Unity of opposites#Coincidentia oppositorum

Coincidentia oppositorum (Latin; " coincidence of opposites " ) is a central concept in the thinking of the philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa ( Cusanus ).


Aristotle had already determined in his work Physics of the efficient cause, the formal cause and the final cause: Now go three times in one together ( in Latin translation: ( co) incidunt in unum ). The late medieval philosopher Albertus Magnus and Heymericus de Campo related this to the identity of these three causes in God. The word comes from coincidentia Heymericus who was friends with Nicholas of Cusa and influenced him greatly. In Heymericus but was not a coincidence of opposites mentioned.

The idea of ​​co Falls ( coincidence ) of opposites into a unity emerged from the tradition of Neoplatonism. Gave an impetus thoughts of late antique Neoplatonist Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart, but these are a introduced by Nicholas of Cusa innovation. Nicholas emphasizes that it has thus developed a new, independent theory which could not have had previous philosophy. He sees the coincidence thinking a core element of its approach or method ( by which he means not a doctrine or a system ). With reference to the novelty of his way of thinking he distances himself sharply from the Aristotelian philosophy dominated school of late medieval scholasticism.


Nicholas distinguishes between reason ( intellect, mind ) and reason (ratio). By " mind " he means the force that orders the sensations, by distinguishing between them and thus includes and excludes, thus also negating what the senses are not able to. All rational knowledge is based on relative, as it is based on comparisons. The mind demarcates something and determined (defined ) it so. His objects are characterized in that they may have a more or less. Something absolute or infinite the mind can not grasp, because there is for him between the finite and the infinite no proportion. He denied where the comparison lacks experience. However, man can develop the concept of infinity and spiritually closer to the infinite. These helps him a special ability to reason, which is according to Nicholas ' conviction far beyond the mind. By reason can think only separated the distinctive negating the mind, of opposites, negated, they come to the concept of infinity and the infinite unity, in which the opposites in one coincide ( coincide ). This coincidence concept is inaccessible as a rational content of the intellect; for the mind, he is paradoxical.

Expressed theologically is the infinite unity of God. In terms of the Neoplatonic tradition, it is one thing, is the ground of becoming, the Nicholas identified with the utmost simplicity. Even the Catalan thinker Ramon Llull, the teachings of Nicholas studied diligently, had pointed out that the divine attributes are not different from one another in God. Accordingly, the same God in goodness and wisdom, they are thinking without distinction as one. Nicholas applies this principle to all kinds of opposite ( opposita ). In his view, the contrasts in God are folded, unfolded in the world. In the unity of opposites referring paradoxically express the adversarial ( contradictory) contrasts with one that exclude each other according to the Aristotelian principle of contradiction. The validity of this theorem it is limited to the area of ​​intellectual activity; beyond this range it removes the restriction of thinking by banning the opposition. It therefore goes against Aristotle and the medieval Aristotelians, who considered the contradiction sentence as the basic principle of all reality and all reality sensed thinking.

The spiritual comprehension of the coincidence

Nicholas has his whole life striving for spiritual reach the " simple unity " of God in which all opposites coincide. In understanding the coincidence he sees an imperative condition for the knowledge of God.

In his 1440 work De Docta incurred ignorantia ( "On learned ignorance " ), he believes the reason is finite and can therefore as well as the mind does not exceed the contradictions and do not reach the coincidence. Later, in De coniecturis ( around 1442 ) and written in the period from 1445 to 1447 small fonts, Nicholas values ​​the opportunities for a higher reason. Now he thinks it can overcome the contradictions against the resistance of the mind and thus attain paradoxical insights equate about the greatest with the smallest. In addition, he now writes to man the ability to a " divine " thinking, which transcends even the opposition of affirmation and negation in the sense of coincidence. He claims that this divine thought let the reason and the understanding of the contradictory opposites behind in order to pursue the absolute unity and infinity. God is not the coincidence of opposites, but the coincidence of thought is only the human reason proper way to approach it. Therefore, Nicholas called 1453 in De visione dei coincidence as a " wall" between the seeker and God. However, he does in this wall not an insurmountable obstacle.

The tradition of Platonism, which emphasizes the importance of mathematical thinking in philosophy, follows Nicholas, by symbolically illustrates his metaphysical thoughts with preference on the basis of mathematical examples. The infinite unity he illustrated with the example of an infinite straight line. This is not only straight, but at the same time a triangle whose base side infinitely long and the associated height has become infinitely small; the largest angle ( 180 ° ) appears at the same time as the smallest ( 0 °). Similarly, the line is also a circle of infinite diameter.


A fierce opponent of the coincidence concept was professor of theology John Wenck, a contemporary of Nicholas. He said that such an approach would lead to pantheism, as they ontologically God and the world let coincide, thus canceling the difference between Creator and creatures. Therefore, if it were heresy. Against this accusation is Nicholas sat violently resisted.

Giordano Bruno, an admirer of Cusa, led the coincidence thoughts in a pantheistic sense on. In the 18th century, Johann Georg Hamann took up the concept of the coincidence of opposites, and made it a central element of his philosophy. Even Schelling followed up on it.

Hegel calls the name of Nicholas of Cusa at any point. His idea of ​​the ratio of the absolute idea to the world ( nature and history ) but is influenced by the coincidence concept.