Philosophy of Religion in the 21st Century edited by D. Z.
Phillips, Timothy Tessin (Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion:
Palgrave) offers the rare opportunity to assess, within a
single volume, the leading schools of thought in the contemporary philosophy of
religion. With contributions by well-known exponents of each school, the book is
an ideal text for assessing the deep proximities and divisions that characterize
contemporary philosophy of religion. The schools of thought represented include
philosophical theism, Reformed epistemology, Wittgensteinianism, Postmodernism,
Critical Theory, and Process Thought.
Excerpt: The symposia and discussions presented here represent the proceedings of the 1999 annual philosophy of religion conference which took place at Claremont Graduate University. Previous publications in the series Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion are: Philosophy and the Grammar of Religious Belief; Religion and Morality; Can Religion Be Explained Away? Religion without Transcendence?; Religion and Hume's Legacy; and Kant and Kierkegaard on Religion. It was thought appropriate in 1999 to prepare for the year 2000 by presenting a volume on the present state of philosophy of religion. It was impossible to include everything, so choice was made on the basis of movements which it was thought had to be represented. On the other hand, the conference was arranged with considerable trepidation, since there was always the danger that the six philosophical schools would pass each other by like ships in the night. The message in my Thai fortune‑cookie, opened in the closing banquet of the conference, would have summed up my foreboding at its outset. It read, 'You would be wise not to seek too much from others at this time.' For once my fortune‑cookie was not uncannily revelatory, since, as the discussions reveal, genuine attempts were made to probe and explore difficulties connected with each point of view. I am not going to rehearse these in this introduction. Instead, I am going to single out a feature of the conference which struck me most forcibly as its organizer.
The papers in the conference represent, not simply differences on specific topics, but differences concerning the very conception of philosophical enquiry. In one sense, it would be foolish to try to determine the nature of philosophy since, descriptively, this would be a futile exercise. Why insist that philosophy or philosophy of religion can only be done in one way, when it is obviously practised in a number of ways?
It is tempting to take a tolerant attitude and simply say, 'Let a thousand flowers bloom.' But, in another sense, that cannot be allowed without denying a considerable part of philosophy's history. This is because the nature of philosophy is itself a philosophical question and great philosophers have been critical of their predecessors' conception of the subject.
In the papers in this collection we are presented with marked differences in one's conception of the tasks which philosophy of religion can and should perform.
According to Richard Swinburne, philosophy of religion has, at its heart, the rational assessment of religious beliefs. They are to be assessed, as he would say any belief must, in terms of the probability of their being true. Swinburne holds that the truth and rationality of religious beliefs can be assessed in this way.
While William Wainwright is generally sympathetic to Swinburne, he is sceptical about the efficacy of probability arguments for most educated audiences today. This is because, he argues, we need a properly disposed heart in order to assess the evidence. The vital issue, as Wainwright recognizes, then becomes one of showing how these antecedent judgements are related to the evidence on has to consider.
Nicholas Wolterstorff condones Reformed Epistemology's rejection of the Enlightenment ideal of a rational religion. Something does not have to be grounded in order to be rational. As a result of a worldtransforming experience, the Christian philosopher in this tradition offers, not a philosophy of religion, but a religious philosophy. Its aim is to see all aspects of human life, intellectual and non‑intellectual, in the light of faith. It does not subject religion to the test of socalled neutral evidence.
Stephen Wykstra wonders whether this rejection of evidentialism itself comes from a too narrow conception of evidence, namely, inferential evidence. He finds the rejection unrealistic in a world in which faith is challenged in many ways. It may not be necessary for an individual believer to consider these challenges in detail, but unless someone in the community does so, he argues, it is too easy to see faith as simply burying one's head in the sand. One is robbed of the much‑needed resources one has to turn to in face of these challenges.
Stephen Mulhall in expounding Wittgenstein on religion and Wittgensteinianism, emphasizes the contemplative character of philosophical enquiry. The main interest here is in giving a just account of religious belief by seeing to it that it is not confused with beliefs of another kind. This interest itself has a demanding ethic and is connected, he claims, with a certain kind of spiritual concern in the enquirer. This is because we cannot be true to ourselves unless we are true to our words.
Walford Gealy emphasizes that some of Wittgenstein's early remarks on religion take the form that they do because of views of language he held at the time and which he rejected later. This should be remembered when these remarks are discussed. Like Mulhall, Gealy too argues that the charge that Wittgensteinians hold that religion is immune to criticism is absurd. Both writers give examples to counter this charge. On the other hand, he insists that whatever is meant by spirituality in philosophical enquiry, this should not be compared with religious spirituality. Philosophy's concerns come from its own problems and puzzlements.
John Caputo emphasizes postmodernism's rejection of the Enlightenment dream of universal reason. We must recognize that 'reason' means something different in different modes of thought and at different times and places. We must not seek a premature closure on questions of meaning and value. Some have seen, in Derrida, a formless, chaotic, openness to everything in these emphases. Caputo denies this and sees in Derrida's openness a concern with justice for the other, which involves listening to what we do not want to hear, the preparedness to be surprised, and to take risks in such encounters.
Anselm Min is more sceptical about these latter claims, seeing in Derrida, the constant appeal to openness as being uninformed by specific moral or political values. In emphasizing the impossibility of arriving at a final statement of justice, something Min endorses, there is the danger of the dream of the impossible turning us aside from the actions that are required of us now.
Again, in expounding critical theory, Matthias Lutz‑Bachmann emphasizes its rejection of the objectifying tendency one finds in metaphysics. Reasoning knows no absolute. Yet, Horkheimer and Habermas want to invoke 'the unconditional' as a regulative ideal that calls us on to improve the world, without any conception of a final goal. Religion may assist this task at certain times, but this is a contingent fact. Religion is replaceable by secular hopes for a better world. Lately, Habermas has come to see that religious meanings may be sui generis, irreducible to any secular substitute. Lutz‑Bachmann argues, however, that as long as Habermas bases human progress, not on values, but on what human interests happen to be, he cannot avail himself of any positive conception of justice.
Maeve Cooke recognizes the tensions in Habermas's thought which Lutz‑Bachmann emphasizes. He wants his conception of truth to be pragmatic and yet absolute. It is difficult to see how religious truth can be accommodated in his system, she argues, because his criteria of vin dication demand publicly assessable evidence and a public agreement which is hard to imagine in the case of religious belief.
John Cobb emphasizes the way in which Process Thought calls the assumptions of classical metaphysics into question. It argues that 'becoming' is more fundamental than 'being' and that 'events' are more fundamental than 'substances'. Following Whitehead, Cobb argues that science is the most reliable guide to what we are given, as long as it is not permeated by the assumptions of classical metaphysics. Religion explores the more subjective side of human nature.
Cobb is sceptical about the possibility of neutral philosophy. For him, any Olympian height is such within a system. Thus he acknowledges that his Process system has its presuppositions and that these play a vital role not only in the assessment of data, but in the very possibility of seeing the data in a certain way.
Schubert Ogden insists that although philosophy is motivated by the existential questions concerning the meaning of existence, it is not constituted by them. Its task is to elucidate the necessary conditions of human discourse, and to reflect on the meanings which discourse actually has. This latter task includes reflection on the distinctive claims of Christianity, one in which philosophy and theology come together.
