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Should A Philosopher Prove His Thesis?
on May 5, 2008
I recently read the very lengthy Introduction to religious-philosophy teacher John Caputo's The Weakness of God. I appreciate the meatiness of the Introduction, since it laid out the fundamentals of where Caputo was going.
Caputo rejects the teaching that God is sovereign over all things. He makes it explicit that he rejects any such concept of God. The rest of the book is a radical re-definition of the word "God". The theme of the book is that there is no strong God, and that any sort of "strong" theology -- a theology that affirms God's sovereignty. omnipotence, or omniscience -- is wrong.
Caputo does not prove his thesis. There is no anchor tying the thesis down to anything real. Like all postmodern philosophers, he undermines his own writings when he denies any close ties between words and the objective realities that those words signify. He denies the existence of the referent. He goes to great length to claim (with no proof), that the word "God" is not the same as that which he claims it represents --something he calls The Event.
But this denial of an unbreakable connection between words and reality is fatal to his own book! The same break with reality between words and referents applies to the words Caputo himself writes. Caputo in principle denies any sufficient harmony between reality and his own typed words on the printed page for Caputo to carry meaning.
His few quotes from Derrida helped me understand why so many other European philosophers regard Derrida as a word juggler not to be taken seriously by serious thinkers.
If you also feel that words ought to represent something real, then much of the Introduction is gibberish. The author affirms double negatives, denies his own assertions, asserts his own denials, and yet the book is written using the rules of traditional logic and grammar, and is even set out in orderly, numbered lists. In this way it is self-refuting from the first page.
I believe that words need to be treated as having meaning, if one is honest, and truly wants to communicate clearly with others. I also reject the idea that we can say whatever we want about God and just assume that others are obligated to agree with us; just as we are not free to make up facts about Grover Cleveland, the Yankees baseball team, or cellular regeneration and demand that others let us off the hook as far as factual accuracy is concerned. For these reasons, I regard Dr. Caputo's book as very silly.