Download Difficult Atheism: Tracing the Death of God in Contemporary by Christopher Watkin PDF

By Christopher Watkin

Reviewed by means of John D. Caputo, Syracuse collage and Villanova University

Being an "atheist" isn't really an easy topic. whilst Derrida says that there are "theological prejudices" imbedded in "metaphysics in its entirety, even if it professes to be atheistic", he implies that while metaphysics poses because the best authority that proclaims "there is not any God," it easily reenacts the function of God. It leaves the "center" status and reoccupies it with different metaphysical pretenders to the throne: guy, background, technological know-how, cause, any model of Žižek's "Big Other." that's not anything greater than a palace coup that leaves the palace procedure status. Such atheism, which loads of us could name "modernist," Watkin says, "imitates" theism and is "parasitic" at the very framework it purports to negate. Atheism, he argues, is "difficult," a problem Nietzsche proposed to fulfill while he stated "God is dead," the place "God" intended not only the Deity however the complete approach of "values," of "truth" and the "good," from Plato to the current, each try to determine a middle, a starting place of data and morals, together with sleek physics, that is additionally an "interpretation." Watkin thinks this atheism is uncovered to a "difficulty" of its personal, which he calls its "ascetic" method, since it calls upon us to make do with the ensuing particles or "residue" of misplaced foundations (the "death of God"), to dwell with finitude and imperfection, giving up on a pleasing transcendence and placing up with an unsatisfying immanence (133). It doesn't rather annul where of God yet purely leaves it empty (6-7), like Camus' "absurd man" shaking his fist on the void. this is often an atheism that regrets that it truly is right.

The ascetic model faces another trouble: when we undermine foundations, now we have undermined any foundational argument opposed to the previous God. That binds the arms of atheism, fighting any knock-out atheistic blow, thereby leaving the barn door open to non secular religion. Kant used to be being an ideal Pauline-Lutheran Protestant whilst he stated that he discovered it essential to delimit wisdom with a view to make room for religion. The "difficulty," briefly, is that atheism wishes foundationalism to chop off the break out direction of religion, yet foundationalism reenacts and repeats theism. both concede our irreducible finitude, which leaves the limitless inaccessible and a potential item of religion, or by some means scramble over to the aspect of the countless and bring to a halt the get away course of religion, which runs the other threat of enjoying God. That explains "post-secularism," the postmodern "return of religion": as soon as modernity is delimited and the metaphysical gunfire over God subsides, a postmodern model of classical spiritual religion is unfastened to elevate its hoary head. This "colonisation" of recent atheism by means of faith has rather gotten Watkin's goat (239).

Watkin proposes a fashion out of this difficulty -- if now not, we are going to by no means be rid of faith and all its ensuing woes -- lower than the identify of what he calls a "post-theological integration." this implies, in Lyotard's phrases, inventing a brand new ("post-theological") online game and never being content material with a brand new circulate within the age-old online game (theism as opposed to atheism). Is there the way to imagine "after God" or "without God" that doesn't act as though it truly is God (parasitism), whereas no longer giving up at the rules of fact and justice (asceticism), which means that it may be "integrated" with rules in most cases linked to God? (13) much is determined by what Watkin potential by means of "integration," which runs its personal probability of aggression and colonization -- twiddling with faith and explaining it to itself. Philosophy (father) understands most sensible, is aware larger than faith what faith is speaking approximately. Philosophy is familiar with that issues will be "better" -- it's the "consensus" (239) -- "without" God and faith. much additionally depends upon "without," a venerable observe of Meister Eckhart's Latin (sine) and German (ohne) vocabulary, reflected upon at size by means of Heidegger and Derrida (sans). in terms of being an atheist, who's with no sin (sine peccato, anamartetos)?

