This book is an important contribution to the philosophy of music. Whereas most books in this field focus on the creation and reproduction of music, Bruce Benson's concern is the phenomenology of music making as an activity. He offers the radical thesis that it is improvisation that is primary in the moment of music making. Succinct and lucid, the book brings together a wide range of musical examples from classical music, jazz, early music and other genres. It offers a rich (...) tapestry incorporating both analytic and continental philosophy, musicology and performance-practice issues. It will be a provocative read for philosophers of art and musicologists and, because it eschews technicality, should appeal to general readers, especially those who perform. (shrink)
My goal here is to explore the deep and interpenetrating relationship of life, art, and worship, though not with the intent of merely sketching some theory about their relationship. Instead, it is about working out a way of life that can properly be termed "liturgical".
I argue that liturgy is primary to the Christian faith. By ‘liturgy’, however, I do not mean merely what happens on Sunday morning. Instead, I distinguish between ‘intensive’ and ‘extensive’ liturgies, those that occur when the body of Christ meets together and when that body disperses. All of this together constitutes Christian liturgy. My thesis is not that practice is more primary than theory, for that presupposes the possibility of drawing a sharp line between them – an impossible task. Rather, (...) liturgy is a variety of embodied cognition through which we know God and our neighbours. Theology is something that arises from our liturgies and is itself liturgical in nature. We may believe the Nicene Creed, but saying it aloud is performative in nature. I end by examining the relation of phronēsis and theōria in Aristotle and then consider the way Heidegger uses this distinction to argue that ‘know-how’ is the most basic kind of human knowledge. (shrink)
Bruce Ellis Benson puts forward the surprising idea that Nietzsche was never a godless nihilist, but was instead deeply religious. But how does Nietzsche affirm life and faith in the midst of decadence and decay? Benson looks carefully at Nietzsche's life history and views of three decadents, Socrates, Wagner, and Paul, to come to grips with his pietistic turn. Key to this understanding is Benson's interpretation of the powerful effect that Nietzsche thinks music has on the human spirit. Benson claims (...) that Nietzsche's improvisations at the piano were emblematic of the Dionysian or frenzied, ecstatic state he sought, but was ultimately unable to achieve, before he descended into madness. For its insights into questions of faith, decadence, and transcendence, this book is an important contribution to Nietzsche studies, philosophy, and religion. (shrink)
Words of Life is the sequel and companion to Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn," edited by Dominique Janicaud, Jean-Francois Courtine, Jean-Louis Chrétien, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion, and Paul Ricoeur. In that volume, Janicaud accuses Levinas, Henry, Marion, and Chrétien of "veering" from phenomenological neutrality to a theologically inflected phenomenology. By contrast, the contributors to this collection interrogate whether phenomenology's proper starting point is agnostic or atheistic. Many hold the view that phenomenology after the theological turn may very well be true (...) both to itself and to the phenomenological "things themselves." In one way or another, all of these essays contend with the limits and expectations of phenomenology. As such, they are all concerned with what counts as "proper" phenomenology and even the very structure of phenomenology. None of them, however, is limited to such questions. Indeed, the rich tapestry that they weave tells us much about human experience. Themes such as faith, hope, love, grace, the gift, the sacraments, the words of Christ, suffering, joy, life, the call, touch, listening, wounding, and humility are woven throughout the various meditations in this volume. The contributors use striking examples to illuminate the structure and limits of phenomenology and, in turn, phenomenology serves to clarify those very examples. Thus practice clarifies theory and theory clarifies practice, resulting in new theological turns and new life for phenomenology. The volume showcases the work of both senior and junior scholars, including Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-Yves Lacoste, Kevin Hart, Anthony J. Steinbock, Jeffrey Bloechl, Jeffrey L. Kosky, Clayton Crockett, Brian Treanor, and Christina Gschwandtner-as well as the editors themselves. (shrink)
What do the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion have in common with Christianity? Surprisingly, they are all concerned about idolatry, about the tendency we have to create God in our own image and about what we can do about it. Can we faithfully speak of God at all without interposing ourselves? If so, how? Bruce Ellis Benson explores this common concern by clearly laying out the thought of each of these postmodern thinkers against the background of modern (...) philosophers such as Descartes, Locke and Hume and in light of the rise of phenomenology as developed by Husserl and Heidegger. All these thinkers he brings into conversation with a full range of biblical teaching. The result is an illuminating survey of some key postmodern thinkers and profound insight into the nature of conceptual idolatry. Benson also exposes some of the limitations inherent in postmodern attempts to provide a purely philosophical solution to the problem of ideological idolatry. Ultimately, he argues, there is a need for something greater than human philosophy, religion or theology--namely, the biblical revelation of God in Jesus Christ. (shrink)
This collection of ground-breaking essays considers the many dimensions of prayer: how prayer relates us to the divine; prayer's ability to reveal what is essential about our humanity; the power of prayer to transform human desire and action; and the relation of prayer to cognition. It takes up the meaning of prayer from within a uniquely phenomenological point of view, demonstrating that the phenomenology of prayer is as much about the character and boundaries of phenomenological analysis as it is about (...) the heart of religious life.The contributors: Michael F. Andrews, Bruce Ellis Benson, Mark Cauchi, Benjamin Crowe, Mark Gedney, Philip Goodchild, Christina M. Gschwandtner, Lissa McCullough, Cleo McNelly Kearns, Edward F. Mooney, B. Keith Putt, Jill Robbins, Brian Treanor, Merold Westphal, Norman Wirzba, Terence Wright and Terence and James R. Mensch. Bruce Ellis Benson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. He is the author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida, and Marion on Modern Idolatry and The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music. Norman Wirzba is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Georgetown College, Kentucky. He is the author of The Paradise of God and editor of The Essential Agrarian Reader. (shrink)
