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130Philosophy and Literature after all, a character. (Poteat commits the all too common error of confusing Percy's ideas with his characters', even as she claims not to.) While the strategies of Percy's fiction are more affecting and effective, his essays too have the heft of a man in a predicament speaking to people in theirs. In stretching for her larger cultural criticism, Poteat distorts several ofPercy's essays in order to discover the inconsistency she says is inherent in his method. In her third chapter, for instance, she cites two passages from Percy's "The Symbolic Structure of Interpersonal Process" which she claims disclose "approval of certain fundamental tenets ofbehaviorism à la George Mead and B. F. Skinner" (pp. 96-97). Aside from the fact that they do no such thing — she cites his qualifying remarks about limited successes ofbehavioristic method while ignoring the essay's major argument, characterized in one subheading as "The Incoherence of a Behaviorist Theory of Meaning" — granting concessions does not invalidate one's position. Acknowledging that I respond to the stimulus of a student's poorly written paper in certain ways, and that that response in turn stimulates my student to alter his behavior, does not make me a behaviorist, whored forever. Tarring Percy with the Cartesian brush, Poteat's primary strategy, finally fails to convince. Descartes cannot be die sole scapegoat for our predicament; philosophy has had its arguers for the absolute since its inception. Novels, however, are not primarily "instruments with which to think about reality" as Poteat seems to think (p. 19). Twenty years ago, Sheldon Sacks's Fiction and the Shape ofBeliefdearly set forth the relevant terms here: a novel is not first a statement of belief or "theme," but rather presents characters we care about in unstable situations which are then further complicated and finally resolved. More serious, Poteat's willful misreading of the final paragraph of"The Mystery of Language" (p. 91), and her faulting the ending of The Message in the Bottle for failing to conclude with a rational, coherent theory— such things are either dishonest or perverse. Hyde is loose. Central Missouri State UniversityMarkJohnson Erring: A Postmodern A/theology, by Mark C. Taylor; xi & 219 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984, $20.00. Erring is a dioughtful, often brilliant attempt to describe and enact what remains of (and for) theology in die wake of deconstruction. Drawing on Hegel, Nietzsche, Derrida, and others, Mark Taylor extends — and goes well beyond — pioneering efforts like Deconstruction and Theology (Crossroad, 1982), my preliminary remarks in Reading Deconstruction/Deconstructive Reading (University Reviews131 PressoiKentucky, 1983), and his own Deconstructing Theology (Crossroad, 1982). The result is a major book, comprehensive and well-informed. Retracing some steps taken in Deconstructing Theology, Part One analyzes the intricate, mirroring relationship of the death of God, the disappearance of the self, the end of history, and die closure of the book. Interpreting "the death of God" as "not only the death that God suffers but also the death that . . . God is" (p. 23), Taylor presents deconstruction as distinctive in "its willingness to confront the problem of the death of God squarely even if not always directly" (p. 6). In Erring, as in other "deconstructive a/theology," such as that of Thomas J. J. Altizer, it becomes opportunity as well as crisis. After deconstructing the dyadic foundation of the Western theological tradition , Taylor moves in Part Two — less derivatively and more interestingly —towards a radical reinterpretation of God, self, history, and book as writing, trace, erring, and text, respectively. Undeterred by Derrida's insistence that deconstruction is to be distinguished from negative theology, Taylor argues that, "read through Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, Derridean writing points beyond the deconstruction of theology to deconstructive a/theology" (p. 99), constructed around recognition of the relatedness of— rather than the supposed absolute differences between — binary terms. Opened by the death of God is thus die demise of identities and the advent of dissemination and relations. From die death of God comes, in fact, a radical christology, which "is thoroughly incarnational — the divine 'is' the incarnate word. . . . With the appearance of the divine that is not only itself but ... at die same time...


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pp. 130-132
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