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Since the establishment of Christianity in the West as a major religious tradition, Augustine (354–430 C.E.) has been considered a principal architect of the ways philosophy can be used for reasoning about faith. In particular, Augustine effected the joining of Platonism with Christian belief for the Middle Ages and beyond. The results of his enterprise continue to be felt, especially with regard to the contested topics of human embodiment, sexuality, and the nature and roles of women. As a result, few thinkers have been as problematic for feminists as he has been. He is the thinker that a number of feminists love to hate. What do feminist thinkers make of this problematic legacy? These lively essays address that question and provide thoughtful arguments for the value of engaging Augustine’s ideas and texts anew by using the well-established methodologies that feminists have developed over the last thirty years. Augustine and his legacy have much to answer for, but these essays show that the body of his work also has much to offer as feminists explore, challenge, and reframe his thinking while forging new paradigms for construing gender, power, and notions of divinity.
Emmanuel Levinas, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and Israel among the Nations
Reviews the potentially complementary albeit sharp differences between two important contemporary Jewish philosophers. The Fence and the Neighbor traces the contours of two thinkers, Emmanuel Levinas and Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who crossed the divide between Talmud and philosophy “proper.” Adam Zachary Newton shows how the question of nationalism that has so long haunted Western philosophy—the question of who belongs within its “fence,” and who outside—has long been the concern of Jewish thought and its preoccupation with law, limits, and the place of Israel among the nations. To those unfamiliar with Talmudic thought Newton shows how deeply its language and concerns shape Levinas. He also offers an introduction to Leibowitz, a conservative religious thinker who was an outspoken gadfly and radically critical voice in the Israeli political scene. Together, their common origin in Jewish Eastern Europe, a common concern with national allegiance, and the common fence of religious Judaism that makes them intellectual neighbors are voiced in penetrating and original dialogue.
A Lexicography of the Scapegoat or, the History of an Idea
Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand
"I stayed [in the forest] for two nights. The first night, nothing happened. The second night, at about one or two in the morning, a tiger came--which meant that I didn't get any sleep the whole night. I sat in meditation, scared stiff, while the tiger walked around and around my umbrella tent (klot). My body felt all frozen and numb. I started chanting, and the words came out like running water. All the old chants I had forgotten now came back to me, thanks both to my fear and to my ability to keep my mind under control. I sat like this from 2 until 5 a.m., when the tiger finally left." --A forest monk During the first half of this century the forests of Thailand were home to wandering ascetic monks. They were Buddhists, but their brand of Buddhism did not copy the practices described in ancient doctrinal texts. Their Buddhism found expression in living day-to-day in the forest and in contending with the mental and physical challenges of hunger, pain, fear, and desire. Combining interviews and biographies with an exhaustive knowledge of archival materials and a wide reading of ephemeral popular literature, Kamala Tiyavanich documents the monastic lives of three generations of forest-dwelling ascetics and challenges the stereotype of state-centric Thai Buddhism. Although the tradition of wandering forest ascetics has disappeared, a victim of Thailand's relentless modernization and rampant deforestation, the lives of the monks presented here are a testament to the rich diversity of regional Buddhist traditions. The study of these monastic lineages and practices enriches our understanding of Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere.
Meditations onyChristian Doctrine
Philosophers have long and skeptically viewed religion as a source of overeasy answers, with a singular, totalizing Godand the comfort of an immortal soul being the greatest among them. But religious thought has always been more interesting-indeed, a rich source of endlessly unfolding questions.With questions from the 1885 Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church as the starting point for each chapter, Karmen MacKendrick offers postmodern reflections on many of the central doctrines of the Church: the oneness of God, original sin, forgiveness, love and its connection to mortality, reverence for the relics of saints, and the doctrine of bodily resurrection. She maintains that we begin and end in questions and not in answers, in fragments and not in totalities-more precisely, in a fragmentation paradoxically integralto wholeness.Taking seriously Augustine's idea that we find the divine in memory, MacKendrick argues that memory does not lead us back in time to a tidy answer but opens onto a complicated and fragmented time in which we find that the one and the many, before and after and now, even sacred and profane are complexly entangled. Time becomes something lived, corporeal, and sacred, with fragments of eternity interspersed among the stretches of its duration. Our sense of ourselves is correspondingly complex, because theological considerations leadus not to the security of an everlasting, indivisible soul dwelling comfortably in the presence of a paternal deity but to a more complicated, perpetually peculiar, and paradoxical life in the flesh.Written out of MacKendrick's extensive background in both recent and late-ancient philosophy, this moving and poetic book can also be an inspiration to anyone, scholar or lay reader, seeking to find contemporary significance in these ancient theological doctrines.
