salvation history

Variations on a theme:

As luck would have it, this section keeps the most weary of minds awake. This study, ideally, will be the subject of my first book. Simply stated, its task is to trace the various shapes of salvation types throughout select historical moments. This salvation history and typology begins with Augustan and Augustinian models, extending via St. Francis, William of Ockham, Joachim of Fiore and Savonarola, to culminate with Machiavelli. My methodological guide for this salvation history and typology is the sociologist Max Weber. This inter-disciplinary study encompasses several themes - the impact and influence of Christianity, the formation of the individual and thought, the role and influence of Roman and Canon law - and tackles the problems raised by these within political theology.

The Proposal:

Briefly, the intended area for study revolves around three thinkers - Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Weber - and three themes - Christianity, fate and the individual. Such a study, I think, opens up a field of possibilities and raises issues which extend beyond the normal confines of Machiavelli, Nietzsche or Weber scholarship, whether individually or in combination. For each of the three thinkers, the question of Christianity is central not only for an insight into their estimation of politics and the formation of the self but more fundamentally for an understanding of their thought. Simply stated, the study proposes to situate each thinker in light of their agon with Christianity. The reading of the three - Machiavelli with St. Augustine, Nietzsche with Pauline Christianity, Weber with Luther and Calvin - offered here in this genealogical manner will reveal the extent to which - and how - each overcomes or "goes beyond" the claims and pictorial thinking of Christianity, and how this in turn shapes the character of their thought. In particular, three aspects of their engagement with Christianity are focused upon: Christianity's representation of the Divine, its stance toward civitas terrena, and the role and significance of the individual in Christian morality. The first aspect is raised to explore the meaning and significance of this fundamental source of orientation within social, religious and political life> Basically, following successive re-orderings of the Divine allows us to trace the different ways by which individuals and social groups make sense of and act in response to their milieu, and, inversely, how this in turn (and simultaneously) serves to shape the concept of God. Of note here is the way this representation of the Divine is tied to the second element, its stance toward the polis and its status in relation to civitas Dei. This moment allows for a grasp of the sometimes antagonistic, sometimes complementary but always motile relation between the two spheres (ideal/actual; sacred/profane) in political thought and Christian theology. Third, a comparative strategy unveils the essential difference between Christian morality's mending of secular fissures through love and Machiavelli's, Nietzsche's, Weber's mode of ethical individualism and the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches. It is in this engagement with the varying models of Christian purity and piety - which re-emerges in different guises in secular thought - that the labour of Machiavelli, Nietzsche and Weber will be developed. Such an approach is, I think, of particular interest in that it allows for the three to be conceived as a distinct strain of thought, one which bridges their disciplinary isolation. Central to this strain is the determination of Machiavelli, Nietzsche and Weber as educators: it is to inquire into the possibility and meaning of a "philosophical education", its origins, ends, development and strategies. Thus armed, the study seeks to more clearly expound their conception of the self and personal conduct in their respective works and their contributions to a thinking of politics and the meaning of political acting. Finally, as the study turns to ask of its own credentials, it asks of how best to address and understand the role and limits of social and political, or philosophical, thought in its relation to a lay audience. With regard to more recent approaches, this study hopes to light a renewed sense of urgency into the social and political issues - and philosophical resources underpinning them - which arise from a treatment of religion, fate, and the individual, and more broadly, the question of nihilism and contingency which frame them. This is especially pressing in light of the recent and prevalent infiltration of religiousity into philosophy and politics. More specifically with regard to the three thinkers considered - whether in relation to Machiavellian virtu, or in understanding Weber outside of the normal confines reserved by sociology, or as an inquiry into Nietzsche as a political thinker - the chief concern will be to mediate between and augment an exclusively historical, political or philosophical approach.

some observations: aspects, orientation and signs

There is a classical tale, oft retold, of the union between Pasiphae and Asterion. The outcome is well known and the theme of illicit lust - lust can only exist and flourish illicitly - and mistaken identity is neither uncommon nor does it fail to carry a moral theme; what is further illuminating in this context, however, is the nature of the punishment thus enforced. (By the way, if you haven't already done so, do please drive yourself to the nearest bookshop and steal a copy of Ted Hughes' Ovid) As Prometheus was not put to death by Zeus for stealing fire but banished to a lonely rock in the Caucasian Mountains, so Minotaur was consigned within Daedalus' labyrinth; indeed, given the sacrifices that King Minos forced Athens to deliver annually, it begs the question whether it constitutes punishment. Such models survived late antiquity - notably via Virgil - and formed early medieval literary horizons. Dante, for example, built an entire architectonic of discovery and revelation which remains widely read today. It is in this key that this life is best heard. This resonates in this project, both fuelled by a peculiarity.