Title

Specters of truth: Exercising philosophy and theology

Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

John D. Caputo

Keywords

Gregory of Nyssa, Saint, Derrida, Jacques, Origen, Philosophy as a way of life, Spiritual exercises, Disciplines, Askesis, Kierkegaard, Soren, Truth

Subject Categories

Religion

Abstract

This dissertation argues for a performative and responsive understanding of philosophical and theological truth. Whereas truth is typically treated in overly theoretical terms in these disciplines--limited to the formulation of statements, propositions, or systems--I argue for its integral relationship with practices and traditions. Specifically, it stages a dialogue between recent continental philosophers (especially Søren Kierkegaard and Jacques Derrida) and late ancient academic theologians (particularly Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa).

Part 1 examines this shift in thinking about truth in a number of ancient, late ancient, and recent continental figures by focusing on the interaction between idiom, idea, and performance in their texts. Part 2 considers the interpretive and disciplinary regimes (specifically late ancient orthodoxy and the modern research university) that often limit or inhibit the active and relational understanding of truth in religious discourse. Part 3 crosses the recent with the late ancient (reading Kierkegaard in light of ancient academic practice) and the late ancient with the recent (reading Gregory in light of Derrida) so as to draw out the constructive implications of this transformation of truth.

Characterizing truth as an ongoing response to others, traditions, and situations serves to challenge reductive readings of continental philosophers as nihilistic theorists and late ancient academics as other-worldly metaphysicians. Instead of holding these largely negative or disembodied positions, I argue that these figures and their texts transform the tasks of philosophy and theology. Exercising capabilities and transforming the ways that we look at our inheritance and surrounding world, this form of thinking serves to open alternative ways of living, relating, and acting.

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