angels dancing on the head of a pin

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An allusion to the theological question “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” — a question cited to debunk mediaeval angelology in particular and scholasticism in general. Since angels are non-corporeal and do not occupy space, an infinite number of them could be present at a single point in space simultaneously.


angels dancing on the head of a pin pl (plural only)

  1. (figuratively) The subject of arcane intellectual speculation; used as an example subject of enquiry the pursuit of which is of no value.
    • 1965, United States Congress House Government Operations, Procurement of a Cryogenic Cooling System for Fighter Aircraft: Hearing, 89-1, June 8–9, 1965, page 47:
      We are not talking about angels dancing on the head of a pin here.
    • 1995, Julian Lincoln Simon, The State of Humanity, page 358:
      …logically indistinguishable from the argument that because we do not know at what rate the angels dancing on the head of a pin are dying off…
    • 2001, William C. Gaventa & David L. Coulter, The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger, page 6:
      The issues Dr. Wolfensberger wrestles with and writes about are not intellectual discussions of angels dancing on the head of a pin.


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