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DC-Area Lectures Ken is Looking Forward To

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March 27, 2005


Paul H.

Hey, Ken - as I mentioned at some point, I'm not sure that the East coast phenomenologists can take over the anti-realist postmodern genealogies without committing themselves to anti-realist positions, at least implicity. To accept Foucault's archaeology of knowledge, e.g., means that you accept the idea of knowledge as the will to power; you can't agree with his genealogy without also agreeing with his conclusion, in the case. This is not to say that one couldn't take over Derrida's deconstructive analysis of messianicity, or of hospitality; or any other number of more 'minor' issues that don't require the anti-realist claims that some of these analyses entail. I do think that Derrida's writings on the trace and absence in writing could be utilized safely, as long as absence is always seen as co-intending presence ... but it would be a slippery slope, to try to use anti-realist analyses in a nonfoundational realist sort of way.

Paul H.

I hasten to add, though, that I agreed with everything else you wrote.


I am interested in learning more about the distinction between liberal and conservative schools in Protestant Christian Theology from the perspective of whether or not this is an illuminating dicotomy. At last check, there seemed to be several hundred (or thousand?) different Protestant denominations which distinguish themselves from one another on a very large variety of issues the least of which seems to be epistemological in nature. And if this is correct, I'm not so sure the term "schism" is appropriate since that implies a well defined subdividing into two halves. If you had said there is a set of schisms based on a grouping of fundamentally related issues, this would have been less least in part because among Cathlics, the same would hold true to some extent--various ways of thinking about, believing and acting in accordance with various theological concepts. This accounts for the various orders in Catholic tradition with the only tangible difference between catholic orders and protestant denominations being, apparently, a pledge of cooperation of living out one's particular conception of christianity in cooperation with Rome....where cooperation is often a loose term which occasionally involves paying lip service to stiff, lazy Italians. (no disrespect intended for the heavily accomplished italians who don't see their country as heavan on earth) Paz!

Paul H.

The distinction between liberal and conservative Protestantism goes back to the late 18th century; it's just a way of differentiating between the two main academic camps, which are always split between people like Kierkegaard and people like Harnack---though there are of course other viewpoints within Protestantism.


Christians today are in desperate need of a phenomenological understanding of scripture. This is especially true, I think, of the Reformed tradition. I like to compare Calvin to Hobbs and the rational choice folks in political science (for a good discussion of "rat-choice" see, Cohn, "When did Political Science Forget about Politics?," The New Republic, Oct. 1999). All three of these presented ideas that were flawlessly logical and complete in their understandings, as long as you accepted their premises. All three were also afflicted with the sin of hubris. They assumed an ability to know more than they can know. We can never understand God to the extent that Calvin assumed. Our brains are too small. I think I'm agreeing with Ken when I say that there would be fewer divisions among Christians if we all had a better phenomonological understanding of scripture. I look forward to your future posts on this topic. --Napp

Tony Jones

Amen, Ken. I agree that phenomenology is the key, and that it's missing from the two books you mention. However, don't write off Gadamer, et al as mere relativists. Instead, the hermeneneutical crowd enriches the phenomenological crowd.


I will be following your series ... fascinating read :-)

Mark Diebel

Thank you very much for this discussion! Don't forget some of the earlier phenomenologists... especially Goethe who was probably the first scientific phenomenologist... and from whom perhaps more than one stream of descendants have sprung.


I am sorry I can't add anything better just now than a couple of nitpicks:
Cicero's DE OFFICIIS vies with the NICOMACHEAN ETHICS for the title of "authoritative ethics text for 2000 years." Ambrose and Kant, for example, probably never read the Aristotle (nor did Cicero himself); Aquinas read both.
I have looked at Kass's GENESIS, though not read it through. It struck me as informed much less by phenomenology than by right-wing politics. As Kass (IIRC) admits, it was written in complete ignorance of the midrashic tradition. No wonder, then, it exemplifies a hermeneutic fallacy that also vitiates the literalist hermeneutic of fundamentalism: if you claim to read a text without presuppositions, you will simply read your own presuppositions into the text, unaware that you have done so. And to the extent that the text is authoritative, as Scripture is in the highest agree, you will find your own prior convictions affirmed, but authoritatively.
Plugs: David Woodruff Smith's MIND WORLD (Cambridge), while uneven, resembles a "Stanford School" counterpart to Sokolowki's "Washington School" introduction. Sokolowski and John Brough (when I studied with them) both spoke highly of Jitendranath Mohanty's interpretations of Husserl. And outside phenomenology, Newman set out a (philosophically) neglected non-foundationalism in GRAMMAR OF ASCENT and the UNIVERSITY SERMONS that preceded it.


My dear
I read your article & found it greatly intresting in trying to elucidate the importance of phenomenology in making our relgious life meaningful.
I need your comment on my work which is partially appeared in my blog,in which i am trying to show the phenomenological aspect in the koran. i am waitng your blog name is koranic phenomenology
with my best wishes

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