Watkin takes up Alain Badiou ("axiomatic atheism"), Jean-Luc Nancy ("atheology") and Quentin Meillassoux ("divine inexistence"), each one of whom he thinks has simply this kind of post-theological undertaking in brain. The French concentration omits not just Nietzsche but additionally Žižek, however it has the benefit of together with Nancy -- rather than easily writing off deconstruction as (like God) lifeless and limiting the talk to the recent or "speculative" realists -- in addition to a short yet illuminating dialogue of Jean-Luc Marion. the matter is attention-grabbing, the query is especially well framed, and the structure of the publication is impeccable (without sin). we will be specifically thankful to Watkin for delivering exemplary expositions of those authors, in particular Nancy, a really elusive and allusive author who calls for a studying in French. The publication is full of sophisticated and intricate commentaries to which no evaluate can do justice. tough Atheism represents a worldly contribution to the debates that experience arisen within the wake of the "theological turn", and it advantages cautious examine through a person attracted to those issues.

Badiou's assault is directed opposed to "ascetic" atheism, postmodern post-Kantian skeptics approximately "truth." His atheism is easy: theism is fake; atheism is correct. The dichotomy stands and one department is damaged off. by way of insisting upon our "finitude," the postmoderns permit the "infinite" (God, the single) to flourish like a toxic mushroom at midnight soil of the "inaccessible." So Badiou reclaims the countless for philosophy, stiffens the spines of the philosophers approximately fact, leaving the outdated God nowhere to conceal whereas maintaining fact and justice. not anything is left over; not anything can get away the sunshine of the belief. this can be performed through invoking a selected model of set concept which wrests the endless from the only of the Platonic-Christian culture and transfers it to multiplicity. yet, Watkin issues out, Cantor used to be a Roman Catholic who uncommon a numerical infinity (the transfinite, quantitative multiplicity) from the "absolutely infinite" being of God (divine simplicity), that is neither numerically finite nor numerically countless and as such the province of theology. there's not anything in arithmetic which authorizes arithmetic to discuss what's now not mathematical to start with. that's the very movement Badiou desires to bring to a halt. All Badiou can do with Cantor's contrast is to sweep it off and claim "The One is not" an axiomatic determination (27-29). Ontology simply is arithmetic, adopting a posture usually struck in Vatican encyclicals and within the Bible belt below the identify of the "Word of God."

Nancy directs his assault opposed to this sort of elementary modernist or "imitative-parasitic" atheism we see in Badiou. As a deconstructionist, Nancy undercuts the "binary opposition" among theism and atheism (132), treating atheism because the turn part of onto-theo-logy. Theism and atheism are reflect photographs. He situates himself at the terrain of the "finite," which is helping us keep away from pretending that we're God, as Badiou has performed. this is the reason Nancy speaks of a deconstructive "atheology," no longer "atheism." Nancy describes an unlimited "open" that's in basic terms ever partly stuffed by way of any finite development, an unbounded "sense" which can't be saturated by way of any determinate "signification." there's no ahistorical arche or telos that shuts down or "axiomatizes" the open. The idea that whatever ahistorical breaks in upon the old and henceforth alterations every thing -- the way in which the matheme ruptures the mytheme for Badiou -- is the very gesture of "Christianity," of the Incarnation, or what Nancy calls the "Christmas projection" (37). So it's Christianity that wishes deconstruction.

But to deconstruct anything is to open it up, now not shut it down. Deconstruction is un-closing, dis-enclosing. whereas Nancy's deconstruction of Christianity will supply no convenience to the Vatican or Nashville, it's going to divulge a sens deep inside of Christianity that "Christianity" (a signification) has a tendency to shut off. As Derrida issues out, that attaches hyperbolic significance to Christianity itself, culling the wheat from the chaff, the spirit from the lifeless letter. this can be made transparent by means of the historical past of Derrida's note déconstruction, which interprets Heidegger's Destruktion, which in flip interprets what Luther referred to as the destructio of medieval metaphysical theology with a view to get better the pristine center of the recent testomony, which itself interprets apolo in I Cor 1:19, which interprets Isaiah 29:14. Heidegger's Destruktion retrieves the reality (aletheia) in metaphysics from which metaphysics itself is barred. Watkin concludes that Nancy's deconstruction is "parasitic" upon Christianity and never certainly post-theological (39-40). Neither Badiou nor Nancy escapes parasitism. every one convicts the other.

But isn't really Nancy's "repetition" of Christianity with no Christianity precisely what an "integration" must be? may possibly we now not distinguish a flat-footed parasitism from an ironic, awake and artistic one? Is there now not an phantasm embedded in conversing too strongly of the "post"-theological as though the theological may be over and performed with? we can't pull ourselves up by way of our personal bootstraps and create de novo. we commence the place we're, with the languages and traditions we now have inherited, which we search to re-think and re-open. the belief isn't to decontaminate ourselves from those traditions yet to remodel them, to get well what's going in them, with no being trapped by way of them. occasionally Watkin speaks of the post-theological as though "God," "theology" and "religion" have been like AIDS, and the post-theological query is how we wipe out this danger. The post-theological is related to "reoccupy" and "integrate" with theology which will subvert it.

Is philosophy then aggression, a strength of "occupation," a adversarial army takeover which "exploits the resources" of faith (99)? that will prevail merely in being "integrated" with theological imperialism! what's the distinction among the "post-secular colonisation" of atheism and the "post-theological occupation" of theology -- except whose facet one is on? Or is philosophy a repetition that would constantly be hyperbolic approximately anything -- in a different way it might be "ahistorical" -- writing sous rature, deploying paleologism and a good judgment of the sans (Derrida's faith sans religion), as Watkin explicitly issues out (79-80)? that may be a even more smooth operation than the only Watkin ascribes to Badiou -- as though faith have been an item uncovered to the sunshine of the belief and the "philosopher" have been the "master" who can clarify faith to itself, whereas mocking its self-understanding as an insignificant "fable." yet any notion, "theological" or "post-theological," is at odds with itself and is moved through its personal inner tensions. A deconstruction tracks the best way issues are regularly already invaded by means of their different, continually divided internally, however it isn't exploitation, aggression, profession, a plundering of faith or the murals -- merci à Dieu!

At this aspect, Watkin is confident we have now reached a draw: neither place has stumbled on its manner transparent to post-theology. Badiou makes a primal determination concerning the axiomatization of being, pointing out that the single isn't really, which whether traditionally "motivated" is a contestable religion that mathematical pondering is "better." Nancy is also not able to flee the shadow of theology, distinguishing a determinate trust (croyance) in a determinate "principle" (or signification) from a deeper yet divided religion (foi) (in sens). This religion isn't against cause yet is a conserving religion with or being "true" (treu) to cause that vitamins cause. cause wishes such religion that allows you to functionality, given its personal insufficiency, in order that cause isn't extra "reasonable" than while it acknowledges that it wishes the complement of religion. A self-sufficient cause is idolatry; precise cause is unclosed, incomplete, inadequate, uncovered to religion (115-16). Nancy calls this "atheology," the confirmation of the unprogrammable, un-axiomatizable, sens of the "world." yet this, Watkin thinks, simply keeps to privilege Christianity. Atheism might be not just tricky yet "incompletable" (121), led again to a Gödelian position: atheism can't whole itself (Badiou) with out turning into inconsistent, and it can't be constant (Nancy) with out being incomplete (123).

Enter Meillassoux, who claims to supply an atheism either constant and whole. utilizing Badiou's critique of finitude, Meillassoux assaults Kantian "fideism" (denying wisdom to make room for religion) and offers philosophy limitless authority over God, rationalizing revelation -- no longer removing it -- now not in contrast to Spinoza or Hegel. Philosophy denies either the transcendent God of theism and the God-less immanence of atheism, yet as an alternative it produces a brand new God of its personal development, an "inexistent" God. Philosophy isn't really experimental technological know-how, whose methodological limits (finitude) play into the palms of spiritual religion, yet nor is it classical metaphysics, which posits an important being. consequently it assumes a "speculative" shape which denies the idea that we're pressured to select from the contingency of the various (postmodernism) and the need of the single (God) (metaphysics). Readers of theology will realize that "voluntarist" or "divine will" theology, God as invaluable, transcendent and inscrutably unfastened to change the legislation of nature and morality, does carrier for "God" at huge for Meillassoux. The "speculative" place is to say the need of contingency, the need that every little thing is contingent, which Meillassoux calls the primary of the "factial" (le factual). It can't be that the contingency of items is itself contingent.

