Tag Archives: Eckhart

The Next Big Thing (Uncharted Waters)

Graham has a great post up on “the next big thing” in philosophy, in reference to the recent flurry of activity in regards to Badiou.

What I especially liked about this post was the following:

In continental philosophy, the cutting edge is usually wherever 25-30 year-olds are working right now. The senior figures in continental philosophy are more likely to still be working on whatever was hot when they were 25-30. (My older Department colleagues, bless them, still think Merleau-Ponty and Derrrida are the latest news. Nothing against Merleau-Ponty and Derrida, but they are obviously not the latest news. I assume this would be far less likely to happen in analytic philosophy circles.)

This reminded me of my undergraduate thesis experience. My grad advisor, Sean, taught at my undergrad institute and was going to supervise my thesis on Eckhart and Heidegger (and at the time, Derrida). My basic premise was that while contemporary philosophy of religion (Caputo, Kearney, and Marion) were enthralled in the “innovations” of Heidegger and Derrida (on ontotheology and negative theology) that the same innovations could be found in Eckhart’s German sermons, that almost identical moves had been made. The hope was to use this as ammunition for an eventual revival of Eckhart, who, while Caputo even has a book on Heidegger and Eckhart, has been mostly overlooked in contemporary philosophy of religion. I was excited about this, and Sean was excited as well.

Unfortunately, Sean left and came to my current school, which is where he’s from originally. He and his wife moved back here to raise their son. At the time I was really upset because I’d already begun work on my thesis and thought I would have to find a new topic, which I really didn’t want. I met with my new advisor, who specializes in Aristotle and Virtue Ethics. He assured me that I could keep my same topic, and that he had an interest in both mysticism and Medieval philosophy. I was relieved to say the least.

After working on the first half of my thesis in the Fall, the half on Heidegger, ontotheology, and Eckhart, I had a meeting with him. I was told he didn’t want me to do the Derrida half, that this should be a thesis on Heidegger and Eckhart. I didn’t understand why, considering Derrida was (and still is) highly relevant to the philosophy of religion. My advisor told me that Derrida hadn’t proved himself to be a lasting figure yet. I was stunned. I considered myself something of a deconstructionist at the time, and had plans to study it further in grad school and was being told that what I was working on, what I was planning to continue working on, wasn’t a proven system yet even though Derrida had just died and had been producing work for decades, not to mention all of the work of other deconstructionists. All of the contemporary people I was working with for my thesis were highly influenced by Derrida. Again, I was stunned.

The rest of the year was spent miserably trying to turn what I had thought was simply a chapter, less than half of my total thesis, into the thesis itself. I was depressed, angry, and confused. My advisor became more and more critical of the contemporary thinkers I was using for my thesis, telling me that I needed to be doing a historical thesis. I tried to explain that I was doing a work of hermeneutics (which had been the point all along) which he also seemed to scoff at. To top it off, I found out early on that my advisor wasn’t reading any of the books I was reading. I had read the complete works of Eckhart, Heidegger’s Identity and Difference, a couple of books by Caputo (The Mystical Element of Heidegger’s Thought, and Weak Theology), a couple by Marion (God Without Being, and Being Given), and one by Kearney (The God Who May Be), plus assorted essays and secondary sources. My advisor didn’t read any of them.

I had a couple of good courses that year though, a seminar on Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, and a seminar on Foucault which I sat in one (it was a sociology course and I lacked the pre-reqs). What I loved about these courses is that in the case of Merleau-Ponty, I was understanding the context of Jean-Luc Marion much better, while reading Foucault furthered the interest I already had in Deleuze.

I realized that year that while I am interested in the history of philosophy as it is broadly understood, I wanted to be doing contemporary work, looking for that next big thing. I think that’s why when I came here for my MA, while I had planned originally to write a thesis on Derrida (essentially writing what would have been the second half of my undergrad thesis) I quickly abandoned it to study the contemporary relevance of Schelling, reading Grant’s book, along with a lot of Zizek.

Basically, I was very unhappy working with someone who thought the history of philosophy (at least continental philosophy) ended sometime in the beginning of the 20th Century. Now I’m working with someone who is much more understanding of my interests, and has even started reading speculative realism texts in order to also understand the next big thing.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Update / Reading Aristotle

Sorry I haven’t been around much. I’m working all summer as an editorial assistant, and the past little while has been swamped with work since our deadline has moved from the end of the year to the end of August. I should have the next little while free though before I start work on the next set of essays.

Besides that, I have a few essays I’d like to finish this summer. One is on the Ur-Event in Badiou (building off of the paper I mentioned before on Badiou and Rousseau), one is on Zizek and vampires (continuing my interest in the relation of Zizek to vitalism as seen in his readings of Lacan’s lamella), and the third is another on Badiou that I’m not ready to talk about yet (which I’m not sure I’ll really have time for until next year, but I want to get it started). Oh, I have this piece on Graham and OOP too, which I need to clean up a bit before I do anything with it. I’m looking to publish it somewhere, but I haven’t really decided where yet. Plus, you know, that thesis I’m writing. As for that, the summer is really just for all the background reading I need to do, while the writing proper won’t really start until this fall, although I do have a couple of essays and a couple of seminars given that are to make their way into the current thesis.

In other news, a friend of mine was just accepted to his first choice in PhD program. He’s worried though because this is a Jesuit school, and his background in Thomism and Scholasticism is a little shaky, I guess. He’s asked me to be part of a reading group this summer to whip him into shape since I have more of a background in Medieval philosophy that most of the people at MUN (before coming here and re-focusing my attention on continental philosophy, my plan had actually been to follow up the other half of my thesis, that is, focusing on Medieval philosophy and mysticism as part of a degree in Theology; I’ll be editing my thesis on Heidegger and Meister Eckhart early this fall for publication, since it will be published in an open, online journal that I will be editing, I plan on sharing it with you all as soon as I can).