In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine presents Jean-Luc Marion's rethinking of the modern notion of the self by way of an original reading of Saint Augustine through the lens of a phenomenology of givenness. Here he tests the hermeneutic validity of concepts forged in his previous works. His goal is to show that the Confessiones are inscribed within the confessio, that love is an underlying epistemic condition of truth, and that God's call and our response to God (...) are both gifts. Ultimately, Marion points us toward a conception of the self that is at once postmodern and very Augustinian. (shrink)
Victims of abuse and violence are often pressured to forgive their perpetrators. The idea of unconditional forgiveness—forgiveness granted regardless of apology, remorse, or change of behavior—has become a norm for many in the west and those who refuse to forgive are often seen as resentful and bitter. Yet those imploring forgiveness are often the powerful and those asked to forgive are often minorities who have comparatively little power. Since forgiveness in western culture derives from Jesus’s teachings, I return to those (...) teachings. While the verse “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” is often cited as what Jesus taught, the reality is that his teaching about forgiveness is strongly connected to repentance or remorse. I show how those teachings have been significantly distorted to create the norm of unconditional forgiveness. Finally, I consider the value and place of resentment. (shrink)
All of us working in continental philosophy of religion can be grateful to James K. A. Smith for his call to consider which practices will best further the “health” of the burgeoning subdiscipline of continental philosophy of religion. Given that he offers his suggestions “in the spirit of ‘conversation starters,’” my response is designed to continue what I hope will be an ongoing conversation. With that goal in mind, I respond to Smith by considering not only the practicality of each (...) suggestion but also whether adopting practices he suggests would actually improve the health of the subdiscipline. (shrink)
Although Breton barely mentions the term “metanoia,” it well describes the radical change that takes place for anyone who adopts the logic of the cross. In effect, that logic results in a self that is radically de-centered. Moreover, to embrace that logic is to give up the demand for both reasons and signs. Arguing for a radicalconception of kenosis, Breton insists that it is a true emptying that remains powerless and senseless in light of any worldly logos and, as such, (...) can only appear to be folly. Thus, the fool for Christ is truly a fool. (shrink)
This collection addresses the perennial philosophical and theological issues of human finitude and the potentiality for evil. The contributors approach these issues from perspectives in Continental philosophy relating to phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics, rabbinical traditions, drawing upon the work of Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and Paul Ricoeur. While centering on the traditional theme of theodicy, this volume is also oriented to the phenomenology of religion, with contributions across religions and intellectual traditions.
In this multi-faceted volume, Christian and other religiously committed theorists find themselves at an uneasy point in history—between premodernity, modernity, and postmodernity—where disciplines and methods, cultural and linguistic traditions, and religious commitments tangle and cross. Here, leading theorists explore the state of the art of the contemporary hermeneutical terrain. As they address the work of Gadamer, Ricoeur, and Derrida, the essays collected in this wide-ranging work engage key themes in philosophical hermeneutics, hermeneutics and religion, hermeneutics and the other arts, hermeneutics (...) and literature, and hermeneutics and ethics. Readers will find lively exchanges and reflections that meet the intellectual and philosophical challenges posed by hermeneutics at the crossroads. Contributors are Bruce Ellis Benson, Christina Bieber Lake, John D. Caputo, Eduardo J. Echeverria, Benne Faber, Norman Lillegard, Roger Lundin, Brian McCrea, James K. A. Smith, Michael VanderWeele, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. (shrink)
Norman Wirzba, Bruce Ellis Benson, and an international group of philosophers and theologians describe how various expressions of philosophy are transformed by the discipline of love. What is at stake is how philosophy colors and shapes the way we receive and engage each other, our world, and God. Focusing primarily on the Continental tradition of philosophy of religion, the work presented in this volume engages thinkers such as St. Paul, Meister Eckhart, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Ricoeur, Derrida, Marion, Zizek, Irigaray, and (...) Michele Le Doeuff. Emerging from the book is a complex definition of the wisdom of love which challenges how we think about nature, social justice, faith, gender, creation, medicine, politics, and ethics. (shrink)
Rather than being concerned with questions of aesthetic standards, Ingarden focuses on the question of where a musical work exists. Thus he attempts to draw clear distinctions between musical works, scores, and performances. Yet, while these distinctions seem questionable even from the standpoint of classical music, in jazz, which operates under a paradigm in which improvisation is primary, they prove far more problematic. A crucial assumption behind Ingarden's view of music is that musical performance is essentially a kind of faithful (...) reproduction. But the question is: why does Ingarden assume this musical model? The only way to answer this question is by examining some of the basic presuppositions by which classical music functions and which Ingarden simply takes over. Although Ingarden's investigation of the musical work is usually seen as a phenomenology of music in general, precisely because Ingarden restricts his analysis to works of classical music, his conception of music turns out to be a highly limited one. In the end, the issue of aesthetic value — which Ingarden claims should come after a phenomenology of music — turns out to be what his investigation of music assumes. (shrink)