Manual Radical Orthodoxy: Annual Review I

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The better we understand human genetics, the more difficult it gets to pinpoint genes for speed, height, eyesight, and the trademark attributes typically advantageous to athletes. How much part does training play? How much part does environment play? The book is absolutely worth reading for this balanced consideration alone, and not just as it applies to sports. Here are a further few reflective take-aways:. Epstein has no expressed construct of the soul.

What is in the soul and not in the genes that could affect success in athletics, or arts or politics for that matter? As genetic science and training science get more sophisticated, I suspect naturalist answers will get more and more complicated, with a diminishing return of insight. There is a rush to diagnose and understand people through laboratories. This has validity and is often prudent, but as with 1, how much can we really know about ourselves just by screening and tests? The ancients would have mixed responses. Epstein delightfully complicates cases like Jamaican sprinters and Kenyan distance runners.

Epstein includes studies of chess players and musicians to elaborate on traits of masters across specialties, and the evidence seems telling: Those who diversify their interests early in life generally have an advantage as they specialize and dedicate themselves to one thing later on. Children who play lots of sports or try to learn lots of things are better-positioned for general and particular success. Outside elite contexts, the cult of the diverse amateur is alive and well.

And those who are pigeon-holed into specializing at young ages frequently hit the dreaded plateaus that limit their progress to the elite levels. Complimentarily, those who dedicate themselves before adulthood to extensive private practice have a major edge in learning both the physical and mental skills that transfer to excellence. The best athletes and artists, writers, scientists, etc. Arguably, following Ivan Illich and Charles Taylor, this is the result of an excessive Western Christian emphasis on the ethical, practical and disciplinary, isolating the contemplative, festive and liturgical.

In any case, an ethics claiming to be independent of religious vision is evidently subject to two seemingly opposed tendencies. On the one hand, it sinks into "moralism" - currently taking the form of "political correctness" -which ignores the proximity of the ethical to questions of tragedy, fate or providence, historical legacy, existential vocation, and aesthetic vision.

On the other hand, it proves unable to account for the ethical imperative in its own terms and so replaces "the good" with "right", thereby inevitably grounding this imperative in the pre-ethical, given our sheer open liberty, on the one hand, or our sensory impulses to happiness or a projective sympathy, on the other. In practical reality, moralism pertains to the everyday level of epiphenomenal "gossip" that now dominates our media, while reductionism pertains to the level of the elite scientific decisions and normative processes that govern our lives.

The idea that it is "unhistorical" to question the irreversibility of enlightenment is surely itself a failure to think in historicist terms. I have two responses to this claim: "postmodern" and "Latourian", by analogy with Bruno Latour's claim that "we have never been modern". The postmodern response would be that the triumph of enlightenment is only the contingent triumph of a particular set of intellectual power struggles. Victors write history and the heirs of the philosophers have contrived to make their victory seem the inevitable outcome of progress.

But the key claims of enlightenment lie in the fields of ethics, politics and metaphysics, not in the field of incontrovertible scientific advances. Although these claims often purport to be linked to such advances for example, Kant's association of his thought with Newtonianism , the linkage is not so transparent and, in any case, some of these advances have already been overturned as, for example, Newtonianism by relativist and quantum physics. My second response would perhaps be more important, along the lines of "we have never been enlightened". Many historians now doubt whether there was any single "enlightened" phenomenon.

Instead, they are increasingly thinking in terms of a "long Reformation", "a long Counter-Reformation" and "a long Renaissance" - indeed, a revived Renaissance against the Cartesian "Counter-Renaissance". The main currents of enlightenment increasingly resemble extensions of a Socinian, Unitarian and Arianisising reformation think of Newton himself or even, sometimes, a Jansenist counter-reformation the latter gave rise to political economy, perhaps the most typical product of enlightenment, and played a crucial part in the discontent of the local parlements that helped usher in the French Revolution.

In addition, the more radical currents were extensions not only of Spinozism, but also of a Brunonian Hermeticism.

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In either case, the extent to which one key phenomenon is the institutional victory of a new religious body freemasonry over an older one the Church has been much underestimated, because such a thesis is tainted with Catholic reactionary conspiracy theory. Only now are we starting to realise, thanks to the work of Jan Assmann and others, that it has some measure of objective truth. However, a similar issue of a single, univocal enlightenment would also currently lead me in the direction of qualifying any simple "anti-enlightenment" stance.

To some degree, RO resonates with the typical reaction of, for example, the Scottish Enlightenment to a Christian "orthodoxy" that had turned too voluntarist and rationalist and, therefore, too inclined to uphold a contractual and rights-based approach to the ethical and political. In this light, Shaftesbury's "neo-pagan" development of an ethics of "formation" crucial for later German theories of bildung and sympathy in a Platonic-Stoic guise becomes understandable for all its inadequacy.

This outlook greatly influenced the Scots, albeit in a diluted form. Moreover, recent remarkable researches by Donald Livingston and others are starting to detect "proto-romantic" elements, even in the thinking of David Hume who views internal human "feeling" as a reliable intuitive guide to a world itself linked by a still occult "sympathy" there are some parallels to Goethe, in this instance rather than a mere exacerbation of the rational-empiricist thinking of Locke or an outright scepticism. This can lead one to ask whether, inversely, the same stronger "proto-romantic" elements in thinkers such as Vico and Herder are not themselves currents of one particular version of "enlightenment" - if we understand the latter to be, in part, a revival of renaissance humanism against the anti-humanism of Bacon and Descartes.

In terms of the more anti-Christian currents of enlightenment, with Charles Taylor, it must be said that our current modern outlook is also the result of the Romantic reaction against enlightenment. Schlegel and others, stressing more a participation in transcendence and ultimately tending towards an embrace of both Platonism and Christianity. At present, RO is very interested in Manfred Frank's demonstration that "Romantic" philosophy was a re-working of traditional realism in more vital and poetic terms and not a mode of aestheticised Fichteanism - although Frank underrates the theological dimension.

Should theology now realise that Schleiermacher still too Kantian was not the most interesting German Romantic thinker from a theological perspective, even though he was the theologian? To me, the advantage of complicating historical narratives in this way is that it tends to deflate spurious and pointlessly embittered cultural debates. I should also explain that RO is less opposed to enlightenment and the secular world than it is to a distorted Christianity, for which it tends to blame the worst aspects of the enlightened legacy: either in continuity with, or in reaction against this distortion.

This is fast becoming a pressing practical question for Christians, in general, and not only for RO, in particular. For example, this year there was a dispute in Birmingham, England, concerning the alleged Islamification of a state school in that city. The different religions are by and large standing together to defend it against a perceived secular attack. Yet without in any way commenting on this particular case this can spell dangers for Christianity. It needs to steer a middle course between viewing itself as simply one example of a general "good thing" called religion, on the one hand, and deploring religious extremism or criticising the inadequacy of other religious perspectives, on the other, just as much as it deplores the autonomously secular and criticises the limits of secularity.

With respect to Islam, common cause can indeed be made with respect to some ethical, cultural and economic issues, yet at the same time some of the values of Western secularism - for example, the enhanced role of women, the displacement of law from the place of ultimate value - are clearly the result of a Christian legacy. Or, more subtly, Christianity, like its secular cultural heirs, may be more positive in its attitude towards the visual image than is Islam, yet may also share much of the Muslim horror at its current debasement and deployment for mass manipulation.

In fundamental terms, Christians, in keeping with St Paul in Romans, must value any human recognition of divine and spiritual powers, together with transcendent norms. Indeed, one could argue - at something of a tangent to Barth - that the reading of the ritual and intellectual practices of other cultures as "religion", or as some approximation to the vera religio, which is binding to the one true triune and incarnate God, according to Tertullian, is a specifically Latin Christian legacy.

To sum up, I am of the opinion that it is important to view religion, so understood, as a universal good. But this depends on perceiving Christianity, in particular, not as a specific instance of a religious genus, but rather as an intensified universal insight that belongs with a genuinely universal religious ritual - that of the Mass, or Eucharist and all its liturgical outliers.

There is no "view from nowhere" from which we can assess religion - which is so often the source of both the worst and the best, since corruptio optima pessima. In fact, our apparently secular criteria for making such an assessment remain considerably Christian. But, more positively, Christians should at present increase their appreciation for the insights of other religions and regard them as ultimately different roads to Christ; this can potentially increase our understanding of his universal fulfilment. Judaism, in this respect, is in a special position, on which I have no space to comment.

Most certainly not. The secular is as nothing compared to the devil! If indeed the corruption of the best is the worst, then we must assume that the Satanic is most of all at work in the anti-Christian, in the perversion of faith itself, as I think the New Testament would lead us to believe. In this case, I opine that RO faces a problem that confronts all theology at all times: on the one hand, it has a responsibility to address contemporary problems or distortions; on the other, this exigency can itself prove distortive, tending to unbalance a theology that must ultimately adhere to an outlook that applies to all times, even if one can never escape the lens of one's own particular epoch.

I believe that, currently, Pope Francis has grasped very well how the Catholic Church, without compromising any of its stances, must not appear to be, or at worst turn into a kind of single-issue pressure group. In the current period, it may well appear that outright rejection of Christianity is the major crisis that we face nowadays.

But then, issues such as clerical child abuse scandals however much the media may distort, misanalyse and misrepresent them call us short. Even a dwindling Church can prove to be its own worst enemy. RO may, of course, have become over-obsessed with the secularisation issue and it needs to continue to enlarge its horizons. However, it is important to note that it has never mainly engaged in polemics against the secular, but rather has developed genealogies which tend to show that the secular is not as secular as one might think, or that it either perpetuates or understandably reacts against corrupted Christian emphases.

For us, these can include an excessive pietism that corrals the Christian faith into a narrow closet; a voluntarist account of God; an intellectually idolised reduction of God to the ontic, and a failure to elaborate on theology as a Christian philosophy that considers every aspect of reality - not excluding, I would say, even the physical and the mathematical. For want of a metaphysics in the name of a purer, more agnostic piety, one is always confined to a weak, implicit and perhaps distorted metaphysics by default.

I think clearly not, because our ontology or our ontologies! This is one reason why we have tended to reconfigure analogy as "non-identical repetition" see Catherine Pickstock's new book Repetition and identity, which further develops an "RO metaphysics". Although we do emphasise Platonic methexis or participation, we also tend to argue that the doctrine of Creation is the most participatory doctrine, since things created out of nothing exist only as image and share, without remainder. Perhaps Albert the Great of Cologne developed this truth excellently, as Alain de Libera has now shown: for Albert, neo-Platonic emanation of form downwards can be combined with Aristotelian "elicitation of form" upwards from matter, by appealing to Dionysius the Areopagite's view that the divine act of creation immediately brings about and yet is only possible through the "grateful" reception of this gift, which is, from the outset, a "return" to God by the creatures.

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In this way, Albert showed how the Christian understanding of creation is able to combine the Platonic stress on transcendent "vertical" causality with the Aristotelian emphasis on immanent, horizontal causality. Aquinas developed this approach further in his own way. In a similar vein, though we recently stressed the importance of the "theurgic" after Iamblichus and Proclus, we would argue that this perspective was appropriated by Dionysius, Maximus and Boethius, because the Incarnation is hyperbolically theurgic compared to any pagan scheme: in this instance, the divine descends to the point of identification and the saving ritual is offered first but then by us as the Church by God himself to God.

