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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 28, 2019

God and Man as Unrepresentable Images

Carla Canullo EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Theology


The Syrian bishop Theophilus of Antioch said: «Show me your man, and I will show you my God!». This sentence is a way of conveying that man is the image of God. Philosophical thought has attempted to grasp this image through the representation, which suggests the representation as both visual model and act of thought. The image as representation of thought is the method through which both God and man have been thought. This is confirmed by Immanuel Kant who, in the ‘transcendental Dialectic’ of the Critique of Pure Reason, showed that metaphysics thought both man (transcendental paralogism) and God (transcendental Ideal) as an ‘idea’. In contrast, Husserl’s phenomenology opened a new method by conceiving every image, and therefore also the image of God and man, not as a representation of thought but as a ‘phenomenon’ that manifests itself. The phenomenological method, based on the imperative “zu den Sachen selbst!”, would be adequate to grasp human essence that, like the divine one, is spiritual, indefinable and unrepresentable. In order to think this unrepresentability, the present paper investigates the work of Jean-Luc Marion, who thought the unrepresentable image of God and, therefore, of man, by distinguishing the image as an idol and as an icon. Above all, we will try to show that phenomenology allows us to grasp the image of God and man as an icon that cannot be constructed by thought.


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Received: 2019-03-27
Accepted: 2019-04-29
Published Online: 2019-06-28

© 2019 Carla Canullo, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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