Ogden thinks that the existential questions and theological reflections are furthered best in Process thought. On one central issue, however, he differs from most Process philosophers and theologians. They, Whitehead and Hartshorne included, treat the conditions for the possibility of discourse, or ultimate reality, as though these were a further super‑fact. This confusion is found when myth is treated as a fact or when God, as ultimate reality, is treated as though it were a fact. 'God exists' is not a statement of fact.
It is clear from this brief survey of points of view represented in this collection that there are wide differences between them in their conception of philosophy. In some ways, the Wittgensteinian tradition of contemplative philosophy seems an odd one out, but would claim to be as old as Plato. In what sense does philosophy investigate reality? If, like the Presocratics, we try to give substantive accounts of 'the real' in terms of, for example, water or atoms, the problem arises of what account can be given of the reality of the water or atoms. Plato came to see that a philosophical account of reality cannot lead to answers of that kind. The philosophical interest is a conceptual one; the question of what it means to distinguish between the real or the unreal. Thus, on this view, philosophy is not itself a way of reaching the substantive judgements, but an enquiry into what it means to reach conclusions of this kind. Unlike Plato, Wittgenstein did not think that this question admitted of a single answer. Hence his promise to teach us differences.
This perspective raises questions about Swinburne's assumption that all beliefs are matters of probability. Are all beliefs of the same kind? Is belief in generosity the expression of a conviction or a matter of probability? Further, is it a mere probability that we had a Conference at Claremont? If I could be convinced otherwise would I say that I had miscalculated probabilities, or that I was going insane? Is trusting God a probability?
William Wainwright is bothered, too, by some of these questions. He emphasizes that we make antecedent judgements in terms of which we see the data we are to assess. How are these antecedent judgements to be understood? The suggestion that we can make them when our faculties are working properly seems a lame analogy, since, normally, the notion
of 'proper functioning' is normative and, in that sense, independent of the individual. Further, there is usually agreement on the notion of proper functioning, as the case of eyesight illustrates. Is it like this in the case of the clash between belief and unbelief?
There is another difficulty which relates to the contemplative conception of philosophy. If what can be seen is linked to the personal appropriation of the perspective in question, or to the 'proper functioning' of faculties, how is it possible to contemplate, and give an account of, different perspectives? Further, someone who does not embrace a perspective may give a better philosophical account of its character than one who does not embrace it.
In Reformed Epistemology a world‑transforming religious experience is at the root of the religiously orientated philosophical vocation to see the world in the light of faith. Obviously, such a use can be made of philosophy, or this is what philosophy can amount to for someone, but what is its relation to the contemplative conception of philosophy? Can it admit that a non‑believer can give a better philosophical account of religious belief than a believer? What sort of claim does a religious
philosophy make? Is it a theoretical claim? If something is seen in the light of faith, how is that 'seeing' related to other non‑religious 'seeings'? Can there be a philosophical interest in these differences which is not a further form of such 'seeing'?
In Postmodernism and in Critical Theory we have attacks on the ambitions of a universal metaphysics, and a recognition of differences.
The question arises, however, whether in the ethical concerns of Derrida or Habermas, an ethical insight is appropriated which cannot be derived from their philosophical critique. Having abolished a universal metaphysics, there seems to be a desire to replace it with an attitude which is equally universal even when it calls itself 'open' and denies the possibility of closure.
Again, in Process Thought, we have a similar attack on classical metaphysics. This attack may he upheld in many respects, but questions may be asked as to whether one set of ultimates, 'becoming' and 'events' has now replaced another. Also as Cobb admits, certain presuppositions are brought to bear on the data in interpreting them and he denies the possibility of a neutral philosophy. Does this mean that Process Thought can argue against this possibility? If so, there is at least one perspective it seems to deny when, at other times, it seems to recognize a plurality of systems of interpretation. Ogden says that Process Thought is the best theological system in answering central existential questions about the meaning of existence. How would this be argued in relation to different theological and atheistic perspectives? Are they shown to be conceptually confused in some sense?
Ogden recognizes, along with Wittgensteinians, that the investigation
of the conditions of discourse is not an investigation of some super‑fact. On the other hand, he speaks of the necessary conditions of discourse. Do they form a single class? He also speaks of God a% ultimate reality', and says that this, too, does not refer to a matter of fact. How is this notion of reality related to the necessary conditions of discourse? Are they the same? If so, as in the case of Reformed Epistemology, here, too, we would have a religious conception of reality.
These questions are prompted by philosophical considerations which are familiar to students of Wittgenstein, but questions can be asked of Wittgensteinianism too. Is the analogy between language and games an adequate one? After. all, all games do not make up one big game, whereas all language games occur within the same language. What account is to be given of the unity or identity of language? Does that lead back to a single account of reality? Without such an account is not the sense of life and living compartmentalized in unacceptable ways?
The questions asked of Wittgensteinianism can and have been addressed, for example, by Rush Rhees. No doubt the questions I have asked of the other points of view can and have been addressed too. I mention them here as questions with which the conference meeting left us. Thus, this introduction gives an indication, not of where we started, but of the points at which we would have liked to have gone on.
If philosophical enquiry is conceptual and contemplative, and recognizes the conceptual variety in human discourse, no single account of reality can be given. The enquiry will be motivated by wonder at the world and the desire to do justice to its variety in the account we give. For others, this is the road to relativism and they seek a religious conception of reality which, in some way, can be shown to be more rational than any secular alternative. Alternatively, there are those who argue that although the sense of things is open to a change and development to which philosophy cannot assign a closure, that development is itself to be informed by certain ethical and political values.
Perhaps one major difference which needs to be explored is this: are all perspectives on reality interpretations or expressions of interest, or is there such a thing in philosophy as disinterested enquiry? Is disinterested inquiry another interest, alongside others, religious and secular, or is it a different kind of interest, an interest in the variety of those religious and secular interests and the relation between them? Is an Olympian view always one from within some system or other?Many of the participants expressed the view at the end of the conference that we needed to address these issues further. If we did so in another conference, perhaps its topic would be: Presuppositions.
God and the Problem of Evil edited by William L. Rowe
(Blackwell Readings in Philosophy: Blackwell) (PAPERBACK)
considers the question of whether the amount of seemingly
pointless malice and suffering in our world counts against the rationality of
belief in God, a being who is understood to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and
Beginning with historically significant essays by Leibniz and Hume, the book then focuses on contemporary discussions of the problem of evil. The volume concludes with three important articles that sketch an explanation of why God might need to permit the terrible evils that abound in our world.
The study of these essays and replies will provide students with a thorough understanding of the central issues involved in the problem of evil.
Contents: Introduction. Part I: Historically Important Essays and Some Contemporary Responses and Clarifications: Introduction. 1. Theodicy: Leibniz. 2. Must God Create the Best: Adams. 3. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X and Part XI: Hume. 4. Hume on Evil: Pike. Part II: The Logical Problem of Evil: Introduction. 5. Evil and Omnipotence: J. L. Mackie. 6. The Free Will Defense: Plantinga. Part III: The Evidential Problem of Evil: Introduction. 7. An Exchange on the Problem of Evil: Howard-Snyder and Michael Bergmann/W. L. Rowe. 8. Stalemate and Strategy: Rethinking the Evidential Problem of Evil: Schellenberg. 9. Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists: Draper. 10. The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence: Van Inwagen. Part IV: Theodicies: Introduction. 11. Some Major Strands of Theodicy: Swinburne. 12. Soul-Making Theodicy: Hicks. 13. The Problem of Hell: A Problem of Evil for Christians: M. Adams.
The Divine Attributes by Joshua Hoffman, Gary S. Rosenkrantz (Exploring the Philosophy of Religion: Blackwell) (PAPERBACK) Written with a clear presentation of the basic arguments of a rational justification of the idea of God. The Divine Attributes is excellent: thoughtful and systematic work that has an unusual clarity and intellectual rigor. It enables the reader to understand the attributes --omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, eternality, etc. -- that make up the dominant idea of God in Western civilization.
The Divine Attributes is an engaging analysis of the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam from the perspective of rational theology. An ambitious study that rationally explores the nature of God, differentiates the idea of God from other historical ideas of the divine, and identifies the core qualities of a maximally great, or perfect, being. It includes detailed discussions of the fundamental divine attributes, such as divine power, knowledge, and goodness. It also addresses whether God is to be understood as eternal, within or outside of time, existing necessarily or contingently and whether God is to be understood as a physical or a spiritual substance.
In The Divine Attributes the authors analyze the idea of God (understood as a maximally great being). This exercise belongs to a philosophical discipline known as rational theology. In developing their analysis, they go through the following stages; (i) describing the nature of rational theology, (ii) differentiating the idea of a maximally great being from other historical ideas of the divine (and identifying the core great-making qualities of a maximally great being), (iii) defending the coherence of maximal greatness and the mutual coherence of the divine attributes it includes, and (iv) elucidating those divine attributes.
They contrast various historical ideas of the divine with the idea of a maximally great being. The key great-making qualities of a maximally great being are identified.
The divine person is traditionally thought to be concrete and substantial (though not corporeal). They elucidate these ideas by analyzing the concrete/abstract distinction and the concept of substance.
According to traditional theology, God is soul (a purely spiritual being). They clarify the notion of a soul, and argue that a soul cannot literally be omnipresent. It has been charged that the notion of a soul is unintelligible, and similarly, that body‑soul interaction is impossible. They answer these charges. Finally, they argue that there is a sense in which a soul must be simple.
God is said to be a "necessary being," that is, a being that exists in every possible world. They elucidate the notion of a necessary being and in so doing will assess competing accounts of possible worlds. It is sometimes thought that God is a "self-existent being," that is, a being whose existence is explained by itself. They argue that this notion of self-existence is incoherent.
The orthodox view is that God exists outside of time. They dispute this view, arguing instead that God is temporal and mutable (but nonetheless incorruptible).
They develop an analysis of omniscience (understood as maximal knowledge) and examine its implications for the nature of God. Their analysis implies that if an omniscient being foreknows the occurrence of a contingent event, then this event is causally determined. As we shall see, our analysis implies that God would not foreknow the occurrence of human actions that are free in the libertarian sense. We will discuss the implications of this analysis for the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.
What are the implications of God's moral perfection for the character of what God creates? They attempt to advance our understanding of these implications by describing the moral principles or rules that guide the actions of a maximally great being. We will also attempt to resolve an alleged paradox that claims that moral perfection is incompatible with moral admirability.
The divine attribute of omnipotence seems puzzling, even paradoxical, to many philosophers. They wonder, for example, whether God can create a spherical cube, or make a stone so massive that God cannot move it. They defend the consistency of omnipotence (understood as maximal power). As a part of this defense, They analyze omnipotence and examine the implications of this analysis for the nature of God. At the end of this book, the authors provide an overview of the prospects for justified belief in the existence of a maximally great being from the perspective of rational theology.
Issues in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion by Eugene Thomas Long (STUDIES IN PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION Volume 23: Kluwer Academic) collection of original articles, written by leading contemporary European and American philosophers of religion, is presented in celebration of the publication of the fiftieth volume of the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. Following the Editor's Introduction, John Macquarrie, Adriaan Peperzak, and Hent de Vries take up central themes in continental philosophy of religion. Macquarrie analyzes postmodernism and its influence in philosophy and theology. Peperzak argues for a form of universality different from that of modern philosophy, and de Vries analyzes an intrinsic and structural relationship between religion and the media. The next three essays discuss issues in analytic philosophy of religion. Philip Quinn argues that religious diversity reduces the epistemic status of exclusivism and makes it possible for a religious person to be justified while living within a pluralistic environment. William Wainwright plumbs the work of Jonathan Edwards in order to better understand debates concerning freedom, determinism, and the problem of evil, and William Hasker asks whether theological incompatibilism is less inimical to traditional theism than some have supposed. Representing the Thomist tradition, Fergus Kerr challenges standard readings of Aquinas on the arguments for the existence of God. David Griffin analyzes the contributions of process philosophy to the problem of evil and the relation between science and religion. Illustrating comparative approaches, Keith Ward argues that the Semitic and Indian traditions have developed a similar concept of God that should be revised in view of post-Enlightenment theories of the individual and the historical. Keith Yandell explores themes in the Indian metaphysical tradition and considers what account of persons is most in accord with reincarnation and karma doctrines. Feminist philosophy of religion is represented in Pamela Anderson's article, in which she argues for a gender-sensitive and more inclusive approach to the craving for infinitude.
Editor’s Summary: One of the important developments in the philosophy of religion during the last quarter of the twentieth century traces its roots to Martin Heidegger and the phenomenological tradition. One can hardly think of Heidegger and religion without thinking of Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich. Yet Heidegger's emphasis upon interpretation and his understanding of language as the house of being helped prepare the way for what has been called a hermeneutical or linguistic turn in phenomenology. In its more radical form this is called deconstruction or postmodernism and is illustrated in the work of such philosophers as Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Postmodernism is an expression used widely in literature, philosophy and theology during the last decades of the twentieth century to signal a rejection in various degrees of the concept of rationality associated with modern philosophy or the Enlightenment.
The first essay by John Macquarrie, `Postmodernism in Philosophy of Religion and Theology', provides an analysis of postmodernism and its influence in contemporary philosophy and theology. Macquarrie, whose own approach to philosophical theology is influenced by Heidegger and Bultmann, identifies several characteristics of postmodernism, including the limits of the intellect, the questioning of authority, the rejection of any unified world view, and the emphasis upon difference, the particular, pluralism and desire. From his own point of view he then illustrates and critically evaluates these characteristics in the work of three postmodern philosophers, Levinas, Jean‑Franqois Lyotard and Derrida and three postmodern theologians. Mark Taylor, Graham Ward and Jean‑Luc Marion.
Adriaan Peperzak, the author of the second essay, `Philosophy‑Religion-Theology', is also indebted to recent continental philosophy. Defining the religious dimension of human existence in a broad way to mean the deepest dimension of human life in which all other dimensions are rooted, Peperzak argues that the religious dimension is a necessary and basic topic of philosophy, that philosophy itself is a kind of faith, and that if philosophy proclaims itself autarchic, it is a religion that must look down upon other religions as deficient forms of its own truth. From this perspective he challenges the modem self‑conception of philosophy and argues that other religions can in turn criticize the impossibility of philosophy's faith in its autarchy and the arrogance that follows from it. Peperzak analyzes some relations between faith and thought in philosophy, philosophy of religion and theology and argues for a form of universality different from that professed by modern philosophy.
During much of the twentieth century, religion was relegated by many to the margins of the so‑called modern political and intellectual worlds. Religion, however, has emerged on the geopolitical stage of the late twentieth-century as a significant force leading many to challenge an overly simplistic separation of the worlds of the religious and non‑religious. In his article, `Of Miracles and Special Effects', Hent de Vries argues that the narrative of Western `secularist' modernity has obscured the fact that in most of its historical forms the concept of the political has to some extent always been dependent upon the religious. He is particularly concerned with what he identifies as an intrinsic and structural relationship between religion and the new media, and the transformative changes we are witnessing today. His study of miracle in relation to special effects provides a concrete example to illustrate this. Starting out from a discussion of Jacques Derrida's recent essay, `Faith and Knowledge', de Vries investigates the structural resemblances and differences between the miracle and the special effect and sketches out the place and function of religion in relation to the new technological media.
Analytic philosophers of religion trace their twentieth century roots to the new realism that characterized much British and American philosophy in the early part of the century. Since the 1960s, however, many analytic philosophers have called into question classical foundationalism and the evidentialist challenge to religious belief in the work of such philosophers as W.K. Clifford, Bertrand Russell, and Antony Flew. Some of these philosophers are classified as moderate foundationalists while others, who are more closely indebted to the later Wittgenstein, are often called anti‑foundationalists.
Among the leading so‑called moderate foundationalists is William Alston. Alston argues that a person may be justified in holding certain beliefs about God based on his or her direct experience or perception of God. Given what appears to be the incompatibility of perceptual religious beliefs formed in different religions, however, questions arise concerning the reliability or rationality of different religious practices and the closely connected issues of religious exclusivism and religious tolerance. In his essay, `Religious Diversity and Religious Toleration', Philip Quinn discusses the work of Alston and related thinkers and challenges their tendencies towards religious exclusivism. Abstracting arguments from Pierre Bayle and Immanuel Kant, Quinn makes a connection between discussions of religious diversity in religious epistemology and discussions of religious diversity in moral and political philosophy. He argues that religious diversity reduces the epistemic status of religious exclusivism and intolerance, and makes it possible for a person to be justified in aspiring to be religious while living fully within a religiously pluralistic cultural environment.
Many contemporary analytic philosophers of religion are committed to traditional Jewish or Christian theism and this has helped stimulate interest in a diversity of topics associated with theistic faith and belief. The problem of evil has proven to be particularly acute for traditional theists and it has been the focus of much discussion in recent analytic philosophy of religion. In addressing this problem analytic philosophers have often explored medieval and other classical texts. William Wainwright's article, `Theological Determinism and the Problem of Evil: Are Arminians Any Better Off?', plumbs the work of Jonathan Edwards in an effort to better understand contemporary debates concerning freedom, determinism and the problem of evil. Wainwright maintains that Edwards' theological determinism aggravates the problem of evil in three ways. It appears to make God the author of sin, exposes God to charges of insincerity and raises questions about God's justice. Wainwright argues that Edwards is correct in thinking that Arminianism is exposed to many of the same difficulties, but that his idea of God's justice inflicting infinite punishment upon persons whose actions have been determined by God is indefensible and may not be a difficulty for Arminianism.
The apparent incompatibility between divine foreknowledge and human freedom is another problem that has haunted the theistic tradition for many centuries and has received almost unprecedented attention in recent analytic philosophy of religion. In his article, `The Foreknowledge Conundrum', William Hasker provides a survey and analysis of several classical and contemporary efforts to solve the problem of the incompatibility between comprehensive, infallible divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will, focusing in particular upon those solutions most actively considered by philosophers during the last three decades of the twentieth century. Concluding that none of the proposed solutions to the problem is fully satisfying, Hasker raises the question, whether theological incompatibilism might be less inimical to traditional theism than some have supposed. In this context he calls attention to `open theism', a recent movement within evangelical Protestantism which, based upon its revised conception of God and of God's relationship with the world, affirms the incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and free will. While admitting that it is too soon to draw conclusions about the effects of this movement, Hasker suggests that at a minimum it demonstrates that one cannot simply assume that theological incompatibilism is inimical to Biblical faith and traditional Christian theology.
Thomism is the expression applied since the fourteenth century to philosophers whose thinking has its foundation in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. The expression Neo‑Thomism is sometimes used to refer to the revival of Thomism which began in the middle of the nineteenth century and was later officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. The aim of this revival was not merely a restatement of Thomas' philosophy and theology, but an accurate understanding of the permanent truth of the principles of his thought that could be applied to contemporary thought. This has led to a re‑vitalization of the Thomistic tradition as some have brought Thomas' thought into conversation with other contemporary philosophical movements and others have challenged traditional conceptions of how to read his thought. In his essay, `Theology in Philosophy: Revisiting the Five Ways', Fergus Kerr calls into question what he calls the standard reading of Aquinas' arguments for the existence of God. On the standard view, Aquinas is understood to be a good example of those who think that the existence of God can be inferred from natural features of the world. Kerr challenges this reading of Aquinas and the general conception of philosophy of religion that arises from it. Reading the text in context, argues Kerr, suggests how theologically determined the philosophical arguments are. Thomas' approach in the Summa Theologiae, he suggests, may be read not as turning away from the Bible, choosing Aristotle and conducting foundationalist apologetics, but as continuing more than a thousand years of reading the Vulgate in the light of a certain neo‑Platonism.
Process philosophy is widely understood today to refer to the kind of realistic metaphysics associated with Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne and those influenced by them. Although not limited to American thinkers, its greatest impact in recent years has been in the United States and in particular among those who declare themselves to be neo‑classical or process theists. In general process theists are committed to the view that whatever exists in reality should be characterized in terms of processes rather than substances or things, and that we should look for God in the world process itself. They argue for a close relationship between philosophy and the natural sciences and understand God less in terms of timeless perfection and more in terms of temporal becoming. It is not their intention to deny the perfection of God, but to insist that perfect knowledge and love require involvement in the world.
In his article, `Process Philosophy of Religion', David Ray Griffin summarizes ways in which he has sought to employ process metaphysics to address several topics, including the problem of evil and the relation between science and religion. Process philosophy's panentheistic view of God seeks to combine features of both pantheism and theism. This results in a rejection of creatio ex nihilo in the strict sense and a rejection of the traditional idea of God's omnipotence which leads to the traditional problem of evil. Creative power is understood to be inherent in the world as well as God, and God's power is understood to be persuasive rather than coercive. With regard to the question of the relation between science and religion, Griffin argues that the real conflict is not between science and religion as such, but between traditional views of scientific naturalism and religious supernaturalism. He maintains that process philosophy provides a theory of naturalism more adequate to science than traditional scientific naturalism, and a theory of theistic naturalism more adequate to theism than traditional supernaturalism.
Although philosophical reflection on religion can be traced back to the origins of western philosophy, western philosophy of religion in the more strict sense is a modern development indebted in particular to the work of such philosophers as Hume, Kant and Hegel. It is widely understood to be an autonomous discipline devoted to the kinds of issues that arise in western monotheistic traditions. In recent years, however, some western philosophers of religion have challenged this view arguing that it is too narrow in scope, and that philosophers of religion need to extend the boundaries of their discipline to allow them to take into account other religious traditions and issues raised in those traditions. This has led to the development of a variety of approaches to the comparative philosophy of religion, and in some cases to the view that the sharp boundaries often drawn between philosophy, theology and the history of religions are unjustified. Although some roots of this development may be traced to late nineteenth and early twentieth century anthropological and historical studies, it has been stimulated in recent years by the growing recognition that politically and economically persons are in some sense citizens of the world.