Indeed, without any pagan borrowing, Augustine offers similar conclusions with respect to his vox Psalmos totius Christi in his Enarrationes in Psalmos. This is linked to the real heart of atonement: the only acceptable gift that we can offer to God is God himself, and only the Incarnation renders this possible - both once and for all and yet, for that very reason, repeatedly. Moreover, this rendering simultaneously reveals that God is in himself a gift by the Son to the Father that is immediately as in the Dionysian paradigm of creation the grateful return of the Son to the Father, thereby mutually showing gift as a generous reciprocity, which then "proceeds" outwards from both as the donum of the Holy Spirit without limit.

It can also be noted that, as with our relation to contemporary, living religions such as Hinduism, nothing is gained for Christianity by caricature. No reader of Plotinus' sixth Ennead, for example, can seriously claim that Plotinus entirely lacks any notion of the personal or of willing in his account of both the One and emanation. Yet this is not at all to deny that Christianity, by comparison, vastly accentuated the dimension of personality and of free donation, nor that the incorporation of outgoing and response into the very life of the Godhead conceived as the Trinity, in the manner that I have just tried to indicate does not involve exponentially different insights, attitudes and practices.

Despite this analogy between attitudes to pagan philosophy and other religions, it remains for RO nonetheless still fundamentally the case that there is a special kinship however one accounts for this historically between the Platonic elevation of theoria with regard to the divine and the re-conception of the divine as identical with the Good. I do think that one can perceive a convergence between this notion and those of the Old Testament in the writings of the New: for example, in St Paul's account of the beatific vision.

By comparison, attempts to "de-Hellenize" Christian doctrine simply lead to its entire unravelling. It can also be noted that the work of recent Biblical critics such as Margaret Barker has tended to break with the delusion that the Old Testament was only concerned with the historical and revelatory and not with the cosmic and the symbolically participatory. This is manifest not only in the wisdom literature, but also in the whole complex of ideas regarding the temple. Too often supposed defenders of "the Bible" are really defending a particular ideological construction thereof that has more to do with outcomes of intellectual and cultural history than with really attending to the Bible itself.

Although RO has tried, like Joseph Ratzinger, to re-emphasise the importance of Hellenic and especially Platonic reason to the Christian legacy, I most certainly do not think that we represent a kind of "Christian Platonism" that would seek to be more Platonic than the Fathers or Aquinas or Nicholas of Cusa. Having said that, one is only being true to their spirit in realising that the engagement with the ancient philosophical corpus, like the engagement with the Hebrew scriptures, is never finally completed, such that one could now, in a globalised era, move onto "something else".

There is a certain sense in which Christianity is necessarily Mediterranean and European - Hebrew, Greek and even Roman - a sense which to deny would be to deny the particularity of the Incarnation itself. Perhaps one could mention that two major interpretative possibilities face theology at present. On the one hand, one could argue that Descartes and Kant sustain the "de-Platonisation" and "de-Peripateticisation" of Christianity, undertaken in the late Middle Ages in the wake of the condemnations of , to facilitate rapprochement with modern thought.

I call this the "Franciscan" option: modernity is a Franciscan outcome, substantially built on the legacy of the Medieval English Franciscans and their particular reading of Avicenna, which moved the Augustinian legacy in a much more voluntarist direction away from the Patristic notion that the way the world is reveals certain "essential" structures that disclose to us something of the divine mind. Instead, for Franciscan and cognate philosophy typically, metaphysics now weakly concerns already with Duns Scotus "transcendental" structures in a proto-Kantian sense, as Honnefelder has shown of the sheer possible "givenness" of reality in terms of the supposed complete formal separability of what there is from the fact that it is and the re-composability of any given thing into something else, due to the latency of a plurality of forms.

For this outlook, the givenness of reality is split, in opposition to the neoplatonic, Dionysian, Albertist and Thomist outlook, from the issue of its causal origination. That is instead handed over to a pure theology of the divine absolute power and inscrutable will. One can ironically note, in this instance, that German thought after Kant has really become too English and French in the wrong kind of way, such that German idealism is not really in continuity with the thought of the Albertists - of Dietrich, Eckhart and Cusanus. It is more plausible to mention that the German romantics, whose stress on the mediation by human creativity is already inaugurated by Cusa, picked up their neo-platonic realism in a new mode.

