In addition to being arguably the greatest Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides was also the most radical of the medieval proponents of “negativetheology”. Building on some recent important work by Ehud Benor, I propose to discuss the puzzles and paradoxes of negativetheology not as simply peculiar to Maimonides’ thought, but as revealing something that can assume great importance for religious life at virtually any time. My discussion will begin with a brief review of well known (...) aspects of Maimonides’ view; following that I will say something about Wittgensteinian views of religious language; then I will return to Maimonides’ negativetheology; and finally I will consider some philosophical criticisms, not only of Maimonides’ view but of the medieval discussion as a whole. (shrink)
IN A RECENT ARTICLE, the late Isaac Franck presented both Maimonides and Aquinas as prominent proponents of negativetheology; he went on to defend negativetheology against a number of contemporary criticisms. More specifically, Franck set out to defend what he called "a radical negativetheology." By this he meant.
This article explores Derrida's reading of negativetheology and, in particular, his dramatic claim that there would be no politics ‘without’ negativetheology. It begins by summarising the general thrust of Derrida's critique of negativetheology. It then focuses upon the complex history of the term ‘without’ in Derrida's texts on Pseudo‐Dionysius, Angelus Silesius and others. Finally, the article places this reading of negativetheology in the context of the so‐called ‘political turn’ (...) in Derrida's texts in recent years. The concept of the ‘without’, it argues, belongs with, and helps to clarify, comparatively more famous Derridaean political themes like the decision, the impossible and religion without religion. In conclusion, the article argues that a better understanding of Derrida's claim that there would be no politics ‘without’ negativetheology might also lead to a better understanding of the politics of deconstruction. (shrink)
The tradition of negativetheology has very deep roots which go back to the Late Greek Antiquity and the Early Christian period. Although Dionysius is usually regarded as “the Father” of negativetheology, yet he has not initiated a revolution in the religious philosophy, but rather brought together various elements of thinking regarding the knowledge of God and built a system which is a synthesis of Platonic, neo-Platonic and Christian ideas. The aim of this article is (...) to illustrate the views of some more modern theologians on the nature, types and levels of apophaticism in the Greek Patristic tradition, trying to establish the role that negation can play in facilitating man’s attaining to the knowledge of God. (shrink)
In his warranted christian belief, Alvin Plantinga launches a forceful attack on apophaticism, the view that God is in some sense or other beyond description. This paper explores his attack before searching for a Plantinga-proof formulation of apophaticism.
Jason Lagapa’s NegativeTheology and Utopian Thought in Contemporary American Poetry tackles a question that has been a difficult one to address for critics attempting to discuss contemporary experimental poetry in the line of “ Language writing.” This is a tradition that claims to be politically engaged but which nevertheless does not tend explicitly to exhort its readers to take concrete political actions. How can we thus judge this poetry’s political efficacy when there are no clear or obvious (...) political actions associated with it? Lagapa’s recourse to negativetheology and utopian thought tells us that we should pay close attention to matters... (shrink)
Negativetheology is the attempt to describe God by speaking in terms of what God is not. Historical affinities between Jewish modernity and negativetheology indicate new directions for thematizing the modern Jewish experience. Questions such as, What are the limits of Jewish modernity in terms of negativity? Has this creative tradition exhausted itself? and How might Jewish thought go forward? anchor these original essays. Taken together they explore the roots and legacies of negative (...) class='Hi'>theology in Jewish thought, examine the viability and limits of theorizing the modern Jewish experience as negativetheology, and offer a fresh perspective from which to approach Jewish intellectual history. (shrink)
A hallmark of Christian mysticism is negativetheology, which refers to the school of thought that gives prominence to negation in reference to God. By denying the possibility to name God, negativetheology cuts at the very root of our cognitive makeup--the human impulse to name and put things into categories--and thereby situates us "halfway between a 'no longer' and a 'not yet'" , a temporality in which "the past is negated, but...the present is not yet (...) formulated" . The affective corollary of this "no longer" and "not yet" state is the "dark night of the soul" that mystics are known to have bouts of. One particular variant of the "dark night of the soul" is awe, which will be the focus of this paper. My investigation starts with an introduction to the two primary themes of negativetheology--negativity and self-reflexivity, followed by a critique of D. Keltner and J. Haidt's model of awe, which is compared with R. Otto's phenomenology of mysticism in general and religious awe in particular. In the concluding section, I examine the relevance of religious awe to contemporary life on the one hand, and to emotion research on the other. 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
