Ktismatics

20 April 2007

The Father of Logos

Filed under: Ktismata, Language — ktismatics @ 9:08 am

Socrates engages in a dialogue with Phaedrus about the propriety and impropriety of writing:

Socrates: At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific (pharmakon) both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific (pharmakon) which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality…

I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedrus: That again is most true.

Socrates: Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power — a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedrus: Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Socrates: I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedrus: You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Socrates: Yes, of course that is what I mean.

* * * *

In “Plato’s Pharmacy” (1972) Derrida (psycho)analyzes Socrates’ mythic tale. Theoth presents his invention to Thamus as a gift offered by a vassal to his lord. He extols its value as a mnemonic aid. The king doesn’t know how to write, but he doesn’t need to: he can speak. He rejects and demeans Theoth’s gift, saying that its purported benefit is actually its greatest flaw. The cure (pharmakon) is really a poison (pharmakon).

The lord is the father who speaks the word (logos), says Derrida:

Not that logos is the father, either. But the origin of logos is its father. One could say anachronously that the “speaking subject” is the father of his speech… Logos is a son, then, a son that would be destroyed in his very presence without a present attendance of his father. Without his father, he would be nothing but, in fact, writing. At least that is what is said by the one who says: it is the father’s thesis.

In speech the word comes forth from the speaker like a son from a father. The spoken logos depends on the father’s wisdom and memory as the son depends on the father. But writing cuts the logos off from the speaker, the son from the father. You could even say that writing depends on the absence of the father — in effect, writing is patricide. Logos the son, now orphaned, is free: he no longer needs to rely on the father to be brought forth as speech. The son no longer needs the father’s memory — he no longer needs to remember the father — because he has absorbed the memories of the father into himself. Logos the son becomes autonomous.

Socrates agrees with mythical king Thamus about the inferiority of written words: “if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them.” There’s a hidden threat in Socrates’ speech, like a mafia don offering his protection from a violence that he himself might inflict. But Socrates is also expressing his own fear and vulnerability. Writing is a poison, reaching back into the king’s memory and erasing it, killing the king from inside himself:

From the position of the holder of the scepter, the desire of writing is indicated, designated, and denounced as a desire for orphanhood and patricidal subversion. Isn’t this pharmakon then a criminal thing, a poisoned present?

Derrida sees in Socrates’ discourse the mythic origin of the “metaphysics of presence” that has dominated Western thought ever since.

In contrast to writing, living logos is alive in that it has a living father (whereas the orphan is already half dead), a father that is present, standing near it, behind it, within it, sustaining it with his rectitude, attending it in person in his own name. Living logos, for its part, recognizes its debt, lives off that recognition, and forbids itself, thinks it can forbid itself patricide… For only the “living” discourse, only a spoken word (and not a speech’s theme, object, or subject) can have a father… the logoi are the children. Alive enough to protest on occasion and to let themselves be questioned; capable, too, in contrast to written things, of responding when their father is there. They are their father’s responsible presence.

Already half dead, says Derrida. For Socrates, writing is cut off from the speaker, from the life that animates the writing. Yet the writing still speaks and remembers even in its father’s absence, even after his death, even after the son kills the father by emptying him of his words and his memories. Speech ends and memory fails, but the written word and the archive can go on forever. Half-dead eternal killer, never really present but not absent, writing is the speaker’s uncanny double. For writing has no essence or value of its own, whether positive or negative. It plays within the simulacrum.

Socrates recounted this myth of writing in a conversation with his student Phaedrus. The king, the father of speech, has thus asserted his authority over the father of writing. Plato, another of Socrates’ students and the father of the metaphysics of presence, is also the one who kills his master and father by writing down his logoi. So the metaphysics of presence from the beginning already contains its own death.

In Derrida’s interpretation, writing is no longer an expression of the author. A text is an autonomous thing, capable of speaker for itself without remaining under its father’s protection. But, Derrida insinuates, once you make the move of detaching the writing from the author, why stop there? What about speech? The speaker is the father of logos, but no one would know the father unless the son reveals him. Why not entertain the possibility that logoi reveal themselves from the beginning, that the speaker comes into being through the words that he speaks, that the father issues forth from the son?

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84 Comments »

  1. In Derrida’s interpretation, writing is no longer an expression of the author. A text is an autonomous thing, capable of speaker for itself without remaining under its father’s protection. But, Derrida insinuates, once you make the move of detaching the writing from the author, why stop there? What about speech? The speaker is the father of logos, but no one would know the father unless the son reveals him. Why not entertain the possibility that logoi reveal themselves from the beginning, that the speaker comes into being through the words that he speaks, that the father issues forth from the son?

    Radical….but not really…..Postmodern….but not evil…..These observations simply make sense when you start to analyze what speech/writing is. In pop culture (both Christian and non) the anxiety has to do with being able to “ground” some sort of absolute meaning. The knee-jerk reaction is “Relatvism!” But once we start to break it down we see that relativism just simply doesn’t follow, but whatever – it gives us something to fight about and makes the quasi-academics feel like we’re doing something worthwhile….

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 20 April 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  2. The proposition is that you are what you say, that you don’t have an identity other than the words you speak to others, that you don’t know who you are until you say something about yourself. No core to the self; the self is a product of language. Pretty radical.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 20 April 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  3. Yes, radical but that doesn’t make it right. Frankly I suspect that a straw man has been knocked down. Can i tell by looking at someone’s words who the author is? Does the identity ao the autor matter? Pragmatically, without an author there will be no words. Can we know what the author thinks? Certainly not with certainty – we are limited to the words spoken or written. But, that does not make the author irrelevant for the author always is the one communicating.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 20 April 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  4. How many paltry foolish painted things,
    That now in coaches trouble every street,
    Shall be forgotten, whom no poet sings,
    Ere they be well wrapped in their winding-sheet!
    Where I to thee eternity shall give,
    When nothing else remaineth of these days,
    And queens hereafter shall be glad to live
    Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.
    Virgins and matrons, reading these my rhymes,
    Shall be so much delighted with thy story
    That they shall grieve they lived not in these times,
    To have seen thee, their sex’s only glory:
    So shalt thou fly above the vulgar throng,
    Still to survive in my immortal song.

    Michael Drayton

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    Comment by samlcarr — 20 April 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  5. Sam –

    An excellent literary example of how text transcends the metaphysics of presence. The poet acknowledges the power of the written word to bestow a kind of eternity on its subject. Though she is no longer present, she lives.

    I’ll come back to the issue of authorship later.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  6. John, you are deliberately disconnecting precisely what the author wishes to keep connected. He does not only immortalise his subject but also his interaction with that subject. In the late Renaissance and perhaps earlier too this is a common theme. “I have become immortal in these my words.”

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    Comment by samlcarr — 21 April 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  7. Sam, you have now given an illustration of multiple meanings for precisely the same text — some meanings just happen to be better than others (winky smiley face).

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    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  8. The proposition is that you are what you say, that you don’t have an identity other than the words you speak to others, that you don’t know who you are until you say something about yourself. No core to the self; the self is a product of language. Pretty radical.

    I had read your post a bit differently. That we were suggesting that “the father comes forth from the son” means that as a detached entity the text (spoken/written) influences and shapes and forms and informs the author. That is why I suggested that it was not so radical. Just from common experience the texts we write influence and changes us: They change us as we right and then read what we have written, and we are also “beget” by the text when we revisit the text. The text “reminds” us of things and also re-teaches and even teaches us new things. Imagine that – the text I have written turns around and teaches me something new! Fantastic!

    But if you are going to suggest there is no core to the self and that the self is the product of language then I’m not as convinced. For example, how is language produced if not by a self? Cause and effect. Does the text cause itself? Is the language the effect of its own cause?

    How does that fit in with your citation of Derrida:

    The lord is the father who speaks the word (logos), says Derrida: Not that logos is the father, either. But the origin of logos is its father. One could say anachronously that the “speaking subject” is the father of his speech…

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 23 April 2007 @ 1:39 am

  9. Jonathan –

    One could say anachronously that the “speaking subject” is the father of his speech… says Derrida. But one could also deconstruct this sentence: speech is the father of the speaking subject. That’s Derrida’s game: to keep flipping the assertions on their heads, again and again. There’s no stable ground; the same phenomena can be interpreted in exactly the opposite way. These minimal spaces between the writer’s writing, reading, and thinking are the spaces that Derrida wants to occupy. It’s his praxis of “differance,” the opening up of the spaces and time lags that ordinarily go unnoticed, finding meaning in what is not there.

    As you point out, the act of writing teaches you new things. You might not know what you think until you write it down. Or, one more step, you might not think it until you write it. That’s my experience too: the act of writing causes new thoughts to come out on the page or screen. And the thought might not become fully revealed to you until after you’ve written it and now read it back to yourself. If you reflect on what you think and know, you might be able to find references to others’ thoughts and knowledge everywhere you look. Even your sense of self is built up in the course of social interactions with other people, including their perceptions of what you are like. You can look for your true core self, but you might not find anything there. That’s Lacan’s position, following Hegel: at the center there is nothing. Which means that self is always a construct built up of parts you find here and there along the way. Perhaps if you become aware of yourself as a composite with a hole in the middle, then you can exercise some artistry and aesthetic sensibility by re-creating yourself from within yourself. At least this way of thinking is conceivable, and it has been thought, and the thought has lodged itself in many people’s minds.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 23 April 2007 @ 8:49 am

  10. John,
    “finding meaning in what is not there” the spaces and antitheses are embedded, that’s what your post on the creed showed, whether consciously or not, whether individually or in community with the readers. The ‘act’ of communication flows from reader to writer, speaker to hearer in the broader context of shared knowledge and experience, enculturation and society.

    “You can look for your true core self, but you might not find anything there” is that a certainty or a doubt?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 23 April 2007 @ 9:12 am

  11. You’re right about the anticreeds,Sam. So maybe it becomes a challenge to the reader to increase his bandwidth, to become alert to communication frequencies that don’t register in spoken or written language. What sounds like silence is really full of meaning, if you can attune yourself to it.

    “You can look for your true core self, but you might not find anything there” is that a certainty or a doubt? For Lacan the empty center begins as an uncertainty but in successful psychoanalysis it becomes a certainty. In contrast, Deleuze & Guattari see at the center an undifferentiated source of multiple desires that flow outward. I’m not sure how either of these positions corresponds with the Christian idea of a “soul” or the Cartesian idea of an “I.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 23 April 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  12. At least this way of thinking is conceivable, and it has been thought, and the thought has lodged itself in many people’s minds.

    Now it is lodged in my mind!

    No! Get it out!!! Erase the trace!

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 23 April 2007 @ 4:53 pm

  13. For Lacan the empty center begins as an uncertainty but in successful psychoanalysis it becomes a certainty. In contrast, Deleuze & Guattari see at the center an undifferentiated source of multiple desires that flow outward. I’m not sure how either of these positions corresponds with the Christian idea of a “soul” or the Cartesian idea of an “I.”

    The traditional conceptions of soul/self seem to dichotomize themselves into two polar opposites that somehow work together and compliment each other. For example, the soul is intangilbe and non-physical. Yet, somehow it is “me”, “I”, and a part of my physical body. But if it is non-corporeal then what is “it”? What is “soulishness”?

    I appreciate dichotomies of this nature, but when push comes to shove I prefer to describe the human being and the self in holistic term. The “I” is me, it is who I am in my whole being. As such, I don’t know that I am too deeply offended by Lacan’s conception of nothingness at the core…..my only disagreement would go to the fact that in much of biblical poetry (and theology I suppose) there is the Hebrew lev – the heart, the inner-being, that expresses itself in longing towards God. I would want to retain that language and conception of something “deeper” insinde, and “inner-self”. But not at the expense of the whole.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 23 April 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  14. No! Get it out!!! Erase the trace! Can do, but it’ll cost ya.

    …the Hebrew lev – the heart, the inner-being, that expresses itself in longing towards God. Would you say that everyone has a hole in the middle, and that God fills the hole? That I think would be Lacan’s interpretation of Christianity: that everyone is aware that there’s something missing inside them, but what’s missing cannot be found in the world. That means this missing thing must exist outside this world.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 23 April 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  15. There’s a hole in the soul dear Lisa, dear Lisa.
    Well fix it dear Henry…

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    Comment by samlcarr — 23 April 2007 @ 10:44 pm

  16. That’s part of the idea, isn’t it — hearts long for God, so only God can fill that longing? It’s like an innate desire that seeks fulfillment in Deleuze & Guattari. Hegel says we look for a sense of autonomy of self, but we inevitably look to the other to validate us, and the other is never up to the job. So there must be a big Other who can make us whole selves.

    Andrew Perriman at Open Source Theology wants to abandon this reading of the New Testament, but only in part. He says Paul is always talking collectively, about restoring Israel. But it’s also about grafting in the Gentiles. The sense then becomes that the individual’s autonomy is attained through the collective other, which is the Church. That individual salvation isn’t the issue, but rather the preservation of the collective. By the way, in Galatians and Ephesians it seems to me that Paul isn’t speaking of grafting Gentiles into Israel, but rather he says the distinction between Israel and the nations is abolished in Christ.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 24 April 2007 @ 4:12 am

  17. That’s a good point. I always thought the Rev. Billy Graham’s “God-shaped-hole” idea was antiquated and trite. It always struck me as another marketing appeal for Christianity. But viewed from the perspective of Lacan the idea becomes more interesting.

    I would echo some of Andrew Perriman’s sentiments. And I might also add that the “hole” and “nothingness” to the center perhaps might also be filled by involvement in the faith community. However, I do cringe about dichotomizing the self and community. There is a personal dynamic with God – a communion of the inner-being – that cannot be supplemented by any amount of community. If there is not a rigorous theology/philosophy of the self as an individual then the wo/man of faith will fail.

    The self as w/hole?

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 24 April 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  18. It’s interesting to read Andrew’s exegeses. He’s a disciple of NT Wright, whom I haven’t read but I suspect you have. Emphasis on Jesus as Jewish Messiah, 2nd Temple context, etc. rather than the individualistic gospel of evangelicalism. Still, there are the passages about the new man, being renewed in the inner man, being filled with the Spirit, and so on that sound like the God-shaped-hole theology to me.

    This idea of a lack at the center — for Lacan you start making progress when you realize that the hole is real and that it cannot be filled. What do you do once you’ve had that realization? I’m not sure, I haven’t read enough Lacan, but I suspect it’s not far from Heidegger’s sense of angst as the essential attitude of being in the world.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 24 April 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  19. Fascinating.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 24 April 2007 @ 5:45 pm

  20. Dude…first of all…this is probably the most intense post I’ve read in a while.

    Secondondly…”‘…the Hebrew lev – the heart, the inner-being, that expresses itself in longing towards God.’ Would you say that everyone has a hole in the middle, and that God fills the hole? That I think would be Lacan’s interpretation of Christianity: that everyone is aware that there’s something missing inside them, but what’s missing cannot be found in the world. That means this missing thing must exist outside this world.”

    I think that would be a particuarly Protestant interpretation of Lacan. Over at my best friend Thomisticguy’s recent post they’re having a really good conversation now on imputed and infused righteousness.

    To my reactions to the post:

    I mean…why I said its so intense…did anyone else catch the fact that it began with a conversation between and god and a king! On top of that, the king poo poohed the god!! AND…in my opinion…the king was right.

    To sort of deconstruct that, though (interestingly)…I think it goes the other way around these days. Democratized kings assert their rule through the letter, precisely by pointing to it as “a specific both for the memory and for the wit.” I provided for Thomisticguy a link to a bit of your study on Crosby (about mechanical time w/”quanta” vs. time as a “flow”), and he responded by again pointing out that humans are different from animals because of their self-consciousness and dangit I challenge you to find me a tme-piece in all of history that didn’t use “quanta” as their measure. Funnily he then pointed to the Mayan and/or Aztec calendar as his example that I/you were wrong.

    I think he was just stuck on the “specific” (“quanta”) of the letter. He even admits to being a Westernophile. Anyway, I don’t think he’s alone. I think his attitude “rules.”

    Interestingly, I was having the conversation with Thomisticguy over the internet. “The king doesn’t know how to write, but he doesn’t need to: he can speak. He rejects and demans Theoth’s gift, saying that ts purported benefit is actually its greatest flaw. The cure is really a poison.” And that’s essentially what Thomisticguy said about flowing bodies of air/water.

    Anyway…done with my rant.

    My prof. was once talking about Socrates and writing, and pointed out that Socrates, like Jesus, didn’t write anything down. I asked: “What did Socrates have to say about writing?” The question in itself is interesting enough, but my prof. pulled out a really nice sheet of lazer paper, and told me to write something down on it. Interestingly, then, I signed my name. He tore it to little tiny shreds, and threw it in the trash. Didn’t even crumple it, tore it. I got the message.

    Also, “In speech the word comes forth from the speaker like a son from a father…Speech ends and memory fails, but the written word and the archive can go on forever. Half-dead eternal killer…” This reminds me of something funny from the wikipedia site on Jonathan Swift’s “The Battle of the Books”:

    “Jonathan Swift worked for William Temple during the time of the controversy, and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (1703/1705) takes part in the debate. From its first publication, Swift added a short satire entitled ‘The Battle of the Books’ to the Tale of a Tub. In this piece, there is an epic battle fought in a library when various books come alive and attempt to settle the arguments between moderns and ancients. In Swift’s satire, he skilfully manages to avoid saying which way victory fell. He portrays the manuscript as having been damaged in places, thus leaving the end of the battle up to the reader.”

    Interestingly, Derrida’s fight was not against any speaker, but against the writers. He was writing in favor of writing, but he was also a critic of writers. Plato sacraficed Socrates; Derrida sacrafices writing, (thus trampling on the dead horse of speech while he’s at it, I suppose).

    Back to Swift: “The battle is told with great detail to particular authors jousting with their replacements and critics. The battle is not just between Classical authors and modern authors, but also between authors and critics.”

    And back to half-dead eternal killers, you also quoted Derrida: “In contrast to writing, living logos is alive in that it has a living father (whereas the orphan is already half dead)…” Hhmmm…BAUDRILLARD! “There is no resurrection, because everything is already dead anyway,” said Baudrillard.

    But the disciples took Jesus to be alive, so their written word was not to sacrafice the master – which was already done – but to provide a sounding board for the master’s message to be spoken aloud to a congregation. My pastor writes his message, out. It sounds written. And then he memorizes it. It comes across very awkwardly. He needs to read Plato’s Phaedrus, I think.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 16 May 2007 @ 6:27 am

  21. Interestingly, Carlo Scarpa, whose work I’ve showed you before, thought of architecture as “a springboard for the imagination.” He was a non-practicing Catholic.

    And the 5th year older student who taught me much when I was in 3rd year spoke of sounding boards, if I remember correctly (I think he was talking about drawing with charred coal). Now I see that he was thinking in relation to trace; he also spoke of the palempcest (probably spelled that wrong). Interestingly, you can’t have a sounding board without an author, I don’t think.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 16 May 2007 @ 6:40 am

  22. Derrida pursued a project of “differance,” which includes the ideas of differentiating things from themselves and deferring in time from the present. So he separates speech from the speaker, writing from speech, writings from the writer, and so on. And he’s interested in the delay from speaking to hearing yourself speak, from the beginning of writing to its end, from writing to reading. All these gaps in space and time break up the continuity of the world, which he regards as an artifact of structure being imposed on experience rather than just the way things are. Gaps mean openings in the structure, openings for difference to emerge “through the cracks.”

    Maybe you can see by reading this post why so many people talk about Derrida without reading him. He takes on difficult concepts and twists them around and around, not arriving at a single clearly statable position. So is he defending writing? I think so, yes. The autonomy of text from the writer? Yes, I think so. But he does it in the context of deconstruction, of inverting Socrates’s argument and showing how just the opposite conclusions can be drawn from the story.

    This is another move to liberate experience from structures that seem indisputable, as if they were intrinsic to experience. Of course speech is more natural and immediate and “true” than writing. Isn’t it? Well, asks Derrida, why is that so important? Besides, the only way we know what Socrates or Jesus said was that somebody wrote it down. From our perspective, then, writing precedes speech; speech is contained within writing. And so on. Derrida can be dismissed as a guy who just likes to disrupt the status quo, who’s hard to pin down, who never stakes out a definitively positive stance. Maybe, maybe not.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 May 2007 @ 8:06 pm

  23. “Besides, the only way we know what Socrates or Jesus said was that somebody wrote it down. From our perspective, then, writing precedes speech; speech is contained within writing. And so on.” Didn’t Derrida say, “I believe that I beleive”?

    Personally…my problem with Derrida is that he violates the primacy of “construction,” in a very general sense. What I mean by that was discussed at Geoff’s post: “Easter-The End of Deconstruction,” in which the Resurrection places primacy on “presence,” as in the “presence of the father” in speech, or the presence of God in/through/with living beings in general. I believe not just that I believe, but in the present risenness of Jesus…as handed down through the written scriptures AND in the chuch body.

    At least that was my problem with Derrida. I’m with Aquinas, I think…on the relation between “internal” and “external” reality. So I’m trying to work out where I stand there in relation to Derrida, and whomever else, too. I think maybe Descartes is the real kink in my chain rather than Hume. Or rather…maybe…Descartes (and modernity in general) is the kink in Derrida’s chain (?).

    Jason

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 16 May 2007 @ 9:00 pm

  24. Jason –

    Yes I think you are a metaphysician of presence. The risen Jesus is present in the world, infusing the texts with meaning, including texts that point to words that Jesus himself spoke. Jesus’s presence establishes the foundation and basis of the world. Jesus’s presence sustains the structures that sustain the world, maybe even linguistic structure, surely the physical structure that keeps the universe together, surely also the moral order. Yes?

    So no doubt you’ll have difficulty with any atheist who doesn’t acknowledge the continual presence of an eternal God and a risen Christ that permeates and stands beneath everything, holding it together. Derrida is going to contend that these presumably eternally present and permanent structures are no such thing, that they can be exposed as human constructs. That leaves Derrida exposed, potentially stuck in the spaces between things that he himself opens up. Aquinas isn’t stuck in this way at all; neither was Socrates.

    Descartes explicitly bases his rationalism on God who won’t allow us to fool ourselves about there being a sensible universe. Kant and Hegel rely on God to vouchsafe the inner awareness of metaphysical truth in categoricals or in progress. The kink in Derrida’s chain is probably Nietzsche, who tries to formulate a kind of idealism without God holding it together.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 May 2007 @ 11:50 pm

  25. Yes, I’d say Jesus sustains the structures that hold things together. At small group tonight we discussed Genesis 2 and 3, and I made note of where Adam was given charge over naming everything. I took our conversation with me to my small group, so to me that text seemed to support the notion of a lack of a pre-given linguistic structure of which human language is to be a reflection or copy of a specifically linguistic transcendent structure.

    Surely there’s moral order or structure; thats all over the scritpures; and in daily living, if you ask me. I don’t think we necessarily have to precisely reconstruct that system, though; it speaks to us whenever we make a choice from within our immanent context. It happens anyway.

    And for me, yes, the physical structure, too. Similarly, I don’t think Architecture could ever get away from the God’s truth taht holds the physical universe together. There are scriptures I’ve come across lately in Job and the Psalms that support that “structure”; althogough not necessarily the creatio ex nihilio doctrine explicitly, of course.

    Your comment left me going and looking up Derrida’s “differance” again. My first thought is that he doesn’t get caught between things that he himself opens up, but he gets caught in a place where Aquinas or Socrates would never have been. I mean – “Descartes explicitly bases his rationalism on God who won’t allow us to fool ourselves about there being a sensible universe” is foreign to Aquinas, I think.

    That’s what I meant by saying that maybe Descartes is Derrida’s kink. That’s very much my own interpretation of the situation. Descartes, for Derrida I think, is more like someone to be contended with. From my vantage point, I wouldn’t view Neitche as a kink in Derrida’s chain. To me they get along well; Derrida wasn’t attempting to make himself into a superman (ideal), but for me there isn’t much difference if you aren’t relying on God.

    But yet, I think I can see what you are saying, since Derrida was attempting to expose supposedly foundational ideals as contextualized systems. Neitche’s attempts to reconstruct the gods through the works of men would be, I could see, a bit of a pothole in Derrida’s already intentionally bumpy highway.

    Anwyay…its interesting the way the whole thing plays out. I think I end up having less of a problem with Derrida (or at least Heidegger) than Descartes, even though Descartes explicitly claims to base his theory on God. I think maybe you can just sort of insert God into the Heidegger equasion, and you have an Aquinas who writes a bit less propositionally, as if he were just talking about his day. Maybe, though, I’m misunderstanding Heidegger’s epistemology.

    Regardless, you can’t do that with Descartes. He already pretends to put God there; but its already a God who is very different from the One I know. The no-God of Heidegger looks to me a lot more like God than Descartes God!

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 17 May 2007 @ 8:08 am

  26. Here’s how Descartes introduces his Meditations on First Philosophy to the Theology Faculty at the U. of Paris: I have always thought that the two questions, of God and of the soul, were the principal questions among those that should be demonstrated by philosophy rather than theology. For although it may suffice us faithful ones to believe by faith that there is a God and that the human soul does not perish with the body, certainly it does not seem possible ever to persuade those without faith ever to accept any religion, nor even perhaps any moral virtue, unless they can first be shown these two things by means of natural reason… It is absolutely true, both that we must believe that there is a God because it is so taught in the Holy Scriptures, and, on the other hand, that we must believe the Holy Scriptures because they come from God. The reason for this is that faith is a gift of God.

    From “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes goes on to explore what it is I think. I think ideas about God and absolute truths and morality. Unless God is an “evil genius” who puts wrong ideas in my head, I deduce that, since I have these thoughts intuitively, they must correspond to something true in the world. Therefore God exists, he is good, he validates all truth, and so on. Descartes is in continuity with the Greeks and Aquinas when it comes to identifying God via innate ideas. Surely Aquinas sees that human ideas of goodness, say, are shadows or glimpses of God’s goodness that He puts in our heads to point toward Himself. Same as Descartes. It’s not until you get to the empiricists that the innate ideas are done away with, and knowledge comes via experience of the world.

    What I find strange about the emerging church’s attempts to come to grips with guys like Derrida is that his whole program begins with radical skepticism about any sorts of absolute foundations or structures that are inherent in the world or given from outside the world. If the emergings aren’t prepared to let it all go and to start from zero foundation, then they’re just playing, or disconnecting the techniques from the ideas that they were meant to serve, or trying to inoculate their faith with a little bit of doubt.

    Heidegger too: if we cannot step outside of this world for a God’s eye view, then we might as well assume His irrelevance and build a contextualized and secular philosophy of being-in-the-world. Why dabble with Heidegger if you think you can have access to a God’s-eye transcendence? Just because Heidegger doesn’t deny the possibility of transcendence doesn’t mean he thinks it’s at all relevant to our understanding of the world.

    This I think speaks to our discussion of fellowship we had before. You might be able to pick and choose for your own pragmatic purposes the things that the agnostics are exploring with all seriousness, but if there’s no common ground is it worthwhile, and is it in “good faith”?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2007 @ 10:27 am

  27. my one liner…
    You sound angry. Did I do something to make you mad; are you mad, because I was gone for a while, or because I’m not an atheist? Do you feel that I’m not taking your the atheists or agnostics seriously, and just “using” them for my own agenda? Or are you not mad and I’m just reading something into your comment that’s not there?

    Anyway…I don’t know about Derrida. I think the fascination with Derrida might be a bit kooky, but I’m really don’t know Derrida well enough to say. Regardless, I think you know why contemporary Christians are attracted to postmodernism in general.

    We don’t have to share Heidegger’s agnosticism to be attracted to his Da-sien. All my life all I’ve heard about is a kind of righteousness that is imparted on me from outside; I hear about “Da-sien,” and I see a correlation to the more Catholic “infused” righteousness of ritual sacramentality. I don’t have to pay special attention to Heidegger’s agnosticism if I’m not an agnostic, I don’t think. That doesn’t leave Heidegger valueless to me. Derrida neither, I would think…but he’s a bit more extremem, I think.

    Similarly, “being-in” to me sounds like sometihng that can possibly help bring “experience” and “thought” back together (as it is in a Catholic kind of sacramentality), since Aquinas wasn’t the same kind of “foundationalist” as Descartes, or those in his wake. Again, just because Heidegger compltely contextualizes things doesn’t mean that I can’t take to Heidegger my belief that you and I, in two different contexts, aren’t still lead not to be dickheads to each other for some reason that has to do with who God is and how He made us. Not that you’re being a dickhead. I’m not so sure your even mad, much less being a dickhead out of your anger.

    Speaking of things falling apart…maybe even Derrida is good medicine for unflinchingly smiley nominally-Christians who have reallly faced the darkness of neither themselves nor the world.

    And even in Derrida, though, I see correlations to some pretty profound experiences I’ve had to his “differance,” for example. Experiences which, if I bring with me a belief in some transcendent truth (whatever my own relation to it), does not really contradict anything I hold dear. I mean, whose to say that I can’t have faith that the “differance(s)” produced through time’s patterns will obviously follow God’s pre-established rules, rules that do not determine whether I have a yellow or pink tablecloth.

    http://users.california.com/~rathbone/differan.htm

    Speaking of things being produced in time…too…I happen to be sick of men standing on the changing earth living by systematic propositions from above. That’s another reason I’m attracted to postmodernism. Again, though, I take with me my faith in what it is that will emerge in time, which I MYSELF really don’t “know.”

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 17 May 2007 @ 7:20 pm

  28. Crap, now I really am angry. I was halfway through this comment and clicked your link, forgetting that I would lose what I’d been working on.

    Anyhow, when I wrote the last comment on this post I’d been talking to my wife about what it would be like to take certain ideas and moods to the extreme: sorrow, money, doubt for Christians, God for atheists, etc. I’d also just been looking at the latest Church and PoMo post, where the dude didn’t like the arts conference because it was led by liberal protestants, and everybody knows the LPs are modernist and passe. Then Geoff had this comment: The solitary artist, sequestered from the world, working on her own private creation according to her own Muse, is an eminently modern person. So I guess the real pomo artist isn’t supposed to go about it this way. You’re right, I’m a little ticked, but don’t take it personally. I love your comments, and comments make the whole blogging endeavor a lot more creative and interesting for me.

    I’ve also been lurking and occasionally commenting on some blogs that are really hostile. These are a bunch of pomo, artsy, philosophical, marxist, cultural studies people who are really smart and interesting but who also spend a lot of time calling each other names and banning each other from their blogs. If you see comments from parodycentrum on one of my posts, click the link and look at some of the comments — you’ll see what I mean.

    I predict: Derrida has had his run, Zizek is out, Badiou too, Spinoza is in, so is Deleuze. Will Church and PoMo ever talk about Lacan, I wonder? And when will Marxism get its day in the sun, instead of this wishy-washy liberalism? What else? Debord. Maybe Baudrillard. Film studies. Caputo is too much of a liberal and not really very interesting. I don’t know how long people are going to be able to stand the post-Catholic thing. Radical orthodoxy is resolutely Christian, but it too is a bit of a freak show — I wonder whether the guys who run that blog are overly cautious about bringing in the Radical orthodox writers whom they clearly favor. Oh, I also predict more civilized direct dialogues with non-Christians on philosophical and theological topics — we’re on the cutting edge, dude! And also maybe more gumption in telling those old-time religion fundamentalists that they’re fascists.

    At some point there must come the time when the emerging guys like you pull some of this stuff together. The emerging conversation stuff seems mostly about dialogue and cultural relevance and all that sort of thing that’s no different from what it is in every generation. But do the ideas change, and in which direction? There’s the fear of liberalism leading to a loss of witness and a blurring with the culture, but the premodern I don’t think is going to look very attractive when people actually start reading some of these medieval characters straight up. A pomo mysticism and decenteredness and collective engagement and so on seems like a vibrant path from my sideline perspective. And not knowing where things are going to end up — that’s pretty radical.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2007 @ 9:15 pm

  29. my tricky and clever one liner, again…
    lets make it 2 lines, for fun
    another comment that didn’t work…

    Glad you’re not angry (at me). Now I can go comment on your Lacan stuff without fear that I’m pissing you off. After lunch, though.

    And I think its funny that you just called us “cutting edge.” Are we even avante-garde? That’s funny. Anyway, you also called me “radical,” I think. I’d say, though, that I’m less radical than saying that the son produces the father, sheesh. That’s different from the egg producing the chicken!

    BTW I really liked Geoff’s recent comments. Interestngly, did you see my comment from this morning, questioning how to actually do what is being proposed? This reminds me of your: ” At some point there must come the time when the emerging guys like you pull some of this stuff together. The emerging conversation stuff seems mostly about dialogue and cultural relevance and all that sort of thing that’s no different from what it is in every generation. But do the ideas change, and in which direction?” I take hope in folks like David Fitch, who is actually trying to form a localized “body politic.” I’d count that as true change.

    And I will have to check out that parodycentrum blog. I have it saved in my cyber briefcase; but I have to go to lunch and like work or something.

    And I’d say more gumption on calling out the “facism” of folks like Thomisticguy is probably a good prediction. Your choice of terms again reminds me of “the Big Labowski.” John Goodman, playing an emotionally-charged Vietnam Vet, calls a German “nihilist” a “fucking facist,” just before chucking a bowling ball at his chest. Its pretty funny.

    Anyway…I would predict that a more catholic direction for the future won’t look so radical for us Protestants like me who grew up becoming increasingly annoyed by Protestantism’s sever separation between those parts of our selves that should be in greater harmony and unity. I might seem radical to you; but to me it really doesn’t seem far fetched. For me the difficult part is having catholicity that’s not Catholic. How does THAT work? Apparently to you its radical, but to me its a bit confusing.

    Lazer,

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 17 May 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  30. Your comment this morning where?

    I think Falwell was a fascist, though I see you got called on the carpet for being glad he’s dead. Better you say it than me.

    Anne went to the French Catholic church this morning — she usually goes Anglican, which is a lot like catholic but not Catholic, and it does tie in with the English-Australian influence on the emerging church. Her two comments on this morning’s mass: really lousy music, and little kids running up and down the aisles during the service. This by the way is the 13th century church in the old town. Catholicism really got watered down after Vatican II, trying to keep up with the times. Today was the Ascension, which is a national holiday here in secular France.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 17 May 2007 @ 10:03 pm

  31. My comment this morning at churchandpomo. Short and sweet.

    Funny…I figured Melody was misinterpreting your “amiability.”

    Your paragraph on your wife’s experience at the servic, ect…is so full of comedic characters from disjointed times splashing together into one room…it reminds me of Echo’s comedic scene in “The Name of the Rose,” in which the boy has a dream about…a bunch of different biblical chracters from different times all coming together in one hilariously strange scene. I lol’ed when I read both your comment and that part of Echo’s book.

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 17 May 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  32. I was bashing some other evangelical theologian (JP Moreland) on Jonathan’s blog recently, providing a link, ironically enough, to Umberto Eco’s evaluation of the distinguishing characteristics of fascism. Here’s the link. It’s true about Anne’s church scene — I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right, it’s got cinematic potential even.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 7:58 am

  33. I’ve heard of JP Moreland, but don’t know anything about him. The only thing I found was on intelligent design, and honestly, looked booring. Your Eco link, although I couldn’t place its relation to Moreland (probably due to my lack of exposure to Moreland), was anything but boring. Showing that to Thomisticguy would be the blogger’s equivalent to planting a deliberate bomb…with a predictable countdown to explosion. I would be interested in browsing your referenced conversation with Erdman…?

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 8:47 am

  34. Jason –

    Here’s the link to Jonathan’s post. Eco’s essay is in reference to the bit of Moreland that Jonathan cites.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 9:22 am

  35. email from Jason…
    hey…check this out. this is my friend’s response to me and/or your post. the friend i referenced in my comment. well, this is my asking him if he minds our putting his response to my question on your blog, along with my question to him, as well as his response to my question…

    jason

    From: Jason Hesiak
    To: cdills
    Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 13:51:21 -0700 (PDT)
    Subject: Re: trace and palimpsest and Derrida?
    Hey,

    Good to hear back from you, too. I’ll respond later, but do you mind if I have our dialogue here posted as part of the comments on that dude’s blog? You said some cool sutff.

    Jason

    cdills wrote:

    good to hear from you.

    I was thinking a lot about Derrida then, and I still do. I do think of him as a friend, and in the same way you describe – sometimes as something close, and other times as someone to push against.

    Funny enough it was his book “the Politics of Friendship” that drew me close to his thinking. I think it was in that book that the analysis he was so deep into finally gave way to something poetic and reconciling, creative. He was always creative in his analysis, but there he was making. Maybe he was doing this already – I haven’t read all of his work.

    I thought of the charcoal palimpsest drawings as writing that erases itself – leaving only speech, no alphabet. I started thinking that the pieces, elements, right angles, corners, etc. of architecture could make an alphabet, but that is not the case. What I found was that if those same elements were drawn and redrawn, leaving traces from each different written phrase, word, sentence, over and over – that the accumulation of traces form patterns of speech – and patterns of speech are closer to mathematics than alphabets.

    I see this speech the same way Derrida saw it. The key is not to be romantic about ancient speech’s predominance over writing. Socrates’ distaste for writing was because of memory – that writing started to erode ones memory because one did not have to remember. Thus committed to memory and held there, repeated in speech, to hand down that way is eternal, and transformative while it erases things from memory as it changes.

    Derrida was headed towards speech in his critique of writing (or of the interpretation of writing,) traces of writings (leading to traces of writings,) layered on each other that ulitimately are read more like speech than something written. Politics of friendship made me hear the word like it was being read to me rather than me reading something written.

    I read this book after the drawings in school, and it really opened my eyes (and ears) to what I was doing. during school, I was mainly pushing against him. drawings have an advantage that way over the written word.

    The sounding board is what we are talking about, and it is actually the palimpsest that sets the beat for it- after an amount of build up on the palimpsest the beat starts into pattern. The other words for it- tympanum and Logos, the word. You know -“in the beginning was the word” (or the sounding board, logos, etc.) thats why I am so curious about the word hearsay, that comes from to “murmur” which is all through the bible. it is defined as a low grumbling and ground swell – to hear and say simultaneously, like a sounding board or the surface of a drum or typanum.

    speech is the most violent of our arts – except for maybe writing, but Derrida turned that back into speech anyway.

    Jason Hesiak wrote:
    > Hey Mister Mister,
    >
    > If I remember right, you spoke of drawing (with charcoal) as a “sounding board.” Were you reacing specifically against Derrida and his sacrafice of the father of writing, which is speech?
    >
    > My question comes from this link…Plato’s Phaedrus, in which Socrates dialogues with Phaedrus about Egyptian kings and their distaste for alphabets, and Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy,” which I have not read directly. My reaction to the post was in the comments (you could probably get a sense for the post from my comments):
    >
    > “My prof. was once talking about Socrates and writing, and pointed out that Socrates, like Jesus, didn’t write anything down. I asked: ‘What did Socrates have to say about writing?’ The question in itself is interesting enough, but my prof. pulled out a really nice sheet of lazer paper, and told me to write something down on it. Interestingly, then, I signed my name. He tore it to little tiny shreds, and threw it in the trash. Didn’t even crumple it, tore it. I got the message.
    >
    > Also, ‘In speech the word comes forth from the speaker like a son from a father…Speech ends and memory fails, but the written word and the archive can go on forever. Half-dead eternal killer…”’This reminds me of something funny from the wikipedia site on Jonathan Swift’s ‘The Battle of the Books’:
    >
    > “Jonathan Swift worked for William Temple during the time of the controversy, and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (1703/1705) takes part in the debate. From its first publication, Swift added a short satire entitled ‘The Battle of the Books’ to the Tale of a Tub. In this piece, there is an epic battle fought in a library when various books come alive and attempt to settle the arguments between moderns and ancients. In Swift’s satire, he skilfully manages to avoid saying which way victory fell. He portrays the manuscript as having been damaged in places, thus leaving the end of the battle up to the reader.”
    >
    > Interestingly, Derrida’s fight was not against any speaker, but against the writers. He was writing in favor of writing, but he was also a critic of writers. Plato sacraficed Socrates; Derrida sacrafices writing, (thus trampling on the dead horse of speech while he’s at it, I suppose).
    >
    > Back to Swift: ‘The battle is told with great detail to particular authors jousting with their replacements and critics. The battle is not just between Classical authors and modern authors, but also between authors and critics.’
    >
    > And back to half-dead eternal killers, you also quoted Derrida: ‘In contrast to writing, living logos is alive in that it has a living father (whereas the orphan is already half dead)…’ Hhmmm…BAUDRILLARD! ‘There is no resurrection, because everything is already dead anyway,’ said Baudrillard.
    >
    > But the disciples took Jesus to be alive, so their written word was not to sacrafice the master – which was already done – but to provide a sounding board for the master’s message to be spoken aloud to a congregation. My pastor writes his message, out. It sounds written. And then he memorizes it. It comes across very awkwardly. He needs to read Plato’s Phaedrus, I think.”
    >
    > So…back to my point…with the whole “sounding board” thing, were you reacting specifically against Derrida? You speak of violence as if you were friends with Derrida. Friends react against friends often :)
    >
    > Jason

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  36. I’m checking out the link from the Erdmanian Tornado’s post in a moment. Meanwhile, here was my response BACK to cdills, after his response to me…
    —————————

    You spoke of romancing speech. In our last email exchange you spoke of McLuhan’s romancing of symbols (in his saying that Luther lied to God). It sounded funny to me, because you were speaking figuratively. But I wasn’t entirely sure what you were talking about; there seemed to be too many possibilities. I think maybe you were simply talking about the meaning of Catholic symbols…similarly to how Corbusier almost refused to do Ronchampe, saying that the Church was a dead institution. Is that what you were saying? I guess the corresponding Derridaian move, which Derrida does not make, would be to romance ancient Greek theater?

    I myself need to read some Derrida directly, but I get the sense that his whole goal was to (re)make. The more I converse with “foundationalists” (contemporary Christain evangelicals), the more I come to feel like making and describing the world have been irreconcilably divided. That is difficult for me to accept. But it seems like the core of what Derrida was up to. And acceptance of that historical fact seems to have been at the core of your thesis. In the world of building, in fact, the two have two entirely separate roles and live in two separate, even tensely competing worlds. Two worlds that have two different symbolisms at their face. Go to a party, tell your compadre that there are architects and engineers there, and your compadre will spot the two immediately, and probably rightly.

    Derrida’s interpreting, his describing, his critquing, itself becomes a speaking, a making. But he has to clear some foundations away by exposing them first. That’s the sense I get. Its the sense I get by reading Prez-Gomez, too. Well, sort of. Prez-Gomez stays in the realm of description, and just wants to complain about the lack of opportunities to watch something get made. But he’s still exposing foundations. Mark Schneider did this, I think. Except he would quietly watch and hope for something to be made from his teaching, rather than bark about it.

    What are the elements of writing? Speeches or alphabets? That seems like Derrida’s whole point, or question, as presented in that post to which I provided a link. In the absence of speech, the element of writing is left to be the alphabet. But in the presence of speech, it is elemental to writing. It sounds like you’re saying that the elemental itself speaks. Hence the charcoal. Also key, then I suppose, is not to “romance” speech. If you romance speech, then speech cannot be elemental. The elemental must be present. Hence the charcoal.

    All that, then, makes me wonder about your comment about speech, alphabets and mathematics. Two plus two makes four. But what two means is alphabetical. Rafters and beams go into the making of a roof. But what a rafter means is alphabetical. This is if speech is to make something appear. A pile of rafters sitting in the desert as if dropped from the sky is babble. It makes nothing appear. They are no longer rafters, but a fire hazard…maybe. So the charcoal also becomes a reminder of the nothing that was burnt down.

    If writing erases and transforms what was remembered, then it becomes a question of the body. After making friends with Derrida, do you draw with a fountain pen? Black ink, of course. Or is that where you are still pushing against him? Because I doubt Derrida wrote with a pencil. In fact I’ve seen a copy of his last words; he used a fountain pen.

    This is where I myself run into problems. You yourself state that we must not romanticize speech. But if you say that, and you also say that we shouldn’t romanticize symbols – meaning make a building out of the available materials – then are you romanticizing the body?

    In another post, the same blogger (John Doyle) wrote: “In a Heideggerian framework presence no longer has priority over deferral and spacing. Material that is immediately available to consciousness doesn?t take precedence over material retrieved from memory or self-reflection or investigation. Speaking/listening isn?t a more authentic means of communication than writing/reading. Derrida doesn?t propose that writing take precedence over speech, that reflection dominate spontaneity. Rather, he calls for an end to the represssion of pluri-dimensional symbolic thought. All conceivable ways of thinking and communicating should be explored and encouraged to the fullest.”

    In other words, Heidegger and Derrida were “using the available materials” handed to them, which are not of material composition. The semi-material composition of abstracted intelligibles is long gone; for Derrida “all experience is linguistically structured,” as John Doyle said, which in this case is another way of saying that all of our experiences are “shaped by” our linguistically structured thoughts about the world in which we have the experience. It just means that our projections must come from many anles; and we cannot wrap ourselves around the globe – this as compared to one’s projection of an image of the globe on a flat screen.

    Regardless, projection doesn’t necessarily exclude making, in a sense. There is a Ground above and a Ground below. It just means that the hearing and the saying are in the mind, and the speech follows (the father proceeds from the son). Philosophers and/or writers can play that game; or at least that was the attempt. Socrates was in the Forum speaking bodies of air.

    Can architects play that game, too? I think this is why you referred me to Hejduk. I have a feeling I’m asking the questions that lead to his game. What are the elements of writing – speech or alphabets? Is architecture a still life, or still alive? Can we make something out of materials in play with the projected thoghts of a poetic writer?

    Is erasing…or making dust…less violent than writing or building? No; they are joined. In other words, I don’t see how violence comes to be associated with speech until making is disassociated with bodies.

    Similarly, how are you judging the relative voilence of one art in relation to another…especially if they are all political anyway? It seems tha the violence is in the person rather than the speech or the art. Last time you mentioned violence to me, you said that Kahn was violent for invading my house. In Kenya it is customary to show up unannounced to someone’s house…with a basket of food. You empty the basket when you arrive at the door. The basket is left at the door, and you enter. You end up returning with a full basket again :)

    Dust…does the basket bring the person or does the person bring the basket? In America we don’t bring baskets; and Lou showed up basketless at my house, too. Either way the bringing happens.

    The only thing I’ve ever seen that joins all this is the Incarnation; its the coming. Everthing else seems to leave lots of stuff in the dust, whether to settle or not…

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  37. for those non Architecture students at VT, “Mark Schneider” is:
    http://www.archdesign.vt.edu/faculty/mark-schneider

    And “Prez-Gomez” is:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_P%C3%A9rez-G%C3%B3mez

    Doyle…on “lack”…you would be interested in one of my current Perez-Gomez reads: Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics

    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 6:38 pm

  38. oops…one more reference that folks may not have followed in my repsonse back to cdills…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Kahn
    he came and visited my house in a dream.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  39. Doyle…I’ve gotten as far as where the Erdmanian Tornado mentions your favorite guy…James K.A. Smith…can’t wait to see your reaction…

    Previous to this, my thought was a bit barbaric…”Moreland is a dick.” As a pomo you may take that in the Lacanian sense, if you wish.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  40. I just read from the Erdmanian: “Just for the record, I actually appreciate Moreland taking a hard line on the issue. I don’t agree with him, but I admire the moxy. If he truly believs that his understanding of postmodernism is immoral and cowerdly, can we really blame him for using his platform to speak his peace?” Throughout my conversation with Thomisticguy, I’ve had to very consciously try and think through, “Does he REALLY think this, or is he just being contrary to me?” More often than not, he actually “thinks this,” and has lots of reasons. My frustration is usually that most of his reasons don’t actually ADDRESS my/our position.

    I wanted to show you where T.G. and I came to a really cool mutual understanding, after lots of hard labor, of course. I suppose now is as good a time as any:

    ————————-

    GA [that’s Thomisticguy addressing me]:

    You wrote: My point here, in regards again to bodies, scale, limits and locatoin, is that the shift from ancient to modern involved one that fundamentally dwarfed and made irrelevant the human body, which was previously so central to man’s understanding of who and how he was in the world. The modern body is dwarfed and made irrelevant (relatively) precisly because of the “explosion” that occured as the defining moment of the start of modernity. The human body has no “real” rational relationship to the globe, and yet the globe sets the field of play, defines the location and/or deliniates the limits of modern life.

    ● [this is his response to me] Thank you for defining exactly what you mean by the shift in man’s understanding of himself. I will have to think about this. I do see a number of objections that could be raised to this theory. Let me raise a few and allow you to reflect on them if you wish

    ————————-

    from: http://simplegodstuff.blogstream.com/v1/pid/216416.html?CP=&HP=1#TC

    Now I’m a little frustrated again, because I responded to his “objections,” and have not heard back. Its not exactly the same, but it reminds me of…”My frustration is usually that most of his reasons don’t actually ADDRESS my/our position.”

    Lots of talking past each other. The funny thing is, I’ve noticed that the reason is usually rooted in some moral/sin issue. Power plays, lack of trust, things like that. Its not just a neutral “misunderstanding,” from what I’ve noticed. That was actually difficult for me to accept, when I noticed it. I had previously thought that “sin” sort of caused a whole condition of folks “misunderstanding” each other as like a whole cause in itself of problems.

    But in the Tower of Babel story…and as I have noticed in my conversation with T.G….our different languages are misunderstood “originally” due to sinful pride. Then our “objectively” misunderstanding each other (God’s giving folks different tongues so they can’t finish the Tower…sort of just a fact of life these days) is sort of secondary, after the fact.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  41. Well…you ignored the Erdmanian’s Smith reference well. And I just got to “Jon’s” 4 propositional foundations upon which he shows his support for Pat Robertson (I think); in one of them he says that “pomo epistemology” is “unbiblical,” presumably meaning that modern epistemology is “biblical.” This is getting comedic. Where’s Eco’s cast of characters from different times and places when you need some good comedy!?

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  42. In response the Erdmanian went straight for my heart: “Can art convey meaningful truths in non-propositional forms? Music? Film? Painting?” I’m waiting to see if “Jon” follows with a dagger…

    Jon said: “As I see it, for a Christian to be a postmodernist would entail a contradiction: There is no Truth, yet truth flows out of God’s unchanging nature. Or, put another way: Is Truth constructed by society, or does Truth flow from God?” I believe, Doyle, that you and I were just discussing this! I see this, though, as another example of where many evangelicals don’t actually address what the pomo is really saying, and how it does and/or can effect “us” as Christians. Like what I said about Heidegger and Aquinas…as if H. is A. just talking about his day…I can take God with me to H., and what might be “uncovered”, “in faith,” is God…

    A very blunted dagger from Jon…”I definitely think music and the arts can and does express truth. My issue with PoMo is that there cannot be any meaning at the end of the day.”…He’s not cathing the contrariness of “foundationalism” to the very “means” by which art aquires meaning. Leaving MY art as essentially valueless to him, whether he even realizes it or not. As evidenced by his, “If anything, then, music and the arts are more evidence against the reigning worldview, showing that absolutes can be shown nonpropositionally as well.” This is not confusion between languages, but confused language…

    I think the Erdmanian Tornado is misinterpreting the relationship between Ecclesiastes and postmodernism: “I think the Postmodern person construes meaning on a purely personal level – no metanarratives. This suggests a strong parallel with how Qohelet (Book of Ecclesiastes) developes meaning. I would suggest that the question of meaning is the question of our time. From an apologetics standpoint I think the question is not about whether the Postmodernist can have true knowledge or true propositions, but rather whether or not s/he can find meaning in life. Not meaning in a meta-narrative sense (an overarching meaning for all people at all times), but what it means to answer the question of meaning on a deeply personal and existential level.” But he knows pomo FAR better than I, so…

    Here Jon seems to speak against himself again: “Although I would definitely agree with you ‘that the question of meaning is the question of our time,’ this might be the question of all times.” He’s the one who came to Erdman’s blog assuming argument to be the primary means of blog communication. That is not to argue against him, but to painfully remember how difficult it is for me to communicate with T.G…

    In terms of the conversation I want to have with the Erdmanian, this is interesting: “I think if one goes too far on one side or the other there is a danger: If you abstract God’s work on purely meta terms then you risk losing personal meaning for your own narrative and your meta-theology becomes more important than your own personal faith. On the other hand, I think that the Bible does present a meta-narrative, and if one construes the atonement strictly on a personal level, then how can one bring this to someone else as meaningful for them and not just for me.”

    You are funny: “So where do you guys stand on Moreland’s ‘PoMo is for sissies’ rhetoric?” Way to avoid Jon, like avoiding Fallwell :)

    …funny again…”Moreland has already called the PoMos wimps. The question is whether the PoMos are prepared to call Moreland a dimwit”…I showed some of my dialogue with T.G. to a friend at work, and he laughed, saying, “It sounds like you are giving T.G. two options: A) T.G., you’re dumb, or B) Jason isn’t understanding what T.G is saying.” Funnily, my friend at work was responding to where T.G. had used a Richard Rorty argument to say that the postmodern argument is useless, and I had retorted that such an argument from Rorty is useless.

    …you’re pretty pissed off at Moreland…you said: “This sort of harangue has nothing to do with epistemology, and the reasons to oppose it don’t either. It’s an ethical and political issue.” Funnily, Daniel Libeskind dares the modern button-pusher in the forteified castle…eerrr…tank…eerr…epistemological system built on foundational truths and protected by a moat of war rhetoric…to ACTUALLY FACE his enemy and raise his sword. I’ll have to find that quote when I get home.

    This was exactly my question concerning T.G. – “But what about dialogue? I’ve always maintained that true dialogue must allow room for rhetoric on all levels, so openness seems to demand that we encourage the other and difference, even if that means that others inject the dialogue with combative language.”…after he said: “You obviously don’t know what discursive reasoning is.”…after I had explained what I mean when I say “absence” and “presence.” T.G. later in that comment accused me of sarcasm and cheekyness, in situations where I had carefully explained what I meant to say. He later apologized, basically, without saying the words.

    Anwyay, in line with what Jonathan is saying, my reaction was to confront T.G. on whether or not he was even interested in dialogue in the first place. As it turns out, he ended up apologizing, and we went on to a much greater level of mutual understanding than ever before (on Girand and on the meaning of the term “modern”). But I don’t know how much in line I am with Jonathan, though. I don’t see Jonathan confronting T.G. on his willingness to dialogue.

    I also doubt with Jonathan that us sissy pomos and Moreland’s foundationalists can agree to oppose Moreland. The whole problem is that “the manly correspondence theorists” live in Moreland’s world, speak his language, and ignorantly agree with his crafted web of rhetoric. The fact that the ethical and epistemological issues are – or can be – separate is an aside to what’s actually happening in Christian circles.

    “You don’t stop in the hallways at work to watch a couple of guys sitting on the floor playing chess. But if those guys are rolling around throwing fists at each other’s faces then the crowds are going to gather!” I must live life backwards or something.

    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  43. From the mind of John:
    Heidegger too: if we cannot step outside of this world for a God’s eye view, then we might as well assume His irrelevance and build a contextualized and secular philosophy of being-in-the-world. Why dabble with Heidegger if you think you can have access to a God’s-eye transcendence? Just because Heidegger doesn’t deny the possibility of transcendence doesn’t mean he thinks it’s at all relevant to our understanding of the world.

    I’m trying to get caught up. Thought I would take a moment and say that this strikes me as right about where our American culture is at. The question of God is a question of relevancy and I think Heidegger anticipates that.

    So, what are you saying, John? That a Christian shouldn’t read Heidegger? Or that to appropriate some Heideggerean philosophy into our Christian thinking castrates the “purity” of Heidegger?

    Remember what I said in my Inspiration paper? Remember Derrida? Everything is borrowed. Heidegger hijacked other thinkers and appropriated their thinking and made it his own. Just ask Husserl.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 18 May 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  44. I’ve been enjoying lurking on this post while various interesting conversations have circled one another, crossing space and time in a dizzying cascade of verbalositization. Must I ruin the moment by commenting on Heidegger? Okay, I take it back: not only can everyone read Heidegger; everyone should read Heidegger.

    Here’s my one thought on Heidegger relative to this post. You know that H became an ardent Nazi? Well I wonder whether his truth-as-uncovering idea is related. The Nazis presumably “uncovered” their own Aryan supremacy as well as the Jewish corruption of the Fatherland. This is the kind of uncovering process that’s characteristic of fascism, or also of reactions against fascism. Like the Bunuel movie I talk about I think sometime after this particular post, where Archie uncovers the sexual thrill of absolute power, the sadism of fascist control. Or surrealism, where the artist uncovers another strange reality underneath the ordinary world — this too came out of a fascist era. The unconscious as some sort of dark lurking region that is the source of both truth and corruption, with the analyst uncovering it — this too is a kind of fascist paranoiac stance, as opposed to the idea of the unconscious as the wellspring of all consciousness, which seems more democratic or perhaps Marxist in tone.

    Way back up there earlier with the language of architecture and the charcoal palimpsest — sounds like some creative conversations. Is beer helpful?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  45. “Or surrealism, where the artist uncovers another strange reality underneath the ordinary world — this too came out of a fascist era.” But I think it was you who noted that Dali was kicked out of the Surrealist’s club for being too conservative. He shot back: “The only difference between myself and the Surrealists is that I’m a surrealist.” I guess my point is, of course, I’d be suspicious of the idea that any foundational truth means facism. I mean, where the Nazi’s “uncovered” Aryan supremecy, I can read Heidegger and “uncover” God’s love and hope in the dusty drought of the Kenyan desert…
    ??

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 11:33 pm

  46. “Speaking” of that conversation way back up there…Doyle…I was expecting you to weigh in on that! Especially:

    “…all of our experiences are ‘shaped by’ our linguistically structured thoughts about the world in which we have the experience. It just means that our projections must come from many angles; and we cannot wrap ourselves around the globe – this as compared to one’s projection of an image of the globe on a flat screen. Regardless, projection doesn’t necessarily exclude making, in a sense. There is a Ground above and a Ground below. It just means that the hearing and the saying are in the mind, and the speech follows (the father proceeds from the son). Philosophers and/or writers can play that game; or at least that was the attempt. Socrates was in the Forum speaking bodies of air. Can architects play that game, too? I think this is why you referred me to Hejduk. I have a feeling I’m asking the questions that lead to his game. What are the elements of writing – speech or alphabets? Is architecture a still life, or still alive? Can we make something out of materials in play with the projected thoghts of a poetic writer?”

    I should explain Hejduk, I just realized:
    from:
    http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/2007/04/why-are-emerging-church-people-drawn-to.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hejduk
    “Eventually, John Hejduk’s ‘hard-line’ modernist space-making exercises, heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, moved away from his interests in favor of free-hand ‘figure/objects’ influenced by mythology and spirituality, clearly expressing the nature of his poetry. The relationship between Hejduk’s shape/objects and their surroundings is a controversial subject, raising questions similar to those raised by the early houses of Peter Eisenman.”

    Oh, and we’ve used beer before. But as you said, “I admit that there have been times when I’ve underestimated the power of beer, only to regret it later.” In fact, “cdills” was largely responsible for my not going into studio until 11:30 pm the “day” after my 21st birthday. In fact, about 17 or 18 beers into the evening, I had a whole conversation with another 5th year student at the time (Reagel – since then a studen of Perez-Gomez) on Palladio and modern architecture:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Palladio
    You should see the piece of paper on which we were drawing that evening of my 21st. The distinction between his sober lines and my…wiggly ones…is striking.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 11:52 pm

  47. Ok, I believe I have navigated my way somewhat successfully through the labyrinth!

    I thought I might repeat myself in hopes of understanding myself better now than when I original spoke:
    “I think if one goes too far on one side or the other there is a danger: If you abstract God’s work on purely meta terms then you risk losing personal meaning for your own narrative and your meta-theology becomes more important than your own personal faith. On the other hand, I think that the Bible does present a meta-narrative, and if one construes the atonement strictly on a personal level, then how can one bring this to someone else as meaningful for them and not just for me.”

    Reading a bit from Naugle on Worldview and Heidegger’s opposition to the term. The idea of “meta-narrative” and “Worldview” are somewhat similar, at least as far as I am using them.

    I agree with Heidegger’s suspicion of the worldview, but aren’t we all? Lyotard described postmodernism as suspicion of meta-narrative. Fair enough. But where does that leave the “good Christians,” like myself and Jason? Doesn’t the Bible present a “meta-narrative” or a “worldview”???

    According to Heidegger the answer is “no.” I cheer for H, but at the same time I can surely see a meta-narrative something to the effect of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Future Consummation. But I wonder if this is the sort of worldview that H has a problem with. Is the C-F-R-FC formula a meta-narrative that explains the whole? Is it a “world picture” that can be explained, analyzed and controlled? Or is it simply the way that we have observed God working within the unfolding drama of the narrative of the world? Honestly, one can see it going either way. On the one hand using it as a worldview formula. On the other hand using it as grounds to refrain from explanation and make allowance for exploration, openness and Heidegger’s Unverborgenheit (the unhiddenness of Dasein).

    Question: Can we ever escape “worldview thinking”? Or must we continually reference back to a framework or “world picture”?

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 19 May 2007 @ 12:48 am

  48. Interesting…somewhere on one of these posts the last couple of days I’ve asked Doylomania about the whole “virtual” thing. One one of his posts of late, he referenced this post:
    http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=577
    I found it fascinating. Doylomania – do you find it to be accurate.

    Speaking of Derrida the palimpsest, “trace” and speech, that post says:
    “But Kant still accepts what Whitehead calls the subjectivist and sensationalist principles derived from Locke and Hume (PR, 157). In consequence, Kant’s transcendental deduction remains caught within ‘a logic of tracing and reproduction’ (ATP, 12).”

    “I also find that post fascinating in regard to my complaints on Kant’s “transcendental ego”:

    But Deleuze’s virtual is an ‘impersonal and pre-individual transcendental field’ (LS, 102); it does not have the form of a consciousness. In making these corrections to Kant, Deleuze himself does what he credits Nietzsche with doing: he ‘stands [Kantian] critique on its feet, just as Marx does with the [Hegelian] dialectic’ (NP, 89).

    To convert Kant from transcendental idealism to transcendental empircism, and from a juridico-legislative project to a constructivist one, means to move from the possible to the virtual, and from merely formal conditions of possibility to concrete conditions of actualization. Deleuze’s transformation of Kant thus leads directly to his famous distinction between the virtual and the possible.”

    And Johnathan – I’d say too that it can go either way. I’d also say that what you are talking about is related to what I want to talk to you about on your Qoholet paper. Let me finish it, and I’ll get back to you.

    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 19 May 2007 @ 2:29 am

  49. Jason –

    On surrealism, I’m saying that it’s characteristic of fascistic founding myths that the surface conditions hide a secret truth that is uncovered: a master race, a secret conspiracy, and so on. Nazism, surrealism, even Freudianism work like this. There are many other praxes for finding truth; uncovering just happens to fit the fascist worldview.

    In my opinion Bush/Powell’s mythology of Iraq was fascist in just this way: there’s a secret conspiracy between Saddam and al-Qaida, with hidden WMDs that we must uncover. The fact that they cannot be found proves that the conspiracy is more insidious than we thought. We live in a perpetual war on terror: our seeming security hides secret cells of conspirators that permeate our society. We need wiretaps, identity verifications, torture jails, and all the other apparatus of fascism to uncover the hidden truth. And of course the good side of the hidden truth: America is the master race, perhaps allied with Israel in the secret moves of God to bring about Armageddon. Our actions in the Middle East are in conformance with the secret maneuvers of God.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  50. Jonathan –

    Doesn’t the Bible present a “meta-narrative” or a “worldview”??? Yes it does. Even if there’s disagreement on major theological issues, it still purports to explain all of human existence, world history, the future, even the fate of every individual. That sounds like a metanarrative to me. Making it less abstract and more personal just intensifies its meta-ness.

    What would Christianity be like if it wasn’t a metanarrative? It would either have to be much less sure of itself, or it would have to become something like a regional religion, affecting only those who subscribe to its teachings. I see moves in both directions, but I don’t think making something less “meta” makes it any more credible.

    When Lyotard critiqued metanarrative he was referring specifically to science. His way around it was to propose splitting up the territory: science knows about scientific knowledge, social groups and religions know about morality, etc. Christianity tries to play that card too: science can stick to its domain, but Christianity can speak about purpose, meaning, morality, etc. That split might work for Christians but not for non-Christians.

    I don’t see that pomo theology threatens the metanarrative status of Christianity; it just makes it less dogmatic in its assertions. Moreland presumably subscribes to the slippery slope theory, that if you let some of the certainty go the whole edifice crumbles. There’s also fears of liberalism. At the same time, Christianity recognizes that it no longer calls the shots in the secular culture. But it didn’t in the early centuries AD, and it never has in big chunks of the world. The current situation doesn’t affect the belief that eventually every knee shall bow. It’s meta even when it’s in the minority.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  51. Is it me or is the “good side” of the hidden “uncovered truth” the hidden ideal of a truly free market-economy? I say that as a question of what Bush/Powell are actually thinking consciously, and also as a question of the actual mythology behind what’s happening around here. I think that Aryan supremecy and our Isreali friendship (in connection to the eschaton) is part of what’s happening, but I don’t know if that’s what folks (Bush…”America” and its “mythology” behind the war) are actually thinking. Of course, if Bush and Powell are thinking of Aryan supremecy (ironically for Powell…???), then that would certainly contribute to an explaination as to why contemporary die-hard proponents of free-market economy might see no problem with an all-white Eucharistic table.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 May 2007 @ 5:35 am

  52. Doylomania,

    “…science can stick to its domain, but Christianity can speak about purpose, meaning, morality, etc. That split might work for Christians but not for non-Christians.”

    I passionatly disagree with this. This means death for Architecture – eternal separation between the meaning and truth of architecutre, leaving pretty facades eternally glued to the sided of engineered steel or concrete structures. And on top of that, Aquinas would want to smack the Christains who would settle for such an agreement. I think rightly.

    To be clear, then…Doylomania, I don’t think I really disagree with you here, but with the hopeless and intellectually hapless Christians willing to settle for such an agreement!!

    But John…I’m confused. You seemed to make two contradicting statements. A) “‘Doesn’t the Bible present a ‘meta-narrative”’ or a ‘worldview’???’ Yes it does. Even if there’s disagreement on major theological issues, it still purports to explain all of human existence, world history, the future, even the fate of every individual.” and B) I don’t see that pomo theology threatens the metanarrative status of Christianity; it just makes it less dogmatic in its assertions.

    My suspicion is that you aren’t contradicting yourself in your great will to support our Christian meta-narrative cause, but that I’m missing something…??? Maybe you are just saying that folks live in a locality; and if Christianity is credible, then it is true to each locality.

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 May 2007 @ 5:45 am

  53. I would like to note my facist sounding rhetoric previously presented here: “Aquinas would want to smack the Christains who would settle for such an agreement. I think rightly.” I just wanted to clarify that I was speaking loosely/figuratively when I used the term “smack” there, lol. I’m just saying that the Christains who would settle for such an agreement need to consider whether God might have something to do with…deeerrr…like…uuhh…physics or somethin’.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 May 2007 @ 8:59 am

  54. Jason –

    It just means that the hearing and the saying are in the mind, and the speech follows (the father proceeds from the son). It’s all very interesting. On the one hand we’ve got Derrida emphasizing diferrance as deferral, the gaps in time between thinking, speaking, hearing, writing, reading. And it’s all structured like a language, so even speaking becomes a kind of reading of the text that is the mind or the world. On the other hand there’s the idea that thinking, speaking, listening, writing and reading are all ways of formulating the unformulated experiences of the unconscious “on the fly,” all acts of construction from raw materials rather than reading prestructured truths off the world or off your mental tabula or off your eardrum or off the page. If you go with this latter approach, then the son is father to the father, the speaking/hearing/writing/reading creates the ideas that they embody. Maybe more of an Aristotelian model? You infer what your ideas are after you listen to what you just said.

    Now your friend has the idea of making marks and erasing them repeatedly eventually generates a kind of symbol system. As if the traces of all the images that have been temporarily inscribed on a surface generate a set of abstract categories that emerge from the repeated inscribing and effacing procedure. Languages probably emerged from vocalizations in a way not unlike this. Though there is the shared intention to understand one another at the foundation of language. This idea that a language can create itself as an unintended consequence, without its evolving as a communication tool… perhaps I don’t understand your friend’s project well enough.

    There was a guy down on the beach building a temporary installation made out of long thin pliable pieces of wood stained red, bent and curved and angled, with ropes intertwining them, the sticks stuck into the sand about 6 feet into the sea. This installation was called “Red Writing.” I saw the artist as he was dismantling it. “What does it say,” I asked him. “It says nothing. It is abstract.” I was hoping for a better conversation than that, but the spoken language is an obstacle for me here.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 9:12 am

  55. Jason –

    It looks like Hejduk created an architectural language — modernist, structuralist. Like modern art. Like Antonioni in film, who made a language out of camera angles, spaces between objects, glances and gazes, etc. — very much influenced by modern architecture. Also Freud with dream language and Lacan with a language of the unconscious — modern, structuralist. Very interesting projects, though their place as “totalizing discourses” or “metanarratives” has been downgraded.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 10:29 am

  56. Jason –

    You’re right, Shaviro’s post makes the link from empiricists Hume and Locke to Kant; the rationalist innate ideas stream to Kant flows from Plato and Descartes. So you end up with Kant proposing innate structures in the mind that are able to make sense of sensory input — a synthesis of rationalism and empiricism. I don’t know Whitehead on this subject of the virtual. People are interested in the relationships between creativity of the mind on the one hand and the latencies, potentials, virtualities, affordances that already exist in the world, independent of mind. That’s why Deleuze is interesting too — not just desires, but how vital energies emitted from the world intersect with desires of selves, resulting in creations. It’s various efforts to break down subject-object dualism, to make creation an emerging interaction rather than either magic or an act of will.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 10:41 am

  57. Is it me or is the “good side” of the hidden “uncovered truth” the hidden ideal of a truly free market-economy? In my view the free market economy is characterized by its transparency: what you see is what you get, nobody is making you buy anything, everything is for sale and in full view at the Babylon mall. There are no secrets in marketplace ideology, no depths where anything can hide; instead of depth there’s now multifaceted surface.

    It tends to be the Marxists who see hidden power fields at work in capitalism, purposely eliminating depth in order to convert all structural contour into a single dimension, which is market value — which in turn is controlled by the rich and their bourgeois accomplices. Does this paranoia imply that Marxism retains a fascistic conspiracy-theory orientation which engenders paranoia and police state totalitarianism wherever it manifests itself in the real world? Or is capitalism really hiding something, and it shows up in clearer outline when guys like Bush are in charge rather than subtler guys like Clinton?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 10:52 am

  58. Jasoniak –

    I agree that the science-religion split doesn’t work. I don’t think Lyotard had a good idea here at all, even though his “mistrust of metanarratives” definition of postmodernism has stuck around. Christianity ought to have things to say about morality, science, architecture, movies, the marketplace — anything it wants to. It’s just less likely that you’ll get a metanarrative like high medievalism ever again, with the deep structural integration of Thomistic systematic theology and gothic architecture and a hierarchical society dominated by the church-king-aristocracy alliance.

    To resolve my apparent contradiction. I think Christianity is intrinsically metanarrative if it purports to tell a story about the one true God who affects the lives of everyone. I don’t see that the postmodern theologians are really disrupting this metanarrative aspect of Christianity. They’re loosening up the rigid structures and injecting more uncertainty and emergence into it, but I don’t think that threatens the metanarrative core at all. Even Caputo is going to have the Christian God immanently involved in the universe, though he does come pretty close to letting the whole system disintegrate. Basically I don’t know how Christianity persists if it doesn’t claim that its God is the God of everyone — which makes it a totalizing discourse and a metanarrative, wouldn’t you say?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 11:07 am

  59. Doesn’t the Bible present a “meta-narrative” or a “worldview”??? Yes it does. Even if there’s disagreement on major theological issues, it still purports to explain all of human existence, world history, the future, even the fate of every individual. That sounds like a metanarrative to me. Making it less abstract and more personal just intensifies its meta-ness.

    What would Christianity be like if it wasn’t a metanarrative? It would either have to be much less sure of itself, or it would have to become something like a regional religion, affecting only those who subscribe to its teachings. I see moves in both directions, but I don’t think making something less “meta” makes it any more credible.

    Ok, fair enough. But I think the Bible contains far more narrative than it does meta-narrative commentary.

    “For from him and to him and through him are all things.” (Rom. 11)

    This certainly describes the world in meta-terms. However, let me carefully distinguish between this kind of a vague meta-description and the experience of the human person within this meta-narrative. There is enough evidence from the canon (the book of Job, Ecclesiastes, the Gospel of John) to suggest that the existence of each person cannot always be fitted into a pre-existing meta-narrative. That is, each individual must “work out” (Philippians 2) their salvation. This suggests that life must be lived out and explored in a personal sense (including struggle, pain, sorrow, joy, defeat, victory, etc.) in order to extract a meaningful existence. In not all instances can one simply follow a pre-designed template and fit one’s life within it in a static way. True meaning is most often found through personal becoming and process throughout the course of living life.

    I think this might be the po-mo’s biggest gripe against the Christian meta-narrative: That it would purport to shortcut the existential process by suggesting a Christian How To Manual and suggesting that this is a “Biblical Worldview” that will be meaningful to all peoples in all times.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 20 May 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  60. I understand that each person has to live his or her own story, and that everyone has a different story. But doesn’t Christianity purport to be the story about all these individual stories, the interpretive context in which each one achieves its true meaning and in which all the stories are knitted together? That would be a metanarrative — a narrative that includes and makes meaningful all the other narratives, a story about all stories.

    A metanarrative isn’t necessarily a set of equations or propositions or statistical correlations: those would be metanarratives of particular kinds of rationalism or science, expressed in the kind of language and structure that’s appropriate for their kind of discourse. But a metanarrative is always a narrative; it can take the form of a story with plot, characters, settings, dialogues, themes, happy endings…

    A Christianity that is not a metanarrative? Again, I’m not sure what it looks like, but I don’t think I’ve seen one yet.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  61. But doesn’t Christianity purport to be the story about all these individual stories, the interpretive context in which each one achieves its true meaning and in which all the stories are knitted together? That would be a metanarrative — a narrative that includes and makes meaningful all the other narratives, a story about all stories.

    A narrative that makes all other meta-narratives meaningful? Hhhhhmmmm….Well, I might submit that we all seem to have some sense of a meta-narrative. Some of us have a more developed and rigid worldview than others, but we all seem to have it. The thing is this: I think the Bible presents several different meta-narratives, all with some different twists and turns. What Christians do is try to compile all of these together and fit them under a grand master-meta-narrative. But this master-meta-narrative is a human creation. Something we Christians do to fit the Scriptures together. Some of our formulations are better than others, but many would probably agree with the very general outline of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Future Hope. Again, this is our imposition on the whole of the text of Scripture, but it seems like a pretty good one.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 21 May 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  62. Jonathan –

    Science as currently described by scientists is also a human creation. So is the marketplace, which I think is the truly dominant metanarrative of our times. Neither of these human institutions thinks of itself as a metanarrative, I don’t believe, even though they hold dominant positions in our culture. Christianity is “meta” only among Christians these days, which makes it less “totalizing” than it used to be. But Christianity’s eschatological perspective says that this is a temporary state of affairs, that eventually Jesus shall reign where’er the sun doth his successive journeys run. Which I think makes it meta.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 5:45 pm

  63. Agreed.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 21 May 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  64. Doylomania – “Basically I don’t know how Christianity persists if it doesn’t claim that its God is the God of everyone — which makes it a totalizing discourse and a metanarrative, wouldn’t you say?” – Yep, I would say.

    I like this: “This suggests that life must be lived out and explored in a personal sense (including struggle, pain, sorrow, joy, defeat, victory, etc.) in order to extract a meaningful existence.”

    Doylomania, in response to my comment I just did on “Virtual and Acutal Realities”…
    due note the term “personal” :)

    As far as the “how-to manual” goes…I think that’s distinctly modern. As Doylomania said: “A metanarrative isn’t necessarily a set of equations or propositions or statistical correlations: those would be metanarratives of particular kinds of rationalism or science…” You guys already went through that, though…

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  65. Dudes –
    On the metanarrative front… Say there’s this guy, a recognized leader in the emerging community, fairly orthodox and strongly Biblical. Say he’s a strong supporter of NT Wright. Say this guy contends that Christ came specifically to reconcile Israel with God. Say he interprets all the NT texts that seem to refer to hell as really referring to the coming judgment on Israel that would result in the destruction of the 2nd temple in 70 AD. Say this guy contends that the NT is about Israel and the Gentiles who through Christ are being grafted into Israel, the collective entity to whom God’s promises were made and who are always specifically God’s people.

    Now say he tells you this over coffee one day: God is a local deity for Israel, and the Bible is relevant only to Jews and to Gentiles who get grafted in. For everyone else the Bible is irrelevant. They will live out their lives and when they die that’s the end of them. But for those who live inside the re-created Israel there will be a resurrection.

    Would you say that this guy is Christian? Would you say that his version of Christianity is no longer configured in metanarrative terms, since it is no longer meaningful to everyone?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  66. DAMN. Your good! Let me get back to you. Erdmanian Tornado – PLEASE weigh in here!

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  67. Along with many PoMo sorts, I would say that the metanarrative aspect is not so important. For one thing, those that think there is one seem rarely to ‘get it right’.

    My idea of a Christian is one who follows Jesus and who tries to share Jesus with others. Beyond that I’m also Pascalian enough that I don’t connect my theology or anyone else’s with what God may think of me or you, and that is what counts…

    Certainly this person is very strongly (but idiosyncratically) Preterist and is insisting on a very narrowly historical interpretation of the NT and being a bit selective in his understanding of a number of important words in order to uphold this theory. That ends up being nothing like orthodox (or even biblical) in the understanding of ‘the gospel’ or of Jesus mission/ministry of reconciliation, but then praxis would be a better place to begin than orthodoxy any day.

