According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Monday, November 9, 2015

John Caputo - "You're Looking for Nothing"

Obviously I have a choice when choosing to read about contemporary radical theology and radical hermeneutics. For many philosophers in this space it seems the choice is that of agnosticism or atheism. But what about the Christian theologian who chooses to approach these subjects as a Christian theist? Who chooses to believe that there is a God and that this God has spoken through both His Word (special revelation) and through His Son Jesus Christ (as incarnate revelation)? A God who has spoken in the language of the people then, and through the language of His church now, of Himself, His ways, His purposes, His salvation?

As such, what then could be the attraction of this radical study if it seems more driven by a/theism than by theism? For myself, it is the potentiality which it holds in opening up the reading of God's Word more dynamically to today's church and societies-at-large so that its core messages may be heard in a relevant way again. That it is this very thing of "language" itself which holds back God's revelation to those seekers today living in contemporary, post-modern, post-secular, post-Christian times seeking to rectify the newer findings of academics to the older classical expressions of Christianity. That for myself, and others, we are finding promise in this task through studies in Continental philosophical thought and explorations of nascent Radical Theology.

But for the scholastic, modernist theologian seeking to know God through biblical study there is any number of hurtles to leap over as presented to him or her through contemporary academia. But knowing that this is a valuable space to struggle over, the earnest theologian works all the harder to bridge this gulf or chasm of message, knowing, and being. Moreover, we're not pretending that the Bible isn't locked within a linguistic time and space (sic, ancient cultures, dialectics, ancient local and regional understandings, philosophies, a plethora of narratives, speakers, and genres, etc) nor that it's temporal language is as universal for all forthcoming eras as it is commonly made out to be by today's classically trained preachers and disciples of the Lord. But what we're asking is how, and in what way, is God now speaking to today's civilizations as differently from past ancient societies 2000 to 4000 years ago?

The struggle then is to rightly identify God's movement of His Spirit across men's hearts and the eras to come - and especially this present era - as ethics and moralities seem to have changed with time and event itself even as God's Spirit seems to move across the spaces of the heart of this world speaking calm and assurance against its many evils and willful oppressions. And so, where one philosophical era appeared sacrosanct for all future eras to come we now know that each generation has its own philosophical struggles it must contend with. And that for this last  era - a secular, modernistic, and industrial one at that - it was its materialism, consumerism, and many gross depravities which seem to have separated the church from its message of God's grace and peace. And that for this present postmodern era which we are now here processing and questioning our past of all things we have been taught and believed, there seems to be yet another gulf or chasm as deep and wide as the one between humanity and person and work of God Himself. That in order to describe ourselves, our beliefs, our connections with this world, we must re-describe everything with a "post+" descriptive phrase attached to everything marking us as distinctly different from our worthy predecessors.

And if we are proposing a new theology of the Bible in the sense of enlarging its core messages which have been as of now hidden by our modernistic theologies, doctrines, and dogmas, than perhaps its time to unlock them with the help of today's more contemporary thought as found in Continental Philosophy and perhaps, Radical Theology. What this means is that today's postmodern biblical study is no longer founded on a Westernized analytic-scientific structure of "biblical systematics and dogmas" but on a post-modern, post-secular, post-Christian Continental approach of biblical poetics, genre, narrative, existentialism, and phenomenological exploration of biblical themes both past and present in making sense of God and His Word for these present times. So that if this postmodern gospel feels and sounds radically different from the previous modernistic one, it really is, based upon the generations it must now minister and connect to.

As such, we must demand of ourselves, as well as our Christian theological communities, to remain open to new discoveries and narratives of how the Spirit of God is now speaking into this world through His postmodern church of today and not of yesterday. In the older language of some, perhaps we are in a new "spiritual dispensation" much different from the one we once knew built on the great tragedies and distortions of sin and evil, failure and lapse, unto a postmodern generation seeking new studies, witness, and connections with the Divine and with the antiquated world of classic Christian teachings. This is the great difficulty the postmodern theologian now must embrace in order to re-speak God's Word to humanity. It is not an easy task made all the harder sin's adamant blindness and refusal to relent of the securities it once knew in Christianity past. But for the a/Christian wishing to find God in the rhetoric of today's dogmatic churches it seems an impossible task even as it can be for the postmodern theologian looking for new words, categories, and connections to present the God of all grace and mercy in the bible even as it had come through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

