Georgian Christian Thought and Its Cultural Context. Memorial Volume for the 125th Anniversary of Shalva Nutsubidze (1888–1969)
Shalva Nutsubidze (1888–1969) was a philosopher in the classic sense of the word: he dedicated his life to pursuing his love for Wisdom. Already in his younger years, he received a philosophical intuition that centered on the idea of aletheia, that is, the insight that Truth is the highest reality. Nutsubidze began to explain and articulate this intuition to himself and to others, with whom he engaged in dialogue, in different ways and in different contexts: as an original philosopher by using his own formulations, as a historian of philosophy by availing himself of the thoughts and formulations of congenial thinkers of the past such as Ioane Petritsi and Dionysius the Areopagite, as a historian of literature by letting the poetic language of Shota Rustaveli and other mediaeval Georgian authors whom he had studied speak for himself. Nutsubidze’s choice of research topics was, quite naturally, influenced by the circumstances of life of his own epoch, circumstances that were full of risks for the life and well-being for anyone who was unable to keep under lock and hidden away his or her ability to think independently. Such pressures may account for the fact that studies of poetry and culture ended up occupying a much greater place in his scientific production than one would have expected it in the 1910s, when he had begun to make a name for himself as a scholar. Some will regret that he never returned to writing on pure” philosophy after preparing his major monographs in the 1920s. However, this fact of his biography which was unfortunate from the perspective of the study of philosophy, turned into a fortunate felix culpa for the progress in studies of Georgian literature and, especially, studies of Rustaveli. Nutsubidze was the first to uncover, what by now has become a common place in scholarship: that Rustaveli was not only a poetic genius and a wise man, but also a philosopher in the vein of Dionysius the Areopagite and Ioane Petritsi. The very genre of Rustaveli’s poem could be called “philosophical poetry,” analogous to the manner in which one speaks of “philosophical dialogue.” Nutsubidze’s reading of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin has resurrected Rustaveli for the modern reader as a true philosopher. The present volume is dedicated to Shalva Nutsubidze and his memory by presenting studies that concentrate on the personalities and epochs, which were of particular interest to him: Dionysius the Areopagite andthe Iberian, the Christian Orient between the Council of Chalcedon and the Arab conquest, Ioane Petritsi and Shota Rustaveli in the context of the wider mediaeval Georgian culture, but especially with a focus on the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Since language is a constitutive pillar of cultural expression, we decided to conclude the volume with a new tool for learning the Old Georgian language, which still remains the least accessible language of the ancient and medieval Eastern Mediterranean Christian tradition. As a result, we hope that this volume will serve its audiences well when it is read as an introduction to Georgian Christian culture through the lens of several of its major themes.
We have been trying to avoid—as far as possible, and, therefore, not completely— any discussion of the Areopagite’s ontology and epistemology. Instead we have focused our attention on his semantics. In what sense are Dionysius’ “divine names” true names and in what sense are they descriptions? In what sense does the unnamed God become named with these divine names? Predictably, the Areopagite’s semantics turned out to be paraconsistent, but, in other respects, this is not as odd as one might have expected. One can consider his “divine names” as a limit case of metaphors and metonymies, but ontologically committed ones. The corresponding semantics is irreducibly intensional and Non-Fregean. In modern logic, the closest parallels to Dionysian semantics are to be found in those Quantum logics where the basic ideas are the Kripkean possible worlds as the propositions and the violation of the Leibniz principle of the identity of indiscernibles. Dionysian “non-classical” logic is strongly attached to classical logic via the Correspondence Principle, and paraconsistency is introduced via the Complementarity Principle. Of course, this is hardly an innovation on the part of Dionysius but rather a tradition (inherited from, first of all, the Cappadocian Fathers). I deliberately used for both principles the names coined by Niels Bohr, because it was Bohr who reintroduced both of them into modern philosophy. A comparison with the intensional semantic of metaphor and metonymy opens a door to further the understanding of our perception of irreducible intensionality. Metaphor and metonymy are not completely translatable into the language of description: any paraphrase of them with ordinary words would destroy precisely that meaning which was the purpose of using the corresponding trope. Nevertheless, normally, tropes are used to improve the explanatory power of discourse rather than to fog the truth. This fact proves that our thinking sometimes works in Non-Fregean ways, and this is so especially in cases in which its power needs to be greater. Therefore, the real laws of right thinking which are called “logic” are, in general, irreducibly intensional, and thus can be submitted to Carnap’s Extensionality Principle only in some particular cases. Such was the basic logical intuition of Leibniz, the father of modern intensional logics. No wonder, then, that this same intuition was the basis of the logic of patristics.