At first glance, Caputo’s review of The Monstrosity of Christ has all the markings of a thoroughgoing critique, helping to spurn further debate between a militant athesist and radical theologian.  This is surprising, given Zizek’s and Milbank’s scathing critiques of Caputo and his atheology ilk.   

 
However, a sudden shift in tone soon rears its head when Caputo provides his litany of incredulous questions, brilliantly producing the effect of a crescendo once all the witty remarks are added up.  Such as, “making matter matter more,” “the unreconciled is real and the real is unreconciled,” and finally, “G.K. Chesterton’s old chestnuts.” It becomes clear as to where this is all headed.  He does thank Davis for “crafting such a first rate exchange,” but based upon the questions at the end, it becomes obvious that this book for Caputo amounts to sheer entertainment.  When Caputo asks, “why inscribe either absolute contradiction or absolute peace at the heart of things in stead of ambiance and ambiguity,” I want to ask Caputo if he really read the debate, to say nothing of the Introduction where Davis lays out the stakes of the book: these thinkers are looking to truly “resist the global capitalistic Empire along with the new security-emergency state” (20).  Caputo doesn’t discuss this and so I’m worried that he thinks things are just fine, or that all we really need to do is admit that life is “marked by an unknowable and fundamental undecidability” and meanwhile, the grandest metanarrative of all time, global capitalism, driven by the very same anarchic impulses of “undecidability,” marchers onward. Almost as if it’s begging us to continuing debating différance, identity, the Other while clean water becomes privatized and teachers’ salaries are cut.
 
In regards to his reading of Zizek, I do think Caputo is correct to call him out on a few things.  For instance, he states that “Zizek proposes a belief deprived of substance…mocks Derrida mercilessly,” but wonders “exactly how far has he landed from Derrida’s ‘spectral messianiac'” other than of tone?  Of course, this is Milbank’s own point.  With Milbank’s chapter, he notes the critiques of dialectic but then asks how is this different from Aquinas and the movement of affirmation, negation and eminence and that this really might be “dialectics at a an even higher velocity.”  Almost as if to admit that he didn’t pay attention to Milbank’s reading of analogy, paradox or thinking outside the paradigm of Hegel’s Protestantism 
 
The most interesting part of Caputo’s article is the critique he gives of Chesterton.  He accuses Chesterton of offering “a smug apologetic of Christian faith” (smug, probably because he’s English, a Catholic or that he held to Distributionism as a viable challegene to the atheism of capitalism), calling him “a predictable formula novelist.”  There something to Caputo’s inability to appreciate Chesteron (and maybe even detective fiction as a whole?) and his inability to get at the heart of the political debate.  Caputo, like many postmodern philosophers, can’t quite appreciate that the everyday is extraordinary and what appears as vacuous, undecidable, other, is really the most humdrum thing in the world.  Caputo seems to not quite have developed the palate for good detective fiction, failing to see that the form Chesterton’s novels offer is that of course we know everything will turn out all right, but we have no way of knowing beforehand and our attempts to pinpoint the outcome will always fall short.  Only Father Brown, the very last person who should be a detective, has the acquired tools to solve the mystery.  In more ways than one, this is Christian eschatology at its finest.  All we have to go on at this stage is the missing body of a executed criminal.  
Advertisements