Effing the Ineffable

Existential Mumblings at the Limits of Language

By Wesley J. Wildman

Subjects: Philosophy Of Religion, Philosophy Of Language, Comparative Philosophy, Theology
Hardcover : 9781438471235, 256 pages, October 2018
Paperback : 9781438471242, 256 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


Part I. Ultimacy Talk

1. Dreaming
2. Suffering
3. Creating

Part II. Ultimacy Systems

4. Slipping
5. Balancing
6. Eclipsing

Part III. Ultimacy Manifestations

7. Loneliness
8. Intensity
9. Bliss

The Treachery of Words (This Is Not a Conclusion)
Works Cited

A meditation on how religious language tries to limn the liminal, conceive the inconceivable, speak the unspeakable, and say the unsayable.


In Effing the Ineffable, Wesley J. Wildman confronts the human obsession with ultimate reality and our desire to conceive and speak of this reality through religious language, despite the seeming impossibility of doing so. Each chapter is a meditative essay on an aspect of life that, for most people, is fraught with special spiritual significance: dreaming, suffering, creating, slipping, balancing, eclipsing, loneliness, intensity, and bliss. These moments can inspire religious questioning and commitment, and, in extreme situations, drive us in search of ways to express what matters most to us. Drawing upon American pragmatist, Anglo-American analytic, and Continental traditions of philosophical theology, Wildman shows how, through direct description, religious symbolism, and phenomenological experience, the language games of religion become a means to attempt, and, in some sense, to accomplish this task.

Wesley J. Wildman is Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics at Boston University. His many books include Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry: Envisioning a Future for the Philosophy of Religion and Fidelity with Plausibility: Modest Christologies in the Twentieth Century, both also published by SUNY Press.


"…Effing the Ineffable will be valuable for those working in the philosophy of religion, philosophical theology, and theological method, all of whom will benefit from engaging with and learning from Wildman's distinct brand of religious philosophy. " — Reading Religion

"This is a fine example of Wildman's way of doing philosophy of religion. It demonstrates the importance, if not necessity, of religious philosophers working comparatively and also the benefits of multidisciplinary inquiry. " — Stephen Dawson, Lynchburg College