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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


SCHRIJVERS, Joeri. Contemporary philosophy of religion: An introduction. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.3, pp.445-463. ISSN 2224-7912.

This essay shows the possibilities of a contemporary continental philosophy of religion. It addresses the fate ofdeconstruction in contemporary scholarship through the writing of Martin Hägglund and John D. Caputo, who have respectively proposed an atheist and a theological reading of Jacques Derrida's thinking of deconstruction. As an alternative, the essay offers an interpretation of Ludwig Binswanger's phenomenology of love, whose empirical-transcendental method addresses many of the shortcomings in contemporary deconstructive and phenomenological scholarship. Binswanger's thinking is compared to other authors in the contemporary debate. Binswanger's ontology of the greeting in being is, moreover, interpreted here as the framework for a contemporary philosophy of religion in its difference from both contemporary theology and atheism. The article does this by presenting the major players in continental philosophy of religion and by navigating their views. It begins with Derrida's critique of Jean-Luc Nancy's deconstruction of Christianity. Derrida advised Nancy to think with and alongside the Christian and philosophical tradition rather than against it or to pretend to be able to do without this tradition. In short, Derrida's advice to Nancy - a "salut without salvation" - is reminding Nancy of the Promethean trait of his deconstruction of Christianity whereas, in fact, Derrida points out that this deconstruction is rather somewhat like a modern Munchausen: at the very moment it thinks it is reading this tradition against the tradition, it is all the more sinking and seeking within this very tradition. This is, if you like, Derrida's explanation of why both "theists" - God is (this or that) - and "atheists" - God is not and certainly not (this or that) - have a hard time today. Still, a deconstruction of Christianity necessitates an overcoming of the simple theism-atheism distinction, and their respective rather propositional truths, by finding the common ground from which both "theists" and "atheists" can welcome and greet one another and think together. Derrida, Nancy and Caputo find such a common ground in an "elementary faith". This elementary faith is close to the "intersubjective curvature" in being that Levinas mentioned in Totality and Infinity: the fact, if not facticity, that it takes two (or more) for there being any sense, signification at all. Such a faith, then, would be prior to the particular beliefs of a given culture or religion. "In the beginning", then, is the salutation, an elemental and originary coram that does not decide for or against religion even when it is the milieu of the religious where religion begins - the "secondsource" of religion (Derrida). For, even if one concedes a "non-ethical opening of ethics" (Hägglund), this opening remains constituted by an originary coram, by a tending toward otherness and toward the other. This would mean that one could align somewhat Derrida, Levinas, Nancy and Binswanger on precisely this point: prior to the religious address that is prayer (a Dieu), the address that is ethics (presupposing that the other is good and "respects" me - Levinas), the address that is non-ethical (the other might just as well be a bad other that does not "respect" me -Hägglund), there would be an ontological salutation in being, through which all beings, eventually, are turned towards all beings. This ontology, the greeting present in everything we say, do and think, is again an ontology incarnate: it is attested to in the "coming and the going", in the Wink we give to others. Yet as the phenomenon of love in Binswanger has shown us the passage through the empirical to the transcendental, so too Binswanger shows us how to think this elementaryfaith together with the particular empirical beliefs held dear by religion.

Keywords : continental philosophy; philosophy of religion; Ludwig Binswanger; deconstruction; Martin Heidegger; Emmanuel Levinas; atheism; phenomenology.

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