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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 4, Fall 2008


L. Michael Harrington
Pages 639-660

Recent Attempts to Define a Dionysian Political Theory

The Dionysian corpus makes virtually no statement about the authority of kings or the structure of nations, but it has nevertheless repeatedly been the subject of political analysis. Several scholars have recently sketched out a Dionysian politics by drawing analogies between the Dionysian church and the city, and between the Dionysian bishop and the emperor. These analogies are of limited usefulness. They show that Dionysius does employ Platonic political language to describe the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but they risk overlooking or downplaying the hierarchy’s non-temporal, and therefore non-political, activity. A more fruitful ground for developing a Dionysian politics may be found in his brief discussion of the legal hierarchy, which provides practical instruction for action in the temporal realm without direct reference to the contemplative activity of the church.