Negating Negation: Against the Apophatic Abandonment of the Dionysian Corpus

By Timothy D. Knepper

A closely reasoned analysis of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, demonstrating that they do not support an apophatic understanding of the divine.

ISBN: 9780227174555


Negating Negation critically examines key concepts in the corpus of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: divine names and perceptible symbols; removal and negation; hierarchy and hierurgy; ineffability and incomprehensibility. In each case it argues that the Dionysian corpus does not negate all things of an absolutely ineffable God; rather, it negates few things of a God that is effable in important ways. Dionysian divine names are not inadequate metaphors or impotent attributes but transcendent divine causes. Divine names are not therefore flatly negated of God but removed as ordinary properties to be revealed as divine causes.

It is concluded that since the Dionysian corpus does not abandon all things to apophasis, it cannot be called to testify on behalf of (post)modern projects in religious pluralism and anti-ontotheology. Quite the contrary, the Dionysian corpus gives reason for suspicion of such projects, especially when they relativize or metaphorize religious belief and practice in the name of absolute ineffability.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Timothy D. Knepper is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Drake University, Iowa, where he chairs the Department of Philosophy and Religion and directs the Comparison Project.


List of Tables


1. The Divine Names Are Not Names
2. Negation Does Not Negate
3. Ranks Are Not Bypassed; Rites Are Not Negated
4. The Ineffable God Is Not Ineffable


Subject Index


Endorsements and Reviews

Knepper sweeps away the assumption that Dionysian metaphysics is fundamentally apophatic. He offers an intriguing look at the positive dimensions of divine names in particular, and at the Dionysian cosmos, as a whole. In doing so, he changes the impact Dionysius has on a philosophical understanding of God.
Sarah Wear, Associate Professor of Classics, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Pennsylvania

At last, a book about Dionysius that ends the myth of an alternative ‘negative theology’ and avoids anachronistic construals in terms of either linguistic analysis or pure phenemenology. Instead, we are presented with the fullblown strange world of ancient oriental Christianity where names are angels and liturgical action lies beyond either affirmation or negation.
John Milbank, Research Professor of Religion, Politics, and Ethics, University of Nottingham