Few philosophers have devoted more than passing attention to similarities between the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, and Emmanuel Levinas, a French Jew. Here, one of philosophy of religion's most distinctive voices offers a sustained comparison. Focusing on questions surrounding otherness, transcendence, postmodernity, and the nature of religious thought, Merold Westphal draws readers into a dialogue between the two thinkers. Westphal's masterful command of both philosophies shows that each can learn from the other. Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue (...) is an insightful and accessible contribution to philosophical considerations of ethics and religion. (shrink)
The kind of phenomenology that can be useful to theology will be a hermeneutical phenomenology, one that takes us beyond the Cartesian/Husserlian ideal of presuppositionless intuition. It will also be a phenomenology of inverse intentionality, one in which the constituting subject is constituted by the look and the voice of another. In light of these suggestions, the phenomenology of Jean-Luc Marion is defended against three critiques, namely that it compromises the boundary between phenomenology and theology, that the theology it serves (...) is a bad one to boot, and that it has an inadequate account of the subject. At the heart of this defense is Marion's clear distinction between phenomenology as a description of possible experience, and theology as the claim that a certain kind of experience, namely revelation or epiphany, is not merely actual but veridical. Phenomenology says, If revelation occurs it will be in the form of a saturated phenomenon. Theology says, for example, the burning bush was an epiphany, or Jesus Christ is a revelation. The attentive reader should have no trouble distinguishing Marion's phenomenological analyses, which should be persuasive to believer and unbeliever alike, from his theological claims. Marion's account of the subject falls under the heading of inverse intentionality, and there are hints that vision is aufgehoben in the voice. The seer is first of all the one seen, but above all the one addressed, called forth into response-able being. (shrink)
Overcoming Onto-theology is a stunning collection of essays by Merold Westphal, one of America’s leading continental philosophers of religion, in which Westphal carefully explores the nature and the structure of a postmodern Christian philosophy. Written with characteristic clarity and charm, Westphal offers masterful studies of Heidegger’s early lectures on Paul and Augustine, the idea of hermeneutics, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Derrida, and Nietzsche, all in the service of building his argument that postmodern thinking offers an indispensable tool for rethinking Christian faith. A (...) must read for every student and professor of continental philosophy and the philosophy of religion, Overcoming Onto-theology is an invaluable collection that brings together in one place fourteen provocative and lucid essays by one of the most important thinkers working in American philosophy today. (shrink)
"This volume represents a fine assessment of the continuing applicability of Kierkegaard’s thought for the 21st century."—The Reader’s Review "Matustík and Westphal have set some agile minds to the task of drawing out the threads of Kierkegaard’s influence on postmodern and contemporary philosophy, from gender to politics and from Buber to Derrida." —Choice "... Usefully and effectively establishes Kierkegaard as a living presence in contemporary thought. It will help students of Kierkegaard attend to aspects of his thought that have eluded (...) their attention, and it will challenge those engaged with contemporary continental philosophy not to shelter themselves from the provocations and interrogrations still uncomfortably pressing in Kierkegaard’s writings." —International Philosophical Quarterly "The standard of the essays and the calibre of the contributors are uniformly high. This is indeed one of the better collections relating to Kierkegaard published in recent years, and should do much to extend discussion of his work..." —Modern Believing "... a text of immense significance and value.... As a research tool it will surely prove indispensable." —Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter "It will be a helpful supplementary areading for teaching... the contemporary readings of Kierkegaard introduced here continue to reveal new and more exciting depths to his extraordinary philosophy." —Teaching Philosophy These essays engage Kierkegaard in conversation with critical social theory and postmodern thought. Covering a diversity of themes, this collection still reflects consensus—Kierkegaard is to be taken seriously as a philosopher at the turn of the twenty-first century. (shrink)
Religious faith is often critiqued as irrational either because its beliefs do not rise to the level of knowledge as defined by some philosophical theory or because it rests on emotion rather than knowledge. Or both. Kierkegaard helps us to see how these arguments rest on a misunderstanding of all three terms: faith, reason, and emotion.
