Certainly, there is no discernible Christian influence on' Hierocles, as Aujoulat rightly concludes. Not any longer, I think.
The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
What he needs now, if anything, is a further spell of obscurity. Damascius describes him in the Life oflsidore Fr. Knowing the UnknowableGod.
Philosophical theologians have long been concerned with unravelling the nexus of problems centered around the relation between a transcendent deity and the created universe. Such problems have traditionally involved not only what can be known or predicated of such a deity, but what sort of knowledge said deity has of its creation.
Reflecting these concerns, Burrelrs aim in his book is to explain how it is that an unknowable God, one whose nature transcends the human, can nevertheless be addressed in a cognitively meaningful way; that is, how "such a One, who must be unknowable, may also be known" 3.
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Inasmuch as his interests are historical as well as philosophical Burrelrs examination occurs from within the medieval context and highlights the views of three prominent medieval thinkers--Avicenna, Maimonides and Aquinas. Burrell analyzes the views of these thinkers concerning three major issues: the nature of God's essence; the limits of religious language; and the extent of God's knowledge of His creatures.
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Before turning to these issues, however, Burrell summarizes the Neoplatonic emanation scheme against which all subsequent discussion must occur. For, as he correcdy points out, medieval philosophers were much influenced by the theological ramifications of this emanationist ontology, particularly with respect to the very notion of a 'creator' deity.
How is it that multiplicity can arise from unity?
This was the problem inherited by the intellectual followers of Plotinus, a problem shared by medieval Jews, Moslems, and Christians. As Burrell points out, one must distinguish "creation from emanation Accordingly, Neoplatonism, while raising technical difficulties for the philosopher, at the same time allows for an ontology in which God is both separate from and related to the world.
The importance of this distinction, although developed first by Al-farabi and Avicenna, was not fully recognized until Aquinas and his followers. WS unique about God, a Necessary Being whose essence implies existence, only Aquinas, according to Burrell, amplified it to highlight the importance of the individual as a unique existing entity. Burrell explores Aquinas' use of the term esse as applied to God, emphasizing the natures of simpleness and oneness as they pertain to God's essential nature.
If God is essentially simple, however, how can philosophers say anything about God: does not the very process of predicating attributes to God imply an act of blasphemy?
Journal of the History of Philosophy
Maimonides certainly thought so, and developed a theory of negative predication in an attempt to account for the meaningfulness of linguistic utterances when applied to God. In chapter 4, Burrell examines the attempts of both Maimonides and Aquinas to vindicate the process of divine predication. Juxtaposing Maimonides' theory of negative predication with Aquinas' doctrine of analogy, Burrell suggests that ultimately Aquinas' theory comes closer to capturing the activity inherent in God's essence.
The weakness of Maimonides' theory, according to Burrell, was in construing too literally the predicable nature of divine attributes.
Rather than characterizing them as modes of God's activities, Maimonides' emphasis upon God's understanding as a primary attribute undermined the predicability of any other Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
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