Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Radical Theology Lectionary: Fourth Sunday in Lent

TEXT: Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

COMMENTARY:

“One can even develop into a Hegelian triad the lines from Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” It’s first negation would have been a radical reversal of the subjective position, as in the ghetto-rapper-version: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am the meanest motherfucker in the whole valley!” Then comes the negation of negation that changes the entire field by way of “deconstructing” the opposition of Good and Evil: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I know that Good and Evil are just metaphysical binary opposites!”

-Slavoj Žižek, Žižek’s Jokes: (Did You Hear the One about Hegel and Negation?), 18

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Michel Foucault and Fons Elders – a preparatory interview for the Chomsky debate

Progressive Geographies

I’d not seen this before – fifteen minutes of video in preparation for the Chomsky debate between Foucault and Fons Elders. Thanks to Sjoerd van Tuinen and Elena Loizidou for sharing this.

Update: Jeremy Crampton has more news on this here, including the link to the book of the interview transcript, which only seems to be available on Fons Elders’s own site.

Update 2: Aphelis has a lot more information on the debate itself here.

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More evidence in favor of the authenticity of the James Ossuary

Theo-sophical Ruminations

James Ossuary James Ossuary

Amnon Rosenfeld et al recently published an article in the Open Journal of Geology citing further evidence vindicating the authenticity of the James Ossuary.

HT: Ben Witherington

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Žižek and Sacrifice

I’m currently reading Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjevic’s God in Pain and I came across this passage in one of Žižek’s chapters:

The radical break introduced by Christianity consists in the fact that it is the first religion without the sacred, a religion whose unique achievement is precisely to demystify the Sacred.[1]
I really loved this quote so I decided to share it with some friends of mine here at school and most of them were either indifferent or flat-out disagreed with it (at least by itself). Of course it was a lesson in hermeneutics in itself. “What a blasphemous thing,” some might say, “to claim that Christianity considers nothing sacred!”
I hadn’t anticipated that sort of interpretation, probably because I was so excited about it. Žižek’s analysis of the Sacred is a bit different than the common idea of “something worthy of worship” or something like that. “The sacred is,” for Žižek, “a limitation of ‘ordinary’ evil…[and] nothing but the violence of humans, but ‘expulsed, externalized, hypostazied’. The sacred sacrifice to the gods is the same as an act of murder–what makes it sacred is the fact that is limits/contains violence, including murder, in ordinary life” [2]. Furthermore, sacrifice is always done with “the collective” in mind–that is, those who stage the sacrifice, the people sacrificing and typically those who the sacrifice is for. Žižek refers to the collective as a singular agent, though. “The collective” might be a hivemind or a tradition of religious narrative, saying “this is why we sacrifice, this is why we need it. Praise God.” Evil can have “enough qualifications to make sure it can be done whenever one really wants to do it” [3]. Such is the essence of sacrifice; it is the exception to the rule “do not kill.”
Christianity, thus, was/is faced with the problem of “[containing] violence without sacrificial exception, without an external limit” [4]. This is effectively solved by allowing the victim to tell their own story. Sacrifices are only sacrifices insofar as the victim is “a part” but never “a voice.” (Here, we have an interesting intersection with Derrida in that the victim is an event contained within the story.) Through the victim’s story–their narrative that is an anti-narrative–the Sacred is demystified.
All this is to say that Žižek does not simply mean sacrifice in the sense of the quasi-archaic practice of “requiring the blood of a virgin” or something like that. Sacrifice is an ideological practice, one that is found in many systems and societies today–including America. Demystification is the realization that “my social status depends on objective social processes, not on my merits” [5]. The poor and the proletariat are the bourgeoisie’s sacrifice in capitalism, for instance. Or, as another example, civilians (American or otherwise) are among those being “sacrificed” for our country’s “safety.”
At this, one might say that “sacrifice” (and thus all that is “sacred”) is a rationalization, or rather, a justification of an atrocious thing for a higher cause which involves the incorporation of abstract or delusional elements, such as “national safety” or “for the sins of the people.” Since Žižek’s conception of the “Sacred” is always told by “the collective,” Christianity effectively denounces the value of “Sacredness” by silencing the collective and allowing there to be space (whether it is the collective making room for the victim, or the victim breaking through as an event) for the victim to speak.
The “Good News” of the Gospel, then, is not some narrative justifying or explaining sacrifice or why such a sacrifice was needed, but rather that we get the opportunity to learn from the victim–that is, without overpowering them physically or narrativistically, without subduing them and insisting that they somehow conform. Nonconformity is thus never “them believing a lie,” but instead the victim’s indignation and insubordination, for they have heard the collective narrative for centuries.
_______________________________________
[1] Slavoj Žižek, “Christianity Against the Sacred” in God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse, 68.
[2] Ibid., 63.
[3] Ibid., 69.
[4] Ibid., 63.
[5] Ibid., 66.

