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If Words Have No Meaning, Then Why Write A Book?
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. 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. There is no anchor tying the thesis down. Like all postmodern philosophers, he undermines his own writings when he denies any close ties between words and the 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 connection between words and reality is fatal to his own book! Caputo in principle denies any sufficient harmony between reality and his own words 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 should represent something real, then much of the Introduction is gibberish. The author affirms double negatives, denies his own assertions, yet the book is written using the rules of 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.