Volume 2 (1997): Postmodernism
(Published Dec. 1, 1997. ISSN 1209-0689)
F.L. Jackson (Memorial), Angus Johnston (King's College), Kenneth Kierans (King's College)
Deconstructing The Tradition
The Augustinian text is being radically rewritten by contemporary theologians to render it compatible with various proposals for a postmodern Christianity. The proximate stimulus is Derrida's deconstruction of the argument of the Confessions. What is positive and what is wanting in his appropriation of the Augustinian dialectic is reviewed, as also what can and cannot be seen of the historical Augustine from within the purview of a postmodern theology.
Kierkegaard's celebrated use of the story of Abraham as the paradigm of the inexpressible act of faith that allows of no reduction to rational ethical principles is followed through its refinements in Levinas' ethics of the Other and Derrida's radical deconstruction of all appeal to codes of ethical responsibility.
"Derrida's relation to Hegel - and through him to the whole ... metaphysical tradition - is ambiguous." Interpreting Hegel against Hegel, Derrida would make a new beginning beyond absolute knowledge but not such as would found another more meaningful, philosophy. In the process, deconstruction rediscovers traditional philosophical ideas, and is even bound to reaffirm them, if in a distorted way.
Recovering the Texts
Various levels of feminist criticism of Hegel's account of woman and family, both contentious and sophisticated, are examined. While finding much that is telling and valid in them, the author finds much that is uncomprehended and much that stands to be learned about the issues in question were the texts allowed to speak for themselves.
Blunt questions are asked as to how and in what degree the failed efforts of analytic philosophy to discredit traditional thought have succeeded nonetheless in debasing our appreciation of it, partly through the pervasiveness of biases introduced by its logic - whose limits are now very obvious - and partly through a legacy of gross misreading and misappropriation of the sense of classical texts.
North American Freedom
The idea and development of political sovereignty among the North American peoples represents a radical departure from the older European politics of the nation state. Developments in American and Canadian history, as well as the burden of contemporary political debates in these countries, are understood philosophically as the working out of the implications of a commitment to the idea of the state as the foundation and mainstay of a universal human freedom.
Michael Sandel sees Rawls' liberal theory of justice as abstractly uncomprehensive of another, republican view of the essential relation of political life to moral culture. But, as reference to the debates of the Civil War and the New Deal show, his own jeremiadic account of American history equally misrepresents the dialectical interplay of liberal and republican moments that is essential in American freedom.
There is a Mexican, as well as a Canadian version of the American Dream. What drives political idealism in Mexico is less the idea of individual right, or respect for the rights of communities, than it is the 'indigenous' right of an historically oppressed people to a political culture and life wholly their own.