06 February 2002

The philosophy department where I spend most of my time teaching is sponsoring a series of lectures, conversations, and seminars this spring at La Salle University. The topic is "Postmodernism and Faith."

The first talk is today at 1pm. John Caputo (Villanova University, philosophy) will be giving a talk entitled, "The Gift." I'm assuming that his remarks will likely be presented against the background of Jean-Luc Marion who speaks of God as being-as-given (or as "gift"), in light of the phenomenological concept of "the given". This, of course, can function in turn against the background of classical Christian trinitarian thought as we see in Pseudo-Dionysius or Aquinas, in which God's own being is seen in terms of the totally giving-over of each Person of the Trinity to the Others. Milbank and his radically orthodox colleagues have also spoken much of "donation" as a central metaphysical concept.

Later in the afternoon, Caputo will also be leading a seminar on "Heidegger, Derrida, and the Confessions" (of St. Augustine). It will be interesting to see how he traces out the connections. As some may know, Derrida has become increasingly concerned with religious concepts in recent years.

On February 26, there will be a conversation between Dave Efroymson (La Salle religion department, emeritus) and Fred van Fleteren (La Salle philosophy department). The topic is "Has Augustine Done More Evil than Good for Christianity?" Dave is a Catholic convert from Judaism and can be rather testy and provocative, with no patience for neo-platonism. I'm assuming he is taking the affirmative position. Fred, on the other hand, is a leading Augustine scholar and will be sure to give the Church Father a vigorous defense. This should be an interesting (and fun!) dialogue.

On March 21 Merold Westphal (an elder in the Reformed Church in America and philosopy professor at Fordham) will be lecturing on "The Religious Uses of Postmodern Philosophy." Several days later, on March 26, Bettina Bergo (Loyala College, Maryland, philosophy) will be talking about "Responsibility and Anxiety as Ethical 'Moods': Returns of Religion in Kierkegaard and Levinas."

John Caputo will return to finish off the series on April 17 with a lecture entitled, "Cyber-Spirits" and a seminar on "Postmodernism and Catholicism."

I'm certainly looking forward to the entire series and will report back as it progresses.