I am reading a paper right now by Andrey V. Smirnov, published in the journal Philosophy East and West, Vol. 43, No. 1 titled Nicholas of Cusa and Ibn Arabi: Two Philosophies of Mysticism. Both thinkers had theories about the paradoxical nature of God, in that God is not Being, but as a result is still defined by Being, so is not not-Being, etc.

To set up the logic behind this, Smirnov says "two possibilities exist to construct propositions that do not predicate something to the subject. To avoid something you must turn it either into everything or into nothing (nothing and everything are not something definite and so do not contradict the condition that the proposition about God should be indefinite)."

Is this right? He says later on on the same page (66) that in the case of God as everything, "no limit can ever reach the Divine essence because, since it embraces everything, there is nothing exterior to it... [it] contains every possible limit within itself and by that very fact transcends all limits."

Aren't we still in the same loop, so to speak? If God embraces everything, then isn't God a "thing" that just embraces everything else? Otherwise we would need to say that God embraces itself, right? And that seems contradictory? If something "embraces" the totality then that totality is not in fact a totality for something could encompass it, and neither is the thing that encompasses it for if encompassing can happen that implies separation (God as 1 and world as 1 coming together to create 2). Of course, perhaps this is just bad language on the part of the author? Does he just mean that God is the totality? But then in that case it is still defined by everything within it, and so must partake in its limits, no?

The problem seems to be right there in the quote when he says that everything and nothing are not "something" definite. Even there, trying to define them as indefinite, he cannot help but refer to them as things.

He says later, "To sum up, God is indefinable in the first case because God embraces all the limits." Are we not here positing a limit that embraces the limit, which would requires something else to embrace it, and so on and so on?

As I understand these thinkers, they both take a dialetheic stance towards the issue. They are accepting both A and not-A, B and not-B, and not trying to reject either, which seems to be the way Smirnov is outlining it. He is looking for an indefinite way to describe a thing, rather than admitting that perhaps the thing has a truth-value gap? Do I have that right?

  • As usual, yes, when you hear "contains every possible limit within itself and by that very fact transcends all limits" or "Eternity can be interpreted either as temporal Nothing, and in this case time will be understood as eternity made explicit, or as temporal Everything, with time to be understood as an exemplification and representation of eternity." you should just reinterpret that as "I don't know what I'm talking about but I want to sound profound".
    – Veedrac
    Mar 18 '18 at 0:32
  • This seems more of a science approach than philosophy. The mathematical logicians say logic is Not about the truth of the proposition but the validity of arguments. Seems pretty clear content is involved because the author is worried about sense verification of God. A philosopher should tell the author propositions have a truth value regardless if you are aware of the value or not. Either there is a God or there isn't. Not knowing which value the proposition has is NOT an excuse to say there is no truth value. This is a science move not philosophy. Propositions don't need proof.
    – Logikal
    Mar 18 '18 at 3:14
  • 1
    God is separated from Being it creates (or created). "Embraces everything" can mean, roughly speaking, "embraces information about everything". Note also that linguistically (and presumably Smirnov is thinking primarily in Russian) russian всё (everything) and ничто (nothing) do not contain root "thing"; these words therefore may not be understood in extensional manner of "set and its members". They are closer to intentional, definitional style to determine a "set" of things. God defines every thing, himself being not a member of the everything set.
    – ttnphns
    Mar 18 '18 at 8:20
  • Nicholas of Cusa balances halfway between "God is beyond" and "God is totality". Following neoplatonics, he says the world is evoluting or unfolding of God who is the absolute maximum, or asymptotic limit. In that, Nicholas indeed moves one step towards pantheistic union of world of things and God into Whole. Still, he argues that God is beyond definitions or, at least, that definitions of him are inevitably limited.
    – ttnphns
    Mar 18 '18 at 8:52
  • IMO, the issue is not with the subject: the "thing" called God, but with the predicates: "to construct propositions that do not predicate something to the subject". If we predicate something of something, like e.g. "the rose is red" we define the rose in some way, carving it out from the "absolute all" that includes red things and non-red things. Mar 18 '18 at 16:06

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