Via Negativa: A Way of Talking to God

Topics: Religion, Philosophy, God Pages: 3 (1190 words) Published: December 31, 2013
Via Negativa is a way of talking about God in only negative terms. For example, God is not mortal; or God is not human. Both of these tell what God is not, instead of what he is. This is because our knowledge of God is limited by our finite human understanding, therefore, as God is out of this Universe, we find it extremely hard to talk about him. Saint Augustine said “If you comprehend, it is not God. If you are able to comprehend, it is because you mistake something else for God.” Via Negativa allows us to compare God to things within our Universe that we understand, allowing us a sense of recognition with God, however not allowing us to reach a full understanding. This simple recognition is meaningful enough for many, including the like of Maimonides and Pseudo-Dionysius. Other philosophers believe that this negative way of speaking about God, is not the only meaningful way to talk of him. These will be discussed further within the essay.

Moses Maimonides said that Via Negativa was the only true way to speak of God. God is transcendent, so it is impossible to say what God is, we don’t know. He therefore decided the only way we could speak of him, is to talk in negatives. He gave the example of ‘God is not a human being. This is because he is transcendent, so cannot have a body.’ Maimonides believes that by giving positive ideas to God, we are lowering God to our human level of understanding. Words like ‘good’ or ‘loving’, which are often used to describe God, are simply are interpretations of those words, God is transcendent so in no way is he confined to this basic understanding. Using Via Positiva is improper and disrespectful. However, Maimonides agrees that one positive statement can be made about God, and this is that he exists, this is because the whole principle of Via Negativa is based on the idea that God exists. Pseudo-Dionysius follows the same belief as Maimonides, also stating that God is beyond assertion and beyond denial, meaning that...
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