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Sandra Lehmann


This essay follows the assumption that the first principle of classical metaphysics has its counterpart in political sovereignty as suprema potestas. Therefore, both can be equally described as arché. Their epitome is the God of so-called ontotheology, who thus proves to be what I call the Ur-Arché. In contrast to current post-metaphysical approaches, however, I suggest overcoming ontotheology through a different metaphysics, which emphasizes the self-transcending surplus character of being. I regard early Christian martyrdom as an eminent way in which the surplus of being is manifested. This has two interwoven aspects, one ontological and one political, both arising from the excessive idea of the Christ event, or the notion that there is life beyond life unto death. I will analyse the mechanism allowing early Christian martyrs to counteract Roman imperial sovereignty. Finally, I will relate this to contemporary life systems in which sovereignty has become anonymous biopower.

From the Unconditioned to Unconditional Claims

Violence, Radical Theology, and Crisis

Jason W. Alvis and Jeffrey W. Robbins

Andrew Benjamin


The aim of this paper is to develop a conception of God that works with the identification of being-before-the-law and being-with-God. In addition, it argues that developing a rethinking of God along such lines necessitates, equally, the development of the concomitant political theology and philosophical anthropology that such a repositioning of God envisages. Processes of subject creation have to be thought in relation to any philosophical engagement with the law.

Kelly Oliver


With the upsurge in various forms of religion, especially dogmatic forms that kill in the name of good versus evil, there is an urgent need for intellectuals to acknowledge and analyze the role of religion in contemporary culture and politics. If there is to be any hope for peace, we need to understand how and why religion becomes the justification for violence. In a world where religious intolerance is growing, and the divide between the secular and the religious seems to be expanding, Julia Kristeva’s writings bridge the gap and once again provide a path where others have seen only an impasse. Her approach is unique in its insistent attempt to understand the violence both contained and unleashed by religion. Moreover, she rearticulates a notion of the sacred apart from religious dogmatism, a sense of the sacred that is precisely lacking in fundamentalism.

The “Light of Light Beyond Light”

Derrida’s “Question” and the Meta-ontological Origins of Philosophy and Violence

Carl Raschke


Despite Jürgen Habermas’ famous suggestion that the violence of history might be mitigated by “the liquidation of unconditional claims,” the issue of whether monotheistic religions and the metaphysical rationality they engender are indeed the hidden source of such violence remains an open one. This essay explores how Derrida with his project “deconstruction” sought to deal in a manner unique to philosophy with the question of the relationship between violence, the unconditional, and the ontological. It proposes that Derrida’s “Jew-Greek” dilemma, which encapsulates the problem of the “violence” of metaphysics, is resolved through Levinas’ project of disrupting Husserlian phenomenology with an alterity that is not simply a heteron that disintermediates the logic of predication, but one that challenges what is normally meant by philosophy itself.

Unconditional Responsibility in the Face of Disastrous Violence

Thoughts on religio and the History of Human Mortality

Burkhard Liebsch


This essay draws attention to the question how a strong notion of unconditional responsibility in the face of the other’s mortality (as it was claimed by Emmanuel Levinas) is related to the historical experience of a disastrous violence that seems to annihilate not only numerous bodies, lives, identities and histories but, rather, any responsible religio to the other – whether living or dead. It is well known, that Levinas claimed that human responsibility demands not to let the other alone in his death. But if the other is already dead – like numerous others who share the same fate – keeps human responsibility silent, then? And how is this religio of human responsibility related to forms of disastrous violence which seem to deny it?

Violence and the Unconditional

A Radical Theology of Culture

John D. Caputo


I distinguish between the deep culture and the manifest culture, the relationship between the two constituting a circle, which constitutes the circulation of a radical theology of culture. The deep culture surfaces in the manifest, and the manifest draws upon the depths; neither one without the other. My hypothesis is that religion is an expression of the deep culture and for that reason, religion is not accidentally violent; religion is violent in virtue of something essential to religion. Religion is playing with the fire of the concealed depths, of the unconditional, of the impossible, of the undeconstructible. Religion is the best way to save the world, but it also the best way to burn it down. It is both of these things and in virtue of the same property. This is not to say that religion is structurally violent, always and necessarily violent. It is structurally ambiguous, dangerous, on the verge of violence, whipsawing between radical violence and radical non-violence, between martyrdom and murder. Religious beliefs are not the cause of the violence but often a façade for deeper, visceral nationalism or ethnic hatred, The reaction of Christian right to the contemporary world is naive and simplistic but not superficial; it reflects a visceral fear of the postmodern world. Religion is a matter of being claimed by something unconditional, which means it should have the good sense not to lay claim to it. We should never trust anything that has not passes through that apophasis. Before any claims we make, we are laid claim to in advance by the unconditional, the undeconstructible, which Schelling calls the prius, the “un-pre-thinkable” (das Unvordenkliche). The unconditional in the optimal sense is love, which is an expenditure made without the expectation of a return, like loving one’s enemies, which is impossible, the impossible. But love does not get a pass. What would we not do for love? In that question is concentrated all the ambiguity of love, all the courage of the martyr, but no less the violence of the suicide bomber.

The Aggrieved Community

Nancy and Blanchot in Dialogue

Kevin Hart


Does “community” contain an ineradicable memory of “communion,” and thereby inevitably have conceptual ties to Christianity, if not to fascism? Or can the word, rather, indicate a new way of being in common, one that became briefly visible in the communist experiment, understood first as the appearing of the truth of democracy before it collapsed under the weight of ideology and militarism? While Jean-Luc Nancy identifies motifs from Maurice Blanchot’s early right-wing political commitments in his later left-wing thought, this essay addresses and critiques another of Nancy’s claims: that despite Blanchot’s affirmation of a community unregulated by a reference to unity, he is, in fact, committed to the Christian notion of communion. However, Blanchot distanced his notion of inter-subjectivity from any conception of God, proposing, instead, a “dissymmetric” rather than asymmetric relation, grounded in the encounter of the Other’s death rather than in some trace of the divine.

Emmanuel Falque

Translator Sarah Horton


Phenomenology must begin to acknowledge the organic, animal nature of the body instead of focusing only on the pure subjectivity of the flesh. Mediating between Descartes’s extended body (a mere object that is entirely distinct from the self) and Husserl’s lived body (the flesh that is the self), the spread body is the organic body that I have, that is not simply myself and yet is mine. This essay reveals the steep cost of phenomenology’s neglect of the body, which produces a discarnation, or dissolution of the flesh itself. The “flesh without body” vanishes into transparency, exemplified by Descartes’ “madmen” who lose all connection to their organic bodies, to the point of supposing that their bodies are glass. Because organicity is in fact proper to us, denying or rejecting its import can lead only to madness.

Double Hospitality

Between Word and Touch

Richard Kearney


A precarious balance exists between remaining faithful to one’s own language and history while also maintaining an ethical attentiveness to the Other. The danger in the former is the penchant for colonizing and violently reducing the Other. The danger of the later is a supine servility and inability to offer a linguistic home for welcoming the Other. To navigate these two extremes, the conditional hospitality of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics is brought into dialogue with the unconditional hospitality of Derrida’s deconstruction. What is needed is the more embodied approach of a carnal hospitality that assists in discerning the right ways of touching and not touching, of uniting word and body, teaching us how to incarnate the impossible possibility of reconciliation and forgiveness with the stranger.