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The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

av Simon Critchley

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1083194,043 (4.06)2
The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliche of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated echo of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless asks how we might respond. Following Critchley's Infinitely Demanding, this new book builds on its philosophical and political framework, also venturing into the questions of faith, love, religion and violence. Should we defend a version of secularism and quietly accept the slide into a form of theism--or is there another way? From Rousseau's politics and religion to the return to St. Paul in Taubes, Agamben and Badiou, via explorations of politics and original sin in the work of Schmitt and John Gray, Critchley examines whether there can be a faith of the faithless, a belief for unbelievers. Expanding on his debate with Slavoj Zizek, Critchley concludes with a meditation on the question of violence, and the limits of non-violence.… (mer)
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The infinite ethical demand allows us to become the subjects of which we are capable of being by dividing us from ourselves, by forcing us to lie in accordance with an asymmetrical and unfulfilable demand – say the demand to be Christ-like – whilst knowing that we are all too human.

Likely the best philosophical primer I’ve encountered in a while. Someone noted (here on GR?) that Žižek is more of an associative thinker, rather than a representative one. One likely won't this author guilty of said offense. Critchley certainly does the heavy lifting to convey the crux of his thought. His perusal of the term truth in a religious sense owes to a definition similar to fidelity, rather than one of certainty or objective verifability. This tome-length argument is a survey of the current geopolitical triangle of politics, religion and violence. Critchley begins the analysis with a splendid reading of Rousseau. The section details the fictional nature of politics, the collective submission to an “exterior” authority. This then moves to St. Paul, a framing of him as a Jewish mystic and by extension, Paul’s interlocutors Heidegger and Badiou. The Heidegger section appears abrupt and disparate from whatever momentum had been established. Critchley concludes his treatise with a personal examination of Benjamin’s divine violence and his own (Critchley’s) ongoing disagreement with Slavoj Žižek in general and his employment of the concept in his recent book on violence. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I wanted to like The Faith of the Faithless more than I ended up doing. In fact I wanted to love this book, and at first I thought I might.

"Thinkers whose company I have long valued, Like Augustine and Pascal, raise exactly the right questions, even if I cannot accept their answers," he writes in his introduction. A promising start but what follows, for me, feels far too much like a conceptual game—much too concerned with name-checking one postmodernist reference point after another.

(I think the point where I really got off the bus altogether was his extended discussion of Paul—well, supposedly Paul, but really Heidegger. Chapter 4 is absolutely thick with one Heideggerian concept and term after another, and does absolutely nothing to explicate any of it. Unless you have spend days if not weeks, months or years of your life decoding Heidegger's dense conceptual/philosophical apparatus already, this chapter may as well be skipped in its entirety.)

This book piles high its series of replacements for transcendence. If there is no capital-B Beyond to pin our hopes on we instead get a long series of small-b beyonds. Over the course of this text we look beyond the authority of the general will (p. 51), beyond human force (p. 62), beyond the "materiality of the greenback" (p. 78), beyond all depths (p. 127), beyond normal jouissance (p. 140), beyond the self (p. 154). We pause briefly to touch politically-correct base and say that Christ is not "a conduit to a transcendent beyond," and then immediately get back to the beyond-fixation: beyond the self (p. 186), beyond good and evil (p. 192), beyond "the realm of thought and knowledge" (p. 223), beyond the limits of group identity (p. 244), beyond even particularity (p. 244). That is a whole lot of beyonding for a supposedly non-transcendentalist text.

But wait—if you thought there was only so much aestheticized sublime excess that could be taken on board as a replacement for religion—oh, there's more. Be prepared to exceed "the limits of potency and strength" (p. 14), exceed the power of the self (p. 18), exceed knowledge itself (p. 140), exceed your own powers of projection (p. 154), exceed human strength (p. 160), exceed human power (p. 162) and human strength (pps. 180, 181, 182), exceed the self itself (p. 183), exceed "the limit of human potentiality" (p. 205), exceed "the finitude of any context" (p. 221)... on it goes. Beyond excessive, wouldn't you say?

The last chapter before the conclusion is a strangely strained confrontation with Slavoj Zizek, who has apparently taken the time to critique Critchley's critique of him—which Critchley must now critique in turn. I honestly do not know enough about Zizek's texts to know just how fair or unfair Critchley's fiery criticisms are, but the whole thing feels overly performative, like he just wants to dance in the spotlight thrown on his critique by Actual Attention from the Actually Famous Guy. What's more, even if I haven't read a substantial portion of Zizek's oeuvre, I've heard enough extended interviews with him at this point to know Zizek's take on political protest is at least more nuanced and more flexible than how Critchley portrays it here. "I challenge anyone to find a positive usage of the word 'postmodern' in anything I've written," he says in completely unconvincing protest at Zizek's classification of him as part of the (weaksauce) "postmodern left." If it quacks like a duck etc. etc.

Maybe if I knew my Heidegger and knew my Zizek I'd be much more qualified to judge Critchley's book, but in the meantime all I can do is, by turns, be annoyed or intrigued by his various provocative arguments... and wonder what could have been if someone as clearly intelligent as Critchley could aim his efforts higher than just cleverly playing the cultural theory game. ( )
1 rösta jrcovey | Oct 12, 2013 |
Excellent exploration of the meaning of faith, and of the difficulty of acting responsibly (among other things). ( )
1 rösta KatrinkaV | May 23, 2012 |
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The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliche of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated echo of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless asks how we might respond. Following Critchley's Infinitely Demanding, this new book builds on its philosophical and political framework, also venturing into the questions of faith, love, religion and violence. Should we defend a version of secularism and quietly accept the slide into a form of theism--or is there another way? From Rousseau's politics and religion to the return to St. Paul in Taubes, Agamben and Badiou, via explorations of politics and original sin in the work of Schmitt and John Gray, Critchley examines whether there can be a faith of the faithless, a belief for unbelievers. Expanding on his debate with Slavoj Zizek, Critchley concludes with a meditation on the question of violence, and the limits of non-violence.

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