Aquinas on Scriptural Metaphor and Allegory

This paper attempts to situate Thomas Aquinas with respect to philosophical discussions of the nature of metaphorical language. I consider Aquinas’s comments in the Summa Theologiae on Scriptural metaphor and allegory in the light of two theses in current discussions of metaphor: the substitution thesis and the dual-meaning thesis. I compare Aquinas’s view to those of Aristotle and Donald Davidson. The substitution thesis asserts that figurative expressions can be replaced by semantically equivalent literal expressions. The dual-meaning thesis asserts that, in addition to a literal meaning (or sense), metaphorical language possesses another meaning, viz. a figurative one. I claim that Aquinas’s view is complex. He affirms the dual-meaning thesis with regard to Scriptural allegory. Yet he rejects the dual-meaning thesis and affirms the substitution thesis with regard to predicates ascribed metaphorically to God
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DOI 10.5840/acpaproc2002761
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