Petrova Liubov

The apophatic theology in the philosophical studies of Jacques Derrida: the experience of pure prayer and the analogic language of the hymn

Petrova Liubov (2021) "The apophatic theology in the philosophical studies of Jacques Derrida: the experience of pure prayer and the analogic language of the hymn ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2021, vol. 97, pp. 73-88 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202197.73-88


This article examines the image of negative theology in the works of Jacques Derrida using the example of the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. In his essay “How to Avoid Speaking: Denials”, Derrida refers to the texts of Dionysius to clarify his stance on negative theology and to answer the question how it can be compared with the main provisions of deconstruction. Derrida marks the boundary that separates deconstruction from the strategies of negative theology presented in the Areopagitics, placing it in the “ontological wager of hyperessentiality” inherent to negative theology. According to Derrida, the desire to transcend being, which is typical for Dionysius and other authors of the Christian apophasis, is constituted by the “intuitive telos”, the hyperessential referent of speech, the inevitability of which is contained in the very structure of language. One of the forms of detection of this “intuitive telos” is “addressing to another”, which is manifested in prayer and praise included in the discourse of negative theology. Speaking of prayer, Derrida understands it very strictly and narrowly, as an act of addressing to another, expressed in a request, search for a help, plea, etc., without any form of predication, including the naming the addressee. In this regard, the Christian prayer of Dionysius is not what Derrida calls a “pure experience of prayer”, since it contains elements of the hymn, in particular an indication of the Trinity and hyperessentiality of God. In both Derrida and Dionysius, prayer is a mode of access to the mystery beyond affi rmation and negation. But if the mystery of unknowing of Dionysius tends to be the mystery of the Trinity, then, in the case of Derrida, we are talking about the mystery of the total otherness of God not only “without Being”, but also outside of Revelation. The article shows that the theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, which does not distinguish between prayer and hymn, is an example of apophasis in derridianist deconstructivist view, which fails to maintain the purity of its principle and leans towards an ontotheological disposition.


negative theology, Derrida, apophaticism, Dionysius the Areopagite, deconstruction, prayer, hymn, panegyric, praise, ontotheology


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Information about the author

Petrova Liubov

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Academic Rank: Senior Research Fellow;
Place of work: Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences; 25/14 Sed′maya Krasnoarmeiskaya ul., St. Petersburg 190005, Russian Federation;
Post: senior researcher;
ORCID: 0000-0002-5857-8636;
Email: par-excellence@yandex.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.


The research was supported by the Russian science Foundation, project no. 18-18-00134, "The Legacy of Byzantine philosophy in Russian and Western European philosophy of the XX-XXI centuries».