The William Desmond Reader

The Irish Catholic Philosopher

For some time now I have maintained that the only hope for theology to breakout of it present day deadlock is through Hegel. This theological deadlock can basically be seen in the dominate forms of theology in the 20th Century– that is, liberal and post-liberal theology . In the 60s the emergence of a “Death of God” theology presented some promise that would finally dislodge theology from both its onto-theological grounding as well as its link to the American Empire seen in the trend of Christian ‘Realism.’ This “Death of God” theology was most basically indebted to Hegel’s ontological structure–a structure premised not on a transcendence fully debarred from materialism, but rather on a process of negativity–of risk itself! Thus transcendence for Hegel had to risk its very being for it-self in order for transcendence to fully realize itself in materialism as such–so that transcendence could fully realize its being in-and-for-itself. In short, it is clear that Hegel’s ontological structure of the negative provides theology some tools by which to realize the truth of its own discourse–a movement of risk, of embracement, and above all, of love.

Yet, Hegel’s very structure is not completely innocent. This is why the very engagement with Hegel is crucial for contemporary theology. Not just from the side of Zizek’s recent work (see his piece on Paul for example forthcoming in our book Paul’s New Moment) but from a more catholic side too. This is why any reading of Hegel for the purposes of articulating a theology– or a political subject premised on the negative (such as Althusser and Breton) that breaks free from the dominate ideological structures operating today–must take seriously the most serious and sustained reading of Hegel in our time. This is why it is absolutely crucial to engage with the work of the Irish Catholic philosopher William Desmond. For it is Desmond’s work that calls us to radically re-think Hegel’s project on many different and interactive levels. This is why Christopher Simpson (author of Religion, Metaphysics, and the Postmodern: William Desmond & John D. Caputo) and I are editing The William Desmond Reader, which will feature an interview by Richard Kearney and a fresh piece by Desmond on his positive metaphysics of the BETWEEN–the metaxological. It is Desmond’s extraordinary contribution to thinking LITERALLY through Hegel and out the other side into a positive unfolding that is irreducible to any foundationalism (the ontology of the I=I or the Fichtean varient I= NOT-I) that gives us philosophical and theological possibilities to continue on beyond the prosaic state of theology today.  It is my belief that Hegel is not the same without really reading Desmond.  More radically, this book posits the question: Could it be that Desmond is that which saves Hegel from himself!  And, if so, does not this very possibility change the coordinates of theology (and Continental Philosophy) today?

3 thoughts on “The William Desmond Reader

  1. Interesting…but don’t you think it is overreaching to say that Hegel will change the coordinates of theology today? Personally, I think Hegel is quite fascinating but not as relevant for theology as phenomenology is….

    Plus, there is good reason that Hegel’s thought lead to the death of god theology–perhaps that’s where Hegel should stay.

  2. Looking forward to the book. I have read Desmond for a while now, and he’s not only brilliant but also an absolute joy to read — like comfort food philosophy.

  3. Awaiting the release of this work, which I am sure will of great help to anyone to understand the basic terminologies of Desmond. On Joe’s comment on Hegel’s relevance for theology or for that matter for God-question is as important or even more than phenomenology. Unless one crosses off the boundaries of phenomenology, how can he talk of the beond. Desmond’s approach is a clear example and a path that directs ‘from Hegel’s dialectical thinking to the metaxological medation of Desmond that he himself explains as ‘open dialectic’

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