An assessment of the rise and fall within the Franciscan Order of the doctrine of the absolute poverty of Christ and the apostles. Covering the decades between 1210-1323, Lambert describes the doctrine as found in the mind of St. Francis and moves to Pope John XXII’s condemnation of one particular form of the doctrine.
Psychoanalysis, Mysticism, and the Culture of Modern Spirituality
"It is arguably the case," writes William Parsons, "that no two figures have had more influence on the course of Western introspective thought than Freud and Augustine." Yet it is commonly assumed that Freud and Augustine would have nothing to say to each other with regard to spirituality or mysticism, given the former's alleged antipathy to religion and the latter's not usually being considered a mystic.
Adopting an interdisciplinary, dialogical, and transformational framework for interpreting Augustine's spiritual journey in his Confessions, Parsons places a "mystical theology" at the heart of Augustine's narrative and argues that his mysticism has been misunderstood partly because of the limited nature of the psychological models applied to it. At the same time, he expands Freud's therapeutic legacy to incorporate the contemporary findings of physiology and neuroscience that have been influenced in part by modern spirituality.
Parsons develops a new psychological hermeneutic to account for Augustine's mysticism that will capture the imagination of contemporary readers who are both psychologically informed and interested in spirituality. The author intends this interpretive model not only to engage modern introspective concerns about developmental conflict and the power of the unconscious but also to reach a more nuanced level of insight into the origins and the nature of the self.
"Christian philosophy" is commonly regarded as an oxymoron, philosophy being thought incompatible with the assumptions and conclusions required by religious faith. According to this way of thinking, philosophy and theology must forever remain distinct.
In From Theology to Theological Thinking, Jean-Yves Lacoste takes a different approach. Stepping back from contemporary philosophical concerns, Lacoste—a leading figure in the philosophy of religion—looks at the relationship between philosophy and theology from the standpoint of the history of ideas. He notes in particular that theology and philosophy were not considered separate realms until the high Middle Ages, this distinction being a hallmark of the modern era that is coming to an end. Lacoste argues that the intellectual task before us now is to work in the frontier region between or beyond these domains, work he identifies as "the task of thinking."
With this argument, Lacoste resets our understanding of Western Christian thought, contending that a new way of thinking that is at once philosophical and theological will be the lasting discourse of Christianity.
Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology
Merold Westphal has been in the foremost ranks of philosophers who proclaim a new postsecular philosophy. By articulating an epistemology sensitive to the realities of cognitive finitude and moral weakness, he defends a wisdom that begins in both humility and commitment, one that always confesses that human beings can encounter meaning and truth only as human beings, never as gods.The present volume focuses on this wisdom of humility that characterizes Westphal's thought and explores how that wisdom, expressed through the redemptive dynamic of doubt, can contribute to developing a postsecular apologetic for faith.This book can function both as an accessible introduction to Westphal for those who have not read him extensively and also as an informed critical appreciation and extension of his work for those who are more experienced readers.
Tamsin Jones believes that locating Jean-Luc Marion solely within theological or phenomenological discourse undermines the coherence of his intellectual and philosophical enterprise. Through a comparative examination of Marion's interpretation and use of Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory of Nyssa, Jones evaluates the interplay of the manifestation and hiddenness of phenomena. By placing Marion against the backdrop of these Greek fathers, Jones sharpens the tension between Marion's rigorous method and its intended purpose: a safeguard against idolatry. At once situated at the crossroads of the debate over the turn to religion in French phenomenology and an inquiry into the retrieval of early Christian writings within this discourse, A Genealogy of Marion's Philosophy of Religion opens up a new view of the phenomenology of religious experience.