This precept is argued for through a wierd type of tables-turning approach to "conversion" (162). A minus (reasoning to an important being falls into endless regress, explaining one contingent factor by way of one other) turns into a plus: this failure is a right away perception into the non-necessity of anybody being and of the need of the contingency of each being, which removes the necessity for religion (146). Being not able to return up with a enough reason behind any being is an perception into the impossibility that any specific being will be beneficial (147). What's eventually "wrong" with God for Meillassoux is that we're forbidden to invite the place God got here from. Or back: the "strong correlationists" continue that truth may well continuously be differently than the best way now we have built it in language or cognizance. that isn't the skeptical relativism it desires to be, yet an instinct that it really is inescapably important that issues may perhaps regularly be another way than they are.

Finally, his extraordinary interpreting of Hume: the shortcoming to discover the required courting among the antecedent and the ensuing is an highbrow perception into the genuine loss of causal necessity, thereby switching the "non-reason" from us (skepticism) to the issues themselves (realism). Meillassoux isn't really announcing that the wildlife is chaotic yet that it's topic to a non-observable (speculative) contingency (143). There are legislation and regularities or even causal connections in nature, yet they're all contingent. Gravity is a legislation, however it isn't really helpful. it truly is thinkable that the next day there'll be no gravity. Chaos is affliction, yet radical contingency is a "hyperchaos," that means that illness should be destroyed through order simply as simply as order could be destroyed through ailment. From the primary of "insufficient reason" (there being no adequate explanation for any specific factor) we will be able to finish to the need of contingency (145) and to the main of non-contradiction, for if something have been either itself and its contradiction it'll already be any "other" that it might turn into; it's going to then be an unchangeable and valuable being. yet each being is contingent.

None of which means Meillassoux is finished with God. faraway from it -- he's the main "aggressive" (231-32) of all in terms of post-theological "integration." After allotting with the God of the ontological argument, God as an ens necessarium, it continues to be attainable that God may possibly ensue to return approximately, no matter if God occurs to not exist now. God's present inexistence doesn't exclude a potential destiny lifestyles. certainly, it's completely important that God (like every thing else at the moment inexistent) may perhaps potentially exist in a while. Why Meillassoux may ever be ended in say the sort of factor -- he's not anything if no longer daring -- brings us to the query of justice, the opposite notion (along with fact) with which post-theology desires to "integrate itself," and to the age-old challenge of evil. Justice calls for we supersede either classical theism (because it affirms a God who allows the worst injustices) and classical atheism (because it permits the injustice performed to the useless to head unrepaired) through positing the wish for the prospective emergence sooner or later of a God who will increase the useless and present them for his or her hitherto unrequited ache in terms of a Christ-like determine known as the "Child of Man." Like a wierd Hegelian, Meillassoux desires to "occupy" every thing that (the Christian) faith has to claim! That yields a "philosophical divine" (207), a God, faith and resurrection within which we may possibly wish strictly in the limits of cause by myself, of the main of worthy contingency.

Watkin thinks that Meillassoux's precept of the need of contingency undoes itself. Given the unbroken rule of contingency, such a necessity must be temporally certified as "according to the shortly triumphing criteria of rationality" (151). perhaps the next day morning what's judged rational or simply this present day might be judged irrational and unjust, whereas what's irrational and unjust might be judged rational and simply. The very notions of considering and rationality, of necessity and contingency are all contingent and topic to alter sooner or later. in the event that they usually are not, then they're helpful and exempt from the primary of the factial. Meillassoux both erects a God-like idol out of considering and rationality (parasitic atheism) or calls for an act of religion that cause won't mutate lower than the strength of hyperchaos (ascetic atheism) (155).

