This volume plays host to a number of encounters with the strange. It asks such questions as: How does the embodied imagination relate to the Stranger in terms of hospitality or hostility (given the common root of hostis as both host and enemy)? How do we distinguish between projections of fear or fascination, leading to either violence or welcome? How do humans "sense" the dimension of the strange and alien in different religions, arts, and cultures? How do the five physical senses relate to the spiritual senses, especially the famous "sixth" sense, as portals to an encounter with the Other? Is there a carnal perception of alterity, which would operate at an affective, prereflective, preconscious level? What exactly do "embodied imaginaries" of hospitality and hostility entail, and how do they operate in language, psychology, and social interrelations (including racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating)? And what, finally, are the topical implications of these questions for an ethics and practice of tolerance and peace?
Distinguished philosopher Richard Kearney calls this condition ana-theos, or God after God-a moment of creative "not knowing" that signifies a break with former sureties and invites us to forge new meanings from the most ancient of wisdoms. Anatheism refers to an inaugural event that lies at the heart of every great religion, a wager between hospitality and hostility to the stranger, the other& mdash;the sense of something "more." By analyzing the roots of our own anatheistic moment, Kearney shows not only how a return to God is possible for those who seek it but also how a more liberating faith can be born.
Kearney begins by locating a turn toward sacred secularity in contemporary philosophy, focusing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Ricoeur. He then marks "epiphanies" in the modernist masterpieces of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Kearney concludes with a discussion of the role of theism and atheism in conflict and peace, confronting the distinction between sacramental and sacrificial belief or the God who gives life and the God who takes it away. Accepting that we can never be sure about God, he argues, is the only way to rediscover a hidden holiness in life and to reclaim an everyday divinity.
Engaging some of the most urgent issues in the philosophy of religion today, in this lively book Richard Kearney proposes that instead of thinking of God as 'actual,' God might best be thought of as the possibility of the impossible. By pulling away from biblical perceptions of God and breaking with dominant theological traditions, Kearney draws on the work of Ricoeur, Levinas, Derrida, Heidegger, and others to provide a surprising and original answer to who or what God might be. For Kearney, the intersecting dimensions of impossibility propel religious experience and faith in new directions, notably toward views of God that are unforeseeable, unprogrammable, and uncertain. Important themes such as the phenomenology of the persona, the meaning of the unity of God, God and desire, notions of existence and diffÃ©rance, and faith in philosophy are taken up in this penetrating and original work.
Richard Kearney is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and University College, Dublin. He is author of many books on modern philosophy and culture, including Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers, The Wake of Imagination, and The Poetics of Modernity.