So that for the Christian theist, ultimately we struggle with the meaning and message of Jesus. Certainly, to today's Millennial generation we now see the Christian gospel revisiting its missions to the lost, the poor, the lame, and the sick. As a result the church itself is also moving into a heightened sense of this mission in representing the oppressed, addressing the injustices of this world, and seeking to uplift those who have the least societal or political power as mediators between the harsh cold world of capitalism to that of social justice and democracy. That ultimately the outcomes of Jesus message, if measured in earthy terms of the here-and-now, is that of a gracious, merciful humanitarianism. Of a gospel that seeks to bring in the kingdom of God now and not latter. That lives its Christian lives in the present tense of work-witness as versus seeking to escape this life through a journey of mysticism and escapism. That the works of faith must rival the belief of faith if faith is to be meaningful at all. And that without works faith is dead and religion rules by its empty creeds and confessions.

And so, we must ask ourselves, can we find value through continental philosophy and radical theology in helping the church re-discover the God of the bible through employing a new form of radical hermeneutics? Of questioning what we thought we knew by what we really don't know without defacing the past work of the church in its many past doctrines and historic struggle to be faithful to the God of the bible? If yes, than we do approach these subjects as Christian theists wishing to uplift not only the Name but the Person and Work of Jesus Christ who is more than a myth to our faith. To be able to read a/theists like Jack Caputo in the accompanying article below and to understand his struggle with the bible has been removed by his own philosophical logic and words. To understand why he has such a great dissonance with uncharitable Christian dogma even as he stretches out for words to find the inherent power of the Creator not only outside His creation but resident within it through Christ's death and resurrection.

No, it is not hard to see the questions rolling out of Jack's questioning spirit even as the world's many atrocities and civil wars have thrust the innocent to ask "Why, O God, have you forsaken us in our hour of need?" Seeking to find the transformative power and spiritual engine of God's faithfulness only to find Him seemingly absent to our deep personal needs. And so, the postmodern theologian says, "Perhaps, God has forsaken us." Or, "Perhaps we have forsaken Him to find the judgment of sin upon our heads." Or, "Perhaps, God has come as the Both/And. As both an external power-and-presence as well as a renewed internal power-and-presence heretofore unknown except by Jesus' resurrection (what Jack will dutifully call "the insistence of God"). As the Creator-Redeemer God we creatures would expect no less than to be amazed at the "both/and" contingency of God who through His Spirit speaks to our troubled hearts in tones of silence and plenty, want or need, austerity and judgment, mercy and forgiveness. For the willing seeker lost in the darkness of this world it can be overwhelming even as much as it is for the questioning observing asking "Why?"

Who then is this Creator God come to this infinitely amazing world we live in? Who has given to us the gift of life to live in-and-for Him with all the promises of His presence, grace, and mercy in our lives against all the heartaches, defeats, and harms that this wicked world can provide in His place? Who speaks through the lives of modern day Pauls like the German Theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, having died for his faithful confession by Nazi oppression. Or who speaks through the countless lives of Christian martyrs at the hands of brutal oppression in these wicked days of our seemingly pointless world we live in? Can doctrines mean anything when we see such evil?

For many, the answer is no. At which point an a/theism arises to be measured in the sifting words and stratagems of men and women seeking a God who is silent - if He is there at all. But for the Christian theist this direction does little good, and so we cling to the bible all the more, and to the incarnate life of the Christ we have come to know as personal Saviour. If we must substitute men's words for the bible than let it be on the basis of questioning past misdirections of Christian dogma rather than the very God Himself who has communicated to us by word and by deed. Not in the pre-postmodern forms of past classical doctrines but in an expanded postmodern thought and communication of examining God's Word to our own words, and thoughts, and beliefs. And it is in this exercise perhaps we may come to hear the Spirit of God afresh questioning the church's harsher doctrines of judgment when the very God Himself had spoken in the language of love to all who would come to Him through His life of ministry and the cross.

And so, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we might come to learn to speak of a "religion-less religion." Or, with Frank Schaeffer, having rejected a hard nosed conservative Christianity, discover a kind of a/gnosticism or a/theism towards the irreligious institutions of the Christian church. Or, with Peter Rollins, born into the times of the Irish Troubles of warring Belfast between Catholic and Protestant faiths, to see past his existential search for non-dogmatic forms of Christianity to a risen church preaching a humanitarian Jesus marked by personal death and resurrection. If so, than perhaps we have a post-modern Christian message to yet determine, deliver, and preach of God's Words, doctrines, and teachings as servants of Christ. To be post-modern day apostles committed to deconstructing God's Word in order to re-construct His beauty, majesty, and glory to come.

