Monday 30 October 2006

Deconstruction and the university

“[T]he fundamental movement of deconstruction is a celebration of commitments, pointing out the pledges and promises that ground discourse – and the academy. Thus the university, any university, is founded on faith: before the work of scholarship happens, every scholar says a little prayer, whispers her pledge, commits and entrusts herself to language. The university, we might suggest, is quite religious, even if it has not been founded by priests, and it is this grounding commitment that deconstruction is sworn to celebrate.”

—James K. A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), p. 181. [Thanks to Byron for pointing me to this remarkable book.]


PresterJosh said...

Hmm. Not sure if I agree about that being the fundamental movement of deconstruction, but I do like the rest of the quote, underlining as it does the implicit necessity of faith in logos.

Halden said...

Jamie Smith's work is excellent on all counts. This is one of the most readable introductions to philosophical hermeneutics out there. His Speech and Theology is also quite excellent.

byron smith said...

I was reading the quote thinking: "this is great, though also somehwhat familiar..."

Oh, for a memory... :-)

Glad you're enjoying it. Looking forward to what you think about his comments on Pannenberg.

Ben Myers said...

Yes, thanks again for telling me about this book, Byron.

His critique of Pannenberg has really given me a lot to think about -- I've actually started writing an article about it, as a way of trying to come to terms with the problem myself. At this stage, my aim is to try to revise Pannenberg's "ontology of the whole" using Robert Jenson's less totalising (and more contingent) concept of "narrative cohesion". I'm also trying to make more explicit the importance of "retroactive" movement in Pannenberg's thought -- i.e., the cohesion of the temporal process is not already inherent in creation, but it is constituted from the end of the temporal process (so that the continuity between nature and grace emerges only at the end in a non-deterministic way, without at all erasing creaturely/temporal difference).

Having said all that, though, I think Smith is right to critique Pannenberg's notion of a creaturely transcendence of finite temporality -- as Smith says, to transcend finite temporality is simply to transcend humanness.

But anyway, I've still got a long way to go in thinking all this through! (And I'd certainly welcome any further suggestions as well.)

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byron smith said...

Yes, I found the Smith book an important corrective to various ways I had been (without realising it) thinking of creaturehood as a burden rather than as gift. I'm glad you've also found it stimulating and I look forward to your article!

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