Wednesday, December 27, 2006

off the grid: no sweatshop clothing

So it's just after Christmas time and we have all spent too much money on things we probably didn't need. I of course bought some books (which are a necessity) and a book stand.

My prized purchase is something I want to share with you. Perhaps you have hear of Blackspot sneakers adbusters (an information age social activists movement). Well I heard about it a while ago, but I didn't need new sneakers. And my momma said, "if you don't need it before you saw it, then you don't need it."

But this year I was in the market for new sneakers and I thought, "hey what about those adbuster shoes?" But then I found out they are 60 bucks and I thought, "no way!! that's like more than half my book money." But I continued to shop around and I found No Sweat Apperal (as in 'no sweatshop') with these sweet shoes. I just got them in the mail and they are great. Very comfortable.

Also, for other off the exploitation grip see:
the working world
new american dream
justice clothing

Friday, December 22, 2006

Advent Explorations over at C&P

I've recently been posting some thoughts on Advent and Political Theory over at C&P (

Emancipation and Advent: The Future of Freedom
Revolution and Advent: Christ Transforming Culture

...chech them out.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Personal Statement for Ph.D apps

Over the last couple of weeks I've been forced to write a 'personal statement' for Ph.D applications. Now while this might seem a bit pretentious, I thought I would post it because it really is the best statement of where I am at and what I intend to continue thinking about, whether or not it is in relation to an advanced degree.

So here is most of the statement that I'm submitting with my application. Let me know what you think and what questions you have. But don't steal my project!!


How might we return the Book of Common Prayer to ministers as a revolutionary manual, rather than merely as a guide to personal prayer or corporate worship? Within the ................................ concentration of the ........................ program, I plan to answer this question by researching the intersection of Liturgy and Politics, with the hopes of reclaiming the subversive power of Christian liturgy for the Western Church after Christendom.

My interest in corporate worship has transitioned from an understanding of personal piety, to corporate spiritual formation, to the advent of an alternative community. These transitions roughly fit the trajectory of my intellectual and theological development. Beginning from my undergraduate studies in philosophy, and being influenced by Reformed Theology, I primarily understood corporate worship as a form of personal piety. During my preparation for pastoral ministry in graduate school, being influenced by post-liberal theology, I then shifted to an understanding of worship as corporate spiritual formation, or the place of forming a distinctive Christian identity. Finally, throughout my pastoral ministry, and in relation to the movement known as Radical Orthodoxy, I began to conceive of corporate worship as the definitive space for creating an alternative political community. During my three years as an associate pastor I have increasingly noted the importance, and yet difficulty, of forming an alternative community in the midst of American consumerism and individualism, as well as the capitulation of the Religious Right to conservative politics. All of this has led to my interest in the relation between liturgy and politics, culminating in a desire for sustained research in both sacramental and liturgical theology, as well as political philosophy focusing on the emergence of American Pragmatist political theory, exemplified by Jeffrey Stout, and post-Marxist appropriations of Christianity, represented by Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou. In relation to the above, as well as my vocational commitment to developing future church leaders, both pastorally in the church and academically as a seminary professor, I am seeking an advanced degree at .............................

My specific research proposes to investigate the intersection between Liturgy and Politics. Beyond merely stating that there is a connection between liturgy and politics, this research will show how liturgy constitutes the Church as the political Body of Christ, and how this Body interacts with the political, social, and economic bodies found in our global situation. The liturgical side of this project will examine the “subject” as it is produced through sacramental practices. It will draw particularly on the resources of Jacques Lacan, whose articulation of Freudian psychoanalysis can be understood as an anti-sacramental philosophy (mirroring an authentic sacramental theology), and for that reason offering insights into the inter-subjective, corporeal, and symbolic nature of liturgical practices. Building from this, the possibilities of a political subjectivity will be explored as a primary site of resistance to the current abuses of globalization. This research will suggest the liturgical resources of the worshipping Church as the culmination of recent political projects seeking to reintroducing the themes of Kantian ‘cosmopolitanism’ and Hegelian ‘recognition.’

This research will build from my past education and current activities. In addition to receiving a B.A. in Philosophy concentrating on Heidegger and Wittgenstein, and a Masters of Divinity, I am working with James K. A. Smith on a project relating postmodern philosophy to church practice in the works of John Caputo, Merold Westphal, Bruce Bensen, Graham Ward, and Karl Raschke. I am also organizing a conference concerning Political Theology at Northern Seminary. I have written an essay on Augustine’s Eucharistic theology in relation to the political philosophy of Antonio Negri under the supervision of Bruce Fields, and a paper integrating the New Perspective on Paul with post-Marxian revolutionary politics. In addition to this, I have developed a personal reading program covering the post-Marxist appropriation of Christianity in Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizkei, the Italian political philosophers Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri, and American Pragmatists such at Jeffery Stout, Hilary Putnam, and Robert Brandom, as well as the liturgical theologies of Gordon Laythrop (Lutheran) and Lious-Marie Chauvet (Catholic). Through all of this I have prepared myself to extensively research both political and liturgical theology.

Academically, this research will contribute a Lacanian reading to sacramental theology which will both enrich sacramental theology as well as an understanding of Lacan as an (anti)sacramental philosopher. In addition, this research will add to the nascent appropriation of Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou as resources for political theology. Practically, it will help ministers see how the planning and execution of corporate worship does not merely prepare or inform our political awareness (although it certainly should), but is itself a political act, producing a specifically Christian political subjectivity through the liturgical elements of public worship.

It is my conviction that within the secular processes, economic and political, of globalization and it fundamentalist (religious and/or ethnic) backlash, the Church must affirm again the politically constitutive nature of its public worship. Only when ministers see how the planning and execution of corporate worship does not merely prepare or inform our political awareness, but is itself a political act, producing a specifically Christian political subjectivity, will it again be able to witness to and embody the peace and reconciliation of the Gospel in Christ.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The GRE is finished!!!!

Where have I been?

I've been locked in mortal combat with an evil companion know as the GRE. The ferious encounter is over, and now I am nursing my wounds.

Someday so I will raise up again, stricking the keyboard with brilliant posts.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rich Whitney for Govenor

This is the first time in my life where I have been following an election season, and might even vote. Actually I was going to not vote even thought I was voting b/c I'm voting for the Green Party here in Illinios (esp. Rich Whitney for Govenor).

But now it seems that Whitney is gaining support and that my vote might be much more of a statement in the elections b/c now he has 16% (click on Gubernetorial Races and hit IL) of possible votes in the election, which is very surprising. I was hoping to be irrelevant.

I'm voting for the Green Party because I'm convinced that if Christians really are meant to engage in national politics, then the most important contribution would be to form a viable Third Part (either with a platform or coalition of independent candidates).

now of course the Green Party is not inline with my view of sexual ethics, but their economic policy (esp. education) is up my alley. Some say that the Green Party is what the Republican used to stand for before neo-conservatives took over along with Big Business. Most of Green Party's 10 Values I can get behind, which is more than I think of either repubicans or democrats. And I think that if jim wallis really followed his reasoning, he would not be pro-Democrat, but would be Green or independent.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Toward World Republic: Beyond Capital-Nation-State

Today I'm going to see Kojin Karatani at the university of chicago. he's an anarchist, or an 'associationist' these days, talking about "Toward World Republic: Beyond Capital-Nation-State". I've been meaning to buy his Transcritique: On Kant and Marx for quite awhile, so maybe now I will.

Zizek, in Parallax View, draws heavily from Karatani, and I'm interested in reading a Japanese Marxist who is offering a theoretic project comprible to Negri's Multitude. Basically I'm drawn to this stuff as one who is interested in alternative to global capitalism as well as how the Church might be part of this alternative.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore

This is a very interesting and hopeful article from the NYTimes: Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore .

It talks about the trend toward labelling products "organic," "free-range," "animal compassionate," and "certified humane" in order to attract the more conscientious consumer.

The article notes two different consumers toward whom these labels might be appealing: 1) either the animal lovers who are worried about the treatment of chickens, cows, pigs, etc, and 2) those with a fine taste for food (free range chicken tastes better than factory farm chicken who never run around or see day light).

Now my wife and I are not well off, spending large amouts of money on organic food because it tastes so much better, nor are we out of control animal lovers (we both each meat whenever we can afford it). But we do spend extra amount on organic foods because not beause of taste, or activism, but because of Health.

Not only are organic, free range foods humane and tasty, but they are much more health for you: they don't have growth hormones, pesticides, pumped into them, and the meat has been feed what God intended for them to eat rather than artifical sources of nutrients. The factory farms are produce much lower quality foods which is contributing to Americas much lower health, and much higher cancer rate.

So I think it is interesting that the NYTimes would ignore this Health angle to the story, when for many it is their over-riding conviction on the matter, more than animal activism or food snobbery.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"If the Lord is Risen, why can't we see Him?"

I just posted an engagement with Pete Rollin's How (Not) to Speak of God.

After an appreciative summary of Pete's argument in Part One of How (Not) to Speak of God, I offer an immanent critique (a critique internal to his presuppositions) of his project. After this I outline what I see as a continuation of his project be other means, via sacramental theology, attempting to answer the question implicit in the story of the Road to Emmaus, “If the Lord is Risen, why can’t we see Him?”

Please check it out and join the discussion here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"You look like Lenin," I was told

So, about 2 minutes ago, I'm sitting in Panera, about to work on a little essay I'm writing for A man approaches me and asks me if I can help him with his computer. It keeps freezing on me. After trying for a bit to help him (which I can't because all I know how to do on computers is create Word documents and surf the web), I give up.

"You know way I asked you to help?" said the older gentleman. "Because I'm young and you figured young people know all about computers," I replied with a smile. "No! Because you reminded me a Lenin. You know I'm from Russia. You know who Lenin is, Yes? Do you know history? You look like Lenin when he was a student, your chin. He was a genius!" And with that he let me go.

Should I ponder the deeper significance of this? Or chalk it up to chance?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Where Have I Been?

Yikes! it has been an entire month and I haven't posted anything.

Well, I've studying for the GRE which is stressing me out. and our church, life on the vine, has been entering into a process of finding another pastor (actually two pastors), so while this is great for our church, it has taken a bunch of time and thought, which means less time for posting.

and lastly, i've been hanging out at we're engaging pete rollin's book, how (not) to speak of god. it has so far been a very creative and stimulating conversation.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Badiou: Event, Truth, Subject

Given my continuing interesting in Badiou and his relevance to political and theological inquiry, here is an extended summary of his understanding of the event, truth, and subjectivity,. Below is part of a larger project contrasting recent pragmatist understandings of 'social objectivity' with Badiou's 'political subjectivity'. But below is just the parts concerning Badiou on truth and subjectivity.

(If it feels like you jumped into the middle of something, it is b/c you did....
and this is a first draft)



“We shall posit that discernment is founded upon the capacity to judge (to speak of properties), and classification is founded upon the capacity to link judgments together (to speak of parts). Knowledge is realized as an encyclopaedia. An encyclopaedia must be understood here as a summation of judgements under a common determinant” (Being and Event, 328). “The encyclopaedia contains a classification of parts of the situation which group together terms having this or that explicit property” (B&E, 329). Or as we said before, all that falls within a specific norm of objectivity is considered its ‘knowledge’.

What we can see here is the deployment of language games as designators of knowledge which circumscribe ‘existence.’ What Badiou describes as the ‘encyclopaedia of knowledge’ consists of all the terms, properties, objects, and rules which have been allowed, created, or otherwise found(ed) by a language game. In this framework, only what can be made explicit by a well formed language is granted existence, and “whatever is not distinguished by a well-made language is not” (B&E 283).

To speak of ‘judging’ and ‘judgment,’ and the ideas of a well-made language should trigger Stout’s conception of ‘objectivity’ and the operations of making everything explicit. Badiou is not criticizing this conception, knowing that it is usefully deployed in understanding different situation and contexts. However, Badiou seeks to understand how these situations can change, and change drastically, especially when the resources within a situation cannot make everything explicit.

Events and Truths

So, how might something new come about? How can a new word/idea/thought be spoken? How are these new things spoken, breaking with the existing ‘knowledge’ and established ‘understanding’ of the world? We can become trapped in our language games, but not necessarily.

the margins of knowledge
This extended quote from Theoretical Writings (TW) will clarify:
“I call ‘encyclopedia’ the general system of predicative knowledge internal to a situation: i.e. what everyone knows about politics, sexual difference, culture, art, technology, etc. [But] there are certain things, statements, configurations or discursive fragments whose valence is not decidable in terms of the encyclopedia. Their valence is uncertain, floating, anonymous: they exist at the margins of the encyclopedia [of knowledge]…Nowdays, for instance, knowledge enjoins us not to decide about God; it is quite acceptable to maintain that perhaps ‘something ‘exists, or perhaps it does not. We live in a society in which no valence can be ascribed to God’s existence; a society that lays clam to a vague spirituality. Similarly, knowledge enjoins us not to decide about the possible existence of ‘another politics’ [beyond democracy]; it is talked about, but nothing comes of it. Another example: are those workers who do not have proper papers but who are working here, in France (or the United Kingdom, or the United States..) part of this country? Do they belong here? Yes, probably, since they live and work here. No, since they don’t have the necessary papers to show that they are French (or British, or American…), or living here legally. The expression ‘illegal immigrant’ designates the uncertainty of valence,…it designates people who are living here, but don’t really belong here, and hence people who can be thrown out of the country” (TW 146-7, italics added).
These terms floating at the margins of ‘knowledge’, these ‘empty signifiers,’ are unstable sites with the situations. They are areas within the encyclopeadia ready to explode and change everything.

event of truth
But how are these unstable areas ignited? They are set off by an event, blowing a hole in ‘knowledge’ and setting off a chain reaction reorganizing everything previously ‘known.’ Badiou calls this chain reaction a ‘truth procedure’, culminating in the production of a truth. For a “truth is always that which makes a hole in knowledge” (B&E 327).

What Badiou calls an event is a decision about something undecidable within a situation. “Basically, an event is what decides about a zone of encyclopedic indiscernibility” (TW 147). An event is the naming of something for which the ‘encyclopedia of knowledge’ had no language; it is the calling into existence what the situation (the encyclopeadia) did not allow. It is the calling of something out of the nothing. Examples: the Copernican event of calling the solar system ‘heliocentric’ against the knowledge claiming the sun circled the earth; the event of the French Revolution within the situation of the ancient regime; the event of special-relativity within the encyclopedia of Newtonian science.

These events lead to new truths. They don’t gives us the Truth, but open a path towards certain truths. The emergence of a particular ‘truth’ linked to a particular ‘event’ keeps us focused on the reality that truths emerge through a process, rather than being merely found as ready-made objects, and that it is not ‘the Truth’, but ‘a truth,’ which is produced in a dynamic process.

knowledge as objectivity and truth in events
So in summary, we could say that objectivity is on the side of knowledge, according to its specific norms of rationality and objects of investigation, but truth makes a hole in this knowledge, it obscures this objectivity. A truth, while being infinitely open to addition, while constantly grouping to itself different and radical combination from the situation (from the encyclopeadia), is nevertheless not gather by objectivity, but rather with a type of subjectivity.

Subjectivity without Subject

Having now traversed Badiou’s somewhat complex presentation of knowledge, objectivity, events, and truth, we are in a position to understand the question guiding our investigation: In relation to politics beyond Science (objects) and the State (subjects), “is it possible to think subjectivity without a subject?” ( Metapolitic, 64).

Why a ‘subjectivity without a subject’? This is a subjectivity without a (modern) subject because this subject does not “overlap with a psychological subject [Freud], nor even with a reflexive subject (in Descartes’s sense) or the transcendental subject (in Kant’s sense)” (Ethics, 43). A subject realizes a truth, or “we might say that the process of truth induces a subject” (Ethics, 43).

truth induces a ‘subject’
How is the truth of an event made possible? Or, how is the truth of an event known? For Badiou, the truth of an event is manifest through a faithful subject, or rather, through one subjected to the event. A truth always works its way through particular subjects, faithful to a singular event, investigating its results and connections. A subject does not produce truth (being merely a type of subjectivism); rather a truth produces a subject.
Using an example dear to Badiou, we could say that St. Paul did not produce the truth of Christianity on a subjective whim, but rather he was himself produced (/converted) by the truth of Christianity in his encounter with Christ. St. Paul was faithful to the event of truth (the resurrection), and in his declaration of this truth, became more and more subjected to it. We could say the truth made St. Paul, rather than that St. Paul made the truth.

Or, concerning Galileo, he was ceased by the truth of the heliocentric model, and faithful to this truth, he discerned and articulated the being of this truth within the reigning geocentric situation.
For this reason Badiou says, “it is abusive to say that truth is a subjective production. A subject is much rather taken up in fidelity to the event, and suspended from truth” (B&E 406). A subject is suspended from the truth because there are no free-standing, transcendental subject who finds or discovers the Truth; only those who have been subjectified by a truth, and are actively discerning its reality in the world. Or, not using the static term ‘subject’, but the dynamic ‘subjectivization’, Badiou says, “Subjectivization is that through which a truth is possible” (B&E 393).


Well, there it is. Questions please.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Badiou on Heideggar on Truth

In a previous post on Badiou and Truth I summarized the 'structure of Truth' but not Badiou's understand of a 'truth procedure' and the becoming new of a truth. Also, in the comments, John noted a similarity between Heideggar and Badiou. I will take up these issues in reference to Badiou’s “Philosophy and Truth” in Infinite Thought.

Badiou starts with four fundamental theses on truth:

1) Starting from Hiedeggar, there is no other solution to the question of truth than that of the poem. While, as John noted, Badiou might seem similar to Hiedeggar, he is actually opposed to him. B. argues that the for H., only the poem can properly reveal Being, and also our being-in-the-world (this movement to the poem, while latent in B&T is in full blown in the later writings). For H., Dasein is always already in the 'truth' of being. Before the 'truth' of assertions, Dasein is in the Truth, the primordial Truth of Being of which he falls into forgetfulness through predication/metaphysics. But equally, Dasein is in the un-truth, or is in erring. But for Badiou, we are never simply in the 'truth' because truths are new and unexpected. For Badiou, Truth is not a structure of our being, but something that becomes. And the best way to speak of this newness of Truth is not through the poem (as for Heideggar) but through mathematics (a mathematics of which H. would have no part).

2) But to move beyond the poem we must also distinguish truth from the narrow form of proposition and judgment of the analytic tradition. So truth is neither the poem nor proposition.

3) so “we must conceive of a truth both as the construction of a fidelity to an event, and as the generic potency of a transformation of a domain of knowledge” (43).

4) In light of the above, the essential categories of truth are negative: undecidablity, indiscernibiltiy, the generic not-all, and the unnameable.

After passing through a couple comments on Hiedeggar’s concept of truth, Badiou begins his own ideas, begin with the distinction between knowledge and truth, with truth as a becoming of something new. It is worth quoting a lengthy section:
“I will start from the following idea: a truth is, first of all, something new. What transmits, what repeats, we shall call knowledge. Distinguishing truth from knowledge is essential. It is a distinction that is already made in the work of Kant: the distinction between reason and understanding. It is a capital distinction for Heidegger: the distinction between truth—alethia—and cognition or science—techne.” (45)
If a truth is distinguished from knowledge, as the becoming of something new, then what is the process of its appearing? “A truth must be sumitted to thought, not as a judgment, but as a process in the real” (45). This begins an examination of what Badiou calls the “truth process,” filling out the four negative of truth.

The process of a truth begins when something happens, where there is an event. Knowledge is a repetition of what we already know, of common sense and received knowledge. Truth is a supplement to knowledge, and knowledge is always of what exists, of what is, so Truth is something that happen as a becoming beyond what already is. This is initiated in the event. The event is the first negative of truth: the undecidable, because the realm of knowledge cannot decide if this thing called the event actually exists. But the undecidability of the event is such that it induces a subject, a subject which decides that the event did indeed happen, that it does exist, and this subject is constituted in this act of decidinig to be faithful to the event. Fidelity is the nature of the subject of the event, through the decision, is caught between two indiscernibles. Two concepts are indiscernible when no language game can distinguish between them. But the subject of truth, does distinguish between them based on his fidelity to the event. From the faithful discernment of the Subject, between indiscernible concepts, the process of the truth continues, producing a generic subset within the previous situation of knowledge. The generic subset can never be fully named, otherwise it would fall under the rule of knowledge and under the sway of mere existence. The process of truth in its becoming can never be fully realizing, and therefore always has the unnameable as its limit. In fact, for Badiou, the forcing of a truth into total nomination, is the basis of Evil.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Badiou on Truth and the (re)turn of Philosophy

This is my summary of Badiou's “The (Re)turn of Philosophy Itself” found in his Manifesto for Philosophy. As you will see, there are many similarities as well as divergences with American pragmatism, of which I had earlier hinted.


This essay is laid out in a series of thesis/propositions. But we will not engage all of them, only the once pertinent to Badiou’s understanding of truth and philosophy.

Thesis 1: Philosophy today is paralyzed by its relation to its own history.

Thesis 2: Philosophy must break, from within itself, with historicism. This break with history is to assume a definition of philosophy which will judge the history of philosophy, rather than the other way around.

These 3: A definition of philosophy exists. But this definition must distinguish itself from modern sophistry. “Who are the modern sophists? The modern sophists are those that, in the footsteps of the great Wittgenstein, maintain that thought is held to the following alternative: either effects of discourse, language games, or the silent indication, the pure ‘showing’ of something subtracted from the clutches of language. Those for whom the fundamental opposition is not between truth and error or wondering, but between speech and silence, between what can be said and what is impossible to say…The modern sophist attempts to replace the idea of truth with the idea of rule.” (117).

So, Thesis 4a: Every definition of philosophy must distinguish it from sophistry.
Thesis 4b: The category of truth is the central category, be it under another name, of any possible philosophy.

Now this (re)turn of philosophy to the category of truth flows through Plato. Why? Well, for all those claiming the End of Metaphysics, they point out that Plato was the down fall, the “moment of the launching of metaphysics” (121). For Badiou, both continental philosophy following Heideggar and analytic philosophy following Carnap proclaim the end of metaphysics, the end of Plato, the emblem of metaphysics. But, Badiou wants to announce the end of the “End of metaphysics” and announce the return of philosophy, of truth, and therefore of Plato. Badiou, in other writing proclaims a return to a “Plato of the multiple”, the multiple of set theory.

So, continuing on from thesis 4b, Badiou sketches the category of truth, in another list.
1) “Prior to philosophy, a ‘prior to’ that is not temporal, there are truths. These truths are heterogeneous, and proceed within the real independently of philosophy” (123). These truths are the sites of/for philosophy. There are four sites (for Badiou’s Plato): Mathematics, Art, Love, Politics.

2) “Philosophy is a construction of thinking wherein the fact that there are truths is proclaimed against sophistry. But this central proclamation supposes a strictly philosophical category, the Truth.” There is a relationship between the multiple truths and the Truth, such that we can maintain the “plural state of things (there are heterogeneous truths) and the unity of thought”(123).

3) “The philosophical category of Truth is by itself void. It operates but presents nothing. Philosophy is not a production of truth, but an operation from truths”(124) When Badiou speaks of the void, he is not talking of some vague, existentialist notion of angst, nor of the beyond being of God, but of the mathematical void of set theory, the null/void set from which all other sets are built. Badiou points out that this is the fundamental crossing of philosophy and mathematics (ontology = mathematics), and that while Truth is an operational void, it is not the void of being. The Truth is a logical void, not ontological (but to illuminate this will get us a bit off track). So,

4) “What is the structure of this operation?” (124). The structure of this operation borrows from the discourse of philosophy’s two longstanding opponents: the sophist (dialectical reasoning, endless definitions, proofs and refutations) and the poet (metaphor, images, myths, and narrative). The Truth is the un-known of sophists fictive knowledge, and the un-utterable of fictive art (125). Truth is a set of tongs or pincers, one side being the being argumentative proofs (sophistry) and the other being subjective potency (art).

5) “The pincers of Truth, which link and sublimate, have a duty to seize truths”(126). Philosophical Truth seizes truths, captures them for thought.

This seizing of Truth by the thought of philosophy can also be thought of as “subtractive”, based in the thought of the void. Philosophy subtracts thought from the maze of sense, from the hold of presentation, for the Truth is never merely presented, it has no immediate presentation. This seizing effect of philosophy (seizing the truths of life for thought) is “first and foremost a rupture with the narrative and with commentary about the narrative…Philosophy separates itself from religion because it separates itself from hermeneutics” (127).

Now, in the above, Badiou has outlined the ‘structure’ of the operation of Truth, but not what he calls a “truth procedure” or the “procedure of truth.” This will have to wait for another time. From here Badiou examines some consequences of (mis)understanding this conception of Truth.

One misunderstand is to confuse the condition of Truth (which are the truths of mathematics, art, politics, and love) with the operation (which is empty, formal) of Truth. We can’t think of particular truths as identical to the operation of Truth. Philosophy is not identical with art (Nietzsche/Heideggar), politics (Plato/Marx), love (Pascal/Kierkegaard), or science (Husserl/Carnap) (129). The Truth is never found in the being of these situations (art, mathematics, politics, love); Truth is not!

For Badiou, to claim that Truth is, to substantialize Truth, is to give up on truths, the multiplicity of life, and reinstate the One, the God of metaphysics. Badiou is for the metaphysic of the multiple, the “Plato of the multiple” but not the “Plato of the One” beyond being. Badiou does not want anything to do with the beyond being, the sacralization of eternity or infinite, because eternity/infinity can both be happily understood via set theory, one of the conditions (truths, ‘mathematics’) of philosophy. And for Badiou, via Derriad, Levinas and Ricoeur, sophistry leaves the door way too wide open for religion to enter back in.

Badiou ends the essay with this helpful summary:
“Asserting the end of philosophy and the irrelevance of Truth is strictly a sophistic appraise of the century (speaking of the disaster of the 20th century toward which much continental philosophy is directed)…Language games, deconstruction, feeble thinking, irremediable heterogeneity, differends and differences, the ruin of Reason, the promotion of the fragment and discourse in shreds: all of these argue in favor of a sophistic live of thinking and place philosophy at an impasse.”

Against this reign of sophistry, Badiou ends with,
Thesis 5a: Philosophy is possible.
Thesis 5b: Philosophy is necessary.

On this return of Truth, the return of philosophy, the seizing of truths, Badiou claims that while Truth is not, it is becoming, and this becoming is the work of philosophy, such that Badiou can affirm with Marx, the “point is to change the world.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Augmented Reality and Google Maps

I just saw this over at fast company: Geo-Coupons Land On Google Maps.

I think all the new map software is pretty interesting, but I'm wondering about its effects on culture. For one, it continues to reduce the world and put everything on a grid. In this sense, of course, map making is the epitome of modernity: rational presentation of an area of study.

Also, this illustrates what many have been calling the shift from virtual reality to augmented reality. Instead of escaping reality for a 'reality' of ones own making, you simply augment the reality you are participating in via carrying a computer with you everywhere. This augmented reality is already seen in "on-star" in car, the proliferation of portable computers, cells phones, and PDAs, and I think will continue making in-roads through eye-wear.

As with all technology, there will the be good with the bad on this. I'm hoping that this will open up the door to receiving a renewed sacramental theology in all areas of life; but it very well might turn narcissistic.

Theology's Conversation Partners: Continental, Analytic, or Beyond?

This is a summary and my response to a article over at first things brought to my attention at GO Thinktank, where I originally posted this.


Reno begins with a distinction between foundationalism and anti-foundationalism, with modernity championing the former and postmodernity the latter. Reno asks, Against the appeal of postmodern thought and its reveling in the positive side of nihilism (Vattimo), must we revert back to a foundationalist enterprise? Must we either, in rejecting violent universalizing discourse, embrace postmodern thought and its loss of Truth, or embrace a foundationalist Truth?

Reno answers, No. You can be post-foundational, yet retain truth, in analytic philosophy!

Drawing on the history of philosophy, he draws a line between ancient philosophy as "way of life", a "disciple of the soul," where as scholastic philosophy "does not so much sing about the meaning of life as prepare for, clarify, order, support, and clear away interruptions to the song sung according to another score." (please see the very helpful commenton the difference between "playing music" and "music criticism" by cynthia). Analytic philosophy has taken the mantle of this scholastic understanding, while continental philosophy has spoken in the dialect of the ancients.

But analytic philosophy is not a foundationalist discourse (in a sense) and ought to be embraced in it scholastic function, rather than passed over as a conversation partner in favor of the more prophetic continental discourse.

He concludes with affirming the analytic tradition as holding out the most promise "as a suitable conversation partner for theology in the crucial jobs of strengthening the doctrinal backbone of theology and restoring a culture of truth.

That is the gist of Reno's offering:
please, no more continental philosophy; analytic is very heplful.

My response:

I concede that analytic philosophy might be very helpful for all the reasons Reno suggested, and I even concede that continental philosophy in its nihilistic revelling betrays Christian doctrine.

The question for me is: How do we keep ideology (idolatry) critique, yet not lose truth? The continental tradition majors in the former, while the analytic tradition majors in the latter. But we need both.

And, using Reno’s own typology, I would say that many theologians gravitating toward the continental tradition also resonate with the understanding of philosophy/theology as “way of life”, as a “disciple of the soul/community.” This is why Marx’s statement, “Philosophy is about understanding the world, but the point is to change it!” resonates so deeply (is this a theory/praxis spilt? Perhaps yes; perhaps no.)

And in this post-Christendom situation, is the goal to restore Christendom (a culture of Truth, as Reno affirms), or is it something else. That something "else" is as "a way of life" is why it makes it hard to jump into analytic philosophy.

However, I would end with another alternative to either the post-foundationalist nihilistic postmodernity or post-foundationalist analytic philosophy: the emerging philosophies of the likes of Badiou and Zizek (based in Lacan) who equally draw from and challenge both traditions (especially pomo), but retain truth beyond foundations.

So, for a post-foundational philosopher who still trades in “truth” and the “universal,” I suggest Badiou's being and event as a good start.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

it's a saddleback day

So in my readers i find saddleback all over the place: from rick warren's list of how not to be sexually tempted (via the revealer) to a mash up over at fast company, comparing the purpose driven church and tribal knowledge. interesting, no?

over at C&P

I will be over at C&P (the church and postmodern culture conversation). We are beginning our engagement with james k.a. smith's new "who's afriad of postmodernism?"

So I won't be posting much for a little bit.

but come join us. It should be interesting.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ricoeur on Levinas: “Self” between the “I” and its overthrow

I’ll just jump right into Oneself as Another to explain R.’s reading of Levinas, and an approach to pragmatism and political versions of phychoanalysis.

The basic thesis, explored through the many detours of ‘sematics,’ ‘action theory,’ ‘narrative temporality of the self,’ and ‘moral/ethical obligations,’ is that “the selfhood of oneself implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one cannot be thought of without the other, that instead one passes into the other, as we might say in Hegelian terms” (3). This selfhood, or just the self, is to be distinguish both from the ‘cogito’ (Descartes is paradigmatic) and the cogito’s shattering (a la Nietzsche). “The quarrel over the cogit, in which the “I is by turns in a position of strength and of weakness, seems to me the best way to being out the problematic of the self…[namely] that the hermeneutics of the self is placed at an equal distance from the apology of the cogito and from its overthrow”(4). We could say that the cogito which posits itself (its world) begins with Descartes and its modern variants, while its overthrow is exemplified in Nietzsche and his postmodern offspring.

Now, skippng about 300 pages, and landing in R.’s sustained reading of both Husserl and Levinas, we find out that they are the latest incarnations of the cogito (Husserl) and its over throw (Levinas). The gist of it is that both presuppose an asymmetrical relationship between the cogito and its other. Husserl, beginning from a phenomenological position, posits the ego, master of its world, which then must somehow account for alter egos, those ‘people’ who must be assumed to have a cogito as I do, but I can’t really prove it. Husserl finds it difficult not to be solipsistic. Now, for Levinas, he begins from the opposite pole, that of the Other. This Other breaks all the pretensions of the “I” and its knowledge and truths. The asymmetrical relationship comes from the Other to the ego, and overwhelms the ego. The problem with both views is that they absolutize the poles of Same and Other. In fact, R. claims that these perspectives are symmetrical, or mirror of each other, in that to consistently how to one position, you must also hold the other, for “The two movements do not annihilare one another to the extent that one unfold in the gnoselogical dimension of the sense, and the other in the ethical dimension of injunction”(341). The problem is that from these original asymmetrical position, it is almost impossible to account for ‘everyday’ experiences of reciprocity.

The problem for R. in both of these approaches is that they neither the realm of the Same nor the Other ought to be absolutized. Instead, we must admit that “Same” or identity is split between idem-identity and ipse-identity, which means, somewhat like Freud, the self (ipse-identity) is not the ‘cogito’ or “I” (idem-identity), and because of this, the Other is split (The Other is not identical to itself). So back to Levinas, R. claims that Levinas makes a mistake by only allowing the Other to find its trace in the face of the other person. Ricoeur wants to place the Other, not only (1) in the face of the other person, (2) but also into the divide between the self and its body/flesh (the experience of your own body is an encounter with Otherness), and (3) between the self and its conscience (Conscience as some Other voice in your head, from God, the anscestors, other people).

At the end of all this, and more so in The Course of Recognition, ch. 3, R. moves toward a Hegelian understanding of reciprocity as the constitution of selfhood, rather than an original asymmetry. So the ‘self’ is situated between the sameness of the cogito, and it shattering by the Other, where the self is always already, othered in various ways.

This turn toward Hegel has also been heralded by two other schools of thought (but in very different ways). American pragmatism has taken up Hegel’s critique of the social contract and his theories of sociality, and Continental/philosophical psychoanalysis (of the Lacanian variety, as to be distinguished from the American reception of Freud) also has taken up Hegel’s master slave dialectic (via Lacan’s appropriation of Kojeve’s reading of Hegel).

So, both of these Schools are now my playground, and I will take leave of Levinas for now. Thank you, and good night.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

(Dis)interested in Levinas?

(back to Levinas. The 3rd party must wait for meaningless philosophy!)

The reasion I am (dis)interested in Levinas is because of many contrasting themes and approaches to other philosophers I’ve been reading (of which I’ve already noted from Badiou and Zizek), all of which have political/ethical ramifications.

Briefly, concerning Lacan, I note:

1) the similarity that the subject is broken from something Other (for Levinas it is the Infinite of the Other outside; for Lacan it is the unconscious inside, which Zizek calls the Inhuman).

2) For Levinas it is the Desire (the disinterested desire) which reveals the Other before us, but, oppositely, for Lacan it is desire which ensnares/captures us in the Other (which dominates us), for we don’t have a Desire (interested or not), but rather we are always overtaken by the “desire of the Other,” the “Other’s Desire” within us.

3) For Levinas the goal is to give up on Desire (to be dis-interested), but for Lacan the goal is to ‘never give up on your desire,’ with the emphasis on your desire, not the Other's desire.

4) For Levinas the trauma is the Infinite outside us, but for Lacan it is the Inhuman within us (the death drive).

Each of these contrasts highlight the fundamental difference between the ethical uses of Levinas, and the more recent political uses of Lacan (via Badiou and Zizek).

But before I get to this ethical/poltical divide, I will finish these reflections on Levinas via Riceour. So soon I’ll note how Riceour helpfully (dis)places Levinas, and offers a helpful move forward through Hegel, which will set up the problematic between American pragmatism (its use of Hegel) and Zizekian psychoanalytic(ism?) (and its use of Hegel via Lacan via Hegel via…).

till then...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Third Party- christians and politics

(Let's take a break from philosophy)

Senator Lieberman has lost his bit for re-election in the primary for Connecticut, but has decided to run as an independent candidate.

Now many in the EC and beyond are talking about what it means for the church to be political (does the Church have its own politic, if not the Christian Right then the Left?, and such). I for one have felt the Sojourners option to feel like a Christendom of the Left and that Jim Wallis sounds like he's more for the Democratic Party than anything else (yes I need to nuance more!).

I have recently thought that if Christians really are meant to engage in national politics, then the most important contribution would be to form a viable Third Part (either with a platform or coalition of independent candidates).

So along with Lieberman (who is Jewish), perhaps Christian politicians should pull the plug on their party affiliation, and form a Third Party. A Third Party would be a truly astonishing political innovation in America.

So Let's do it! (err, wait! maybe I should think about this for a couple of years...)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

a slow blog = slog

(I posted this over at, but I thought since it also rings true for this blog, that I might as well...)

Many of you have probably heard of the slow food movment (against the fast food industry), and perhaps even a slow life city (heralding a slow pace, slow education, slow industry, and slow aging). But what about slow blogging, or slogging? (Slow + Blogging = Slogging)

If you are looking for the next microwaved ‘critical theory’ with a side of canned theology, sprinkled with cheesy pop cultural references, then maybe this won’t work out for you.

But if you like things to simmer and stew for a bit, if you like chopping up the salad (adding those sugared walnuts), and setting the table with a reasonable argument, then pull up a chair and let’s have a conversation.

for the time being aims to be, hopes to be, longs to be, a place where we can reason together (and maybe argue a bit, together). And to do that takes a little time. So that is why we hope to be a SLOG, a Slow Blog.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Levinas' Infinite Trauma

(More on the in-breaking of the Infinite from Levinas)

So far my theme from Levinas has been the infinite, not to the neglect of the Other, a persistent theme of L.’s, but rather as a way of understanding how, beyond the phenomenological horizon, the Other break in from a height, from an elevation of transcendence, beyond that of Being (which goes under the guises of Subject, "I", consciouseness, Same, experience, theme, or horizon). The linking of the Other, Being, Infinite, and the Subject are my concerns (especially as they relate to the work of Badiou, who fundamentally disagrees and seeks to subvert all the work of Levinas, more on that later).

So, more on the Infinite from “God and Philosophy.”

The problem guiding Levinas in this essay is the challenge from Derrida that “Not to philosophize is still to philosophize,” drawing attention to Levinas’ hopes of escaping Greek Onto-theo-logy into Judean Ethics of the Other. Levinas’ response is to question whether or not God, the Other, the tout autre, can “be exposed in a rational discourse which would b neither ontology nor faith” (131), a discourse beyond the opposition of the God of philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (as Pascal likes to say).

Levinas thinks there can be. And after many twists and turns, blind alleys of the phenomenon and “no outlets” of the Same, Levinas returns to the ‘idea of the infinite’ as that which is constitutive of thought while at the same time its ‘beyond’, the condition of subjectivity as totally beyond the subject.

Let me stitch a quote together from page 138.

“The figure of the Infintie-put-in-me, and according to Descartes, contemporaneous with my creation, would mean that the not-being-able-to-comprehend-the Infinite-by-thought is somehow a positive relationship with this thought…The not-being-able-to-comprehend-the Infinite-by-thought would signify the condition—or the unconditionality—of thought…The Infinite affects thought by devastating it and at the same time calls upon it; in a “putting it back in its place” it puts thought in place. It awakens it. The awakening of thought is not a welcoming of the Infinite, is not a recollecting, not an assuming, which are necessary and sufficient for experience. The idea of the Infinite puts these in question….The infinite signifies precisely prior to its manifestation.”
Levinas continues by asking what is the meaning of this “idea of the Infinite” put into me, why is it there at all. The idea of the infinite awakens a desire in the subject (which is the very shattering of the subject) for a Desire beyond all end or utility, beyond all enjoyment or pleasure (all of which is merely a desire for being, and its ‘interests’). The desire for/of the beyond the finite is a dis-interested Desire, for “Affected by the infinite, Desire cannot proceed to and end which it would be equal to” (140), but rather an end totally unequal, non-reciprical, utterly dissymmetrical to the Subject, and is therefore the Desire for the Other.

The Good
In this the idea of the Infinite (which is the condition and devastation of the Subject, of Thought) subjects us to our responsibility to the Other, which is the Good, or goodness. For “to be good is a deficit, waste and foolishness in a being; to be good is excellence and elevation beyond being. Ethics is not a moment of being; it is otherwise and better than being, the very possibility of the beyond” (141).

The Trauma
This idea of the Infinite, which affects a Desire beyond interestedness, soliciting the Other and the Good, is “a trauma that could never be assumed; it consisted in being struck by the “in” of the infinity which devastates presence and awakens subjectivity to the proximity of the other.” “This trauma, which cannot be assumed, inflicted by the Infinite on presence, or this affecting of presence by the Infinite—this affectivity—takes shape as a subjection to the neighbor. It is thought thinking more than it thinks, desire, the reference to the neighbor, the responsibility for another.”


Phew (brush the sweat from your brow, drink a cup of water)…and wonder why you ever read this blog. I have more, put I will stop today.

Questions? (like why do you do this?)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Levinas on Levinas

Recently I’ve been working through Badiou’s and Zizek’s complaints with Levinas, so I thought that perhaps I ought to work through Levinas himself.

So here are some quotes/thoughts from his Basic Philosophical Writings (all paginations from this text). The themes which interest me (and I know Levinas hates the ‘thematic’) are ‘subjectivity’, the Infinite, and language. So of course there will the themes of Freedom, Desire, Substitution, and others which I will pass over. Today will be his essays on "Is Ontology Fundamental" and "Transcedence and Height", and later will be his "God and Philosophy".

“Is Ontology Fundamental?”

In this early work L. is seeking to resituate phenomenology, opening a door (or rather taking the roof off) toward a height of transcendence beyond the mere horizon of Being, which locks everything into the immanence of the Same. The relation with the Other, as toward a Height beyond the Horizon of Being, is one of language (a language preceding ontology) which is full of invocation, calling, and response which is the relation of Ethic to the Face of the Other.

So, he begins, “The pages that follow will attempt to characterize in a very general way this relation which is irreducible to comprehension,” a comprehension resting in the openness of being. The understanding of a particular being is always against the horizon of Being, a being’s openness and going beyond itself to Being. “To comprehend the particular being is already to place oneself beyond the particular. To comprehend is to be related to the particular that only exists through knowledge, which is always knowledge of the universal.”(p. 5)

But, Levinas maintains, the relation with the Other is not one of comprehension where the being we perceive is stands out upon the horizon of Being, because in relation to the Other “he is a being and counts as such” without reference to a horizon. The Other presents a being without it also presenting an openness to Being (nor comprehension, nor knowledge). Hence, the Other is a (particular) being which escapes the openness/horizon of Being (universal), and as such is not enclosed by our themes or projects (against Heideggar). “The other is not an object of comprehension first and an interlocutor second….The comprehension of the other is inseparable from his invocation.” And it is this speaking, this language, which precedes ontology, a speaking to the particular as particular, neglecting his universal being. This relation which precedes ontology, irreducible to representation or comprehension, is an ethical relation. This relation to a particular being in one of invocation, of address, demanding a response.

So, “In relation to beings in the opening of being, comprehension finds a signification for them on the basis of being. In this sense, it does not invoke these beings but only names them, thus accomplishing a violence and a negation”(p 9). So while the knowledge of being(s) only names, and is therefore nominalist, the relation which invokes, which calls to us, which exceeds comprehension, is that of the ethical. “A being as such (and not as incarnation of universal being) can only be in a relation where we speak to this being. A being is a human being and it is as a neighbor that a human being is accessible—as a face” (8).

The face of the other witnesses to this (ethical, non-ontological) relation with a depth/height, rather than as a horizon, which carries a significance not established by the horizon of Being, but rather a face which signifies itself. “To comprehension and signification grasped within a horizon, we oppose the signifyingness of the face” (10) which comes from a height.

[This transparency of the ‘face’ as self-signifying (without recourse to the horizon of Being) with what Zizek questions. Not because Zizek wants to bring back the horizon, but rather to question whether the ‘face’ is not already a mask provided by the symbolic order to keep us from our neighbors.]


Moving on to “Transcendence and Height” which was published just after “Totality and Infinity”. In this essay L. moves from questioning philosophy (as phenomenology), to the questioning of me by the Other, to the question of Infinity as the invasion of what is beyond being (the Other) into the immanence of the Same.

“The Other thus presents itself as human Other; it shows a face and opens the dimension of height, that is to say, it infinitely overflows the bounds of knowledge” (p. 12).

Levinas argues that philosophy is assimilation, is adequation of knowledge/representation to Reality where every true Other is made into the Same. The “I of knowledge is at once the Same par excellence, the very event of identification and the melting pot where every Other is transmuted into the Same” (p 13), but “the resistance of the Other to the Same is the failure of philosophy” (p. 14). The myth of philosophy is broken in the intrusion of the Other. “The myth of legislative consciousness of things, where difference and identity are reconciled, is the great myth of philosophy. It rests upon the totalitarianism or imperialism of the Same.” The Other, the face of the Other, resists this totalitarianism. This Other which resist the pretension of the I, of consciousness, demands a responds in which my respons(ibility) is founded.

The cogito of Descartes, the ego of Kant, the I of Husserl, and the Dasien of Heideggar, are all punctured by this approach of the Other, who before ontology calls be to respond, to ethical responsibility. This provocation is nothing other than that of the Infinite. “The Other who provokes this ethical movement in consciousness and who disturbs the good conscience of the Same’s coincidence with itself compromises a surplus which is inadequate to ntentionality. Because of this inassimilable surplus, we have called the relation which binds the I to the Other is the idea of the infinite. “The idea of the infinite consists precisely and paradoxically in thinking more than what is thought while nevertheless conserving it in its excessive relation to thought. The idea of the infinite consists in grasping the ungraspable while nevertheless guaranteeing its status as ungraspable” (p. 19).

This idea of the infinite takes thought outside of immanence, outside of being. Through this idea, which Descartes introduces into his through, shatters immanence. This Cartesiansim is akin to Plato who seeks a ‘beyond being’ attesting to the thought that the idea of being is younger than the idea of the infinite (p. 21).

So, from philosophy of the Same (and its I), to its shattering before the face of the Other, to the idea of the Infinite, ontology is not first philosophy, rather, ethics is.


Well that is enough for now. I've mostly been summarizing rather than reflecting/engaging. I certainly need to think through more how this has worked out in the Emerging Church (for good/ill) and what we should be doing with it.

Soon I’ll post on L. “Essence and Dissinteredness” and “God and Philosophy” where many of the same themes are cover albeit in a different way.

Monday, July 31, 2006

the subversion of community

reflection on Psalm 15.

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Liberal (and many Evangelical) Communities typically become places to repair individuals (such that the community exists so the needs of individuals can be met) or places where the goals of the community replaces the individual (such that the individual must denied her desires/needs). These are the typical poles of community/individual.

But as I said before, the true poles are community and worship. As we look at worship the contours of community with appear. As we gaze at community, we will gather the lines of true worship.

The 'individual' was created when man disengaged from community (from a relationship with the Communal (Triune) God), resulting in alienated/antagonistic relationships among God and mankind, and between mankind. The poles of community/individual assume a fundamental (ontological) violence which governs relationships (even all of reality). But starting w/ the goodness of creation (including mankind) Christians assume a fundamental peace in creation that has been disrupted leading to antagonism. The only way back toward this peace/shalon beyond the violence b/w the community and individual, and between individual (competing) communities is through a prophetic connection with our Creator, which is through worship.

What I mean is not the sunday morning "worship" of singing, reading Scripture, preaching, etc. Too often this just becomes the simulacra of community, the gathering of individuals (but not necessarily). Let's turn to Psalm 15 which started all this in me this week. It begins with the question of worship, the presence/connection of God. "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on you holy hill?" Answering this question is a one sentence (going on for five verse) explaining the practices of community: people should act righteously, speak truthfully/ not lie or slander, be good neighbors/not cheat, keep promises, and share money. The short psalm ends by bring in the individual, "He who does these tings will never be shaken." At the beginning is a question of worship; at the end is a statement concering the individual, with community tying them securely together. And this is nothing new for the OT prophets continually linked the true worship God with the practices of the people; rites and rituals enacted without righteous relationships are considered vain.

How do we stand against/within a Consumer Capitalism, splintering us into indvidual needs and markets? How do we seek and sustan economic justices amid "communities" of class/race/gender? How do we display an alternative to the Power of desire, the will to dominate through individual choices? How can we sustain unity amid diversity? We won't through the dialectics of community/individual. But as we worship/reconnect with God through worship, as we reorient our direction toward peace instead of violence, as we enter into the communal practices of forgiveness, truth, love, gift-giving, sacrifice (which is true worship) then we will see community flourish, growings spontaneously, organically in the soil of life shared together. Only then will artifical community, its synthetic copy, be seen as it really is. We need to replace the plastic flowers (of simulated community) which we placed around our churches to give it more life, with real plants. Only the will we become of subversive community witnessing of the kindgom.

So, community/individual or community/worship? What have I missed? What do we do now? What is over/under-stated?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Beyond Liberal Community

The idea of "community" is like the sun. The more we stare at it the less we see.

Or rather, community is like Happiness, which if pursued outright always escapes us, leaving a narcissistic void (much like most discusions of worship seem to miss the essence).

Rather than a direct apprehesion or formation of community, we must think more tangentally. We cannot begin with a direct relationship between individuals separate, and then individuals together. Rather we have to ask, What environment leads toward community? What soil is needed? Which nutrients can we add? We can't build community industrially; only prepare for its blooming organically.

In the discussion there are two dialectic poles that we circle around: the community and the individual; the collective and the singular (which comes to us through the modern political tension of state and citizen: one keeps order and limits freedom; the other expects freedom and creates disorder.) But these are not opposites, merely the division of a single concept (the concept of liberal Freedom). But man is communal from the beginning; individuals only come into existence when we forget this, or rebel against it. The individual was created at the Fall. But to be truly human is to be communal, in the image of the Triune God.

Because of this, it is my contention that the true dialectic poles are community and worship. Each is the shadow of the other; only through staring at one can we gather the outlines of the other. More on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the simulacra of community

the simulacra of community: the gathering of individuals.

where is community? What does it look like? too often our search for community ends in a cheap simulation, a simulacra, and the church is most complicit in this illusion. Churches aren't called "Church" anymore; they're called "communities" of Christ, faith, friendship, whatever you want. Yet rarely is community reached? Why? Because we reach for the ideal of community without its practices. It's like trying to be spiritual without the spiritual disciplines.

our theraputic culture treats community as merely as the place to repair/fix/reaffirm individuals (this is best seen in our bible studies and prayer groups). Statements like "I want a community that will let me (fill in the blank)..." continue the individualized/privatized nature of our culture. The self-help culture has clothed itself in the garb of Christian community to legitemate a shallow narcissism. The concrete practices of community- forgiveness, reconcilation, repentance, and sacrifice, hospitality- are foriegn to our culture that tries to build community around the motto that "I'm OK and you're OK."

Our culture wants a nice (simulated) community, but Christianity offers a messy (real) community.

So what does this have to say about those in the emerging church who perpetuate/multiply ad infinitum descrete subcultures in the name of relevant community? Is the emerging church a technologically advanced simulation of community? or the real deal?

these thoughts prompted by "Embodying Forgiveness";
and for more on this see post-community and tells me what you think

Friday, July 21, 2006

Zizek on Levinas: Smashing the Neighbors Face

While the argument in this essay meanders among many topics (as do all of Zizek’s writing), I’m going to focus on the twists and turns of Zizek’s complaint against Levinas.


In the face of our neighbor, do we glimpse the Other as transcendent ground of ethical relations, or spy a terrifying monstrosity from which we hope to turn away?


Facing Others

For Zizek, the topic of the Other must be analyzed through the Lacanian registers of the imaginary, Symbolic, and the Real. Imaginary others- “other people ‘like me,’ my fellow human beings with whom I am engaged in the mirrorlike relationships of competition, mutual recognition, and so forth.” Symbolic ‘big Other’- “the ‘substance’ of our social existence, the impersonal set of rules that coordinate our coexistence.” The ‘Other qua Real’- “the impossible Thing, the ‘inhuman partner,’ the Other with whom no symmetrical dialogue, mediated by the symbolic Order, is possible…And it is crucial to perceive how these three dimensions are hooked up. The neighbor as the Thing means that, beneath the neighbor as my semblant, my mirror image, there always lurks the unfathomable abyss of radical Otherness, of a monstrous Thing that cannot be ‘gentrified’”(143).

Or we could say, between the imaginary others (other people) of narcissism and the impenetrable Real Other steps the symbolic Other, gentrifying the chaos.

“In order to render our coexistence with the Thing minimally bearable, the symbolic order qua Third, the pacifying mediator, has to intervene: the “gentrification” of the Other-Thing into a ‘normal human fellow’ cannot occur through our direct interaction, but presupposes the third agency to which we both submit ourselves—there is no intersubjectivity (no symmetrical, shared, relation between humans) without the impersonal symbolic Order.” (143-4)

For Levinas “the Other who addresses me with the unconditional call and thus constitutes me as an ethical subject is—in spite of the fact that this is an absolutely heteronomous call which commands me and so comes from a height—the human other, the face, the transcendental form of the neighbor as radical Other.” 145. Hence Levinas says, “To seeks truth, I have already established a relationship with a face which can guarantee itself, whose epiphany itself is somehow a word of honor. Every language as an exchange of verbal signs refers already to this primordial word of honor…deceit and veracity already presuppose the absolute authenticity of the face” (146, quoted from Totality and Infinity, 202).

This self-referential face of the other is meant to serve as a non-linguistic point of encounter breaking the “vicious circularity of the symbolic order” (146). To encounter the face, for Levinas, is to side step the mediation of the ‘big Other’ of the symbolic order, and engage the neighbor-as-Other. This is meant to circumvent the presencing of "ontology" and "metaphysics" as well as the cultural order.

But for Zizek, via Lacanian psychoanalysis, the human face is already consumed by the symbolic order, it is already engaged as that which gentrifies the “terrifying Thing that is the ultimate reality of our neighbors” (146). The Other qua Real is never revealed in the face of the neighbor, but rather in defacement, when the Real/Unconscious of the Other as Subject breaks through mild manner face; the the inhumanity of the human neighbor is manifest.

The inhuman: the monstrous beyond of the face

“What Levinas fails to include into the scope of ‘human’ is, rather, the inhuman itself, a dimension which eludes the face-to-face relationship of humans” (158). Just as with the undead, which are neither dead nor alive, but rather a monstrous ‘living dead’, so to the inhuman is neither human nor non-human (animal or divine), but “marked by a terrifying excess which, although it negates what we understand as ‘humanity,’ is inherent to being-human.” To illustrate, Zizek turns to reason: for pre-moderns humans were rational beings struggling between merely animal lusts and divine madness. But after Kant, this madness is part of reason itself. In the pre-Kantian universe, when “a hero goes mad, it means he is deprived of his humanity, in other words, the animal passions or divine madness took over, while with Kant, madness signals the unconstrained explosion of the very core of a human being” (160).

Or another example, the difference between animals and humans is not that humans are homeless, deprived of instinctual support, in need of a “second nature”, of symbolic norms and regulations; in short, in need of civilization (the standard anthropological account via Geertz). Rather, the difference which “defines a human being is therefore, not the difference between human and animal (or any other real or imaginary species, such as gods), but an inherent difference, the difference between human and the inhuman excess that is inherent to being-human” (175).

“What Levinas fails to take into account is not some underlying Sameness of all humans but the radical, ‘inhuman’ Otherness itself: the Otherness of a human being reduced to inhumanity” (160). Zizek’s question is whether we understand neighbor as “the bearer of a monstrous Otherness, [the] properly inhuman neighbor” as the same as the “neighbor that we encounter in the Levinasian experience of the Other’s face?” (162). For Zizek the answer is, No.

So what is Levinas’ main failing? It is not trying to circumvent the symbolic order, the ‘big Other,’ through postulating an encounter with the human face as a window toward the transcendent, but by forgetting that there is another Third party, not of the symbolic order, but of the very inhumanity within us, the monstrous Other of which the face of my neighbor covers over. As Zizek says, “Far from displaying ‘a quality of God’s image carried with it,’ the face is the ultimate ethical lure…the neighbor is not displayed through a face; it is, as we have seen, in his or her fundamental dimension a faceless monster” (185)

So the ethical gesture par excellence is not merely suspending the symbolic order and embracing the human face of the Other, but rather to both dissolve the symbolic order, which is even hidden in the face, and embracing the thoroughly inhuman monstrosity which is the human neighbor.

the emerging church is like...

(these are some thoughts I prepared for an interview [an commented on], most of which I didn't say, nor was shown, but I thought, hey why not post it.)

…it is like a renegade stage production. Several of us have been given a role and consumes, but the clothes didn’t fit right, and we didn’t like our lines. We are not getting rid of the scrip, just the producers who have made it into a bad play, and we're movin' out of the fancy theater to wherever we can find.

…it is like taking blinders off. Evangelical had tunnel vision, looking toward the ground, only trying to save souls and build bigger and bigger churches, and thinking they were the only ones. the emerging church takes off these blinders, and sees that there are a bunch of people with them (Lutherans, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholics), and they look behind and remember the past the good and the bad.

…it is like recovering from a hundred year amnesia. Main evangelicals can’t think past 20 to 50 years ago. But the church has been going on for 2000 years, and a lot has happened, for good and bad. The EC is trying to remember its past, so it can live into the future. The reason the Da Vinci Code has made such a stir is that many Christians simply don’t know their own history, so when someone comes along and tells a compelling story, it fills in this vacuum left by forgetting out past.

…it is not merely looking backward, but also to around, not just in America, but all over the world to see what is happening. The EC is looking toward the Taize community in France where Catholics and Protestants are gathering to pray for peace around the world…it is looking to the Global South to learn about how faith can work against exploitation, and care for those with AIDS.

… seeing God’s work as much bigger, not just saving our souls, but extending peace, justice, and love all over the world. The emerging church movement is asking again, What is salvation? not just of my soul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Universalism, Truth, and St. Paul: interview w/ Badiou

Here is a great interview with Alain Badiou.
It is a great intro to his thought in the area of St. Paul, universalism and truth.

Here is a bit of it:

What is this new conception? For me,
something is universal if it is something that
is beyond established differences. We have
differences that seem absolutely natural to
us. In the context of these differences, the
sign of a new truth is that that these
differences become indifferent. So we have
an absorption of an evident natural
difference into something that is beyond that

A striking example, which is completely
different from the Pauline example, is the
example of the creation of a new physics by
Galileo. Before Galileo, there is a clear
difference between natural movements and
abstract mathematics. From Aristotle to the
16th century natural movement is conceived
of as something with local determinations,
as a kind of movement that is part of a
closed cosmology. With the Galileo-event
we have a completely new conception of
movement in which the difference between
concrete, natural movement on the one side
and mathematical analysis on the other side
becomes indifferent. This happens because
Galileo declares that the world itself is
written in mathematical language. The old
difference simply loses its pertinence.

Traditionally, universalism is conceived
as the realization of a universal judgment
about some real thing. This is something like
a grammatical conception of universalism.
Universality as a judgment is something that
you can find from Aristotle to Kant to
analytic philosophy today.

My conception is, on the contrary, a
creative one. Universalism is always the
result of a great process that opens with an
event. To create something universal is to go
beyond evident differences and separations.
This is, in my conviction, the great
difference between my conception of
universality (which, of course, is not only
my conception) and some traditional
conceptions of universality. It is also the
difference between a grammatical
conception of truth and my conception of
truth as a creation, a process, an event.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ethics of the Other? Badiou on Levinas

Alain Badiou on Emmanuel Levinas:

concerning the 'ethics of the other' and whether it has a future...from Alain Badiou's Ethics:

Summary of Levinas: The greek origin of metaphysics has subordinated all thought to the logic of the Same, that of substance and identity. The metaphysics makes it impossible to encounter the Other in its alterity, incapable of recognizing the Other without violence, and therefore allows for no truly Ethical relations. So, Levinas argues, we must leave the Greek origin and return to the Jewish tradition. In the Jewish tradition, the ‘thou’ immediately disarms the ‘I’ of the reflexive subject. The encounter with the Other precedes, is beyond, a relation of similitude.

Badiou’s question is: how to decide that the encounter with the face, touch, of love with another is really with an Other, and not really a mimetic recognition? Mimetic recognition is when I see the other reflected as myself (narcissism, which is outlined preeminently in psychoanalysis). Badiou says that the encounter with the Other is just as likely to be merely mimetic recognition when view phenomenologically (which is how Levinas is grounding it). But the choice is not decided between the Other or the Same based in the phenomena.

So, Badiou claims, Levinas must undergird the encounter with the Other by an altogether Other, God. In this move, Levinas conflates the thoughts of philosophy to that of theology. And not even a theology as such, but really into an absolute Ethic. In this way, Levinas shows that all ethics freed of metaphysics must ultimately be pious discourse.

So, the first conclusion, is that all derivations of Levinas’ ethics, which go under the names of ‘ethics of the other’, ‘ethics of difference’, ‘recognition of the other’, ‘multiculturalism’, and also attempts to suppress the pious, religious discourse will inevitably regress into mere ideology supporting the reigning capitalist-liberalism.

Second conclusion... “the whole ethical predication based upon recognition of the other should be purely and simply abandoned” b/c of its religious affiliation. Instead, “the real question…is much more that of recognizing the Same” (25).

Argument: Badiou’s axiom, “There is no God. Which also means: the One is not. The multiple ‘without-one’—every multiple being in its turn nothing other than a multiple of multiples—is the law of being.” This ‘without-one’ of reality of overlapping and situated multiplicities admits of infinity in the ordinary fabric of life, rather than as a transcendent intrusion as for Levinas. According to Badiou’s axion (and here is his speaking of ontology via mathematical set theory), all this is is already infinite difference. This infinite overlapping of differences (from physics, to biology, to animals, up to cultural difference) is not a surprise, nor need for special comment, and especially not the creation of an ethical theory. Difference is all that there is, but is that what has to be.

So, “philosophically, if the other doesn’t matter it is indeed because the difficulty lies not on the side of the Same. The Same, in effect, is not what is (i.e. the infinity multiplicity of differences) but what come to be. I have already named that in regard to which only the advent of the Same occurs: it is a truth. Only a truth is, as such indifferent to differences…the truth is the same for all”(27).

The ‘ethics of the other’ then does not cast anything new on the field of humanity, but merely assert that differences should be respected, which easily deflates into the rhetorical tolerance of liberal democracies by which capitalists continue on in their exploitation with much protest but little action.

Differences are, but the Same is what will come. Unlike the Same that comes before and tames the Other in Levinas, it is the Other with is and the Same is worked toward, the Same which is also called equality. Ultimately for Badiou, the ‘ethics of the other’ degenerates into a way of keeping things unequal, while the truth that we must strive for is that we are all equal, we are all the Same in our humanity.


questions for further reflection:

So how should those who believe ‘God is’ respond?
Should we herald Levinas’ return of ethical discourse to the religious?
Can we agree with Badiou while still claiming ‘God is’?