In Plato's Parmenides we find on the one hand that the One is denied every property , and on the other hand that the One is attributed every property . In the course of the history of Platonism , these assertions - probably meant by Plato as ontological statements of an entirely formal nature - were repeatedly made the starting points of metaphysical speculations. In the Mystical Theology of the Pseudo-Dionysius they became principles of Christian mysticism and negative (...)theology. I shall show that the two assertions can each be interpreted within the ontological framework of ancient and medieval logic in such a manner that it becomes true, and I shall make plausible that they were understood, with regard to their logical core, by pagan and Christian Platonic metaphysicians just as is indicated by that interpretation. The mentioned ontological framework is basically the Boolean algebra of first-order properties. The main points of the interpretation are on the one hand the identification of the One with the maximal element of the algebra of properties, and on the other hand two alternative intuitively prominent mereological definitions of ontic predication. (shrink)
This essay represents part of an effort to rewrite the history metaphysics in terms of what philosophy never said, nor could say. It works from the Neoplatonic commentary tradition on Plato's Parmenides as the matrix for a distinctively apophatic thinking that takes the truth of metaphysical doctrines as something other than anything that can be logically articulated. It focuses on Damascius in the 5—6th century AD as the culmination of this tradition in the ancient world and emphasizes that Neoplatonism represents (...) the crisis of Greek metaphysics on account of the inability to give a rational account of foundations for knowing and of the ultimate principle of beings. Neoplatonism discovered how all such ultimate principles were necessarily beyond the reach of reason and speech. This apophatic insight is drawn out with the help of contemporary criticism of Neoplatonic philosophy, defining also some points of divergence. The essay then discusses the motives for thinking the unsayable in postmodern times on the basis of this parallel with Neoplatonic thought. Discourse's becoming critical of itself to the point of self-subversion animates them both. However, the tendency in postmodern thought to totally reject theology, including negativetheology, is a betrayal of its own deepest motivations. This tendency is debated through an examination of the thought of Jean-Luc Nancy. While any traditional discourse can be negated, the negating and self-negating capacity of discourse itself is infinite, and this is where a perennial negative theological philosophy of the unsayable is to be located. Language, eminently the language of philosophy, as infinitely open, points in a direction which becomes equally and ineluctably theological. (shrink)
Semën Frank (1877–1950) considered the Universe as the “all-unity.” According to him, everything is a part of the all-unity, which has a divine character. God is present in the world, but his nature is incomprehensible. In this article I analyze two consequences of Frank’s panentheistic view of the relation between science and theology. Firstly, the limits of scientific knowledge allow recognition of the mystery of the world and the transcendence of God. Secondly, Frank claimed that nature is a “trace” (...) of God and the manifestation of the absolute reality, i.e. the all-unity. As a result, both science and theology lead to the knowledge of God, although we cannot understand His essence. (shrink)
Negativetheology or apophasis - the idea that God is best identified in terms of 'absence', 'otherness', 'difference' - has been influential in modern Christian thought, resonating as it does with secular notions of negation developed in continental philosophy. Apophasis also has a strong intellectual history dating back to the early Church Fathers. Silence and the Word both studies the history of apophasis and examines its relationship with contemporary secular philosophy. Leading Christian thinkers explore in their own way (...) the extent to which the concept of the apophatic illumines some of the deepest doctrinal structures of Christian faith, and of Christian self-understanding both in terms of its historical and contemporary situatedness, showing how a dimension of negativity has characterised not only traditional mysticism but most forms of Christian thought over the years. (shrink)
This article elaborates Theodor W. Adorno’s understanding of ‘negation’ and ‘negativetheology.’ It proceeds by introducing a typology of negation within modern philosophy roughly from Descartes onwards, showing how Adorno both fits and also stands out in this typology. Ultimately, it is argued that Adorno’s approach to negation and thereby to negativetheology is throughout distinguished and infused by an ethical commitment.
