Gazing Through a Prism Darkly: Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology

Gazing Through a Prism Darkly: Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology

Edited by B. KEITH PUTT
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Gazing Through a Prism Darkly: Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology
    Book Description:

    Merold Westphal has been in the foremost ranks of philosophers who proclaim a new postsecular philosophy. By articulating an epistemology sensitive to the realities of cognitive finitude and moral weakness, he defends a wisdom that begins in both humility and commitment, one that always confesses that human beings can encounter meaning and truth only as human beings, never as gods.The present volume focuses on this wisdom of humility that characterizes Westphal's thought and explores how that wisdom, expressed through the redemptive dynamic of doubt, can contribute to developing a postsecular apologetic for faith.This book can function both as an accessible introduction to Westphal for those who have not read him extensively and also as an informed critical appreciation and extension of his work for those who are more experienced readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4717-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. The Benefit of the Doubt: Merold Westphal’s Prophetic Philosophy of Religion
    (pp. 1-19)

    In recent years, several scholars in the United States have exploited the implications of Continental philosophy for developing new and innovative approaches to religious and theological studies. These thinkers—including but not limited to Carl Raschke, Mark Taylor, Charles Winquist, Edith Wyschogrod, and John Caputoi—have embraced various expressions of European philosophy, not in order to offer simple commentaries on those expressions but to utilize them as raw material for developing a uniquely American species of philosophical theology. These new American philosophical voices speak critically and constructively to the biblical paradigms lying behind Western theory, to the traditional religious and...

  5. Despoiling the Egyptians—Gently: Merold Westphal and Hegel
    (pp. 20-34)

    Merold Westphal is one of the most significant interpreters of Hegel in the English-speaking philosophical world. He has worked on Hegel for the whole of his academic career. His first book,History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology, is still referred to with continuing respect for the help it offers students in finding their way through Hegel’s labyrinthine work.¹ Westphal was also one of those thinkers intimately involved from early on in the “Hegel revival” in the United States, as well as more generally in the Anglo-American world. He served as vice president and program chair for a biennial meeting whose...

  6. Merold Westphal on the Sociopolitical Implications of Kierkegaard’s Thought
    (pp. 35-45)

    Søren Kierkegaard is widely regarded as an archindividualist with little concern for political and social issues. Furthermore, it is well known that he himself had extremely conservative, even reactionary, political views. He was, for example, not happy about the elimination of absolute monarchy in Denmark in 1848.¹ He also was distinctly unsympathetic with the cause of women’s emancipation, an issue I will discuss in more detail later in this essay. Merold Westphal has for many years waged a campaign to show that the textbook characterization of Kierkegaard as an apolitical individualist is mistaken. On Westphal’s view, social and political concerns...

  7. Levinas and Kierkegaard on Triadic Relations with God
    (pp. 46-60)

    Merold Westphal’s many insightful comparisons and contrasts between Emmanuel Levinas and Søren Kierkegaard prompt me to reconsider one aspect that continues to intrigue me—namely, Westphal’s characterization of the triadic relation found in each thinker. In “Kierkegaard and Levinas in Dialogue,” Westphal offers the following picture: “Whereas Kierkegaard would repeat Jesus’ summary of the Torah, that the first commandment is to love God and the second to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:28–34), Levinas reverses the order. For him ethics is first, then religion, and the neighbor always stands between me and God, while for Kierkegaard religion is...

  8. Appropriating Westphal Appropriating Nietzsche: Merold Westphal as a Theological Resource
    (pp. 61-73)

    In pointing out that Friedrich Nietzsche can be rightly read as a “theological resource,”¹ Merold Westphal has done people of faith a great service: that is, he has read Nietzsche carefully and helped them truly hear Nietzsche’s critique. The result is that Westphal has shown how useful Nietzsche can be for believers (Christians, of course, but not them alone) in thinking about their faith and theology.² Although not uncritical of Nietzsche, Westphal has teased out the implications of Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity and made a forceful case for Nietzsche being all too oftenright. It is Nietzsche’s conception of suspicion...

  9. Remaining Faithful: Postmodern Claims, Christian Messages
    (pp. 74-85)

    Thinking about religion in postmodernity may make strange bedfellows, stranger even than those allegedly made by politics. In this context, Merold Westphal makes a compelling case for linking the seemingly incompatible faith claims of Christianity and the indeterminacy, randomness, and paralogistic strategies that are generally attributed to postmodern philosophers (without entering the fray of what counts as post) from whose worlds God has often been evacuated and rejected as an appropriate philosopheme. InOvercoming Onto-Theology, a collection of essays most of which were published between 1993 and 2001, he expands and comments upon recent critiques of ontotheology, from Heidegger’s exhumation...

  10. The God Who Refuses to Appear on Philosophy’s Terms
    (pp. 86-99)

    On April 1, 2000, sixteen scholars gathered to celebrate the lifework of my former Purdue colleague, Calvin O. Schrag, on the occasion of his retirement. In his critique of Schrag’s move “beyond classical theism,”¹ Merold Westphal encapsulated some of the main arguments developed in his later works concerning overcoming ontotheology and transcendence and selftranscendence. Westphal’s oeuvre represents one of the most consistent and sophisticated contemporary philosophical defenses of Christian theism, and yet his is not a philosophy in service of unadulterated Christian apologetics. He develops the cutting-edge work in Continental philosophy of religion in which the theistic God refuses to...

  11. What Is Merold Westphal’s Critique of Ontotheology Criticizing?
    (pp. 100-115)

    If Merold Westphal were the leader of the Christian Right, we would all be better off. I do not mean, God forbid, either that we would all be better off if Merold had a change of heart and suddenly headed to the Far Right, or that the Left would be better off without him. Far from it. I mean that if the generous views that he has carefully staked out in an impressive series of books and articles and in scores of lectures and conferences at colleges and universities in the United States and in Europe were the conscience of...

  12. Transcendence in Tears
    (pp. 116-138)

    “I propose to explore the transcendence of God in strict correlation with human self-transcendence,” Merold Westphal writes at the start ofTranscendence and Self-Transcendence.¹ His “basic idea,” he says, “is that what we say about God should have a direct bearing on our own self-transformation. Descriptions of divine being and prescriptions for human becoming are flip sides of the same coin” (2). And he concludes by telling us, “Where divine transcendence is preserved in its deepest sense, the affirmation of God as Creator is not merely the attribution of a certain structure to the cosmos but above all the commitment...

  13. Between the Prophetic and the Sacramental
    (pp. 139-149)

    Merold Westphal has been one of the most significant voices in Continental philosophy of religion in recent years. He, along with Paul Ricoeur, has contributed what might be called a specifically Protestant inflection to the ongoing “theological turn in phenomenology,” a movement that otherwise bears the largely Catholic accent of thinkers such as Marion, Henry, and Chrétien. Yet another contributor to this debate, the theologian David Tracy, has made a useful distinction between what he calls the “sacramental” character of the Catholic vision and the “prophetic” character of the Protestant. He sees both as complementary, the former emphasizing the more...

  14. Taking the Wager of/on Love: Luce Irigaray and the Caress
    (pp. 150-162)

    In her prologue toi love to you,¹ Luce Irigaray tells of the “miracle” (7) that happened when a debate with a man surprisingly turned into a “meeting with the other, the different” in the between, in “mutual respect.” “We were two: a man and a woman speaking in accordance with our identity, our conscience, our cultural heritage, and even our sensibility” (9). Since that time, more than ever, Irigaray has been an avid “political militant for the impossible, which is not to say a utopian.” Rather, in Derridean fashion, she wants “what is yet to be as the only...

  15. The Joy of Being Indebted: A Concluding Response
    (pp. 163-180)

    I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the contributors to this volume. For years they have been my friends and teachers, and I have been in their debt in many ways long before the present project. Now the care and seriousness with which they have addressed my work makes me all the more indebted. I do not pretend that these brief words of response repay that debt; nor would I wish them to. For the joy of being indebted is, it seems to me, an essential aspect of friendship.

    I would like to offer special thanks to B. Keith...

  16. Talking to Balaam’s Ass: A Concluding Conversation
    (pp. 181-206)

    B. Keith Putt: Merold, in your intellectual autobiography,Faith Seeking Understanding, you refer to the significant influence of Arthur Holmes, one of evangelicalism’s finest scholars, whose clarion call was “all truth is God’s truth.” How has that epigram shaped your own appropriation of philosophy in its various manifestations, whether analytical, Continental, or postmodern?

    Merold Westphal: I guess there are two ways. First, I haven’t felt the need to think that truth would only be found exclusively in theological contexts. “All truth is God’s truth” means that one may discover truth in contexts that aren’t overtly religious, in subject matter that...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 207-234)
  18. List of Contributors
    (pp. 235-236)
  19. Index
    (pp. 237-244)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-248)