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Augustine and Postmodernism

Confessions and Circumfession

John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds.

Publication Year: 2005

At the heart of the current surge of interest in religion among contemporary Continental philosophers stands Augustine's Confessions. With Derrida's Circumfession constantly in the background, this volume takes up the provocative readings of Augustine by Heidegger, Lyotard, Arendt, and Ricoeur. Derrida himself presides over and comments on essays by major Continental philosophers and internationally recognized Augustine scholars. While studies on and about Augustine as a philosopher abound, none approach his work from such a uniquely postmodern point of view, showing both the continuing relevance of Augustine and the religious resonances within postmodernism. Posed at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and religious studies, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of Augustine as well as those interested in the invigorating discussion between philosophy, religion, and postmodernism.

Contributors include Geoffrey Bennington, Philippe Capelle, John D. Caputo, Elizabeth A. Clark, Hent de Vries, Jacques Derrida, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Richard Kearney, Catherine Malabou, James O'Donnell, Michael J. Scanlon, and Mark Vessey.

Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion -- Merold Westphal, general editor

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

The editors wish to acknowledge the support of Villanova University in making possible the conference “Religion and Postmodernism 3: Confessions,” on September 27–29, 2001, on which this volume is based. We thank in particular Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., President of the University, for his continuing support and encouragement, Dr. John Johannes, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Helen ...

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Introduction: The Postmodern Augustine

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pp. 1-15

We thought we had gathered to talk with Jacques Derrida about St. Augustine’s Confessions, and the “repetition” of Augustine’s Confessions in Derrida’s “Circumfession,” in Heidegger, Lyotard, Ricoeur, and Arendt. And so we did. But none of us could have foreseen that the third Religion and Postmodernism conference, whose papers we are here reproducing, would take place sixteen days after the events ...


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One: Composing ‘‘Circumfession’’

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pp. 19-27

I want to say, first of all, that I am so pleased and honored to be back here at Villanova once more with so many friends. I am overwhelmed by your hospitality and all the more so under these tragic circumstances when I wanted to be, and I do feel, closer to you than ever, sharing, of course, all of your grief and mourning and compassion. I was in Shanghai on September the 11th, and then I went back ...

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Two: Confessions and "Circumfession"

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pp. 28-49

Richard Kearney: You are all very welcome to this final session of this third conference on Religion and Postmodernism. I propose that we might usefully proceed, as we have done in previous years, by starting off with each of the participants putting a question or a comment to Jacques Derrida and then inviting Jacques ...


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Three: Time—for the Truth

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pp. 53-67

Time for the truth. Of course I have a confession to make to you all. Or rather, two confessions at least, one of which is perhaps more external to the paper I shall be reading tonight, the second perhaps more internal. In each case, though—and here both confessions are absolutely germane to my theme and topic—the confession has to do with events. The more external confession is simple: when I accepted ...

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Four: Instances

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pp. 68-94

Here, I would like to articulate a simple question. What happens if we add the reflections on time in Augustine’s Confessions to the historical dossier from which Derrida’s interrogations of the topos of temporality—from “Ousia and grammè” to Shibboleth—take their lead? How would the Confessions register among the classical sources—Aristotle’s Physics, Hegel’s ...

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Five: Shedding Tears Beyond Being

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pp. 95-114

The resources and strategies of negative theology, its “detours, locutions and syntax” (Marg., 6/6),2 have always fascinated Derrida, and that is because for Derrida, as for negative theology, our desire beyond desire is for what lies “beyond being,” to use a venerable expression from Christian Neoplatonism. But what lies “beyond being” for Derrida is tears, prayers and tears, tears shed beyond being (V, 42/40), ...

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Six: Heidegger

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pp. 115-126

I have been asked to discuss the relationship between Heidegger and Saint Augustine, and more precisely, to give an account of Heidegger’s reading of Saint Augustine’s work in order to determine the influence of this reading on the development of his own thought. This question is not new but has been addressed many times since Otto Pöggeler’s famous ...

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Seven: The Form of an “I”

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pp. 127-143

Facticity or machination? Faktizität oder Machenschaft? Heidegger inscribes the meaning of confession in Saint Augustine between these two ways of making. In fact, in the expression “to make the truth” (veritatem facere) that opens Book X: “I desire to make (or bring forth) [the truth] in my heart, before Thee in confession, but also in my book, before many witnesses,” Heidegger classifies as equivocal the ...

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Eight: Time, Evil, and Narrative

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pp. 144-158

I want to concentrate here on two of Paul Ricoeur’s texts on Augustine’s Confessions. First, the opening chapter of volume one of Time and Narrative—entitled “The Aporias of the Experience of Time in Book XI of Augustine’s Confessions,” and second, an article written in 1985 entitled “Evil: A Challenge to Philosophy and Theology.”1 ...

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Nine: Arendt’s Augustine

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pp. 159-172

Hailed as the “first modern man,” Augustine is certainly holding his own with the postmoderns. He features in the work of Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Lyotard, Derrida, and quite amply in the writings of Hannah Arendt. In 1996 Arendt’s 1929 dissertation was published in English translation as Love and Saint Augustine. This event occasioned different points of view on the ongoing relationship between ...

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Ten: Reading like Angels

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pp. 173-211

The possibility of fiction is a condition for the truth- claim of testimony, a possibility that is also a living passibility, since not even a martyr’s death can prove the truth of what is asserted. This (un)truth condition of testimony, Derrida argues, is common to all our mortal experience and utterance, both to what we call literature and to what we may think of as other-than-literature: ...

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Eleven: Augustine’s Unconfessions

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pp. 212-221

The reading practices of moderns when confronted with Augustine’s Confessions are extraordinarily consistent and extraordinarily idiosyncratic. To find a way to talk about Augustine and his self-representations that breaks the crust of that familiar set of practices even a little, I will choose to begin by reading a bit of Augustine’s presentation of a fragment of the life of his friend Alypius.1 ...

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Twelve: On Not Retracting the Unconfessed

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pp. 222-243

We here honor and explore the writings of (as Richard Rorty has put it) “two boys from North Africa who made it big in Europe.”1 From one of them, Jacques Derrida, many of us have learned (however partially and inelegantly) to attend to gaps and absences in texts, to grafts, aporias, and exclusions.2 From the other, Augustine, we have inherited a precious cache of writings whose gaps, aporias, and ...

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Thirteen: Why Augustine? Why Now?

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pp. 244-256

The fate of St. Augustine in the world of academic political theory has been, at best, mixed. He is, first of all, enveloped in that blanket of suspicion cast over all “religious” or “theological” thinkers: do they really belong with the likes of Plato and Aristotle, Machiavelli and Hobbes, Marx and Mill? Weren’t their eyes cast heavenward rather than fixed resolutely on human political and social affairs? ...


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pp. 257-258


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pp. 259-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111081
E-ISBN-10: 0253111080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253345073

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 3 b&w photos, 1 index
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion