Ineffability in Comparative Philosophical Perspective

Part of the Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR, volume 1)


In this essay I compare over and philosophize about The Comparison Project’s thirteen public lectures on ineffability, twelve of which appear in this volume as academic essays. These lectures collectively represent a diverse array of religious and aesthetic traditions and communities: Indian Buddhism, Christian Neoplatonism, Visual Art, Music, Daoism, West African religion, Sikhism, Advaita Vedānta, Zen Buddhism, Poetry, Literature, Kabbalah, and Sufism. My essay compares these discourses of ineffability with respect to the four questions that guided The Comparison Project’s lecture series on ineffability: (1) What is ineffable? (2) How is its ineffability expressed? (3) For what reasons is it ineffable? (4) To what ends is it ineffable? I then offer explanations of the significant similarities and differences produced by these comparisons. Finally, I raise evaluative questions about ineffability in comparative perspective. My conclusions are unique, or at least unexpected: not only absolute but also relative ineffability is incoherent, at least logically; and religion involves the overcoming of ineffability, not its attainment.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionDrake UniversityDes MoinesUSA

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