R.E. Slater
November 9, 2015
revised November 12, 2015


John Caputo and Peter Rollins in live debate






You’re Looking For Nothing:
John Caputo Responds to My Work

by Peter Rollins
(Updated) July 07, 2015

*[additional comments mine added for better clarity - r.e. slater]

John Caputo has long been a monumental influence in my life and work. From the first time I randomly picked up one of his books (On Religion) in a little bookshop in Belfast back in 2000, to the present day where I’m working through his stunning philosophical memoir Hoping Against Hope (I’m honored to be writing the forward), he has been a constant guide, mentor and conversation partner. Not only this, but over recent years I have been able to get to know him personally and come to know him as a friend.

Recently, while at a conference in Turkey, John was asked about my work and he expressed some concern about the Lacanian turn I had made, particularly with my interest in Žižek. This comment was posted up on the “What is Pyrotheology” Facebook page and generated some interesting dialogue.

I must admit that when I read the comment I was very pleased. The idea that John was commenting on my work, let alone engaging seriously with it, meant the world to me. He had already publicly endorsed me in 2011 when he, controversially, put together a panel dealing with my work at a philosophy conference he facilitated called, “The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion” (his last conference in Syracuse before retiring). But the fact that he was still taking my work seriously was very affirming.

Yet he was concerned that the comment might be taken out of context. So today he clarified what he meant on the “What is Pyrotheology” page.

His comments might be of interest to those of you who are keeping an eye on the direction of my work. In addition to John’s comment I have also included my small and inadequate response, as well as a link to a short post I wrote in the aftermath of John playfully claiming I was a crypto-Calvinist at my Belfast festival in April 2015.

Update: John recently sent me an email response to my comments that I have added below

John Caputo’s comment:

As my comment about regretting the influence of Žižek on Pete’s work has drawn some comment, I think it’s a good idea for to clarify what I am saying, lest anyone think I was criticizing Pete, whom I love dearly and have always supported as best I can and was decidedly not criticizing. In fact, it was the opposite. I was in the middle of saying that my hope is that Pete’s work will catch a wave, a big book, say, that will move him on to the next level and widen his circle of influence. I then added that my main fear is that, under the influence of Žižek, his audience will be narrowed to the radical death-of-God set and that will confine him to a narrower nicheI think his own native genius has a broader appeal than that. [One] that I have understood to lie in exploring the dynamics of undecidability, the undecidable tensions between faith and doubt, theism and atheism, fidelity and betrayal, how to speak and not-speak of God, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and the underlying sense of life that subtends these oppositions. I think that has a wider reach and it would nourish a growing number of people today, like the “nones,” some of whom still go to church but are wondering why, some of whom no longer go to church but still believe something, they just do not know what, people who are “inside/outside” religion. In my view that undecidable flux is crushed by Žižek, where the dialectic is reduced to a dogmatic double negative, no, no. So I was talking about audiences.

But over and beyond this question of strategy, of reaching an audience, lies an interesting philosophical question, condensed in the “crypto-Calvinism” comment someone made in the Belfast Tricksters meetings. This Pete has glossed in terms of [Lacan's] radical “lack,” which is a lot better than [the extra-biblical systematic term of] “total depravity.” This raises a really good question which, as I see it, concerns how to address our “finitude”—we are conditioned and limited beings who come to be and pass away, fluctuating between being and non-being, as Augustine liked to say. One way is through the myth of Original Sin, a fall from a state of pristine peace and innocence into sin so that we pass our lives in the aftermath of the fall. Freud and Lacan, I think, give us the secularized counterpart to this Jewish myth by way of the Greek myth of fate, of Oedipus, of the impossibility of maternal plenitude, where we pass our lives in the aftermath of this loss. I greet the first myth, which is mostly due to Augustine and grows even larger teeth with Calvin, with incredulity. There never was—either structurally or historically–any such original purity to lose. I greet the second myth with no less incredulity; there never was any such Oedipus triangle to contend with, a point which is developed with some vigor in Deleuze’s Anti-Oedipus. I greet any myth of a originary fall or loss with incredulity, as a mythologizing of our finitude. I am a heretic about both these orthodoxies.

How then should we think finitude? In terms of our primordial temporality by which we are structurally turned toward the future, and therefore in terms of the “perhaps,” of an originary possibility. To be born therefore does not mean to “fall” into time from eternity, or to “lack” eternity and to be stuck with time. We are originally, and originarily, temporal beings, and that while decidedly finite is nothing to wring our hands over. Time is our first and last chance. To be born is  [to] find oneself in a nascent state, neither sinful nor sick, but in a state of beginnings, of natality (Hannah Arendt), in an originary open-endedness to what is to-come, for better or for worse. To be sure, this is a risky situation. From the outset, we stand before the promise/threat, and nothing guarantees a good outcome. We have not fallen from somewhere; we do not “lack” anything, which means we are missing something we are supposed to have at this point; we have not “lost” something we were originally given. These myths of fall and loss don’t ring true to me. They’re just too downbeat but more importantly they reflect a misunderstanding of temporality. Rather, our finitude is our dependence. The child is a new beginning and so just beginning and not an articulate autonomous agent. But the world is not just beginning. As soon as we come to be we find the world is already running. That is the first case, our first encounter, with the injustice of an unjust world, and our first, harsh lesson in the logic of the “perhaps,” of the promise/threat. The first injustice is an accident of birth—the terribly deprived and desperate condition in which some children are born, while others have every advantage, immersed in love and in an environment by which they are supported on every side. There is the true lack and loss, the first case of missing something that is supposed to be there, viz., the misfortune of being born abandoned, neglected or in desperate poverty. There is nothing mythic about that, no grand récit about some primordial Ur-event of loss, no metaphysics of the void, thank you very much.

So on my accounting the being of finitude is may-being. That means, on the one hand, that there is no Divine Providence to ensure a good outcome, nothing to guarantee life may not be a disaster, just as, on the other hand, nothing says we are born sick or in sin, living in the aftermath of some mythical lost plenitude or innocence. The temporality of our lives was well described by Kierkegaard as a “repetition forward,” producing what we repeat by the repetition, like a songwriter picking at a guitar trying to find something that does not yet exist, a gradual up-building or on-going construction of the set of fragile, contestable and deconstructible meanings we call our lives. The temporality of this process is not structured around a primal fall, loss or lack, nor around a total or even partial depravity. On the contrary, it structured around an archi-faith in the coming of what we cannot see coming; an originary hope against hope that the future will be better; an originary love of the possibility of the impossible. These three, faith, hope and love, to which I add a fourth, a specter that spooks the whole thing, and sees to it that it may turn out to be a disaster. So these three, plus a little luck, bon chance, which the theologians call grace, and I qualify as the “nihilism of grace,” the grace of life, which is a finite, risky, bracing business.

Whether our difference here is a difference of emphasis I will leave to others to judge, because in the end Pete and I are on the same page, affirming the “difficulty of life” as I called it in Radical Hermeneutics, in the face of which we must learn to laugh through our tears.


My response (John goes by “Jack”):

I’m keen to respond to Jack Caputo’s beautifully written reflections and might do so in more depth on my website. But I’ll say a couple of things now. Before I do though, let me just say that I realize the ridiculousness of me responding to Jack when his work is so much more thought through and penetrating than my own. I am here to learn from Jack, and am so profoundly grateful that he would engage in this way.

Firstly, on the comments related to strategy/reach, Jack is right that my influences at the moment do limit me somewhat. I’ve missed out on at least one very big platform as a result, and it is something I need to reflect on more as I attempt to vulgarize (hopefully in the positive sense of the term) Radical Theology.

Secondly, I just want to make one quick point about the ‘lack.’ I fully agree with Jack that there is nothing we have lost. The point that I steal from Lacan is that the loss comes first (Original Sin), and the sense of loss generates the idea of something that was lost. Loss is constitutive of subjectivity. But nothing lies behind the loss (i.e. no Original Blessing).

I am drawn to Jack’s incredulity toward grand narratives, including the grand narrative of absolute negation. However I tend to see the Lacan/Žižek lack as something primarily related to a logical necessity in the birth of the subject. Anyway, just wanted to clarify that I agree with Jack that there is nothing lost. Indeed the sacrifice is pure gain… the birth of the subject. Just as some pre-societal idilic state of nature is not what was lost by the development of society, but is actually a fantasy created by it. In other words, our castration (as individuals and subjects in society) is not a loss but a pure gain that is experienced as a loss.


John Caputo’s second response:

My view is that the loss does not come first, and to think so is to adopt a corrupt view of finitude and temporality. That’s the truth behind the crypto-Calvinism quip. As Nietzsche said, the “Christian” schema is to think that in producing human beings, nature produced sick animals, and if they are not born sick Christianity will make them sick and pass itself off as the physician. I think psychoanalysis is a lot like that. The paradigm is beings born with a loss (sick, sin) which can be healed by the physician (priest/psychoanalyst).

To say the loss is first is to embrace this very paradigm. The very idea of “loss” is a missing wholeness. It is by definition the absence of something that is supposed to be there but is missing. That is not corrected but brought to its logical conclusion by then adding that the whole is a fantasy, and that we should just learn to live with the sickness/loss and treat it as a gain. That is good advice to someone born with a life-long illness or handicap, a way to try to turn their disadvantage into an advantage, but it is not a paradigm for being human. If it is, it adopts a paradigm of sickness.

L/Z are saying: as there never was a wholeness, treat the loss as a gain. I say: As there never was a loss, there never was an implied completeness. The whole schema—of loss and completeness—is a fantasy. It proceeds from a corrupt or distorted view of finitude and temporality. Or, if that is too strong, it at best describes an aberration or pathology, since some people really are born sick, in body or in mind. In that case it makes up what Heidegger would call a “regional ontology,” a local and contingent condition, not a fundamental ontology. Not a description of being human as such.

The fundamental—I would rather say radical—ontology is the ontology of finitude and temporality. There is nothing about finitude and temporality as such that implies that it is a loss or should be described as a loss (lack, fall, etc). To come to be in time is, as far as I know, the only way to come to be all. It is, in principle, good news, not a loss. It is not a loss that, since it cannot be remedied, should be regarded as a gain; it never was a loss at all. In temporality, what comes first is the beginning, and the beginning is not a loss, but a beginning, a nascence, an openness to the future, and what is made of that nascence all depends… For one thing, it depends on whether this beginning is made under the most desperate and deprived conditions, or under the conditions that would allow it to flourish. Whether the beginning is all but shut down from the start by oppressive circumstances or kept open-ended and futural. We are not born sick, but we are too often born oppressed.

So the question of the poverty, neglect and abandonment into which children are born is vastly more important problem than what for me seems to be a narrow preoccupation with the psychological fantasy of completeness. If perchance, and I say this only half in jest, this pathology really is such a big problem, and if Lacan is the answer, then we are in bigger trouble than I thought, since only a relatively few specialists have the time, talent and opportunity to figure out what he is saying, and still fewer people have the financial means to afford the treatment!

I am not saying that there are no sick people, no people who need help, and I am not denying that there people who can help them. I think there are genuine counselors, people with discernment and empathy, who in one-on-one sessions and without a big overarching theory of “the” unconscious,” as if there [is] just one, can help us out in a time of need. I actually think Jesus was one of those people and that was part of his success as a healer. Lacanian psychoanalysis is at best a local therapy, not a fundamental ontology.

I am all for denying the big Other, but I think the more radical, the more philosophical way to deny the big Other, which means to break the tyranny of certitude—a project we all share—is what Heidegger calls “overcoming metaphysics,” that is, twisting free from big overarching stories or deep accounts of how things are. A big Story, a big Other, is one of several ways to “arrest the play,” as Derrida said, all of which are variously metaphysical. I think that psychoanalysis for Freud was meant to be science, the final story, the end of the illusion of religion. I take it that in Lacan’s post-modern Freudianism, in particular, the “non-all,” breaks with Freud’s scientism. Right on. Nonetheless, psychoanalysis is a regional critique of foundationalism, focused on the unconscious, indeed on a particular highly sexualized account of the unconscious, not a fundamental analysis of being-human at large. Denying the big Other is only part of the critique of centered, certain, founded, grounded, overarching, ahistorical accounts.

What about Christianity? This I think is really interesting. I think I am the truer Christian in this debate. Unlike psychoanalysis, Calvinism, and the Christian Right—you see the association?—the Gospels seems to me to be singularly unconcerned with sexuality. What concerns them? They are mostly preoccupied with poverty, marginalization, imprisonment, and economic redistribution, which are the very terms in which Jesus announces his ministry (Luke 4:16-21). I’m with Jesus and the kingdom of God on this one.

