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The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa
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The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa


Eerdmans 2013

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According to Johannes Hoff, societies today are characterized by their inability to reconcile seemingly black-and-white scientific rationality with the ambiguity of postmodern pop culture. In the face of this crisis, The Analogical Turn recovers the fifteenth-century thinker Nicholas of Cusa’s alternative vision of modernity to develop a fresh perspective on the challenges of our time.

In contrast to his mainstream contemporaries, Cusa’s appreciation of individuality, creativity, and scientific precision was deeply rooted in the analogical rationality of the Middle Ages. He revived and transformed the tradition of scientific realism in a manner that now, retrospectively, offers new insights into the “completely ordinary chaos” of postmodern everyday life.

Hoff’s original study offers a new vision of the history of modernity and the related secularization narrative, a deconstruction of the basic assumptions of postmodernism, and an unfolding of a liturgically grounded concept of common-sense realism.

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Key Features

  • Examines a fifteenth-century thinker’s original insights for theology and philosophy today
  • Develops a fresh perspective on the challenges of our late modern world
  • Discusses the pre-modern tradition of Christian learning


  • Part I: Nicholas of Cusa: Pioneer of a Forgotten Path into the Modern Age
    • Cusa’s Path to the “Wisdom of Unknowing”
    • The Legacy of Dionysius the Areopagite
    • Wisdom Shouts Outside in the Alleys and Squares
    • The Growing Gap between Science and Liturgy as a Focal Problem
  • Part II: Nicholas of Cusa and the Genealogy of Modern Concepts of Space and Autonomy
    • Prologue: The Liturgical Staging of Modern Perspective
    • The Prehistory of the Modern Concepts of Perspective and Space
    • The Formation of the Modern “World Picture” in Renaissance Italy
    • Cusa’s Response to the Emergence of the Modern Concept of Space
    • Cusa’s Response to the Emergence of the Modern Concept of Autonomy
  • Part III: Cusa’s Alternative Vision of the Age to Come
    • Cusa’s Resistance to the Hyper-reflexivity of the Narcissistic Age
    • Cusa’s Inversion of Modern Perspective
    • Cusa’s Holistic Alternative to the Analytic Rationality of Modernity
    • Cusa’s Holistic Alternative to Analytic Accounts of Individuality
    • Cusa’s Apocalyptic Response to the Liturgical Crisis of His Age
    • Cusa’s Ontology of Desire and the Body of Christ

Praise for the Print Edition

The Analogical Turn by Johannes Hoff for the first time locates Nicholas of Cusa without anachronism as a post-nominalist realist, who reworked the inherited analogical vision of Christian theology in a simultaneously late Gothic and Renaissance manner. As Hoff explains, this idiom offers us a new way forward today. . . . Much more than a monograph on a historical figure, this imaginatively crafted and extremely scholarly volume constitutes one of the most significant works of theology in the twenty-first century so far. I believe that it will exert a very considerable influence on future theoretical reflections both within theology and without.

John Milbank, professor in religion, politics, and ethics, University of Nottingham

In this fascinating book Johannes Hoff shows us how Nicholas of Cusa sought to express the insights of the classical and medieval worldview in the conceptuality of the modern. With enormous learning and great insight, Hoff’s The Analogical Turn illuminates some of the urgent problems of philosophy and theology today.

Andrew Louth, professor of patristic and Byzantine studies, Durham University

With The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa, Johannes Hoff has given us the most challenging and most readable book on the fifteenth-century cardinal to have appeared in English. But, as the title suggests, at issue is much more—the shape and fate of our modern world. Recently there has been much talk about this being a postmodern, postsecular age. Hoff’s book should make such talk more thoughtful.

—Karsten Harries, Howard H. Newman Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

This work by Johannes Hoff crucially enhances our understanding of the origins of modernity in the late Middle Ages. . . . He shows how the fragmented and illusory modern world in which we live was not an inevitable outcome of the cultural and intellectual upheavals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There is an alternative modernity, centered on a theological symbolic reality, which can be derived chiefly from the work of fifteenth-century theologian, philosopher, and mathematician Nicholas of Cusa. There is a way of radically rethinking our modern cultural and intellectual malaise. This is scholarship of the very highest caliber. Hoff’s book will establish itself as one of the most significant works of Christian theology and philosophy in recent years.

—Simon Oliver, associate professor of philosophical theology, University of Nottingham

Product Details

  • Title: The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa
  • Author: Johannes Hoff
  • Series: Interventions
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 267

About Johannes Hoff

Johannes Hoff is professor of systematic theology at Heythrop College in the University of London. He previously taught at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and received his doctorate from the University of Tübingen. His other works include Kontingenz, Berührung, Überschreitung: Zur philosophischen Propädeutik christlicher Mystik nach Nikolaus von Kues and Spiritualität und Sprachverlust: Theologie nach Foucault und Derrida.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition