I notice a certain structural homology among some contemporary thinkers — an attempt to reactivate a previous debate in the history of philosophy as though its (undecided) outcome were of massive importance to the present moment. To some degree, Agamben does this with the relationship between Aristotle and Neoplatonism, but much moreso with the “debate” he stages between Benjamin and Schmitt (or Benjamin and Scholem, or Benjamin’s Kafka and Scholem, or Benjamin and…). For Zizek, the relations among the main figures in German Idealism is an urgent concern, requiring many italics and fine distinctions, and the Radical Orthodoxy crowd is obviously trying to reactivate the main debates of late scholasticism and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Neoplatonism. There have been many other examples throughout the modern period — Nietzsche, for example, especially in The Birth of Tragedy, fits this pattern insofar as he so aggressively takes sides among the various Greek tragedians and philosophers.
What all these “reactivations” share is a certain indifference toward the scholarship — they are not trying to contribute to the existing industry of interpretation surrounding their chosen figures. Thus the true rigorous scholar can always object that the “reactivators” haven’t done their homework and point out any number of specific instances where they have gotten things wrong. But the very act of reactivating a past moment is dehistoricizing, implicitly rejecting the very form of historicist scholarship, and so even if the reactivator immerses herself in the existing scholarship, even if she “does her homework,” it necessarily will fail to be in the spirit of a true scholar contributing to the growth of scholarship. (In fact, it seems that the true test case would be a “reactivator” who actually had mastered the scholarship and was invulnerable to any specific quibbles — her stance itself would serve as a kind of “zero degree” offense against scholarly rigor, showing that her guilt was strictly a priori, original sin as opposed to concrete sins.)
Here I think that something of a paradigm case can be found in the relationship between theology and biblical studies in the modern period — the theologian is one for whom the Bible and the various other authoritative figures have an immediate contemporary purchase, and so the biblical scholar can always object that the theologian is “misusing” scripture. But taking modern biblical scholarship as emblematic of historicist research in general, every scholar in the premodern period was a “theologian,” even and especially those who were primarily biblical commentators — the “biblical scholarship” of the medieval period can’t help but strike the modern biblical scholar as abusive and even absurd.
To draw a parallel here, in the context of the modern university, continental philosophers and “theorists” of every stripe are, on the purely formal level, theologians. Constitutively “dilettantes,” a priori offenders against positivist and historicist “rigour,” keeping the past alive so as to be ready to greet the new. That’s the problem with continental philosophy and theory — not that their use of authorities is overdone and constitutes an imposing scholasticism, but that it’s not scholastic enough, not scholarly enough, always and everywhere setting the authority to work even in the most seemingly inoccuous commentary.