Apophatic Language, the Aesthetic, and the Sensus Divinitatis

Julianne N. Chung


Across a variety of religious and philosophical traditions, it is common to think that it is possible that God defies all description. This presents a problem, however, as the claim that God defies all description itself appears to describe God. Drawing on multiple religious and philosophical traditions, this paper proposes an addition to the pragmatic stock of approaches to this problem. The proposal is that apophatic utterances are best interpreted—at least in the first instance—as invitations to engage the world aesthetically and creatively, as an act of faith. Their goal is principally to motivate us to act in ways that will allow us to appreciate the extraordinary or divine, rather than to, say, believe that some proposition regarding the extraordinary or divine is true (even if we might come to accept, and perhaps even believe, propositions as a result of our appreciative actions).

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12978/jat.2020-8.0920-65020706


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The Journal of Analytic Theology is a publication of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

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