Volume 82, Issue 4, Fall 2008
Wayne J. Hankey
Misrepresenting Neoplatonism in Contemporary Christian Dionysian Polemic
Eriugena and Nicholas of Cusa versus Vladimir Lossky and Jean-Luc Marion
This paper contrasts the reception of Dionysius in relation to non-Christian philosophy during the Latin Middle Ages with his reception in twentieth-century
Christian thought. The medievals, including Eriugena, Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, and many others, as a rule refuse to divide religion from philosophy and they distinguish or unite thinkers by their teaching rather than by their confessional adherence. Hence they see no need to set Dionysius in opposition to non-Christian philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Proclus, or to repudiate the latter in favor of the former. By contrast, Vladimir Lossky and Jean-Luc Marion, with their shared background in Etienne Gilson, celebrate Dionysius in opposition to the non-Christian Neoplatonists, whom they polemically misrepresent as reducing God to conceptual categories. These twentieth-century figures evince a sectarian religious narrowness that blinds them to the textual and philosophical community of Dionysius with his non-Christian sources.