23 April 2002

Once again, I find that I've been neglecting my blog. There's no really excuse this time except for general end-of-the-term business.

Last week John Caputo (of Villanova) came to La Salle University to speak again, rounding out our semester series on Postmodernism and Faith. He gave two talks, one a general lecture aimed at the undergraduates and one a small seminar aimed at the philosophy faculty and majors.

The general lecture was called "Cyber Spirits" and covered material that can also be found in his recent book On Religion. He began by reviewing some of the dualisms that emerged out of the Enlightenment and their general effects, particularly with regard to issues of faith in relation to science, society, politics, an so on. By now, the story is a familiar one--the modernist stance towards knowledge is characterized by a detached and disengaged reason that throws off the shackles of superstition and tradition in the name of a new science, unfolding into dualism, instrumentalism, and social atomism. This situation is one that is, in many respects, singularly hostile to faith: faith vs. reason, sacred vs. secular, religion vs. science, church vs. state, and so on.

With the postmodern critique of the Enlightenment, however, they all dualisms have been unmasked as binary oppositions founded, not upon the neutral, objective demands of knowledge, but upon the far more unstable sands of politics, power, and arbitrary privilege. Thus postmodernism points beyond to a future in which such dualism no longer thrive. At this point Caputo asked us to consider the world envisioned by the Star Wars films--a set of highly technological and scientific cultures set on the stage of inter-galactic politics. And yet, it is also a world suffused with the demands of faith: the everpresent Force, religious hierarchies, societies of Jedi knights, and so on, all seamlessly intertwined with science, politics, and intellect.

Caputo's point was not to recommend the religion of Star Wars per se, which by all accounts is rather more Eastern in flavor than it is Christian. Rather, he finds the vision projected by Star Wars to hold out a tantalizing possibility for people of faith: that the world that lies beyond the modern, though fraught with its own dangers and snares, may be one that is, nonetheless, more friendly towards, and indeed more cognizant of its need for religion and people and faith.

I'll say something about Caputo's seminar talk in a subsequent blog entry.