Metalinguistic apophaticism

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (forthcoming)
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A conviction had by many Christians over many centuries is that natural language is inadequate for describing God. This is the doctrine of divine ineffability. Apophaticism understands divine ineffability as it being justified or proper to negate statements that describe God. This paper develops and defends a version of apophaticism in which the negation involved is metalinguistic. The interest of this metalinguistic apophaticism is two-fold. First, it provides a philosophical model of historical apophaticisms that shows their rational coherence. Second, metalinguistic apophaticism enables a minimal understanding of ineffability that is independently plausible given its minor commitments.

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Peter van Elswyk
Northwestern University


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