Transforming Philosophy and Religion
Publication Year: 2008
Norman Wirzba, Bruce Ellis Benson, and an international group of philosophers and theologians describe how various expressions of philosophy are transformed by the discipline of love. What is at stake is how philosophy colors and shapes the way we receive and engage each other, our world, and God. Focusing primarily on the Continental tradition of philosophy of religion, the work presented in this volume engages thinkers such as St. Paul, Meister Eckhart, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Ricoeur, Derrida, Marion, Zizek, Irigaray, and Michele Le Doeuff. Emerging from the book is a complex definition of the wisdom of love which challenges how we think about nature, social justice, faith, gender, creation, medicine, politics, and ethics.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Bruce Ellis Benson’s essay (chapter 2) appeared in a somewhat different form as ‘‘Paul and the Knowledge that Puffs Up: A Taste for Idolatry,’’ in Journal of Philosophy and Scripture 2:2 (2005): 11–22. The editors would like to thank Trent Koutsoubos for his work on the index.
There are many books on the morality of love. In studies of that sort, philosophers and theologians turn their analytical skills to an examination of love’s nature and extent1 as well as its inspiration and concrete expression. They consider, for instance...
PART 1. The Nature of the Quest
1. The Primacy of Love
It is misleading, even if it is etymologically correct, to define philosophy as the ‘‘love of wisdom.’’ As a definition it assumes too much. Do we know what we mean when we utter the word wisdom, especially in a time dominated by the ‘‘end of philosophy?’’1 Do we fully appreciate the significance and the complexity of the relation between...
2. The Economies of Knowledge and Love in Paul
The entire pericope of 1 Corinthians 8–10 can be situated between the strange juxtaposition of two phrases that we find at the beginning of chapter 8: ‘‘Peri de tôn eidôlothutôn’’ [now concerning food sacrificed to idols] and ‘‘oidamen hoti pantes gnôsin exomen’’ [we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge’]. 1 While it might seem as if Paul turns to idolatry only to be immediately distracted by one of the chief claims of the...
3. Love, This Lenient Interpreter: On the Complexity of a Life
Why read a writer’s work or life? We might read for love, for love of wisdom or of God, for love of the Unknown or love of this particular writer whose life and work lies here before us. Reading for love of a writer’s life and work, we’d be warmly disposed, we’d be ready to have words lift our spirits (even though, in other moods, from different lives...
PART 2. Justice
4. A Love as Strong as Death: Ricoeur’s Reading of the Song of Songs
The struggle against claims of absolute com-prehension and totalizing theory was one of the hallmarks of the work of Paul Ricoeur. One of these areas of struggle was his longstanding attempt to keep philosophical analysis and religious investigation independent of one another. Over the...
5. Paul Ricoeur and the Possibility of Just Love
An ‘‘ontology of totality’’1 pervades postmodern ethics, forcing a radical dichotomy of economy and excess, justice and love, framing the possibility of such an ethics—and its impossibility. Nowhere is this dichotomy more radically exposed than in Emmanuel Lévinas’s Otherwise than Being, or, Beyond Essence,2 in which...
6. Why There Is No Either/Or in Works of Love: A Kantian Defense of Kierkegaardian (Christian) Unconditional Love
According to Matthew 22:39, the second most important divine commandment is ‘‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’ One of Jesus’ last commandments before his trial and execution was ‘‘A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you’’ (John 13:34). The pressing question for a Christian, or indeed for anyone who...
7. Living by Love: A Quasi-Apostolic carte postale on Love in Itself, If There Is Such a Thing
If love is an unconditional gift, an expenditure made without the expectation of a return, is it not also the case that we live our lives under one economy or another, under one version or another of what St. Paul calls the ‘‘law’’? Do we not have to concede...
PART 3. The Sacred
8. A Love that B(l)inds: Reflections on an Agapic Agnosticism
In Memoirs of the Blind, Jacques Derrida references the ancient tale of Butades, a young Corinthian woman who prepares for her lover’s departure by tracing the silhouette of his shadow as a mnemonic relic that will serve as a sacramental and supplemental ‘‘presence’’ during his extended absence. He...
9. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Postmodern philosophy has a curiously schizophrenic relationship with love, and nowhere is this more the case than in postmodern thought at the intersection of philosophy and theology. On the one hand, postmodern thinkers return to the theme of love again and again. For example, Emmanuel Levinas asserts, ‘‘From the start...
10. Creatio Ex Amore
11. Militant Love: Zizek and the Christian Legacy
When scholars invoke the ‘‘turn to religion’’ in Continental philosophy, they generally are referring to a trajectory of phenomenological thought rooted in Heidegger and developed most prominently by Levinas, Marion, and Derrida. But today the question of religion is arising in new ways in other Continental thinkers, notably in the Marxist and Lacanian work of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek. We should...
12. Love as a Declaration of War? On the Absolute Character of Love in Jean-Luc Marion’s Phenomenology of Eros
The lover ‘‘declares his love, as one declares war.’’ So insists Jean-Luc Marion repeatedly in his investigation into the nature of the erotic phenomenon.1 War, of course, is here ‘‘only’’ a metaphor illustrating the absolute commitment of the lover. Yet the fact...
PART 4. Rethinking Humanity
13. Liberating Love’s Capabilities: On the Wisdom of Love
There are plenty of good reasons to reflect upon the wisdom of love rather than the love of wisdom. My argument is that such wisdom derives from ‘‘liberated love’’ rather than ‘‘bonded love’’ — a distinction that, however contentious, I employ from the outset of this chapter. It is also...
14. The Genesis of Love: An Irigarayan Reading
Luce Irigaray has rightly understood the creation of a good world, where in the beginning is space and where God, as time itself, lavishes, or exteriorizes, Godself in the world. Inhabitants live in this space, both male and female, but in the genealogy of philosophy, male becomes time and female becomes the space of inhabited places. A fall occurs....
15. You’d Better Find Somebody to Love: Toward a Kierkegaardian Bioethic
Does an orphan in the woods have a voice if there is no one to hear her cry? What if another forest-dweller perceives her as his next meal? Is this propositional orphan a ‘‘she’’ in any meaningful sense...
List of Contributors