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Apophasis and Overcoming Theomania
This book explores the co-dependency of monotheism and idolatry by examining the thought of several prominent twentieth-century Jewish philosophers Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas. While all of these thinkers were keenly aware of the pitfalls of scriptural theism, to differing degrees they each succumbed to the temptation to personify transcendence, even as they tried either to circumvent or to restrain it by apophatically purging kataphatic descriptions of the deity. Derrida and Wyschogrod, by contrast, carried the project of denegation one step further, embarking on a path that culminated in the aporetic suspension of belief and the consequent removal of all images from God, a move that seriously compromises the viability of devotional piety. The inquiry into apophasis, transcendence, and immanence in these Jewish thinkers is symptomatic of a larger question. Recent attempts to harness the apophatic tradition to construct a viable postmodern negative theology, a religion without religion, are not radical enough. Not only are these philosophies of transcendence guilty of a turn to theology that defies the phenomenological presupposition of an immanent phenomenality, but they fall short on their own terms, inasmuch as they persist in employing metaphorical language that personalizes transcendence and thereby runs the risk of undermining the irreducible alterity and invisibility attributed to the transcendent other. The logic of apophasis, if permitted to run its course fully, would exceed the need to posit some form of transcendence that is not ultimately a facet of immanence. Apophatic theologies, accordingly, must be supplanted by a more far-reaching apophasis that surpasses the theolatrous impulse lying coiled at the crux of theism, an apophasis of apophasis, based on accepting an absolute nothingness to be distinguished from the nothingness of an absolute that does not signify the unknowable One but rather the manifold that is the pleromatic abyss at being's core. Hence, the much-celebrated metaphor of the gift must give way to the more neutral and less theologically charged notion of an unconditional givenness in which the distinction between giver and given collapses. To think givenness in its most elemental, phenomenological sense is to allow the apparent to appear as given without presuming a causal agency that would turn that given into a gift.
Essays in Philosophical Theology
In God as Reason: Essays in Philosophical Theology, Vittorio Hösle presents a systematic exploration of the relation between theology and philosophy. In examining the problems and historical precursors of rational theology, he calls on philosophy, theology, history of science, and the history of ideas to find an interpretation of Christianity that is compatible with a genuine commitment to reason. The essays in the first part of God as Reason deal with issues of philosophical theology. Hösle sketches the challenges that a rationalist theology must face and discusses some of the central ones, such as the possibility of a teleological interpretation of nature after Darwin, the theodicy issue, freedom versus determinism, the mind-body problem, and the relation in general between religion, theology, and philosophy. In the essays of the second part, Hösle studies the historical development of philosophical approaches to the Bible, the continuity between the New Testament concept of pneuma and the concept of Geist (spirit) in German idealism, and the rationalist theologies of Anselm, Abelard, Llull, and Nicholas of Cusa, whose innovative philosophy of mathematics is the topic of one of the chapters. The book concludes with a thorough evaluation of Charles Taylor’s theory of secularization.
Heresy and the European Imagination between the World Wars
Could the best thing about religion be the heresies it spawns? Leading intellectuals in interwar Europe thought so. They believed that they lived in a world made derelict by God's absence and the interruption of his call. In response, they helped resurrect gnosticism and pantheism, the two most potent challenges to the monotheistic tradition. In God Interrupted, Benjamin Lazier tracks the ensuing debates about the divine across confessions and disciplines. He also traces the surprising afterlives of these debates in postwar arguments about the environment, neoconservative politics, and heretical forms of Jewish identity. In lively, elegant prose, the book reorients the intellectual history of the era.
God Interrupted also provides novel accounts of three German-Jewish thinkers whose ideas, seminal to fields typically regarded as wildly unrelated, had common origins in debates about heresy between the wars. Hans Jonas developed a philosophy of biology that inspired European Greens and bioethicists the world over. Leo Strauss became one of the most important and controversial political theorists of the twentieth century. Gershom Scholem, the eminent scholar of religion, radically recast what it means to be a Jew. Together they help us see how talk about God was adapted for talk about nature, politics, technology, and art. They alert us to the abiding salience of the divine to Europeans between the wars and beyond--even among those for whom God was long missing or dead.
Pushing past the constraints of postmodernism which cast "reason" and"religion" in opposition, God, the Gift, and Postmodernism, seizes the opportunity to question the authority of "the modern" and open the limits of possible experience, including the call to religious experience, as a new millennium approaches. Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, engages with Jean-Luc Marion and other religious philosophers to entertain
questions about intention, givenness, and possibility which reveal the extent to which deconstruction is structured like religion. New interpretations of Kant, Heidegger, Husserl, and Derrida emerge from essays and discussions with distinguished philosophers and theologians from the United States and Europe. The result is that God, the Gift, and Postmodernism elaborates a radical phenomenology that stretches the limits of its possibility and explores areas where philosophy and religion have become increasingly and surprisingly convergent.
Contributors include: John D. Caputo, John Dominic Crossan, Jacques Derrida, Robert Dodaro, Richard Kearney, Jean-Luc Marion, Frangoise Meltzer, Michael J. Scanlon, Mark C. Taylor, David Tracy, Merold Westphal
and Edith Wyschogrod.
