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Margins of Religion

Between Kierkegaard and Derrida

John Llewelyn

Publication Year: 2009

Pursuing Jacques Derrida's reflections on the possibility of "religion without religion," John Llewelyn makes room for a sense of the religious that does not depend on the religions or traditional notions of God or gods. Beginning with Derrida's statement that it was Kierkegaard to whom he remained most faithful, Llewelyn reads Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, Deleuze, Marion, as well as Kierkegaard and Derrida, in original and compelling ways. Llewelyn puts religiousness in vital touch with the struggles of the human condition, finding religious space in the margins between the secular and the religions, transcendence and immanence, faith and knowledge, affirmation and despair, lucidity and madness. This provocative and philosophically rich account shows why and where the religious matters.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Studies in Continental Thought

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

A version of chapter 1 appeared in Elsebet Jegstrup, ed., The New Kierkegaard (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), of chapter 2 in John Sallis, ed., Research in Phenomenology, vol. 33 (Leiden, Neth.: Brill, 2003), of chapter 3, in Danish, in Per Krogh Hansen and Roy Sellars, eds., Kritik og Kulturanalyse 99 33, no. 1 (Holte, Denmark: Medusa, 2005), of parts of chapters 5 and 6 in Bettina...

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pp. 1-4

The quickest way to get an idea of what goes on in this book is to scan its list of contents and its epigraphs. The first of those epigraphs is Derrida’s remark “But it is Kierkegaard to whom I have been most faithful . . .” The book seeks to discover the nature of that fidelity via reflections on faith in the field of religion but also on what, in imitation of Derrida’s title Margins of Philosophy, my title calls...

Part One

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pp. 5

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1. On the Borderline of Madness

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pp. 7-30

The citation with which Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind concludes licenses the reader of that book to read it through the lens of Aristotle’s teaching in Metaphysics 1072b that philosophy is thinking as such and thinking in the fullest sense, where thinking as such deals with that which is best in itself, and that which is thinking in the fullest sense with that which is best in the fullest sense. And thinking thinks on itself because it shares the nature of the object of thought;...

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2. Stay!

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pp. 31-51

In the chapter of the Critique of Practical Reason entitled “Of the Motives of Pure Practical Reason,” Kant speaks of a certain inward peace. This innere Beruhigung, he says, adds nothing to our pleasure or happiness. It is a consolation (Trost) for a sacrifice of such happiness as we might have acquired for ourselves or “for a loved and well-deserving friend” by disregarding duty, for...

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3. Philosophical Fragments

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pp. 52-73

The subtitle of the French paperback edition of Derrida’s Glas reads: “ce qui reste du savoir absolu,” that is to say, “what is left over from or of absolute wisdom.” What Smuler, what fragments, crumbs, scraps, scrapings, shavings, undigested little bits, what petits carrés are saved? And the digestive system itself, what Climacus calls “the hungry monster of the world-historical process,”¹ can that...

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4. Standstill

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pp. 74-91

In the tradition of Hegelian absolute idealism from which a Kierkegaardian tradition seeks to wean itself, the idea of the absolute retains the sense of completeness, perfection, and infiniteness that the original Latin term “absolutus” conveys. In some of the writings through which the most recent phase of this weaning is being attempted there continues to be talk of absoluteness, and not...

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5. Works of Love

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pp. 92-103

To speak of the Kierkegaardian and Christian notion of eternal salvation, as is done at the ends of chapters 3 and 4, is to speak carelessly. For there is more than one Christian notion of salvation. Most notably, aside from the question of what is to be understood by salvation, there is the notion of salvation achieved through works and there is the notion of salvation achieved by grace. Kierkegaard’s...

Part Two

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pp. 105

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6. Between Appearance and Reality

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pp. 107-119

At the end of the last chapter the names of Kierkegaard and Luther were mentioned in one and the same breath. Like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche has a Lutheran background. We have seen how critical Kierkegaard is of Luther. Nietzsche is far more critical of Luther and of that for which Luther stands. He is critical not merely of Christendom, as is Kierkegaard. He hates Christianity. But for...

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7. Love of Fate

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pp. 120-138

As suggested by the fact that “malady,” the word of French origin for illness, echoes the French word for evil, “mal,” a society and an individual may enjoy either mixed physical and psychological health or mixed moral health. A person’s morals may be in some respects the morals of the herd and in other respects the morals of the hard, the morals of the master. This duality is not a...

