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The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? (Short Circuits) Hardcover – March 20, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"In this dazzling dialogue, Zizek and Milbank change words and cross swords, until the point where both recognize that Christ and Hegel, in their monstrosity, look very much alike. A phenomenal achievement!"--Catherine Malabou, Matre de Conferences, Philosophy Department, Universit Paris-X Nanterre

About the Author

Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, The Parallax View, and (with John Milbank) The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialect, these four published by the MIT Press.

John Milbank is an influential Christian theologian and the author of Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason and other books.

Creston Davis, who conceived of the encounter between Slavoj Žižek and John Milbank, studied under both men.

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Product Details

  • Series: Short Circuits
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262012715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262012713
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,001,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Interesting conversation between a committed Marxist atheist and a committed orthodox theologian about what parts of Hegel and Christianity they hold in common - and which they do not. Zizek starts with an essay where he outlines how Hegel has the most to contribute to contemporary theology - namely, the frank admission that God is dead and is now incarnated in the community of radical believers that work against modernity and global capitalism. Milbank agrees, but argues that a paradoxical view of reality - one that recognizes that opposites exist precisely at the same time without resolution - is both more faithful to how reality works and to the vision of Christianity itself, as opposed to Hegelian dialectics. Zizek returns and clearly outlines his commitment to materialism and to the Protestant principle of negation which Milbank eschews. Both thinkers' commitments are clearly and unapologetically evident, and yet their respect for the other person's thought is evident. A fascinating - if philosophically dense - resource for anyone concerned about the runaway abuse of ultra-modern capitalism and the reality of religious resurgence in 21st century society.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book - Z and M lay out their positions so clearly a confessor couldn't ask for more. I shall not recap the debate but throw in some of my own thoughts, for what they're worth, in the hope that they help clarify for those who has already read the book. If you haven't read the book - do so - it is well worth the small effort.

1. Dialectic involves resolving analytic contradictions. Thesis X - and antithesis (not X) form a classic analytic contradiction that resolve themselves through the process of the dialectic to a larger perspective of the world. This activity is strictly within the Kantian Idealist framework - the movement involved is the processes of the empty cogito - and hence firmly Cartesian.

Paradox is NOT an analytic contradiction but empirical facts or events that the cogito trips over and must take account of. As such it is NOT purely analytic or Kantian Idealist. This is my understanding as to why Milbank considers Zizek's Hegelianism to be "too conservative and Cartesian".

2. The Zizekian "abyss" is the end point of the "Via Negativa" process of Theology, which predates modernism, late-stage-modernism or post-modernism (whatever you want to call it) by centuries but yet is the basic, though unrecognized, program of modernism. The Milbankian conception, for me is closely related to the "Via Positiva".

In the Via Negativa, the main activity to show what god is NOT; to separate the sacred from the profane, to prove how things and customs and traditions and people are NOT divine or sacred but in fact their opposite. It casts god out of the world, out of our souls and ultimately the universe itself. God becomes distinct from all things, beings and attributes and becomes "just a word".
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Format: Hardcover
In reviewing any book, the first question that should be answered is, "Is this book worth reading?" My answer is, "It depends." If one is perfectly comfortable in one's theology, believes Christianity is on the right track and that all is well with the world other than a few blemishes and rough spots here and there, and one is intellectually lazy besides, then I recommend skipping the hard work that this book demands.

Maybe a book with the catchy title, The Monstrosity of Christ, already warns the reader that this will not be a simple apologetic or `isn't Christianity nice' tome. `Monstrosity' comes from Hegel's use of the word to mean something so outlandish, so beyond the normative, consensual reality of everyday as to constitute a break, a schism, so to speak, that invites a renewed apperception of `The Real' - the fabric of Reality (all there is) - as opposed to that portion of Reality that is apprehended through empirically derived data (e.g. scientific experiment that is performed on just a portion of all there is). Thus, for both Zizek, an avowed `Christian' atheist and for Milbank, an avowed `Orthodox' Christian, theology must start with the monstrosity of Christ. This is the foundation of Christianity.
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Format: Paperback
The exchange here between Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank is a heavily fascinating one if only because the case made by both depends so much on a person's ability--if each writer's position is to amount to something more than just a supremely intelligent and literate presentation--to see and to think beyond the mental regularities which cluster around each one.

Milbank makes the case for a boldly visionary treatment of Christian faith, one that leaves moral pettiness as much as mystical pretension behind while staying firmly rooted in traditional Trinitarian categories and language. This requires some careful attention from the reader because the level of comprehension he presupposes is not typical of the average believer.

But both authors share the same vulnerability, namely, that his position is one not likely to become characteristic of any church, group, or social stratum certainly not now nor even in what promises to be our more collectivist future. Imagine, for example, a functioning 'spiritual collective' organized along Zizekian lines, and then realize how fluent the average member would have to be in the subtleties of Hegelian dialectic or Lacan's perceptive arts in order to count as being in any way representative of it. The same applies to Milbank, who espouses such a brilliantly convincing but at times so intellectually rarefied account of Christian theological thinking that imagining any church founded on such principles and consciously living by them becomes its own exercise in wish-fantasy.
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