The play of negativity : an exploration of an apophatic discourse in Daoist philosophy and negative theology
Zhang, Ellen Ying
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is an attempt to bring Daoist philosophy and negative theology into conversation. The comparative project itself by no means suggests an identification of the Daoist "Dao" with the Christian "God," nor does it argue for a contrast between a "non-logocentric China" with a "logocentric West." However divergent China and the West may be the notion of "Dao" in Daoist philosophy and the notion of "God" in negative theology, share what I call a "gesture of negativity." My project then is a comparative study of a philosophical/theological discourse which deals with the problem of ineffability. I propose that the apophatic gesture is inevitably paradoxical when speech is deployed in order to surpass itself. I compare the notions of wang and wuwei in Daoism with the notion of Gelassenheit in negative theology, and the Daoist wu with Derrida's denegation. I argue that the play of negativity does not suggest the rejection of meanings as such; rather like many other discourses, it participates in creation, construction, and destruction of meaning within particular philosophical and theological configurations.
Philosophy; Theology; Philosophy, religion and theology