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An ardent admirer and student of Emmanuel Levinas during the last decade of the philosopher's life, Michaël de Saint Cheron sat down with his mentor for these interviews, conducted in 1983, 1992, and 1994. Throughout, their conversations provide further insight into the key concepts of responsibility, transcendence, holiness, and the hostage for understanding Levinas’s notion of ethics as first philosophy.
As Levinas and Saint Cheron discuss a variety of topics — death and time in the philosophies of Heidegger and Bergson, eros and the feminine, the Judeo-Christian dialogue, Levinas’s differences of thought with Paul Ricœur, reflections on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the “end of history” with the fall of Western Communism — we can clearly see Levinas’s ceaseless engagement with the justification for living after such horrors as those of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Stalinism, Cambodia, or Rwanda.
Included here as well, following the interviews, are several essays in which Saint Cheron presents his own further considerations of their conversations and Levinas’s ideas. He writes of the relation of the epiphany of the face to the idea of holiness; of Sartre and, in particular, that existentialist thinker’s “revision” of Jews and Judaism in his final controversial dialogues with Benny Lévy; of the epiphanies of death in André Malraux’s writings; and of the radical breach effected in the Western philosophical tradition by Levinas’s “otherwise-than-thinking." Finally, Saint Cheron pays homage to Levinas’s talmudic readings in an analysis of forgiveness and the unforgivable in Jewish tradition and liturgy, culminating in an inevitable confrontation with the Shoah from the perspective of Simon Wiesenthal’s harrowing The Sunflower and some of the contemporary reactions to it.
Maimonides and the Outsider
James Diamond's new book consists of a series of studies addressing Moses Maimonides' (1138–1204) appropriation of marginal figures—lepers, converts, heretics, and others—normally considered on the fringes of society and religion. Each chapter focuses on a type or character that, in Maimonides' hands, becomes a metaphor for a larger, more substantive theological and philosophical issue. Diamond offers a close reading of key texts, such as the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah, demonstrating the importance of integrating Maimonides' legal and philosophical writings. Converts, Heretics, and Lepers fills an important void in Jewish studies by focusing on matters of exegesis and hermeneutics as well as philosophical concerns. Diamond's alternative reading of central topics in Maimonides suggests that literary appreciation is a key to deciphering Maimonides’ writings in particular and Jewish exegetical texts in general.
modernity and tradition in the philosophy of Josef Pieper
Composed of ten original essays written with the goal of exploring the thought of one of the most significant German philosophers of the 20th century, namely, Josef Pieper (1904-1997), this book is the only systematic treatment of his expansive philosophy to date.
Creation and the Sovereignty of God brings fresh insight to a defense of God. Traditional theistic belief declared a perfect being who creates and sustains everything and who exercises sovereignty over all. Lately, this idea has been contested, but Hugh J. McCann maintains that God creates the best possible universe and is completely free to do so; that God is responsible for human actions, yet humans also have free will; and ultimately, that divine command must be reconciled with natural law. With this distinctive approach to understanding God and the universe, McCann brings new perspective to the evidential argument from evil.
Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old
W. Norris Clarke has chosen the fifteen essays in this collection, five of which appear here for the first time, as the most significant of the more than seventy he has written over the course of a long career. Clarke is known for his development of a Thomistic personalism. To be a person, according to Saint Thomas, is to take conscious self-possession of one's own being, to be master of oneself. But our incarnate mode of being human involves living in a body whose life unfolds across time, and is inevitably dispersed across time. If we wish to know fully who we are, we need to assimilate and integrate this dispersal, so that our lives become a coherent story. In addition to the existentialist thought of Etienne Gilson and others, Clarke draws on the Neoplatonic dimension of participation. Existence as act and participation have been the central pillars of his metaphysical thought, especially in its unique manifestation in the human person.The essays collected here cover a wide range of philosophical, ethical, religious, and aesthetic topics. Through them sounds a very personal voice, one that has inspired generations of students and scholars.
