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Speaking between the Known and the Unknown

Mackinlay, Shane (2012) Speaking between the Known and the Unknown. In: Biennial Conference in Philosophy, Religion and Culture: The Expressible and the Inexpressible, 5-7 October 2012, Catholic Institute of Sydney.


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Philosophers sometimes distinguish some types of discourse as being particularly suited for speech to or about God. For instance, Heidegger‘s analysis of onto-theo-logy suggests that classical metaphysical language reduces God to a being amongst beings, albeit the highest being. In a similar vein, Jean-Luc Marion argues that the discourse of praise avoids this reduction by drawing on the via eminentiae of apophatic theology. This paper will argue that, while there are clear differences between kinds of discourse, all discourse involves both the known and the unknown. Thus, apparently impersonal statements of scientific fact are actually historical, provisional, cultural and directed towards a particular purpose. They assert some knowns, but also imply unknowns, in relation to which they will be revised. Similarly, even religious discourse that explicitly prescinds from conceptual affirmations about God still depends on articulating shared meanings and concepts. Though it may be directed toward the excessive and transcendent, if it was concerned with the unknown only as unknown, it would become meaningless. The paper will conclude that there are significant resemblances between types of discourse such as scientific observation and religious worship, which are often radically separated from one another.

Item Type: Conference Papers (Paper)
Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
Keywords: onto-theo-logy, apophatic theology, Dionysius, saturated phenomenon, hermeneutic circle
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220307 Hermeneutic and Critical Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220315 Philosophy of Religion
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Philosophy
College/Association with University of Divinity: CTC: Catholic Theological College
Depositing User: Assoc. Prof. Shane Mackinlay
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2012 22:48
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2012 22:48
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1110

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