Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Дионисий Ареопагит современным языком (4)


God-Centered Logical Universe

It rather naturally that the names of God pose somewhat different problems before the analytical philosophy than its more familiar objects. To begin with, let us continue our discussion of intensionality.

In the classical Fregean framework,[1] intensionality is a function from possibilities to extensions. Be it applicable in the Dionysian case, it would take a given possibility, that is, a given god, and associate him with the denotation of a given divine name. However, such a scheme is inapplicable, because there is, in the Dionysian system, only one God, and so, all the divine names belong only to him. There are no different possibilities to choose.

In the possible worlds semantics, intensionality is a function from worlds to referents. Be it applicable in our case, it would take a given world, that is, the world where the God is the God of Dionysius, and associate it with the denotations of the divine names. This can seem closer to Dionysius, but, nevertheless, inapplicable. Even if we understand the possible worlds in the manner of Kripke, where only one of them is our actual world, whereas all others are no more than our intellectual constructs,[2] this will violate, in some way, the thought of Dionysius. Indeed, in Kripke’s possible worlds, it is not necessarily known which one of these worlds is our actual one. Therefore, a situation of choosing takes place, even if not exactly in the same manner as in the Fregean approach.

Within l’Univers dionysien,[3] there is no even epistemic possibility of different gods or different worlds having different unique gods. Inside this universe, we have only those epistemic possibilities that are provided by divine energies, that is, by real presence of God himself. This is the law of knowledge as deification, the only kind of knowledge that is present in the true theology. However, it is evident that, for Dionysius, a choice between different possibilities of identification of the true God exists outside his universe. His own personality was a symbol of performing such choice: a famous Athenian philosopher converted into Christianity by Apostle Paul.

The word “god” is, for Dionysius, insufficient when applied to the God of Christians—in the same manner as any other divine names are insufficient, too. Thus, he normally uses this word with the superlative prefix ὑπερ-, such as ὁ ὑπέρθεος (“the Super-God”: DN 2:10, 648 D).[4] Such a usage of superlative points out the result of the act of choosing between different concepts of god. However, this act was performed before entering the “universe” of Dionysius, and the corresponding epistemic procedure was not that of knowledge of God/deification governed by the understanding of divine names. Instead, it is a necessary prerequisite of any kind of understanding of the divine names.

Therefore, outside the logical “universe” of Dionysius, the term “God” works as an indexical: there are many epistemological possibilities to understand it, whereas only one of them is true, that of the “Super-God.” Indexicals are the terms or expressions whose reference shifts from context to context, that is, such words as “I,” “he,” and so on. The term “God,” taken outside the Dionysian logical universe, behaves as an indexical: the true-values of any expressions containing this term are depending on the context of our theology (our understanding of who or what our God is). However, inside the “universe” of Dionysius, it is only one epistemological possibility that is fulfilled.

The theory of divine names is not about “God” as an indexical, but about the only quite specific God. “God” as a kind of pronominal is substituted by specific name(s).

When entering the “universe” of Dionysius, we factor out the indexicality of the term “God.” More formally, a useful logical apparatus for treating such a situation can be provided by the two-dimensional semantics.[5] In this terminology, Dionysius works, within his own “universe,” with a unique fulfilled scenario of identification of God. This means that his “universe” is centered on his God (or, rather, his “Super-God”). Dionysian God ceases to be an indexical, because the corresponding logical universe becomes centered.

Theologically, this is a result of cessation of the epistemic activity governed by the human mind and starting of the epistemic activity governed by the divine energies. However, in both cases, both human activity and divine activity work together. The difference is related only to leadership.[6] When human activity transforms itself to passivity to give working place to the activity of God, the logical universe definitively becomes ὑπέρθεος-centered.

[1] That is, interpreting intensionality as, more or less, the same thing as the Fregean Sinn. Cf., for such an approach now: Chalmers, David J. “On Sense and Intension.” in: Tomberlin, James E. (ed.) Philosophical Perspectives 16: Language and Mind. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002, pp. 135-182. Cf. Frege, Gottlob. “Über Sinn und Bedeutung.” Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik 100 (1892): 25-50. Tr. as “On Sense and Reference” by M. Black in: Geach, Peter, and Black, Max. Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege. Oxford: Blackwell, 31980, pp. 56-78; Church, Alonzo. “A Formulation of the Logic of Sense and Denotation,” in: Henle, Paul, Kallen, Horace M., Langer, Susan K. (eds.). Structure, Method, and Meaning: Essays in Honor of Henry M. Scheffer. New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1951, pp. 3-24.

[2] Kripke, Saul. “Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic.” Acta Philosophica Fennica 16 (1963): 83-94 (many times reprinted). The exact opposition of Kripke’s approach is the “modal realism” of David Lewis, where all possible worlds are considered as existing in reality: Lewis, David Kellogg. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

[3] As Réné Rocque called the whole intellectual construction of Dionysius. Cf. Roques, Réné. L’Univers dionysien: stucture hiérarchique du monde selon le Pseudo-Denys. Patrimoines/Christianisme. Paris: Cerf, 1983 (first published in 1954).

[4] Cf. also: ἡ ὑπέρθεος θεότης (“the superdivine divinity,”DN 2:4, 641 A) and ὑπέρθεος ὑπερουσίως εἷς θεός (“superdivine superexistent one God,” DN 2:11, 649 C).

[5] S., most recently, Chalmers, David J. The Character of Consciousness. Philosophy of mind series. Oxford etc.: Oxford UP, 2010, pp. 541-568 (Appendix: Two-Dimensional Semantics). I am grateful to Victor Gorbatov for drawing my attention to the two-dimensional semantics as having potential interest for interpretation of Dionysius.

[6] This is a common place of the Eastern Christian mysticism. In Dionysius, see, first of all, the motives related to his teacher Hierotheos of Athens, who οὐ μόνον μαθὼν ἀλλὰ καὶ παθὼν τὰ θεῖα  (“was not only learning, but also undergoing the divine [things],” DN 2:9, 648 B), and the whole MT. Cf. Golitzin, Alexander. “Dionysius Areopagites: A Christian Mysticism?” Scrinium 3 (2007): 128-179, esp. 162-165.


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