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That which cannot be named: philosophy, religion professors publish book about ineffability


Two professors at Drake University, Leah Kalmanson and Timothy Knepper, have collaborated on a book together called “Ineffability: An Exercise in Comparative Philosophy of Religion.” Published on Nov. 25, 2017, the book relates to ineffability, that which cannot be put into words, among different religions.

Ineffability is an old topic and theme from Western religion where the claim was made that God was so transcendent that God cannot say what God is. This is because God transcends everything that is.

“(It was the) 20th century in which the claim was made in philosophy that all religion shares a common ineffable core,” Knepper said. Whether it be God or Buddha or nature, they are one and the same thing, which is an ineffable transcendent reality.

Knepper further explained that the topic explored the way to show that religions can be buddies, that they do not disagree about the most essential thing, according to Knepper, to get people to talk about things that they cannot talk about to understand religion.

“One important point is that we largely disagree with that claim,” co-author Kalmanson said, also stating that the book explores a range of experiences that we can explain and that the book is not meant to be an exercise in which all religions are explained.

The professors’ inspiration for the program came from wanting to do something in philosophy and religion that is globally diverse, which is currently being done more and more. But ten years ago, it was hardly done at all.

The manner in which they wrote this book was with a lot of copy editing, according to Kalmanson. They picked the religion that they wanted to cover and which speakers in the religion they wanted to include. They also wanted to look at things that were not religious, such as the arts or poetry.

They then collaborated on writing the essays. Knepper was good at conforming to the style of the publishers while Kalmanson was good at grammar and writing for substance.

“(We) submitted a proposal to do an entire book series with this cover,” Kalmanson said, who went on to explain that each new book would cover a different theme. The theme of their first book was suffering. The theme of their second book was death and dying. The theme of their third book was miracles.

The way in which they structured this work around a theme for two years and arranged for dialogues and other special events concerning their topic. Then they went about collecting the other academic things needed for the paper, such as those that were listed previously.

Knepper studied philosophy of religion and ineffability for his doctorate. He also published a book on the future of the philosophy of religion, “The Ends of Philosophy of Religion: Terminus and Telos.” He wrote about how it can be religiously diverse in the future.

For Kalmanson’s doctorate, she studied philosophical traditions of east Asia. Her current work is focused on critical issues related to Eurocentrism in philosophy.

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