De logica van de Godzoeker

J Schakenraad

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


This thesis addresses the question what role discursive language and thought can have in acquiring knowledge of God, according to Johannes Scottus Eriugena in his main work, Periphyseon and Ludwig Wittgenstein in his early writings, especially Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. In recent debates on the relation between religion and rationality there has been a growing tendency to place speaking about God outside the bounds of any rational discourse. Explicitly atheistic authors espouse the view that rational thinking can only lead to arguments against the existence of God. Current authors on negative theology tend to consider religion, and especially mysticism, as a matter not primarily of thought, but of experience. It is remarkable how both the Periphyseon and Tractatus logico-philosophicus establish a connection between extreme forms of rational thinking and religious experience, i.e. between logic and mysticism. Since they use analogous methods in their investigations, this similarity may show how discursive and logical thinking can be used to get closer to God, even if one is sceptical (as e.g. negative theology is) of its possibilities. The strategy employed by both authors consists of three stages. The first one is a negative or apophatic stage, in which the authors establish the limit for gaining or communicating knowledge or using ordinary language. Next they nevertheless find (or construct) a way of speaking which helps them to acquire (a kind of) knowledge of God. This is still a logically founded, rational way of speaking. Then, in the third stage they reach what may be called the final position. This position is of interest because of what it tells about the eventual relation of God and man, and about man’s prospect to reach the divine. The end (deification, ethical behaviour or religious / ethical discourse) is based on discursive speaking and logical reasoning, yet it lies one step beyond the text of the book, beyond the arguments used. The authors confirm this by taking a position outside their own discourses: Eriugena does so by addressing his reader in the epilogue, Wittgenstein by giving directions for the interpretation of the Tractatus. The conclusion is that reason, which is the essence of man, has failed to reach its goal, but on the other hand has shown man how the goal can yet be reached. Wittgenstein claims to have solved the problem of philosophy, but he has also shown how little is achieved by this and where to find what is really important. Therefore on reaching the final position a paradox still prevails. However, the methodological principles used may not have shattered the knowledge that God is beyond the grasp of reason (Eriugena) or that the elucidating sentences are really nonsense (Wittgenstein), but these principles have yielded a deeper insight into what it is such knowledge entails
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Otten, W., Primary supervisor, External person
  • Sarot, M., Supervisor
Award date20 Dec 2010
Place of PublicationDelft
Print ISBNs978-90-5972-454-9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2010


  • Geografie, Planologie, Pre- en Protohistorie
  • General theory
  • Menswetenschappen
  • History of the Christian Church
  • Godgeleerdheid
  • Onderzoek gefinancierd uit algemene universiteitsfondsen
  • Godgeleerheid (GODG)

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