Redescribing the Public Study of Religion
A lively critique of the study of religion in the modern academy, one that makes the scholar of religion a cultural critic rather than a caretaker of a religious tradition or a guru dispensing timeless wisdom. Critics Not Caretakers argues that the study of religion must be rethought as an ordinary aspect of social, historical existence, a stance that makes the scholar of religion a critic of cultural practices rather than a caretaker of religious tradition or a font of timeless wisdom. From a general introduction written for a wide audience and a theoretical essay that outlines the basis of an alternative, socio-rhetorical approach to studying religion, the book moves on to a series of dispatches from the theory wars, each of which uses the work of such writers as Karen Armstrong, Walter Burkert, and Benson Saler as a point of entry into wider theoretical issues of importance to the field’s future. The author then examines the socio-political role of this brand of critical scholarship—a role that differs dramatically from the type of sympathetic caretaking generally associated with scholars of religion who feel compelled to “go public.” Concluding the work is a consideration of how scholars as teachers can address issues of theory and critical thinking in the undergraduate classroom. Written with verve, Critics Not Caretakers provides a viable alternative for all those dissatisfied with the covertly political, liberal humanist approach that currently dominates the study of religion.
The Borderlands of Philosophy and Theology
In France today, philosophy--phenomenology in particular--finds itself in a paradoxical relation to theology. Some debate a "theological turn." Others disavow theological arguments as if such arguments would tarnish their philosophical integrity, while nevertheless carrying out theology in other venues. In Crossing the Rubicon, Emmanuel Falque seeks to end this face-off. Convinced that "the more one theologizes, the better one philosophizes," he proposes a counterblow by theology against phenomenology. Instead of another philosophy of "the threshold" or "the leap"--and through a retrospective and forward-looking examination of his own method--he argues that an encounter between the two disciplines will reveal their mutual fruitfulness and their true distinctive borders. Falque shows that he has made the crossing between philosophy and theology and back again with audacity and perhaps a little recklessness, knowing full well that no one thinks without exposing himself to risk.
Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others
Exploring the risks, ambiguities, and unstable conceptual worlds of contemporary thought, Crossover Queries brings together the wide-ranging writings, across twenty years, of one of our most important philosophers.Ranging from twentieth-century European philosophy-the thought of Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Levinas, Janicaud, and others-to novels and artworks, music and dance, from traditional Jewish thought to Jain andBuddhist metaphysics, Wyschogrod's work opens radically new vistas while remaining mindful that the philosopher stands within and is responsible to a philosophical legacy conditioned by the negative.Rather than point to a Hegelian dialectic of overcoming negation or to a postmetaphysical exhaustion, Wyschogrod treats negative moments as opening novel spaces for thought. She probes both the desire for God and an ethics grounded in the interests of the other person, seeing these as moments both of crossing over and of negation. Alert to the catastrophes that have marked our times, she exposes the underlying logical structures of nihilatory forces that have been exerted to exterminate whole peoples. Analyzing the negationsof biological research and cultural images of mechanized and robotic bodies, she shows how they contest the body as lived in ordinary experience.Crossover Queries brings together important essays on a remarkable range of topics by one of our most insightful cultural critics. Commenting on philosophical and theological issues that have shaped the recent past as well as scientific and technological questions that will preoccupy us in the near future, Wyschogrod consistently alerts us to the urgency of problems whose importance few recognize. To avoid the challenge these essays pose is to avoid responsibility for a future that appears to be increasingly fragile.-Mark C. Taylor, Columbia University
Face to Face
Reading Dante’s Commedia alongside Jacques Derrida’s later religious writings, Francis J. Ambrosio explores what these works reveal about religion as a fundamental dynamic of human existence, about freedom and responsibility, and about the significance of writing itself. Ambrosio argues that both the many telling differences between them and the powerful bonds that unite them across centuries show that Dante and Derrida share an identity as religious writers that arises from the human experiences of faith, hope, and love in response to the divine mystery of being human. For both Dante and Derrida, Ambrosio contends, “scriptural religion” reveals that the paradoxical tension of freedom and absolute responsibility must lead to the mystery of forgiveness, a secret that these two share and faithfully keep by surrendering to its necessity to die so as always to begin again anew.