Nescience: A contrast in the uses of models within science and theology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Both the natural sciences and Christian theology make widespread and frequent use of models, as aids to both theorising and teaching. However, models are based on analogies in the natural world, and the reality of God is utterly dissimilar to anything in that world. This dissimilarity has led to the development of apophatic approaches to theology, which seek to make meaningful statements about God in negative rather than positive terms. The idea of nescience – not-knowing – therefore has a home in theological discourse in a way that it cannot have in scientific discourse, predicated as the latter is on the generation of knowledge. This paper explores nescience through an examination of the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. By thinking in terms of what God is not, Dionysius points away from purely rational understandings of God towards the direct, mystical apprehension of God; and this is an approach within which models can only be otiose. The contrast between science and theology in the role played within each of them by models suggests a marked dissimilarity between them in their approaches to their respective subject-matter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIssues in Science and Theology: Creative Pluralism?
Subtitle of host publicationImages and Models in Science and Religion
EditorsMichael Fuller, Dirk Evers, Anne Runehov
PublisherSpringer
Pages159-167
Number of pages9
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9783031062773
ISBN (Print)9783031062766
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameIssues in Science and Religion: Publications of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
Volume6
ISSN (Print)2364-5717
ISSN (Electronic)2364-5725

Keywords

  • apophatic theology
  • methodology
  • model
  • mysticism
  • Neoplatonism
  • nescience
  • paradigm
  • Pseudo-Dionysius
  • science
  • symbol

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