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Transcendence and Self-Transcendence

On God and the Soul

Merold Westphal

Publication Year: 2004

The question of the transcendence of God has traditionally been thought in terms of the difference between pantheism, which affirms that God is wholly "within" the world, and theism, which affirms that God is both "within" and "outside" the world, both immanent and transcendent. Against Heidegger's critique of onto-theology and the general postmodern concern for respecting and preserving the difference of the other, Merold Westphal seeks to rethink divine transcendence in relation to modes of human self-transcendence. Touching upon Spinoza, Hegel, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Aquinas, Barth, Kierkegaard, Levinas, Derrida, and Marion, Westphal's work centers around a critique of onto-theology, the importance of alterity, the decentered self, and the autonomous transcendental ego. Westphal's phenomenology of faith sets this book into the main currents of Continental philosophy of religion today.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

I would like to thank Fordham University and the Pew Evangelical Scholars Program for their generous support, providing me with time to work on this project. I also offer my thanks to Harvard Divinity School for giving me the opportunity to give this book as a course while it was in preparation, and to the students in that class for the help they gave me in clarifying what I was trying to...


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pp. ix-xiv

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Introduction: For Orientation

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pp. 1-14

The story is told of a theologian who thought that Methodists had no theology. But he was invited to join the faculty of a Methodist divinity school, and after he had been there a while, he acknowledged that he had been mistaken. ‘‘Methodists do have a theology,’’ he said, ‘‘and it comes down to this: God is nice. Moreover,’’ he added, ‘‘there is an ethical corollary: we should be ...


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pp. 13-14

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one. Heidegger: How Not to Speak about God

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pp. 15-40

One of the deepest concerns of postmodern philosophy is to preserve alterity, to keep the subject, whether personal or corporate, from reducing its object, whether it be God, or neighbor, or social world, or natural world, from its own representations and purposes. Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology expresses this concern in relation to God. But if we are to examine the claim ...

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two. Spinoza: The Onto-theological Pantheism of Nature

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pp. 41-65

Spinoza is the paradigmatic pantheist. But is he not ipso facto an atheist? This would not mean that he has overcome metaphysics in its onto-theological sense. For if the Good and Humankind (in various modes) can substitute for God as the Highest Being, why not Nature? Still, an atheist could hardly provide us with a model of divine immanence in relation to which divine ...

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three. Hegel: The Onto-theological Pantheism of Spirit

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pp. 66-90

Like Spinoza, Hegel is a pantheist, though of an importantly different sort. He provides another site at which to explore the debate over cosmological transcendence. Because for Hegel the world is only penultimately the world of nature and ultimately the world of the human spirit and its history, the term ‘cosmological’ is no longer quite apt. But, since the debate between both ...


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pp. 91-92

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four. Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius: Negative Theology as a Break with the Onto-theological Project

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pp. 93-114

We are exploring the claim that onto-theology is bad theology because it compromises the transcendence of God, that overcoming onto-theology and renewing our sense of the otherness of God are two sides of the same coin. Whether we speak in the formal mode of ‘God’ or in the material mode of God, the onto-theological task of the name or the named one is to render the ...

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five. Pseudo-Dionysius and Aquinas: How to Speak Nevertheless about God—The Analogy of Being

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pp. 115-141

Deconstruction has been described as a ‘‘generalized apophatics.’’1 It reminds us how not to speak about anything at all, namely not to speak as if meaning were prior to language, as if the presence of the signified were prior to the use of the signifier,2 making it a transcendental signified available to us outside the chain of references (differences) which language is.3 Because ...

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six. Barth: How to Speak Nevertheless about God—The Analogy of Faith

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pp. 142-174

In his critique of onto-theology, Heidegger quotes 1 Corinthians 1:20, ‘‘Has not God let the wisdom of this world become foolishness?’’ links this wisdom to what Aristotle calls first philosophy and he calls onto-theology, and then asks, ‘‘Will Christian theology make up its mind one day to take seriously the word of the apostle and thus also the conception of philosophy as foolish-...


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pp. 175-176

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seven. Levinas: Beyond Onto-theology to Love of Neighbor

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pp. 177-200

We can easily enough imagine a kind of theological ‘‘gotcha!’’ game in which Barth insists that he has a more radical account of sin and grace as epistemic categories than Aquinas and his analogia entis. To which Aquinas then replies that in spite of Barth’s emphasis on the Scripture principle, he, Aquinas, is closer to biblical thinking, both with reference to Being as the first ...

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eight. Kierkegaard: Beyond Onto-theology to Love of God

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pp. 201-226

For Levinas, as we have seen, there is only the slightest hint of cosmological transcendence. The focus is entirely on epistemic and ethical transcendence, and the thesis is quite clear: transcendence is fundamentally an ethical or personal matter and epistemic transcendence is its necessary condition. Only that which exceeds comprehension retains enough alterity to put my ...

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pp. 227-232

In chapter 3, Hegel is presented as a paradigmatic example of how not to speak about God, and it is argued that in his speculative pantheism the transcendence of God is whittled away to the barest minimum. Still, my argument throughout this book has a strikingly Hegelian character. It is a matter of method rather than of substance. By this I don’t mean the hermeneutical phe-...


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pp. 233-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110992
E-ISBN-10: 0253110998
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344137

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion