The Kataphatic Drift of Keller’s “Cloud” – Cloud of the Impossible Book Event

As a second year doctoral student at Drew University, I have the privilege of studying theology with Catherine Keller. Probably like a few other bloggers at AUFS who have also been Keller’s students, I cannot pretend to lack a bias in favor of her work – perhaps especially in the case of her Cloud of the Impossible. But I do hope that my perspective as one of her students enables me to make a worthwhile contribution to this discussion. For this post, I would therefore like to share my sense of the way that Keller’s Cloud panentheism seemed to evolve over the last year of the book’s composition. Hopefully this consideration of her philosophical theology will stimulate some discussion for those interested in such themes.

During my first semester at Drew, I enrolled in Keller’s course on apophatic theology in which we read a draft of her Cloud. Although my overall response to it was positive, this early manuscript also caused me to question what she really meant by “God.” In my reading, she was extremely cautious in making any affirmative statements about the divine. While this is partly understandable for a book on negative theology, apophatic and kataphatic theology go together (as Keller often points out). Without a kataphatic moment or two, apophasis would seem to function as a mere wrecking ball. I also wondered if constructive God-talk had become a distraction from her seemingly more urgent interests, such as climate change. Does she really affirm panentheism – and if so, why? Is it on purely pragmatic grounds to provide support for her ethical and political concerns? Might she be persuaded by some contemporary argument for the existence of God? Could it be her fidelity to Whitehead’s philosophy, which includes a “divine element” that performs crucial metaphysical functions? Or would she affirm God because of certain mystical experiences that she couldn’t explain away?

Keller was actually surprised by these questions: she felt like she had said too much about God in the early draft of the book! In response, I asked if she would differentiate her position from two very different theologians who are referenced in the Cloud: John Caputo and Philip Clayton. Unlike Caputo’s post-Tillichian “a/theism,” Keller made it clear that she isn’t denying God’s existence – unless one means the omni-God of classical theism and substance metaphysics. That God is dead to her, to be sure. On the other hand, she hesitated to agree with Clayton’s minimalist apologetics for God’s existence that he develops through process thought and contemporary science. As such, Keller seemed to locate her position somewhere between Clayton’s pragmatism and Caputo’s deconstruction.

While I left this conversation with lingering questions, I had a stronger sense that Keller is serious about her commitment to constructive theology. Her constructive theological sensibility was confirmed to me during the following semester when she told some of her students that she had been in discussions with Clayton Crockett about publishing the Cloud in the Insurrections series at Columbia University Press, for which he is one of the editors. At first, Keller half-jokingly told him that “my God is not dead enough” for that series (which tends to publish non-theistic philosophers). Crockett humorously responded to her that Insurrections is “not really that orthodox.” He was apparently persuasive because Keller did end up agreeing to publish the Cloud with Insurrections.

For all of the unsaying going on in the published Cloud, Keller now says quite a lot about the God she humbly affirms. Compared to the earlier draft that I read in 2013, she more clearly explicates a kataphatic theo-logic alongside her theo-poetics. It is thus her theological affirmations that I want to focus on for the rest of this post. Keller’s Cloud has many layers to explore, and one probably does not need to be any kind of theist to gain something from it. But there is indeed a panentheistic thread running throughout this text, from start to finish.

For anyone anticipating a radical theology from Keller, the Cloud might come as a surprise. Yes, one could say that there are “radical” elements here that resonate in a number of ways with some self-described radical theologians (e.g., Crockett, Robbins, Caputo). Process and radical theologians have long been important conversation partners, going back to Cobb and Altizer’s friendly debates that began in the 1960s. But even if the Cloud is conversant with radical thinkers, it is probably better described as a progressive theology that invites both Christian and post-Christian readers to the table. Keller thus closely aligns her work with Elizabeth Johnson’s apophatic feminist theology: both of them hope to minister “to passionately dissident Christians,” even as Keller also wants to offer “hospitality to those whose faith is more kin to deconstruction” (44). These commitments lead her to draw on both poststructuralist philosophers and other Christian theologians like Kathryn Tanner, James Cone, and Jürgen Moltmann. She also remains close to her tradition of Whiteheadian process theology that she absorbed from her teacher at Claremont, John Cobb. And of course, Keller dives deep into the Christian mystical tradition, oscillating between apophatic and kataphatic theological statements throughout the text. As she explains early in the book, her approach is to “say differently rather than cleanly erase ‘God’” (10-11). Reflecting on the death of God, she then wonders: “Does ‘God’ quite capture what is dying? Is God the name of the problem whose death is the only honest solution? Which God?” (28).

