A2 OCR Philosophy: The Via Negativa

I've made some detailed notes on the 'Via Negativa'.

This is for students studying A2 Philosophy with OCR. 

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A2OCRPhilosophyofReligion
ReligiousLanguage(II)
TheViaNegativa
`'WhatonesaysofGodisnottrue,andw hatonedoesnotsayofHimistrue.''­St
AugustineofHippo.
The` ViaN egativa'a lsok nowna sthe` apopathicw ay'i sat heoryi nr eligiousl anguage
whichs uggestst hatw ec anh avead eeperu nderstandingo fG odt hroughu singa popathis
(negation.)I no therw ords,t he`ViaN egativa'u seso nlyn egativest od escribeG od.
Fore xample,G odi s` timeless',`ineffable',` intangible'.
Originsofthe`ViaNegativa':Mysticism
The` ViaN egativa'o riginatedf romt heb eliefso fm ysticismw hichi sb aseda roundt he
ideao fi ndividualo rc ulminatede xperiencesa boutG odw hichh aves tretchedb eyond
ordinaryh umanc onception.M ysticst akea n` agnostic'v iewo fG od,s uggestingt hat
becauseG odi st ranscendent,i ti si mpropert oa ssertt hatG odi ss omethingl ike
`good',a sw eo nlyk nowi nh umant ermsw hat` good'm eans,a ndn otw hena ppliedt oG od.
Fore xample,n eart hee ndo fS tT homasA quinas'l ife,i ti sb elievedt hath eh ada
personale xperiencew hichm adeh imc omet oac onclusiont hath isw orksw erel ike
`straw'a ndt hatt heyf ailedt od escribew hatG odi s.
Originsofthe`ViaNegativa':Aristotle(384-322BC)
Aristotleo nces aid:`'Wecanonlyphilosophiseaboutthingsinthephysicalandnot
them etaphysical.''
Inr elationt ot heG odo fc lassicalt heism,w ec ana ttributet hingst oGodw hichw e
know,i nt hep hysicalw orldt hatG odi sn ot.F ore xample,w ek nowt hatGodi sn ota n
animalo re vil.H owever,w ec annotm akea ssertionso fw hatG odi s,a swed on'tk now
whatG odi s.
Originsofthe`ViaNegativa':Plotinus(205-270adNeo-Platonist)
Plotinusu sedt he` ViaN egativa't od escribet he` Formo ft heG ood'.T he` Formo ft he
Good',a ss eeni nt he` Analogyo ft heC ave'w ass omethingt ranscendenta nda bovet he
comprehensiono ft heu nenlightenedp risoners,r epresenting` God'.P lotinusa rguedt hat
ifw eu sedc ataphaticl anguage,w ew ouldn'tb ea blet od escribes omethinga ss upreme
andt ranscendenta st he` Formo ft heG ood',w hichw aso utsidet hem aterialisticw orld.
th
Pseudo-Dionysius(5 centuryChristiantheologianandphilosopher)
Dionysiusa rguedt hatthe`ViaPositiva'(usingpositivestodescribeGod)tellsus
nothinga boutG od.

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Quote:` 'Godisb eyonda llbeinga ndknowledgeandine verywaythatc anbet hought
of,i sb eyondando utsideallh umancategoriesofthought.Godisb eyondassertiona nd
denial''
Wecannota sserto rdenyfactsa boutGod.However,wecanmakefactsaboutGodwhich
donota ssertt hatGodi ssomething.
Hiss tateo fa ffirmation-T he` ViaN egativa't ellsu ss omethinga boutG oda sw ella s
theB ible.T heB ibled oesn otd irectlya sserto ri mplyw hatG odi sb utg ivesu s
informationa boutG od.B iblicall anguagei ss ymbolica ndn otl iteralw hichm akest his
metaphoricaln atureo fr eligiousl anguagel eadt og reaters pirituala warenessa nd
understandingo fG od.…read more

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Evaluationofthe`ViaNegativa'
Strengths
1)The` ViaN egativa's upportst hei deat hatG odi st ranscendent.B yn ota pplying
positivet ermsl ikes ayingt hatG odi s` good'a nd` loving'a nds ayingw hatG od
isn ot,w ec omplementt hei deat hatG odi sb eyondc omprehensiona nda bovet he
casuall anguageo fh umanb eings.
2)Iti ss eena sam orer espectfulw ayo ft alkinga boutG oda sw e'ren ota sserting
whatG odi st hroughu singi nferiorc ontingentl anguage.…read more

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