In Nancy, justice comes right down to a "call" that for Watkin is simply too susceptible to be powerful and to be powerful will require miming a divine injunction. Badiou tells us his view of justice is stimulated via his own event of the occasions of may perhaps, 1968, which compares to his view that his axiomatic choice to claim that ontology is arithmetic is prompted by means of the calls for of modernity; whereas biographically attention-grabbing, this lacks the universality politics calls for. Badiou bases his atheism on an axiomatic determination; Nancy builds religion into the very proposal of cause; and Meillassoux, resisting either strikes, makes an attempt an indication of his founding precept, however the demonstration calls for religion. Taken jointly, all 3 thinkers posit an axiom, a choice or an instinct during which we needs to simply trust (233-34), that are thought of eo ipso "good" and are given a cross on having to extra justify themselves. He concludes with Fichte's comment that the type of philosophy one chooses is dependent upon the type of individual one is. Philosophy constantly hazards such circularity, that is the last word trouble in turning into an atheist.

But what is going round comes round. Watkin concerns that the "colonisation" of atheism through "post-secular" theology ends us up again in theology, no longer atheism. that's obviously undesirable simply because, good, atheism is "good." yet what's so solid approximately atheism? Why is atheism not only as good-and-bad as theology, the place all of it is dependent upon how theologians and atheists behave either as thinkers and social brokers? Why should still we search a "post-theology" that purges either the imitation and the residue of theology from atheism? simply because atheism is sweet and an intensive clean-sweep atheism is even greater. The "post" in Watkin's post-theology is like Žižek's analyzing of the Hegelian dialectic as a double no: atheism capability no God; post-theology capacity no God, now not even a hint of God.

But why is "post-secular" theology now not "good?" It belongs to a innovative wing of theology desirous to take in the insights of radical thinkers from Nietzsche to Žižek on the way to have interaction in critical self-criticism and to undermine the demonization of atheism via theology. If we criticize theologians for now not interpreting such writers, are we then to criticize them once they do? Postmodern theology ends up in a looking out feedback of the violence and fundamentalism of faith from inside of theology itself, that is drastically better than any exterior feedback of theology. If we attempt the assumption on Watkin's phrases, by way of its pay-off by way of justice, post-secular theology enacts an auto-deconstruction of theological imperialism, militarism, patriarchy, racism, and homophobia, drawing upon a theology of peace and justice stretching from Amos to Martin Luther King (which is why spiritual individuals are so usually came across operating one of the such a lot destitute humans in the world) and calling down upon itself the fireplace of conservative non secular experts. If such theological pondering have been the coin of the world in faith at the present time, spiritual violence wouldn't be within the headlines.

That being stated, I do partially percentage Watkin's situation with post-secular theology, even supposing which can come as a shock to him, given that Watkin numbers me one of the post-secularists he criticizes, which I characteristic to a slightly glancing examine my paintings. I regard the "post-Kantian" model of postmodern theology as an attenuated or abridged version of postmodernism; it's strong however it might be higher. It regards postmodernism because the modern model of "apologetics," removing reductionistic evaluations of faith and permitting classical non secular orthodoxy to face untouched. A extra looking model of postmodern concept calls for a extra looking (and post-Hegelian) feedback of what's occurring in faith and theology. That calls for a cautious ancient and important examine of the Scriptures, of the heritage of theology and of what we're conversing approximately once we westerners converse in Christian Latin of "religion." the outcome may take the shape, for my part, of an exposition (an expounding and an exposing) of the "events" that ensue in faith -- occasions of promising and hoping, giving and forgiving, mourning and recalling, justice and hospitality, and so forth. it can divulge a deeper "faith" (foi) which runs underneath the "confessional beliefs" (croyances), the place either "theism" and "atheism" are handled as croyances, whereas religion has to do with a deep-set confirmation or hope of whatever we wish with a wish past wish, a hope that overtakes us all, theists, atheists or nonetheless attempting to decide.