Keith Ward's article, `The Temporality of God', provides an example of the comparative approach to the philosophy of religion. Elsewhere Ward has argued that the comparative approach is important to efforts to develop a more comprehensive view rooted in but not limited to one's own historical tradition. In the article included here Ward argues that, in spite of different philosophical terminology, Semitic and Indian traditions have developed a similar classical concept of God, and that this concept of God should be revised in view of the post‑enlightenment emphasis on the irreducible value of the individual and the historical. Ward considers some primary objections to divine temporality and argues that if contingency and autonomy are real characteristics of the universe, divine knowledge and activity must be partly responsive and thus temporal.
Keith Yandell also represents the comparative approach to the philosophy of religion. In his article, `Some Reflections on Indian Metaphysics', Yandell explores some themes and tensions in the Indian metaphysical tradition beginning with the idea that everything that really exists is everlasting, and the opposite notion that almost all of what exists is radically impermanent. He discusses the notion of substances that are continuants and argues that Indian
monotheists should be friendly to the idea of continuants which, in contrast to everlasting continuants, need not be everlasting. Yandell argues that some initially plausible arguments against continuants do not stand up to scrutiny and considers what account of persons is most in accord with reincarnation and karma doctrine when that doctrine is taken to be literally true.
Although feminist philosophy also has roots in the early part of the twentieth century, it is today often associated with a movement that began in the 1960s, building in some cases upon Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex (1949). Feminist philosophy is a way of thinking which insists that female experiences, identities and ways of being and thinking must be considered at least equal to those of the male. It is rooted in a belief that women have been dominated and disadvantaged by a way of being and thinking that is patriarchal in character. Feminist philosophy has made significant strides during the last quarter of the century. In spite of the fact, however, that there are a number of distinguished women philosophers of religion and distinguished feminist theologians, until recently there has been little in the way of feminist philosophy of religion in the more strict sense. This picture is now changing.
Pamela Anderson's article, `Gender and the Infinite: On the Aspiration to be All That There Is' helps illustrate this new interest in feminist philosophy of religion. Anderson is particularly concerned with the topic of the infinite. She argues that a gender‑sensitive approach to the infinite reveals a corrupt striving to become infinite or all there is in both masculinist and feminist philosophy of religion. She calls for a more inclusive approach that would allow instantiating the regulative ideals of truth, love goodness and justice as conditions for an incorrupt craving for infinitude.
Contents: Contemporary philosophy of religion: Issues and approaches; E.T. Long. Postmodernism in philosophy of religion and theology; J. Macquarrie. Philosophy -- religion -- theology; A. Peperzak. Of miracles and special effects; H. de Vries. Religious diversity and religious toleration; P.L. Quinn. Theological determinism and the problem of evil: Are Arminians any better off; W.J. Wainwright. The foreknowledge onundrum; W. Hasker. Theology in philosophy: Revisiting the Five Wayes; F. Kerr. Process philosophy of religion; D.R. Griffin. The temporality of God; K. Ward. Some reflections on Indian metaphysics; K.E. Yandell. Gender and the infinite: On the aspiration to be all there is; P.S. Anderson.
The Idol and Distance: Five Studies by Jean-Luc Marion, translated by Thomas A. Carlson (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, No 17: Fordham University Press) Marked sharply by its time and place (Paris in the I970s), this early theological text by Jean‑Luc Marion nevertheless maintains a strikingly deep resonance with his most recent, groundbreaking, and ever more widely discussed phenomenology. And while Marion will want to insist on a clear distinction between the theological and phenomenological projects, to read each in light of the other can prove illuminating for both the theological and the philosophical reader‑and perhaps above all for the reader who wants to read in both directions at once, the reader concerned with those points of interplay and undecidability where theology and philosophy inform, provoke, and challenge one another in endlessly complex ways.
In both his theological and his phenomenological projects, Marion's central effort to free the absolute or unconditional (be it theology's God or phenomenology's phenomenon) from the various limits and preconditions of human thought and language will imply a thoroughgoing critique of all metaphysics, and above all of the modern metaphysics centered on the active, spontaneous subject who occupies modern philosophy from Descartes through Hegel and Nietzsche.
Marion assumes in The Idol and Distance a faith in the insurpassable primacy of the Christian God's self-revelation. The properly theo-logical thinking that would answer such revelation, Marion's theology of distance, would be a theology of Goodness, generosity, charity, kenosis, or self‑giving and of all the other infinitely possible names for the inconceivable gift in response to which we would most fundamentally receive ourselves. Marion's theology would be, in short, if this were not redundant, a theology of love. And love, in the form of the absolute that "dissolves the tie that ties it to our thought", would under no condition be subject to conditions. "The kenosis sets no condition for revealing itself," Marion's core assertion goes, "because in that revelation it gives itself and reveals nothing other than this unconditional gift. Our lack of respect, in a word, our `unsuitability,' even grounded in ontological destiny, cannot set any condition upon this gift without precondition. For the mystery consists precisely in this: God loves those who do not love him, manifests himself to those who turn away, and all the more that they turn away".
Just as the phenomenon "in its fullest sense" shows itself of itself and starting from itself, without precondition, even to the one who does not yet see it, so here in Marion's theology, God loves even those who do not love him, shows himself even to those who do not yet see him. And just as my will to see phenomenal givenness would itself be a function of that givenness itself, so here my eventual capacity to love and to see God would be given first and only by God's love for me. At this level the structure of Marion's phenomenological vision and the structure of his theological vision are strikingly similar, if not isomorphic: if I see the givenness of the phenomenon, which means if I give myself to it by repeating the act of giving, this is only because that givenness first gave me to myself and moved me to receive givenness in my very being; if I love God, which means if I give myself to him in the love that gives me to others, this is only because God first loved me even when I was not, and moved me to love in my very being.
Such an isomorphism would not mean, as many argue or assume, that Marion's phenomenology is "really" or "only" an indirect means to advance his theology. It could mean, however, that Marion's theology and phenomenology inform one another in more subtle and complex ways than Marion himself sometimes wants to allow. This would stand to reason if Marion's distinction between the historically actual (Revelation, the domain of revealed theology) and the phenomenologically possible (the saturated phenomenon, revelation treated phenomenologically, apart from faith or tradition) finally proves itself unstable. As suggested by the structural similarities I have outlined in this introduction, it could well be the case that one's conception of the possible is substantially and inevitably shaped by what one already takes to be actual just as one's understanding of the actual would always already be framed by what one imagines to be possible. As Derrida argues of the founding and the founded in Heidegger, so here, perhaps, one could never be sure whether the possible is indebted to the actual or the actual to the possible; one would remain undecided as to which constitutes an example of which.
Perhaps it would be in the light (or obscurity) of such undecidability that we should read the fact that Marion's most developed phenomenological work, Etant donne, ends by pointing toward a possible treatment of love‑which is precisely where, as indicated by The Idol and Distance, his theology actually begins.
Flight of the Gods: Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Theology edited by Ilse Nina Bulhof, Laurens Ten Kate, Laurens Ten Kate (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, 11: Fordham University Press) review pending
Acts of Religion by Jacques Derrida, edited by Gil Anidjar (Routledge)
Is there, today," asks Jacques Derrida, "another 'question of religion'?"
Derrida's writings on religion situate and raise anew questions of tradition,
faith, and sacredness and their relation to philosophy and political culture. He
has amply testified to his growing up in an Algerian Jewish, French-speaking
family, to the complex impact of a certain Christianity on his surroundings and
himself, and to his being deeply affected by religious persecution. Religion has
made demands on Derrida, and, in turn, the study of religion has benefited
greatly from his extensive philosophical contributions to the field.
