“I answer that, Although the good and the true are convertible with being, as to suppositum, yet they differ logically.” -S.T., Ia Q. 16. Art. 4
I needn’t go into the numerous places in Questions 3, 12 and 13 on divine simplicity and divine names where we are told that although the predications and names fall short, they do tell us something substantial of the divine essence. They tell us something substantial of the essence of God because all the operations/energies of God are His essence in strict identification.
Thus, when Aquinas looks at being and it’s transcendentals, it makes sense that he would add beauty to the list of Aristotle’s transcendentals, while thinking that it adds nothing to being, yet is controvertible with it. It’s basically the same as with the divine ousia – God’s essence is beauty, true, good, wisdom, etc. This naming, as has been shown, is based on the analogia entis – reasoning up from creaturely quasi-perfections to the perfections found in the divine essence. But for beauty to be a predicate of the divine essence, based on creaturely appropriation, it requires that we set it off from the ugly or less beautiful. But the reason things are beautiful, in Thomism, is divine exemplarism. In this scheme, all things are thus ultimately perfect, inasmuch as their archetype is in the divine essence as question 15 on the divine ideas argues.
So humans, in their experience, parcel out the beautiful from the ugly in creatures (which is only a logical distinction and does not exist in reality), reason up from that to the notion that there is a supremely simple substance that is “beauty” and “being” and this “God.” But in God, all the archetypes are the supremely simple substance of God’s essence. Furthermore, all these things possess being and thus inasmuch as they possess being, they are beautiful. But this argument began with the idea necessity of distinguishing some things as not beautiful. “Beauty” is not a term that fits into the category of apophatic notions like “inifinity” which are necessarily defined by what they aren’t. Beauty, as this argument goes, begins with created entities.
And remember – the thing that makes things beautiful in Thomism, really, is the divine idea of them – the perfection – that subsists in the essence of God, and not the ding an sich. To know that all things are in some sense beautiful requires the divine perspective to know truly in what sense certain things are more or less beautiful. It requires access to the divine exemplarism, which we certainly cannot attain in Thomism in this life, as such things are reserved for the beatific vision. Eco makes this criticism on page 203 and I’m expanding it and adding a few of my own. Therefore it looks like the beautiful is only convertible with being on the basis of a Thomistic analogia entis, which is based on flawed, monadic absolute divine simplicity, and is inherently flawed and any notion of creaturely predication will also be flawed, though Thomism doesn’t think it’s linguistic predication is grounded in a particular personalist theism – I think it falls under “natural theology,” right? What unnatural conclusions we must come to….