I imagine, and Watkin turns out to agree, that there are not any non-circular arguments opposed to the life of God, if by way of God we suggest a being open air area and time. If that's what a thorough atheism may suggest, there is not any such factor (243, n.3). What assets may perhaps we ever marshal to teach what there's not in an international past house and time? whether it is "difficult" adequate to attempt to end up that whatever is there, it really is even tougher to end up there isn't. yet I do imagine that the great previous God of St. Augustine and his two-worlds conception has run its path, that it has earned our "incredulity," to stay with Lyotard's accurately selected observe, an incredulity that's quite often came upon one of the theologians themselves. That, despite the fact that, is some distance from giving up on God, or extra accurately at the identify (of) "God," or extra accurately nonetheless the "events" that ensue in and less than the identify (of) "God." Pursuing what I name a "radical theology," i need to be "after" God in as many ways as attainable, not just after/post the dualism of town of God but in addition after/ad the identify of God that provides phrases to a hope past wish, which Derrida has subtly if enigmatically set unfastened in texts like "Circumfession." This eccentric restaging of Augustine's Confessions is a deeply nuanced deconstruction of Christianity or even extra so of his personal Judaism, "haunting" the non secular ideals it repeats, making them tremble whereas additionally suggesting they comprise anything they can not include. Deconstruction isn't "critique" yet an indirect confirmation. Derrida doesn't attempt to "occupy" the Confessions like a conquering colonial military yet to "repeat" faith "without religion," in accordance with the sophisticated common sense of the sans, thereby exposing the constitution of a extra profound foi that's happening within the Confessions whereas no longer being held captive through its doctrinal croyances. Deconstruction isn't really "occupying;" it really is interpreting, slowly and meticulously.

Once the binarity of theism and atheism is displaced, as soon as the grip of those "-isms" is damaged, then considering and performing after God can start, as unfastened from theism as from atheism, but additionally, velocity Watkin, as loose from atheism as from theism.

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60; Derrida, ‘Force of Law’, p. 27. 38. ’ How irritating is this postHeideggerian style of the perpetual announcement, of the interminable to-come; this sort of secularised prophecy never ceases to declare that we are not yet in a position to think what is to be thought, this pathos of having-to-respond to being, this God who is lacking, this waiting before the abyss, this posture of gazing far into the mist and saying that we see the indistinct approaching! ’ (author’s translation) 39. See in particular Hent de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), and Janicaud, Le Tournant théologique de la phénoménologie française [Phenomenology and the ‘Theological Turn’].

30 Much of twentieth century French thought is an attempt to think just such a multiplicity, but for Badiou all previous endeavours fall short. Derridean dissémination, the Lyotardian différend, Lacan’s ‘dispersive punctuality of the real’ and the virtual/actual distinction in Deleuze31 all seek to elaborate an ontology beginning with a multiple irreducible to any One, but do so, for Badiou, in an ‘impure’ way. 32 To these various expressions of ‘impure’ multiplicity Badiou contrasts his own pure or ‘inconsistent’ multiplicity which cannot be defined (CT 31/BOE 37) and which is reduced, in the absence of any immanent unification, to the sole predicate of its multiplicity (CT 34/BOE 40).

11 Furthermore, metaphysics can be defined as the enframing of Being by the One (arraisonnement de l’être par l’un, CT 26/BOE 34). 13 The God of metaphysics is properly neither ‘alive’ nor ‘dead’. However, in so far as it entertains no relationship either with life or with death, from the point of view of life and religion it is perfectly dead (CT 16/BOE 26), dead since the beginning, and no religion can nourish its faith on this non-existent corpse (CT 14/BOE 25). indd 24 18/03/2011 12:15 The God of Metaphysics 25 landscape: it is holed up in actual infinity by Descartes and Galileo, relieved of its providential oversight of the world by the Enlightenment, transmuted into the figure of ‘man’ in the imitative atheism of postCartesian humanism (S 237/Cen 168), evicted from actual infinity by Georg Cantor, and sequestrated in projections of familial organisation by Feuerbach and psychoanalysis (CT 10–11/BOE 22).

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