Jean-Francois Lyotard's essay `Adorno as the Devil' had argued that Theodor Adorno's Philosophy of Modern Music was a `diabolic' work of `negativetheology' which attributed to Schoenberg's music a secret redemptive power. However, in his later writings, such as the essays in The Inhuman, Lyotard has himself moved close to a `negative theological' position with respect to modernity, time, aesthetics and music. The paper uses the occasion of Lyotard's own theologically inspired essays on music, `God and Puppet' (...) and `Obedience', to re-evaluate the following: Adorno's claims that music transcends mere language and `reaches' for the theological; and more general claims within modern western culture on behalf of music's ability to express the inexpressible. The argument is that the music as negativetheology position is not inherently metaphysical but rather that it reflects the importance of the `unsayable' to modern conceptions of reason. In resisting the `closure' of the modern narrative of reason, music, as a temporal art, has often given expression to the more radical forms of alterity present within modern forms of time. In other words, negativetheology is not the discourse of the devil; it is the impossible discourse of western reason and its internal fracturing. (shrink)
This book argues that hope is the indispensable precondition of religious practice and secular politics. Against dogmatic complacency and despairing resignation, David Newheiser argues that hope sustains commitments that remain vulnerable to disappointment. Since the discipline of hope is shared by believers and unbelievers alike, its persistence indicates that faith has a future in a secular age. Drawing on premodern theology and postmodern theory, Newheiser shows that atheism and Christianity have more in common than they often acknowledge. Writing in (...) a clear and engaging style, he develops a new reading of deconstruction and negativetheology, arguing that they share a self-critical hope. By retrieving texts and traditions that are rarely read together, this book offers a major intervention in debates over the place of religion in public life. (shrink)
""This book contains a careful, thorough, and where necessary skeptical as regards doubtful evidence of the beginnings in European thought of the negative or apophatic way of thinking and its relations to more positive or kataphatic ways of thinking about God. One of its greatest strengths, perhaps the greatest, is that the author makes clear that none of the persons concerned, Hellenic, Jewish or Christian, was engaged in the pursuit of a philosophical abstraction, or the heaping of rhetorical superlatives (...) on God. They were rather concerned to present the origin of the universe as an intimately present living reality which infinitely transcends our thought and speech. This, combined with careful attention to the varieties of negativetheology and its relations with positive, and the particular difficulties experienced by the members of the various traditions involved, makes the book the best introduction to the negativetheology available."" -A. H. Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of Greek, University of Liverpool, England. Emeritus Professor of Classics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Senior Fellow of the British Academy. Irish academic Deirdre Carabine has lived and taught in Uganda for more than twenty years. She has recently been founder Vice-Chancellor at the Virtual University of Uganda, the first fully online university in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to that she set up International Health Sciences University in Kampala. She has taught at Queen's Belfast, University College Dublin, and Uganda Martyrs University. Currently, she is Director of Programmes at VUU. She attended the Queen's University of Belfast where she graduated with a PhD in philosophy, and University College Dublin where, as one of the first Newman Scholars, she gained a second PhD in Classics. She is also author of John Scottus Eriugena in the Great Medieval Thinkers Series. (shrink)
In this volume, scholars draw deeply on negativetheology in order to consider some of the oldest questions in the philosophy of religion that stand as persistent challenges to inquiry, comprehension, and expression. The chapters engage different philosophical methodologies, cross disciplinary boundaries, and draw on varied cultural traditions in the effort to demonstrate that apophaticism can be a positive resource for contemporary philosophy of religion.
In this paper I present four interpretations of so-called negativetheology and provide a number of attempts to model this theory within a formal system. Unfortunately, all of them fail in some manner. Most of them are simply inconsistent, some contradict the usual religious praxis and discourse, and some do not correspond to the key theses of negativetheology. I believe that this paper shows how challenging this theory is from a logical perspective.
The experience of the impossible churns up in our epoch whenever a collective dream turns to trauma: politically, sexually, economically, and with a certain ultimacy, ecologically. Out of an ancient theological lineage, the figure of the cloud comes to convey possibility in the face of the impossible. An old mystical nonknowing of God now hosts a current knowledge of uncertainty, of indeterminate and interdependent outcomes, possibly catastrophic. Yet the connectivity and collectivity of social movements, of the fragile, unlikely webs of (...) an alternative notion of existence, keep materializing--a haunting hope, densely entangled, suggesting a more convivial, relational world. Catherine Keller brings process, feminist, and ecopolitical theologies into transdisciplinary conversation with continental philosophy, the quantum entanglements of a "participatory universe," and the writings of Nicholas of Cusa, Walt Whitman, A. N. Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and Judith Butler, to develop a "theopoetics of nonseparable difference." Global movements, personal embroilments, religious diversity, the inextricable relations of humans and nonhumans--these phenomena, in their unsettling togetherness, are exceeding our capacity to know and manage. By staging a series of encounters between the nonseparable and the nonknowable, Keller shows what can be born from our cloudiest entanglement. (shrink)
First Eckhart says, "God is a word, an unspoken word." This sentence recalls the beginning of the Gospel of John, but it is curious that Eckhart alludes to its identification of the Word with God precisely here, right after he asserts God's ineffa- ...