Faith as Poiesis in Nicholas of Cusa's pursuit of wisdom

In Gerald Christianson & Thomas M. Izbicki (eds.), Nicholas of Cusa and times of transition: essays in honor of Gerald Christianson. Boston: Brill (2019)
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Abstract

This article discusses how Nicholas of Cusa’s speculative philosophy harbors an ecumenical spirit that is deeply entwined and in tension with his commitment to incarnational mystical theology. On the basis of my discussion of this tension, I intend to show that Nicholas understands “faith” as a poietic activity whose legitimacy is rooted less in the independent veracity of the beliefs in question than in the potential of particular religious conventions to aid intellectual processes of self-interpretation. In undertaking this analysis, the paper will use Nicholas of Cusa’s De pace fidei—whose overt intention is to show that all forms of religious practice presuppose the same universal faith—as an interpretive lens to explore implications of the philosophical anthropology that Nicholas offers in treatises such as De ludo globi and De venatione sapientiae. Thus, I will argue that Nicholas’ appreciation of the inevitability of religious diversity in the temporal world funds the consistently favored view in his speculative works that “faith” is a virtue only insofar as its adherent genuinely remains in search of understanding and that, consequently, religious beliefs should function as nothing more than tools for creative activity, interpretation, and inquiry.

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Jason Aleksander
San Jose State University

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