Already in her Face of the Deep, Keller similarly developed the panentheism that we find in the Cloud. Her tehomic “Manyone” is repeated in the Cloud as the divine “pluralisingularity” (314). Partly as a way of resisting ontotheology, where God is the One entity or Being, Keller offers a close reading of Cusa’s apophatic panentheism and relates it to Whitehead’s divine poet. The similarly relational God of both thinkers can be understood as the enfolding infinite and the unfolding source of infinite possibilities (posse ipsum). By speaking of divine power in terms of “attraction,” Cusa also anticipated Whitehead’s divine lure by a few centuries (96). While Cusa did not deny omnipotence like Whitehead, Keller points out that he denied “its standard meaning.” Like Whitehead, Cusa thus argued that “the agency of no creature is diminished by divine influence” (106). As Keller explains their similar positions: “it is truer to say that this posse ipsum is actualized than that it acts: it does not make but makes possible the actual creature…” (112). But if Whitehead radicalizes Cusa by making the divine fully dependent upon creaturely contributions (108), Cusa offers back an apophatic relationalism that one rarely finds in the tradition of process theology. For Keller, this coinciding of Cusa’s apophatic panentheism with process-relational theology can “check the latter’s particular temptations to objectification” (109).

At certain points in her physics chapter, Keller almost seems to ground this panentheism in a kind of cosmological argument for God. This will undoubtedly make some readers suspicious. While she does not want to be mistaken for an idealist or for claiming a “God of the gaps,” she references the physicist Henry Stapp’s view that “it seems difficult to imagine…how physical laws could come to be fixed by a purely physical, mindless universe” (145). This suggests an argument for a kind of panpsychism, if not also a process panentheism. After all, many process theologians have more explicitly made claims for God’s existence based on such cosmological speculations (e.g., David Ray Griffin, John Cobb). Keller also references the physicist David Bohm who suggested our participation in a “yet more comprehensive mind going indefinitely beyond” (162). Even if these physicists seem to hint at something like the apophatic panentheism of Keller’s Cloud, she reads them as “conjecturing – not proving” such a position (164). So although she clearly rejects a God-entity that fills gaps in our current knowledge, Keller does wonder if some might find the following proposition plausible: “is God one beclouded name for an infinity enfolding it all psychosomatically together – and simultaneously provoking all its open actualizations?” (145).

At this point, one might ask what Deleuze is doing in this book of constructive theology – that philosopher who once defined theology as the “science of non-existing entities.” Keller has written before about Whitehead’s significant influence on Deleuze. Part of what Deleuze offers to Keller’s project is a metaphysical style of poststructuralism that resonates with Whitehead and updates some of the latter’s terms and ideas (see Keller’s amusing metaphysical “confession” on page 171). Largely because Whitehead was himself a metaphysician, he has remained a marginal figure in philosophy departments. But along with a ‘Deleuzean turn’ in continental philosophy has come a renewal of interest in both metaphysics and Whitehead’s philosophy, as in the works of Bruno Latour, Isabelle Stengers, and Steven Shaviro.

Unlike Whitehead’s thought, Deleuze’s atheistic philosophy would seem to dissolve all God concepts. Keller minds this divergence between process theology and what she calls the “true Deleuzeans” (195). She is aware that “Whitehead and Deleuze are not one” (176) and admits that, at a certain point, she will “diverge from Deleuze in the direction of his much older sources” (180). And yet Keller proceeds to relate the two: “God is not dead but becoming…the generative atheism of Deleuze, close to pantheism, may not so much contradict as darken the panentheism of Whitehead” (172). Looking to Deleuze’s Cusanic trinity of the complicatio-explicatio-implicatio, she reconstructs Whitehead’s consequent, primordial, and superjective divine natures. God thus becomes a multiplicity, a “deterritorialized and deterritorializing deity” (186). This divine multiple is therefore not ultimately transcendent, but an “infinite creature” of the tehomic creativity, Whitehead’s democratizing ultimate. As Deleuze noted in The Fold, Whitehead’s God has become a process like all other processes. Thus for Keller, “God the mediation of groundless creativity and manifold creatures is not only rendered composite, collective – but infinitely so” (189). But again, she admits that her God of love “rings too compassionate” for a strictly Deleuzean project (192).

Keller’s deep faith in divine Love no longer seems like a distraction from her ethical and political concerns (as I once wondered). As I read the Cloud, it is woven into every aspect of this provocative and challenging book. And her use of the apophatic tradition is anything but a wrecking ball. Swinging from apophasis to kataphasis, Keller has ultimately reconstructed the process tradition’s divine “poet of the world.” However, she importantly ends the Cloud by decentering her panentheistic affirmations in order to build wider coalitions for the future of the planet: “…that for which God is a nickname cares not whether you believe in God. Doesn’t give a damn. Isn’t in the damning business. What matters, what matters endlessly, is what we earth-dwellers now together embody. Not what we say about God but how we do God” (306). Perhaps this convivial gesture will resonate for readers with divergent perspectives: those who find Keller’s panentheism attractive and also for those who find it to be…impossible. Either way, I am looking forward to the responses of other readers to this creative Cloud theology.

12 Responses to “The Kataphatic Drift of Keller’s “Cloud” – Cloud of the Impossible Book Event”

  1. amaryahshaye Says:

    This is great writing Austin. Thank you for this contribution.

    It is interesting to me that you find a lot of generativity in Keller’s swinging from apophasis to kataphasis precisely where I find this swinging caused a lot of ambiguity, confusion, and questions (as I tried to note in my post). I guess I’m wondering if you think there are some a priori positions or assumptions, a grounding sympathy, that enables one to recognize the generativity you find in her work. In a really reductive distinction, the people I’ve most encountered who really got a lot out of this book tend towards what I’ll call ‘ecotheology’ and those who’ve been more disappointed by it tend to a ‘liberationist’ tradition (whether that be race, gender, sexuality, etc). I myself am positioned more closely to the liberationist (although I’m trying to learn more and engage more with the ecological writings in theology) and feel the disappointment emerges because solidarity represents such an important touchstone in liberationist traditions. There is the desire to stake out a position, knowing one is never fully able to inhabit solidarity perfectly. Still, there’s a choosing of sides, if you will. Aligning with the poor and oppressed, women and blacks and queer folks and, and, and. It’s not that I don’t think Keller shares some, if not all, of these commitments. But her starting place is different because of her process thought, her ecological and scientific interests, and because of her apophatic method. These investments seem to require one articulate solidarity differently than a liberationist would and I’m curious if you have have a reason why that is? That is, why is there generativity available in Keller for you precisely where it is all *cloudy* (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frd53vbCHLg) for me?

  2. Beatrice Marovich Says:

    I actually don’t think the distinction is reductive, Amaryah. I think it’s helpful. I would agree with you, that an ecotheological emphasis resolves into a different vision of solidarity than a liberationist emphasis. Of course, I have a lot of colleagues (perhaps the majority of them from Drew) who are looking for a way to make those visions of solidarity resonate. I do think that’s what Catherine is working towards here. And I know that much of my time as a student at Drew was spent thinking (perhaps unsuccessfully) about how to do this. Honestly, after many years of ruminating on this, I feel like the problem only just became more complicated… that the resident and potential tensions between these forms of solidarity only became more nuanced, intricate, perhaps even intractable. I do think that – given the sort of cultural and historical investment there has been in making the human – there’s no way we won’t be faced with an either/or when we place the human into an ecologic. At some moment there will inevitably be a choice made, or a line drawn: between the human and the non-human. I think there was a time in my intellectual life when I might have, if really pressed to decide, resolved in favor of the non-human (while, of course, finding ways to deny that I was doing this.) Though I think that now, for a number of reasons, I find myself wanting to be more honest about the fact that this decisive choice always exists in potentiality, and feeling more ready in advance to decide in favor of the human. I suppose, then, in some way I have shifted sympathies and find myself incrementally more compelled by a liberationist vision of solidarity. In spite of that, however, I do find myself pretty doggedly coming back to this either/or, this intractable contest of solidarities, and wanting to push at it again. Almost like it’s a door that I closed in an earlier event of decision, and I want to open it again to make sure that I really wanted to close it. And when I do, it just opens into… I don’t know. Confusion and bewilderment, loss for words. Nothing that solves the dilemma. A cloudy space. That’s, I guess, where I see the cloud of the impossible. I suppose that, on my (perhaps inaccurate/heretical, though possibly spot on) reading, the cloud of the impossible isn’t really theological. At least not in an obvious way. It’s emerging in a contest of commitments, questions over what to devote my energies to, in a kind of contest between visions of the good life, visions of solidarity. The contest, the either/or, the contradiction nags at me, and bothers me, and ghosts me. I don’t think it really gives me, like, good *spiritual* feelings. And I definitely close the door on it all the time. But then… I come back again. And I guess this is what seems theological about it to me… almost like there is some sort of absurd faith that – to just put it into an ever-so-slightly more theological register – a way will emerge out of no way. And I have faith that this way isn’t a way that I will design, but that something that will be revealed.

  3. dmf Says:

    in what ways in her “constructive” (to my mind meta-physical) speculations along the lines of Caputo’s phenomenological project? In the recent homebrewed podcast with her Jack and Cobb she seemed pretty squarely with Cobb, and Caputo spent most of what little time he had refuting their positions and their characterizations of the tradition:
    http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2014/12/21/the-birth-of-god-and-a-new-jc-part-2-keller-aar/

  4. danbarber Says:

    Just to quickly comment on the ecotheology / liberationist difference (which i think is really nicely put), it seems to me that the difficulty faced by ecotheology has to do with its “pluralistic” orientation. From my vantage, it seems that the reality / structuring-capacity of power asymmetries, and the specificity of suffering, are very difficult to articulate within this pluralistic orientation.

    Along these lines, and regarding the question of reading practices of Deleuze, i take the “radical / deadness” vs. kataphasis debate as an index of a question of how differentiality is to be articulated. There is, i’d argue, in differentiality a kind of zero-point, difference in-itself, whose reality is irreducible to the givenness of any being, regardless of how pluralized this being is. I take kataphasis as stil bound to such givenness, even as it seeks to render the givenness of this being more fluid, multivalent, etc. What the zero-point offers, on the other hand, is a way of getting at how suffering, while very much real, and very much powerful, cannot be articulated in terms of such givenness.

    In any case, i’m a bit late getting to this event, just catching up, but wanted to say how excellent i’ve found the contributions.

  5. Beatrice Marovich Says:

    This is helpful, Dan. And I wouldn’t disagree that an ecotheologic might often orient itself more around pluralities (attentiveness to plural realities) than difference-in-itself (which has a particular coherence when we know that, at least, we are illuminating this difference within a human politic: within a kind of limit condition). Though I do think there are exceptions. With that said, however, I don’t think there’s a necessary mutual exclusion between plurality and difference. Rather, it seems to me they are tools that function well in distinct conditions. Difference can perform an interference into ontology and metaphysics in ways that plurality cannot. In part, perhaps, this is because plurality is more kataphatic. It says something other than difference: it is pluming, it’s many. When we address something like suffering, for example, while it is crucial to emphasize the fact that it cannot – at least at the zero point – be articulated in terms of givenness… politics does insist on some give. Insisting on the plurality within suffering does risk an attempt to reduce the irreducibility of it. But it also offers a set of fleeting touchstones: a series of figures that might help to fix an orientation or position. This is a kataphatic gesture that is probably, in an ultimate sense, more powerful if it’s cut through with a more [apophatic] differentiality. But that kataphatic plurality can also render difference into something more conversant.

  6. danbarber Says:

    Beatrice, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that, when it comes to ecotheology and liberationism, or plurality and asymmetry/suffering, it may be more a differend than a mutual exclusivity. I’d then like, if i may, to press this differend a bit, with regard to your comment.

    In terms of difference in-itself, i take this to be “prior” to any plurality. This is to say that plurality, as i understand it, entails a plurality of being/beings. My claim, then, is that difference in-itself precedes being/s (in the sense of D+G’s statement that “politics precedes being”). Along these lines, i take difference in-itself, or the suffering that it indexes, as a political force that is prior to any political givenness. So I am hesitant to put the emphasis on a need of “illuminating this difference within a human politic.” My concern, instead, is to insist on / articulate this political force of differentiality in its priority to any “within.” Or, put otherwise, with regard to your mention “that kataphatic plurality can also render difference into something more conversant,” i am hesitant to grant value to conversability, conversation, etc.

    In connection with this question of conversability, i think the question of “analogy” remains as a kind of haunt. I am no fan of the analogy of being (to put it mildly). However, i think that, politically, it remains the criterion for thinking that which would break with the present. (and i should note that this loops back to the question of participation)

    In other words, something like plurality is obviously way better than analogy, given plurality’s fluidity or, more suspiciously via Anidjar’s blood thesis, its circulability. But, if i may be a bit crude, there seems to me to be an unavoidable question: what is the relation between the beings / individuals / referential indices of the plurality? Are they analogous with one another? And if they are not analogous, then how is it possible to articulate all of these beings as “equally” plural?

    Ok, getting back to conversability, my concern is that conversability amounts to (a more fluid, pluralized) analogy. My hesitancy, then, is that the specificity of suffering always marks a point where analogizability breaks down; suffering is, at essence, a disanalogy, though one that i contend is marked by a real, immense, intense power; in order to articulate this power, it is then necessary to thinking without the presumption of analogy.

    I know i’ve gone on too long — and with that in mind, obv no necessity to respond! — but just one last point: i want to clarify that i agree that one cannot simply do without “figures,” such as Christianity (to go back to a previous disucssion), or “God,” and at base language. When i speak of differentiality in-itself, i don’t want to suggest a kind of disavowal of the figures that we always already find ourselves mediated by. The question, though, is how to understand these figures, or how to delink the material contours of these figures from the sort of normativity and naturalization of asymmetrical power that they entail (often in ways that remain unthought). My hesitancy, then, w/r/t pluralism, is that the investment in conversability, or in understanding the fluid relations between such figures tends to divert attention from (what i take to be) the demand to understand the way in which these figures (continue) to construct asymmetries of power and/or to preclude awareness of specific suffering / asymmetries of power.

  7. Beatrice Marovich Says:

    There’s a lot that I agree with, in what you’ve laid out Dan, but I’ll start here (at the risk of beating the topic to death, but with the hope of opening the conversation up further):

    “In terms of difference in-itself, i take this to be ‘prior’ to any plurality. This is to say that plurality, as i understand it, entails a plurality of being/beings.”

    Yes, definitely, agree.

    Plurality is a figure: it is a way of illuminating contours. This is what I was attempting to indicate when I suggested that it’s more kataphatic. And difference is prior to it in a way that undoes it, not unlike the way that apophasis unsays the kataphatic. Plurality, then, is reducible. But not to something less plural but instead, to difference. Plurality is an intervention into uniformity. It is a quarrel with this, and to the extent that it contests the uniform or the universal, it evokes difference. But it does not replace it (does not become prior to it). I think there is a way of treating or discussing plurality as if it were prior to difference, but I think that’s a bad plural.

    What, then, is the figural function of the plural? The fact that plurality emphasizes the plurality of beings (and, thus, does become a conversation about beings and their relations) means that plurality is a figure that addresses the relational. Not everything about the relational. But an angle or dimension. On my reading, this is related to the function of entanglement as entangled difference in Catherine’s project. Entanglement articulates a form of connection, among a plurality of beings, that is facilitated by difference. Karen Barad (who Catherine is working with) has contested readings of entanglement that use it analogically. She’s arguing that entanglement is diffractive (a move she’s borrowing from Donna Haraway, who advances diffraction as a metaphor to critique reflexivity). Thus, entanglement becomes a differential relation. Suffering is a disanalogy. But to set suffering into the context of entanglement might allow resonances in the disanalogical condition to emerge, without silencing the dissonances.

    This addresses your question about analogy, I think. Entanglement articulates a form of relation among a plurality of beings that is not analogous. BUT, with regard to the power asymmetries that plurality is riddled with: I don’t think that plurality addresses this. At least not on its own. Plurality does not do that political work, it needs assistance. Equality is not inherently within, or endemic to, plurality. I think that articulations of plurality often come embedded with the *hope* for equality. And plurality can become a space – among the entanglements of various beings – where interventions on behalf of equality can be staged. I think, on some level, that this is the initial aim of relational thought: that the assertions of relatedness (illumination of connective tissues) might prove to be a lure into another frame of thought or paradigm. But relations are fragile. Perhaps this is why the bridges into these other paradigms are always breaking (equalities unrealized.)

    This is why I think that *celebrations* of the plural as such are problematic. The ideology of American religious pluralism, for instance. While it’s certainly, on a basic level, a helpful intervention into the uniform ideal of American Christianity, it has not fixed the problem of equality. Christianity is still unequally represented on structural and institutional levels. Thus, celebrations of the plural here are hasty and obfuscatory. A renewed emphasis on the plural can so some work (pluralizing Christianity with its various forms of entangled difference, thus disaggregating it to a degree). And this work gets done via the force of difference. But this also opens a new door to [a more pluralized] Christian hegemony. Returning to plurality and interrupting Christianity with new forces of difference can do more work. This might, for instance, include a pluralization of Christianity that illuminates its entangled difference with Judaism and Islam. Again, this does some work but then could still open the door to a more pluralized monotheistic hegemony, creating new inequalities. Interrupting this with another pluralization (poly- or a- theisms) could disturb this with the force of difference, but would require the risk of engendering another hegemony (perhaps one that risks effacing the secular). All I really mean to suggest, in all this, is that pluralism is problematic. But I do think that pluralization can be a useful operation.

  8. Austin Roberts Says:

    Amaryah, thanks so much, and I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond. Your question about the relationship between ecotheology and liberation is deeply important to me and it is something I’ve been thinking about lately as well. I suspect that you are way ahead of me in thinking through this complex issue, but I can only hope that there might be some way to hold ecological concerns together with the liberation emphasis on solidarity. I do think that Keller is trying to do this, as Beatrice noted as well. Like Dorothee Soelle, Keller reads the apophatic/mystical tradition as a source of inspiration for her concerns for justice (even though it is so often seen to be elitist and otherworldly). This perspective might legitimately be challenged, but it is her goal to make such an argument in the book. She is doing a lot in the “Cloud”, and while I think that it is all directly or indirectly relevant to her concerns for justice (even the science stuff!), perhaps it is true that her concern for liberation doesn’t come through as strong as one might hope it would. That was not something that I experienced while reading the text, but I will have to revisit it soon in light of your concerns. And it is an important conversation to continue right now, especially since Keller’s future work will likely go even deeper into eco-theology. I also recognize that not much work has been done in this area, and unfortunately some eco-theology leaves the liberation emphasis on human solidarity behind. My own thinking about eco-theology is probably a bit more anthropocentric than others in the field, maybe for the very reasons that you and Beatrice are highlighting. I’ve not signed on to the deep ecology approach, as challenging as that is. I’ll have to think about this more over the coming months, but let me also share a recent experience of mine that seems relevant to this discussion.

    A few days ago, I returned from a rather intense two week trip as a teaching assistant for a cross-cultural course on politics and liberation theology in El Salvador. While there, I had the chance to learn from a number of liberation theologians, political activists, and Christian Base Community members who are working amongst the poor. Interestingly, most of these folks made it clear that ecological issues are an increasingly deep concern for many Salvadorans because it has made the situation for the poor noticeably worse. Unlike in the US, climate denialism is not an ideological luxury that very many Salvadorans can have. As one Salvadoran woman told me, “We don’t even need scientists to tell us about climate change. We know from our experience that something is not right about the environment – and that it is getting worse.” Rapidly changing weather patterns have already created serious problems for Salvadoran farming, water supply, and sanitation (which were already challenges, of course). And most of the folks who I talked to about these issues pointed to global capitalism as the root cause of these problems. But because there often seems to be less and less of a chance to turn things around on climate change or to offer a genuine challenge to the reigning economic system, some have begun to wonder if their work for liberation is going to make much of a long-term difference at all. The fear that they are just ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ is real. Their work for human liberation continues, but most seem to acknowledge that it must now go hand-in-hand with ecological activism.

    dmf, I also wanted to briefly respond to your question. First of all, for a fairly clear statement about some of her differences with Caputo, check out Keller’s essay in the forthcoming book on Caputo’s work, which is called “It Spooks” (http://www.shelter50publishingcollective.com/index.php/it-spooks#). I was at that AAR event and I would certainly not say that Caputo “refuted” either Keller or Cobb’s positions (which are not identical), but rather he tried to clarify his own position that he felt was being unfairly criticized. Actually, there were some misunderstandings between Cobb and Caputo in that conversation, and so part of what we hear in that podcast is Caputo defending himself from what he *thought* were critiques from Cobb, but actually were not (that he is a linguistic idealist, death of God theologian, etc). Caputo’s anti-metaphysical perspective is clearly not shared by Keller (or Cobb), and this is an ongoing debate between them. As I said in my post, one important difference is that Keller is a Whiteheadian who affirms an existent God while Caputo is a Derridean who affirms an insistent God (although one that insists on *existing*!). It’s an interesting debate, for sure.

  9. dmf Says:

    AR, afraid I don’t have access to that essay and in your reply here you seem to have skipped over Caputo’s cutting review of the book (which sadly got cut short) and issue of how Keller’s work in question is deconstructive (see Malabou’s recent related critiques of Speculative Realisms), the debate as you put it at least in part seems to be coming in part out of of Caputo’s interest in care-full attention to particulars (for the love of things themselves, see link below) which is obviously not shared by either Keller or Cobb or apparently some of their students.
    http://www.jcrt.org/archives/01.3/caputo.shtml

  10. Austin Roberts Says:

    dmf, as I said, the essay is in a forthcoming book. I was just suggesting that you might check it out when it’s released. Sorry for the confusion. And please do tell me more about Caputo’s supposedly “cutting review” of the book. I heard no such thing at the actual event, nor in conversation with Caputo afterwards, who has said that he is with Keller in most of what she writes. He questioned Keller’s reading of Cusa and pressed her about how she understands the relationship between cosmology and theology, but that’s all I remember. Also, Keller has never embraced Speculative Realism, and happens to agree with much of Caputo’s own critiques of it in his recent book, so I’m no sure why you brought that up. It wasn’t a central topic in the podcast either.

  11. Rihard Says:

    This is great writing. Very interesting

  12. Karen Bray Says:

    This, I’m hoping, will be a short interjection as my own post just went up today, but I’ve really appreciated the discussion around liberationist and ecotheologies and pluralities and difference. And I sort of want to be reductionist for a second and name the struggle that I think certain eco-theologies run up against in terms of liberationist struggle as tied to the very rhetoric around which they are organized. Some of our greatest struggles for liberation have been separatist movements, claiming a non-participatory politics, whereas ecotheologies have relied on the very inseparability of a web of creation. Solidarity through inescapable connection vs. solidarity through an escape (a liberation) from toxic connections. I hoped to hint at this (although probably cloudily) in my own post. Leaving questions of the impossibility of ontological separation aside, I do think this is where some of the tension arises. How do we frame our inescapable entanglement in such a way that actually helps us to escape from the systems of oppression that have frozen tangles into chains. I think Amaryah’s post best framed this tension. And I think Bea is right that a lot of folks at Drew are trying to find our way through this morass. I have no answers, except to say that I do actually think the concerns of difference and relation brought to the fore by Keller and the folks responding negatively and positively to her work have something to teach us about how to be in relation while refusing the terms of relation on offer by society. Perhaps we could try a kind of fugitive relation a la Moten and Harney’s “University and the Undercommons,” (which I think Amaryah mentioned in her post) to be in relation but not of it or something. To be in the fold, but not of it. I’m not sure. There’s clearly much more work to be done. I’m glad this book event is raising these tensions.


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