American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 4, Fall 2008


Timothy D. Knepper
Pages 619-637

Not Not
The Method and Logic of Dionysian Negation

This paper examines the basic differences between Dionysius’s two principal terms for negation, aphairesis and apophasis, expounding most of the passages in which these terms appear in order to support the claim that aphairesis functions as Dionysius’s method of hymning the hyper-being God through the removal of “beings” (by means of narrow-scope predicate-term negation), while apophasis constitutes Dionysius’s logic of interpreting these removed beings excessively rather than privatively. It then argues that, although aphairesis “removes” and apophasis “exceeds,” these two types of negation function cohesively in the Dionysian corpus, although in doing so they suggest a different overall picture of Dionysian negation from that which is commonly attributed to Dionysius. It is not the case that Dionysius’s negation of predicate terms should be read propositionally, that is to say, as It is not the case that God is p. Rather, when interpreted apophatically, Dionysius’s not-p signifies more-p-than-most-p.