Acts of Religion brings together for the first time Derrida's key writings on religion, along with two new essays translated by Gil Anidjar that appear here for the first time in any language. These eight texts are organized around the secret holding of links between the personal, the political, and the theological. In these texts, Derrida's reflections on religion span from negative theology to the limits of reason and to hospitality.
Acts of Religion will serve as an excellent introduction to Derrida's remarkable contribution to religious studies.
Editor’s Introduction It has become a commonplace to assert that religion in Jacques Derrida's works depends upon the range of meanings promoted by terms such as God, theology, and even Judaism. Under the guise of these terms, we may no longer be hearing simply about the demise of religion, most famously proclaimed by Nietzsche, but we keep hearing a great deal about what has been called its "return." According to this view religion acts, exercising its pressure by reflecting a dominantly theological lexicon that communicates values of spirituality, community, and faith. And since religion inevitably brings up figures of aberrant returns and archaic remnants, figures of familial or ethnic traditions preserved and fossilized, Derrida has been seen as well as performing acts of religion, as enacting a return to his own "religious" origins, though within the constraints of a necessarily complicated reappropriation.
Among the developments enabled by these considerations, there is moreover the undeniable fact that the study of religion has already benefited greatly from Derrida's extensive contributions and the growing recognition that, clearly, Derrida has spoken and written on religion, on the following terms of "religion": God, for example, but also theology, negative theology, "a new atheistic discourse," and the touch of Jesus and of Jean‑Luc Nancy (in "The Theater of Cruelty," "Violence and Metaphysics," Of Grammatology, "On a Newly Arisen Apocalyptic Tone in Philosophy," "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials," On the Name, Aporias, Le toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy); Islamic alms, circumcision (Arab, Jewish, and other), angels and archangels, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and other religions (in "Edmond Jabes and the Question of the Book;" "Ellipses," Glas, Post Card, "Schibboleth: For Paul Celan," "In this Very Work, At this Very Moment," Ulysse Gramophone, Given Time, "Circumfession," Archive Fever, On The Name, Politics of Friendship, Donner la mort, "Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink "); the Kabbalah, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Paul, Augustine, the Talmud, messianism and messianicity, forgiveness, hospitality, prayer, and his prayer shawl (in Dissemination, "Des Tours de Babel," Force de loi, Donner la mort, Memoirs of the Blind, Specters of Marx, Adieu, Of Hospitality, "A Silkworm of One's Own"); the spirit and the letter, and German Jews and Arab Jews (in Writing and Difference, "Interpretations at War," Of Spirit, Aporias, Monolingualism of the Other); and more. Derrida, the argument continues, has amply and sufficiently testified to his growing up in an Algerian Jewish, French‑speaking family, to the complex impact of a certain Christianity on his surroundings and on himself, and to his being deeply affected by religious persecution. With various degrees of seriousness, Derrida has also referred to himself as "the last and the least of the Jews" and as "Marrano," and he has said that he watches, on television, "very regularly, on Sunday mornings, from 8:45am to 9:30am, ... the religious, Jewish and Muslim, programs that interest me greatly and if we had time I would tell you why."
Acts of Religion, then, in which what are put on stage, what are in fact restaged and replayed, are a number of acts, a number of books and plays, deeds and performances, pretenses and obligations. Jacques Derrida's writing on religion has indeed consisted of a manifold and powerful effort to situate and raise again questions of tradition, faith, and sacredness and their relation to the premises of philosophy and political culture.' These writings, therefore, do not merely constitute an exploration of familiar theologemes, a bringing to light of hidden religious dimensions of language and sociality, the producing and revisiting of exegetical elaborations‑be they "traditional" or "heretical"‑and ritual body markings; nor do they simply announce, indeed, prophesy, the renewal of faith. Rather, when Derrida writes on religion, it is always on the Abrahamic.
Contents: Introduction: "Once More, Once More": Derrida, the Arab, the Jew," Gil Anidjar 1 Faith and Knowledge 2 Des Tours de Babel 3 Interpretations at War: Kant, the Jew, the German 4 The Eyes of Language: The Abyss and the Volcano 5 Force of Law 6 Taking a Stand for Algeria 7 A Silkworm of One's Own (Points of View Stitched on the Other Veil) 8 Hostipitality
Religion and Its Monsters by Timothy K. Beal (Routledge) Wit and a style worthy of a novelist makes this foray into the turgid side of religions well worth a read; as entertaining as it is informative, and it is even rhetorically well grounded.
Religion's great and powerful mystery fascinates us, but it also terrifies.
So too the monsters that haunt the stories of Jewish and Christian scriptures
and earlier traditions: Leviathan, Behemoth, dragons, and other beasts. In this
unusual and provocative book, Timothy K. Beal writes about the monsters that
lurk in our religious texts, and reveals how monsters and religion are
Most of us do not go to monster movies or read Gothic tales in search of religion, at least not consciously. Nor do we go to religious services in search of monsters. Yet, horror and faith, it seems, are inextricable. According to Beal, we can learn something about religion by getting to know its monsters, and we can learn something about monsters by investigating their religious roots.
As Timothy Beal follows monsters throughout religious texts and traditions, he also discovers religion lurking in the modern horror genre, from classics like Frankenstein and Dracula to the contemporary spookiness of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories and the Hellraiser films. Drawing upon a broad range of ancient texts and popular culture, from rabbinic lore to Goth counterculture, he explores the fascinating and often disturbing ways in which monsters haunt religion and religion haunts the monstrous.
Learned and witty, Religion and Its Monsters is a captivating look at how we imagine good and evil--and what lies beyond.
Contents: Acknowledgements Introduction Part One: Religion and Its Monsters 1. Chaos Gods 2. The Bible and Horror 3. The Sleep of Wisdom 4. From A Whirlwind 5. Dinner and a Show 6. To the Devil Part Two: Monsters and Their Religion 7. New Monsters in an Old Skin 8. Other Gods 9. The Blood Is the Life 10. Screening Monsters 11. Ecomonster 12. Our Monsters, Ourselves Conclusion Notes
Philosophy & the Turn to Religion by Hent De Vries (Johns Hopkins University Press) and The Religious edited by John D. Caputo (Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy: Blackwell) provides a solid introduction to the nature of religious thought in recent continential philosophical investigations.
The Religious is impressive collection takes its lead from the question - "Who comes after the subject?" - posed by Jean-Luc Nancy some years ago and responds to similar questions of "Who comes after the God of metaphysics?" and "What becomes of God and of religious faith after the 'first cause' has been shown the door?"
To answer these questions, The Religious offers landmark texts from Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, and Irigaray, excerpts from the famous debate between Jean-Luc Marion and Dominique Janicaud, and ten original selections, some of which include coverage of feminist theology. This volume is an ideal text for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in the philosophy of religion.
When Hegel said that in his philosophy the "pictorial" thinking that goes on in Christianity at last clears its head and achieves crisp conceptual form, Kierkegaard groaned in pain. When Hegel said that with the advent of his "Philosophy of Spirit," the Absolute finally achieves self‑consciousness, Kierkegaard quipped that the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth did not come into the world and assume the form of a servant in order to consult with German metaphysicians about the nature of the divine being. The bite that Kierkegaard took out of the hide of Hegelian metaphysics is for me the beginning of the "end of metaphysics." It is at least the most recent beginning of the end of metaphysics, since the religious project of keeping the nose of the philosophical camel from nuzzling under the tent of faith is as old as the scolding that St. Paul (who seemed to set off a riot wherever he visited) gave to the Corinthians for their misguided attempts to speculate God into the highest heavens instead of trembling before the living God.
