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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.
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.
Dante and the Blessed Virgin is distinguished philosopher Ralph McInerny’s eloquent reading of one of western literature’s most famous works by a Catholic writer. The book provides Catholic readers new to Dante’s The Divine Comedy (or Commedia) with a concise companion volume. McInerny argues that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to Dante. She is behind the scenes at the very beginning of the Commedia, and she is found at the end in the magnificent closing cantos of the Paradiso. McInerny also discusses Dante’s Vita Nuova, where Mary is present as the object of the young Beatrice’s devotion. McInerny draws from a diverse group of writers throughout this book, including Plato, Aristotle, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, and George Santayana, among others. It is St. Thomas, however, to whom McInerny most often turns, and this book also provides an accessible introduction to Thomistic moral philosophy focusing on the appetites, the ordering of goods, the distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, the classification of capital vices and virtues, and the nature of the theological virtues. This engagingly written book will serve as a source of inspiration and devotion for anyone approaching Dante’s work for the first time as well as those who value the work of Ralph McInerny.
Reason and Philosophy in the Lutheran Tradition
Martin Luther's disdain for philosophy is well known, and the Lutheran theological tradition has been wary of its constructs. Yet the tradition also includes philosophical giants-from Melanchthon to Schleiermacher to Kierkegaard and even Nietzsche. This volume assumes that such skepticism about reason actually opened up new ways of doing and seeing philosophy.
Philosophers, theologians, and historians assess the paradox and achievements of philosophy in the Lutheran vein. In their important exploration in the history of ideas, they not only probe the roots and branches of Luther's own ambivalence toward philosophy, they also draw illuminating connections between his revolutionary theology and the development of European continental philosophy.
An Introductory Exposition
In Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul, Jacob E. Van Vleet argues that the work of Jacques Ellul is frequently—and deleteriously—misread on account of inattention to the theological underpinning that governs Ellul’s thought. In a penetrating analysis, the first of its kind, Van Vleet provides a substantive account of the theological structure of Ellul’s work and demonstrates the determinative role that theology, especially dialectical theology, plays in a proper understanding of Ellul.
Van Vleet offers a major introduction to Ellul’s thought, his contribution to theology and philosophy, and how his philosophy of technology is both theologically informed and culturally relevant. As well, this work situates Ellul’s theological and philosophical thought within an important genetic context, from Kierkegaard to the dialectical theologians of the twentieth century.
The Death and Return of God in Modern German Thought
The contemporary theologian Hans Küng has asked if the "death of God," proclaimed by Nietzsche as the event of modernity, was inevitable. Did the empowering of new forms of rationality in Western culture beginning around 1500 lead necessarily to the reduction or privatization of faith? In Dialogues between Faith and Reason, John H. Smith traces a major line in the history of theology and the philosophy of religion down the "slippery slope" of secularization-from Luther and Erasmus, through Idealism, to Nietzsche, Heidegger, and contemporary theory such as that of Derrida, Habermas, Vattimo, and Asad. At the same time, Smith points to the persistence of a tradition that grew out of the Reformation and continues in the mostly Protestant philosophical reflection on whether and how faith can be justified by reason. In this accessible and vigorously argued book, Smith posits that faith and reason have long been locked in mutual engagement in which they productively challenge each other as partners in an ongoing "dialogue."
Smith is struck by the fact that although in the secularized West the death of God is said to be fundamental to the modern condition, our current post-modernity is often characterized as a "postsecular" time. For Smith, this means not only that we are experiencing a broad-based "return of religion" but also, and more important for his argument, that we are now able to recognize the role of religion within the history of modernity. Emphasizing that, thanks to the logos located "in the beginning," the death of God is part of the inner logic of the Christian tradition, he argues that this same strand of reasoning also ensures that God will always "return" (often in new forms). In Smith's view, rational reflection on God has both undermined and justified faith, while faith has rejected and relied on rational argument. Neither a defense of atheism nor a call to belief, his book explores the long history of their interaction in modern religious and philosophical thought.
Exploring the subject of Jewish philosophy as a controversial construction site of the project of modernity, this book examines the implications of the different and often conflicting notions that drive the debate on the question of what Jewish philosophy is or could be. The idea of Jewish philosophy begs the question of philosophy as such. But "Jewish philosophy" does not just reflect what "philosophy" lacks. Rather, it challenges the project of philosophy itself. Examining the thought of Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Hermann Cohen Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Margarete Susman, Hermann Levin Goldschmidt, and others, the book highlights how the most philosophic moments of their works are those in which specific concerns of their "Jewish questions" inform the rethinking of philosophy's disciplinarity in principal terms. The long overdue recognition of the modernity that informs the critical trajectories of Jewish philosophers from Spinoza and Mendelssohn to the present emancipates not just "Jewish philosophy" from an infelicitous pigeonhole these philosophers so pointedly sought to reject but, more important, emancipates philosophy from its false claims to universalism.