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8. God’s Ghost

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pp. 139-150

Metaphysics as defined by Deleuze is ontogenetology. Metaphysics as defined by Levinas is the ethicality of the Good beyond being, ethicogenetology. This distinction leaves open the question as to the transcendence or immanence of God. One reason for this is Levinas’s temporary readiness on pedagogic grounds to say in Totality and Infinity, adapting Heidegger’s distinction, that the ethical...

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9. Innocent Guilt

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pp. 151-168

Dionysus, Nietzsche, Deleuze, and the Hasid invite us to dance. Oedipus is lame and does not. What about Levinas, who is not a Hasid? Would Deleuze and Guattari lump Levinas with the thinkers in whose works they find too much repression and gloom? Did we begin to learn that laughter and joy are not absent from his pages when it was noted in the last chapter that creativity...

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10. Origins of Negation

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pp. 169-185

If criticism is regress upon the conditions of knowledge as exemplified in the Critical philosophy of Kant, hypocriticism (or hypoCriticism) will be regress beyond those conditions. Strictly speaking, therefore, it is about hypocriticism that Levinas is writing when he refers to criticism as re-ascent (remont

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11. Negation of Origins

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pp. 186-209

I had a dream. Or a nightmare. That is to say, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, I had a visitation by “a female monster sitting upon & seeming to suffocate sleeper, incubus, oppressive or paralysing or terrifying or fantastically horrible dream . . . also haunting fear or thing vaguely dreaded.” The female monster had four wheels. She was an automobile vehicle of meanings.

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12. Love of Wisdom and Wisdom of Love

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pp. 210-234

In saying “Count on me” I give you my word. But in saying that I thereby give you my word do I not do the opposite of what I say? For in saying something about giving my word, have I not turned from using that word to mentioning it? This being so, it would seem that instead of giving you my word I do not give you my word. The same would seem to be the case if I say that in saying “I give...

Part Three

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pp. 235

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13. Oversights

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pp. 237-259

It was at the meeting of the Collegium Phaenomenologicum at Città di Castello in the summer of 2003 that some of us learned that Derrida was seriously ill. In the Museo del Duomo in that town hangs Pinturicchio’s “Madonna with Child and Saint John.” On a card reproducing a photograph of this painting which I sent to Derrida I drew his attention to “the unbelievable play of their...

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14. Oasis

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pp. 260-292

Derrida’s dilemma mentioned at the end of the penultimate section of the last chapter is similar in structure to mine mentioned earlier in the same chapter concerning intercessory prayer. Mine, I learned, was the consequence of a confusion. Is his? Is also Derrida’s dilemma due to an oversight? In Specters of Marx and elsewhere he distinguishes what he calls messianicity...

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15. Between the Quasi-transcendental and the Instituted

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pp. 293-325

The religious does not have to bypass theistic or atheistic religion, but up to a certain point it can. It can refuse to affirm a particular historical creed, but it cannot refuse to be historical. This is why in “Faith and Knowledge: The Two ‘Sources’ of Religion at the Limits of Reason Alone” Derrida emphasizes that his topic is religion today. Although what the word “religion” means depends in...

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16. Eucharistics

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pp. 326-346

To mention shelter and food and drink, as was done at the end of the last chapter, is to approach another dimension of religiousness that is not necessarily the religiousness of a religion or of the worship of a god. Rather as one may be tempted to postulate a God to whom to direct an intercessory prayer, one may postulate a god in order to meet a felt need for someone to whom to direct the...

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17. The World Is More Than It Is

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pp. 347-382

Under “sublime” the Concise Oxford Dictionary says: “of the most exalted kind, so distinguished by elevation or size or nobility or grandeur or other impressive quality as to inspire awe or wonder . . . reaching up to the lintel,” from Latin “limen,” which may also mean threshold. But what would be the archi-sublime? Insofar as this question makes contact with what Derrida says...

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pp. 383-416

The topic of William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience is not organized religion. Nor has that been the topic of this book. But whereas the descriptions of personal religious experiences he analyzes frequently make references to God or gods from the very first lecture and throughout its successors, I have sought to postpone such references for as long as I can. I have done this in the...


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pp. 417-462

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 463-471

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002792
E-ISBN-10: 0253002796
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352590

Page Count: 488
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Studies in Continental Thought