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Passion for the Impossible, A

John D. Caputo in Focus

Mark Dooley

Publication Year: 2003

Presenting the first systematic appraisal of the thought of John D. Caputo, one of America’s most respected and controversial continental thinkers, this book brings together internationally renowned philosophers, theologians, and cultural critics. One highlight of the work is an interview with Jacques Derrida in which Derrida talks candidly about his reaction to Caputo’s writings and spells out the implications for religion and the question of God after deconstruction. Caputo responds to the concerns expressed by his interlocutors in the same humorous, erudite, and challenging spirit for which he is known. The result is a lively and stimulating debate, covering themes in the philosophy of religion, deconstruction, political philosophy, feminism, and hermeneutics, as well as issues surrounding the work of Aquinas, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Saints and Postmodernism: Introduction

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pp. xi-xxiii

This book of essays on the work of one of the most exciting and controversial American Continental philosophers, John D. Caputo, attempts not only to put the latter’s challenging ideas into context, but also to provide a context for some of the world’s leading thinkers to discuss issues that are currently central to debates in the area of Continental philosophy and beyond. The issues...

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1. God and Anonymity: Prolegomena to an Ankhoral Religion

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pp. 1-19

“A wit has said that mankind can be divided into officers, servant girls, and chimney sweeps.”1 So says Constantin Constantius in Kierkegaard’s Repetition. The Hongs, Kierkegaard’s indefatigable, omnivorous English editors, have tracked down this wit, whose profundity Constantin cherishes, only to find that he chose to remain anonymous and hence unclassifiable (very fitting)...

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2. The Becoming Possible of the Impossible: An Interview with Jacques Derrida

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pp. 21-33

JD: I have many reasons for saying this. Firstly, he reads me the way I not only enjoy being read, but also in the way I strive to read others—that is, in a way which is generous to the extent that it tries to credit the text and the other as much as possible, not in order to incorporate, replace, or to identify with the other, but to “countersign” the text, so to speak. This involves...

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A Game of Jacks: A Response to Derrida

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pp. 34-49

It is impossible to avoid vertigo here. I have so often written about Derrida, stretched out his texts on the analytic table and dissected them, that I am unprepared for the dizzying effects of the reversal, of the inverted world produced by Derrida discussing my texts. I never thought he would look back, talk back, get up off the table and analyze back, agree and disagree, as Mark...

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3. Reflections on Caputo’s Heidegger and Aquinas

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pp. 51-68

I am indeed grateful to have been invited to make a contribution to this Festschrift, principally because I am truly grateful to John for creating this book. It has been at once one of the most challenging and most enlightening books I have read in my philosophical life. In choosing my topic I decided not to comment on the later chapters in the author’s own history, the deconstructionist...

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Nuptial Realism: A Response to Clarke

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pp. 69-72

Before reaching my present impudent state of mind, I was steeped in two masters, first Thomas Aquinas and then Heidegger, both very sober. My first published work attempted to articulate Heidegger—himself a sometime student of medieval thought—in terms of the medieval masters, Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas. Then, in Radical Hermeneutics, I tried to...

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4. Heidegger’s Fall

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pp. 73-98

With this succinct remark, a widely-respected philosopher (and good friend of many years) John Caputo, crystallizes his reaction1 to an attempt I had made2 to discuss the tragic debacle of Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism in terms of Heidegger’s own conception of the negativity of truth: aletheia. Thereby hangs a tale...

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The Heart of Concealment: A Response to Richardson

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pp. 99-106

The guest editor of the special “Heidegger” issue of American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly in which “Heidegger’s Fall” originally appeared described Bill Richardson as “the dean of American Heidegger scholars, generations of American students having cut their teeth on his Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought,” and that he is here responding to the complaints...

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5. Khora or God?

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pp. 107-122

In an essay entitled “Dark Hearts: Heidegger, Richardson and Evil,” Jack Caputo has this to say about his debt to the great American Heideggerian, Bill Richardson: “If, as Heidegger says, thinking is thanking, then one can offer a work of thought as a bit of gratitude. Derrida, on the other hand, repeats the warning of the circle of the gift according to which, in all gift-giving...

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Abyssus Abyssum Invocat: A Response to Kearney

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pp. 123-127

A year or so after Against Ethics appeared I received a letter from a former student who, having absorbed its last chapter on suicide and worms inching their way to silent graves was moved to asked me whether something had gone dreadfully wrong in my life! Not to worry, I said. I have always been fascinated— or hounded—by the abyss, an abyss, some abyss, from the...

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6. A Reading of John D. Caputo’s “God and Anonymity”

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pp. 129-146

I would like to begin by saying how honored I am to have this chance to respond to the work of Professor Caputo.1 His work represents one of the most interesting engagements with the work of Derrida in the English-speaking world.2 That engagement is not one which involves only writing in the margins of Derrida himself, but is also an exploration of some of the foundational...

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The Violence of Ontology: A Response to Ayres

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pp. 147-152

Lewis Ayres’s paper belongs in the wake of Richard Kearney’s imagination and makes a similar argument. I thank him for an articulate and bracing discussion of my work and I will respond first by establishing points of contact on which we can agree in the midst of sharp disagreements, then by a rejoinder rather like my response to...

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7. Postmodernism and Ethics: The Case of Caputo

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pp. 153-170

Philosophically speaking, perhaps the most pressing question inherited by the nineteenth century from the eighteenth was this: How is theology possible after the Kantian critique of metaphysics? There was no shortage of “solutions.” Some, beginning with Kant and Fichte, sought to ground theology in ethics. Others, beginning with Schleiermacher, sought to ground theology...

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“O felix culpa,” This Foxy Fellow Felix: A response to Westphal

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pp. 171-174

I have always been grateful for the light and good humor that Merold Westphal sheds on philosophical argument and now I find myself grateful for the illumination he sheds on me, I who am a question unto myself, as St. Augustine says. At the end of this excellent study he puts his finger on exactly what is at stake in Against Ethics. Earlier on, he had pointed out that by leaving “obligation”...

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8. Squaring the Hermeneutic Circle: Caputo as Reader of Foucault

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pp. 175-194

In his several highly original and arresting books on radical hermeneutics, ethics, and the philosophy of religion, John Caputo rarely mentions Michel Foucault. In view of the dominant place given Jacques Derrida in his later works, one wonders why Derrida’s contemporary and rival sun in the Parisian firmament received such scant notice. Could it be that Foucault is taken to...

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Hounding Hermeneutics: A Response to Flynn

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pp. 195-199

The reason I do not mention Foucault often is that I have always found it difficult to draw nourishment from Foucault. The essay that Thomas Flynn has so perspicaciously analyzed is my one attempt to do so. I have sometimes quipped that if this is not what Foucault is saying then I give up and will stop trying to be nourished by him and leave Foucault to nourish the...

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9. In Praise of Prophesy: Caputo on Rorty

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pp. 201-228

I was not at all surprised when I learned recently that Richard Rorty’s maternal grandfather was the “Social Gospel” theologian, Walter Rauschenbusch. The latter’s searing denunciations of those politicians and bureaucrats “who have cloaked their extortion with the gospel of Christ,”1 not only remind one of Kierkegaard’s equally deprecating remark to the effect that the so-called...

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Achieving the Impossible—Rorty’s Religion: A Response to Dooley

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pp. 229-236

I agree with my dear friend Mark Dooley, whose great generosity and Herculean efforts have made this volume possible, that Richard Rorty is the most interesting American philosopher of the day, the one voice in American philosophy whom someone other than academic insiders read and listen to, and the most important American thinker to read Derrida and take him...

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10. Faith, Hope, and Love: Radical Hermeneutics as a Pauline Philosophy of Religion

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pp. 237-250

One should not be surprised that John Caputo has changed his mind about certain things throughout the history of his thought, for after all he constantly reminds us that being and reason are mobile and mutable, both caught in the play of a certain kinetics that never ceases to flow in an interminable flux. Since he, himself, holds no privileged position outside this process, his life...

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Holding on by our Teeth: A Response to Putt

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pp. 251-254

After having been criticized as a faithless and unbelieving rascal by Ayres, Kearney and Westphal, it is delightful to be accused of being a follower of St. Paul by Keith Putt. Everyone should have a reader like Keith Putt, who has read everything and remembered everything, including a couple of early pieces I did years ago on Derrida that, to be honest, I would thank him to...

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11. Caputo’s Example

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pp. 255-275

If in the earlier twentieth century, Martin Heidegger’s epoch-making philosophy tends in the direction of a demythologizing reduction that would articulate and elaborate the ontological and existential grounds to which such ontic, existentiell fields as religion would have to be traced back, one of the more significant trends in later twentieth-century, post-Heideggerian thinking can be...

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On Being Left without a Prayer: A Response to Carlson

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pp. 276-282

Thomas Carlson, one of the new stars in the firmament of continental philosophy of religion,1 has identified the nerve of Prayers and Tears. This book is framed by an Introduction, “A Passion for the Impossible,” and a Conclusion, “A Passion for God,” that are meant to signal the endless translatability of “God” and “the impossible,” the substitutability of the one for the other, which...

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12. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Esoteric Comedy and the Poetics of Obligation

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pp. 283-294

One of the pleasures of John D. Caputo’s The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida is its susceptibility to literary appreciation as well as philosophical reflection, to a way of reading supported or supplemented by an informed awareness of rhetoric and diction, genre, tone, and narrative persona. True, these are matters of art rather than matters of argument, and as such they lie...

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Not in Tongues, but Tongue in Cheek: A Response to Kearns

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pp. 295-297

I am deeply indebted indeed to Cleo McNelly Kearns for a particularly striking analysis. She says that her gloss on Prayers and Tears represents an “ancillary discourse rather than a direct engagement” because it is focused not on the logic or argument but rather the poetics of Prayers and Tears. It so, that raises an interesting point. It is as incisive and illuminating to me as...

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13. Without Why, Without Whom: Thinking Otherwise with John D. Caputo

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pp. 299-310

To think about thinking “without why” is not to think without why for to ponder such thinking is to reflect upon the question of why thought is to proceed in a specifiable way. By contrast, to think without why is to enter into the negation of the “without” while retaining the affirmation of the thought act. But is thinking without why, “Ohne Warum,” thinking at all? To answer this...

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On Being Attached to Philosophers and Prophets: A Response to Wyschogrod

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pp. 311-313

The rejoinder I would make to Merold Westphal about Against Ethics is to a great extent made on my behalf by Edith Wyschogrod in the present study. Edith Wyschogrod is something of a soulmate of mine, a fellow traveler in a world that is, in Levinas’s poignant phrase, “attached to both the philosophers and the prophets.”1 She is someone who wants to station herself, as do I, in...


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pp. 315-317


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pp. 319-323

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487020
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456873
Print-ISBN-10: 0791456870

Page Count: 348
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought