Phil HL - Religious Language - Via Negativa

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Phil HL - Religious Language - Via Negativa

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Phil HL - Religious Language - Via Negativa
  1. people should only talk about God in negative terms
    1. This doesn't mean to criticize God or speak badly of Him
      1. God is not evil
        1. (because we can't comprehend the goodness of his good)
        2. God is not human
          1. (God is transcendent, therefore doesn't have a body)
          2. God is only described in terms of what he is not.
          3. Via Negativa is very influential in Christianity
            1. religious experiences - used to describe the unexplainable events
              1. Via Negativa emphasises the otherness & transcendence of God
                1. Valued in the Eastern Orthodox Church
                  1. As the Apophatic way
                2. Where did Via Negativa come from?
                  1. Psuedo-Dionysius
                    1. We don't know what it means to say God is Good
                      1. God is 'beyond assertion'
                        1. God is 'beyond denial'
                      2. Plotinus (2nd century CE)
                        1. Plato: the Form of the Good = highest form
                          1. Plotinus believed this form is linked with God
                        2. Maimonides (Jewish, 12th century)
                          1. humans can know God exists but nothing else about God (as he is not like humans)
                            1. 'I am who I am'- in Jewish scriptures God is beyond description
                        3. Problems
                          1. Brian Davies
                            1. Describing something in terms of what it is not doesn't tell us what it actually is
                            2. religious people don't use Via Negativa
                              1. It fails to confirm any attributes we normally associate with God
                              2. Strengths
                                1. avoids anthropomorphic statements about God as these limit God
                                  1. anthropomorphic: to assign human qualities
                                  2. recognises that God is ineffable
                                    1. ineffable: incapable of describing/expressing
                                    2. Can give a profound sense of the transcendence
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