Author Archives: Brian LePort
Since many readers of this blog are students of Western Seminary I thought I’d link over to the first “vlog” done with one of our professors. We asked Gerry Breshears how one can avoid burn out while engaging in social justice issues. See his answer here. If you have a comment don’t be shy. Gerry is anticipating some interaction.
For those interested in winning a copy of Walter Brueggemann’s An Unsettling God enter this caption contest:
Deconstruction and Hermeneutics: Placing Jacques Derrida and Hans-Georg Gadamer in Non-Dialog (Paper)
The PDF document that I am providing for download is a copy of the paper I wrote for the Th.M. class where we explored the relationship between philosophy and (Christian) theology. I should note that it was a better writing experience than it is a paper. I decided to take on the overwhelming tasks of juxtaposing Hans-Georg Gadamer and his philosophical hermeneutics with Jacques Derrida and “deconstruction”.
What will make this paper frustrated for the reader is that I go back and forth between writing for a novice and writing for someone familiar with the subject. In part, this is likely because I wrote as a novice trying to become more familiar with the subject so there was an evolution in my own thinking over the course of working on this project. Also, as anyone who has studied Gadamer and/or Derrida could have told me, if the paper is going to be around five thousand words just focus on one person. There is no way to give either philosopher sufficient attention at twenty five hundred words a piece.
So now that I have told you why not to read it let me tell you why you may want to read it: the subject is interesting. Gadamer and Derrida met in person in 1981 to discuss this very relationship. Many people are still baffled at the results. I will leave it you to decide on one thing: does reading this paper make you want to know more about either Gadamer or Derrida? If so, I count it a success.
Download here: LePort. Deconstruction and Hermeneutics
I don’t know how many Th.M. students are members of the Society of Biblical Literature, but if you happen to be a student member a couple of changes were announced today:
Fellow Th.M. students who were in the philosophy class today: I didn’t provide hand out notes but if you want to engage the subject more, or you would just like a printed version of the discussion guide, you can find it on my blog:
(This post is part of a series that the Th.M. students at Western Seminary are doing this semester on understanding the relationship between philosophy and theology.)
When I lived in San Francisco I worked as an overnight counselor in a lock-down facility housing adolescents with various social and/or psychological disorders. It was rough. There was a reason these kids-who-were-adults-too-early were not allowed to wander around in society. Whenever they were “free” they were incontrollable.
Many had horrible experiences as children–verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, watching day after day of domestic abuse from one parent toward another, drug abuse. This causes nights to be a source of angst for many. Nightmares were normality. I saw teens who would act like adults at 9AM turn into fearful children at 9PM.
One way to help these people cope was to provide them with drugs. I will admit, I often wanted these kids to take their drugs. When they were drugged they were “normal”. Some would do it. Some hated it. Those who hated it knew it doped them up, it slowed their thinking, it calmed them down while taking away their sense of control, their sense of autonomy, their sense of “being”. Nightmares or dopiness? What a choice.
One philosopher/sociologist/historian we encountered in our reading is Michel Foucault. I do not know enough about him to pretend that I can summarize his views on matters, but I do know he was skeptical of modern systems of control like the place I worked and the pharmaceutic companies that provided the drugs. We “knew” what was best for these kids and our “knowledge” was “power”….if they took the drug. I saw the decision as an easy night at work or a hard one. They saw it as their humanity or robotics.
Foucault noticed this. Those of us who do not suffer with mental trauma want those who do to take the drugs because their instability challenges our way of life. We want them drugged. We want them locked away. We would rather pay $200,000 annually to have them taken away then wandering our streets. Is Foucault right? Is our “knowledge” of what they need “power”?
If it were you who had to chose between fearful humanity or numb robotics which would it be? It is easier for those giving the drugs than those asked to take them. Some are not even asked as our love for diagnosing children with ADHD has shown over the years! Is this moral? Are we in “the right” when we drug to control? Or is this mere power disguised as “rightness” and “truth” and “order”?
What do you think? As a Christian theologian what do you say to the drugging of society? What is our response to madness? Should we support it because it is “good” in a utilitarian fashion or should we oppose it because all too often the drugs are not for the worst case scenario but for the control of those whom we find uncontrollable?
This expanding structure is great for seeing how certain areas of thought are connected to each other in Western philosophy (here).
For those who are going to be writing a ThM thesis here is a list of twenty-nine theses released by Durham University to use as a model or for research:
Fellow philosophers, I found another resource. It is a NPRish radio show based out of San Francisco called “Philosophy Talk” (very “Car Talk”-ish). They have covered many subjects so you may find a few shows worth your time. Listen here.
For those who will be taking Marc’s philosophy class I thought I’d mention that you can watch a long list of videos from Academic Earth that seemingly deal with some of what we will be covering in classes and in our reading. The philosopher is Shelly Kagan of Yale. You can find the lectures here.