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Cajetan, Cardinal (1469–1534)


Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio), the most influential Renaissance Thomist, studied and taught in Italy, early distinguishing himself in teaching, commentaries, and debates as a philosopher and theologian. Rising to the leadership of the Dominican Order and becoming prominent in ecclesiastical politics, he was made cardinal in 1517. In 15181519 he disputed with Martin Luther.

Cajetan's works number more than a hundred titles. His later writing was primarily devoted to biblical exegesis; his primary contributions to Thomistic philosophy and theology are due to his earlier commentaries and treatises, most notably his commentary on St. Thomas Aquinas's De Ente et Essentia (On being and essence, 1495), his treatise De Nominum Analogia (On the analogy of names, 1498), and his formidable commentary on Aquinas's Summa Theologiae (15071522), which is printed with the pontifical (Leonine) edition of Aquinas's work. Other significant philosophical works include commentaries on Porphyry's Isagoge and on Aristotle's Categories, Posterior Analytics, De Anima, Physics, and Metaphysics (these last two have never been published), and a treatise on economics.

The De Ente et Essentia commentary is a sophisticated defense of Aquinas's metaphysics, loosely organized in question format, clarifying (inter alia) the Thomistic theses that being is the first object of cognition, that matter is the principle of individuation, and that essence and existence are really distinct in creatures. Sensitively attending to language, the work, with the Categories commentary, is also an important source for Cajetan's realist semantics.

De Nominum Analogia teaches a threefold classification and hierarchy of analogical signification. Analogy of inequality only counts as analogy from the metaphysician's perspective; logically, it is a form of univocation (as body is predicated equally of, though realized differently in, plant and stone). Analogy of attribution is Aristotle's pros hen equivocation; a term naming primarily one thing is extended to others by virtue of their relation to the first, as healthy denominates animal (intrinsically, as subject of health) and medicine (extrinsically, as cause of the animal's health). Analogy of proportionality is based not on a relation, but on a similarity of relations (as the body's ocular vision is proportional to the soul's intellectual vision). When proper and not merely metaphorical, denomination here is always intrinsic. Cajetan regards this as the most genuine form, a true mean between univocation and equivocation, and the majority of his treatise explores the implications (for abstraction, judgment, and reasoning) of proportionally similar concepts.

Cajetan's writings are shaped by the polemical context of Renaissance Thomism. Concerned to address the objections of humanists (such as Count Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, whom he debated in 1495), Italian Averroists, and especially Scotists (foremost Anthony Trombetta, his contemporary at Padua and primary dialectical target of the De Ente commentary), Cajetan does not simply repeat formulas from Aquinas, he rearticulates Thomistic ideas in sometimes novel terminology. Despite this, and notwithstanding apparent departures from Aquinas on particular points (e.g., whether the soul's immortality is demonstrable), Cajetan was long regarded as a definitively authoritative expositor of Aquinas. When the twentieth-century Thomistic revival, distinguishing the historical Aquinas from longstanding scholastic traditions, emphasized differences between Cajetan and Aquinas, Étienne Gilson and others criticized Cajetan, especially on the topics of abstraction and existence. On analogy some scholars challenged whether the elements of Cajetan's comprehensive, systematic theoryespecially the discussion of extrinsic versus intrinsic denomination, the preference for proportionality, and the threefold classification itselfare warranted from Aquinas's rather more dispersed and occasional reflections on the subject. Whether Cajetan's distinct philosophical vocabulary is a departure from the mind of his master, or a legitimate development of authentic Thomism in light of the innovations of the intervening centuries, remains a question, but the forcefulness of his mind has never been doubted.

See also Aristotle; Humanism; Thomas Aquinas, St.; Thomism.


works by cajetan

The Analogy of Names, and the Concept of Being. Translated by Edward A. Bushinski and Henry J. Koren. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1953.

Commentary on Being and Essence. Translated by Lottie H. Kendzierski and Francis C. Wade. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1964.

works about cajetan

Reilly, John P. Cajetan's Notion of Existence. The Hague: Mouton, 1971.

Riva, Franco. Analogia e univocità in Tommaso de Vio "Gaetano." Milan, Italy: Vita e Pensiero, 1995.

Joshua P. Hochschild (2005)

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