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Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas Hardcover – January 21, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


This fiercely intricate and intriguing work gestures towards a 'theological' position that avoids the Scylla of false hope and the Charybdis of nihilism... A suggestive, intelligent and erudite (non-linear) journey alongside Habermas, Adorno, Levinas and Derrida.

(Christopher J. Insole Times Literary Supplement)

A deeply impressive achievement and an important contribution to theological debate in the wake of Critical Theory and deconstruction.

(Colin Davis Modern Language Review)

Is modern or twentieth-century philosophy, as any cursory look would seem to indicate, overwhelmingly secular, or is there perhaps an unacknowledged entanglement with religion that may be constitutive of what the most sophisticated thinking was and continues to be? It is the latter alternative that Hent de Vries has explored in his now substantial body of research on the works of thinkers such as Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion, Jacques Derrida and Theodor W. Adorno―all of whom he takes to represent a kind of 'working through' of theological motifs in the register of conceptual, philosophical reflection. De Vries has previously published two acclaimed books on this topic― Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (1999) and Religion and Violence (2001)... Minimal Theologies is an important book that ought to find a wide readership.

(Espen Hammer Radical Philosophy)

A substantial contribution to the philosophy of religion and to the study of the thought of Adorno and Levinas.

(Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses)

Very demanding but rewarding book.

(Marsha Aileen Hewitt Religious Studies Review)

Deserves to be examined with care.

(Ryan Coyne Journal of Religion)

Truly original. For anyone concerned with the critical theory of the Frankfurt school, deconstruction, and developments in theology, this is obligatory reading. This impressive book is not only a piece of sound, rigorous, and meticulous scholarship, it is also one whose thesis is extraordinarily important.

(Rodolphe Gasché, State University of New York, Buffalo)

Hent de Vries's Philosophy and the Turn to Religion and Religion and Violence were landmarks in the international debate over the ethical and metaphysical implications of philosophy's entanglement with religion. The long-overdue translation of his earliest book, Minimal Theologies, adds a masterful analysis of the encounter between religious faith and secular reason in the work of Adorno and Levinas. As always, de Vries shows himself to be a rigorous, judicious and illuminating guide through the most tangled of theoretical labyrinths, an enlightener who knows the limits of pure enlightenment.

(Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley)

This bold and brilliantly executed work ventures into new terrain and is simply indispensable reading for anyone interested in the quandaries that arise in contemporary philosophical thinking. By exposing previously unperceived affinities between the philosophies of Adorno and Levinas, de Vries brings to light possibilities for a fundamental reconfiguring of traditional religious, theological, and metaphysical concepts. Clear of confessional form, these thinkers convey jointly what neither could convey individually. Far from positing the reducibility of one to the other, the author recasts both Adorno's negative dialectics and Levinas' idea of the infinite, leading to the emergence of a radically innovative minimal theology, a theology in 'pianissimo' that is anticipated in their work. Habermas's and Derrida's accounts of language and rationality are also explored as they shed light on these matters. This landmark study promises to become a reference point for considering major issues animating current philosophical discussion.

(Edith Wyschogrod, Rice University)

Hent de Vries's outstanding book presents an absolutely new approach to the question of religious philosophy in our time. It overcomes the classical opposition between Faith and Reason in defining a 'minimal theology'.

(Stéphane Mosès, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

This volume offers an original exploration of the interactions of philosophy and religion, and is a must read for those interested in theology, critical theory, deconstruction, and dialectics.

(Prabuddha Bharata)

About the Author

Hent de Vries is professor of Modern European Thought in the Humanities Center and the Department of Philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University and professor of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. Among his books are Philosophy and the Turn to Religion and Religion and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives from Kant to Derrida, both available from Johns Hopkins. He is the co-editor, with Samuel Weber, of Violence, Identity, and Self-Determination and Religion and Media, and, with Mieke Bal, of the book series Cultural Memory in the Present.


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