Tom Sparrow at the East End Book Exchange

Pittsburgh Continental Philosophy Network

Don’t miss our third official Pittsburgh Continental Philosophy Network lecture next thursday (March 20th) at 6:00pm at the East End Book Exchange. We are thrilled to announce that  Dr. Tom Sparrow of Slippery Rock University will be offering a lecture and discussion based upon his paper “From Lived Bodies to Plastic Bodies.” Want to go deeper? ThePittsburgh Continental Philosophy Reading Group will be be discussing his paper in preparation for the lecture, on Tuesday at 6:00pm (also at East End Exchange). Why not come to both events and get a double dose of Sparrow? The official Facebook can be found here.

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Charting Deleuze and Guattari

Very cool chart by Justin Joque tracks key terminology in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateus. See the FULL IMAGE HERE:

Thanks to Critical Theory, for bringing this chart to my attention.

Judith Butler and the Gender Politics of France

How do you upset the French? Gender theory

Recent protests in France mark the structural role of normative heterosexuality and cis-gender as tools for maintaining the socio-political status quo, and their use by conservative/reactionary voices as tools against the dual specters of  modernism and leftism. As Zaretsky writes:

In a way, gender theory for many in France is just another name for chaos. And some anxiety about chaos is, right now, understandable. With a floundering economy and faltering industrial base, rising unemployment and declining productivity, their borders besieged by globalization and their national institutions superseded by the European Union, the French have rarely been so divided over the identity of their nation and so demoralized over its prospects. (In a recent poll, scarcely 30 percent of respondents described themselves as optimistic over the nation’s future.) For Butler, France’s structural woes ratchet up the anxiety over sexuality and gender: Unable to stabilize the nation’s economy, protesters instead condense “those issues into the need to stabilize heterosexuality.”

Arrogance and Vitriol: Kotsko and the Self-Cannibalism of the Left

The thickness of Adam Kotsko’s vitriol and arrogance in his latest anti-GCAS post is disconcerting, and almost astounding. While there are certainly very real concerns regarding GCAS, and it is definitely a program that will take time to grow and develop, this level of hateful (I don’t think this word is too strong) disrespect is precisely the sort of negative self-cannibalism that has, and continues to render the left (particularly the academic left) completely impotent. It is easier to callously dismiss than to support attempts to think academia differently. As anyone who has actually worked to develop curriculum and to start a school would know (and I have worked with a school upstart) the opening months of operation are tremendously difficult, and a certain amount of “growing pain” is to be expected. How precisely Kotsko understands this sort of arrogant rant to actually positively affect this situation, or the broader world at large, is completely unclear.

I would rather stand behind and offer my voice in support of a school (whatever faults it may possess [and I can agree that it has some]) that is putting its feet to the ground and trying to act into the world differently, than behind the all-to-easy task of arrogantly critiquing from behind the computer screen.

Constructive criticism is a necessary part of any socio-political endeavor. But caustic troll-esque rants help nothing.

How, it might be worth asking Kotsko, is his sort of attack “revolutionary or paradigm-shifting”? How does the consistent attempts by the left to blithely undercut one another offer “a blow against neoliberal hegemony”?

Deconstructing God: Interview with Caputo

Deconstructing God

New interestign interview with Caputo on the Times’ The Stone.

But it does beg the question, why does Gutting seem so intensely focused on neatly packing Derrida into the “atheist” box? What is to be gained by such a neat definition?

Hubris in the US State Department

The pot calls the kettle a human rights violator.

In an astounding act of political arrogance and poor diplomatic relations, the US State Department recently released “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013,” a report outlining the human rights violations of various nations. On its own, such a report would not be particularly troubling, except when one begins to look through the document and finds one country conspicuously absent: the United States.

Apart from instantly pissing off the entire world with its blatant, ideologically driven hubris, the document also spawned an interesting response report from China detailing the US’s various human rights violations including the PRISM spy program, the large number of civilian casualties associated with drone programs in Pakistan and Yemen, the high homicide/gun violence deaths, among others.

What else might we add to the report?

  • Torture and improsonment without trial at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons?
  • Racially biased judicial system?
  • Highest Incarceration rate in the world (both absolute and proportional)?
  • What else would you add?

Links:
New York Times Article
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013
China issues report on U.S. human rights