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  • Pluralität und Rationalität: Die Herausforderung der Vernunft durch religiöse und kulturelle Vielfalt nach Nikolaus Cusanus
  • Paul Richard Blum
Markus Riedenauer . Pluralität und Rationalität: Die Herausforderung der Vernunft durch religiöse und kulturelle Vielfalt nach Nikolaus Cusanus. Theologie und Frieden 32. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer GmbH, 2007. 580 pp. index. bibl. €49. ISBN: 978–3–17–019797–8.

Plurality, rationality, and religion: these are the three concepts that move the book under review. Under the circumstances of present-day debates about religious tolerance, they would translate as religious diversity, rational discourse, and truth claim. It is fortunate that Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus, 1401–64) was an exemplary figure in dealing with this syndrome. Therefore there is no interpretive bias needed to suggest his work on Peace of Religion (De pace fidei) as a paradigm to discuss the relationship between Christianity and the religions, as well as that of theology and philosophy.

Markus Riedenauer from Vienna approaches this topic in five large chapters with an introductory discourse on interreligious dialogue and a conclusion. His diagnosis of the present-day situation suggests that in the best case, religious [End Page 914] dialogue may surmise a partial overlapping of competing religious spheres (36). After having presented Cusanus, he concludes that in the Renaissance theologian's view the aim of interreligious dialogue could consist in overlapping areas that ideally are mutually inclusive, provided that each religious perspective aims at maximally widening its horizon. In between there is hard, painstaking, and intelligent work on interpreting Cusanus's intellectual world. First, there is the historical setting of the book of Peace of Religion (chapters 2–3); the second presupposition is Cusanus's epistemology of the coincidence of opposites and knowledge as conjecture on all levels, including senses (chapter 4). What follows is certainly the most valuable and insightful part of the book, a detailed analysis of The Vision of God (De visione Dei) that prepares the interpretation of religious dialogue as human participation in divine multiperspectivity (chapter 5). The interpretation concludes with a focus on practical and political implications of Cusanus's analysis of religious truth and plurality. Chapter 4 evinces that for Cusanus epistemology is equivalent to anthropology, for the cognitive activity that characterizes human beings is ontologically an element of divinity. The author shows how Cusanus transforms the ancient notion of approximation to God into the proportionality of divine creation and human activity that transcends even humanist approaches. Creativity, in this view, is an anthropological feature because the comparability of humans with God consists precisely in cognizing by way of creating the object of cognition. Hence it follows that the variety in accessing the world is equally both divine and specifically human and that perspective (human cognition as necessarily bound to perspectives) is the best possible mode of knowledge. The plurality of aspects and appearances is, at the same time, the most precise metaphysical statement possible.

For Cusanus, perspective is the structure of the world. Whereas all this can already be found in the famous writings On Learned Ignorance and On Conjectures, the most elaborate treatment of perspectivity is offered in On the Vision of God. This book begins with the description of a portrait that seems to observe everyone individually. The author interprets it as a multifold mental and practical experiment in epistemology. It is also taken to be the foundation of Cusanus's philosophy of religion, for it explains in which humanly understandable sense God may have allowed the existence of a plurality of religions: each individual, as well as each group, looks at God as being identical from a different point of view, and is looked upon by the same God from a different angle. This, in short, is in the upshot of Cusanus's justification of the plurality of religions, as largely expounded in chapter 6. The author discusses all these matters in great philological detail and with respect to the broad literature on Cusanus, not the least the most recent studies in English. He also continuously takes into account the current debate about the meaning of the Renaissance and of humanism, as well as the theories of philosophical historiography and contemporary philosophy (Derrida, Rorty...


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