After Kierkegaard, Nietzsche would follow and launch a merciless "attack upon Christendom" of his own, for strictly irreligious purposes, of course, or (depending on how you want to look at it) for the purposes of a religion of the earth centered on the god Dionysus. Nietzsche could not think of things mean enough to say about Paul (or Augustine), who were Kierkegaard's heroes. But Nietzsche would have agreed with Kierkegaard that the pale bloodless speculations of the nineteenth‑century metaphysicians, and the pale bloodless lives of the nineteenth‑century Christian European bourgeoisie, represented a singularly sick substitute and pallid imitation of a robust and passionate "life." If Nietzsche located the passionate life in ancient Greek tragedy and bloodthirsty Roman conquerors, Kierkegaard located it in the early apostolic age when Christians had the fortitude to face the Romans' lions and to make an Abrahamic leap of faith in fear and trembling.
After Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, no major philosopher (there are always local revivals and minor outbreaks) has had the nerve to try metaphysics again, not in the left to do was to pick up the pieces, figure out what had happened, and write the story of the "destruction of the history of ontology"' or of the "end of metaphysics. ,2 That is the role that fell to Heidegger, the great chronicler and part time undertaker of metaphysics. Heidegger told the tale of how metaphysics had spun itself out, having never been up to its self‑appointed task to think the meaning or truth of Being. The latter was a mantle that he, in all humility, felt called upon to assume up by way of a new alliance with the very poets whom Plato, the first metaphysician, tried to run out of town. For better or for worse, Heidegger has described the scene of contemporary continental philosophy within which everyone works, including those who concern themselves with God and religious faith.
Thus, in organizing the present volume, I have taken my lead from Jean‑Luc Nancy, who, when guest‑editing a volume of the journal Topoi some years ago, posed the question, "Who comes after the subject? What is the state of human subjectivity, Nancy asked his contributors, after the "death" or delimitation of the subject in Freud, Nietzsche, Heidegger, structuralism, and post-structuralism? I have posed an analogous question to our contributors, "Who comes after the God of metaphysics?" or "What comes after onto-theo-logic?" What becomes of God and of religious faith after the onto-theo-logical "first cause" has been sent packing?
For it is clearly not God who is dead, an illusion entertained mostly by academics, but metaphysics's God, the God of metaphysical theology; it is speculative ruminations on God's nature and causal arguments demonstrating God's existence whose health has been recently declining. Thus, in the place of the "first cause," or the "unmoved mover," we have heard of the God (or gods) before whom I can sing and dance (Heidegger), the God beyond Being (Levinas), and most recently the God without Being (Marion). Even contemporary French philosophers like Jacques Derrida, who writes of "my religion," and Luce Irigaray, who writes of "becoming divine," thinkers who would be counted out as cold hard‑hearted atheists by conventional confessional standards cannot stop talking about God.
The talk about God and religion in contemporary continental philosophy bears almost no resemblance to what passes for traditional "philosophy of religion." The latter has typically concerned itself with offering proofs for the immortality of the soul and for the existence of God, and with identifying and analyzing the divine attributes. This tradition, which goes back to the scholastic debates of the high middle ages, is largely perpetuated today in the works of contemporary Anglo‑American philosophers, who offer the old wine of metaphysical theology in the new bottles of analytic philosophy. Richard Swinburne alone can fill a blackboard with the symbolic logic of his proofs. All over AngloAmerica, logicians and epistemologists, from the Dutch Reformed to the Roman Catholic confessions, hasten to stretch a net of argumentation under faith in the divine being, lest the leap of faith end up falling to the floor in a great crash.
We on the continental side of this divide have sworn off that sort of thing and taken our stand with the equally traditional objection to the ontotheological tradition, voiced in a prophetic counter‑tradition that stretches from Paul to Pascal and Luther, and from Kierkegaard to the present, with honorary headquarters in a Jerusalem that is constitutionally wary of visitors from Athens. The objectifying tendencies, the preoccupation propositions, prove to be almost completely irrelevant to anyone with the least experience of religious matters, which beg to be treated differently and on their own terms. The God of the traditional philosophy of religion is a philosopher's God explicating a philosopher's faith, to be found, if anywhere, only on the pages of philosophy journals, not in the hearts of believers or the practice of faith. This philosopher's God is a creature of scholastic, modernist, and Enlightenment modes of thinking that deserve nothing so much as a decent burial.
So who, or what, comes next? After the funeral? The answer, or the beginnings of the answer, lie in Husserl's groundbreaking investigations into the "phenomenological" method, whose "principle of all principles" is to approach things in the terms in which they themselves are given, rather than on the terms which we (read: philosophers) have decided in advance is what they deserve. b Let us leave the guns of metaphysics at the door and let God and religious faith feel free to speak for themselves. As the great German mystic‑preacher Meister Eckhart said, God desires nothing more of us than that we let go of our creaturely mode of existing and let God be God in us. Let faith, or religious life, or the divine life among us, be what they are, without cutting them down to fit the presuppositions of western metaphysics or theology, which, as Johannes de Silentio once quipped, sits in the window all rouged waiting for the philosophers to come walking by.
If religion once seemed to have played out its role in the intellectual and political history of Western secular modernity, it has now returned with a vengeance. In this engaging study, Hent de Vries argues that a turn to religion discernible in recent philosophy anticipates and accompanies this development in the contemporary world. Though the book reaches back to Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, and earlier, it takes its inspiration from the tradition of French phenomenology, notably Emmanuel Levinas, Jean‑Luc Marion, and, especially, Jacques Derrida.
"Where‑or where not?‑does religion exist in contemporary culture, and in what forms or by what symptoms does its perennial encounter with philosophy now manifest itself? Following the leads of Derrida, Heidegger, and Levinas, and of those whose leads they follow, Hent de Vries proposes these new/old questions as tracing the most sensitive seismograph of the state of our worldwide culture. His extraordinary learning, his sophisticated sympathy with various disciplines and with competing modes of philosophizing, and his patient, engaged, courteous voice, make this book a place of profit not alone for those already convinced of the gravity of its topics, but for those who may well seek a way into matters that they sense they have been keeping at bay.
Philosophy & the Turn to Religion examines a "turn" to religion in modern philosophy. Although I take my lead in it from the later writings of Jacques Derrida, especially from the recurrence of certain religious and theological motifs in his work, I nonetheless pursue a more general systematic problem: the present‑day form and implications of the uneasy relationship between the universal claims of philosophy and the supposed particularisms of religion. This relationship has always been complex, unstable, and full of contradictions.
While sometimes aligned to the point of assimilation, philosophy and religion have often been defined in terms of their analogical relation, based in turn on the doctrine of the analogy of being (analogia entis) that was said to exist between the divine and the created realm, as well as on the assumption that the natural light of reason only needed to be supplemented by the supranatural gift of revelation. Martin Heidegger and others have insisted on the ontotheological nature of the history of Western metaphysics from the early Greeks on. Conversely, there are those (most famously Blaise Pascal, in distinguishing between the "god of the philosophers and of learned scholars" and the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob") who stress the difference from the very outset between the philosophical and the theological. In "Dieu et la philosophie" ("God and Philosophy"), Emmanuel Levinas has suggested, however, that these apparently opposite positions may have more in common than appears at first glance.
Retracing Derrida's engagement with the religious and theological makes it possible to view the uneasy relationship between philosophy and religion in a radically different way, one that is not anticipated or exhausted by any of the better‑known classical or modern interpretations of their entanglement or antithesis. In many of the chapters that follow, I attempt to provide arguments for a philosophical reassessment of his work in light of its ever more prominent citation and rearticulation of religious and theological idioms. Derrida's writings exhibit the paradox of a non‑theological, and, it would seem, even nonreligious, concern with religion, a type of philosophical reflection that does not simply coincide with itself but lets itself be "doubled," as he would put it, by religion. Only as religion's double can such philosophical reflection be said in turn to "haunt" all (positive or historical) religion. This exposure of the philosophical to the religious and, more indirectly, to the theological may provide us with the best, as well as both the most responsible and the most risky, access to the questions of ethics and politics in the current historical constellationand, who knows, perhaps beyond.
My book circles around the persistent conceptual and analytical necessity for discourse to situate itself at once close to and at the farthest remove from the resources and current manifestations of the religious and the theological, their traditional and dominant figures, their cultural practices, and the basic tenets of their ethics and politics. This paradox is captured in the familiar French expression adieu, which Levinas made into a philosopheme. The adieu conveys the departure from all known, all‑too‑human‑positive, metaphysical, ontotheological‑names of the divine, and of everything that has come to take its place. Yet if this expression signals a leave‑taking, a departure from the postulation of an irreducible realm or being called divine‑epitomized by the unity of some unknown, perhaps unpronounceable, name‑one might also interpret it as a hint, a gesture toward the absolute (in the etymological sense of the Latin absolvere, to set free or untie) that eludes all context and every reference, but that nonetheless marks, enables, and challenges every utterance‑and not just prayer or ritual‑from within and without. As we shall see, examples of this are legion.
Despite the prominence of Derrida in these pages, as well as in the sequel to this book, entitled Horror Religiosus, I address other authors and examples in them as well: Emmanuel Levinas and Eric Weil, Maurice Blanchot and Jean Wahl, Michel de Certeau and Michael Foucault, Paul Ricoeur and Mikel Dufrenne, Edmund Jabes and Jean‑Francois Lyotard, Jean‑Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue‑Labarthe, Jean Greisch and JeanLuc Marion, Jean‑Franqois Courtine and Francoise Dastur, Jean‑Louis Chretien and Marlene Zarader, among others. The work of these interlocutors provides the interpretive context for my own interrogation of the central motifs and argumentative structures that have played a crucial role in Derrida's engagement with the religious and the theological since his earliest writings, and with increasing intensity: they focus in particular on the "Old" and "New" Testaments; the Confessions of St. Augustine and the treatises of Pseudo‑Dionysius; the sermons of Meister Eckhart and the epigrams of Angelus Silesius; the Meditations of Descartes and the critical works of Kant; the early theological writings of Hegel and the dialectical lyric of Kierkegaard; the poems of Holderlin and the poetics of Celan; the work of Rosenzweig, Kafka, and Benjamin; all approached with a type of questioning that would be impossible without the indefatigable and ultimately polemical reassessment of the work of Husserl and Heidegger that characterizes Derrida's thinking.
I attempt here to comprehend the theoretical significance of religious and theological citations in writings whose roots lie in the phenomenological tradition, although by historical accident they came in the United States to be associated first with the "structuralist controversy" and then with poststructuralism and its purported godfathers, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Attention to the significance of religious and theological motifs in this genealogy rectifies its hasty association with a "hermeneutics of suspicion" (Paul Ricoeur's phrase in Le Conflit des interpretations [The Conflict of Interpretations]), to say nothing of unhelpful charges of nihilism, skepticism, or relativism.
The turn to religion discussed here must not be understood as a turn to theology in the conventional or confessional sense of the word. Rather, I attempt to rethink the concepts of ethics and politics, their structural and aporetic linkage with practices and institutions. Taken thus, the turn to religion counterbalances a common misunderstanding voiced by Dominique Janicaud's Le Tournant theologique de la phenomenology francaise (The Theological Turn of French Phemenology) and echoed by neohumanist critics of the newest French philosophy. Indicative of the turn in contemporary philosophy, or so their argument goes, is its invocation of the religious and the theological, as opposed to the sober use of the language of philosophy and the principles of secular humanism. This view badly needs correction. In fact, by renegotiating the limits and aporias of the ethical and the political in light of the religious and the theological, we can rearticulate the terms and oppositions in which the most pressing and practical present‑day cultural debates are phrased. Thus, here and in Horror Religiosus, I explore how Derrida's texts address the question of responsibility in its relation to democracy, globalization, and the "politics of hospitality." More particularly, I explore his views on the nation‑state in its engagement with censorship and religious tolerance, on identity and its relation to violence, on the politics of the academy in its confrontation with cultural diversity, on the politics of memory and of mourning, and also on the multimedia and their ambiguous role in the trend toward globalization and the "virtualization" of reality.
In discussions of these issues, the theoretical and pragmatic obsolescence of certain alternative interpretations‑of secularism, modernity, autonomy, self‑determination, progressivism, and humanism‑seems to me more evident than ever. The semantic, symbolic, or intellectual horizon within which these notions have been put to work restricts their capacity to serve as critical tools in addressing the most pressing questions of our time. The turn to religion provides a genealogical and strategic reformulation or renaming of these notions, one that reveals‑and raises‑the stakes involved in their recurrent deployment. It helps to illuminate why there can be no such thing as the ultimate neutrality of a public sphere in which philosophical, cultural, and political conflicts are debated. More important, it makes us understand why this insight by no means implies that the formal and critical task of reason has become obsolete.
Speaking about religious and theological tropes or figures of speech and thought, examining the rhetorical features of their occurrences and reinscriptions, while stressing their fundamental undecidability or unreadability‑all this would certainly have been impossible without the "Newer Criticism," to employ Rodolphe Gasche's term for the first phase of the reception of deconstruction, which seemed to make it part of a canon of "poststructuralism" I sympathize with the more philosophically focused rereadings of the second phase of Derrida's reception, exemplified by Gasche, which was concerned to demonstrate what should have been clear all along‑namely, that Derrida's oeuvre is steeped in the tradition of Western thought, that it should be examined against the background of his philosophical engagement with the concept of reflection and the transcendental, from Hegel, through Husserlian phenomenology, to Heidegger and beyond.' My book also presupposes a third and a fourth strain of Derrida's reception, however, which shift toward the ethical and the pragmatic respectively.Is there still room, then, to attach a "fifth wheel," in Kant's metaphor, to this wagon? To some, it seems already to be traveling at full speed; others see it as sidetracked from the outset and likely soon to come to a halt. In choosing to highlight the religious and theological motifs in Derrida's writing, and in claiming that they bring aspects of it discussed by previous scholarship into "their own," I am, of course, aware that deconstruction and theology have been intensely discussed from the very beginning; at each of the four stages of reception I have indicated. However, rather than attempting to determine the relevance of Derrida's writings for a rethinking of the task and scope of systematic theology,' I reverse the perspective, asking: Why is religion a relevant philosophical or theoretical topic at all?
insert content here
insert content here