On the second, "Dominican option" one thinks, in this instance, of both the Thomist and the German Albertine legacy through to Nicholas of Cusa and even beyond , the movement away from a Platonising outlook in terms of a metaphysics of interpretative - which arguably most defines "the modernity we have" - is rejected in part because it is perceived to coincide with a general drift away from "symbolic realism", which also precludes a proper understanding of the Scriptures.

The condemnations of , in their understandable yet excessive sphere of a new pagan religiosity, focused on a contemplative felicity not adverting to revelation, nonetheless "threw the baby out with the bathwater", because, in rejecting Averroes and much of Avicenna, it also rejected opinions in Aquinas that were perfectly Patristic. After this period, without realist assumptions about relation, substance, accident, the nature of "proper" substantive and personal unity and so forth, nominalists such as Ockham found it difficult to articulate the key Christian doctrines in genuinely orthodox terms.

In this instance, much hinges on how one reads the Bible, but I would at least point out that the late Medieval anti-Platonic and anti-peripatetic Ockham's paired-down Aristotle rejects the Arab "peripatetic" synthesis turn coincided with an emphasis on the role of dialectics in theology and a downgrading of the importance of grammatical method and so a more narrative-based lectio of the sacred scriptures.

Of course, humanism and the Reformation then reacted against this - but one could argue in a cultural situation that had somehow lost its procedural way. Thus, the remedies of both the humanists and the reformers were consequently varied and sometimes confusing. This by no means denigrates the novel and genuine grasp of the poetics and rhetoric of the Bible in a person such as the Croatian Lutheran Mathias Flaccius Illyricus.

Indeed, this will ultimately point the way back to a more "romantic" and language-aware recapturing of symbolic realism in Hamann and other thinkers. Yet, while one could state that RO clearly favours the "Dominican option", in which abandoning the Platonic dimension coincides with a kind of subtle apostasy including, by the way, with respect to mathematics, but that is a long story We have thus recently tended to view favourably the "postnominalist" attempts of Eckhart and Cusanus to rethink symbolic realism in a considerably new way.

The "analogical" solution given by Albert, Aquinas and others to the Plotinian quandary of maintaining a "general" unity of the categories across the boundaries from the divine to the intellectual to the psychic to the material, in terms of a not entirely definable scale of participations, was sustained, in this instance, and yet radicalised in the direction of paradox in the face of Scotist and nominalist critiques. Thus, in response to the claim for a logically necessary "univocity of being" between creation and God which threatens the ontological difference of the divine , it is newly and daringly asserted - harking back to Eriugena - that the world both is and yet is not God, just as the Trinitarian procession both is and is not distinguished from the outgoing of the creation.

Yet Aquinas already mentions this in his Sentence commentary. In response to Ockham's argument that universals, real relations and analogy violate the principle of non-contradiction, both Eckhart and then Cusa argue plausibly that there exist such violations, because logic breaks down not only in the infinite, but also at the "impossible" and problematic border between the finite and the infinite. Cusa thus begins to "poeticise" and "historicise" the metaphysics of participation by rendering participation "conjecture" and yet conjecture also participation.

Radical Orthodoxy: Annual Review I

Perhaps this kind of perspective - which also views the Incarnation as the "maximum" of conjecturing, only achieved by divine theurgic descent into the heart of human utterance, which is the act of liturgical praise for its own and other creatures' existence - lies at the very heart of RO. In British terms, its key representative in the past is Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He spoke of the "Old, Platonic, spiritual England" which we want to defend - the hidden kingdom of the fairies that also lies at the heart of Shakespeare - against the usurping of this kingdom by proponents of a combined rationalist reductionism and an overweening cult of the will -from Alexander of Hales to John Stewart Mill.

There are many mysteries and ironies in this instance. Why is it that English Medieval Catholic thought was often though by no means always - Geoffrey of Ascham seems to have invented the "analogical solution" to metaphysical aporia so "already modern", while a great deal of Anglican thought has simply been the opposite - seeking to retrieve the pre-modern Christian-Platonic synthesis in a new way? Hooker goes back to Aquinas; Thomas Traherne develops a remarkable new theology of cosmic disclosure, and so forth?

And why is it that English literature, without usually articulating a philosophy, seems so often - from the Gawain poet through Spenser to Lewis and Tolkien - to adopt the "stance of the fairies" at an extreme removed from the modes of utilitarianism that can tend to assume control within the British Isles? There is no equivalent of a continental blending of the philosophic and the literary, as with a Diderot or a Goethe, although there are several "amateur" literary philosophers Burke, Carlyle, Ruskin, Barfield, Massingham who articulate the alternative "fairy" perspective, which Novalis in Germany dubbed "magical idealism".

The exceptions to this amateurism would be the Cambridge Platonists, Berkeley, and, to some degree, T. Green and Collingwood. The latter notably wrote "a philosophy of enchantment". Does this division ultimately concern the tensions between Celt and Saxon and then between Saxon and Norman? It is more or less imponderable; yet the fact of this cleavage is crucial to understanding Anglican thought and that of RO, in particular.

Anglicanism, though established, is very peculiarly a kind of "established rebellion" - on the side of the "minority report" of Englishness, allied more to its literary than to its philosophical tradition. This is partly why its theology tends to take an essayistic, fragmentary and not systematic, methodical, or well-founded form.

From a typical German theological point of view, it can appear to be a random mess, which surely is a necessary witness to a participatory realism: to the Thomistic view that theology is a remote sharing in the Scientia Dei, the knowledge God has of himself and so necessarily is but stuttering and fleeting: a few flashes of light over a dark pond. Again, any Teutonic kinship would be with the spirit of early German romanticism and with the German Middle Ages, scholastic and literary. To some degree, I am of the opinion that RO's initial engagement with postmodernism was tactical: it was operating in a cultural environment where French post-structuralist thought highly influenced the student population in the humanities.

Although analytic philosophy dominates in British philosophy departments, any glance in a British bookshop will tell you that this does not mean that it enjoys the same equivalent amount of cultural influence! Nowadays, that situation has slightly changed: the boundaries between Continental and Anglo-Saxon thought are blurring and an anti-metaphysical attitude shared in different ways by both Analysis and Phenomenology with its offshoots is giving way to a new "speculation" that can take both naturalist and spiritualist forms Deleuze, Badiou, Laruelle, Henry, and so on.

We have more recently responded to this new scenario and would even claim to be one of its harbingers since, from the outset, we tended to claim that the anti-metaphysical was only itself based on the wrong kind of metaphysical dogmatism. Put far too briefly, the claim is that a metaphysics that has become, in early modernity, an "ontology" divorced from primary analogical causal explanation is already and explicitly halfway to being an epistemology. Thus, all Kant does - far from achieving any "criticism" of metaphysics as conceived by Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas - is complete this process.

Thus his "critique" of metaphysics is only possible as the wrong kind of metaphysical dogmatism. One can realise this in four ways:. After Hamann who saw "metacritical" in that, if language will not allow one to divide category from evidence, one cannot set any "bounds" between the knowable and the unknowable. After Jacobi who saw that Kant had not answered Hume, because he has to assume a given foundation that Hume does not, and also that Kant's agnosticism cannot be defended from a practical nihilism if we know nothing of how things really are.

The excessive weight given to Newtonian physics rather than to the biological which tends to exhibit the objective reality of the teleological as Kant with astounding bravery starts to see in his old age in the Opus Postumum. The over-protection from naturalism provided by the misnamed "Copernican turn", which is too anthropocentric.

To break with the total myth that Kant constituted a unique "undeniable break" in human thought, one should attend instead to a thinker such as the French Romantic Maine de Biran who showed the continuity between the natural and the psychic in terms of the primacy of the body and of habit.

In his wake, French "spiritual realism" from Ravaisson through Bergson and Blondel to Merleau-Ponty continued to sustain a realist metaphysics that was not "critical" in the Kantian sense and yet modern as adverting to both evolution and historical change. But RO's relationship to postmodernism was more than tactical insofar as we tended to agree with the Nietzschean revival that humanism was incoherent without a theological foundation.

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I am of the opinion that what angered our theological elders in the UK was that they had invested a great deal in supporting an attempt to protect a humanist redoubt - whether in terms of Wittgenstein or Gadamer, and so on. In retrospect, I opine that later events have fully vindicated RO, because secular culture, at least in the UK, has increasingly turned towards a relentless naturalism, which thinks of humanism either as redundant or to be sustained in a sentimental conclave.

At any rate, we suggested that there was no safe transcendental resting place or middle ground; instead, theology needed from the outset to argue for, or persuade its holistically different vision of everything - and, where necessary, I should add, rethink what that vision might be in contemporary terms.

If anti-humanism was one area of albeit provisional agreement with postmodernism since our ultimate argument was rather that humanism must be Christian , another and perhaps still less tactical area concerned issues of scepticism and indeterminacy of meaning. Again, we risked the fury of our theological elders and since I was the one nearer the age of many of these elders, they tended to view me as a pied piper and traitor!

Some of these elders voted against granting Derrida an honorary degree while I was at Cambridge - though to their own honour, I have to say, by no means all of them. Our alternative response to Derrida et al. We wanted to mention that this indeterminacy was a mark of our finitude. If one admits that our language and so on participates in an eternal Logos or that the famous Derridean "supplementation at the origin" participates in the eternal generation of the Logos by the Father , we can allow through "faith" that we catch hold of some meaning and truth without being able rationally to ground this claim in any completely exhaustive manner.

Of course, there have been other merely humanist and metaphysically neutral attempts to respond to postmodernism in this kind of way, but RO would further claim that they fail, being unable to give any account of how we can know that we can obscurely approximate to truth and reality. To do this, one needs something like Plato's theory in the Meno, or Augustine's account of illumination in the Confessiones. One can note, in this instance, just how close Augustine was in his day to Academic Scepticism. The latter has always been an ally of faith - an observation, which, by no means, implies fideism, but rather a different and more accurate conception of the nature of reason.

I would now point out that our response to postmodernism could readily be compared to Friedrich Schlegel's realisation as one of the sceptical potential in Fichtean irony and his surmounting of that irony in terms of flashes of "wit" that he saw as participating in eternal truth. As indicated earlier, rather like the early German and English romantics Coleridge thought similar things , RO tends to be in favour of a substantive metaphysics in a "pre-critical" sense , but to think of this as only articulable in "fragments", however extended.

Such an attitude may well, in fact, be in tune with that of Plato as reflected in his mode of composition, but certainly for Christians, if participation is increased in the course of time, a particular event or insight can keep revising even the general metaphysical framework within which one thinks. This is too big a question to readily answer at this point. But, as explained earlier, questioning the notion that Kant is necessarily pivotal for all modern thought is central to the RO enterprise. Again, this puts us into some conflict with our immediate elders in the UK who had often tended to favour a hybrid of Aquinas and Barth, with Kant as the essential mediating link.

Donald MacKinnon was the central figure, in this instance - although I should hasten to say that we remain indebted to him in several respects; not least the refusal ever to separate theology and philosophy from each other and his intermittent realisation that metaphysics was a kind of link between logic and poetry. Again, I feel that we were somewhat prophetic in this respect, for now.

After Deleuze, Badiou, Meillassoux and others, it has become commonplace to suggest that Kant's anthropocentrism was, in some ways, a perverse misreading of Copernican decentring, just as his finitism ran clean against the crucial spirit of mathematical calculus. Descartes' combination of mathematisation, the priority of the infinite and yet problematically also of the humanly subjective is starting to resemble the more centrally paradigmatic modern project right up to the present day.

As Jacobi realised, Spinoza's dogmatic immanentism is an equally possible variant on post-Cartesian rationalism to the critical and finitist philosophy of Kant. To view them both as variants on "nihilism" was a crucial stroke of genius from which RO has learned a great deal. As mentioned earlier, a considerable amount of new German research has recently pointed out not merely the importance of the Spinozismusstreit alongside Kant's work for what came later, but also the fact that Jacobi's perspective helped give rise to a Romantic "realist" philosophy that was an alternative to idealism, and not simply its cultural application.

Of course, some of this Romantic philosophy assumes that Kant's critique even goes back to it against Fichte, but one can claim that, at its deepest heart, it is more akin to Hamann's metacritique. This allows a restoration and renewal of a traditional substantive metaphysics, albeit while denying its early modern foundationalist and rationalist practice. It now becomes something more intermittent, more "conjectural", inspirational and inseparable from the work of imagination and feeling. Naturally, this draws "speculation" and "revelation" closer together. Simply this spirit, which RO seeks to revive at present, is the only plausible way forward.

Two other historical remarks need to be made with respect to Kant and RO. Far from "overturning" metaphysics, he inherits a post-Scotist metaphysics, regarded as prior to, and separable from theology, that is already tending towards an inversion into epistemology and a conversion of the "transcendentals" into formally separable "transcendentalist" perspectives.

The second is that - once more to pick up on an earlier thread - I tend now to have reverted to the view that David Hume is by far the more genuinely revolutionary philosopher - even though I read Hume in a way that is thoroughly heterodox by most Anglo-Saxon standards. On my reading, Hume is no empiricist foundationalist, but rather someone who, rather like Hamann with respect to language, thinks that we always "arrive too late" to sift out the "given" sources of knowledge in reason and sensation he attacks this view in Locke , but thinks this with respect to the role of habitual feeling.

Given this account of Hume, one can argue that two alternative non-empiricist tracks run from Hume into later thought, again bypassing Kant almost totally. The first is Jacobi's reading, which plausibly argues that Hume can only evade scepticism by "faith", or trust in feelings. The second is Maine de Biran's, which argues that we think by virtue of corporeal habit that is at once spiritual and material.

With far more kinship to Hume than he realises and with much resemblance to Goethe , he also thinks that, since our thought arises from within nature, our self-knowledge with regard to the process of our feeling gives us a better insight into the workings of nature, in general for example, into causality - this is merely Hume's real, more than sceptical position, as even main-line exegesis now realises than a merely external, "scientific" gaze upon its workings.

But one can also argue that the ancient and medieval realist understandings of causality assumed that we can know natural causality from within nature and, therefore, have some microcosmic inklings of its workings. The "fourfold" Aristotelian model of causality depends on this. RO's attitude is that it is both naive and cavalier to suppose that the logic of Christian theology can survive the abandonment of this sort of causal model.

But the modern variants reveal the more "vitalist" implications of this approach. I opine that it is now important to develop a "transcendent vitalism" partly on the basis of the importance of "life" in the NT and in rejection of that supposed association of the vital with the immanent , which can show without Michel Henry's dualism that only such a perspective will do justice at once to both our natural condition and our spiritual transcendence.

How then, does all this affect the attitude of RO towards reason as compared with the Kantian legacy? Above all, we would reject the notion of identifiably different sources of empirical information, on the one hand, and rational processing based on a priori categories, on the other - even if, for Kant, they can only be understood in correlated combination. Rather, for RO, thought is an event of appropriation of surrounding reality in terms of embodied feelings and expressed language. But, more than those thinkers, we would stress the role of bodily comportment and linguistic construction in the thinking and imagining of form.

Reason for us is in this way realisation rather than representation.

Other stories

To realise is to attend simultaneously to the pressure of what one is confronted with, or of what happens to one, and to the promptings of divine inspiration, its teleological lure. All true reasoning is, therefore, at once both art and prayer. Undoubtedly, RO has not written enough about the Bible and sometimes can appear not to engage with it sufficiently.