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Archive for January, 2010

Hauerwas on Healthcare

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Simone Weil Quote

“Intelligence can never penetrate the mystery, but it, and it alone, can judge of the suitability of the words which express it. For this task it needs to be keener, more discerning, more precise, more exact and more exacting than for any other.”

— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, 118.

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Yeah, I know — frankly, I agree with you. The language of the “other” is ubiquitous in many circles. There is talk about what it means to recognize the other, to relate to the other, to allow space for the other, etc., etc., etc. It can be a bit tiring; in fact, Ben Myers over at F&T is currently imposing “a five-year moratorium on all talk about ‘the other’ in ethical and theological discourse!” Of course, I agree that the terminology is mostly misunderstood and (frankly) functions as an emotional/psychological trigger (– posturing); however, I think there is a sense in which even if one has misread/misunderstood Levinas, the language of “others” is not necessarily inconsequential in toto. While I have not conceded to the moratorium in my day-to-day life, I must admit that it often shows up in superego-ic fashion anytime I use the word. What I am wondering is this: how can we begin to create a framework in which we can discuss the notion of “others”/”otherness”, etc.? I am not yet in a position to write such a book, but I am hoping that in the near future someone will publish something detailing the historical and modern usages of the notion of “others” so that we can get on the same page.

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Dear N. T. Wright,

Just saw that you are soon to publish a book entitled After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. While I am thrilled to see another book from you, and while it is needed, one might consider saving several topics for future scholars/ministers/theologians to write about. Again, thank you and (please, please) continue to write fantastic and erudite books, but, maybe (just maybe) slooooww down (just a bit), thanks.

🙂

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Whether in the academy, the church, or the world, one must continue their education in order to maintain an ever increasing competency in their field of study, or vocation. There are many, however, for whom (for various reasons) there is not enough time to attend a university, graduate program, etc. Since I am taking a semester off between an undergraduate and a masters, I am wanting to continue to research in several fields of study that I was unable to take courses in during my bachelors: about two years ago I came across the gold-mine that is itunesU. There are a significant number of universities from around the world (e.g., UC-Berkeley, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Yale, Fuller, Oxford, Cambridge, Tubingen, etc.) offering courses in almost any subject that one could desire: politics, philosophy, theology, languages, literature, economics, ecology, mathematics, physics, etc.

Anyway, if you aren’t taking any courses this semester (or if you are and want to look into other courses, or just eavesdrop in on what classes are like at other academic institutions), I would suggest you check it out, take notes, and read along. Keep on keeping on and continue your education!

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A friend, recently, showed me a book called A History of the World in Six Glasses. The chapter about coffee was quite interesting. One of the main points the author makes is that coffee is/was the drink of intellectuals. In fact, coffee (or coffeehouses) encouraged academic discourse and even threatened the governmental milieu. Now, I have seen that university students treasure their coffee — although it is often arguably strictly functional and rather unpleasant to taste if made without care, but this is for a different post. Spending a significant amount of time in coffeehouses during my years in the university, I have been subjected to a significant amount of terribly unbearable conversations from nearby tables. Unfortunately, I believe I have, also, listened to far too many terrible dialogues/discourses/debates (if you can even call them that) in academic circles as well. For example, take the fairly recent discussions between the “new atheists” and theologians such as Alister McGrath and John Polkinghorne. I am admittedly biased. I believe that McGrath and Polkinghorne are both cogent and erudite theologians and have much to contribute to the conversation between Religion and Science; quite unlike their antagonists. What I find terribly unbearable is the lack of sufficient discourse, i.e., both sides merely talk past one another — it is almost unreservedly un-cerebral. There is a complete lack of erudite interaction, engagement, and dammit, could we find a theologian willing to offend somebody. Again, I am being particular here with McGrath and Polkinghorne, because there are other theologians who do interact with contrarians in a more academically serious way (e.g., F. LeRon Shults, Alan Padgett, Ian Barbour [and, eh, you might add Hans Kung]; again, I single McGrath and Polkinghorne out because they are in the public eye, and I think they could engage with more profundity and erudition than I have seen). From a strictly pragmatic and accessible position,  Terry Eagleton’s recent book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate is a quite fair look at the debate from a mostly critical position of Ditchkins (sic!). But to get to my point: please will somebody take Wittgenstein seriously? Can we begin think about the way that we use language? Can we please have a truly educative, and not merely quasi-visceral, discourse? Can we please begin to rethink the way in which we think and speak about the things that concern us? This is not only apropos of Religion and Science; this is about the way we (think and) speak about politics, economy, theology, etc. If we cannot see a significant amount of maturation in our discourse in the academy/in the church, I fear that there is not much future for an even mildly cerebral discourse in the coffeehouse. A la Prof. Barnes, I digress.

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A side note to this digression, which I posted primarily because I have not posted anything recently. My hope is to have more organized, focused writings on this blog in the near future. As a result, many posts will continue to be brief, directed toward recent readings, etc., as well as spontaneous posts and/or series’. One thing I want to avoid is merely advertising my reading 🙂

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