Volume 98, Issue 2, April 2021
Special Issue: Islamic Philosophy and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion
Billy Dunaway, Jon McGinnis
Knowledge and Theological Predication
Lessons from the Medieval Islamic Tradition
This article sketches how the debate over divine predications should be informed by the medieval Islamicate tradition. We emphasize the focus not only on the metaphysics and language of divine predications by al-Ghazali, Maimonides, and others, but also on the epistemology of divine predications. In particular, we emphasize the importance of a theory that explains not only what it takes to make a divine predication true, but also whether these predications are knowable. The epistemological element is central, because traditional views of theology aim to avoid theological skepticism, which is the view that, even if there are theological truths, these truths are unknowable. We pursue this point by emphasizing the role of substantives in al-Ghazalı’s theory of divine predicates, and Maimonides’s discussion of negative predications. In closing we apply these lessons to some recent discussions of theological predication.