Lastly, what about Hegel? I also think I am the truer Hegelian in all this. Žižek’s Hegel is very clever, I’ll grant that, but it is at bottom a philosophical corruption of Hegel. Hegel did not try to knock things down or slam them with a “no, no, there never was such a thing.” Hegel thought that whatever is, is true, and that whatever is true is to that precise extent real, but everything has to take its “time” in becoming trueThat is an Aristotelianism (which I got from my Catholic Thomism, which explains my aversion to Calvinism) that I share with Hegel, along with Hegel’s deep distrust of Platonic (and Kantian) dualism, which treats time as—you guessed it—a “fall.” So for Hegel, religion is the truth, a form of truth, but it is only the truth in a certain form or figure, and the idea is not to slam it, to declare it an illusion and double negate it, but to figure out this figure, to “interpret” it (hermeneutics), to get at its truth in a way it itself cannot, to “repeat” it in a more radical wayMalabou calls this “speculative hermeneutics,” which is brilliant, because it brings out both the hermeneutics and the lingering metaphysics. I call it “radical hermeneutics,” meaning easy on the metaphysics, please.


Some addition sources:

Here is a short post I wrote that clarifies what I mean by Original Sin

You can follow John Caputo on Facebook here

You can request to join What is Pyrotheology here



Select Comments

I am not very competent at the issues being raised and this area of thought in general. I have some concerns that probably betray a lack of understanding of the work of these great thinkers. I only have skimmed the work of Caputo and Rollins, and an limited to only a few Zizek lectures. Please guide me, by commenting on the following concerns, thanks.

First, isn’t the idea that this fiction of a “fall” or “loss” enables us to access and express an aspect of our existential phenomenological realities? This saudade evoking narrative is particularly helpful to us and already finds itself in a lot of our aesthetic expressions (literature/art). For us to pretend to lose all illusions is to engage the role of the courageous fool, one who just doesn’t get how things are, who follows the naive logic that losing illusion is gaining clearer reality. However, to lose the fiction is to lose reality itself.

Second, the double negation is not so different from the double affirmation, in that they are both actions describing the nature of a certain reality in light of the absolute. The double negative subscribes to an indifferent Absolute “neither this nor this”; on the other hand, the double affirmation subscribes to a constitutive Absolute “this and this”. The former says that the Absolute is beyond (indifferent to) all relative categories, the latter that the Absolute is a composite of all these categories; while the former would contend that reality itself is beyond the categories of theist and atheist, the latter asserts that reality includes both categories.

Third, a “Caputo event” seems much like a miracle, a transgressing of laws of human nature like the relativity of experience or capacity for dissatisfaction. It also seems to have drunk deep of the modernist ideal of progress. Like Badiou’s “catastrophe is better than non-being”, it seems like an urging to act, and urging to create, a guilt inducing obligation and responsibility of making the future exist. As to miracles, if an event isn’t a moving beyond the rules that are in place, if it is merely a repetition, a new stanza of a song using the same language and grammatical laws (or stretch thereof) of the other stanzas, then what is so great about it, why do we limit Hegel to make place for it? Why do we seek to move beyond the temporal triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, to represent the world in an temporal future? The point is that while we may say that Caputo doesn’t really seek to transcend the frame, to limit nature, there is a vibe that he really does want to. This is maybe why we have to introduce a grace, an unknown factor, a chaos or randomness, the possibility of hacking/limiting the laws of nature. This grace is as unnatural and as false as the “fall” or “lack”. It is a fiction that doesn’t work quite as efficiently to access our existential phenomenological realities. In all, the Event thrives in the frame of a cosmopoetics- not of humility but of ambition.

Fourth, there is no future. This is a point of theoretical physics we have yet to contend with. We are limiting the natural realities to make space for our subjective experience. We like to claim that we are not limiting nature and that it is not primarily an anthropoetics but a cosmopoetics. However, where we don’t like it, where “as if I were dead” nature is not convenient, we claim a primacy of the subjective reality, and the importance of factoring it in as well. Why don’t we just say that (just like everyone else) we too are limiting cosmopoetics to make space for theopoetics? Instead of this hair splitting argumentation. Too, is theopoetics a part of cosmopoetics or is cosmopoetics indifferent to theopoetics?

Maybe the true dilemma is one introduced in the second point, about the nature of the absolute. Is it indifferent or constitutive. The Absolute according to what we know of theoretical physics and especially theory of relativity, is open to interpretation: either it is beyond all relatives, or it is constitutive of all relatives. Maybe it is neither of these. Or maybe it is both.

In sum, as you can see, this is from a crude reading, and formulation of what I see the dilemma is, as well as my personal reaponse to these evokative dilemmas. I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

- Anon



No comments:

Post a Comment