For Heidegger, onto-theology is the use of abstract, impersonal categories under the principle of sufficient reason that has one goal and two results. The goal is to make God fully intelligible to human understanding. The results are the disappearance of mystery from our understanding of God and the loss of any religious significance for the “God” that results. I argue that Aquinas is not guilty of onto-theology because his use of abstract, impersonal categories is subsumed (aufgehoben, teleologically suspended) in his (...) use of personal categories and because his doctrine of analogy retains mystery in our understanding of God. (shrink)
"... a profoundly stimulating and satisfying piece of philosophy.... It is a book from which one really can learn something worthwhile." —Idealistic Studies "... exceptionally well-written philosophy of religion... " —Mentalities "... a most impressive phenomenology of religion... a splendid achievement... " —The Reformed Theological Review "... challenging to scholars... interesting to general audiences." —International Journal for Philosophy of Religion "... equal in clarity of thought and comprehensiveness of scope.... profoundly original." —The Reformed Journal "Challenging and thought-provoking, this makes a (...) fine... textbook in the philosophy of religion." —Religious Studies Review "... its virtues as a textbook in phenomenology or philosophy of religion are extraordinary." —Faith and Philosophy Examples from the writings of Kierkegaard, Freud, Heidegger, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, and Tolstoi illuminate Westphal’s thesis that guilt and death are the central problems of human existence. (shrink)
Against two recent critiques, I defend my thesis that such later writings of Kierkegaard as Works of Love and Practice in Christianity introduce an understanding of Christianity that I call Religiousness C, into which Religiousness B as presented in ConcludingUnscientific Postscript is teleologically suspended. For Religiousness B, Christ is the Paradox to be believed, while for Religiousness C, Christ is the Pattern, Paradigm, or Prototype to be imitated. In the former case, the offense to be overcome in becoming a Christian (...) concerns the metaphysics and epistemology of the Incarnation. In the latter case, the offense involves the ethics and politics of the Incarnation. I argue that this Aufhebung is Hegelian only in a formal sense and, so far from compromising Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel, actually intensifies it. (shrink)
The introduction by Merold Westphal sets the scene: "Two books, two visions of philosophy, two friends and sometimes colleagues...". Modernity and Its Discontents is a debate between Caputo and Marsh in which each upheld their opposing philosphical positions by critical modernism and post-modernism. The book opens with a critique of each debater of the other's previous work. With its passionate point-counterpoint form, the book recalls the philosphical dialogues of classical times, but the writing style remains lucid and uncluttered. Taking the (...) failure of Englightenment ideals as their common ground, the debaters challenge each other's ideas on the nature of post-foundationalist critique. At the core of the argument lies the timely question of the role that each person can play in creating a truly humane society. (shrink)
This chapter begins with a discussion of Levinas's views about Christianity. It then considers four important issues that do not fall along the fault line that divides Jews and Christians from each other but rather represent issues each community must face both internally and in dialogue with each other.