    As to the metanarrative, it certainly still is one even though it doesn’t apply to everyone in the same way, the implications for ‘the chosen community’ and for everyone else are pretty clear.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 21 May 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  68. WHEW! Thank you sam.

    I wish I knew Pascal better. A relatively modernist friend (who claims to be postmodern also) keeps telling me to read Pascal. I resist, because I’m afraid he’s just trying to convert me. He’s responsible for the fact that our small group just recently started reading The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. Argh. By the end of the first paragraph, I was pissed. By page 16 or so, where I am now, I’m starting to come around…a bit.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  69. Way up there, I said:

    “…you’re pretty pissed off at Moreland…you said: ‘This sort of harangue has nothing to do with epistemology, and the reasons to oppose it don’t either. It’s an ethical and political issue.’ Funnily, Daniel Libeskind dares the modern button-pusher in the forteified castle…eerrr…tank…eerr…epistemological system built on foundational truths and protected by a moat of war rhetoric…to ACTUALLY FACE his enemy and raise his sword. I’ll have to find that quote when I get home.”

    I found the quote (this from my latest Golden Ass post): “In Fishing from the Pavement, Daniel Libeskind says: ‘Why accuse the orphan striking the blind patriot for fun of assisting the devil? NATO coward, tilt back your sword.’ (p. 10).”

    In the context of Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy,” its interesting that he mentions “the orphan.”

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 22 May 2007 @ 12:27 am

  70. Sam –

    I think you’re consistent in your perspective here: the important thing is praxis and relationship rather than a set of beliefs. Doctrines like Trinity and atonement and even justification by faith are all pretty abstract ways of characterizing things that presumably depend on how God sees fit to interpret them. What holds all the individual praxes and relationships together is presumably the person of God, who is probably both everything and nothing like anyone can think about him.

    Jason –

    I couldn’t quite follow Libeskind’s quote on your blog, but I’ll weigh in there about it. Here we’ve been talking about metanarrative as something that eliminates all the other possible interpretations. If on the other hand you assert that a Christian metanarrative encompasses all the personal and collective narratives of everybody in the world or in Israel or whatever, you could leave open-ended the way in which all these stories fit together into a single coherent story. It’s a motley collection of stories, each of which has at least one thread that ties it to all the other stories. The structure is loose, like a neural network in the brain structures the unconscious, rather than tight like a systematic theology. Even science’s metanarrative works this way: there are all sorts of theories and data sets and research projects on all sorts of topics; some of the scientists disagree massively with one another while others have nothin in common to talk about. But they’re all linked in a very loose network whose common link is “science.” The marketplace too.

    The loose structure might generate emerging properties at the collective level that’s more than just the sum of the parts. But these are elusive, perhaps transitory properties, not definitive statements that everyone who’s in the network has to sign on to.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 9:51 am

  71. I cite Acts 17 at length. Paul’s address to the philosophers at Athens:
    22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

    24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    29″Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

    1) There is a call to repent.
    2) God’s call is now more all-encompassing then it was in the past.
    3) God meddles with history so that human kind might “find him.”

    Is the call to repent descriptive or prescriptive? Is it descriptive – describing what is? Or is it prescriptive – issuing a course of action? I think that it is primarily prescriptive. God is calling us to repent and desires people who will seek him and find him. A call to action or to a change in one’s soul and inner being.

    A meta-narrative seems to be something that is more descriptive: It tells us how things are and how they oughta’ be. The “call” is prescriptive, but then we come along and add the description of why we ought to answer the call: We are made in the image of God, the earth is the Lord’s, etc., etc. This point goes back to what I said earlier, and I will stick with it for now: A meta-narrative is more of a human construction based upon God’s “calling.” We describe based on what God has prescribed.

    So, in the Doyle example the guy is clearly wrong….or is he? God issues a call to repent. The guy doesn’t answer the call. Isn’t that his choice? He chooses to interpret the call in a certain way – relegate it to the dustbins of ancient, biblical history. I take a different interpretation. I construct a worldview and a meta-narrative that describes the calling in universal terms. But please note that in either case the meta-narrative is a human construct to make sense of the storyline and (more to the point) to describe its relevance to the contemporary context.

    I make the above distinction between prescriptive/descriptive, and we are talking about meta-narrative v. narrative, but I think the more we explore these distinctions the more we will find that they overlap quite a bit! Perhaps the distinction between meta-narrative and narrative is overblown. Is it more of a Modern/Enlightenment idea to dichotomize the various narratives? Rather than to recognize that the human lives out a narrative but necessarily references the meta-narrative to make sense of the narrative? Maybe the meta-narrative is a product of an ongoing interpretive (see hermeneutical) process such that it is a dynamic development rather than a subject to be mastered. If so, then meta-narrative just blends in with narrative and narrative blends into meta-narrative.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 22 May 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  72. Doylomania,

    Sorry to hear you couldn’t follow that quote. What about it could you not follow? How could I have been more clear? Am I trying to cram the contents of many posts into one? The basic idea of the quote, as I took it, is the difference between actually facing the world (and your death), and actually facing neither the world nor your death (thanks to an intellectual system or a system/web of technologies that is an extension of your being, but through which you don’t actually and bodily have to face anything or anyone in real time).

    And in general (and to Doylomania),

    I agree with the Erdmanian Tornado about the call to repent. Without that, you will likely end up with a web of relating desire vectors that is greater than the sum of its parts, but that doesn’t mean that anything will change for the better. In other words, then, you would end up with a powerful web of less than desirable desires. That would suck.

    :)

    Jason

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 22 May 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  73. Do you guys really experience that much guilt, such that repentance is the essence of the call? And after the reconciliation, what do you do then? Call others to repentance? Not a very compelling metanarrative. It’s interesting that Zizek believes that in today’s hedonistic culture the conscience makes people feel guilty for not eating, drinking and being merry.

    The guy in my hypothetical does heed the call to repent. I’m not sure, but I think he figures that those who hear the call and repent are grafted in; the rest aren’t punished, they just don’t get resurrected. To me it still feels like a metanarrative: who wouldn’t rather live eternally in paradise than go out of existence?

    No, the orphan and NATO thing blends too many images for me to grapple with — I need more context. Like I said, I’ll go to your blog about it.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  74. “It’s interesting that Zizek believes that in today’s hedonistic culture the conscience makes people feel guilty for not eating, drinking and being merry.” That’s rather “postmodern” of Zizek! Of course, I’m not with Zizek on that one. I can, however, see how he would say that. I even kind of like it, since its playful. But beyond my like of the statement, I find God’s undying Word written on our hearts.

    And: “To me it still feels like a metanarrative: who wouldn’t rather live eternally in paradise than go out of existence?” Yes, but I think sam’s point was that your hypothetical situation gave a picture of basically an oversized household god. Of course, that’s not “orthodox,” as sam said.

    As for my guilt, see my recent comment at the Erdmanian Tornado’s post on “Meaning, Desire and Light.”

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 22 May 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  75. Jason –

    The server just ate my comment! Basically it was this: I think Sam accepts our friend as part of the universal Christian metanarrative based on how he lives his life, even though his theology turns God into “an oversized household god.” Metanarrative based on praxis rather than doctrine is another longstanding Christian variant, though it’s not very Protestant or orthodox. It’s maybe catholic with a small “c.”

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 22 May 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  76. I wasn’t trying to define Christianity strictly as repentence, only to use repentence as one aspect of the so-called Christian metanarrative that seems to be a part of a universal calling.

    But more and more I think the distinction between meta-narrative and narrative is overblown. I think it is humanly unhealthy to suggest that we fix a metanarrative under which we live out our own personal narrative. We reference/refine/construct/deconstruct/overhaul/disregard/embrace a metanarrative throughout our lives, but it is a human construction subject to refinement based on what happens in the narrative of one’s life. Hence we don’t “figure out the right worldveiw (metanarrative)” and then go with it. In real practice of real life we use the metanarrative as a guide and a reference. Some days it works better than others….

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 23 May 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  77. Doylomania – That makes sense about sam’s point.

    Doylomani and Tormado – I think I’m with The Tornado on that one. But at the same time, I think that we have to make the distinction between narrative and metanarrative – that it can be a healthy exploration – when faced sepcifically with the unhealthy (in my mind) metanarrative of modern science.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 23 May 2007 @ 7:23 pm

  78. I agree with me, too.

    Like

    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 23 May 2007 @ 7:25 pm

  79. J&J –

    I suspect that most people live day to day with a whole host of lower-level narratives: quickest route to work, newest tune on the radio from some band you know, continue working on that project at the office, ask coworker whether her headache is better, decide whether it’s a good idea to buy a new car, and so on. These lower-level narrative get invoked on an as-needed basis, without trying to figure out how they all hang together in the vast scheme of things.

    I could picture a Christian metanarrative along Sam’s lines, as a way of being toward the world that informs all these mini-narratives. It would result in subtle but continual shifts of perspective and emphasis, only occasionally erupting into some big deal of a decision or action. Repentance might come into play now and then, but presumably the ongoing trajectory of life even on trivial matters is what takes up most of our day.

    As an aside, I don’t think science works this way. Scientists don’t generally go through their day interpreting events in scientific terms (except explicitly on their job, of course). Science may be a perceived modernist enemy of Christianity, but it’s that way mostly in a person deciding whether there is a God or not (not a trivial decision, I grant). But science as a metanarrative doesn’t have much minute-to-minute impact. Creeds, systematic theologies, hermeneutical frameworks, etc. are kind of like science in this regard — not a lot of minute-to-minute impact on a life.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 23 May 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  80. Creeds, systematic theologies, hermeneutical frameworks, etc. are kind of like science in this regard — not a lot of minute-to-minute impact on a life.

    But I would argue that the reverse is true: The minute-to-minute mundane being in the world impacts the metanarrative. Living out a narrative over time creates a network of experiences that produce dominate themes. But we can choose whether to take the time, periodically, to attempt to interpret the themes and produce something of a metanarrative that explains, in general terms, the minute-to-minute existing.

    Normally people just live. People evaluate in a meta-sense in crisis or tragedy when a meta-reference is necessary to make sense of the extraordinary or the supernatural. Philosophers evaluate in meta-terms out of angst or intellectual curiosity. It is the job of the priest to explore meta-questions. There are other reasons, I suppose….

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 24 May 2007 @ 2:27 pm

  81. Along similar lines, I’d say you can’t really separate out repentence from the minutia of life. Supposedly, the “meta-narrative” of Jesus narrates EVERYTHING. I mean, if “subtle but continual shifts of perspective and emphasis” are occuring upon the basis of the Jesus meta-narrative, then its still “repentence,” or an “infusion” of God’s goodness.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  82. Jonathan –

    I like this idea a lot: creating narrative(s) on the fly, then reflecting on it to see what themes are emerging, using those reflections in creating a metanarrative that encompasses the narratives. “Normally people just live… It is the job of the priest to explore meta-questions” — good stuff. This sense of narratives that move forward and through reflection emerge into higher-order structures — it’s good. If there’s a way in which these narratives infuse your everyday life with meaning instead of just living, that would be great. I sometimes feel like I’m on this path, sometimes not. How about you?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  83. Jason –
    I guess you’re right about repentance, maybe in the sense of subtle course corrections rather than self-flagellation and a perpetually nagging sense of always falling short and slipping off the straight and narrow.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 24 May 2007 @ 8:19 pm

  84. Amen.

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 24 May 2007 @ 8:37 pm


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