Thursday, July 17, 2008

When it Rains it Pours

I am on holidays and so I began a fistful of books that have been sitting on my shelf waiting their turn. The three that have emerged this summer are,
Slavoj Zizek, In Defence of Lost Causes
Rowan Williams, The Wound of Knowledge
and my first Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess
I will offer a few excerpts shortly. However, yesterday I was inundated with more books that will have to wait.
I received an order from Amazon which included,
William Cavanuagh's Theolopolitical Imagination and John H. Yoder's The Politics of Jesus (which I read about 10 years ago after which I lent out the copy never to return).
Yesterday I was also out a used bookstore and corralled the following,
Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason
Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialetic of Enlightenment
Jacques Lacan, Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis
Then to top it all off as I was walking to where I parked my car there was a little Thrift Store that I went into where I perused their bookshelf and for 50 cents I picked up,
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her
Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory

I need more holidays!

So what summer reading have you picked up?

Zizek's In Defense continues to be an enjoyable read. It is starting to get a little old the way he "turns the tables" on popular conceptions. You have heard it said that Hitler was too violent, well I say to you that he was not violent enough. You have heard it said that Stalinism was immoral, well I say to you that it was too moral . . . and so forth. This however, does not take away from insights into capitalism as the infinitely revolutionary model that can absorb almost all influences. Here is quotes Brian Massumi on the erratic excess of contemporary capitalism saying that,

the more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normalcy starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening of normalcy is part of capitalism's dynamic. It's not a simply liberation. It's capitalism's own form of power. It's no longer disciplinary institutional power that defines everything, it's capitalism's power to produce variety - because markets get saturated. Produce variety and you produce a niche market. The oddest of affective tendencies are okay - as long as they pay. . . . It's very troubling and confusing, because it seems to me that there's been a certain kind of convergence between the dynamic of capitalist power and the dynamic of resistance.

Zizek eventually comes to his question and asks, "How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing?" The chapter ends with a quote from Beckett, "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Jean-Luc Marion's In Excess is the third in a trilogy of books (which I did not know when I bought it). It is, however, somewhat accessible having not been up to speed with his prior work. Marion asks the question whether the rejection of all transcendence by phenomenology forbids it from engaging constructively with religion. Here Marion looks at metaphysical theology and revealed theology. In as much as metaphysical theology (first philosophy) is based on "real transcendence, causality, substantiality, and actuality" phenomenology could engage in no speculative arguments beyond what is given. However, "for revealed theology, by the very fact that it is based on given facts, which are given positively as figures, appearances, and manifestations (indeed, apparitions, miracles, revelations, and so on), takes places in the natural field of phenomentality and is therefore dependent on the competence of phenomenology. What is surprising here is that phenomenology should disqualify that theology called 'natural' and rational, but it cannot deny further interest in revealed theology, precisely because no revelation would take place without a manner of phenomenality."

The opening chapter of Rowan William's The Wound of Knowledge is worth quoting in full but I will quote one of the final paragraphs after Williams has outlined the paradox and contingent nature of faithful spirituality. He then talks about hope,

The presence of this hope is what makes us alive with 'newness of life' (Rom 6.4) in the sharing of Christ's risen life. Christ's risen life is a life free from the threat of death and annihilation ('Christ's being raised from the dead will never die again' - Rom 6.9), the 'threatenedness' that is part of the human condition of human sin and distance from God. In sharing this life, we share his freedom from 'threatenedness,' it is never - as is perfectly clear in all Paul's epistles - a freedom from exposure to suffering or from fear, but it is a decisive transition to that new level of existence where God is the only ultimate horizon - not death or nothingness. 'From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer' ( 2 Cor 5.16). The 'human point of view,' for which death is the final horizon, is put away, so that we are free with Christ's freedom. We have, in John's terms, 'passed out of death into life' (1 John 3.14).

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