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Adam Miller
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In an older post, I included the accompanying image of the "Suffering Servant" without proper attribution. The image is beautiful and striking and I wanted to apologize to its author, Marcella Paliekara, for my failure. If you're interested in this... Continue reading
Marcella, My apologies. I've been insufficiently careful about this in the past. What can I do to make it right? My best, Adam
Jason, these are excellent questions. The notion of a trinitarian unity is helpful here, but it seems unlikely to me that it would be enough for Latour's position. It still clearly leaves God as an ontological exception. Which brings us to the second part of our comment about interpretation going "all the way down." Do you see it as going all the way down even for God? Or just for human beings qua finite beings? If it is just for human beings qua finite beings, then the interpretation as a problem is epistemological not ontological: there really is a divine unity at the root of things (even if this unity self-differentiates), but humans are just too finite to ever see it. That is, interpretation goes all the way down for humans because we, unlike God, lack access to the whole unified picture. For it to be ontological in character instead, one would have to claim that there is no wholly unified, underlying picture, even for God. This wouldn't necessarily leaving us with a finite God, but it might require us to make the kind of move that Badiou does via transfinite sets and claim that all existing things are infinite and that this is precisely why there can be no underlying, ontological totality.
Spurred by George Handley’s eco-theological reflections in Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River, I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner. Like Handley, Stegner is interested in the tight twine of body, place, and genealogy that makes a life.... Continue reading
My friend and colleague Gregory Hoskins is editing an interdisciplinary journal called Expositions. He and the journal recently hosted a roundtable discussion about the Zizek/Milbank interchange. You can find the discussion here. Contributors include Jeffrey Robbins, Brian Robinette, Frederiek Depoortere,... Continue reading
Excellent questions, Bryne. 1. Regarding "love your neighbor as yourself." I think this has to do with how attention is provoked and sustained only by "interest." My interest in another person will unavoidably be shaped by the contours of my interest in them. Love and service, I think, depend on the "repurposing" of this interest by the person/thing that overtakes me. But it won't involve an "expunging" of my interestedness. The trouble arise when interestedness foregrounds the self out of which it grows in such a way as to overtake the person/thing and "double" or split my attention. 2. Regarding the difference between attention and inattention. I think this distinction is key. Attention is unavoidably serial (it will move on). The real problem is distraction or inattention. But the interesting thing about the multitasking study is how it draws a straight line from the over-serialization of attention to distraction. Attention that never settles, that is constantly retasked, is a kind of attention that is ripe for distraction. Or, another way to say this is: the logic of multitasking (or this over-serialization of attention) is that it trains our attention to simply give way to whatever distraction happens to pop up. It trains us to favor the short-term reward of shallow novelty. This prioritization of distractions cultivates in general an atmosphere of hazy inattention. Service, I think, will depend on our ability to sustain attention to significant enough a degree that it can penetrate beyond its own prefabricated and (poorly) self-serving take on the world.
"They call it Christianity. I call it consciousness." —Emerson You are going to miss it. You’re distracted. Sit up straight. You’re not paying attention. God does not come and go – your attention does. All sins are just variations on... Continue reading
Captain Kirk says: "Perhaps this is all just a fancy way of saying we should live out what we claim to believe? Probing our aliefs is a way of being honest with ourselves?" I think this right. Though I'm probably at least as interested in probing my beliefs in light of my aliefs as vice versa. There is, I think, a really important involuntary dimension to both that deserves careful probing. And, in the meanwhile, the key to is to maintain fidelity to the good news regardless of how our beliefs and/or aliefs tend to ebb and flow.
I was listening this morning to Paul Bloom's book, How Pleasure Works, while I walked a few miles (still no running yet for me after I broke my ankle six weeks ago playing basketball - "You're not 22 anymore!" my... Continue reading
Thanks, Jamie. Pinnock will be missed as well for his willingness to seriously engage Mormon theology with both friendship and respect. Blessings on his head and on those of his house. Adam
Eric, these are good questions. For my part, I doubt that what I've described above is compatible with a notion of creation ex nihilo because this kind of material semiotics depends on the assumption that there is no single, unifying, ontological ground. If God created everything from nothing (and if it is possible to have a "God's eye view" of the whole thing, just not for us), then we're back to an epistemological version of hermeneutics rather than ontological version because the problem is one of our limited "access" to the real rather than being an issue that emerges from the fragmentary nature of the real itself. As I put it in the post: Here, the gap between a sign and a thing (or a thing and a thing!) is not a representational or epistemological gap. Rather, the gap between signs and things (just as with things and things!) is ontological in character. In this sense, a material semiotics breaks with a classical understanding of the “material” world on a key point: Where a classical materiality assumes the automatic, underlying, and substantial compatibility of all material things with one another - such that Nature is always already treated as a single, unified field and our representations of it can only weakly and unsuccessfully hope to mimic this original unity in a fragmentary way – a material semiotics assumes that matter itself (not just our representation of it!) is fundamentally multiple, fragmentary and heterogeneous. In short, the multiplicity needs to go all the way down because it needs to be a function of the way things are rather than being a problem with our limited representations of it. Does this help at all?
Eric, I'm glad you find it interesting. In the end, I suspect that many people who are interested in the intersection of postmodernity and religion will prefer the more familiar, epistemological version of material semiotics because it preserves a classical, theistic ontology while definitively screening it from our view. An ontological version of material semiotics, despite its advantages, would require us to adopt a more process oriented ontology that is grounded in an original and irreducible multiplicity rather than in God's original, singular, and exceptional ontological status as the Creator. That is to a say, the ontological version requires us to think about God as "a" being always already surrounded and limited by other beings. This would, I think, have profound implications for how we approach all different kinds of sacramental theologies.
An attempt this week to organize some thoughts, inspired by my work on Bruno Latour, about how to describe my approach to hermeneutics. 1. Material Semiotics Broadly, my hermeneutic approach could be described as a “material semiotics,” but the kind... Continue reading
Bryne, This is a good question. Religion, of course, plays a part in bringing our weakness and limitations (the weakness manifest in silence) to our attention, but I think that what makes religion religious is the role it plays in getting us to sit with (rather than running and hiding from) the grace of this silence. This silence speaks peace if we're willing to hear. Adam
No doubt! . . . though let's not underestimate Bach ;)
I'd be grateful, Carl, to hear what you think. - Adam
Thanks for the post, Carl. I couldn't agree more. Not to toot my own horn again (or compare myself to Luther!), but I dedicated a third of my last book, Badiou, Marion and St Paul: Immanent Grace (Continuum, 2008), to a detailed reading of Romans 1-8 in light of Badiou and company. You might be interested. Adam
A friend recommended E. M. Cioran's On the Heights of Despair (University of Chicago Press, 1996). Cioran is a kind of 20th century, Romanian Nietzsche who "denounced systematic thought and abstract speculation in favor of indulgence in personal reflection and... Continue reading
Thanks, Denise. I think there is something to this. Though I'd want to be careful to (1) generalize "obsessive compulsiveness" as a refusal of vulnerability common in many ways to all of us sinners, and (2) be sensitive to the non-volitional (and, thus, non-"sinful") dimensions of obsessive compulsive disorder as a medical classification.
Thanks, Nick. I'll have to put this book in the queue. Adam
I. Short Version Speculating this week - with one eye on Lacan, one eye on the Buddha, and one eye on Paul - about the nature of sin. In brief: 1. Say that sin is "the compulsion to repeat." Or,... Continue reading
It's on sale for just $100! (Actually, don't get me started about this . . . ) At any rate, Jason, you can find a generous review and summary of the book by Tom Grimwood here.
I. Introduction Continuing the business of cross-pollinating my work in contemporary Continental phenomenology (and, in particular, the phenomenology of religion) with Eastern brands phenomenology, I recently came across a striking reading of Buddhism's "four noble truths" in Stephen Batchelor's new... Continue reading
Thanks for this review, Geoffrey. I've been working on a number of other projects and haven't gotten around to this book yet. By way of shameless self-promotion, if you interested in a divergent reading of Badiou's importance for theology, I believe my book (also published with Continuum) may be the only other book-length treatment of the subject. My best, Adam