On the Universality of What Is Not
The Apophatic Turn in Critical Thinking
420 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268108816 | October 2020
Branching out from his earlier works on the history and theory of apophatic thinking, William Franke’s newest book, On the Universality of What Is Not: The Apophatic Turn in Critical Thinking, offers something unique and different. In this study, Franke does not merely examine theoretical paradigms of apophatic thought or interpret the works of classic apophatic authors. Rather, he examines actual applications of apophatic thinking across a variety of media, historical periods, geographical regions, and disciplines—going all the way from the literary humanities to more empirical fields such as social science, and including even evolutionary biology and cognitive science. Amidst the cacophony of current discourse, which presently has no better designation than “postmodern critical theory,” Franke argues that the most compelling way to understand our age of culture is, in fact, to see its various forms as enacting “the apophatic turn.” It is not the case that apophatic thought today is simply one cultural tendency among many. Rather, apophatic thought shapes our entire cultural era as a common (un)ground that conditions everything. In this way, just as “the linguistic turn” gives us a handle on the most earthshaking movements of thought in the twentieth century, so too “the apophatic turn” performs a similar service for the twenty-first. This book provides the keys to a new and overarching insight into the deep structure and logic of the present age.
On the Universality of What Is Not is an original philosophical reflection that demonstrates how the question “What is apophatic thinking?” cannot be answered, ultimately, apart from showing what apophatic thinking actually does. This book will appeal especially to scholars in philosophy, religious studies, and critical theory, and also more widely to readers contemplating the perennial dilemmas of existence torn between the technically sayable and an unsayable divine-human mystery.
William Franke is professor of comparative literature and religious studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including A Philosophy of the Unsayable (University of Notre Dame Press, 2014).
“Most impressive is what has now become William Franke’s hallmark: an erudite interdisciplinarity that moves with seeming ease between various disciplines within the humanities (but especially religion, theology, literature, and philosophy) in order to reach a more comprehensive position from which to examine any one issue, or several issues collectively. This book brings a strong career focused on apophatic thinking to an important high point.” ~Andrew W. Hass, author of Hegel and the Art of Negotiation