Where a Silence is Said: The Ambiguities of Apophaticism

Williams, Duane Where a Silence is Said: The Ambiguities of Apophaticism. Skespi, 2 (2). p. 1. ISSN 1728-2679

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Abstract

It is understood by mystical traditions the world over that none of the predicates offered by cataphatic discourse legitimately describes God as God. As we cannot, according to this thinking, sufficiently posit that God is this or that, we are instead forced through negation to say that God is not this, not that. These denials, however, are still propositions about God, albeit negative ones. To overcome the problem of positive propositions or negative propositions, a method is sought that seeks to negate the propositional altogether and so moves beyond assertion or denial.In this respect, an apophatic language is employed that is deliberately and necessarily ambiguous or equivocal. This language, which consists of metaphorical opposites rather than literal contradictions, serves through self-subversive imagery to undermine its own meanings, to the point of collapsing in on itself. Accordingly, language of this kind neither seeks to say what God is, nor to say what God is not, but rather unsays what God might or might not be by indicating through saying what cannot be said.Additionally, this ambiguous unsaying refrains from not saying at all. This unsaying therefore has its emphasis on saying, which tells us that, on the one hand, saying as predication is not adequate to the demands, whilst, on the other hand, the absence of saying altogether is likewise inadequate. Thus, the not-sayable needs the saying of language even if the result is to unsay, just as the saying of language needs in this instance the not-sayable in order to unsay.This not only serves to disclose in Being itself an unavoidable ambiguity resulting from language, but also shows that language on another level is indispensable and a requisite for conveying what it cannot convey. Accordingly, where language is understood to fail, it is nevertheless language itself that informs us of that very failing, which in turn serves to question the supposed failure.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Theology, Philosophy and Religion
Depositing User: Susan Murray
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2013 17:07
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2016 13:23
URI: http://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/164

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