We’re starting with Aristotle’s Metaphysics, then likely moving on to the De Anima, and then we’ll see what Aquinas we can cover with the rest of the summer. First meeting of this reading group is tonight. There’s only four of us in the group, three students (one Hegelian and one Cartesian, plus me) and one prof who was literally just hired on after being a session prof this past year, whose specialization is neo-Platonism, I think focusing on Augustine (but I could be wrong on this). Should be good.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Presence and Negative Theology

This is inspired by the following quote from Graham’s blog on deconstruction:

“Hägglund follows Derrida in conflating ontotheology with realism. He doesn’t do this sloppily, but openly proclaims the identity of the two, when attacking Kevin Hart’s claim that pseudo-Dionysius is a deconstructive thinker.

Hägglund does this with a turn of phrase that might sound congenial to my own work, though in fact it’s diametrically opposed. Hart claims that the God of negative theology is deconstructive because it lies beyond all affirmation and negation. Hägglund counters that this is still classically metaphysical, because being beyond human predication does not mean being beyond classical concepts of identity and presence.”

Now, I don’t know Hägglund, but I do know Derrida and negative theology. As much as I really like some of Derrida’s work (his Hauntology, obviously), I’m fairly critical of his work on negative theology and Hägglund seems to be making (based on this tiny bit at least) the same mistake that Derrida made. That is, conflating all Neo-Platonisms (and there are many). While it is true that some thinkers in this tradition have made God = Being and made Being = One, this is not a universal claim for all Neo-Platonists.

Pseudo-Dionysius is actually an excellent example of this, because he places no highest in his system, but leaves the space empty for the mysterious God whose face is never seen.

“Trinity!! Higher than any being,
any divinity, any goodness!
Guide of Christians
in the wisdom of heaven!
Lead us up beyond unknowing and light,
up to the farthest, highest peak
of mystic scripture,
where the mysteries of God’s Word
lie simple, absolute and unchangeable
in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence.
Amid the deepest shadow
they pour overwhelming light
on what is most manifest.
Amid the wholly unsensed and unseen
they completely fill our sightless minds
with treasures beyond all beauty.”

– Pseudo-Dionysius

What does this mean? Well, when Hägglund says that “being beyond human predication does not mean being beyond classical concepts of identity and presence” it means that actually, it could be beyond classical concepts of identity and presence. The whole point of negative theology is to deny that God is = Presence (or perhaps as a negative theologian would say “mere Presence”). The point is that no claim can be affirmed. I’m much more sympathetic to Kevin Hart in this case, as my own reading of Negative Theology (at least Pseudo-Dionysius, and Meister Eckhart as those are the thinkers in this tradition I’m most comfortable / familiar with) is quite deconstructive. When Eckhart “prays God to rid [him] of God” is is precisely a deconstructive move, a claim that God must be MORE THAN GOD HIMSELF or else He’s not God. In this way, God cannot be made mere presence and when Pseudo-Dionysius makes God = Highest (actually, higher than the Highest!), it is a move away from the pitfalls of presence, to a God that is always more than Presence, but is actually that which gives Presence (since God is Love). I’d suggest that if anyone wants to read more about this, Jean-Luc Marion’s God Without Being and his essay “In the Name: How to Avoid Speaking of ‘Negative Theology'” are both excellent sources, even if you’re not a fan of his phenomenology (which I’m not).

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Deleuze on Being

Found a great piece up over at Space, Power, and Geography. They’ve posted some of Deleuze’s lecture notes on Univocity, Equivocity, and Analogy when it comes to Being.

The medieval scholar inside of me quite enjoyed his views on this age old debate.

Note, they’ve also uploaded the first few chapters of Deleuze’s book on Spinoza which is well worth the read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Derrida and Realism

When I wrote my undergrad thesis, I had it clear in my mind what I wanted to write. My thesis was to be on how the two greatest critiques of the Philosophy of the Middle Ages constructed in the Twentieth Century had already been written and solved by Meister Eckhart.

The first of these two critiques was Heidegger’s critique of onto-theo-logy, which became the topic of my thesis. At some point I’ll have a revised edition of my thesis (it will be published as an essay by this time next year) and I’ll share it here.

The second of these critiques was Derrida’s critique of negative theology. My intention when coming out here for grad school was to write this as my MA thesis. At the time, I was hopeful in regards to deconstruction, and I was quite taken by the possibilities held within this school when it came to religion.

Of course, that didn’t last. I quickly became dissatisfied with people like John Caputo (and his Weak Theology), and abandoned my thesis on deconstruction in order to find the “superior empiricism” of Schelling’s early work. I see connections between Schelling’s Naturphilosophie and thinkers like Bergson and Deleuze, who I’ve become quite taken with. This obviously puts me squarely into some sort of realism, whereas deconstruction seems to be some sort of textual idealism, lost in language.

But what do we do with Derrida? There seems to be much of his writing worth working with. I still see his Hauntology as particularly important (although I see proto-hauntological ideas in Schelling’s Clara and his Weltalter). The idea of the spectre, and more importantly, of parts of reality that are missing or incomplete (or even decaying) seem applicable to a new Schellingianism (not that unlike the old Schellingianism. . . ), a realist Schellingianism, but an “imperfect” realism.

So is there room for Derrida in a realist philosophy, or must we abandon him entirely?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized