John Caputo has a lengthy (93 pages!) new article in the Spring 2011 issue of JCRT (11.2) called "The return of anti-religion: from radical atheism to radical theology." Some of you Meillassoux fans might be a bit insulted! From the intro:

"Postmodern theology has come of age. It now has its own counter-movement, a new generation of philosophers marching under the flag of materialism, realism, and anti-religion who complain that the theologians are back at their old trick of appropriating attempts to kill off religion in order to make religion stronger.

Martin Hägglund‘s Radical Atheism [RA] is a closely argued contribution to the recent debate that fits hand in glove with the new counter-movement. His book has reinvented Derrida for the younger generation of restless realists and comes as a timely refutation of any attempt to reduce Derrida to an anti-realist or anti-materialist. The book is especially welcome in the light of Meillassoux‘s caricature of correlationism, which treats continental philosophers from Kant on as ―creationists. (That is not an exaggeration. I understand the need to kill the father, but one ought at least to make some sense when asked for the motive for the murder. Besides, such caricatures invite an obvious counter-argument: if treating Derrida and Foucault as creationists is where the new realism leads, then so much the worse for the new realism!)

In my view it [RA] presents a certain deconstruction, and a certain logic of deconstruction, but in an abridged edition of Derrida cut to fit the new materialism, all scrubbed up and sanitized, nothing written in the margins, deconstruction as logic not écriture. I wish it well. But in my view not only is the unabridged edition of deconstruction considerably more interesting it also provides the basis for a criticism of religion from within, rather than mounting a frontal attack from without that tries to hammer religion senseless. In deconstruction religion is more than one, and that opens up a possibility never considered in RA, what we might call a religious materialism, a religion without the immaterialism of two-worlds Augustinianism, another Augustine and another religion, which is in fact the unedited view of Jacques Derrida. Interestingly, Meillassoux himself tried his hand at propounding something of a religious materialism, one that even sounds a bit like the specter of a coming god in Derrida, but with ridiculous results (a fanciful version of eternal recurrence). His position is especially ridiculous when viewed against the subtle and careful analysis of a certain faith and a certain religion and a certain à venir that Derrida provides, an analysis that is unfortunately completely suppressed in Hägglund‘s abridged edition of deconstruction."

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Here's more on experience according to Caputo, which might not fall prey to kela's critique of mystical empiricism, since it's not a purely subjective consciousness in the metaphysical sense. Interestingly Caputo even argues that phenomenology's aim, long associated with such a subjective state, is "not the high ground of being itself" but rather to "undo the phenomonal/noumenal binarity." (I have bolded text for my emphasis. Italics and quotes are in the original.)

“Deconstruction is an experience of the impossible, which means that différance is an 'absolutely general condition' of experience. The 'unpredictability' or 'unforeseeability' upon which Hägglund lays all his emphasis is a feature of experience, an experiential structure all the way down. It requires an agency of seeing or predicting whose horizon of predictability or foreseeability is upset. The universe itself, being in general, coming to be and passing away, has no vision of its future and is never surprised by what happens. While Hägglund lays claim to the high ground of being itself, all his arguments take place on the plane of the unpredictability of human experience. Différance is not an absolute but a point of view whose fruitfulness Derrida invites us to consider and explore. It is not an intellectual intuition but a framework or condition of experience. That does not reduce it to a theory of mere appearances as opposed to a noumenal being outside time and space, which is Hägglund‘s constant fear, since the point of departure of phenomenology, no less than deconstruction, is to undo the phenomonal/noumenal binarity. It is an account of experience which is above all experience of the real, of the tout autre which is real (Paper Machine, 96). Hence none of the nonsense served up by Meillassoux.

“Deconstruction is not a metaphysics of atheism or of being-as-becoming but a quasi- or ultra-transcendental phenomenology of the event. On Hägglund‘s account, deconstruction opposes the metaphysics of being as presence with a metaphysics of spatio-temporal becoming, which as Derrida and Heidegger both point out would be a simple reversal, inverted images of each other within the same framework, whereas différance is in the business of displacement, not reversal. No more metaphysics, please! Metaphysics, as Kant showed, spins off endless dialectical cobwebs and there is no end to it, which shows up in Meillassoux‘s ludicrous speculations about eternal recurrence” (116-17).

Good stuff, Ed.  I have saved the essay on my hard drive at home and plan to read it in full when I have the time.
From Hägglund's response:

"We can thus understand why Derrida insists on a distinction between faith, on the one hand, and the religious ideal of absolute immunity (the unscathed) on the other. The two are usually conflated in the notion of religious faith, which is understood as the faith in an absolute good that is safe from the corruption of evil. Drawing on his logic of radical evil, however, Derrida reads the religious ideal of absolute immunity against itself. To have faith in the good is not to have faith in something that can be trusted once and for all. On the contrary, the good is autoimmune because evil is inherent in its own constitution. As Derrida emphasizes, there is 'nothing immune, safe and sound, heilig and holy, nothing unscathed in the most autonomous living present without a risk of autoimmunity.' The argument here—articulated in Derrida's main essay on religion, 'Faith and Knowledge'—is that the very movement of sacralization is contradicted from within by a constitutive autoimmunity. To hold something to be sacred is to seek to immunize it, to protect it from being violated or corrupted. Yet one cannot protect anything without committing it to a future that allows it to live on and by the same token exposes it to corruption” (132).

The unconditional is the spacing of time that is the structure of the here and now, the structure of what happens, of the event.... I argue that both Caputo and a number of other influential readers of Derrida have misconstrued the logic of the relation between the unconditional and the conditional. What is 'called' for by the unconditional is not something unconditional (e.g. unconditional love) but rather acts of engagement and performative commitments that are conditional responses to an unconditional exposure. That performative acts are conditional does not mean that they are determined in advance but that they are dependent on a context that is essentially vulnerable to change. This unconditional exposure may always alter or undermine the meaning of the performative act and is therefore not reducible to it (137).

“The impossible for Derrida is not somewhere we can never go—or something we can never reach—but rather where we always find ourselves to be. The impossible is what happens all the time, since it designates the impossibility of being in itself that is the condition of temporality.... That we desire the impossible, then, does not mean that we desire something above or beyond the possible. On the contrary, it means that whatever we desire is constituted by temporal finitude, which makes it impossible for it to be in itself. This impossibility of being in itself has traditionally been regarded as a negative predicament that we desire to overcome, since it opens for corruption at every moment. Derrida‟s radical atheist argument, however, is that the impossibility of being in itself is not a negative predicament. Rather, the impossibility of being in itself opens the chance of everything we desire and the threat of everything we fear” (141).




The unconditional is the spacing of time that is the structure of the here and now, the structure of what happens, of the event...


This unconditional exposure may always alter or undermine the meaning of the performative act and is therefore not reducible to it (137).

I’m wondering, the unconditional is referred to in the frame of an event , are there independent events with a numerical signature, in this context or is it the event. Can the structure of what happens be independent of perfomative acts, which read as reductive.

There are suppositions here, and  questions of  dimensional scope. Like the suggestion that the unconditional is singularly existential....




Awhile back, I got a PDF copy of the book, The Speculative Turn, with a number of essays on speculative realism, and by or about Badiou, Meillassoux, Brassier, etc.  Just looking at it again this evening, I notice an essay by Hagglund (Radical Atheist Materialism: A Critique of Meillassoux).  Have you read it, yet, Ed?  If not, and you'd like to, I can send you a copy.
I have not and please do, thanks.

After reading Hagglund's response to Caputo I realized he articulated something nagging at me with Caputo, much as I appreciate him: God. I can go along with Caputo on a lot, even faith, but I just cannot stomach God, even postmetaphysical varieties. Like one of the excerpts about, that Caputo ties faith to the "unscathed" absolute good, reminding me of my critique of "spirituality" as something metaphysically set apart from the mundane. I'm interested in this idea of faith without God so Haggland might have something to offer me in his interpretation of Derrida in this regard.

