Divine Polyvalence: God and Metaphor in Levinas and Eriugena

  • Bernardo Andrade (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentationScientific


Talk at the Mystical Theology Network

More than a millennium separates Emmanuel Levinas from John Scotus Eriugena, so that any strong comparison between them risks erring into immediate anachronism. And yet, their attempts to think God—the Infinite for Levinas, Nothingness for Eriugena—otherwise than through the category of being bring them remarkably close. For both thinkers, God does not merely surpass all positions within an ontological hierarchy—which would still determine Him according to the positional type—but rather adopts another mode than the ordinary mode of being. This entails a deconstruction of all categorical predication to God (saying that God is something), and hence a move beyond literal cataphatic language. What emerges from this destruction of ontological categories is, for Eriugena and Levinas, a re-centering of metaphorical language as the proper movement that carries us towards God.

My claim is that Levinas’s and Eriugena’s re-centering of metaphor within their theories of language is instrumental to their conceiving of a speech that elevates us to Him who “escapes the comprehension of every reason and intellect” (Eriugena) and whose thought “thinks infinitely more than it thinks” (Levinas). Language in this picture becomes literally a metaphor, in its etymological sense of carrying over—carrying us away from the sameness of experience that designates objects ‘as this or that’, and over to the transcendent and beyond. Metaphors for these thinkers point to an urge toward the Creator that operates precisely by disrupting the thematizing activity of conventional language.
PeriodMar 2019
Held atBoston College, United States
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Levinas
  • Eriugena
  • Metaphor
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Continental Philosophy