The Philosophy of Dionysius the Areopagite: An Approach to Intensional Semantics
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.