Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

On Knowing an Ineffable God Personally: A Study in the Joy of the Saints

David Worsley


What might it mean for a person’s joy to be ‘complete’? Granting that such conditions obtain at the beatific vision, I suggest beatific enjoyment requires a specific kind of knowledge of God; namely, fundamental personal knowledge. However, attaining such personal knowledge necessitates the divine gifting of a special grace, that is, a power to know God’s infinite essence. Furthermore, this power, and so, this knowledge, can come in an infinite number of degrees. Granting this, one saint could come to a greater degree of fundamental personal knowledge of God than another, and therefore, one saint might experience a greater intensity of joy than another. Despite this difference in intensity, however, both saints may have their joy ‘complete’. 

Full Text:



Benton, Matthew A. 2017. “Epistemology Personalized”. The Philosophical Quarterly 67, no. 269: 813–34. doi:10.1093/pq/pqx020.

Churchland, Paul M. 1989. A Neurocomputational Perspective: The Nature of Mind and the Structure of Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Conee, Earl. 1994. “Phenomenal Knowledge”. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 72, no. 2: 136–50. doi:10.1080/00048409412345971.

Efird, David, and David Worsley. 2017. “What an Apophaticist Can Know: Divine Ineffability and the Beatific Vision”. Philosophy and Theology 29, no. 2: 205–19. doi:10.5840/philtheol20178478.

Jacobs, Jonathan A. 2015. “The Ineffable, Inconceivable, Incomprehensible God: Fundamentality and Apophatic Theology”. In Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 6, edited by Jonathan Kvanvig, 158–76. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press.

Lewis, David. 2004. “What Experience Teaches”. In There’s Something About Mary: Essays on Phenomenal Consciousness and Frank Jackson’s Knowledge Argument, edited by Peter Ludlow, Yujin Nagasawa and Daniel Stoljar, 77–104. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McDowell, John. 2001. Mind, Value, and Reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

Nemirow, Laurence. 1990. “Physicalism and the Cognitive Role of Acquaintance”. In Mind and Cognition: An Anthology, edited by William G. Lycan. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Radde-Gallwitz, Andrew. 2009. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Swinburne, Richard. 2017. “Why the Life of Heaven Is Supremely Worth Living”. In Paradise Understood: New Philosophical Essays About Heaven, edited by T. R. Byerly and Eric J. Silverman, 350–62. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

van Dyke, Christina. 2014. “Aquinas’s Shiny Happy People: Perfect Happiness and the Limits of Human Nature”. In Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 5, edited by Jonathan Kvanvig, 269–91. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Vasquez, Gabriel. 1619. Commentaria, ac Disputationes in Primam Partem S. Thomae, vol. 1. London: Horitij Cardon.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1969. On Certainty. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. Wright. Harper Torchbooks 1686. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Worsley, David. 2020. “Augustine on Beatific Enjoyment”. The Heythrop Journal 61, no 2: 234-240. doi:10.1111/heyj.12929.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.