Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A few items...

  •  Dale at Trinities (a blog concerned with trinitarian doctrine from an analytic philosophical perspective) recently drew attention to a post that was highly critical of theologians who "ignore" analytic theology.  The post is worth wandering over to read.  I have a lot of difficulties with these sorts of gripes from folks who work in the analytic tradition.  I don't doubt that negligent theologies are out there (and even prominent), and surely we could do a better job of drawing from a wider critical conversation.  But this strikes me as a relatively uninteresting point to make, and almost certainly not attributable to the reasons that Dale suggests.  The explanation that tends to bother me the most is his second suggested reason for theology's negligence, that "philosophy is hard".  I've written about this in the past.  With the proliferation of good conceptual, analytical, and critical work being done in multiple disciplines, it's as if those wanting to emphasize "philosophy" as a distinct, delimitable discipline have found nothing better upon which to capitalize than the fact that good philosophical work is rigorous.  The appeal to difficulty is awkward enough as a nondescript description of philosophical work.  It becomes downright ugly when it's used as an attempted psychoanalysis of "why nobody pays attention to me."  And do note: the problem isn't that Dale  is incorrect about philosophy being difficult or theologians ignoring it for this reason.  Lots of theologians do ignore analytic philosophy because they're lazy and it's too difficult.  But the same could be said for any number of other disciplines that tend to be ignored or do the ignoring.  A more reasonable (and useful) explanation for theological ignorance of analytic work would focus on why theologians don't find this work relevant (either because of its methods, its assumptions, its own ignorance of theological concerns, etc.), or don't find current parallel conversations in theology or philosophy inadequate enough to necessitate bringing in analytic thinkers.
  • The latest issue of The Journal of Religion is a theme issue on Augustine, publishing papers from the recent conference here at the Divinity School. 
  •  I mentioned a while back that after five years, the journal Contributions to the History of Concepts was no longer being published by Brill, and that there was no indication that it was being published any more at all.  I'm therefore quite pleased to find that Contributions has resurfaced and will now be published by Berghahn.  The journal, as before, is a publication of the History of Political and Social Concepts Group, and is now also hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.


      1. I would, out of pure self-promotion, also mention the conference we are planning here at Fordham for which the Call for Papers remains open.

        Check out my blog or this link https://sites.google.com/site/fordhamgradtheoconf/

      2. Thanks John, I shouldn't have neglected that... I'll add it to the post as well.

      3. Good post Evan. I thoroughly agree. I was trained in philosophy at University of Minnesota, which specializes in philosophy of science and logic, among other things. What fundamentally turned me away from the analytic tradition was the rationalism that drives the whole project, namely, that everything is discernible on the basis of a very limited understanding of metaphysics and logic. At its worst it becomes a sort of nihilistic sport that cares less about truth and more about internal coherence and fine-toothed distinctions.

        I think the assumptions that undergird the analytic tradition are problematic to say the least. I wouldn't say I am averse to thinking hard, just that the type of thinking hard that the analytic school does is not necessarily that relevant to theology and the questions theologians are asking. Listening to my hyper-analytic friends speak about causation and necessity is like listening to people talk in Chinese. Sure these questions have their importance on some level, but they seem to make assumptions that are closed to any input from theology.