The logical challenge of negative theology

Piotr Urbańczyk 1 , 2
  • 1 Pontifical University of John Paul II,, Kraków, Poland
  • 2 Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies,, Kraków, Poland


In this paper I present four interpretations of so-called negative theology and provide a number of attempts to model this theory within a formal system. Unfortunately, all of them fail in some manner. Most of them are simply inconsistent, some contradict the usual religious praxis and discourse, and some do not correspond to the key theses of negative theology. I believe that this paper shows how challenging this theory is from a logical perspective.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • E. Benor, “Meaning and Reference in Maimonides’ Negative Theology”, The Harvard Theological Review, vol. 88 (1995), pp. 339-360.

  • J. M. Bocheński, The Logic of Region, New York University Press, New Yourk 1965.

  • J. Bowker, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1997.

  • B. Brogaard, J. Salerno, “Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

  • A. Colacito et. al., “Subminimal negation”, Soft Computing, vol. 21 (2016), pp. 165-174.

  • T. Coquand, “Type Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

  • J. M. Dunn, Generalized Ortho Negation, (in:) Negation: A Notion in Focus, H. Wansing (ed.), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin - New York 1996, pp. 3-26.

  • M. Durrant, “The Meaning of ‘God’ (I)” (in:) Religion and Philosophy, M. Warner (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1992, pp. 71-84.

  • G. Englebretsen, “The Logic of Negative Theology”, New Scholasticism, vol. 47 (1973), pp. 228-232.

  • F. B. Fitch, “A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts”, The Journal of Symbolic Logic, vol. 28 (1963), pp. 135-142.

  • I. Franck, “Maimonides and Aquinas on Man’s Knowledge of God: A Twentieth Century Perspective”, The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 38 (1985), pp. 591-615.

  • J. I. Gellman, “The meta-philosophy of religious language”, Nous, vol. 11 (1971), pp. 151-161.

  • G. W. F. Hegel, W. Wallace, J. N. Findlay, Hegel’s Logic. Being Part One of The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Clarendon Press, Oxford 1975.

  • J. D. Jacobs, “The Ineffable, Inconceivable, and Incomprehensible God. Fundamentality and Apophatic Theology”, (in:) Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion VI, R. Audi et. al (eds.), Oxford University Press, New York 2015, pp. 158-175.

  • J. N. Jones, “Sculpting God: The Logic of Dionysian Negative Theology”, Harvard Theological Review, vol. 89 (1996), pp. 355-371.

  • P. Kügler, “The meaning of mystical darkness”, Religious Studies, vol. 41 (2005), pp. 95-105.

  • M. Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, vol. I, Shlomo Pines (trans.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago - London 1963.

  • U. Meixner, “Negative Theology, Coincidentia Oppositorum, and Boolean Algebra”, Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy, vol. 1 (1998), pp. 75-89.

  • S. P. Odintsov, “On the structure of paraconsistent extensions of Johansson’s logic”, Journal of Applied Logic, vol. 3 (2005), pp. 43-65.

  • S. P. Odintsov, Constructive Negations and Paraconsistency, Trends in Logic vol. 26, Springer-Verlag, New York 2008.

  • R. Otto, The Idea of the Holly. An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational, transl. John W. Harvey, Oxford University Press, London 1923.

  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, “Mystical Theology”, (in:) Ibidem, Collected works, C. Luibheid, P. Rorem (transl.), Paulist Press, New York 1987, pp. 133-142.

  • H. Putnam, “On negative theology”, Faith and Philosophy, vol. 14 (1997), pp. 407-422.

  • P. Rojek, “Towards Logic of Negative Theology”, (in:) Logic in Religious Discourse, A. Schumann (ed.), Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt 2010, pp. 192-215.

  • P. Rorem, Pseudo-Dionysius. A Commentary on the Texts and an Introduction to Their Influence, Oxford University Press, New York - Oxford 1993.

  • S. Ruczaj, “Analogia i apofatyczny pazur”, Pressje, vol. 30/31 (2012), pp. 280-282.

  • P. Sikora, Logos niepojęty, Universitas, Krakow 2010.

  • Y. Shramko, “Dual Intuitionistic Logic and a Variety of Negations: The Logic of Scientific Research”, Studia Logica: An International Journal for Symbolic Logic, Vol. 80 (2005), pp. 347-367.

  • R. Sorensen, “Epistemic Paradoxes”,The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

  • C. M. Stang, “Negative Theology from Gregory of Nyssa to Dionysius the Areopagite”, (in:) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism, J. A. Lamm (ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford 2012, pp. 161-176.

  • H. Wansing, “Diamonds Are a Philosopher’s Best Friends: The Knowability Paradox and Modal Epistemic Relevance Logic”, Journal of Philosophical Logic, vol. 31 (2002), pp. 591-612.

  • J. Woleński, “Theology and Logic”, (in:) Logic in Theology, B. Brożek, A. Olszewski, M. Hohol (eds.), Copernicus Center Press, Krakow 2013, pp. 11-38.

  • J. Woleński, “Polish Attempts to Modernize Thomism by Logic (Bocheński and Salamucha)”, Studies in East European Thought, vol. 55 (2003), pp. 299-313.

  • A. A. Zinov’ev, Foundations of the Logical Theory of Scientific Knowledge (Complex Logic), T. J. Blakeley (transl.), D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht 1973.


Journal + Issues