Moses Maimonides Archives



More Generally: Historical Thinkers (316)

August 24, 2021

Apophaticism and Religious Pluralism

Many world religions include some tendency toward, or tradition of, apophaticism, the view that the divine (or ultimate, or absolute, the object of our religious devotion) defies description in human language, and we must therefore restrict ourselves to saying what the divine is not. However, most of these religions are also committed to texts or traditions which appear to describe the divine in various positive ways. Puzzles arise when we attempt to combine these traditions of negative (or apophatic) theology and positive (or kataphatic) theology. If we can speak truly of God only by negation, what are we to make...
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February 24, 2020

Making (Non)Sense of Apophatic Theology

Recently, I've been trying to sort out the historical context of Berkeley's remarks on the divine attributes—and particularly the doctrine of analogy—in Alciphron 4. As this text shows, early modern philosophers were much more knowledgeable about, and influenced by, medieval philosophy than is often assumed. So I've been reading up on medieval understandings of analogy and apophaticism. Unrelatedly, I've also been reading through Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief. This is a hugely influential book, and I'd read—and even taught—the crucial central portion of the book but (I must admit) this is my first time reading it cover to cover. In part...
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November 18, 2019

Moderate Divine Simplicity

According to the weak doctrine of divine simplicity—endorsed by nearly all theists—God has no proper parts. That is, there is no literal composition in God. According to the strong doctrine of divine simplicity—rooted in Neoplatonism and given classical expression by philosophers such as ibn Sina, Maimonides, and Aquinas—there is in God no metaphysically real complexity of any kind. For instance, in a human judge mercy and justice are two different traits of character that could come into conflict, but God's mercy just is God's justice which just is God. Further, according to the strong doctrine, God's essence just is God's...
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