© 2016

Ineffability and its Metaphysics

The Unspeakable in Art, Religion, and Philosophy

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 1-26
  3. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 27-49
  4. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 51-71
  5. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 73-100
  6. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 101-128
  7. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 129-156
  8. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 157-182
  9. Silvia Jonas
    Pages 183-184
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 185-226

About this book


Can art, religion, or philosophy afford ineffable insights? If so, what are they? The idea of ineffability has puzzled philosophers from Laozi to Wittgenstein. In Ineffability and its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion and Philosophy, Silvia Jonas examines different ways of thinking about what ineffable insights might involve metaphysically, and shows which of these are in fact incoherent. Jonas discusses the concepts of ineffable properties and objects, ineffable propositions, ineffable content, and ineffable knowledge, examining the metaphysical pitfalls involved in these concepts. Ultimately, she defends the idea that ineffable insights as found in aesthetic, religious, and philosophical contexts are best understood in terms of self-acquaintance, a particular kind of non-propositional knowledge. Ineffability as a philosophical topic is as old as the history of philosophy itself, but contributions to the exploration of ineffability have been sparse. The theory developed by Jonas makes the concept tangible and usable in many different philosophical contexts.


ineffability ineffable inexpressibility inexpressible unspeakable unsayable expressibility limits of expression limits of language metaphysics ineffable truths religion truth

About the authors

Silvia Jonas is a Polonsky Postdoctoral Fellow at The Van Leer Institute and a Visiting Researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. She completed her PhD at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and holds a BPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford as well as an MLitt in Philosophy from the University of St. Andrews, UK.

Bibliographic information


"A rare combination of first-rate analytical philosophy with a grand metaphysical ambition." - Michael Inwood, University of Oxford, UK

"A clear and lucid investigation of a notoriously difficult topic, bringing together an impressive range of contemporary scholarship and probing in places deeper than existing literature." - Edward Kanterian, University of Kent, USA