Tag Archives: crticial theory

Critical Theory and Religion

An interesting find on the consistently superb blog Mirror of Justice, written by two dozen law professors teaching at Catholic law schools.

The Cambridge professor of theology,  Denys Turner, has noted “in much continental philosophy, from Heidegger to Levinas and Derrida, it is  acknowledged, with varying degrees of unease at having to concede the point, that the predicaments of our culture have an ineradicably theological character.” Back in 2004, Paul Griffiths made a similar point in a First Things essay, titled “Christ and Critical Theory,” which explores the Christian yearning of the likes of Lyotard, Badio, Eagleton (then a disaffected post-marxist), and Zizek.

If one takes the Crits to be involved with a philosophical engagement with difference, then their connection to a form of Christianity has been noted by theologians for some time. Points of contact exist between apophatic religion and the philosophical concern for difference, religious skepticism, and lived experience. Apophaticism is a via negativa approach to the divine where God is nameless because, in the words of Meister Eckhardt, “no one can say anything or understand anything about him.” The Crits, in their veneration of difference, negate the hegemonic traditions, thus leaving a space for apophasia, since positive namings of God are a part of the negated tradition.

What remains paramount for the Crits is experience. The lived experience of moral sentiments substitute for rational discourse, since such discourse is viewed as hopelessly rooted in authoritative traditions of moral reason that must be de-centered. Some, such as de Lubac, Balthasar, (and recently Pickstock and Millbank), see a genealogy for this in Ockham’s nominalism–the separation of language from reality.

What would any of this mean for Judaism? Can any of this turn be used to create an ethical turn and moral sentiments toward love, fear, hospitality, and engaging the other?

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