentals

(This post zooms in the structure presented in [4.16.1])

Meister Eckhart (Eckhart von Hochheim 1260 – 1328 AD), in different works written in Latin and German language (Opus Tripartitum, Essential Sermons) writes about the inner structure of the trinitarian God:

  • Eckhart states (unlike Avicenna [3.3.1] and Thomas Aquinas [4.9.3]), that essence of God is the Divine Intellect, which is prior to its being.
  • The transcendentals, which are being, one, truth, good, primarily refer to God, not to creatures, things, as Philip the Chancellor (see [4.7]) and Thomas Aquinas sustain: “according to Thomas, the transcendentals belong to the level of ens or esse commune, while for Eckhart they belong primarily to God.”
  • Eckhart equates the transcendentals with the different persons of the Trinty (Father – One, Son – Truth, Holy Spirit – Good), grounding his theology into philosophy.

The following OntoUML diagram shows Eckhart’s model of God:

ClassDescriptionRelations
EssenceEssence, is the property or set of properties that defines the identity of a substance, and which it has by necessity, and without which ceases to exist. See also [4.9.3]
(Divine)Intellect“Eckhart shows that God possesses no Being outside his thinking. Rather, he possesses unity as the identity of thinking and Being. He is thus pure and uncreatable [Divine] intellect.
Since God is nothing other than pure intellect, it was only through the intellect that he gave all the creatures existence. The unity proper to God is therefore ‘nowhere and never anywhere else than in the intellect, and here too it is not, but is thought.’ Accordingly, God’s unity is realized in his being spirit, which is identical with God. In another passage in the same sermon, Eckhart expresses, with a clarity that could scarcely be stronger, this conviction that God’s simple essence is spirit and nothing else than spirit: ‘The one God is intellect and the intellect is the one God. This is why God is never and nowhere God other than in the intellect’. (Enders)
subkind of Essence; exclusive part of God
GodTrinitarian God
Father“the One or Father initiates the origination of the whole of divinity and all creatures (thus, in the latter case, the generation of plurality), he is the original unity in the divinity.” role of God; communicates, begets Son
SonFor Eckhart it means that the One as the One and Father generates the truth—the third transcendental— as the Son proceeds only from the Father. So the third transcendental (verum) is equated with the Son.” (Hackett, Hart Weed) role of God
HolySpirit(Love)“As later texts by Eckhart show, however, this necessity is based in God’s essential goodness or love. Since God is truly good, and being good consists in communicating oneself, giving a share ungrudgingly in one’s own fullness, and pouring oneself out (bonum est diffusivum sui), God as the perfect good must be ‘the most communicative of all,’ that is to say, the pure gift of self. In his Book of the Divine Consolation, Eckhart expounds this self-communicating love of God in terms of Trinitarian theology: the perfect equality of the divine Son with the divine Father is the ‘ground’ within the Godhead for the ‘birth’ of the Holy Spirit as the divine being of pure love—which is the love of the divine Son for the divine Father. Selflessness, equality, and universality characterize this pure love of the perfect good, into which the human being who has become the son of God by grace is called to enter.” (Enders)
“Father and Son are related to each other. They are to be thought of as Father and as Son only in this relation. At the same time, they relate to each other reciprocally: one is not to think of the Father without the Son nor the Son without Father. If the Son is, so too is the Father, and if the Father exists, so too does the Son. Therefore, one cannot think of any time in which the Father would exist without the Son. […]
Goodness (bonum) belongs to love [the Holy Spirit] and connects them both, Father and Son. It is this connection itself.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)
relates Father with Son
Being“Eckhart starts the argument with the declaration that nothing
arises from the indifferent and the indefinite. He argues that these characteristics (the transcendentals) are suitable for being (esse), because being applies to the inner and essence. So, being is equated with the divine essence. [that is the Divine Intellect].” (Hackett, Hart Weed)
characterizes DivineEssence; subkind of Trancendental
One“Eckhart follows book ten of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and argues that the One as the One is definite through its being one. The One is clearly distinguishable from plurality. Therefore, the One according to its content and peculiarity is the origin of plurality and, hence, the origin of all divinity and of all creatures. Thus, the One is equated with the Father, who is the first origin. Also, as the One or Father initiates the origination of the whole of divinity and all creatures (thus, in the latter case, the generation of plurality), he is the original unity in the divinity. The Father is the One as unity; as unity he is the essence or the essential unity, and being in the One is not being as common being any more, it is simply the One itself.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)characterizes Father; subkind of Transcendental
Truth“One is not being as common being any more, it is simply the One itself. The One at the same time is the prior; hence it is the origin of all. To be the origin means that the One creates everything that is created after the One according to a certain order. For Eckhart it means that the One as the One and Father generates the truth—the third transcendental— as the Son proceeds only from the Father. So the third transcendental (verum) is equated with the Son.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)characterizes Son; subkind of Transcendental
Good“Father (unum) and Son (verum) are one whole, insofar as they have the divine essence (i.e. the same kind of being). The consequence of this unity is the goodness that is generated from the One (Father) and the truth (Son). Goodness (bonum) belongs to love and connects them both, Father and Son. It is this connection itself.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)characterizes HolySpirit(Love); subkind of Transcendental
Transcendental“The main questions of the first four treatises of the Opus tripartitum are Being, Unity, Truth, Goodness, and the concepts that are opposed to these. One significant characteristic of Eckhart’s theory of transcendentals is that they apply primarily not to common being (ens commune) but to the inner life of God. In his Expositio sancti evangelii secundum Iohannem, Eckhart claims that:
‘Those properties which are God’s own are Being or being, Unity, Truth, Goodness. For God has these four transcendental as properties in as much as is ‘the first,’ which is ‘rich in itself.’ God has these because the rich in itself has that which is proper to itself. For the aforementioned four (terms) are for everyone ‘guests’ within the First, and ‘immigrants,’ household members to God.’
In this, Eckhart uses the theory of the transcendentals to provide a philosophical explanation of the inner divine life of the Trinity. Through it, he achieves a new dimension in speculative thinking about the Trinity that leads to the equating of the persons of the Trinity with the transcendentals.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)

Sources:

  • Hackett, Jeremiah and Hart Weed, Jennifer: “From Aquinas to Eckhart on Creation, Creature, and Analogy”, A companion to Meister Eckhart, Brill 2013, edited by Jeremiah M. Hackett.
  • Enders, Markus: “Meister Eckhart’s understanding of God”, A companion to Meister Eckhart, Brill 2013, edited by Jeremiah M. Hackett.
  • Mojsisch, Burkhard and Orrin F. Summerell, “Meister Eckhart“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

First published: 25/7/2021

[4.16.2] Meister Eckhart on Analogy and Univocity

Meister Eckhart (Eckhart von Hochheim 1260 – 1328 AD) in different works written in Latin and German language (Opus Tripartitum, Rechtsfertigungschrift/Defense Document, Essential Sermons, Commentary on Genesis and Commentary on St John) writes about two types of relations with an important role in the process of creation:

  • The analogy relates the uncreated thing to the created (see also [4.16.1]), while the univocal causality has a role when a thing creates itself.
  • Analogy describes the relation between God (uncreated) and all his creatures (created things).
  • We have Univocal causality when the active principle of a thing causes its passive principiate; and this way the thing creates itself. We have this kind of relationship between the persons of Trinity, sight, and object of sight, intellect and object of intellect, just man and justice, free man and freedom etc.

The following OntoUML diagram shows Eckhart’s model of analogy:

Eckhart’s model of analogy
ClassDescriptionRelations
ThingAn existent, a thing.
UncreatedAn uncreated thing, i.e. God.subkind of Thing; creates Created
CreatedA created thing.subkind of Thing
Analogy“Between the uncreated and the created the predominant relationship is one of  analogy, a relationship involving as well the disjunction of the two terms.”  (Mojsisch, Summerell)relates Uncreated with Created
Temporal“The univocal relation is atemporal while the analogue relation is temporal.”
(Hackett, Hart Weed)
characterizes Analogy

The following OntoUML diagram shows Eckhart’s model of univocal causality:

Eckhart’s model of univocal causality
ClassDescriptionRelations
ThingAn existent, a thing.
Active“This means that the active (principle) is at the same time active and passive, being affected in the course of its activity (as principle). In turn, the passive (principiate) is at the same time passive  and active, being active in the course of its passivity (as principiate). Accordingly, a central proposition of Eckhart reads as follows: ‘[Principium et principiatum]… opponuntur relative: in quantum opponuntur, distinguuntur, sed in quantum relative, mutuo se ponunt …‘ (Echardus, In Ioh. n. 197; LW III, 166, 10–12: ‘[The principle and the principiate] … are opposed to one another relatively: Insofar as they are opposed, they are distinguished, but insofar as they are relative, they reciprocally posit themselves …’).  (Mojsisch, Summerell) role of Thing; causes Passive
Passive“This means that the active (principle) is at the same time active and passive, being affected in the course of its activity (as principle). In turn, the passive (principiate) is at the same time passive  and active, being active in the course of its passivity (as principiate). Accordingly, a central proposition of Eckhart reads as follows: ‘[Principium et principiatum]… opponuntur relative: in quantum opponuntur, distinguuntur, sed in quantum relative, mutuo se ponunt …‘ (Echardus, In Ioh. n. 197; LW III, 166, 10–12: ‘[The principle and the principiate] … are opposed to one another relatively: Insofar as they are opposed, they are distinguished, but insofar as they are relative, they reciprocally posit themselves …’).  (Mojsisch, Summerell) role of Thing;
Univocal causality“Eckhart, however, breaks through that metaphysics of being with its analogical base by thinking through the relation of causality informing absolute being. We can assume at least hypothetically that a cause causes not only something dependent on it, but also something equal to it, namely that the cause causes in such a manner that it causes itself.
But if it causes itself, it causes something which is itself also cause and at the same time cause of its cause. Such a mode of causality is called ‘univocal causality’. Our hypothesis of what could be thought in these terms turns into a certainty when we explore the structures of intellectual causality, for example, the relation between the act of thinking and what is thought, or between an ethical principle and an ethical principiate. Their relation is precisely what Eckhart takes advantage of in developing his theory of univocal causality. In these cases, it holds that the principle causes its principiate, and the principiate causes its principle. Even more: The principiate is in its principle nothing other than its principle. […]”  (Mojsisch, Summerell)

“The breakthrough that Eckhart attains through his theory of univocal causality is exemplified by the relation between thinking and thought. For Eckhart, thinking presupposes no origin because a presupposed origin could only be thought by thinking and hence would be a thought of thinking, that is, itself thinking. Thinking is, then, for itself a presuppositionless origin, that is, it is its own principle: principium (Echardus, In Ioh. n. 38; LW III, 32, 11: “… ipsum principium semper est intellectus purus …”: “The principle itself is always pure intellect …”). Any thinking without act, however, is no thinking at all. Consequently, its own originative activity accrues to thinking, that is, insofar as it is a principle, the dynamics of its principiating: principiare. In this activity, however, thinking directs itself towards a thought that it has originated, that is, towards the product that is its principiate: “principiatum. But since this thought is a thought of thinking, it is itself nothing other than thinking. The act of this thinking that has been thought is, then, retrograde. This thought, as thinking, is in turn principle, principiating and principiate, whereby this last is the original thinking. In this way, thinking thinks itself as thought and is therewith active thinking, while thought, insofar as it thinks its thinking, is itself thinking, and its thinking now thought. Consequently, both thinking and thought are at the same time active and passive.
[…]
The result of this analysis: Over against the external relationality of analogue relata, univocal correlationality involves an immanent relationality. Eckhart emphasizes the mutual relatedness of the moments univocal-casually interpenetrating one another . . . The agent imparts to the passive everything which it is able to impart, and the passive receives what has been imparted as its inheritance, not as something merely lent.” (Hackett, Hart Weed)
relates Active with Passive
Atemporal“The univocal relation is atemporal while the analogue relation is temporal.” (Hackett, Hart Weed) characterizes Univocal causality

Sources:

  • Mojsisch, Burkhard and Orrin F. Summerell, “Meister Eckhart“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  • Hackett, Jeremiah and Hart Weed, Jennifer: “From Aquinas to Eckhart on Creation, Creature, and Analogy”, A companion to Meister Eckhart, Brill 2013, edited by Jeremiah M. Hackett.

First published: 16/7/2021