Over-Interpretation and Notes From Underground

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I have a tradition: every year, for spring break, I read Dostoevsky.  I started in high school and have followed the tradition religiously since then, as a measure both to return frequently to my favorite author, and to prevent myself from spending the whole year reading his work (I probably would, otherwise, and never get anything else done).  I love Dostoevsky.  I think he’s one of the most insightful, compassionate, intelligent, and powerful novelists who ever lived, if not THE most insightful, compassionate, etc., etc.  And after two months of beating my head against the wall that is Derridean scholarship and deconstructionism, I find it appropriate to turn my attention to Dostoevsky, who is as plain-speaking and direct as Derrida is obtuse and circumlocutory, but who is as complex and intricate to interact with as any other writer I’ve encountered.  Like Derrida, Dostoevsky admits of no simple cut-and-dry interpretations, because he interacts with the world in so many dimensions simultaneously.  So let’s put on our criticism hats and talk about that most characteristically direct and multilayered Dostoevsky story: Notes From Underground.

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Random Things I’ve Been Enjoying Lately: February

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Between my rants about Christianity’s failings, my ongoing posts about Derrida, and various other gripes I’ve voiced on this page over the past month or two, I think it’s long past time I took a break and discussed some more positive experiences I’ve been having lately.  So without further ado, here are some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

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Zeke v. Derrida, Part Four: Contentions

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Now that we’ve discussed Derrida’s philosophy at length, and provided a proper defense of the points I find compelling, it’s time to turn our attention to the opposition: how the academic world at large has contended against his philosophy and where these counter-arguments fall short.

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The Death of God and the End of Personal Authority

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Talking about Derrida brings up a lot of ancillary issues in philosophy, many of which I have passed over in silence, but I would like to discuss one element of post-modernism that I believe is crucial to its proliferation, one of the most powerful forces contributing to its authority, and perhaps one of the most dangerous elements in its constitution.  Not, as you may suspect, relativism and nihilism – the dangers of these positions are fairly self-defeating.  My concern today, is with the end personal authority.

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Zeke v. Derrida, Part Three: Concessions

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I ended my last post with some concessions to Derridean thought, with the intention of leaving it at that and going on to address counter-arguments and conclusions.  But the more that I’ve thought about the subject in the meantime, the more I feel obligated to discuss what exactly Derrida gets right and why he seems so compelling.  In part because I think the greatest danger Derrida poses is not so much his argumentation and contribution to philosophy – I think he’s probably the greatest philosopher of our time – but the ways in which he is misunderstood, or rejected without serious consideration.  So let’s go ahead and don our deconstructionist hat for today and talk about the subjective side of language.

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Christianity’s Sexual Identity Crisis

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I respect and admire a lot of conservative Christians.  I am often impressed by their faith, their theology, the strength of their convictions, and their devotion to the Lord.  But Christianity, and conservative Christianity especially, has a gigantic problem.  Namely, that the Biblical understanding of sex is based on a cultural outlook miles away from our own.  And the way that Christians apply the Biblical teaching to our own culture is, as a result, extremely erratic and often nonsensical.  Often times when I discuss theology with an evangelistic bent, to my friends or other people, I find that Christianity’s poor treatment of sex is at the forefront of their objections to the faith.  So let’s talk about it.

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Zeke v. Derrida, Part Two: Presuppositions

I have held frequently that the most profitable kind of argument, whether philosophical or otherwise, usually begins with an attempt to identify and understand each others’ presuppositions.  The trouble with Derrida is that his method of deconstructionism is not so much a philosophical system, laden as they normally are with a system of carefully-orchestrated presuppositions, as a supposedly-presuppositionless method of examining, defusing, and restructuring the presuppositions of other philosophers and texts.  Deconstructionists, like Hume in his day, claim that they have no ground to defend, and therefore may freely assail (and raze) the ground of others.  Is Derrida immune, then, to this sort of examination?

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Scriptural Revisionism: The Fall

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This week I finished playing The Talos Principle – a fantastic game released this past December on Steam which touts itself as a “philosophical first-person puzzle game”.  As a puzzle game, it certainly competes with Portal among the finest, most polished games in the genre.  As “philosophical”, it isn’t ground-breaking, but it is considerably deeper and more thoughtful than most of what popular culture normally considers “philosophical”.  I easily consider it the best game I’ve played of 2014 (with the caveat that I haven’t played many of the games now being considered for “game of the year” status, like Shadow of Mordor or Wolfenstein: The New Order).  However, despite all this praise, the game commits a rather common artistic sin that I would like to address: namely, it takes the stance that, within a Christian worldview, we were supposed to fall.

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