Anyway, this paper forms parts of my doctoral thesis, particularly chapter Six, "Truth and Fictionality." But, as slightly tangential to my main argument, it is something that could easily be turned into a journal article with some more padding out and the like. As you can see from the paper's abstract (here), my main concern is to refute the criticisms Jamie Smith levels at Jack Caputo's Derridean deconstructive theology. Jamie's criticisms can be found most accessibly in his "The Logic of Incarnation: Towards a Catholic Postmodernism" in Neal DeRoo and Brian Lightbody's The Logic of Incarnation: James K.A. Smith's Critique of Postmodern Religion, pp.3-37. Smith identifies in both Caputo and Derrida what he terms a 'logic of determination.' (See here for more details on all this). My paper argues that the operative logic at work in Caputo's theology is that of the call or the promise which, far from being allergic to particularity, as Smith contends, seeks to release the promise in particular determinate religious (and "non-religious") traditions.
My argument runs basically thus:
- A presentation of Smith's characterization of the 'logic of determination.'
For Smith, the Derridean/Caputian logic of determination results in an interpretation of particularity that assumes, first, the finite nature of human life to be structurally (that is, necessarily) regrettable and, second, the interpretive visions of life and hopes for life of humanity’s determinate religious traditions to be exclusionary, violent and unjust. Thirdly, for Smith, the consequences of such a logic include the translation of Derrida’s undeconstructible justice into an indeterminate, not specifically Christian, kingdom of God that is similarly structurally always to-come, never present.
- A defense of Caputo's theological project against these criticisms (in an alternative order).
Firstly, Caputo’s reflections on the name of God are associated with several particular determinate traditions, including the creation narratives and the kingdom parables of the Christian scriptures. Secondly, an exploration of these creation and kingdom themes reveals that finitude is affirmed as part of the "goodness" of creation, no matter what, by God's "good," his "yes," at the moment of creation, and that the kingdom of God is our second "yes," our affirmation of the task of "making good" on the goodness of creation, no matter what. Thirdly, then, a (mis)interpretation of the kingdom of God as a concept that corresponds to a literal reality that will either arrive (Smith) or never arrive (Smith's reading of Caputo) (mis)characterizes it as a concept that aims to be representational rather than as a concept that aims to be transformational.
- An argument that Caputo's theology is preferable to Smith's.
In reflecting phenomenologically on the general structure of religious experience, both Caputo and Smith emphasise the undecidability of life, the contingency of our interpretations of it, and the fictive nature of all hermeneutics. However, Caputo more successfully retains these phenomenologcal insights in his particular, determinate Christian theology than Smith.
You can view my powerpoint presentation below, and email me if you'd like a copy of the paper I gave; but I'm thinking seriously about turning it into a journal article. Over the next year (once I've finally submitted my thesis) I will be attempting to get a publishing contract to turn it into a book, but this little nugget of the argument could easily be slotted out and published in article form. At the moment, I'd entitle it: "Refuting the Allergy to Determinacy: Determining the Theo-Logic of the Call in Weak Theology."