The second excerpt above, while distinguishing between the conditional and unconditional, does not turn the latter into a sacred a-part-ness. Like when he says that the latter is not something like unconditional love but more like an amorphous call or mystery, not defined to be something as specific as that. It doesn't have to be The Good (or the true or the beautiful). It's just openness to the unknown which allows for the only constant, change.

Kind of like the impossible in the 3rd excerpt. It is "not something above and beyond the possible" but something possible in the here and now if we but remain open with blind faith, for to condition the unconditional with any"thing" is antithetical to its unknowable, yet felt (intuited?) and present, mystery. And there really is no comfort in that at all. So what "good" is it then? No good whatsoever (if we define it as Hagglund suggests Caputo does).

The perils of using Babel Fish or the like to attempt to translate slang...

theurj said:
Ce que l'enfer que tu racontes maintenant?

This recent Caputo interview explores the distinctions between theism, atheism and agnosticism. Caputo doesn't think deconstruction fits into any of those categories. Following are some of his responses:

"After making a distinction in deconstruction, the first thing to do is to deconstruct it, to show that it leaks, that its terms are porous and intersecting, one side bleeding into the other, these leaks being the most interesting thing of all about the distinction."

"I am not resurrecting the old comparative-religion thesis that there is an underlying transcendental form or essence or universal that we can cull from differing empirical religious beliefs. [...] Nothing says that underneath they are all the same."

"Derrida is not launching a secularist attack on religion. Deconstruction has nothing to do with the violence of the 'new atheists' like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Derrida approaches the mystics, the Scriptures, Augustine with respect — they are always ahead of him, he says — and he always has something to learn from them. He is not trying to knock down one position ('theism') with the opposing position ('atheism'). He does not participate in these wars."

"He is interested in all the things found in the Scriptures and revelation, the narratives, the images, the angels — not in order to mine them for their 'rational content,' to distill them into proofs and propositions, but to allow them to be heard and reopened by philosophy."

"Derrida calls this a 'religion without religion.' Other people speak of the 'post-secular,' or of a theology 'after the death of God,' which requires first passing through this death. In Derrida’s delicate logic of 'without,' a trope also found in the mystics, a thing is crossed out without becoming illegible; we can still see it through the cross marks. So this religion comes without the religion you just described — it is not nearly as safe, reassuring, heartwarming, triumphant over death, sure about justice, so absolutely fabulous at soothing hearts, as Jacques Lacan says, with an explanation for everything. His religion is risky business, no guarantees."

"Deconstruction is a life-giving force, forcing them to reinvent what has been inherited and to give it a future. But religion for Derrida is not a way to link up with saving supernatural powers; it is a mode of being-in-the-world, of being faithful to the promise of the world."

"Deconstruction is a plea to rethink what we mean by religion and to locate a more unnerving religion going on in our more comforting religion. [...] Deconstruction dares to think 'religion' in a new way."

My heart rejoices (even reJoyces) to read these Caputo-words.  They are the arrows of Cupido and I am overflowing with love.  The analyses of deconstruction have no particular allegiance to popular "anti-theistic materialism".  In fact they are illuminating certain subtle intersections and dysjunctions between reality-responses which along can provide the cognitive and theological scaffolding for an authentic and progressive human religiousness.  It matter little whether we call it "true religion" or "religion without religion".  It is not the assertion that an existing metaphysical unity exists beneath all the famous religious orthodoxies but rather the opening to the creative effort to produce cultural coherence which exceeds sectarianism of all kinds and edifyingly enfolds rationality, critique, spiritual practice and all interpretive possibilities into a uplifted social possibility for which we are ourselves "divinely" responsible.

You might then also appreciate Caputo's comments in the first post of this thread on religion and politics. He said, in part:

"A reformation of political thought would require not ridding ourselves of theology but rather reexamining our theological presuppositions and learning to think about theology differently, which means to think about God otherwise, to reimagine God. What would a political order look like, were the Kingdom able to be reinvented and transformed into a political structure?"

Read it to find out. The thread also brings in Panikkar, Rifkin, Keller, Edwards, Lerner, Loy etc.

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