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Overcoming Onto-Theology

Toward a Postmodern Christian Faith

Merold Westphal

Publication Year: 2001

Overcoming Onto-theology is a stunning collection of essays by Merold Westphal, one of America's leading continental philosophers of religion, in which Westphal carefully explores the nature and the structure of a postmodern Christian philosophy. Written with characteristic clarity and charm, Westphal offers masterful studies of Heidegger's early lectures on Paul and Augustine, the idea of hermeneutics, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Derrida, and Nietzsche, all in the service of building his argument that postmodern thinking offers an indispensable tool for rethinking Christian faith. A must read for every student and professor of continental philosophy and the philosophy of religion, Overcoming Onto-theology is an invaluable collection that brings together in one place fourteen provocative and lucid essays by one of the most important thinkers working in American philosophy today.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Permission to use the following previously published materials is gratefully acknowledged...

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Introduction [Includes List of Abbreviations]

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pp. ix-xxiv

Some of the best philosophers whom I count among my friends are postmodernists. But they do not share my faith. Others of the best philosophers whom I count among my friends share my faith. But they are not postmodernists. Decidedly not. At varying degrees along a spectrum that runs from mildly allergic...

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1. Overcoming Onto-theology

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pp. 1-28

Not long ago I participated in a conference on biblical hermeneutics. It asked about the relation between trust and suspicion for Christians reading the Bible. The keynote addresses by Walter Brueggemann and Phyllis Trible were brilliant. But for me the highlight of the conference was the workshop led by Ched...

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2. Heidegger’s “Theologische” Jugendschriften

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pp. 29-46

Early Heidegger is proving to be every bit as interesting as early Hegel. In both cases the posthumously published Jugendschriften are of intrinsic interest as well as providing invaIuable keys to the subsequent writings. Heidegger’s postwar lectures as Privatdocent in Freiburg (KNS 1919 to SS 1923) have already...

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3. Hermeneutics As Epistemology

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pp. 47-74

Richard Rorty announces the end of epistemology in part 3 of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, entitled ”From EpistemoIogy to Hermeneutics.” He makes it clear that he is not offering, with help from Quine and Sellars, a new and better epistemology but a complete abandonment of the whole idea of a theory...

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4. Appropriating Postmodernism

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pp. 75-88

Once upon a time, not yesterday, but not so very long ago, I’m told, there was a minister in the Reformed tradition whose sermons all had three points. In itself that is not unusual, but in this case they were the same three points, regardless of the text. Each text was expounded in terms of (1) what it said against the...

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5. Christian Philosophers and the Copernican Revolution

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pp. 89-105

Should Christian philosophers be favorably or unfavorably disposed toward Kantian idealism? I want to suggest that they should be favorably disposed, that there are important affinities between Kantian idealism and Christian theism-important resources in the former for expressing themes essential to...

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6. Totality and Finitude in Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics

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pp. 106-127

We can take "root and all, and all in all" to be poetic longhand for 'completely' and "God and man" to be a synecdoche for 'all there is, the totality of being'. The poet says, in effect, "If I could understand the tiniest part completely, I would understand the whole show." On the other side of this coin we find the holist,...

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7. Positive Postmodernism As Radical Hermeneutics

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pp. 128-147

Hermenuetics is the form in which epistemology lives on. In one sense epistemology is dead. As the attempt to provide human knowledge with solid foundations, to prove that it can transcend the limitations of its perspectives and be adequate to the reality it intends, it is widely perceived to have failed. As the...

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8. Father Adam and His Feuding Sons: An Interpretation of the Hermeneutical Turn in Continental Philosophy

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pp. 148-175

The story of the hermeneutical turn in continental philosophy can be told in almost biblical terms. In the place of Father Adam (or Father Isaac) we have Father Heidegger, and in the place of the feuding sons, Cain and Abel (or Jacob and Esau), we have, at least according to one telling/ the reactionary son, Gadamer, and...

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9. Deconstruction and Christian Cultural Theory: An Essay on Appropriation

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pp. 176-196

The prospects do not seem bright for an appropriation of postmodern insights in the service of a Cluistian interpretation and critique of contemporary culture. Philosophical postmodernism is widely seen as being, at best, the moral equivalent of leprosy and, at worst, the moral equivalent of AIDS. The need to demonize runs...

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10. Laughing at Hegel

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pp. 197-218

Early in Of Grammatology, Derrida tells us that he is an Hegelian- of sorts: The horizon of absolute knowledge is the effacement of writing in the logos, the retrieval of the trace in parousia, the reappropriation of difference, the accomplishment of what I have elsewhere called the rnetaphysics of the proper. Yet all that Hegel thought within this horizon, all, that is, except...

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11. Derrida As Natural Law Theorist

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pp. 219-228

Postmodern philosphy in general and Derridian deconstruction in particular are rightly perceived as the most sustained critique of metaphysics since logical positivism. Since it is within the natural law traditions, ancient, medieval, and modern, that ethics is most unabashedly metaphysical, the title of this essay...

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12. Faith As the Overcoming of Ontological Xenophobia

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pp. 229-255

"My Pa can lick your Pa!" Thus, once upon a time, did aspiring machismo seek vicarious victory over its enemies. There is something of an echo of this boast in the claim "My God is more radically other than your God!" The wording may not be as fully explicit in the second case, but the transfer of...

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13. Divine Excess: The God Who Comes After

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pp. 256-284

The title of Calvin Schrag’s splendid little book The Self after Postmodernity1 makes explicit his assumption that the postmodern assault on the self as conceived by major strands within the western philosophical tradition is not an abolition, not a annihilation without remainder. Schrag’s work is inspired in large part...

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14. Nietzsche As a Theological Resource

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pp. 285-301

Not every construal of the theological enterprise will be able to entertain the possibility of Nietzsche as a resource, if not exactly an ally.F or example, if theology interprets itself onto-theologically, it will be unable to see any ambiguity or irony in his self-designations as immoralist and anti-Christ. They will simply be the...


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pp. 303-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247332
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823221301
Print-ISBN-10: 082322130X

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2001