Friday, September 25, 2009

Caputo, John D. Review of Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank, THE MONSTROSITY OF CHRIST. NDPR (September 2009).

Zizek, Slavoj, and John Milbank. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?. Ed. Creston Davis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. Materialism just isn't what it used to be. Nowadays everyone wants to be a materialist, even the theologians, while the materialists want to look like they lead a spiritual life. The battle that is joined today is no longer between materialism and idealism, or hard-nosed Newtonians and far out spirit-seers, but between "materialist materialism" and "theological materialism", between crude soulless materialism and materialism with spirit, a materialism of the spirit, a religious materialism (93). "Materialist materialism is simply not as materialist as theological materialism", says John Milbank, the leading Anglo-Catholic theologian of the day, in this published debate with Slavoj Žižek, a Lacanian neo-Marxist writer and something of a Slovenian philosophical sensation in the Anglophone world (206). Theological materialism goes back to Christology, the materialism of the Logos made matter, in which matter really matters. Žižek would agree, but he would stand this statement on its head in a resuscitated and refashioned neo-Hegelian death of God theology. The debate that unfolds is strikingly Christological, in which both parties agree that Christianity is the absolute truth (Hegel), where Milbank takes his Christology straight up (treating Žižek's as a "counterfeit") and Žižek takes his on the rocks (treating Milbank's version as "imaginary" (153, 245). The book is a splendid condensation and cross section of a contemporary debate between writers who seek to position themselves beyond the postmodernism or poststructuralism that dominated the last few decades of European thought. Whatever one thinks of the views of Milbank or Žižek, we may be very grateful to editor Creston Davis for crafting such a first rate exchange. . . . Read the whole review here:

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