Sovereignty and Subjectivity Between Freud, Bataille, and Derrida
No topic has caused more discussion in recent philosophy and political theory than sovereignty. From late Foucault to Agamben, and from Guantanamo Bay to the 'war on terror,' the issue of the extent and the nature of the sovereign has given theoretical debates their currency and urgency. New thinking on sovereignty has always imagined the styles of human selfhood that each regime involves. Each denomination of sovereignty requires a specific mode of subjectivity to explain its meaning and facilitate its operation. The aim of this book is to help outline Jacques Derrida's thinking on sovereignty - a theme which increasingly attracted Derrida towards the end of his career - in its relationship to subjectivity. It investigates the late work Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, as not only Derrida's fullest statement of his thinking on sovereignty, but also as the destination of his career-long interest in questions of politics and self-identity. The book argues that in Derrida's thinking of the relationship between sovereignty and subjectivity - and the related themes of unconditionality and ipseity - we can detect the outline of Bataille's adaptation of Freud. Freud completed his 'metapsychology,' by defining the 'economic' nature of subjectivity. In Bataille's hands, this economic theory became a key to the nature of inter-relationship in general, specifically the complex and shifting relationship between subjectivity and power. In playing with Bataille's legacy, Derrida connects not only with the irrepressibly outrageous thinking of philosophy's most self-consciously transgressive thinker, but with the early twentieth century scientific revolution through which 'energy' became ontology. As with so many of the forebears who influenced him, Derrida echoes and adapts Bataille's thinking while radically de-literalising it. The results are crucial for understanding Derrida's views on power, subjectivity and representation, as well as all of the other key themes in late Derrida: hospitality, justice, otherness and the gift.
A Hermeneutics of Religion
"Kearney is one of the most exciting thinkers in the English-speaking world of continental philosophy.... and [he] joins hands with its fundamental project, asking the question 'what'or who'comes after the God of metaphysics?'" -- John D. Caputo
Engaging some of the most urgent issues in the philosophy of religion today, in this lively book Richard Kearney proposes that instead of thinking of God as 'actual,' God might best be thought of as the possibility of the impossible. By pulling away from biblical perceptions of God and breaking with dominant theological traditions, Kearney draws on the work of Ricoeur, Levinas, Derrida, Heidegger, and others to provide a surprising and original answer to who or what God might be. For Kearney, the intersecting dimensions of impossibility propel religious experience and faith in new directions, notably toward views of God that are unforeseeable, unprogrammable, and uncertain. Important themes such as the phenomenology of the persona, the meaning of the unity of God, God and desire, notions of existence and différance, and faith in philosophy are taken up in this penetrating and original work.
Richard Kearney is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and University College, Dublin. He is author of many books on modern philosophy and culture, including Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers, The Wake of Imagination, and The Poetics of Modernity.
A Reading of Heidegger
The Gods and Technology is a careful and original reading of the principal statement of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, the essay Die Frage nach der Technik (“The question concerning technology”). That essay is a rich one, and Richard Rojcewicz’s goal is to mine it for the treasures only a close reading of the original German text can bring out. Rojcewicz shows how the issue of technology is situated at the very heart of Heidegger’s philosophical enterprise; especially for the late Heidegger, the philosophy of technology is a philosophy of Being, or of the gods. For Heidegger, technology is not applied knowledge, but the most basic knowledge, of which science, for example, is an application. The ultimate goal of this study, and, as Rojcewicz writes, of Heidegger’s thought, is practical: to find the appropriate response to the challenges of the modern age, to learn to live in a technological world without falling victim to the thrall of technological things.
A Short Book on the Secular and the Sacred
The title of Charles Taliaferro’s book is derived from poems and stories in which a person in peril or on a quest must follow a cord or string in order to find the way to happiness, safety, or home. In one of the most famous of such tales, the ancient Greek hero Theseus follows the string given him by Ariadne to mark his way in and out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. William Blake's poem “Jerusalem” uses the metaphor of a golden string, which, if followed, will lead one to heaven itself. Taliaferro extends Blake’s metaphor to illustrate the ways we can link what we see, feel, and do with deep spiritual realities. Taliaferro offers a foundational case for the recognition of the experience of the eternal God of Christianity, in which God is understood as the fount of all goodness and the subject and object of our best love, revealed through scripture, tradition, philosophical reflection, and encountered in everyday events. He addresses philosophical obstacles to the recognition of such experiences, especially objections from the “new atheists,” and explores the values involved in thinking and experiencing God as eternal. These include the belief that the eternal goodness of God subordinates temporal goods, such as the pursuit of fame and earthly glory; that God is the essence of life; and that the eternal God hallows domestic goods, blessing the everyday goods of ordinary life. An exploration of the moral and spiritual riches of the Christian tradition as an alternative to materialism and naturalism, The Golden Cord brings an originality and depth to the debate in accessible and engaging prose.
The Berlin Lectures
The Berlin lectures in The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, appearing here for the first time in English, advance Schelling’s final “existential system” as an alternative to modernity’s reduction of philosophy to a purely formal science of reason. The onetime protégé of Fichte and benefactor of Hegel, Schelling accuses German Idealism of dealing “with the world of lived experience just as a surgeon who promises to cure your ailing leg by amputating it.” Schelling’s appeal in Berlin for a positive, existential philosophy found an interested audience in Kierkegaard, Engels, Feuerbach, Marx, and Bakunin. His account of the ecstatic nature of existence and reason proved to be decisive for the work of Paul Tillich and Martin Heidegger. Also, Schelling’s critique of reason’s quixotic attempt at self-grounding anticipates similar criticisms leveled by poststructuralism, but without sacrificing philosophy’s power to provide a positive account of truth and meaning. The Berlin lectures provide fascinating insight into the thought processes of one of the most provocative yet least understood thinkers of nineteenth-century German philosophy.
Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice