The Failure of Words in Philosophy and Religion

By Ben-Ami Scharfstein

Subjects: Philosophy Of Language
Series: SUNY series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions
Paperback : 9780791413487, 312 pages, March 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413470, 312 pages, March 1993

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Table of contents

by Frank E. Reynolds



1 Psychological Prelude

2 The Exaltation of Words

3 The Devaluation of Words

4 Reasons behind Reasons for Ineffability

5 In Judgment of Ineffability



Index of Names


Scharfstein describes the extraordinary powers that have been attributed to language everywhere, and then looks at ineffability as it has appeared in the thought of the great philosophical cultures: India, China, Japan, and the West. He argues that there is something of our prosaic, everyday difficulty with words in the ineffable reality of the philosophers and theologians, just as there is something unformulable, and finally mysterious in the prosaic, everyday successes and failures of words.

Ben-Ami Scharfstein is the author of The Philosophers: Their Lives and the Nature of Their Thought; Of Birds, Beasts, and Other Artists: An Essay on the Universality of Art; and The Dilemma of Context.


"The topic is so extremely significant, yet it is one of those issues that lie so deep and are so fundamental that we rarely pause to consider them because (perhaps) they are the ground on which we stand. " — Robert Campany, Indiana University