Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Our European models are already incredibly commentary-heavy

Kyle, Interesting observations. I think Caputo is what Lacan had in mind when he claimed that theologians are the true atheists. In this lecture he claimed that religion is composed of potently powerful stories and compared it to novels, all the while defending religion. He seemed bothered by Marion’s hardline stance without scripture. Oddly I found myself on the side of Marion here. I just can’t understand why someone would continue to defend Christianity while placing it on par with novels and films. If that’s all it is, then I’m not sure why one wouldn’t simply dispense with religion altogether and simply set about interpreting literature and art. I find Marion or Kierkegaard to be far more admirable, and largely in part of the way they refuse a historicist hermeneutics of the Bible. Chances are I’m not expressing my discomfort here quite clearly.
I wasn’t trying to dismiss textual engagement, but it does seem to me that there’s a strong prohibition against “direct theory” as it’s practiced in the United States. I am unclear as to why it has developed in this way. larvalsubjects said this on April 21st, 2007 at 4:08 am
Let’s absolutely not get into a discussion of religion, but I must say I have some reservations about what you’ve said about Kierkegaard’s relation to Scripture. In fact, although Marion is undoubtedly a very conservative Roman Catholic, I don’t think that that binds him to a “non-historicist” reading of the Bible. I agree that Caputo’s project leaves much to be desired (though it’s in a nice long line of liberal Catholics in the 20th Century — David Tracy being the most famous). I just wonder if there’s a difference between being a Christian and being dumb — as though you need to believe there’s some “guy out there” named God, etc. Everyone acts like anything short of the most crassly mythological version of Christianity is equivocating cowardice, and… Yeah, but not going to get into that. (But why the hell is it somehow “admirable” to be a fundamentalist? “At least they’re consistent.” WHAT?! Anyway…)
I read an article recently about an American theologian who doesn’t get much attention, and the author of this article argued that it’s because of a bias against Americans writing “primary sources.” This theologian is trying to do the same kind of thing that, say, Karl Barth did, rather than just endlessly commentating on Karl Barth. But Americans don’t do that — they comment. American theology is pretty heavily European in orientation and so is more comparable to “continental” philosophy than to “analytic” in terms of its practices. I’m sure some degree of cultural inferiority is at play here — how many American continentalists secretly wish they had been born French? (I’d say at least 70%.)
It’s kind of constraining, but I honestly don’t really get impatient with the textual commentary thing. And anyway, our European models are already incredibly commentary-heavy. That’s just how the tradition is. Maybe it’s Heidegger’s fault. (Probably.)
I don’t know that the emphasis on textual commentary is necessarily tied up with semiotics, etc. It’s not like there was this wonderland of totally primary sources before Pierce. And of course the “commentary on commentary” format thrived in the middle ages (and not just in theology), when there was no particular skepticism about our ability to know the world. Adam Kotsko said this on April 25th, 2007 at 3:55 am

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