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February 2, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

Reading Cusanus

Metaphor and Dialectic in a Conjectural Universe

This book presents careful readings of six of the most important theoretical works of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1463). Though Nicholas' writings have long been studied as either scholastic Aristotelian or proto-Kantian, Clyde Lee Miller locates Cusanus squarely in the Christian Neoplatonic tradition. He demonstrates how Nicholas worked out his own original synthesis of that tradition by fashioning a conjectural view of main categories of Christian thought: God, the universe, Jesus Christ, and human beings. Each of the readings reveals how Nicholas' project of "learned ignorance" is played out in striking metaphors for God and the relation of God to creation.

The six works read span the last quarter century of Nicholas' life (1440-1463) and include On Learned Ignorance, Conjectures, The Layman: About Mind, The Vision of God, The Not Other, and The Hunt for Wisdom. These readings are explications of the text; they interpret each work as a whole and focus in particular on the themes that order the work and how these get played out in its details. The Introduction uses a brief early dialogue, On the Hidden God, to orient the reader by locating Nicholas' work in relation to Plato's famous image of the divided line. The book's conclusion presents a reprise of the main ideas in each work and an appraisal of their import.



This books makes an important contribution to Cusanus studies, for no book-length scholarly work in English reads and comments on Nicholas' individual works. Reading Cusanus provides a much-needed introduction to this great philosopher, theologian, and mystic.

Clyde Lee Miller is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

"While this volume will be of interest to medieval philosophers and theologians—Miller advances discussion on the more technical aspects of Nicholas studies in several places—it also serves as a solid and much needed English introduction to Nicholas's thought for the uninitiated." Amos Yong, Religious Studies Review




"Reading Cusanus provides an excellent guide for seminars on Nicholas of Cusa. In its explanation of metaphor and the dialectic function, it artfully weaves together a chapter-by-chapter analysis of six major texts with an elucidation of the Neoplatonic direction of Cusanus's thought. It will be a useful resource for those seeking a philosophical understanding of Nicholas of Cusa's main works." — Nancy Hudson, Renaissance Quarterly

"Miller presents thoughtful, probing chapters on six major works. As he sketches each work's background and critically traces its themes, the boldness and range of Cusanus's thought emerge clearly. . . . Readers will appreciate the helpful, patient guidance that this book offers to Cusanus's often difficult works. Miller's commentaries are always clear and occasionally provocative. . . . [A] major study engages Cusanus's thought with skill, wide learning, and admirably clear writing. That it invites further debate confirms how well it achieves its aim: to think deeply with Cusanus himself, who so clearly recognizes that no interpretation can be definitive."—Donald F. Duclow, Theological Studies

"The systematic way Miller interprets the endless number of metaphors in the work of Cusanus is impressive. And the reference to the problem of the ground of conjectures can be integrated in this interpretation very easy. Miller has the gift of formulating very precisely and until now there never was such an extended analysis of the metaphorical dimensions of Cusa's philosophy. This book really delivers an important contribution to the discussion on the meaning of Cusanus for the history of philosophy."—Inigo Bocken, Acta Comparanda XIV

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