Continental philosophy of religion often takes place within the horizons of phenomenology. A central theme of this tradition is the correlation, in one form or another, of intentional act (noesis) and intentional object (noema), the “object” as given to or taken by the subject. But in dialectical tension with this theme is the notion of inverted intentionality in which the arrows of meaning bestowing intentionality come toward the self rather than emanating from the self. This theme is developed by Sartre, (...) Levinas, and Derrida, among others. Since each of these is in some fashion an atheist, it is surprising but important that their reflections on what it means to be seen or to be addressed keep turning toward the question of God. This suggests that the basic concept is important for the philosophy of religion, at least in monotheistic contexts. (shrink)
According to the article, the references of Emmanuel Levinas to Kierkegaard are varied. Indeed, there are times in which Levinas seems to misunderstand or completely ignore important writings of the Danish thinker. There are also times in which Levinas understands Kierkegaard well enough to see quite precisely where they disagree. And yet there are also times in which Levinas raises important objections that call for a response from Kierkegaard. Accordingly, the primary goal of this essay is to separate the moments (...) of genuine engagement from those in which Levinas' comments miss their target altogether. /// As referências que Emmanuel Levinas faz à obra de Kierkegaard são de diverso tipo. Por vezes, ele parece não compreender ou completamente ignorar escritos importantes do pensador dinamarquês. Outras vezes, porém, ele dá a impressão de compreender Kierkegaard suficientemente bem até ao ponto de precisar exactamente quais os pontos de desacordo entre os dois. Mas há ainda um outro registo, aquele em que Levinas levanta importantes objecções a Kierkegaard, exigindo deste uma resposta. O principal objectivo do artigo é, assim, separar os momentos de compromisso genuíno daqueles em que os comentários de Levinas pura e simplesmente parecem falhar o seu alvo. (shrink)
Highlights the intersection of Hegel's thinking on politics, religion, and knowledge, which, claims Westphal (philosophy, Fordham U.), addresses better than any modern thinker, the essential dilemma that a religious society tends to be ...
This essay is an analysis of the inverted intentionality that is arguably the central notion in the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas. The primal horizon for all human meaning is the brute fact of undifferentiated being, the il y a experienced impersonally as insomnia and weight. The first exit from this world devoid of meaning, subjectivity, and objectivity is that of the psychism or conatus essendi, the self which places itself at the center and makes everything else a means to its (...) own ends. But there is another exit, subsequent developmentally but more fundamental ontologically, and in this sense more truly first. It is the emergence of the responsible self, decentered by the proximity of the other. With help from St. John of the Cross and Jean-Paul Sartre this emergence, in which meaning is “prior to my Sinngebung” and arises in intentional acts directed toward me rather than arising from me, is explicated. (shrink)
SUMMARYSince the theme of sacrifice as presented in Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling is a major focus of Levinas' critique of Kierkegaard, their debate, so to speak, is pertinent to the theme of sacrifice and the foundation of culture. But the central theme of Fear and Trembling is faith; so first of all a brief summary of its account of biblical faith is given. Then, in the light of this account of faith, the question of sacrifice is addressed, along with Levinas' (...) critique. Levinas is a surprisingly bad reader of Kierkegaard, but the conflict between the two leaves us with the question of how to think about sacrifice. So an account of sacrifice in biblical context and in tune with the Abraham story is given. It is then suggested that biblical sacrifice is not so much about the founding of culture, at least if such founding is conceived as a human act, but a divine disruption of every culture. That is what Kierkegaard's teleological suspension of the ethical is about in any case. (shrink)
The first part of the essay explore's three features of Wolterstorff's account of God as a performer of speech acts: (1) the claim that God literally speaks, suggesting that this claim needs something like a Thomistic theory of analogy as an alternative to univocity and mere metaphor; (2) the claim that speaking is not reducible to revealing; and (3) the political implications of these claims, especially in relation to Habermasian theory. The second part focuses on the theory of double discourse, (...) which seeks to make sense of the notion that God speaks to us through the human voices of prophets, apostles, and especially of Scripture, and seeks to show that a fuller account of the speech act by which God deputizes or appropriates human speech is needed. The final section suggests that Ricoeur and Derrida are not the threat to his theory that Wolterstorff takes them to be and that their emphasis on the text, rather than the author, makes sense in contexts where we have only the text to consult. (shrink)
A triple sampling of the rich diversity of philosophical reflection on religion and on the relation of philosophy to religion within “continental” traditions. The first part explores three accounts of the relation of phenomenology to religion as presented by Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Marion. The second part explores Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics in its onto-theological constitution with detailed attention to just what he means by this notion and with special reference to the religious and theological motivations one might have for wanting (...) to avoid onto-theological thinking. The third part explores the renewed interest in negative theology that revolves around the conversation between Derrida and Marion. (shrink)