175 Chapters
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6. Prayer and Sainthood

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

Prayer is a fairly prominent topic in Marion’s writings, although it is not a concern addressed much by the secondary literature on his work.1 Already the early distinction between idol and icon in God without Being is to a large extent about prayer or worship, about the human approach to the divine that can be expressed in idolatrous adoration or authentic prayer before an icon. The former is idolatrous for Marion because it becomes an invisible mirror that returns entirely upon the self, while the other is authentic because it is emptied of self and exposed to the divine gaze. This account is deepened and focused more fully on prayer in The Crossing of the Visible, where the final chapter examines explicitly what it means to pray before an icon. Somewhat surprisingly, the final chapter of In Excess, which really should examine the possibility of a phenomenon of revelation if it consistently followed the outline of the five kinds of saturated phenomena (event, idol, flesh, icon, revelation) as presented in Being Given and the first chapter of In Excess, instead examines the kind of language appropriate for the divine. This language turns out to be prayer or praise. In some sense, then, this simply continues the earlier distinction between an idolatrous and an iconic way to approach the divine. Yet, formulated as a response to Derrida on negative theology, it is a much more conscious articulation of the linguistic element in prayer.2

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9. As if I were Dead: Radical Theology and the Real

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub


To perceive the object as such
implies that you perceive the object as it is
or as it is supposed to be when you are not there…
So to relate to an object as such means to relate to it
as if you were dead.
That's the condition of truth…the condition of objectivity.

                                                       —JACQUES DERRIDA

I object to the blackmail, to the bad choice—theism or atheism!—and to the violence of double genitive in the odium theologiae—the total contempt for religion on the part of secularists, the demonization of atheism by the theologians, which leads to outright violence by religious extremists. The whole thing is a perfect recipe for war. The current form this blackmail has taken in recent years is a new wave of “materialism,” “realism,” and “atheism” that has arisen in reaction to the so-called theological turn. These terms are used more or less interchangeably, as if theology is allergic to reality and materiality, which is the point where we radical theologians sigh in despair, as if we had to choose. The (not so) new blackmail is: Reality or fiction! Materiality or spirit-seeing! Science or fideism! These not-so-new materialists seek to rekindle the old science wars and to wage a new version of the old battle over what is really real, pitting tough-minded scientists against tender-minded types who lack the heart to face reality and so take flight to the fancies of poetry and the fantasies of religion. The new breed of scientific realists, what I will call warrior realists, are merciless iconoclasts, out to destroy all the graven images of the scientific real in order to let the real itself be itself in all its unvarnished reality.

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6 Liberalism and Democracy

Michael L. Morgan Indiana University Press ePub

When Levinas was a child, his family had to leave their home in Kovno, Lithuania, during the First World War, and after their return, he lived under the young Soviet government until he left for Strasbourg in 1924. In France he came into contact with a generation of philosophers whose political views had been shaped in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, and he adopted in his own way the ideals of the French Revolution as they were recovered during that period. In the 1930s he was brought face-to-face with fascism and totalitarianism and the question of where philosophy stood in the encounter between Hitler’s fascism and Enlightenment liberalism. In the 1930s, he experienced the impotence of liberalism in the struggle with the forces of fascism, and yet by the 1970s and ’80s he appears to have changed his mind about liberalism and come to endorse the virtues of democracy. He experienced the struggles of French parliamentary democracy after the war and the turmoil of the 1960s, particularly 1968, and while he lived to see the fragmentation of the Soviet empire, it is clear that the horrors of Stalinism had already alienated him from any sympathy with Cold War communism. He had an ongoing dislike for American capitalism. To be sure, throughout his career, he had a complicated relationship with Marxism, at the same time appreciating its strengths and its weaknesses, and he showed strong signs of favoring some form of socialism or at least a welfare state of some kind. One of the perspectives one might take on Levinas’s ethical critique of the political is to place it in the context of his views about these various types of political system and political doctrine, and in this chapter I want to begin to provide such an account.

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9. De Beauvoir and the Myth of the Given

Edited by Morny Joy Indiana University Press ePub

Nature is always value-less, but has been given value at some time, as a present—and it is we who gave and bestowed it. Only we have created the world that concerns man.


Man created woman—but what out of? Out of the rib of his God, of his ideal.


In 1980, Feminist Studies published an article by Michèle Le Doeuff that invigorated debate about the originality of Simone de Beauvoir as a philosopher in her own right, beyond her reputation as a follower of Sartre. In “Simone de Beauvoir and Existentialism,” Le Doeuff claimed that Beauvoir’s approach effectively turns Sartrean existentialism on its head. Observing that it is not enough for Sartrean theory “to pass from a man’s to a woman’s hands to change from the phallocentic discourse it had hitherto been into the theoretical tool of a feminist investigation,” Le Doeuff maintains that Beauvoir “operates a series of transformations on the existential problematic,” the first and foremost being the transposition of existential worldview “from the status of a system . . . to that of a point of view orientated to a theoretical intent by being trained on a determinate and partial field of experience”—to wit, that of women (Le Doeuff 1980, 283). The effect of this transformation is revolutionary: whereas the existential ethic, according to Le Doeuff, “has the effect of expelling from the sphere of the person every possible determination, projecting them on to the exterior plane of the situation that is to be transcended,” Beauvoirean perspectivism allows that “exteriority” may act as an obstacle to transcendence, a constraint on subjectivity, a grounds for alienation (Le Doeuff 1980, 284). Whereas existentialism demands “an annihilation of every anthropological determinedness,” excluding in principle an existential anthropology, Beauvoir restores the anthropological problematic (Le Doeuff 1980, 284). Theorizing a relationship between “internal” states and “external” constraints, Beauvoir explores the questions that have dominated feminist philosophy ever since: questions about the meaning and significance of becoming a woman.

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7 The Future of Liberation

CLAYTON SCOTT CROCKETT Indiana University Press ePub

Philip Goodchild

Finally Socrates drank the hemlock, died, and the movie ended.

“The thing I don’t get,” said one viewer, “is why he chose to drink the poison.”

“I’m not surprised you don’t get it,” said her companion. “When I get a thing it is usually a pack of popcorn, or a hangover, or a girl. What is this thing you don’t get?”

“That’s just it. I don’t know,” she replied.

“Then how do you know you’ve not got it?” he said. “What’s the matter with you?”

So together they continued to stare at the blank screen in the hope that it might show them what was the matter. But neither turned to each other, nor did they make the slightest move to leave and venture out into the sunlight.

A case could be made that philosophy is the safeguard of human freedom. For if our environmental, economic, and cultural worlds are determined primarily by how we think, and only subsequently by what we think, then all power passes through thought, and thinking otherwise is the essence of liberation. Thus liberation would be conceived as liberation from oppression, injustice, ignorance, and illusion. If liberation from oppression may be conceived as the freedom to access and employ physical, social, and educational resources required for human flourishing without fear of external appropriation or restriction, then such liberation may be conceived, in turn, as dependent on liberation from injustice, as freedom of political representation to ensure that the cries of body and soul are heard and interests are met. Political liberation, in turn, is dependent on liberation from ignorance and delusion, so that one speaks, struggles, and acts in one’s own interests and against one’s own oppression. Liberation from delusion, in turn, requires the liberation of truth so that it may germinate and grow in its own proper elements of reason, attention, and insight. So is philosophy to be regarded as the source of liberation?

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