Paper Cut-Outs of Christ in Plato’s Cave: Casting Aside Radical Orthodoxy

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

            2 Kings 13

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).

            Mark7: 32-34


            In this preliminary study, I want to examine what I find to be some of the shortcomings of the Radical Orthodoxy Movement as it seeks to re-narrate reality. I will argue that a rejection of Franciscan nominalism results in the pacification of difference and the unique singularity of persons. In opposition to Milbank, I do not think that theology involves re-directing our loyalties away from the state and the market and toward the exemplary human community of the church but rather putting into practice the radical message that Jesus preached. This radical message was lived by many Franciscans.  They displayed the existential sensibility that Christian theology needs to embrace.

            Graham Ward argues that Radical Orthodoxy is a “theological sensibility….shared to a greater or lesser degree with several other contemporary theologians. Nathan Kerr characterizes this sensibility as “a critique of modern liberalism; the articulation of a post-secular theological agenda; an emphasis upon creaturely participation in God; a renewed assessment of the importance of sacramentality; an unswerving commitment to the critique and transformation of culture”.  While it will be necessary one day to return to analyze these five symphonic movements, in what follows I want to focus on what I see as the main error perpetuated by the Radical Orthodoxy movement. In re-appropriating a pre-modern tradition by filtering it through a postmodern narrative, Radical Orthodoxy misreads key medieval thinkers such as Scotus, Bonaventure and Occam. This misstep also results in a misreading of thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger[1] and Derrida who have incorporated key elements from the Franciscan philosophers. The Franciscan philosophers: Bonaventure, Scotus and Ockham became nominalists in order to safeguard each single individual from the power of totalization.

            Nominalism requires a vigilance that calls us to protect the uniqueness of the person. For Scotus, this uniqueness is “that by which something is a this.”[2]  To protect the uniqueness of persons Derrida will argue that we cannot be satisfied with a neutral and conceptual analysis that reduces the difficulty of our situation, which is ultimately irreducible. Such systems deal with homogenization and calculability and “close themselves off from this coming of the other.”[3] If we take seriously the uniqueness of each Self, which according to Kierkegaard is “a work of the most faithful love,”[4] then we are necessarily involved in an excessive responsibility of which cannot be absolved; not even in the moment of death where according to Kierkegaard “all ways meet.”[5]


Who is Afraid of Nominalism?

“Who can know the unlimited number of seeds which exists?”

St. Bonaventure

            Radical Orthodoxy claims to “reconfigure theological truth.” Yet, one wonders how the retrieval of Platonic and Aristotelian thought through a synthesis of Augustine and Aquinas can accomplish this move. Radical Orthodoxy retrieves the mistakes of the tradition while presenting itself as the answer to the ills of modernity. By critiquing nominalism, the Radical Orthodoxy movement fails to understand the radicality of the Franciscan philosophers whose lineage continues in the writings of existential-postmodern thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze.[6]

            N. Den Bok shows how Scotus proposed a new concept of individuality, “a concept that does not define it as material or accidental feature, but as essential individuality (haecceitas).” [7] This essential individuality is understood as “a specific kind of independence.”[8] Den Bok explains that for Scotus human nature cannot exist as a general nature but only as a “this”. The distinction between individuality and personhood for Scotus is essential. Den Bok writes, “a human person is not individual in virtue of his personhood, but in virtue of his essentially individual nature.”[9] The thisness of the person cannot be reduced. It remains singular and unique. It cannot be framed, boxed in or reduced to a bland uniformity. Thisness is unrepeatable.

            While Catherine Pickstock attempts “to explore the relation of the Scotist legacy to modernity and postmodernity”[10] she misses a very important point. Pickstock writes, “the issue does not involve a contrast between the modern and the postmodern. It is rather that both represent  ‘a certain Middle age’ (with roots which reach back before Duns Scotus in his Franciscan forbearers).”[11] As I see it, the issue does involve a contrast between the modern and the postmodern. The postmodern is a recovery of the Franciscan tradition. Pickstock is incorrect to maintain that postmodernity is “an advanced version of modernity”. The Franciscans would be opposed to Luther’s reformative modernity that abolished the haecceity of the person.[12]

            Pickstock reads Scotus through a Thomistic lens. This perspective is critical of Scotus for his emphasis on the univocity of Being. However, the univocity of being goes beyond the Thomistic notion of analogy. It is the “one voice” of the individual that is important. This one voice is unlike all other voices. The uniqueness of the person cannot be upheld under the shackles of representation and analogy.[13]  The person cannot be reduced by being represented in a prior system of reference. The person is incommensurable with any system of reference that seeks to contain what it is. Each person is actualized differently. Each time is new in its singular possibilities.

             Scotus does not share the Thomistic perspective because it does not do justice to individual persons. Pickstock, as Ingham shows, criticizes “Scotus on the basis that he is not a Thomist.”[14] Scotus is not a Thomist because Aquinas’ Aristotelian approach ignores the existential reality of persons. As Scotus argues, “It is impossible to abstract universals from the singular without previous knowledge of the singular.”[15]  It is the singular that counts. The singular can never be contained by any intellect.[16]

            Pickstock argues that analogy “allows more scope to revelation than does univocity.”[17] According to Pickstock, “revelata now bear with themselves not just their own historical contingency but also their own logic which reason without revelation cannot fully anticipate.”[18] The precise counter point is that reason can never fully anticipate what will happen. Logos itself is guided by the principle of multiforme theorae.  The revelation that Pickstock favors is already framed. Her position fails to grasp the implications of Scotus’s vision. The integral vision is not based on logic, but love. It is the love of thisness that cannot be bound by logical categories. Pickstock argues, “In the long run, this allows the possibility of “Scotist” nihilism as evidenced by Deleuze.”[19]

            The opposite is the case. Postmodern theorists, that is, those influenced by the Franciscans such as Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida see the individual as a complexity that cannot be contained within pre-established forms and categories. Thisness overflows any border to produce rhizomatic events.  St.Bonaventure with his concept of multiforme theorae had already developed a theory of dissemination upon which Derrida grounded his aporetic ethics.[20] Bonaventure shows the insufficiency of seeing God as a substance and as the first cause of a chain of causes. Substance is no longer sufficient to account for the complexity of persons, which are more than just subjects who know objects. Bonaventure shows that things are so complex such that there can never be a final accounting that would connect all the dots.

            Pickstock and other Radical Orthodox theologians seem to fear the multiplicity in Scotus’s thought. Multiplicity remains confined by the moderns within the discipline imposed by institutions.  As Ingham writes, Scotus’s “labours to make clear that the categories of Being found in Aristotle’s metaphysics (or even those present in Platonic thought) do not exhaust the domain of Christian theology.” [21] Ingham shows that Pickstock is “unable to see what is truly going on in the Franciscan’s thought.” [22]While this is true, I would add that Pickstock perhaps does see what the Franciscan philosophers are doing and therefore cannot accept the implications of their message, which is grounded in the life that Jesus lived. In other words, Franciscan thought would be the true root, the radix of Catholic theology that was already postmodern.

            As Ingham writes,

The centrality of creation is no less important to Scotus than to Aquinas; he defends it in a different way. Scotus defends the dignity of creation in his discussion of the principle of individuation (haecceitas), the centrality of the human person… it is Aquinas who views human nature in an inferior light, not Scotus.[23]

Scotus defends the contingency of creation because of his Franciscan spirituality. This spirituality emphasizes love rather than sin. It emphasizes the conception and Incarnation rather than sin and the Fall.

            Following some of the insights given by Pickstock, James K.A. Smith argues that a paradigm shift began with Scotus. This shift led to modernity and nihilism. In his text, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, Smith argues that the Franciscan Scotus neglects the transcendent. Smith wants to retrieve the transcendent by going back to Augustine. Smith argues for a participatory ontology that links all of creation to the transcendent. This participatory ontology seems to short-circuit the incarnation.

            Radical Orthodoxy is a renewal of Christian Platonism rather than a renewal of the good news proclaimed by Jesus and the Franciscans. In other words, Radical Orthodoxy is not radical. It has not gone to the roots of the tradition. It is a deformation of the catholic tradition as it perpetuates a misreading of Scotus, the Franciscans and existential-postmodern thought. What is required, I think, is not another treatise showing us how the secular state must be replaced with a church that controls the political and economic space of its domain but a spirituality that contains a radical love. This radical love is to be found in the sayings of Jesus and in the writings of the Franciscan thinkers who lived a life of theological immanence. [24]

            In The Courage to Be[25], Paul Tillich gives his account of the dangers associated with nominalism. He writes,

In connection with the rise of modern individualism, I have mentioned the communalistic splitting of universals into individual things. There is a side in nominalism, which anticipates motifs of recent Existentialism. There is for example, its irrationalism rooted in the breakdown of essences under the attacks of Duns Scotus and Ockham. The emphasis on the contingency of everything that exists makes both the will of God and the being man equally contingent. It gives to man the feeling of a definite lack of ultimate necessity, with respect not only to himself but also to his world.[26]

Tillich’s theory of participation, much favored by Radical Orthodox theologians paves the way to conformity and the leveling off any unique singularity. Those who favor conformity will see nominalism as a heretical stance. The anxious words of Jesus on the cross confirm the truth of nominalism rather than the harmonious community of Neo-Platonism defended by Milbank.[27]

            Milbank see nominalism as nihilism.[28] To overcome this nihilism, Milbank says that he engages in “a deliberate uncompromising and fearless appeal back to the real center of the western tradition, which is essentially a neo-Platonic Judaic and Christian center.[29] He further claims, “the watchword for Radical Orthodoxy is participation in the Platonic sense….reason only works through that participation, faith only works through that participation….metaphysical participation is the only possible basis for social participation.”[30] The stance developed by Milbank has little to do with the root teachings of Jesus. They are in fact, a throw back to the Christian Platonism criticized by Nietzsche in his Anti-Christ. As Nietzsche has repeatedly shown us, it is this life that is to be valued, not something beyond life. Milbank’s return to Christian Platonism is a rejection of nominalism along with the unique singularity of the individual.



Touching Flesh


But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Luke 22:51

            Lisa Isherwood is clear in showing how Radical Orthodoxy has “trouble with allowing the divine to be a truly unfolding process.” The God that Milbank advances is fixed and frozen. Any system to come out of such a theology is fixed as well[31]. Jesus reacted to this type of theology when he criticized the Pharisees.

            To overcome the limits imposed by Radical Orthodoxy, Isherwood recommends, “engagement with raw/radical incarnation, the vulnerability and bravery to feel and to touch.” Isherwood describes such a theology as “a skin-trade.” Such a view urges us “to take incarnation much more seriously.” Nominalism is the philosophy that does take the implications of the incarnation seriously. I would argue that a rejection of nominalism is a rejection of the radical nature of the incarnation and the promise that “all flesh will be saved.” Taking a cue from Isherwood, we can further examine the implications of touch.

            What touches us shows where our love is directed.[32] The woman in Matthew’s Gospel says, “, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” Jesus responds by saying, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.”[33]  What is needed if we are to believe this event, is a touch of faith. This mustard seed faith that touches, that transforms us and takes our lives along a different tangent, allows us to see the kingdom, here, now.

            They wanted to touch the fringe of his cloak, the hem of his garment in order to be healed. Luke’s Gospel records that “all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.”[34] His touch makes them whole. His touch heals. After the resurrection he asks Mary not to touch him, that is, not to cling to him, clench him, latch on, in other words, Jesus does not wish to be seized. He teaches here about possession. To take possession is to capture. The other must not be captured, seized or possessed. The touch must be light. It must not grip, grasp or grab. In short, it must not be Platonic. We understand the power of touch the least because it is so close to us. We have fled from the intimacy and proximity of this root and turned toward a Greek tradition that favored sight and distance. Platonic thought carries an aversion to the tactile. Aristotle associated touch with animality.

            Luke best displays the Franciscan spirit that Nietzsche would make use of in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.[35] Luke writes, “People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”[36].

            Here I think we have located the kernel that distinguishes Franciscan thought from Radical Orthodoxy. The child contains the spirit of creativity and innocence. Their presence and exuberance has the power to transform. The child is the event that brings in the radically new. Francis felt the holy surge of God’s creative power. It led him to have a radically new outlook on life that took him away from the commercial and capitalistic world of his father.

            With its reliance on neo-Platonic thought, Radical Orthodoxy returns us to more of the same. It wants to return us to a conservative status-quo that is anti-life. It seeks the organization and control of the individual. Ultimately, this is what Francis rebelled against as he stripped naked before his father. If one really believes in haecceity,  then the universal cannot comprehend the singular. This is what nominalism shows us as it protects the unique name of the person and following St. Francis, protects the uniqueness of all flesh.

            The difference between Franciscan thought and Radical Orthodoxy can be best illustrated by turning to the well-known children’s book, Scaredy Squirrel.[37]  Scaredy Squirrel is unable to leave his nut tree. He fears the unknown.  Watts writes, “He’d rather stay in his safe and familiar tree than risk venturing into the unknown.” The unknown is a fearful place full of danger and chance. Scaredy Squirrel suffers from an extreme version of post-traumatic stress disorder. He spends his day assaulted by anxiety, fearful of green Martians, tarantulas, poison ivy, killer bees, germs and sharks. He stays in his tree protected by the transcendence of its branches. He cherishes predictability, routine and control. His life is reduced to a liturgy of boredom where the same sacraments are enacted according to a strict schedule. He wakes up, eats a nut, and looks at a view and goes to sleep. He thinks he that he is prepared for the unexpected second coming with his hardhat, antibacterial soap, calamine lotion, parachute, mask and rubber gloves, net, Band-Aid and sardines. He believes that his emergency kit will protect him. One day, his world is shaken by the arrival of a “smiling killer bee.”  This event traumatizes him. Filled with panic, he loses his emergency kit. Jumping out of the tree to catch the kit he realizes that he is “no ordinary squirrel, He’s a flying squirrel” He discovers his “thisness”. He becomes, “overjoyed, adventurous, carefree, alive.” In short, he becomes a Franciscan.Watts writes, “All this extreme excitement has inspired Scaredy Squirrel to make drastic changes to his life.”

            There is nothing radical about sin, fear, anxiety, guilt and shame. The truly radical happens when we discover how love erases these things to establish a transformative creativity. This transformative creativity takes flesh and makes it exuberant. It lives and works under the phrases, “Behold I have made all things new.” The neo-Platonic framework upon which Radical Orthodoxy wishes to establish itself leads us to a valley of dry bones without hope of resurrection.

            Radical Orthodoxy embraces neo-Platonism and its participatory framework.  Nominalism challenged this worldview by developing an immanent position. This position demonstrated that the Platonic-Christian synthesis was in need of an uncoupling. Creation is not a frozen Platonic form. It is contingent because of radical freedom. Nominalism rejects Platonism in order to have a better philosophy of love. The so-called stability that Platonism gave to Christian theology positioned it away from the faith demonstrated by Jesus. By appropriating Platonism, Milbank’s Radical Theology arrives stillborn. Under this vision, we become screens on which theology; yet another ideology displays its flattened patterns. Here we are fixed and dehumanized.


The immediacy of the singular

It must therefore be in everyone’s power to become what he is, a single individual; no one is prevented from being a single individual, no one, unless he prevents himself by becoming many.

Soren Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth


            By arguing in favor of nominalism, Franciscan philosophers such as Scotus and Occam embraced a new relationship between the individual and divine nature. The focus was on the primacy of the singular and the immediacy of the singular in relation to God. Roger Bacon in 1268 argued for the preeminence of the individual in Commmunia Naturalium. He shows that God created the world for the individual and not for a concept of humanity. The emphasis is on immediacy rather than the mediation of genus and species.

            The debate between nominalism and realism concerns not only the question of whether universals are real but what the real is. If we consider what the word real means, the significance of nominalism in defending the singularity of all flesh becomes crucial. Realis is the world rich with things. Reality has wealth. Reality is the wealth of creation in all its glory. It was the wealth of created reality that led St. Francis to a life devoted to joy.  St. Francis privileged the singular existing individual.  Justice is given to each individual thing. Along these lines, I think that  James K.A. Smith is clearly mistaken when he criticizes immanence as “war by another means.”[38] The postmoderns, whom Smith claims to have understood so well, argue the opposite position. Analogical participation produces violence in the order of being because justice is not given to each individual. The alternative mythos proposed by Milbank and his followers is a return to the violence of metaphysics where peace means the pacification of difference and singularity. Here we would all be seated in Plato’s Cave while the so-called Radical Reformists would parade paper cut outs of Christ onto the screen. It is precisely this hegemonic view that Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and other existential-postmodernists desired to liberate us. In short, Milbank’s theology is a repeat of Plato’s noble lie. It is a falsity that has buried the real religion lived and defended by the Franciscans.

            When columnists of the Christian right such as Joel Belz writes, “nominalism and its handmaiden relativism are as repugnant to God as is outright denial and maybe more so”[39] it is clear what is at stake for the individual person, namely the loss of freedom, thought and action. For those in favor of clear-cut centers and stable hierarchies, nominalism is presented as a threat to certainty. Nominalism does undermine foundations for the sake a better ethics, a better love, and a better justice. Nominalism speaks to each singular experience.  Pierce argued that nominalism “blocks the road to inquiry.”[40] The opposite seems to be the case, namely that nominalism removes roadblocks so that inquiry can freely proceed on its way. The anti-nominalist position found in the works of Milbank, Pickstock, Smith and Pierce favor, prediction, control, conformity, predictability, and reliable expectation. I see this as an attempt to impose constraints on what is real.

            The dialectic of skepticism does not limit the scope of rationality; it widens its scope. Within the universe proposed by Radical Orthodoxy the individual is reduced to a predictable machine, God becomes an abstraction and society becomes a panopticon driven by disciplines of control. The critics of nominalism stifle individualism in order to maintain a spiritual aristocracy along with a theological elitism.[41]

Love and Glory, Not Sin and Homo Sacer


Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

St. Francis

            The move away from nominalism diminishes the status of personhood. The nominalism upheld by the Franciscan philosophers and the followers of Scotus is precisely what safeguards the irreducibility of the person. Gerard Manley Hopkins best expressed this view in his poem “As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire” where he writes, “For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his.” Hopkins’s poem echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel,  that say, “Every hair on your head is numbered.”[42]  To believe as Milbank and Pickstock do that nominalism is a slide into nihilism is to misread the gospels; late medieval philosophy and postmodern thought. In short, Milbank constructs a Christ for whom I would not want to be a Christian.

             The Franciscan philosophers whom Milbank disapproves of have the best understanding of the incarnation. The see the incarnation as grounded in ultimate love rather than sin. This love embraces the whole of creation. In St. Paul’s words, Christ is the fullness “who fills everything in everyway.” Milbank takes the plentitude of Christ and reduces it to “our new political life in Christ.” Following Agamben, Milbank sees Christ as homo sacer; as abandoned and excluded. Milbank writes, “For the church is founded on Christ who was only excluded- by imperial Rome, by tribal-cum-city-state Israel, by modern democracy….But Christ as purely excluded is risen: therefore the life he is risen to is the possibility of life after exclusion from life.” Here we have located the precise problem of Milbank’s theology. He takes insights from Agamben and then contorts the Gospel to fit into the space of Agamben’s discourse. Milbank’s use of Agamben’s narrative is problematic from a Franciscan perspective. Scotus argued that the Incarnation reflects God’s glory.[43] Bonaventure argues, “When God became Man, the works of God were brought to perfection.” If the whole of creation is incarnational, then it cannot be the bare life of homo sacer, however trendy Agamben has become after Derrida’s death.

            The Franciscan philosophers with their understanding of the incarnation develop a difference universalism that upholds the unique singularity of all flesh. This outlook led Francis to a radical love that echoed the love of Jesus. Francis developed a love for each individual creature. Scotus takes this position and develops the concept of haecceity or “thisness.” While persons do share a common form and have equal worth and dignity, their “thisness” makes them irreducible and unique.



            Nominalism is a skepticism that is skeptical for the sake of a better ethic. Nominalism shows us we can never have full knowledge of any person and thing. Nominalism protects the complexity of each unique singularity from being reduced and universalized in a Platonic manner. The Radical Orthodox claim that social justice is empty without connection to the transcendent misses the relevance of justice. Recovering the teachings of Augustine and Aquinas by reading them through a neo-Platonic filter may fill the space of specialized journals but it does nothing to live up to the radical message preached by Jesus. Jesus no more requires the help of Augustine and Aquinas than Paul requires the help of Zizek, Badiou and Agamben.

            It is difficult to see how Milbank’s movement can overcome the ills of modernity by re-reading Augustine and Aquinas.  The attempt of Radical Orthodoxy to reclaim the world for theology ignores the kingdom in favor of the church. A theology that fails to follow the teaching and practice of Jesus remains academic rather than existential.

            How does Radical Orthodoxy with its renewed concern for worship and liturgy perform the works of love? How does the recovery of the “pre 1300 vision”[44] help to overcome secular culture and preach the Good News? When theologians fail to address the suffering of those cast out, rejected and over-looked, their theology is neither radical nor orthodox. It remains cut off from its roots; a pseudo-orthodoxy that returns us to a place where contingency and complexity are avoided.  In the face of this, radical orthodoxy needs to be cast aside for the sake of a better religious and spiritual practice.

For my daughter Holly Anne Bliss

[1]  Sean J. McGrath argues that “Heidegger’s Seinsvergessenheit is not the forgetfulness of esse but the forgetfulness of hacecceitas.” in “Heidegger and Duns Scotus on Truth and Language” The Review of Metaphysics 57 (December 2003): 339-358. See also  Sean J. McGrath, “The Forgetting of Haecceitas: Heidegger’s 1915-1916 Habilitationsschrift,” in Between the Human and the Divine: Philosophical and Theological Hermeneutics, ed. Andrzej Wiercinski, (Guernesy: The Hermeneutic Press, 2002) 355-377.

[2] Scotus, Questions on Metaphysics, Book 7

[3] Jacques Derrida, “On the Priceless” in Negotiations, edited and translated by Elizabeth Rottenburg (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 182.

[4] Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, trans. by Howard and Edna Hong (New York: Harper, 1962), 317.

[5]  Works of Love, 317

[6]  For example, see Todd May, “Philosophy as a Spiritual Exercise in Foucault and Deleuze” Angelaki, Volume 5, Number 2, August 2000, 223-229. May writes, “ Doing philosophy as a spiritual exercise, then, is doing philosophy with an eye to how one ought to live rather than with an eye to what will simply be intellectually convincing or stimulating.” 224. See also Philip Tonner, “Duns Scotus’ Concept of the Univocity of Being: Another Look” Pli 18, 2007, 129-146. Tonner writes, “ In Europe a renewed interest in Scotus amongst philosophers influenced by the works of Martin Heidegger and most recently by Gilles Deleuze has resulted in a series of fresh looks tat Scotus’ philosophy….those readers of Scotus influenced by Heidegger have breathed new life into Scotus’ concept of haecceitas (thisness) finding in it a principle of individuality and unrepeatability unique of the medieval thinkers that would ultimately prove influential in the very early states of the advent of existential philosophy.” 129.

[7]  N. Den Bok, “More Than Just an Individual: Scotus’s Concept of the Person”, Franciscan Studies 66, 2008, 169

[8]  Den Bok, 196

[9]  Den Bok, 170

[10] Catharine Pickstock, “Postmodernism” in  The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, edited by Peter Scott, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) 568.

[11] Pickstock, 566

[12]  Moshe Sluhovsky in his essay, “Discernment of Difference, the Introspective Subject, and the Birth of Modernity” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 36:1, Winter 2006 169-199, makes a number of important points. He argues that the modern self was seen as “introspective and unified… opposed to the medieval porous, fragmented and somewhat slumberous individual.” The modernity that the Protestant movement created was “masculine….rational, stable…as opposed to premodernity that was Catholic, exterior, irrational, unstable, feminine, and corporeal.”174. Sluhovksy shows how “the intersubjectivity and soul-searching of these early modern Catholic women did not necessitate a rejection of the body….the portrayal of modern subjectivity as purely cerebral (and therefore masculine), purely intellectual, and Protestant, ignores the origins of discernment and introspection in late medieval Catholic practices.” 189. A detailed history of what Luther trashed as a result of  his reformation needs to be written, beginning with a rejection of the body and the feminine.

[13]  For more on why philosophy is univocity see Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?

[14] Mary Beth Ingham “Re-Situating Scotist Thought” Modern Theology 21:4, October 2005, 612

[15]  Scotus, De anima XXII, cap.iii.

[16]  For a reading of Scotus’s concept of haecceitas see Allan B. Wolter, The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus, edited by Marilyn McCord Adams (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990)

[17]  Pickstock, 555

[18]  Pickstock, 555

[19] Pickstock, 557. It is clear that Pickstock has not understood Deleuze or Scotus. Scotus’s concept of haecceity where every individual is individuated by their differences has new social and political implications that would take us into the realm of justice.

[20] See my Jacques Derrida’s Aporetic Ethics, (New York: Lexington Books, 2006). I argue that Derrida’s ethics can be understood in terms of his four main philosophical concepts: deconstruction, dissemination, difference and undecidability.

[21] Ingham, 611

[22] Ingham, 613

[23] Ingham, 614

[24] It is telling of course, that Milbank turns to the conservative Lutheran theologians Johann Georg Hamann and Franz Heinrich Jacobi who argued for a theory of knowledge by faith alone to overcome the legacy of Scotus.  Luther’s  “Disputation Against Scholastic Theology”  can be read as his critique against the Franciscans. For example, sentence 10 reads, “One must concede that the will is not free to strive toward whatever is declared good. This is in opposition to Scotus and Gabriel.” Sentence 13 reads, “It is absurd absurd to conclude that erring man can love the creature above all things, therefore also God. This is in opposition to Scotus and Gabriel.” Luther’s theology of sin cannot accept the place of radical love. He writes in Sentence 95, “To love God is at the same time to hate oneself and to know nothing but God.”

[25]  Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952)

[26]  Tillich, 129

[27]  In an interview with Rachael Kohn, 7/11/1999, Radio National, Milbank states, “secular modernity was born in a perverse theology at the end of the late Middle Ages.”

[28]  There is a long and erroneous history that links nominalism with nihilism and skepticism, beginning with Plato’s condemnation of  Antisthenes. Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson claim that nominalism leads to skepticism without of course seeing that such a move is necessary for the sake of a better ethic. For more on how nominalism has been cast see Campbell Crockett, ‘The Confusion over Nominalism” The Journal of Philosophy, Volume 47, Number 25, December 7, 1950, 752-758. Crockett writes, “…one might simply assert that Durand was a nominalist and not a skeptic, while Nicholas of Autrecourt was a skeptic and not a nominalist.”

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[31]  By fixed I mean castrated, made impotent and un-creative.  Nietzsche saw this as the main work of the priest.

[32]  For an excellent reading of touch in Derrida and Nancy see Linnell Secomb, “Amorous Politics: Between Derrida and Nancy”, Social Semiotics, Volume 16, Number 3, September 2006, 449-460.

[33] Matthew 9-21-22

[34] Luke 6:19

[35]  I have examined this theme in “The Child’s New Love” in Zarathustra’s Annunciations Of…. (St. Catharines: Thought House, 2002). David Goicoechea has written on this theme at length. See his remarkable book,  Zarathustra’s Love Beyond Wisdom (Binghamton: Global Publications, 2002).

[36] Luke 18:15-17

[37]  Melanie Watts, Scaredy Squirrel, (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2006) Of course, I am being serious here. This thought occurred to me while I was reading Scaredy Squirrel to my daughter Holly just as we finished watching another great Franciscan TV show, namely Little Bear. Luke’s Gospel can be read as a meditation on the words, “Fear Not.” The seven passages are:1. Luke  1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 2. Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 3. Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 4. Luke 5:10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from hence forth thou shalt catch men. 5. Luke 8:50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. 6. Luke 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. 7. Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom

[38] James K.A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004) 195

[39] “Nominalism”, Christian Century, October, 2001, 39

[40]  Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers, edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993),  Volume 1, 170.

[41] In his article, “Radical Orthodoxy and the New Culture of Obscurantism”, Paul D. Janz clearly shows how Radical Orthodox theologians have come to rely on a special type of “intellectual intuition that relies “on the prophetic ingenuity of a few.” Janz believes that Milbank’s thought gives rise to “a new kind of esoteric gnosticism.” Such a move Janz contends is anti-philosophical and even “radically anti-rational in outlook.”

[42]  Matthew 10:30

[43]  Lorenzo Chiesa  claims that Agamben has a Franciscan Ontology. My reading here indicates otherwise. If the Kingdom is here, now, then messianic time is a waster of time. Chiesa writes, “ Agamben’s notion of ‘weak’ being, a being characterized by a ‘presentative poverty’ could qualify his ontology as ‘Franciscan’. The Franciscan notion of poverty is an ordering of desire, not private property or worldly goods.  See The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and BioPolitics (Melbourne: repress, 2009). Agamben’s diagnosis of this world was bleak.St. Francis’s diagnosis was not.

[44] John Milbank, “The last of the last: Theology, Authority and Democracy”, Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, 58 (2002), 271-298


About Mark Zlomislic

Philosopher. Writer. Artist. My Studio/Gallery Inscape Fine Art is located in Cambridge, Ontario. Viewing by Appointment Only. Please email:
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