Kierkegaard, Levinas, and Derrida: Religious subjectivity in postmodernity

Michael Devon Boring, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation is an exploration of religious implications of the postmodernist critique of rationality; it focuses on how human subjectivity can be religious in light of this critique. It is my contention throughout the dissertation that authentic religious subjectivity requires a relation to the future that absolutely resists enclosure within a rational system. The first part of the dissertation concentrates on criticism of certain modernist concepts of subjectivity, in particular those that only function within a closed rational system. Specifically, the first chapter deals with Derrida's deconstruction of Husserl's transcendental subject; the second covers Levinas's critique of the egoism inherent in Heidegger's notion of Dasein; the third chapter analyzes Kierkegaard's critique of the totalizing tendencies in Hegel. The result of these critiques is a concept of subjectivity that is open to religious existence without being limited by the demands of modernist rationality. I hold that the development of subjectivity cannot be legitimately determined by a closed system. That is, there is not a necessary path of human development into which an individual is thrown. The second part of the dissertation addresses specifically the possibility of religious subjectivity. The fourth chapter establishes the importance of temporality for religious subjectivity, relying on phenomenology's traditional description of human temporality, arguing that how one orients oneself toward the future is essentially a spiritual state. Following Kierkegaard, the two general orientations are that of despair and faith. The fifth chapter offers a phenomenological description of despair as a negative orientation toward the future. I align despair with the concept of closure that characterizes the concepts of subjectivity criticized in part one. The sixth chapter explores messianic faith as a positive orientation toward the future. I maintain that the content of messianic faith takes the form of a justice that is radically other than legal justice. Legal justice is a system created and imposed by finite individuals, in order to serve a finite end. Messianic justice, on the other hand, transcends any concept of finite human justice insofar as messianic justice serves the infinite, as represented in either the human or divine other.^

Subject Area

Religion, Philosophy of|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Michael Devon Boring, "Kierkegaard, Levinas, and Derrida: Religious subjectivity in postmodernity" (January 1, 2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3271264.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3271264

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