Philosophical Excitement


As I begin my study of Deleuze, I have this sense of excitement and wonder. This summer I tried to read Difference and Repetition but not having the proper background I only managed to stumble my way through the first 100 pages. However, I remember feeling this anticipation that I was genuinely encountering something truly creative and special. I’m going to toss in my top 10 books (in no particular order) that gave me a sense of excitement that only great works can truly expire

Nietzsche’s the Anti-Christ

Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Freud’s Totem and Taboo

Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Derrida’s Of Grammatology

Altizer’s Gospel of Christian Atheism

Mark C Taylor’s Altarity

Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison

Cone’s God of the Oppressed

Moltmann’s Crucified God


11 Responses to “Philosophical Excitement”

  1. dave Says:

    Jeremy, I’m replying here in (partial) reply to your comment over at AUFS. I wanted to let you know that it was thanks to your list here that I was lead to Altarity, which I hope will have some connections with an essay I’ve been working on for a creation stories class. I do hope to read the whole book over break, and when I get to it, I’ll be sure to try to give you my thoughts in some form.

    I’ve been trying to come up with a short list of works that gave me the excitement you describe, but I haven’t been able to commit to them in my mind. This is partially because I haven’t done as much primary text reading as I’d like to. It’s hard for me to pick one work of Kierkegaard’s, but probably the Postscript, and for Nietzsche, I’ve always been partial to Twilight of the Idols. I’ve been wanting to read a primary text of Freud for a while now, so I might have to check out Totem and Taboo. In my nineteenth century course, we were originally going to read Civilization and Its Discontents, but my professor opted to do Darwin instead of Freud.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Sure thing. Well, I’m glad you’re going to check out Altarity, obviously Erring is the best work on postmodern deconstructive theology. Although I would argue that Crockett’s latest book Interstices of the Sublime is equally a great conversation between post-structralist (Lacanian) psychoanalysis and theology. (Teaser, apparently Crockett and Robbins are both in the process of publishing books on radical political theology. I haven’t discussed much of Robbins, but he has a book that lays out his understanding of a non-dogmatic theology.)

    Like most of Taylor’s work (here I’m thinking mostly of Erring) the book is maddening. He has this way of writing that leaves on somewhat disoriented. Not sure if you’ve ever read Altizer, but he has a similar ability to leave one mesmerized.

    Yeah, in retrospect all of Nieztsche’s works are great. I deliberated between those two and the Gay Science of the Genealogy of Morals. However, the Anti-Christ knocked me right on my ass, and well Zarathustra is not only powerful philosophy but spectacular literature.

    I’ve only read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, I need to read more on him, but right now I’m trying to get my mind wrapped around Hegel (which might lead back to Kant, fuck) before I try to read SK. Hopefully after grappling with Kierkegaard my next victim will be Barth (given his indebtedness to SK).

    I’d also encourage Civilization, it’s shorter but less imaginative that T&T. As someone who’s being trained as a Freudian psychologists, I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve yet to read the interpretations of Dreams or Psychopathology of Everyday Life. You might also consider reading something like An Outline of Psychoanalysis or check out Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which was a major turning point in Freudian theory (re: death drive).
    Also, Future of an Illusion is your typical Freudian argument that sees religion as illusory wish-fulfillment, short and sweet.

  3. dave Says:

    I’ve not read Altizer, and it will be my first book from Taylor.

    I’d say that Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are probably the two philosophers I’m most familiar with, as well as the two philosophers who I’ve read a significant amount of. Still, there are some gaps in my reading of SK that I need to attend to soon (Works of Love and Philosophical Fragments). A lot of times, it’s assumed that the Postscript is his most difficult work, but I’m not sure I’d agree with that. It’s a good place to start, I think, although Either/Or is pretty important and The Sickness Unto Death is good too. The most straightforward of his works are from the later period, such as Practice in Christianity and Judge for Yourself.

    Or, if you want to go a shorter route, there are some great introductions to him out there, but Patrick Gardiner and Michael Watts.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Well, if you ever delve into Altizer’s work let me know. I’ve read the majority of his works, and I find it to be truly fascinating and exciting. Some of his later works were especially excellent, although almost entirely ignored by the theological community. In fact, other than introducing Lacan to a wider audience one of the things I truly appreciate about Zizek is engaging Altizer (as most recently demonstrated by his work Monstrosity of Christ where he argues that Caputo’s weak theology is actually not radical enough as Altizer’s thoroughly apocalyptic (and historical) theology). I’ll look into those introductions to Kierkegaard, Lord knows my reading list is somewhere up to 300 these days).

    Not sure how familiar you are with religious appropriations of Derrida’s work, but I began reading Derrida via Caputo. Needless to say Taylor reads Derrida much differently, I think more along the lines of how Derrida was initially received by the academy based on his work in the 60’s and 70’s. Read Erring afterward as it will help you better understand what specifically Taylor is trying to do with Derrida for religion with Kierkegaard and Hegel always in the background. Actually in one his newest works After God he discusses how he reads the last 200 years of theology as constantly fluctuating between the radical Christological (later on Barthian) transcendence and the Hegelian reading of Christianity.

  5. dave Says:

    I’ve read Derrida through Caputo as well. Off the top of my head, I’ve read Deconstruction in a Nutshell (which I guess is also Derrida himself) and Caputo’s book for the church and postmodernism series. I’ve read traces of Derrida’s own work – basically a few parts from Writing and Difference, Dissemination, and Of Grammatology. I actually used Derrida a good bit for that creation stories paper I mentioned. My favorite work on postmodernism and Christianity (if we must use a catch-all in that way) is Merold Westphal’s Overcoming Ontotheology.

  6. Jeremy Says:

    I’d suggest Caputo’s Prayers and Tears to get an understanding of Derrida that will help contrast Taylor’s more nihilistic interpretation. Likewise, Caputo’s After the Death of God is more representative of some of his later more theological work on weak theology. I’ve only read Westphal’s Postmodernism and Christian thought, which was underwhelming. I’d suggest Westphal’s religious interpretation of Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud in Suspicion and Faith.

  7. dave Says:

    Suspicion and Faith is one of my favorite books, actually. I’m pretty sure that the book I mentioned is a collection of related essays, and not really a monograph. Westphal’s new book in the church and postmodernism series is excellent, too. In my opinion it’s the best one of the series. I’ll check out Prayers and Tears some time. I’m somewhat familiar with weak thought, but more through glimpses of Vattimo than anything else. I’m doing an independent study on Paul Ricoeur right now, but earlier in the semester, I thought it was going to be an independent study on the death of God and it’s implications for philosophy and theology, so I read a few Vattimo books.

  8. Jeremy Says:

    I don’t really like Vattimo. Not sure if you checked my archives, but I wrote a series of posts about the death of God through Freud, Nietzsche, Bonhoeffer, Altizer, and Taylor. Honestly, I think Caputo recognizes Vattimo is more or less advocating Altizer minus the Hegelian metaphysics. That and the fact that Altizer is a legitimate historical theologian, and well Vattimo theology I believe potentially flirts with Anti-Judaism.

    I’ve never really gotten into hermeneutics. I’ve read a couple of books by Kearney. However, my interest in Heidegger and Gadamer has never been piqued. I tried to read Kearney’s book on Ricoeur, but i had a hard time working my way through it because of boredom. I also should mention After the Death of God is a work by both Caputo and Vattimo where Caputo discusses the differences and similarities with regards to their different interpretations post-metaphysical theology.

  9. dave Says:

    Yeah, I wasn’t really fond of Vattimo, which is why I ended up switching topics. It’s good to hear about the differences between Vattimo and Altizer. I think the first book of Altizer’s I might read is his autobiography. Moltmann’s just came out as well, and I think think the two might make for some good reading.

  10. dave Says:

    Jeremy, I’m replying to say something else, but I just glanced over the comments here and we talked about Suspicion and Faith already. Not only did you recommend it to me first, but this thread is less than a month old! I have a shitty memory, I guess.

    Anyways, I’m replying to say that I’ve finally dug into Altarity for my paper that’s due tomorrow, and it is indeed fantastic. I’m only reading one section closely, on Kierkegaard and the Crisis of the Word (the final section of the book), but it’s incredible and one of the best pieces of writing I’ve read recently.

  11. Jeremy Says:

    I thought that conversation rang a bell. Oh well, finals are almost here so I understand the memory loss. Yeah, this summer I read Altarity while working a night shift for a battered women’s hotline. Some of the nights I’d have off so I’d be up from like 5 in the afternoon til 10 in the morning. I recall quite vividly reading Altarity at 4 in the morning and being so excited wanting to talk to someone about this magnificent work. I’ll admit some of the readings were less interesting, but the ones on Lacan, Hegel, Kristeva, and Bataille were among my favorites. The way he weaves in the philosopher’s biographies were especially fascinating. especially his discussion of Kierkegaard’s long lost love Regina, or Hegel’s bastard child.

    It’s really interesting to read Taylor’s Erring and then to read Caputo’s Prayers and Tears. Derrida’s interview in a book dedicated to Caputo called Passion of the Impossible is especially interesting read. Derrida talks about his feelings about being appropriated by different theologians and their wildly different interpretations of his work. From Taylor’s deconstructive death-of-God theology to Caputo’s post-metaphysical religion w/o religion both offer fascinating albeit contrasting understandings of Derrida’s work. I think Taylor departed somewhat from Derrida and returned more to Hegel and to a lesser extent Kierkegaard in his works in the 90’s after the more religious/ethical/political turn in Derrida’s later work in the 80’s and 90’s. These later work of Derrida are of course what informs Caputo’s appropriation of deconstruction and negative theology.

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